Thursday 30 January 2020

AIS Thailand, Preparing for a 5G World

Leading  Thai mobile operator Advanced Info Service (AIS) have announced they have developed various solutions for 5G tech adoption after a year of collaboration with their partners.

These solutions potentially serve several major industries, including innovative technologies like robotics, remote control vehicles, 3D holograms, digital health, connected drones and smart logistics.

AIS have been operating 5G testbeds in all five geographic regions of Thailand, collaborating with universities,global vendors, operators, innovative tech developers partners and the telecom regulator.

A anonymous source in the telecom industry disclosed AIS's partners on 5G tech include China Mobile, the world's largest mobile operator by subscription base, and Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo.

Wasit Wattanasap, head of nationwide operations and support at AIS, said the proper time for commercial 5G use cases in the country depends on when related industries are ready to adopt the high-speed internet network and the ecosystem involved. Mr Wasit said several industrial players have talked with AIS about collaboration on 5G tech adoption in the future.

AIS recently launched a 5G tech showcase at Samyan Mitrtown shopping mall.

The showcase was held to educate the public about the benefits of 5G technology in various fields of application. Mr Wasit said 5G will enhance internet speed, boost the capability of IoT device connectivity and ensure a fast, stable and responsive network.

Five innovative features linked to 5G tech are on display at the mall. They consist of 5G 3D holograms, 5G video calls, robotics, remote control vehicles and connected drones.

Mr Wasit said it's the first time for 5G hologram 3D technology to be showcased in Thailand.

This technology will be useful when applied to business meetings, distance education, medicine, agriculture, and fashion and entertainment jobs, as well as in developing games.

The demonstration of remote driverless vehicle technology via 5G is a collaboration of the Digital Research and Innovation Institute, Prince of Songkla University and AIS.

The presentation showcased the potential of the 5G network with high speed, low latency and fast response times.

Remote-control drones will also be demonstrated between Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima, giving an idea of how unmanned flying vehicles can be operational in the 5G era with high speed and low latency, Mr Wasit said.

The drone can be controlled remotely via a mobile network.

AIS and SCG (a leading business conglomerate in the ASEAN region) have also jointly launched the country's first 5G use case for industry, offering trial remote-controlled forklifts via 5G tech on the 2600-megahertz spectrum range.

The trial used two forklifts for SCG's routine operations in Saraburi, controlled from headquarters in Bangkok's Bang Sue district.

The number of connected forklifts for remote operation is expected to increase soon. Other 5G use cases are also projected to rise.

Through the cooperation, SCG was able to operate the forklift, manoeuvring pallets from point A to point B accurately in real time.

The development serves as a model for other industries to follow. AIS and SCG signed a deal for joint R&D for the application of 5G technology to other projects. They also commit to jointly develop workers' skills in line with digital development.

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Monday 27 January 2020

Taiwan Auctions 5G Spectrum in 3.5GHz & 28GHz - 5G Private Networks on Horizon Too

The Taiwanese Regulator National Communications and Communications Commission (NCC) reported that the 5G first wave of mobile broadband services in the first phase of quantity bidding ends today (16 Jan 2020), the total bid price of each band reached NT $ 138.081 billion. The official report is available here with the PDF of all details here (in Chinese)

Mobile World Live detailed:

All five mobile operators in Taiwan spent a total of TWD138 billion ($4.6 billion) securing 5G spectrum, with the protracted sale registering as the third-priciest auction for the technology in the world, Taipei Times reported, citing figures from the regulator.

Taiwan’s government forecast the sale to generate about TWD44 billion. The price per 10MHz block of 3.5GHz spectrum reached TWD5.075 billion, which the National Communications Commission (NCC) said was a world record.

The auction started on 10 December and ended yesterday (16 January) after 261 rounds. On offer was 270MHz in the 3.5GHz band, 2,500MHz of 28GHz airwaves and 20MHz in the 1.8GHz band.

Market leader Chunghwa Telecom paid TWD45.7 billion for 90MHz in the 3.5GHz band and TWD618 million for 600MHz of 28GHz spectrum. It plans to launch 5G services in July, the newspaper wrote.

Far EasTone acquired 80MHz of 3.5GHz spectrum for TWD40.6 billion and 400MHz in the 28GHz band for TWD412 million, while Taiwan Mobile spent TWD30.4 billion on 60MHz in the 3.5GHz band and TWD206 million for 200MHz of 28GHz airwaves.

Taiwan Star Telecom secured 40MHz in the 3.5GHz band for TWD19.7 billion.

Asia Pacific Telecom, the smallest operator with a 7 per cent market share by subscribers, pulled out of the 3.5GHz sale after initially bidding, but paid TWD412 million for 40MHz of 28GHz spectrum. It said it would look to cooperate with other operators.

The NCC introduced regulations requiring operators to share 5G spectrum with rivals.

Only 1,600MHz of the 28GHz spectrum was sold.

A recent report by Yu-li Liu, Ph.D., Head & Professor, City University of Hong Kong available here provides more details about Taiwanese market:

There are 5 main players; the leader Chunghwa Telecom is followed by Far EasTone. Taiwan Mobile, Taiwan Star and Asia Pacific Telecom (also known as GT) follow the leaders.

OpenSignal did a detailed analysis of Taiwan just last month (Dec 2019), available here. As you can see, the real competition is between Chunghwa, FarEasTone & Taiwan Mobile.
The current spectrum policy applicable to the main operators can be seen above.
On the other hand, Asia Pacific Telecom (a.k.a. GT) supports private networks and has a subsidiary, a system integration company, involved in 5G private networks. Considering that they only won 400 MHz in 28 GHz band, this may well be their game plan. We will have to wait and see.

Saturday 25 January 2020

2019 UK Mobile Network Developments Roundup

In a presentation/report last year, iDate Digiworld labelled UK as a leader of 5G. So it was good to see a nice roundup from UK, courtesy of Peter Clarke & Jake Mcneill

The video is embedded below and you can find a lot of information on Peter's website here.

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Tuesday 21 January 2020

Viettel to Launch 5G in Vietnam with Indigenous Technology

Vietnam’s largest telecommunication company, Viettel, will launch commercial 5G mobile services from June this year, the company said on Friday.

Reuters report the military-run company has said in a statement it would use 5G network equipment and software developed itself, adding that it has become the sixth firm in the world to produce 5G network equipment after Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, Samsung Electronics and ZTE.

The statement came after Viettel conducted its first trial video call on its 5G network the same day. Viettel said it would develop both civilian and military services based on its 5G platform.

It should be pointed out that there are other players like Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, Airspan, Altiostar, NEC, Fujitsu, etc. that have already got 5G in their arsenal so the claim that Viettel is the 6th player is not necessarily true.

According to FT Viettel said it took six months for its research and development arm, Viettel High Technology, to develop the hardware and software needed to make the call.

Viettel has more than 110m customers in 11 countries, including Cambodia, Haiti and Peru.

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Monday 20 January 2020

Ecuador taking baby steps towards 5G

Ecuador has a small telecom market dominated by the mobile sector. The evolution of the market has suffered due to poor infrastructure, topographical challenges and the deploying of networks to remote and mountainous areas is very expensive. Unfortunately there has been a legacy of under investment in telecoms infrastructure.

The mobile sector is shared by América Móvil’s Conecel (trading as Claro), which has a 52.5% share of the market by subscribers, Telefónica’s Otecel (trading as Movistar) with about 30% of the market, and CNT (previously Telecsa/Alegro) with a share of 17.6% share. Thus far the MVNO sector has been slow to develop, partly because the incumbent operators also have their low-cost brands and thus there is little business case for new market entrants. Virgin Mobile is expected to launch a service in Ecuador, following on from similar launches in Mexico, Chile and Colombia.

Claro the leading mobile network operator by subscribers has the best coverage especially in remote areas. 4G/LTE has started in 2015 in Guayaquil, Quito, Cumbayá and Sangoloquí and is rolled out in other regions available for prepaid.

Claro have demonstrated 5G technology at an event organised by the Ministry of Telecommunications in Guayaquil to promote its ‘Digital Ecuador’ strategy. In a statement, the company said interactive exhibits would enable users to experience the faster download speeds enabled by 5G, as well as applications such as virtual and augmented reality, and the Internet of Things (IoT). The operator, which recently announced plans to invest USD500 million in network upgrades over the next three years, also revealed it will soon begin 5G technology tests in Quito in partnership with hardware vendor Huawei. Ecuador’s government outlined plans in July to allocate 3.5GHz spectrum in 2020 in preparation for the launch of 5G services.

Movistar (brand name of Telefonica) is the 2nd network in the country, giving even better speeds in the cities, but a lower coverage: coverage checker outside. 4G/LTE is open for prepaid and available in Guayaquil, Salinas Quito, Cuenca, Azogues, Ambato and Tonsupa in 2016.

Back in September, Commsupdate reported that Spanish telecoms group Telefonica has begun exploring the sale of its Ecuador unit for as much as EUR800 million (USD881.8 million) as part of its ongoing debt reduction efforts, reports Spanish daily El Economista citing unnamed sources. Although talks with potential buyers have yet to begin, the group is studying market conditions ahead of a sale which could attract interest from Millicom (Tigo) and Entel Chile, claims the report. Telefonica Ecuador (operating under the Movistar brand) reported EBITDA of EUR75 million and revenue of EUR252 million in the first six months of 2019.

Back in August, Telefonica did 5G demos with ZTE to prove the benefits of 5G. According to Ecuador TV, the organizers were looking to share with the community the importance, advantages and benefits that will be had with the new 5G technology. Several virtual reality posts were exhibited in which the user can observe the augmented reality in real time. For example, a camera was placed on the eighth floor of the building and when putting on the glasses one could feel the vertigo of the height.

CNT or Corporación Nacional de Telecomunicaciones is the public provider in Ecuador. They focus mainly on ADSL and landline phone connections. It has a mobile network too, but this is rather limited in coverage. 4G/LTE is open for prepaid and gives the best speeds in cities of all operators in the country.

Ecuador Mobile Network Experience Report July 2019 from OpenSignal listed Claro as a winnder of their 'Download Speed Experience' award, following a draw with Movistar six months ago, as the Telefónica subsidiary's growth in this metric has stalled. It was a similar story in Upload Speed Experience, where static growth from Movistar allowed Claro to surge ahead and grab the award. But in both speed metrics, CNT's users saw the greatest improvement.

The 'Video Experience' award was shared jointly by Claro and CNT, as both these operators pulled ahead of Movistar, whose score dropped after winning this metric six months ago. All three of Ecuador's operators now have Fair ratings as CNT's Video Experience score jumped by 13 points (out of 100). Movistar kept hold of our 4G Availability award, but statistically saw no growth in its score over the past six months. CNT increased its score by 8 percentage points to tie for second place with Claro — and both operators are now within 5 points of the leader.

In the cities analysis, CNT managed to win three of the awards in Quito — 4G Availability, Video Experience and Download Speed Experience — while it drew with Claro for Latency Experience. State-owned CNT has also shown the greatest improvement across its scores in this report, and is fast becoming a serious challenger to its bigger rivals.

You can read all details here.

Wednesday 15 January 2020

An Overview of Mobile Markets in the Pacific Islands

Mobile technology is a playing a pivotal role in the economic and technological development of the
Pacific Islands, enabling access to life enhancing services in areas such as health and education,  as well as creating more jobs and increasing tax revenues.

Currently the Pacific Islands region has a  modest mobile subscriber growth,  subscriber penetration rates remain well below regional and global developed market averages.

According to The GSMA Mobile Economy Pacific Islands 2019 report, although 38% of the population subscribed to a mobile service as at the end of 2018, this trails the average for least developed countries (44%). Within the region, there is significant variation in the development of local mobile markets; subscriber penetration rates range from a high of 84% in Fiji to a low of just 11% in the Marshall Islands. Papua New Guinea is by some way the most populous country in the region; with a subscriber penetration rate of 30%, it is home to the majority of the
unconnected population across the region.

Operators are investing to improve LTE network coverage and speeds. 4G connections are set to account for more than half of total connections by 2023, doubling the figure from the end of 2018.
The shift to mobile broadband and 4G also reflects the increasing rates of smartphone adoption. From just 30% of connections at the end of 2018, this is forecast to more than double to 65% by 2025, helped by declines in smartphone prices and the emergence of new, low-cost smartphone vendors.
Faster network speeds and more advanced devices are key to bringing populations online. At the end of 2018, mobile internet penetration in the Pacific Islands was the lowest of any region in the world, at just 18% of the population. This figure will grow over the coming years, but by 2025 only a third
of the population will have mobile internet access. This will leave more than 9 million people across the region offline, limiting their ability to participate in the digital economy and take advantage of the opportunities it can offer

Most islands still lack properly developed innovation ecosystems due to the limited size of the individual markets, the complexity of developing sound infrastructure between the archipelagos, and
the significant leverage of larger regional hubs in Asia Pacific.

Within the region, subscriber penetration rates range from a high of 84% in Fiji to a low of just 11% in the Marshall Islands. Papua New Guinea is by some way the most populous country in the region. Its current subscriber penetration rate of 30% means it is home to the majority of the unconnected
population across the region. Connecting these still unconnected populations remains the key challenge for operators and other industry stakeholders in the region, including governments and regulators.

The region is seeing an ongoing shift to mobile broadband connections (3G and 4G capable
devices), which by the end of 2018 already account for more than half the connections base. 4G alone is set to account for over half of total connections by 2023 – more than doubling the figure from the end of 2018.

There are now 34 LTE networks in service across the region. Most recently, Tuvalu Telecom launched on the island of Tuvalu in 2018. Operators are continuing to invest in expanding their existing networks, in terms of coverage and network speeds.

Fiji hosts a relatively sophisticated communications infrastructure with the highest mobile and Internet penetration in the Pacific islands, according to Research & Markets.

It is the leading market to watch in terms of both 4G LTE and 5G development in this region. In 2019 the Fijian mobile operators continue to heavily invest in 4G LTE and LTE-A technologies, and these networks now account for the largest share of mobile connections. Concentrating on the more highly populated areas, the operators are preparing for the next growth area of mobile data. For example, Vodafone Fiji announced in 2018 its plans to invest FJD207 million ($98.6 million) in the upgrade of its mobile networks, with the goal of raising ‘4G+’ coverage to more than 90% of the population. Around 100 existing 3G cell sites will be converted to LTE-A technology, while a further 244 new sites will be developed to increase 4G coverage and network speeds. Similarly, Digicel announced a $50 million plan to improve LTE-A coverage for key population areas in Fiji.

Both Digicel Fiji and Vodafone Fiji also have 5G in mind and are preparing the networks to be pre-5G ready. Fiji presents a challenging geographic environment for infrastructure developments generally, due to its population being spread across more than 100 islands. However, the majority of Fijians live on the two main islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.

Sunday 12 January 2020

Hong Kong Getting Ready for 5G with Spectrum Auctions Conclusion

Hong Kong is a small market my some measurements and calculations. According to Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) Statistics, Oct 2018, Hong Kong had:

  • 7.3 million population with 2.49 million household
  • 27 Fixed Operators:
    • Residential fixed line penetration rate 89% household
    • Broadband penetration rate 92.5% household
    • Broadband customer accounts 2.67 million
  • 2 Pay-TV Operators:
    • Pay-TV penetration rate 99% household
  • 4 Mobile Operators:
    • Mobile penetration rate 250%
    • Mobile subscriptions 18.6 million
As can be seen, HKT is the top operator with not just the majority of market share but also most spectrum. This is followed by 3HK, China Mobile HK and SmarTone (SMT).

Mobile World Live has a good summary of all the spectrum auctions:

Hong Kong completed the last of three 5G spectrum auctions, with operators spending a combined HKD665.1 million ($85 million) on 100MHz of 3.3GHz airwaves.

HKT and Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong each paid HKD199.5 million for 30MHz of the mid-band 5G spectrum, while China Mobile Hong Kong and SmarTone forked out HKD133 million apiece on 20MHz.

The Office of the Communications Authority said the successful bidders must pay spectrum utilisation fees and submit performance bonds by 11 December to guarantee compliance with network and service rollout requirements. Spectrum will be assigned that month and be valid for 15 years.

In a statement, HKT said the 3.3GHz band is designed for indoor use and is extremely valuable for supplementing 3.5GHz band spectrum to provide extra capacity in heavily loaded indoor environments such as the underground rail network.

Together with 400MHz of 5G spectrum in the 26GHz and 28GHz bands administratively assigned by the government in March, HKT will have a total of 520MHz of 5G spectrum.

An HKT representative said it appreciates the government’s decision to set more reasonable auction reserve prices, along with other amendments for the 5G spectrum, stating this would boost the development of the industry and benefit mobile users.

HKT and China Mobile Hong Kong were each awarded 40MHz of 5G spectrum in the 4.9GHz band at a reserve price of HKD120 million on 23 October. In mid-October all four operators acquired 200MHz of 3.5GHz spectrum.

The three auctions raised a total of HKD1.91 billion, with market leader HKT and China Mobile Hong Kong each acquiring a total of 120MHz, and SmarTone and Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong 70MHz each.

The official OFCA document on Spectrum Release Plan for 2020 – 2022 is available here.

Back in December, Microwave Journal reported:

China Mobile Hong Kong (CMHK) is Hong Kong's first mobile network operator to have successfully accomplished 5G Standalone (SA) network test and also completed the first voice over NR (VoNR) call. The radio cell sites supporting both 5G SA and NSA network are now installed for trial test at China Mobile 5G Innovation Center Hong Kong Open Lab in Hong Kong Science Park and Mita Internet Data Center in Kwai Chung.

MWL adds, CMHK, the first to launch 5G tests in the territory, acquired 20MHz of spectrum in the 3.3GHz band, 40MHz in the 4.9GHz band and 200MHz in the 3.5GHz band.

A Mobile Network Experience report from OpenSignal in Dec 2019 showed that the mobile ecosystem is thriving well in Hong Kong with customers getting a great experience from all networks.

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Monday 6 January 2020

Malaysia Decides on Innovative Approach for 5G Spectrum

Malaysia's regulator MCMC announced final report on allocation of spectrum bands for mobile broadband service on Jan 01 2020. The report is available here and follows on from the consultation document released in August 2019, available here.

People have generally been impressed with MCMC's approach with many analysts heaping praise on them for putting people and connectivity before money. We will have to wait to see what the Malaysian operators think.

The press release provides a good summary of the decision but I encourage interested parties to read the report that has a lot more detail. Here are the interesting bits:

MCMC has identified the 700 MHz, 3.5 GHz and 26/28 GHz as the pioneer spectrum bands for the roll-out of 5G in Malaysia, in light of the rapid development of the global 5G ecosystem and deployment. 

The 700 MHz and 3.5 GHz bands are being considered for allocation to a single entity comprising a consortium formed by multiple licensees, instead of individual licensees. MCMC will undertake a tender process for this purpose. This approach is intended to lower the capital expenditure (“CAPEX”) by minimising costs and prevent the duplication of infrastructure, at a time where improvements in 4G networks are continuing.  

As this is a new approach, MCMC will only make available 2x30 MHz of the 700 MHz band and 100 MHz of the 3.5 GHz band. The remaining frequencies of these bands will be considered for assignment at a later stage. 

The assignment of the 26/28 GHz bands will be conducted in two methods. The 24.9 GHz to 26.5 GHz frequency bands will be assigned through a tender process (beauty contest) to licensees on a nationwide basis. The 26.5 GHz to 28.1 GHz frequency bands will be assigned on a first-come first-served basis and will be open to any party (including non-licensees) for the purpose of deploying localised and/or private networks. 

The assignment for the above mentioned spectrum bands will be made by way of apparatus assignment (AA). MCMC anticipates that the appropriate spectrum fee through AA is more economical, and will encourage network deployment by the service provider. Cost savings can be passed on to businesses and consumers to ensure better value of affordable services.  

Once the assignment processes are completed, MCMC expects commercial deployment of 5G in Malaysia to begin by the third quarter (Q3) of 2020. This is consistent with the deliberations in the National 5G Task Force that was established since November 2018 and comprised of 114 organisations from the private sector, ministries and agencies representing the demand and supply side of the ecosystem. 

The existing allocation for deployment of current 4G technology will be maintained. This includes maintaining the existing allocation of the 2300 MHz and 2600 MHz bands until December 2021. MCMC will undertake the necessary review of these bands in 2021.

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