Sunday 25 August 2019

Jio Makes Another Set of Extremely Bold Announcements

Reliance Jio certainly knows how to stay in news, not just because of clever marketing but because of its extremely bold initiatives that is starting to make not just their competitors nervous but other industries like the cinemas, ISPs, cable companies, etc.

In the latest annual general meeting (AGM - video embedded below), their Chairman and Managing Director, Mukesh Ambani made some very interesting announcements. The complete statement is available here but here are the main points (from the report - note the CAPS is as shown in the report, not emphasized by me but the bold is by me):

  • JIO's customer base has crossed 340 million users and they are signing up more than 10 million new customers EACH MONTH.
  • The core and aggregation layers of our converged network have been 5G ready since day one
  • Jio is now Ready to kickstart FOUR more engines of CONNECTIVITY REVENUE for Jio.
    • INTERNET OF THINGS or IoT all over India.
      • JIO has developed an innovative service on its pan-India 4G network called Narrowband Internet-of-Things or NBIoT, for short.
      • Within another 2 years, it is estimated that there will be more than 2 Billion Connected IOT devices in India
      • Jio aims to connect at least 1 BILLION of these on JIO's IoT platform
      • This translates into a ₹20,000 CRORE PER YEAR revenue opportunity for JIO.
      • Jio's IoT platform will be commercially available starting 1st January, 2020.
      • Jio Fiber, currently in preview phase with 500,000 users but will launch commercially on September 5.
      • The trial homes on average are consuming more than 100 GBs per month and this usage is increasing with each passing day.
      • Jio has drawn up a plan to reach 20 million residences and 15 million business establishments in these 1,600 towns
      • The company will offer plans from ₹700 ($10) to ₹10,000 ($140) with speeds up to 1Gbps.
      • You get a landline phone connection, at no additional cost.
      • And you get a DIGITALSET-TOP-BOX that opens up unparalleled digital experiences within your home
      • VIRTUAL REALITY content
      • and many other SMART-HOME SOLUTIONS
      • JIO SET-TOP-BOX to accept the broadcast cable TV signals from our LCO (Local Cable Operators) partners.
      • JIOFIBER enables a powerful combination of FIXED-LINE CONNECTIVITY and CLOUD APPLICATIONS leapfrogging them from NO TECHNOLOGY to having a complete line-up of cutting-edge, plug-and-play technology enabled tools.
      • Today cloud-based solutions provide out-of-the-box capabilities which are easier, faster and cheaper to adopt. JIOFIBER and JIO's cloud solutions level the playing field for Indian enterprises enabling them to accelerate their digital transformation and compete globally using the very same technologies that are used by global majors.
  • JIOFIBER plan STARTS WITH 100 Mbps speed and we have plans all the way up to 1 Gbps or 1000 Mbps, plans will be priced between ₹700 to ₹10,000 per month to suit every budget and every need.
    • Landline voice calls from home to any Indian operator - mobile or fixed - will be absolutely free forever.
    • Bundled landline service will let them call any network in the country for free.
    • Unlimited free calls to the US and Canada for ₹500 ($7) per month.
  • JIOFIBER plans will come BUNDLED with subscriptions to most leading premium OTT applications.
    • Premium JIOFIBER customers will be able to watch movies in their living rooms the same day these movies are released in theatres! This is called JIO FIRST-DAY-FIRST-SHOW. Jio plans to launch this service in the middle of 2020.
  • A special mobility service for our JioFiber users called JIO POSTPAID PLUS, to deliver a platinum-grade service and product experience.
    • India's first priority SIM-setup service at home, where your connection will be moved to Jio by visiting your home.
    • Seamless Data and Voice Connectivity across all your devices, both at home and outside.
    • Unprecedented Family plans – one data plan for better control on GBs and sharing within your family.
    • International roaming at a fraction of a cost with superior service experience
    • Phone upgrades at preferential rates
    • All your home solutions on your phone.
  • JIOFIBER customers who opt for our annual plans which we call JIO-FOREVER plans, will get an HD OR 4K LED TELEVISION and a 4K SET-TOP-BOX ABSOLUTELY FREE. We are calling this the JIOFIBER WELCOME OFFER.
  • JIO is already a software company.
    • JIO has over 6000 software engineers and we are continuing to attract technology talent from across India and the world.
    • JIO is also investing in a growing ecosystem of technology startups.
  • Blockchain technology all over India: Using Blockchain, we also have an opportunity to invent a brand-new model for data privacy where Indian data especially customer data is owned and controlled through technology by the Indian people and not by corporates, especially global corporations. Data is wealth and Indian wealth must remain in India
    • Over the next 12 months, JIO will install across India one of the largest blockchain networks in the world with tens of thousands of nodes operational on day one.
  • Edge computing and Virtual and Mixed Reality content: Delivering immersive content to hundreds of millions of users requires a well-integrated solution spanning connectivity, data storage and real-time computing. And we need to deploy such solutions at the edge of the network or in other words, closer to where our users are.
    • JIO is setting up a pan-India Edge Computing and Content Distribution network again starting with tens of thousands of nodes.
    • This means that your favourite content and applications will be even nearer to you. So even faster downloads and faster response times.
  • CLOUD INFRASTRUCTURE across India: To leapfrog the world, it is a national imperative to develop a nation-wide cloud computing infrastructure that is both cutting-edge and affordable. Jio and Microsoft have entered into a globally unique long-term alliance to accelerate the digital transformation of our country. 
    • As part of this alliance, while Jio sets up a network of large world-class datacenters across India, Microsoft will bring its Azure cloud platform into Jio's datacenters. 
    • When we put these two pieces together, we now have the capability to develop truly India-native solutions including Speech Recognition and Natural language understanding for all major Indian languages and dialects.

As a result of the announcements, Reliance shares went up 12% in biggest intraday rise in decade; Airtel and Vodafone shares dipped. Some cinemas have been unnerved by Reliance Jio offer, leading multiplex companies hit back saying that they will not screen films that are released on OTT simultaneously.

A fact that was announced during the demo was that the amount of fiber already laid by Jio can circle the earth 11 times.

Here is the complete AGM video

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Monday 19 August 2019

Statistics from Hajj 2019 (1440 H)

The Saudi Arabian Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has released the statistics for mobile data & voice calls from Hajj this year. While the majority of activity is centered around Makkah (Mecca), Medina (Madinah) becomes highly active too. To give an idea of why this is important, see this picture below

The city of Makkah is always full of people but during Hajj time, around 4-5 million people gather in a small area. This is the most challenging network deployment because people are always on their smartphones, talking, live streaming, video calling, etc. There is also no end time. This continues generally round the clock.

Here is the summary of stats from CITC announcement:

The use of Information and Communication Technology  services (ICT), during this season of Hajj 1440-2019, witnessed  a significant rise; the average number of subscribers reached nearly 7.4million per day, the number of voice calls exceeded 309 million hours, and the total data consumption during the entire season exceeded 30.2 thousand terabyte, with a rise  of 26% compared to last year, according the statistics issued by CITC about the ICT services consumed in Makkah Almukarramah, Al Madinah Almunawarah and Holy sites throughout Hajj season 1440-2019.

Implementation of daily measurements showed that the Internet average download speed is 44.83 Mbps in Makkah Almukarramah with a rise of 69% compared to last year. While in Madinah it reached 48.14 Mbps with a rise of 54% compared to last year, due to availability of advanced infrastructure for communication networks and massive increase of their capacity.

In an earlier announcement CITC had said:

The statistics also included average of daily data consumption per person; the average rate reached (299.12 MB / subscriber) compared to daily global data consumption rate per person (180  MB / subscriber), noting that the most popular applications are  (in order): YouTube, Snap Chat, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram.

The statistics additionally mentioned that average Internet download speed reached (45.61) in Makkah, achieving an improvement rate of (71.79%) compared to last year.  The number of domestic calls reached (22.7 millions)  while  international calls reached (7.6  millions  ) with success rate of 99.06%.

Note that the two pics above are from CITC tweet below.

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Sunday 18 August 2019

South Africa: Growing Impact of Crime on Connectivity.

A article in Mobile World Live recently said:

MTN South Africa permanently shut down 53 base stations and 90 more are awaiting repair, while rival Vodacom loses 2,000 batteries per month, as the country’s two largest operators warned of the growing impact of crime on connectivity.

In separate interviews with TechCentral the operators said organised criminal gangs were actively targeting theft and vandalism of materials from base stations in South Africa.

Vodacom estimated it was losing ZAR140 million ($9.2 million) per year to theft and vandalism. It has also switched to different batteries, which cost more to install, in an attempt to deter thieves.

MTN said it had been hit with “severe damage and vandalism”, which put the future of hundreds of towers across the country at risk of permanent shutdown. In a single week in July, MTN reported 125 separate incidents of battery theft.

Carte Blanche has done an investigation looking at Off-the-Grid with Stolen Mobile Mast Batteries. Details here and video of the investigation embedded below:

Monday 12 August 2019

Cambodia Getting Ready for 5G

UN-OHRLLS report on Cambodia provides a good summary of current state of play in Cambodian Telecoms market. From the report:

Cambodia has a history of a highly competitive telecommunications market characterized by on-going mergers and acquisitions. It also has the distinction of being the first country in the world where mobile subscriptions surpassed fixed telephone lines (in 1993). There are presently six active mobile operators, up from three in 2000 but down from a peak of nine in 2012. Given the number of active operators in relation to its population, Cambodia has been cited as the "most saturated market in the world." The largest largest operator (by subscriber share) is Smart, majority-owned by the Malaysian AXIATA group. AXIATA is active in nine other Asian nations. 

VIETTEL, the Vietnamese mobile group, is the second largest following the purchase of Beeline in 2015 and uses the Metfone brand. Viettel is active in nine other countries including neighboring Lao PDR. 

CAMGSM, operating under the brand CELLCARD is one of the oldest operators, in service since 1996 and 100% locally owned. These three account for 98% of the market.

GSM mobile coverage covers 99% of the population and subscription penetration crossed the 100% mark in 2011. Home availability of cell phones is high for an LDC, standing at 87% including 96% in urban areas and 86% in rural ones according to the 2014 Demographic and Health Survey.17 By 2016, 97% of the population owned a mobile phone.

Mobile broadband has developed rapidly due to the scarcity of wired infrastructure with the first 3G network launching in 2007. SMART was the first to launch fourth generation (4G) Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology in 2014, and it is available across 25 provinces covering over half the population. It also introduced so-called 4.5G in 2017 achieving speeds of up to 600 Mbps in selected areas. The other operators launched 4G/LTE in 2015. Of note is there are seven mobile broadband operators compared to six mobile operators as Kingtel operates a fixed wireless 4G/LTE network (Figure 0.1 above, right). Most Internet access is via mobile phones and almost half the population (48%) had a smartphone in 2016. 3G covered 66% of the population and 4G/LTE 58% in June 2017. The main constraint for extending mobile broadband coverage is the lack of low frequency spectrum which has a wider coverage area than higher frequency and hence results in lower investments costs. It is expected that this will be made available upon the completion of the transition to digital broadcasting when lower frequency (700 MHz) will be freed up.

State-owned Telecom Cambodia is the main fixed telephone service provider. In addition, there are seven other operators licensed using either copper lines or wireless technology to provide fixed telephone service. Due to the popularity of mobile, fixed telephone subscriptions have been in decline since 2012. Fixed broadband is provided through a mixture of technologies including ADSL (a technology that uses the copper telephone line going to the premise), fixed wireless, cable modem and fiber. There are over 30 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) including mobile operators with the top ten capturing 98% of the market (Figure 0.1, right). There were 117,049 fixed broadband subscriptions in June 2017, just over 1% of total Internet subscriptions in the country. Nevertheless, Cambodia ranks 12th among LDCs in fixed Internet penetration. Spider web tangles of overhead fixed broadband wires are quite visible in urban areas and the city of Phnom Penh has ordered the wires to be buried underground.

Back in Jan 2019, Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC) reported that the number of registered mobile phone SIM cards reached more than 19 million in the first 11 months of last year, an increase of more than three per cent compared with the same period in 2017. The number of registered SIM cards provided by six mobile operators reached 19.3 million at the end of last year, up 3.78 per cent on 2017. The number is equivalent to 120.11 per cent of Cambodia’s total population of more than 16 million, and it was an 800,000 increase on the 18.5 million subscribers over the same period in 2017.

The report shows that mobile internet usage also showed a rapid increase, with 12.9 million subscribers using their mobile phones to access online content last year – an increase of 22.79 per cent – while 34 operators provided fixed-internet to 147,596 users – up 9.16 per cent. The report also showed that Cambodia currently has seven fixed-line operators – companies offering a telephone landline service – with 91,331 users, down 27.46 per cent from 125,908 users in 2017.

Nikkei Asian Review reported back in May, The buzz around 5G mobile technology is building in Cambodia as major carriers plan to try out services this year and a state-owned telco teams up with China's Huawei to roll out a network in 2020. Three major carriers are expected to launch trial services this year, including Cellcard, a telco owned by Royal Group, one of the country's biggest conglomerates.

Cellcard CEO Ian Watson told the Nikkei Asian Review that the company will choose network vendors by the end of next month and launch a 5G service on the 3.5GhZ frequency in the last quarter of 2019. Watson said Cellcard's current network vendors, Nokia and ZTE, were options for the rollout, with the Finnish telecom giant likely to "get some of the work."

The first stage would include about 1,000 5G base stations across Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, he said. Watson added the company will continue to "maximize" its 4G services and plans to invest $250 million over the next three years in its network.

Smart Axiata, a unit of Malaysian telecom operator Axiata Group, and Metfone, owned by Vietnam's Viettel, are also planning 5G service tests this year, said Im Vutha, director of the Telecom Regulator of Cambodia.

Thomas Hundt, the CEO of Smart, told local media that users' heavy data consumption was straining the company's current 4.5G network, necessitating the move to 5G.

Viettel, busy pursuing its own 5G service in neighboring Vietnam, was less forthcoming about its plans for the technology in Cambodia.

Despite the flurry of activity, industry analysts reckon it could be several years before serviceable next-generation data networks cater to ordinary consumers across the developing country. They point to the scale of investment needed, the high cost of the few 5G-capable handsets currently available, and Cambodia's nascent mobile internet penetration relative to bigger regional economies.

Smart itself conceded that there are concerns over how to monetize the new technology.

Keen to see 5G adopted in Cambodia, the government is also pursuing a 5G network through an agreement with Huawei Technologies, signed last month in Beijing.

The memorandum of understanding will see the Chinese tech giant work with state-owned Telecom Cambodia, or TC, in a bid to launch services starting next year.

Last month, Reuters reported that Cambodia’s Smart Axiata said it had begun 5G trials in partnership with China’s Huawei Technologies on Monday and could start rolling out the mobile network by this year. “It will not be a nationwide coverage from day one, it will be hot spot first, it will be an urban areas first and then we will gradually expand,” Smart Axiata’s chief executive Thomas Hundt told reporters after the trial. 

Meanwhile Mobile World Live reported last month also that Metfone, Viettel’s mobile unit in Cambodia, signed an agreement with the country’s state-owned operator to share IT infrastructure and start 5G trials this month, VNExpress reported.

Telecom Cambodia and Vietnam-headquartered Viettel also agreed to jointly fund projects covering IoT, smart cities, e-government, e-health, e-education and e-agriculture, the newspaper wrote.

Metfone is the market leader with a 48 per cent share by subscribers, Q2 data from GSMA Intelligence showed. Nearly 11 per cent of its more than 10 million subscribers are on 4G plans.

Cellcard tested 5G back in October 2018, making first 5G call over our 3.5 GHz frequency and hitting an impressive 1.5 Gbps. Their 4.5G LTE customers receive up to about 137 Mbps.

It's interesting to see that Cambodia is going to jump the 5G gun. We will have to wait and see what kind of success they achieve with it.

Related: Hootsuite Digital 2019 Cambodia report embedded below

Tuesday 6 August 2019

Orange Romania Continues 5G Testing with Samsung

According to a recent Samsung announcement:

Samsung Electronics and Orange Romania have successfully deployed a 5G New Radio (NR) network to demonstrate a series of 5G use cases at Untold Festival 2019, the largest annual dance music festival in Romania, held from August 1 to August 4.

The two companies started their 5G collaboration in 2018 with a 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) trial in Cluj county, Romania, where Orange mobile customers became the first European users to experience at home 5G services. Now, the companies are ramping up their efforts to bring the benefits of 5G to users in Romania.

At Untold, which drew over 335,000 attendants last year, Orange Romania and Samsung have set up 5G use cases to offer immersive experiences powered by the 5G network’s ultra-low latency and ultra-high speed, unfolding the potential of the next generation technology for all to see. The demonstrations include real-time streaming of the performances, captured by 360-degree cameras built onto the arena’s main stage. The stream is shown at an Orange VR zone set up outside the arena, providing a uniquely immersive viewing experience to fans who visit. The companies are also holding an event demonstrating 5G download speeds reaching above 1Gbps, with a latency reduction of 50% on that experienced when using current LTE technology.

“With these successful demonstrations, we are showcasing the experiences that 5G can bring to Orange customers in Romania,” said Emmanuel Chautard, Chief Technology Officer at Orange Romania. “Together with Samsung, we’re showing live network capabilities, with proof that goes beyond just impressive speeds more centered on the customer experience.”

“5G offers more than just a faster connection; it enables transformative use cases that will benefit people and businesses across the industry,” said GY Seo, Senior Vice President and Head of Global Sales & Marketing, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics. “These joint demonstrations allow for a glimpse into the new kinds of services and capabilities that will be made possible as we unlock the potential of 5G for users across Europe.”

The trial at Cluj Arena, where the festival is taking place, makes use of Samsung’s latest solutions, including 5G Massive MIMO Units (MMUs), which support the 3.4-3.8GHz frequency band. Samsung 5G MMUs have already been rolled out across Korea by all three Korean 5G operators for use with their 5G commercial service, which launched in April of 2019. This commercially proven MMU is one of the smallest and lightest in the industry, making installation in existing cellular sites very straightforward.

Here is a video from Orange Romania

Last year at around this time, Orange Romania was in news for doing the first European 5G multi-vendor Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) test

According to 5G Observatory Quarterly Report #4 (June 2019), the Spectrum situation in Romania is as follows:

The National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications (ANCOM) launched a public consultation on 5G spectrum between May and June 2018. 

ANCOM launched a public consultation on the “National Strategy for the Implementation of 5G in Romania” between November 20th and December 21st, 2018.

In December 2018, the Romanian regulator, ANCOM, has issued a consultation about its action plan for 2019. ANCOM’s President, Sorin Grindeanu, said in a press release that its main project will be the auction of the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 1500 MHz, 2.6 GHz, and 3.4 – 3.6 GHz bands for 5G services.

Spectrum in 700 MHz and 3.4-3.8 GHz frequencies could be auctioned in 2019/2020 and 26 GHz spectrum in 2021. 

In Romania, while Orange and Telekom plan to launch 5G in 2020, Vodafone launched 5G back in May and Digi launched 5G in July.

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