Friday 29 May 2020

Sweden stride into 5G

Sweden took a massive step into the 5G era with three of its mobile operators all launching their 5G networks the weekend of May 24th/25th 2020.
Tele2 issued a press release insisting they were the first operator to launch the next generation mobile network by activating Sweden’s first public 5G network in accordance with global standards.The telco said that the company’s customers will be able to enjoy the next generation mobile network in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. Their 5G services will be offered using 80 megahertz bandwidth on C-Band spectrum. And from 24 June 2020, all customers with a Tele2 Unlimited subscription and a 5G compatible mobile phone from Samsung’s Galaxy S20 series, will get free access to Tele2’s 5G network.

Meanwhile Telia Sweden inaugurated its first major commercial 5G network in Stockholm. The network has been up and running for a number of weeks already. 15 base stations are already in place, and during June a further 60+ will be built. The 5G network will cover most of central Stockholm by Midsummer. Expansion of the network is underway in a further 12 cities including Gothenburg and Malmö, where it will be launched later this year.

During the spring, 15 base stations were upgraded with 5G in Stockholm, and the network is already up and running. A further 60+ are due to be completed during June in partnership with Ericsson. As a result, a significant part of Stockholm will be covered by 5G by the end of the May, including Norrmalm, Östermalm and Vasastan. Parallel to this, expansion of the network is taking place in a further 12 cities, including Gothenburg and Malmö, where it will be launched later this year.

The new 5G network will contribute to higher data speeds, lower latency and more efficient power consumption. Telia’s 5G network is powered by 100 percent renewable energy which has been certified by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. Telia’s 4G network will continue to play an important role in complementing the 5G network.

Finally, Tre Sweden also announced they will be launching 5G services in Malmö, Lund, Helsingborg, Vasteras, Uppsala and western parts of Stockholm in June.This will be an expansion on their already-launched 5G network back in December 2019, when it announced testing.

The announcements have been made despite the fact that Sweden has not yet auctioned the allocation of frequencies in the 3.5 GHz and 2.3 GHz bands, which are key to 5G expansion due to their optimum balance of download speeds and coverage.

The operators have also been forced to be fairly inventive with spectrum for their new 5G networks because of the delay in the allocation of 5G-capable spectrum in the 2.3GHz and 3.5GHz bands. Telia is using its existing 700MHz spectrum assets, Tele2 is currently relying on 80MHz in the C-band and Three Sweden is using frequencies in the 2.6GHz band.

Anders Nilsson, CEO and president of Tele2, explained that Tele2 decided to buy additional frequencies in the C-band to allow it to launch "real 5G" before the summer.

The Swedish Post and Telecom Agency (PTS) has said the auction of frequencies in the 2.3GHz and 3.5GHz bands is due to start on November 10, 2020, with applications invited by June 30. It plans to sell "up to" 15 nationwide licenses in the 3.5GHz band, incorporating a maximum 320MHz of frequencies, and up to 80MHz in the 2.3GHz range.

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Wednesday 27 May 2020

3G to start making way for 5G in Denmark

Denmark’s mobile market continues to show steady growth despite the country having one of the highest mobile penetration rates in Europe. Growth has been stimulated by consumer demand for data services based on the near universal availability of LTE services.

It's been reported widely that 3Danmark has now passed  TeliaDanmark in mobile subscriptions in Denmark - to become the new No 3. But 3's growth is in the Oister sub-brand and Telia is actually No 2 in total revenue; 50% higher than '3'.

TT-Netvaerket is an independent company, with Telia and Telenor each owning 50 per cent.  The TT network has over 4,000 mobile sites around Denmark, which makes the network Denmark's largest and finest masked mobile network.

TT is planning to gradually phase out 3G services from April 2021, in order to increase the capacity of its 4G networks and assist the introduction of 5G technology. TT-Netvaerket currently operates more than 4,300 antennas, providing 4G population coverage of 99.8%. Henrik Kofod, Telia’s technology director, stated:

‘The phasing out of the 3G network is a natural technology development that will give our customers even better capacity and speed in the 4G network. Whether you use mobile or tablet for voice or data, 4G provides a much better experience. And when we introduce 5G within the next few years, it will provide another significant boost to the digital infrastructure in Denmark.’

Denmark currently does not have 5G however Telia Norway is the first operator in the country to open up its 5G network in Lillestrøm and parts of Groruddalen in Oslo for customers. During 2020, 5G coverage will be expanded in Oslo, while the network will be opened in Trondheim and Bergen. Telia will be the first in Norway with a national 5G network by the end of 2023, and already next year the ambition is that up to half the population will have 5G coverage.

 At Lillestrøm, some 40 base stations have been upgraded with the latest mobile technology provided by Telia's Ericsson partner. Billions will be invested every year in the future, and the further 5G development will take place area by area throughout the country. The ambition is that up to half of Norway's population will have 5G coverage where they live during 2021, and a national 5G network will be in place by the end of 2023. In parallel with the development, Telia will modernize the entire mobile network in Norway, which means that the 4G network, speed and coverage will be even better.

To access Telia's 5G network, you need a mobile subscription from Telia and a mobile phone that supports the new technology. Initially, this is the Samsung Galaxy S20 series and OnePlus 8 series available in Telia's stores or on After a software update before the summer, both mobile phone series will be able to use the new 5G network. At the same time, 5G will be included in most of Telia's subscriptions at no extra cost.

Both Telenor and Telia have also partnered with Nokia to build a new shared network in Denmark.

They  claim to have the world’s most advanced shared wireless network, thanks to the use of a feature called Multi-Operator Core Network (MOCN). This enables distinct mobile operators with their own core network to share a common radio access network infrastructure as well as spectrum resources.

This is the first network to include live MOCN capabilities for 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G simultaneously. The live trial utilized Nokia’s end-to-end 5G technology, including 5G RAN and 5G cloud core.

Network sharing is an efficient and cost-effective way for two or more mobile operators to build and roll out a network at scale without having to duplicate efforts. It is an important strategic consideration for operators that helps them to quickly deploy 5G networks to consumers and businesses while keeping costs to a minimum. As 5G networks require a higher density of radio equipment, such as small cells, to deliver the right performance and coverage, network sharing results in overall lower power consumption compared to individual networks.

Thursday 14 May 2020

Dense Air, Spark and 2degrees get 5G Spectrum in New Zealand

Radio Spectrum Management (RSM) is a business unit within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) in New Zealand.

On its website, RSM announced that In May 2020, the commercial auction for early access to the 3.5 GHz band designed for 5G was cancelled. Instead, a direct allocation process will be undertaken. Offers will be made of 40 MHz to Dense Air, 60 MHz to Spark, and 60 MHz to 2degrees.

In December 2019 the Government approved the allocation, via auction, of short-term rights to an unused portion of the 3.5 GHz band (3590 – 3750 MHz). These rights were to be allocated as national management rights for a term beginning mid-2020 until 31 October 2022.

Total Telecom provides additional details on this:

New Zealand’s 5G spectrum auction was initially scheduled for February this year, but the coronavirus outbreak forced the process to be delayed until the end of May.

With this deadline approaching, however, the government has made the decision to ditch the auction process, and instead simply allocate the 3.5 GHz spectrum. Telcos are being offered spectrum at the low fixed price of NZ$250,000 per 10 MHz of bandwidth.

Incumbent Spark has announced that it will receive 60 MHz of spectrum, with 2degrees also receiving the same amount. Dense Air has been allocated 40 MHz.

Rival Vodafone has seemingly not been allocated any spectrum, since the operator has already launched 5G using existing frequencies.

On its website, Spark said:

Spark today welcomed the announcement of the direct allocation process of 5G spectrum, with the Company to be offered management rights to 60 MHz of 3.5 GHz (or C Band) spectrum.

Spark CEO Jolie Hodson said the allocation enables a significant investment in 5G infrastructure across the country over the coming year, which will play a critical role in New Zealand’s response to and recovery from Covid-19.

“Over time 5G will fundamentally transform how we work, learn and connect as a country and act as a catalyst for innovation with emerging technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality and the Internet of Things (IoT),” said Hodson. 

Work done for Spark by NERA Economic Consulting estimates that the rollout of 5G in New Zealand could add between $5.7 billion and $8.9 billion per year to the New Zealand economy over the next 10 years.

“Our recovery from Covid-19 is a long game, and it has never been more important to improve our productivity as a country and ensure we are well positioned to adapt to new ways of working. And in a world where physical distancing will remain critical for some time, technologies that connect people virtually have a fundamental role to play in our economic recovery,” continued Hodson.

“Securing 3.5GHz spectrum was critical for the rollout of a full suite of 5G services, so we would like to acknowledge the Government for facilitating the allocation, which will enable us to proceed with our planned 5G roll out at pace. 

“We plan to switch on 5G sites in a number of major centres and regions across the North and South islands over the next year. To maintain this momentum, we are keen to work with Government to accelerate the timeline for the longer-term spectrum auction, which is currently scheduled for November 2022.”

Spark will announce further details about its roll out plans in due course.

On its website, Dense Air said:

Dense Air is a provider of small cell services with spectrum assets in New Zealand. In April it loaned Vodafone its 2.6GHz spectrum for three months.

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Saturday 9 May 2020

Singapore Launching Standalone 5G in January 2021

The Singapore regulator IMDA (Infocomm Media Development Authority) recently announced Singtel Mobile Singapore Pte Ltd (Singtel) and the Joint-Venture Consortium (JVCo) formed by StarHub Mobile Pte Ltd (StarHub) and M1 Limited (M1) as the winners of its 5G Call for Proposal (CFP).

Singtel and JVCo will be allocated 100MHz of 3.5GHz spectrum each to deploy nationwide 5G networks. Other mobile operators can access these network services through a wholesale arrangement. IMDA had earlier stated that each lot of spectrum will cost at least 55 million Singapore dollars (roughly US$ 40 million).

Additionally, IMDA will allocate 800MHz of mmWave spectrum each to SingTel, StarHub and M1 to deploy localised high-capacity 5G hotspots. With this, M1, StarHub, Singtel, TPG Telecom and mobile virtual network operators would be able to offer retail 5G services to end users. The frequency was not disclosed but over the last couple of years there have been trials taking place between 26 and 28 GHz.

The winners will roll out 5G Standalone (SA) networks from January 2021, keeping pace with first-mover cities in other countries. The winners will be required to provide coverage for at least half of Singapore by end-2022, scaling up to nationwide coverage by end 2025.

The winners will deploy SA networks that can deliver full-fledged 5G capabilities, such as network slicing, ultra-reliable and low latency communications, and massive machine type communications. The two nationwide 5G networks will also be supplemented by localised mmWave deployments that provide high capacity 5G hotspots. Businesses and consumers will benefit from faster network speeds among other exciting applications.

In their press release, M1 said:

M1 has been leading in Singapore’s enterprise segment to trial 5G use cases through a range of partnerships. A collaboration with PSA Corporation and IMDA demonstrated the potential use of 5G in a Smart Port for Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) and remote control of container handling equipment to support maritime operations. M1 has also partnered with Keppel Offshore & Marine (Keppel O&M) to establish reliable ship-to-shore communication for autonomous vessels, and support mission-critical Internet-of-Things (IoT) maritime applications. Other collaborations include M1 partnering with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to help develop the first 5G cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) communication, as well as with Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) for remote operations of robots using 5G.

Leading up to the 5G network licence award, M1 has also been able to demonstrate 5G technological advancements in the consumer space. At this year’s Chingay Parade, M1 leveraged its 5G SA technology to livestream an aerial footage of the longest dragon dance, one of the key highlights of the parade through the lens of a camera drone. M1 also collaborated with Haidilao’s new flagship restaurant to turn it into a smart restaurant with enhanced customer experience.

The 5G network licence award cements M1’s strength in network development and deployment capabilities. M1 was also the first operator in Singapore to offer nationwide 4G service, ultra high-speed fixed broadband, fixed voice and other services on the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (NGNBN).

In their press release StarHub said:

As a leading wireless service provider for Singaporean consumers, enterprises and government clients, StarHub will encourage many application developers and 3rd parties to leverage the new, low latency, more secure, faster transmission 5G technology and develop new applications and use cases. StarHub believes 5G will play a pivotal and transformative role in supporting the digital needs of the society, accelerating Singapore’s digital economy and delivery of many essential services as well as creating new job opportunities. 

With its existing wireless network capabilities and expertise, and as the fastest 4G network according to the most recent IMDA IMconnected Report, StarHub will complement its existing wireless capabilities with new 5G technology. StarHub’s 5G services will be deployed via standalone architecture using the 3.5GHz spectrum, as well as non-standalone architecture using the 800 MHz of mmWave spectrum. This dual approach will fast track the rollout of services, so that both retail and enterprise customers can experience the benefits and innovative applications that 5G can enable with its high-speed, low-latency and secure campus networking capabilities.

Today, StarHub is broadcasting ‘live’ 5G signals from its headquarters and it is also the first in Singapore to introduce 5G cellular-on-wheels vehicle to showcase the benefits of 5G island-wide. StarHub has been conducting trials and proof-of-concepts with its 5G ecosystem of technology, business, institutes of higher learning and public agency partners, to co-create innovative, highly relevant and sustainable 5G use cases across the six national strategic clusters.

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Tuesday 5 May 2020

The Netherlands is Getting Ready for 5G Network Rollout

At the present time there exist three (down from four) physical network operators (MNOs) available in the Netherlands:

T-Mobile Nederland (by Deutsche Telekom) merged with Tele2

T-Mobile and Tele2 have agreed to a merger in 2017. About one year later this merger was approved by the EU authorities finalised in 2019. The combined company is a joint venture and led by T-Mobile. Tele2 has become an online brand only under the T-Mobile Group.

There are also a number of  MVNOs (virtual) providers that are being used by about 40% of the Dutch population. Prepaid SIMs are widely available in supermarkets or in telecom stores. Due to the Dutch net neutrality law, VoIP and tethering will not be blocked and traffic will not be prioritized.

All three mentioned networks have nationwide coverage in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE, Tele2 is 4G/LTE-only roaming for free on T-Mobile for 2G and 3G. These frequencies are employed:

2G/GSM: 900 MHz, 1800 MHz - to be shut down by T-Mobile in 2020
3G/UMTS: 900 MHz (B8), 2100 MHz (B1) - to be shut down by Vodafone in 2020 and KPN by 2022
4G/LTE: 800 MHz (B20), 900 MHz (B8), 1800 MHz (B3), 2100 MHz (B1), 2600 MHz FDD (B7), 2600 TDD (B38)

KPN is the biggest telecommunication company in the Netherlands with approximately 6.5 million customers. It used to be the state-owned telco, still owns the landline network and is clear market leader with its own brand KPN Mobile and through subsidiaries in the mobile market. As incumbent provider it claims the best coverage at the highest prices.

KPN has recently tested 5G technology between multiple locations in the Netherlands. Phone calls, video calls and data sessions were conducted from the latest 5G smartphones between the 5G indoor network in the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam, the 5G Field Lab in the Port of Rotterdam and the Technology Lab of KPN in The Hague. KPN used 3.5 GHz frequencies for these recent tests.

The operator also announced 5G tests using spectrum in the 700 MHz,3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands.

VodafoneZiggo in the Netherlands is a joint venture between Vodafone and Liberty Global and remains the 2nd network according to market share.VodafoneZiggo fared well in 2019 adding 76,000 subscribers in the last quarter and 269,000 over the full year. Its subscriber base nearly 4.5 million at end of 2019.

The operator has announced a final shutdown date for its 3G mobile network on 4th February 2020. The operator stated that ceasing 3G services will give it more capacity for 4G. Users without 4G-enabled devices can continue to access voice and data services on its 2G network (albeit at significantly slower data rates and with lower voice sound quality). Customers may also exchange an old SIM card for a new LTE SIM free of charge.

VodafoneZiggo as part of their GigaNet strategy  is switching on their 5G network using the Ericsson Spectrum Sharing solution enabling their subscribers to benefit from improved user experience.

The spectrum situation in the Netherlands is different compared to other European countries. In June of 2020, the 700MHz frequency will be auctioned, but the 3.5GHz band, which is currently being used by the country’s defense satellite system, will not be available by auction until 2022. By deploying Ericsson Spectrum Sharing already now, VodafoneZiggo can quickly introduce 5G over a wide area, using existing frequency bands and existing Ericsson Radio System equipment.

The Ericsson Spectrum Sharing software, which is commercially available, can run on any of the five million 5G-ready radios Ericsson has delivered since 2015.

The launch of 5G is a continuation of a long-standing partnership in which Ericsson delivers the majority of the mobile network technology and managed services to VodafoneZiggo. In January 2020, the partners launched a 5G co-creation environment, the 5G HUB, offering companies, startups and students the chance to explore 5G in practice.

Previously, the partners also achieved  the commercial launch of the country’s first end-to-end cloud based VoLTE network, and in February 2020, a 3G switch off was realized enabling VodafoneZiggo to leverage the 2100 MHz band and provide increased capabilities to end users.

T-Mobile is the 3rd network in the Netherlands. Here you can find the T-Mobile Coverage Map. 4G network is available for prepaid up to 100 Mbit/s. According to Open Signal, it has the best latency and speeds in the country in 2019.

T-Mobile added nearly 1.6 million retail customers in 2019, including 1.3 million acquired with Tele2, to reach a total of 5.6 million at year-end.

In 2017 T-Mobile has agreed to a merger with Tele2 on a 75:25 basis. This was approved in 2018 and their combined network is mostly marketed under the T-Mobile brand fighting for the no.2 spot in the Dutch market.

T-Mobile plans to close its own 2G network (not the 3G network like its rivals) in November 2020.
with all calling, texting and data services to be provided over 3G, 4G (and future 5G) networks.

Their strategy is in contrast to their competitors scheduling 3G shutdowns instead: Vodafone intends to switch off 3G in January 2020 and KPN has set January 2022 as its 3G closing date.

In October 2019, T-Mobile Netherlands announced it will start to test  5G on the 700 MHz frequency, after it received two test licenses from the government. T-Mobile was granted a regional two-month test license for testing on the entire 700 MHz band in the Hague region and surrounding areas.

The Dutch government is expected to raise at least 900 million euros ($992 million) from its first auction of 5G frequencies, which will take place this Summer.

The auction will include spectrum in the 700 MHz 1,400 MHz and 2,100 MHz bands.

The process will be carried out through several rounds. The country’s three largest operator — KPN, Vodafone Ziggo and T-Mobile Netherlands — are all expected to take part in the 5G auction.

The Dutch government also expects to carry out a spectrum auction to award frequencies in the 3.5 GHz band in 2022, as the band is currently being used for satellite communications by Dutch intelligence services.

Saturday 2 May 2020

Jio is the Largest Mobile Network in India by Subscriber Numbers

Last year, nearly the same time we wrote about Jio just crossing the 300 million mark. In the latest set of announcements, Jio has announced that they now have 388 million subscribers. I do not see an M2M breakout for Jio anywhere, so I am assuming these are all non-M2M connections.

According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) annual report, the wireless subscribers at the end of 2019 stood as follows:

  • Bharti Airtel (including Tata Tele.) 327.3 million
  • Reliance Com 17.7 thousand
  • Vodafone Idea - 332.6 million
  • BSNL - 118 million
  • BSNL (VNO's) - 91 thousand
  • MTNL - 3.37 million
  • Reliance Jio - 370 million
  • Total - 1.151 billion

According to Bharti Airtel press release from Feb 2020, overall customer base stands at 419 million across 16 countries. In which:

  • India 308.738 million
  • South Asia 2.933 million
  • Africa 107.140 million

According to the website, there are "India: 279,430,000 GSM mobile (Excluding M2M)". So the subscriber base is much smaller if M2M is removed.

Vodafone Idea's website says, "Welcome to the world of Vodafone Idea Limited, where our 304 million (Q3FY20) customers are at the heart of everything that we do." Combining this with the TRAI data, we can infer they have roughly 28 million M2M connections.
One argument is also about the number of active connections rather than just subscribers. TRAI report says that while Airtel have 96.14% active subscriber base, Jio is just 89.47%. The number is for Dec 2019. Taking this data into account along with the latest numbers, we can still confidently say that Reliance Jio has more active subscribers (approx. 319.63 million) in March 2020 than any other mobile operator.

Jio is on it's way to be the second largest operator (including groups) in the world.

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