Thursday 27 February 2020

Rakuten details its Open RAN and Innovation Journey

In a recent Qualcomm event, the CEO of Rakuten, Mickey (Hiroshi) Mikitani and Tareq Amin, CTO of Rakuten Mobile did a joint presentation laying down the innovation that has helped create the most advanced open mobile network.

Recently, Singapore newcomer TPG Telecom selected Rakuten Mobile as its partner to run OpenRAN trials on a new network in the city state, advancing toward a 4G service launch this year.

Anyway, here is the clip from the video of Qualcomm's live stream that they did instead of MWC 2020 (that was cancelled due to coronavirus fears) that details Rakuten Mobile's innovations.

There was quite a bit of discussion around this as you can see from the tweet above. As it says, the whole network is 4T4R and the advanced radio feature support include NB-IoT on every Node B.

There is of course question around the cost of the server and that it would require to be dedicated for a site.

Light Reading has a good summary of the presentation if you rather prefer to read than watch. It's available here.

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Friday 21 February 2020

NTT Docomo presentation on 5G Launch Plans and Use Cases Solutions Partnership

In a recent presentation in Malaysia, organised by the regulator MCMC, NTT Docomo's Takehiro Nakamura, VP, 5G Laboratories presented the 5G roadmap and preparations for launch and 5G Olympics. He also talked about the Open Innovation Cloud that is bringing together partners for creation of 5G Use Cases

In fact over 200 use cases have been co-created with the partners and the video below shows some of these use cases. The emphasis on creating the ecosystem where companies that have ideas can quickly turn them into a solution is a winner for all parties involved.

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Wednesday 19 February 2020

China Allocates Shared Spectrum for Indoor Use, CBN gets Third Spectrum for 5G Network

China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has granted licenses to China Telecom, China Unicom and China Broadcasting Network (CBN) to share 5G spectrum for indoor coverage in the latest push to commercialise the new mobile technology. The 3 operators will share the 3.3GHz to 3.4GHz band for indoor coverage. The intention is that this will reduce China Mobile's monopoly as it has already got a a big chunk of spectrum in 2.6GHz as well as 100 MHz in 4.9 GHz band.

A report in International Finance states:

China Broadcasting Network (CBN) has received approval to deploy a 5G network across 16 cities using a spectrum in 4.9GHz band. It plans to have a nationwide coverage by 2021 after it signed a deal with State Grid last year. 

CBN is a broadcasting company headquartered in China. The telecom provider’s initial deployment will cover major cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen among 12 others. 

In last October, CNB started trialling standalone technology on the 700MHz band in Shanghai. The telecom provider is working on an investment worth $35.8 million for its 5G network. 

CBN received its commercial 5G licence in June when the country’s big three telecom operators also received the licence. The operators are China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom. 

China Mobile received a licence for 260MHz of spectrum across 2.6GHz and 4.8GHz bands. China Telecom and China Unicom each received 100MHz in 3.5MHz band — and they operate jointly for their 5G deployments. 

Mobile World Live reported yesterday that China Mobile is reaching 7 million 5G subscribers soon. Joseph Waring reported:

China Mobile, the largest operator in the world, signed up 6.7 million 5G users in the space of three months, with 74,000 base stations deployed in 50 cities by end-January, reported.

It reportedly installed 24,000 5G base stations in January.

The subscriber numbers quoted would place China Mobile as the largest 5G player in the world. In November 2019 it set the aggressive target of signing up 70 million 5G users by end-2020.

This report contains this nice picture of spectrum allocation to the operators in China, it's not up to date but still quite detailed.
(click to enlarge)

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Tuesday 18 February 2020

Thailand gets 5G Spectrum but no demand for 1800 MHz and 3.5 GHz coming in 2021

Over the weekend, Thailand’s 5G Spectrum auction concluded and th telecoms regulator raised over 100 billion baht ($3.2 billion) in 5G spectrum auctions, with operators snapping up 48 licenses ahead of an expected commercial roll out later this year. More information can be found on NBTC website here.

The current spectrum holdings for the operators looks as follows:
Source: Twitter

The above chart includes the spectrum won by the operators on Sunday. The spectrum allocated during the auction is as follows:

No operator bid for the 1800 MHz spectrum due to its inflated price

Today, the Bangkok post reported that:

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has signalled the 3500-megahertz range is unlikely to be auctioned for the 5G network this year, a move that could affect Total Access Communication (DTAC), which holds less spectrum bandwidth than bigger rivals.

Referring to talks with Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta on Sunday, NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said the minister believes the planned auction for the 3500MHz range may not have to be sped up.

He said Advanced Info Service (AIS), through its subsidiary Advanced Wireless Network (AWN), won 100MHz of bandwidth on the 2600MHz range on Sunday's 5G licence auction, while True Move H Universal Communication (TUC) won 90MHz of bandwidth on the range and this "could be enough for both of them to develop their 5G adoption".

Mr Takorn said both he and Mr Buddhipongse believe mobile operators have already shouldered a substantial financial burden for 4G and 5G licensing, which has dampened their desire to gain additional spectrum ranges.

He said 5G use cases also need time for real commercial development for vertical industries.

The operators TOT and CAT Telecom are merging to form a new company called National Telecom (NT) that will be 100% owned by the Finance Ministry.

Finally, here are the technical details of the 5G Spectrum that was auctioned.

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Saturday 15 February 2020

Verizon Highlights from their Investor Day Presentations

Verizon hosted an investor meeting with Chairman & CEO Hans Vestberg, CFO Matt Ellis and members of the senior executive team. Their presentations covered a discussion of their strategy, network leadership and 5G progress. The webcast and presentation from the event is available here.

In this post we will look at some of the slides to understand what Verizon is doing in their network. Starting with the slide shown above, you can see their planned transformation journey. In the last couple if years they have transformed the network to what they refer to as Verizon 2.0. There is a lot of improvement planned for the next few years, including scaling UWB & 5G Nationwide and expanding 5G Public & Private Edge.
Verizon will continue to extend Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) across consumer & business offering an alternative to cable and satellite broadband. New solutions, access to 3rd part cloud ecosystem, developer ecosystem and business models will provide it with an edge over rivals.
2020 commitments include driving the 5G growth, mainly deploying 5 times more 5G small cells in addition to the year-on-year increase. In addition Verizon will roll out Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) nationwide and build over 60 5G UWB mobility cities. This means that 5G would be seamlessly available, especially on the roads and the streets. Over 10 5G UWB home cities would be created with 5G NR and nextGen CPE. This means that Verizon will take the FWA fight to these places. Finally, over 10 5G commercial MEC centers would be available for next generation services.
This slide clarifies and details the points mentioned above, especially with regards to MEC (Multi-Access Edge Computing).

Finally, when Verizon claims '5G Built Right', what does that mean? It means different options for connectivity including Fiber, Wireline, Wireless and Private Networks; different Platforms including Telematics, IoT, Computer Vision and 5G Edge; different Solution including Managed Network Services, Security and Edge Apps and SaaS.
Also, 5G buillt right across every industry vertical be it Retail, Manufacturing, Venues, Healthcare, Smart Communities, Transportation, Construction or Logistics.

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Thursday 13 February 2020

Veon Kazakhstan performed largest 5G trial in Central Asia

VEON launched a large-scale 5G network trial in Shymkent, Kazakhstan, as part of its vision to empower customer ambitions through market-leading technologies and services while demonstrating our commitment to remain at the forefront of technology

The end-to-end trial is integrated into Beeline’s live mobile network, making it one of the largest 5G trials to date in Central Asia. The network architecture is aligned with the latest 5G release (NSA 3X) and allows 5G devices to aggregate LTE and 5G radio channels to achieve higher download speeds. Initial speed tests, using the 3.7 GHz band, show a downlink speed of 1.0GB per second.

The trial’s 5G coverage spreads over thirteen square kilometres, allowing a number of fixed wireless and mobile use cases to be tested in real-life conditions, including robotics for industry applications and virtual reality experiences such as gaming and 360-degree TV streaming. The trial is being led by KaR-Tel LLC in partnership with Nokia.

During 2019, KaR-Tel LLC has invested in network modernization and the expansion of coverage in order to have 5G-ready infrastructure in Kazakhstan, ensuring the company can continue to provide its customers with the latest generation of connectivity services.

Further Reading:

Tuesday 11 February 2020

Iceland getting ready for the year of 5G

Iceland has one of the smallest yet most progressive telecom markets in Europe. There is effective competition in the mobile and broadband markets, with a number of players having emerged to challenge the dominance of the two leading players the two main players Siminn and Vodafone, which have interests in numerous sectors.

 The new entrant Nova has become the leading player in the mobile market and has quickly expanded its presence in the fixed-line segment.

2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz and 3G on 900 and mostly 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE has started on all three providers on 800 (B20) and on 1800 MHz (B3) in the Reykjavik area. It's available on all providers for prepaid without a surcharge.

The island has a very good coverage on 2G and 3G given its topography and low population. Síminn is the market leader with the best coverage, followed by Vodafone (still good) and Nova in 3rd place (mainly in the southwest).

So Síminn is the costliest, but best for going to remote areas, Vodafone is cheaper and still sufficient if you stick mainly to populated areas and Nova the cheapest and good when you stay mostly in the population center around Reykjavik.

Síminn (aka Landssíminn) is the old state telco which still has the best coverage and speeds throughout the country and is market leader in Iceland at slightly higher rates. LTE coverage is at 98% of population in 2017 on band 3 /1800 MHz only.

As part of its 5G preparations, Síminn will modernise and expand its radio network and continue to deploy the 5G-ready Ericsson Radio System.

Ericsson and Siminn will also conduct 5G trials enabled by Ericsson 5G New Radio and Ericsson Spectrum Sharing. Síminn is eyeing the introduction of new IoT services on its 4G network – including Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and Cat-M1. The agreement aims to accelerate the growth of Iceland’s IoT ecosystem across diverse use cases. NB-IoT enables low data rate applications in extremely challenging radio conditions, for example, connecting utility meters and sensors.

In addition to the radio network, Síminn has also chosen Ericsson to modernise its core network including Ericsson Cloud Packet Core portfolio upgrades to support the transition from 4G to 5G.

The deal includes geo-redundant Ericsson Network Functions Virtualization Infrastructure operated on Ericsson’s Blade Server Platform with Ericsson virtual User Data Consolidation, and Ericsson Fast VoLTE.

Ericsson Fast VoLTE enables HD voice services with simultaneous LTE-speed surfing – paving the way for more advanced communication services.

Vodafone is the biggest competitor of Síminn in Iceland. Its coverage is still good, even at some place better than Síminn, and it gives out a voice & data SIM and a data-only SIM for a better start-up price and cheaper rates. 4G/LTE is available on 1800 Mhz (band 3) and 800 Mhz (band 20):

Nova is the smallest provider and still reasonable, if you stick mainly the population center around Reykjavik, where it offers 4G/LTE too. It's very popular amongst exchange students flocking the country, because it gives out 1000 minutes of free calls and 500 free SMS per month amongst Nova customers. 4G/LTE is given out where available on LTE bands 3 (1800 MHz) and 20 (800 MHz).

Nova was the first mobile operator to launch both 3G and 4G on Iceland. They now follow their tradition by also being the first to fully test 5G locally. Huawei has been chosen to be the partner and supplier of equipment needed and the trials are expected to last several months. Nova expect 5G to be widely adopted in Iceland in 2020.

For the test Huawei have installed 5G base stations and routers placed at Nova’s facilities. Now, careful tests will commence for aspects such as quality of transmission and network security. Huawei now have over 30 commercial 5G contracts with telecommunications companies worldwide, mainly from Europe including Finland, Spain and UK.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed state that Nova and Huawei intend to strengthen and expand their strategic partnership. Both parties intend to extend cooperation on 5G technology to realize the best telecommunications network in Iceland in terms of radio coverage, stability and bandwidth which ensure the reliable service quality and the enhanced experience for Nova customers.

Tuesday 4 February 2020

Egypt Mobile Network Operators Overview

Egypt has one of the largest mobile telecom markets in Africa, with effective competition and a penetration rate of about 94%. Although the country was among the first countries in the region to launch 3G mobile services, the development of LTE services was delayed by the late issuing of licenses. Telecom Egypt (operating under the brand WE) in August 2016 received the country’s first unified services licence, which allowed it to offer LTE services, while the remaining three MNOs (Orange Egypt, Vodafone Egypt and Etisalat Misr) followed after having disputed the terms associated with the LTE licences offered. Commercial LTE services were launched in late 2017 under unified licences which also enabled the three network operators to offer fixed-line services using the infrastructure of Telecom Egypt. It has been speculated the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) will start selling 5G spectra to Egypt’s four mobile network operators in 2020.

The three first providers have a similar footprint and 2G and 3G in the populated areas. Orange, once called Mobinil used to be market leader, but lost this position in recent years to Vodafone. Etisalat is the newest arrival, but almost on par in coverage now. So speed and coverage depend heavily on your local position to the closest antenna. 2G is on 900 MHz (and 1800 Mhz on Etisalat only), 3G up to HSPA+ speed on 2100 MHz.

In 2016 landline operator Telecom Egypt became the first operator to acquire a 4G/LTE concession. They've launched in September 2017 offering 2G, 3G and 4G services via Orange Egypt with whom they inked a roaming deal in 2017 for the next years. The other providers also received licenses for 4G/LTE.

For 4G/LTE licences are given out on 700 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz (Bands 1, 3, 8, 28) with 1800 MHz (B 3) as primary band. Some of these bands are used for 2G and 3G too, what has affected the 2G/3G service. After some delays 4G/LTE services have been finally starting on all providers in 2017.

According to OpenSignal report of March 2019 4G/LTE availability is around 60% through all networks with Vodafone topping the list at 67%. Download 4G speed is on average 8-9 Mbit/s with Orange topping at 10 Mbit/s.

Vodafone Egypt, half owned by Telecom Egypt, has become the biggest provider in Egypt with a 44% share of the market. It overtook Mobinil (now branded Orange) in 2011 and offers a good coverage at pretty high rates. For 4G/LTE Vodafone started in 2017 on 1800 MHz (B3) in major towns and resorts.

Saudi Telecom Company (STC)  has signed an initial agreement to acquire Vodafone’s 55 per cent stake in Vodafone Egypt for $2.4bn in the latest step to unravel the British group’s global empire.The prospective deal, which values Vodafone Egypt at $4.4bn, comes as Riyadh-listed STC seeks to expand regionally.

Vodafone has in recent years sold out of or merged with rivals in a number of countries, including India and New Zealand, to focus on expanding its European footprint.  Vodafone Egypt is the largest telecoms operator in Egypt by market share and the British telecoms company was the country’s largest foreign investor.

Egypt has been a growth engine for Vodafone in the past but they were criticised by activist groups during the Arab Spring in 2011 after their network was used to send text messages telling Egyptians to “confront the traitors and criminals” on behalf of the government, before it was turned off. The company later defended its actions saying that three of its engineers were being held hostage and that it had no choice but to comply with the law.

Orange were the biggest mobile provider in Egypt back in the days when it was still called Mobinil. In 2016 they were rebranded to the Orange label. They compete with Vodafone and Etisalat and are at no.2 position with 33% of customers They offer a good coverage in the country and 4G/LTE has started in 2017 on 1800 MHz (B3) in major towns and resorts.

It has been announced Orange Egypt will build and operate a data center and cloud computing platform for New Cairo, Egypt’s next capital city. The Administrative Capital for Urban Development (ACUD) is a state-backed company contracting the telco's regional subsidiary. Daily News Egypt reported on the signing of the contract between Orange and ACUD on January 12 2020.

According to the deal, Orange Egypt will provide the main infrastructure to help the city provide various services in conjunction with IoT solutions, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence.

Etisalat is the smallest of the three providers with a market share of 22%. It gives good coverage in some places, but has gaps and slow speeds in others. They combine their own hotspots in their products. Etisalat is said to have the lowest coverage, but are the only provider that publish+es a 2G/3G coverage map. 4G/LTE was launched in 2017 on 1800 MHz (B3) in major towns and resorts.

 Etisalat Misr has teamed up with Honeywell  to support Egypt’s smart city vision and deliver world-class services for citizens at Egypt’s New Administrative Capital, which is one of the world’s largest smart city projects.

Telecom Egypt (its brand name WE) is the state-owned landline monopolist with more than 6 million customers. In 2016 it acquired a LTE license and the network has been started in autumn 2017. They provide 4G/LTE at first "experiminentally" on Bands 1 and 8 (900, 2100 MHz). 2G and 3G coverage is done through roaming agreements with Orange and Etisalat.

Telecom Egypt also has a 45% stake in Vodafone Egypt which they have stated they have no intention of selling.

Sunday 2 February 2020

KDDI Japan's IoT march continues with over 10 Million Connections

Pictures source: Financial Results for the Q3 of the Fiscal Year Ending March 2020 - Jan 2020 (link)

In a recent press release, KDDI announced (in Japanese) that it has now exceeded 10 million IoT connections that it has been providing since 2001. Initially it was all M2M but since then IoT has been introduced and the number of IoT connections, in comparison to M2M is increasing.  KDDI Group as a whole will provide a one-stop system for providing IoT, including devices (sensing), network infrastructure, cloud, and data analysis that are essential for promoting IoT. Utilizing the knowledge of the IoT field that has been cultivated to date, the KDDI DIGITAL GATE business development base in the 5G / IoT era is promoting digital transformation for corporate customers in Japan and overseas.

The IoT provided by KDDI is being introduced into smart meters, connected cars equipped with communication functions in vehicles, home security, etc., making it possible to visualize signs of failure of factory equipment and waste of production costs, as well as at construction sites. Efforts are being made to protect workers from changes in temperature and sudden changes in weather, as well as in primary industries such as agriculture and fisheries. For example, the know-how related to fisheries, which relied on experience and intuition, is being used to create and accumulate data using the IoT to establish aquaculture technology, which is used for regional revitalization.

Going forward, KDDI hopes to use the services combining 5G and AI to further utilize existing fields, and further expand the IoT not only in Japan but also overseas through the IoT Global Infrastructure. KDDI IoT Portal is available here.

KDDI opened its first IoT/5G lab, called KDDI DIGITAL GATE, in central Tokyo in September 2018. This lab, which was supported by KDDI’s specialist partners, such as SORACOM, iret, ARISE Analytics and Scrum Inc., was used to co-create new businesses with customers and drive innovation.

KDDI completed nationwide coverage of LTE-M in June 2018. The IoT being developed by KDDI is being introduced into smart meters, connected cars equipped with communication functions in vehicles, home security, etc., making it possible to visualize signs of failure of factory equipment and waste of production costs, as well as at construction sites. Efforts are being made to protect workers from changes in temperature and sudden changes in weather, as well as in primary industries such as agriculture and fisheries.

For example the Toyooka City Smart Agriculture Project, uses LTE-M-connected sensors to monitor water levels in paddy fields.

The low power wide area (LPWA) provided by LTE-M connectivity was also being used to support climbers tackling Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain. KDDI uses LTE-M to track the number of climbers at the starting point for an ascent (the trails can get crowded), as well as temperatures and humidity levels during the climbing season from 10th July 2018 to 10th Sep 2018.

Moreover, KDDI has also used LPWA technologies to develop a system for detecting landslides in mountainous areas, and a solution for monitoring the occupancy of toilets and for controlling the amount of water used to flush a latrine. Over time, the operator expects LTE-M to be used in a wide range of IoT applications, including highly mobile solutions for the logistics and consumer wearable sectors.

Another example of their innovative work is an aqua-culture technology project that has revived the local production of mackerel.  Equipment that can measure water temperature, oxygen concentration and salt concentration on an hourly basis hour have been installed in the fishing port of Takara, Obama City. The results are transmitted to the server via KDDI's mobile line, and the situation can be grasped remotely using a tablet terminal, so informing fisherman of vital information for a good catch.

In the future KDDI intend to use their services combining 5G and AI to further utilize existing fields, and further expand the IoT not only in Japan but also overseas through the IoT Global Infrastructure.

KDDI will promote “fusion of communication and life design” and contribute to the business of corporate customers as a “company that contributes to sustainable growth of society” and create new experience value.

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