Monday 29 July 2019

Cosmote 5G Ready as Greece Prepares for Spectrum Auctions

Along with being the largest of the Greek mobile operators, Cosmote provides an impressive coverage of all different generations of the networks; 2G, 3G, 4G (LTE), 4G+ (LTE-Advanced) and 4G++ (LTE-A Pro).

While up to date numbers of different mobile operators in Greece is not easily available, it is estimated to have roughly over 8 million subscribers.

Back in December 2018, Cosmote did some 5G demos with Ericsson. A summary of the demo is available in this presentation and embedded in the video below.

Some more information on what 5G would mean for Comote subscribers is available on their website here.

According to Telegeography:

Greece’s telecoms regulator, the Hellenic Telecommunications & Post Commission (Ethniki Epitropi Tilepikoinonion kai Tachydromeion, EETT), has taken a significant step towards its planned auction of 5G mobile spectrum. It has called for applications for a tender to find a contractor to help manage the award process, with bids for the EUR160,000 (USD181,000) contract invited until 12 July.

The watchdog is looking to award 2×30MHz in the 700MHz band, 65MHz in the 1500MHz range, 2×15 plus 2×45MHz in the 2100MHz band, 280MHz at 3.6GHz and 2,500MHz in the 24GHz-28GHz range. While some frequencies will be sold via auction, others will be offered for free.

Friday 26 July 2019

Armenia: Getting up to speed with 4G LTE

Armenia a former Soviet republic, in the mountainous Caucasus region between Asia and Europe, has relatively small population of just under 3 million. However it continues to develop an effective national telecommunications service in place, reports Research & Markets.

The telecom sector was slow to capitalise on the country's steadily improving economic conditions, but by 2018 there had been considerable improvement in both the economy and the country's telecom market.

Growth has been relatively flat in the mobile market over the past five years. Mobile subscriber growth is expected to remain fairly flat over the next five years to 2023. Mobile broadband subscribers have grown very strongly over the past five years. Strong growth is predicted over the next five years to 2023. The mobile broadband market will be driven by increasingly faster speeds offered by the mobile operators as they roll out their 4G networks and falling prices due to growing competition.

The country has three main mobile operators:

VivaCell MTS is the market leader in the country with more than 60% of mobile customers on its network. In 2017 it changed the company name from VivaCell MTS to MTS Armenia, but brand name remains.

2G and 3G coverage is at 99.8% and 98.8% of the population, respectively; with 47% of Armenia’s residents served by its 4G/LTE signal in 2017. It has the best coverage and speed, but at the most expensive prices. 

Beeline Armenia by Veon is the 2nd operator in the country and has a good coverage in 2G and 3G. In September 2016, it started 4G/LTE in Yerevan only so far on the unusual frequency of 450 MHz (on band 31). 

Recently they have completed a large-scale mobile network modernisation program. The wide-scale project includes the upgrade of existing infrastructure to decommission outdated analogue equipment, as well as the deployment of new optical fibre networks.

UCOM (rebranded from Orange) is the smallest operator in the country, but has a still good network coverage map at the lowest prices. Their 4G/LTE has been launched in 2017 on 800, 1800 and 2600 MHz. 3G is available on 90% and 4G on 56% of population in 2017.


The Armenian government has stated that Nokia could be the company selected to participate in a project designed to ensure the country can roll out a nationwide 5G network. The government has also approved plans to build a new data centre. The data centre is to be built via a public-private partnership. The government is to provide the premises and infrastructure, and the rest handled by a private investor.

Last month “Armenia Engineering Week” bought together about 500 participants from different countries of the world, including representatives of engineering and technology sectors from state, science and research, educational, donor organizations, start-up/accomplished engineering companies.The event demonstrated Armenia’s high-tech and engineering capacity – Armenian technologies in the testing of self-driving cars, 5G, industrial IOT, semiconductors etc

According to Bagrat Yengibaryan, head of the Enterprises Incubator Foundation:

”Armenia has a huge capacity to develop engineering technologies, which will open a new page in the development of the country’s scientific potential – starting from material engineering, electronics and solutions in robotics.” 

He emphasised there are many companies in Armenia that present extraordinary engineering solutions especially regarding self-driving vehicles and Armenia has prepared interesting solutions in this area.

Hootsuite has a good summary of Armenia Digital 2019 embedded below: 

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Sprint & HAPSMobile Will Perform 4G Aeriel HAPS Testing

FierceWireless Reported:

Sprint plans to test a High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) communications system for six months starting in November. 

Documents filed (PDF) with the FCC show the carrier has asked for a “special temporary authority” to conduct demonstrations of experimental transmitters using spectrum frequencies ranging from the 1.9 GHz personal communications service (PCS) band and the 2.5 GHz broadband radio service (BRS) and educational broadband service (EBS) bands. 

The tests will be conducted with HAPSmobile, a joint venture between Sprint’s parent Softbank and AeroVironment that was formed in 2017. 

Sprint said it will be testing a HAPS system’s ability to maintain a stable LTE link with ground equipment over the island of Lanai, Hawaii. It will also test handover capabilities with end user equipment and signal coverage over the island. 

Mobile World Live added:

Though initial tests would focus on LTE, Sprint’s proposed use of 2.5GHz spectrum raises the possibility it has an eye toward using the technology for 5G.

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Sunday 21 July 2019

C Spire: Connecting the Rural Unconnected in USA

C Spire is the United States' sixth-largest wireless provider, operating in the three states of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.

C Spire started out in the 1950s as  a local exchange carrier, later adding cellular service. In recent years, it has broadened its scope to include building middle-mile fiber and fiber-to-the-home networks and data centers and also offering a wide range of residential and business services throughout Mississippi and other parts of its service area. Many of these developments were made with the aim to spur on economic development in those areas.

C Spire is based in Mississippi one of least connected and most rural states in the country. 

 In 2017 study from the Mississippi State University Center for Technology Outreach that found the state’s lack of broadband access, and slow internet speeds result in rural counties losing millions of dollars each year in deferred economic benefits.

As a result of these disparities and economic losses C Spire along with Airspan Networks, Microsoft, Nokia, and Siklu formed a group in late January 2019 in order to find new approaches to solving the broadband gap. The group also aims to create new business models that regional fixed and wireless broadband providers, and utilities can use to enhance adoption in rural areas.

The group launched a website to house updates on the consortium’s testing and deployment efforts with broadband technologies including TV white spaces, massive MIMO using Band 41 LTE spectrum, and C Spire’s fixed wireless 5G product. And published a white paper (PDF) with information about the rural broadband access issue.

C Spire’s Chief Innovation Officer Craig Sparks said in a statement that the consortium is on track to achieve its goal of developing a new blueprint for closing the broadband access gap, with work initially focused on the state of Mississippi. 

Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee make up the primary territory served by C Spire
and are fairly rural states, ranked 47, 42, and 33 respectively in terms of urban population. Not surprisingly, broadband access in Mississippi is one of the lowest in the nation; it is currently ranked 46, while Alabama and Tennessee are ranked 40 and 25 respectively. Today, approximately 28% of Mississippians (829,000 people) lack access to fixed broadband. As with the rest of the US, lack of access in the state is much higher in most rural counties. 

The primary challenge to bringing broadband to rural communities is economic. Rural areas are less densely populated. The cost to serve each customer increases as customer density decreases. This results in either a much longer return on investment (ROI) period or a

much higher price for services for the rural neighborhood compared to the denser neighborhood. With fewer customers and less available revenue, competition becomes less common in less populated areas.

 There are also technology challenges, including very rough terrain, power and backhaul availability,and distance limitations to fiber and wireless transmissions, etc. that are a struggle to overcome even with an infinite amount of money. It is entirely possible that some areas of the United States (and the world) cannot be served until those technology problems are solved. Therefore broadband adoption initiatives such as this one by C Spire and their partners is of vital importance. 

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Russia: the largest telecom market in Europe

The Russian telecom market is the largest in Europe, supported by a population of approximately 144 million. The market is dominated by the western regions where the main cities and economic centres are concentrated. All sectors have been liberalised, with competition most prevalent in Moscow and St Petersburg, the two largest regional markets.

The number of mobile subscriptions has passed 230 million, while SIM card penetration is high, at around 162% by early 2017. Several mobile network operators are active, although the market is dominated by four major operators.

MegaFon has the best nationwide coverage and good speeds in cities although at the highest prices. It is considered by many as the premier network in the country and the first one that covered all 83 regions (except Crimea).

As of 31 December 2018 their number of mobile subscribers was 76.9 million.

MegaFon was the first to start 3G (on 2100 and 900 MHz) and 4G/LTE network in Russia. This is the only network that is available in every region of the country except Crimea and Sevastopol. Their LTE is mostly on 2600 MHz and has reached all 83 regions where they operate. 800 MHz and 1800 MHz exist too, but have very limited coverage and are unlikely to be seen.

At the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), in May 2017 MegaFon and Huawei set an all-time mobile internet speed record for Russia, demonstrating the operation of a 5G network at speeds of 35 GB/s.

At their stand in St Petersburg, MegaFon and Huawei presented a 5G base station in action, using TDD in the 70 GHz (E-band) frequency band with bandwidth of 2 GHz.

Aside from its high speed, 5G also ensures unprecedentedly low data transfer latency (less than 1 ms), which opens up new opportunities to use 5G in various areas of life. One such area is driverless cars, where reaction speed is vital. The stand featured a model car and virtual reality, allowing visitors to experience how — thanks to numerous sensors that communicate with each other over wireless 5G internet — the car could react in good time to changes in road conditions, cross junctions without traffic lights, overtake and much more.

“We have entered an era where all areas of life are going digital. As the future network technology, 5G will ensure connectivity anywhere, anytime, when in motion and with virtually no latency and unlimited possibilities for application. This will require the efforts of the entire ecosystem — operators, equipment manufacturers and industrial partners. Huawei is actively collaborating with sector players to develop and improve 5G technologies and create new use scenarios and business scenarios to speed up industrial and social transformation. There is a huge space for collaboration between Huawei and MegaFon — two innovative companies — for development of 5G on the path towards an ideal communications world.” 
said Huawei Russia CEO Aiden Wu.

MTS (or MTC in Russian, stands for Mobile TeleSystems, "Мобильные ТелеСистемы" owned by russian Systema group) is at present the biggest operator with more than 100 million customers and it is licensed in 83 regions of the country. It is the only provider operator that can be used in Crimea.

It's available in most regions of the country and gives good speeds but at lower prices than MegaFon. MTS is associated with Vodafone, which is also their favorite roaming partner. Nevertheless, MTS roaming prices in foreign countries are very high.

Their 3G network is on 2100 MHz and 900 MHz. LTE is on 2600 MHz in the form of both FDD-LTE and TDD-LTE (on bands 7 and 38) and on 800 and 1800 MHz. 4G/LTE coverage has reached all 83 regions where MTS operates in 2016. 55% is on 1800 MHz, the others on 800 and 2600 MHz.

As of June 2019 Huawei has signed a deal to develop 5G with  MTS.

MTS has also started a programme to support start-ups focused on 5G. The operator will provide the start-ups with premises for design, development and testing of digital solutions and devices using 5G technology. The best start-ups will be offered grants and an opportunity for long-term cooperation with MTS.

Companies using 5G solutions for the development of cloud transformation, new forms of streaming (Ultra HD, VR/AR, 360 degrees), IoT, new formats of cloud and data storage and other issues are invited to participate in the programme. In September MTS Startup Hub experts will select the best start-ups from the submitted applications for participation in the programme. 

Nokia acts as a technological partner of the programme and has provided an end-to-end solution with a core network and radio sub-system on the basis of the new generation AirScale module, as well as the 5G Nokia AirScale indoor Radio.

MTS plans to invest RUB 100 million in the programme through the end of 2020.

Veon (formerly known as VimpelCom) -owned Beeline is 3rd nationwide operator woking in almost all regions of Russia, their 3G coverage is concentrated in populated places, and is still limited in rural areas. 4G/LTE coverage is available in 246 cities in 58 regions covering roughly half of the Russian population in 2016.

Beeline and Huawei signed an agreement to pursue the joint development of 5G in Russia May 2018. Beeline is preparing its network infrastructure and is conducting research on how to make a rational transition to 5G technologies.

Tele2 by Rostelecom became the fourth national network active in 60 regions after they merged into a joint venture in 2014. Tele2’s subscriber base totals 40.6 million

Tele2 Russia commercially launched LTE on 1800 MHz (B3) in 2014 and rollouts in most major cities began throughout 2015. Further LTE networks have been launched on B7 (2600 MHz) and B20 (800 MHz), with smaller LTE-TDD deployments over B40 (2300 MHz) primarily in Krasnodar and Sochi districts. The company commercially launched B31 (450 MHz) LTE under the SkyLink banner in May 2016, initially in regional areas and gradually expanding to cover St. Petersburg and Moscow within the same year.

Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) has been selected by Tele2 Russia to upgrade its network with the 5G-ready Ericsson Radio System, including software. More than 50,000 base stations will be deployed across the country as part of the five-year network modernization deal signed at Mobile World Congress 2019 .

Sergey Emdin, CEO of Tele2 Russia, says:

 “Mobile traffic in networks will continue to grow exponentially. We are deploying a high-quality network based on advanced equipment while taking into account the increasing data volumes and technological changes in the industry. Before launching 5G networks, Russia must first address several infrastructure issues. However, when all barriers are overcome, new networks will be built faster than LTE, partly owing to existing infrastructure. This would be possible only with Ericsson’s cutting-edge technology. We are sure that Ericsson’s experience, expertise and market-leading portfolio will allow us to upgrade our network to meet loads and gear up for the launch of 5G.”
Sebastian Tolstoy, Head of Ericsson in Russia, says:
 “Tele2 is an important strategic partner. We understand that their subscribers have high expectations on mobile connection speeds. Advanced 4G networks and 5G communication technologies provide the data throughput required. Ericsson’s commercial equipment and software for wireless communications support 5G technologies and we can deploy new functionality as soon as Russian regulators make the necessary decisions on frequencies, enabling operators to provide relevant services.”

Hootsuite has a good summary of Russian Federation Digital 2019 embedded below:

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Tuesday 16 July 2019

Grameenphone Bangladesh Continues to Expand it's 2G & 3G Network

Grameenphone's annual report had some interesting details about the network footprint expansion, especially the 2G and 3G network. Here are the details:

Bangladesh Mobile Sector At A Glance

Bangladesh has made significant progress in growing its economy and improving the lives of its people in the last few years. The country is now working to reach upper-middle-income country status by 2021- the year that marks the 50th anniversary of its independence. It has been able to maintain a sustained economic growth rate of 7.86% in the last fiscal year.

Backed by this impressive economic growth, the Telecom sector of the country has made remarkable progress throughout 2018. At the end of 2018, there were 88 million unique mobile subscribers in Bangladesh, making it the fifth largest mobile market in Asia Pacific and ninth largest in the world. With subscribers owning on average 1.8 SIM cards, there were a total of 159 million connections in 2018, representing connection penetration of 94.5%. The Data market has also seen significant growth of around 15% and the total mobile internet connections stood at 87 million. With 45.3% unique mobile internet subscriber, there is still potential for further growth in data services. 2018 was an eventful year for the Telecom Industry in Bangladesh. A lot of initiatives have been taken and implemented by the Government and from the Industry side as well. The Government was very keen to introduce 4G service in Bangladesh and 4G licences were offered in the beginning of 2018. All the Mobile operators launched 4G services in the 1st Quarter of 2018. At the end of the year, the 4G subscriber base reached 5.5 million, with 3G and 2G subscriber base at 61 million and 89 million respectively

The Government released more spectrum through the auction process in the 900, 1800 and 2100 MHz band and the long expected Technology Neutrality was sold to operators across the spectrum band upon payment of a one-time fee. Mobile Number Portability (MNP) was another agenda of Government that has been implemented in the 4th quarter. The country has sent its own satellite into orbit. A test trial of 5G network was also run in 2018.


Grameenphone recorded a healthy growth of its subscriber base and correspondingly of reported usage. The Company acquired 7.4 million new subscribers, an 11.3% YoY growth. Adding 5.9 million internet subscribers to its network, Grameenphone closed the year with 37.1 million internet subscribers, which is 19.0% higher than that of the previous year. 51.0% of our total subscribers are using internet services on the fastest internet network in the country.

One of the most important foundations upon which we deliver services to our customers is our network. In 2018, Grameenphone made significant investment in new 4G technology, spectrum acquisition and network capacity building. The Company invested BDT 34.0 billion to rollout more than five thousand 4G LTE sites, to expand 2G and 3G coverage, to effect capacity enhancement, as well as to build higher IT readiness. In total the Company has invested BDT 347.4 billion in Bangladesh since inception. 

As one of the largest contributors, Grameenphone contributed BDT 84.2 billion to the national exchequer in 2018 which represents about 63.4% of Grameenphone’s total revenue for the year. By the end of 2018, the total contribution to the state by Grameenphone since inception reached BDT 669.5 billion.

With continued network modernisation, we reached over 5,000 4G sites at the end of the year, covering 54.6% of our sub-base under 4G. 20% of our daily traffic is now carried over the 4G network. In the quarter we rolled out 429 new 4G, 497 new 3G and 404 new 2G sites. At the end of the year we reached 14,521 2G sites and 14,687 3G sites.

In 2018, we launched our high-speed 4G LTE network. Data consumption has almost doubled since 2017 and 20%+ of our data volume is now being carried on the 4G network. 7 million unique users latched onto 4G LTE, which has an average speed of ~10 Mbps.

Grameenphone acquired new spectrum, a 4G licence and Tech neutrality on existing spectra. It was the first to launch 10MHz LTE immediately after licence was awarded by the regulator. By the end of 2018, Grameenphone rolled out ~ 5,009 LTE sites all across the country which has led the rapid growth in data consumption.

In 2018, Grameenphone reached the 72 million subscribers milestone, a true testament of the trust the people of Bangladesh have in the Company. Grameenphone was the first operator to launch a 4G network in 2018. This is a result of Grameenphone’s determination to serve its customers in the best possible way, ushering in new avenues for empowering societies by building and strengthening the country’s communication and connectivity with the rest of the world. Despite the fiercely competitive market, Grameenphone continued to contribute to its iconic status in the Bangladesh communications industry.

Overall, the year was marked by significant changes in the industry. Among these, Grameenphone closed 2018 with 3.4% year-on-year revenue growth over 2017. Strong drive in all segments of the business recorded consolidated revenue of BDT 132.8 billion for 2018. In the same timeframe, Grameenphone earned a yearly average Daily Subscription & Traffic Revenue of BDT 336.9 million, which is 7.0% up from that of 2017. The Company ended the year with 72.7 million subscribers, which represents a 11.3% sub base growth from last year.

In the framework of significant investment in new 4G LTE technology, spectrum acquisition and network capacity enhancement, data revenue continued its strong pace during the year to record 21.0% YoY growth. Rapid rollout of 4G data networks, fast proliferating mobile applications along with affordable smartphones in the market enabled internet to enter the customers’ everyday lives in newer ways. With more than five thousand LTE sites, Grameenphone received the recognition of the fastest internet network in the country by Ookla, the global leader in internet testing and ended the year with 37.1 million internet subscribers. 2018 also resonates Grameenphone’s passion for driving its vision towards inclusive empowerment of communities by leading the growth of technological services that are relevant and affordable to communities.

During the recent world cup, Grameenphone subscribers were able to watch Bangladesh matches on their phone. Here is an advert promoting it. We will soon find out what impact this made on the subscriber growth.

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Sunday 14 July 2019

Cameroon: Issues and Development

Cameroon was for many years one of the few countries in Africa with a duoply of competing mobile operators. After some delays, Nexttel Cameroon (majority-owned by Viettel) launched a third network in late 2014, including the country’s first 3G mobile service. The three operators serve more than 99 per cent of the country’s 21.9 million connections between them.

LTE services have also developed strongly, with Orange Cameroon securing revised concessions to its existing 3G licence to enable it to launch LTE services and so compete more effectively with MTN. These developments were the catalyst for a fast-developing mobile broadband sector. The investment programs among operators over the next few years will considerably boost mobile broadband services in rural areas of the country, many of which are under-served by fixed-line infrastructure.

MTN is the market leader in the country with a 50% of market share. It has the best coverage and highest speeds. 4G started in 2015 on the very unusual TD-LTE frequency of 2500 MHz (band 41) and is available in all major towns and cities. 

Orange is the clear number two in the country with approx 30% of market share. They bought this network from Airtel some years ago. They have launched 4G/LTE too, but have limited it to a much smaller area than MTN so far.

Nexttel (owned by Viettel Group) started in 2014 in Cameroon. Two years later it had already 2.5 million subscribers and is the fastest growing network. It launched the country's first 3G network in 2014, but its 4G/LTE is still in trial mode. It has the most aggressive pricing.


GSMA Intelligence connection figures for Q1 2019 had MTN leading the market with 9 million subscribers, followed by Orange (7.3 million) and Viettel-owned Nexttel (5.5 million).

Camtel is Cameroon’s fixed line monopoly operator which has a limited network based on CDMA/EVDO called Fako that is migrating to GSM. In 2016 they rolled out their 4G/LTE network called "X-TremNet" on 1800 MHz (band 3).

Their Fako network is quite unreliable, based on CDMA, not compatible to GSM devices and can't be recommended. However, their 4G/LTE XTremNet network can be a cheap option, if you have coverage. Douala and Yaoundé are covered only so far: 4G coverage list. Because of the limited coverage, it can't be an option for travelling, but may be an option for stationary use in Douala and Yaoundé. Speeds of around 50 Mbps have been reported. They have no fallback or roaming on 2G/3G networks.

Orange, Viettel and MTN were fined a combined XAF3.5 billion ($6 million) by authorities in Cameroon for failing to properly register SIM cards and not meeting network improvement targets, Cameroon Press Agency reported.

Orange received a XAF1.5 billion fee, while the other two operators were charged XAF1 billion each by the country’s Telecommunications Regulatory Agency.

In a statement, the regulator said all three operators had failed to comply with rules set out in September 2015 related to the registration of SIM cards and identification of customers.

It added operators had also been warned for not honouring commitments to improve the quality of their networks, claiming they were “still deteriorating”. The country’s authorities also demanded wholesale rates were cut in some areas, with the aim of reducing consumer prices.

In recent years, Cameroon has come down harder on telecoms operators for failing to comply with regulation, with Vodafone shuttering operations in 2017 due to licensing issues. A year earlier, MTN was hit with allegations of corruption by the country’s National Anti-Corruption Commission.

Cameroon has also been ranked 10th largest e-commerce country in Africa (UNCTAD)

The only Central African country in the top 10, Cameroon outperformed the average on the four criteria taken into account for the ranking, the report said. These include the number of online shoppers, the security level of servers, the ease of payment and delivery.

According to experts, through this ranking, Cameroon is reaping the benefits of the high penetration of smartphones in recent years, which boosted online shopping to the extent that, the e-marketer Jumia says, 65% of online orders in the country now go through mobile phones. A survey by French agency Mediametrie, let’s recall, showed the smartphone penetration rate improved from 68% in 2013 to 72% in 2016.

Another reason for this good performance by the Central African country is the rapid deployment of the internet over the past 10 years (from 2% to more than 20%). 23% of Cameroonians use this tool while three quarters of the African population do not yet have access to it.

But beyond these structural realities on ICT development, the growth of e-commerce in Cameroon was motivated by the arrival of international operators such as Jumia, which has been leading the market since 2013 when it settled in the country.  

Digital 2019 Cameroun, published by Hootsuite has some interesting statistics on Cameroon, the report is embedded below

Thursday 11 July 2019

Sunrise: 5G for the People

Sunrise is the challenger in Swiss market, dominated by Swisscom. The following video was recorded at 5G World and was part of the session, '“First on 5G” Launch (April 2019)', presented by Bruno Duarte, CCO, Sunrise Communications. It gives an overview of their 5G network.

Here is a twitter moment of a technical discussion comparing Sunrise with Swisscom

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Saturday 6 July 2019

Japan on Infrastructure Sharing Mission, Driven by 5G

Japan has started exploring different approaches for Infrastructure Sharing. Earlier I wrote about Infrastructure Sharing over Electric Power Infrastructure. TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power COmpany) Power Grid, Incorporated, KDDI CORPORATION, SoftBank Corp. and Rakuten Mobile Network, Inc. announced that the four companies have reached an agreement to collaborate on trials of base station site and equipment sharing utilizing TEPCO PG’s utility poles and other electric power infrastructure, ahead of the introduction of 5th generation mobile communications systems (5G) in Japan. The trials are due to be begin in the first half of FY2019. 

We have written earlier about the Japanese Market, the new entrant Rakuten that is transitioning from MVNO to MNO and 5G Spectrum Allocation. After the 5G Spectrum allocations were over, last month, Japanese Cabinet approved a project to install 5G wireless relay devices, to support the provision of 5G services, on traffic signals across the country. The government is allowing 208,000 traffic signals to be used to deploy the new 5G equipment, expecting to the network installation to be complete by the end of March 2026. In addition, the government also plans to upgrade the traffic lights with communication functions that allow them to collect and share more traffic data.
Regarding the relays, I am assuming something similar to Type 1a/1b, see here. NTT Docomo has been trying our a lot of innovation including small cells (probably relay) on traffic lights, reflectors and even mobile relay node. I am sure some of these will make it into practice.

This week, KDDI and SoftBank announced they have reached an agreement on the mutual use of their base station assets to jointly promote the rapid build-out of 5G networks in Japan's rural areas. According to the press release:

Many issues lie ahead for Japanese society, including an aging population, a shrinking workforce, depopulation in rural areas, deteriorating infrastructure and natural disasters of increased intensity. To address these issues, the Japanese government is advocating Society 5.0 and promoting initiatives to achieve it. With the spread of a super-smart society under Society 5.0, large volumes of data will need to be shared to utilize IoT, big data and AI, and a rapid build-out of 5G networks is expected to help facilitate this. In particular, 5G networks are expected to help resolve Japan's regional issues by enabling remote monitoring and operation through the transmission of high-definition images. Furthermore, 5G networks can help increase productivity by facilitating data gathering and analysis, which could contribute to the revitalization of regional industries, including local companies and startups.

Since 5G networks use the 28GHz and 3.7GHz high-frequency bands, many base stations need to be installed nationwide, and this requires long-term construction and large investment commitments. Accordingly, to quickly provide services that meet Japan's regional revitalization needs, more than ever before, carriers need to promote mutual infrastructure sharing to efficiently construct a network of 5G base stations. To accelerate the build-out of 5G networks in rural areas, KDDI and SoftBank will explore options with a view to establishing a joint construction management company that would facilitate construction designs and manage construction work to efficiently utilize the base station assets of both companies.

As a first step, both companies will establish a preparatory office, and starting this fall, conduct joint trials in Asahikawa City in Hokkaido, Narita City in Chiba Prefecture and Fukuyama City in Hiroshima Prefecture. In addition to streamlining processes from design to construction management stages, the trials will be used to verify the effects of 5G network quality improvements and shortened construction periods in rural areas.

KDDI has also be testing relay nodes (small cells) in rural areas, camouflaging it to not spoil the natural beauty of the area. They can very well be sharing this with Softbank.

Many countries are looking towards Japan to learn from the outcome of these infrastructure sharing schemes. Hopefully we will learn more about them in the coming years, if not months.

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Friday 5 July 2019

DIGI Romania: Advent of 5G

Ericsson and RCS&RDS (DIGI) have launched Romania's first 5G commercial service in the busiest parts of Bucharest, expecting 5G to make a significant difference by providing increased speeds for mobile broadband to businesses and consumers.

DIGI deploying Ericsson's 3GPP standards-based 5G New Radio (NR) hardware and software. Built on top of DIGI's 4G network, the enhanced mobile broadband capabilities enable customers to connect to both 4G and 5G simultaneously to get the best possible experience even in the most crowded areas, depending on the compatibility of the terminal with 5G technology.

This first phase of DIGI's 5G rollout is a Non-standalone (NSA) deployment focused on using the combined power of 4G and 5G. In the coming weeks, DIGI and Ericsson will activate more 5G radios and base stations in the capital of Bucharest and the city of Cluj-Napoca. More base stations are to be activated in Bucharest and the city of Cluj-Napoca in the coming months. Although Romania will not hold its auction of 5G-enabling spectrum until the fourth quarter of 2019, Digi already has access to spectrum within the 3.6-3.8 GHz band.

At an event organized in the Old City Center of Bucharest, the busiest area of ​​the Romanian capital, DIGI offered journalists and authorities representatives the opportunity to test the facilities of the new technology. The demonstration, made under real-world Xiaomi network and mobile phone usage, was made possible with the support of Ericsson partners, the suppliers of the first 5G broadcast stations on the Digi Mobil network and Xiaomi. DIGI has also successfully tested Huawei networking equipment.  Evidently Digi is keeping its 5G technology options open they have indicated that they plan to deploy the tested 5G equipment from Huawei in other cities in early-July 2019. And also aim to test and deploy the Nokia kit during 2019 and will use equipment from all three vendors (Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia) to underpin its 5G offering.

According to Valentin Popoviciu, Vice-President DIGI:
"In 2018, Digi took the first step towards 5G, testing the functionality of this technology on a prototype platform. Today, we are experimenting the capabilities of Digi Mobil 5G Smart network, with the commissioning of the first station in our network, in one of the busiest areas of the capital. As usual, our promise is that we will serve our customers with reliable and affordable mobile data services, including 5G, in selected areas in Bucharest and other big cities of Romania already in 2019."

Despite not having a 2G legacy, the 3G Digi Mobil network currently covers 99.5% of the Romanian population, and the 4G network, 75% of the population. Digi Mobil has positioned itself on the local market as a dynamic and attractive competitor, both thanks to its unbeatable quality-price ratio and through its terminal procurement financing tools. These competitive advantages turned it into the leader of portability in the mobile telephony segment, a position held constantly in the over 10 years of existence of the portability service in Romania. At the end of 2018, the parent company of RCS & RDS, Digi Communications NV, announced that the electronic communications operator has more than 3.4 million revenue generating units (RGUs) in the segment of mobile telephony and data services on its main market, Romania.

The Romanian government plans to start spectrum auction for additional spectrum needed for 5G wireless networks in the fourth quarter of 2019, an auction that may yield about 2 billion lei ($474 million) in state revenue. DIGI can already start offering initial 5G services through its already available commercial spectrum within the 3.6 – 3.8 GHz band.

Thursday 4 July 2019

Vodafone UK Launches 5G, Plans Disruption With Unlimited Data Plans

When we looked at the UK Operators 5G plans on this blog last year, we didn't expect the operators to innovate in pricing and business models the same way they are innovating in technology. There were some nice surprises in Vodafone's 5G launch event yesterday.

Let's start by looking at the roadmap shown above. Initial 5G network is launched in 7 cities including London. The service will be available from July 10 on Vodafone’s unlimited mobile data plans at no additional cost for 5G. Over the summer, 5G roaming will be available in the U.K., Germany, Italy and Spain, more countries will be added to later on.

Next year, 2020, it's launching MEC and low band (coverage layer) 5G. The initial 5G is on Capacity layer, C-Band as we detailed in this post earlier. In 2021, Standalone (SA) core network and Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) will be launched. DSS allows refarming of existing LTE bands in a way that LTE & 5G can both operate simultaneously.

According to TMNThe most notable thing is that Vodafone is deploying sites where ever it can with 64T/R Massive MIMO. Even though it is only using 40MHz bandwidth of its 3.5GHz spectrum (as per EE), this gives it the ability to extend coverage if it needs to, but also generate an effectively increased capacity via increased spectral efficiency. EE does have some 64T/R Massive MIMO sites, but it is generally speaking using an 8T/R setup for the majority of its sites. Vodafone will have some 8T/R sites where it cannot get enough site space for the larger and heavier, and more power hungry, antennas. But its default seems to be to go for the more extensive optoin. Three has also deployed 64T/R, and it has much more midband spectrum than the other two operators – but the Vodafone launch shows that Three is by no means the only UK operator to deploy massive MIMO across most of its sites, as it appeared to claim at its launch earlier this week.

According to Fierce WirelessIn London, Vodafone is using 5G equipment from Ericsson’s Radio System portfolio, including Ericsson’s Baseband 6630 and Massive MIMO 6488 products to enable 5G on the 3.5 GHz frequency. Vodafone is tapping Ericsson’s dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) technology, which allows Vodafone to combine 5G with LTE in the same spectrum band. Dispensing with the need to separate out sections of spectrum for 5G, Vodafone has been able to quickly extend 5G coverage over a wide area. When in use, the 5G technology delivers speeds 10 times faster than LTE.

As the picture above shows, 5 Great reasons why Vodafone UK is the destination for 5G. I guess the main reason is 5G = 4G pricing.

Also, this is the first time a UK operator has all plans with unlimited voice & SMS (nationally only) and unlimited data. The pricing is set on what maximum speeds a user can get. Most people would go for the Unlimited Max package.

This is a good demo to show low latency that 5G will provide.

Anyway, here is the Twitter Moment, embedded below:

Further Reading:

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Tuesday 2 July 2019

Vodafone and Ericsson develop ‘Industry 4.0’ factory in Germany

Automotive 5G manufacturing production is now a reality due to the efforts of Vodafone and Ericsson who were challenged by e.GO  to help them to develop an ‘industry 4.0’ factory to help them gain a competitive advantage through the use of mobile technology.

e.GO was founded by Professor Günther Schuh, often characterised as Germany’s answer to Elon Musk, who is very much on a mission to create more affordable electric vehicles. The company was founded out of RWTH Aachen University in 2015 where the Professor was vice-rector for Industry and Business Relations. By then he had already developed an electric delivery van, StreetScooter, a company that was bought by Deutsche Post in 2014.   Thanks to an array of StreetScooter vehicles and some 12,000 e-bikes and e-trikes, Deutsche Post DHL Group today operates the largest electric fleet in Germany.

Professor Schuh, now focusing on the 5G network believes it will deliver faster and more reliable production with constant access to relevant information:

"The assembly plant for e.GO Life is a true Industry 4.0 factory. In other words, it is fully networked in terms of information technology. Connectivity links the physical and the digital world.”
While according to Hannes Ametsreiter, Head of Vodafone Germany:
 "Our automotive industry needs a fast network directly where the newest and most innovative cars are built. Data is an important fuel for modern automobile production.”
While Arun Bansal, President and Head of Europe & Latin America, Ericsson, says:
 "5G is the key to opening the door to a new era in manufacturing productivity, speed, security and efficiency – and the automotive industry is a prime example of the beneficiaries. Our 5G technology leadership, including solutions and abilities specifically tailored to manufacturing, enables us to partner with companies such as Vodafone and e.GO to deliver the very best private networks solutions."
This 4.0 factory is a model that many other European companies might look to in the future. 

The 16,000m2 e.GO site in Aachen is one of the first in the world to connect machines using a private ‘5G ready’ network rather than Wi-Fi. There have been 36 mobile antenna installed within the factory walls to connect all the machinery to the IT system and to send data back to the company’s network operations centre, the factory’s brain.  The use of mobile technology provides e.GO’s development team with incredible power to analyse network data and automatically adjust factory processes with the press of a button. Mobile network slicing is being used for the first time in Germany to dedicate a slice of spectrum for the factory to ensure that critical manufacturing processes are never interrupted by inadvertent data packet loss. 

Another first is the use of multi-access edge computing (MEC) by the network to boost the processing power of the Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) which carry the chassis from station to station, replacing the classic production line. The factory will contain the world’s first AGVs to use 4G+ rather than Wi-Fi.

These machines process environmental data, like unexpected objects in their path, near instantaneously (less than 10 milliseconds), ensuring both they and all other machines in the plant adapt their routines accordingly. In the future the AGV will be joined by smart forklifts and smart factory trains which will transport material between warehouses and production halls.

The use of such technology has given e.GO’s development team incredible power to analyse network data and automatically adjust factory processes with the press of a button. When the team decided to move from a steel to an aluminum frame it took just three months to install new machinery and adjust processes, around a sixth of the time it would take a competitor to do the same.

The new e.GO electric car has taken just two years to develop, less than half the average time and has cost €70 million, four times less than the industry average development costs.

This is a revolutionary project which can pave the way for other European businesses. 

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