Thursday, 20 January 2022

China Telecom explains Implications of Innovative Fixed 5G (F5G) Applications

Last year, Zhang Dong, Director, Industrial Internet Innovation and Development Center, China Telecom, spoke at at Light Reading’s Leading in 5G webinar series.

He said China Telecom began trials three years ago with half a dozen early adopter clients.

The base station cost was mostly paid for by the enterprises, while China Telecom sold O&M services and applications on top including big data, AI, and so on, he said.

While we see challenges like how to ensure lower latency and higher network assurance, and deal with problems like jittering, or how to simultaneously deliver 8K HD video from eight cameras, China Telecom is still making important milestones on its 5G journey.

Zhang said that after deploying more than 1000 5G use cases, China Telecom experts have identified four key categories.

The first is using 5G to enable high-speed mobility, with applications such as autonomous driving, remote control of vehicles or remote management of ports and warehouses.

The second type is those leveraging the faster 5G uplinks and downlinks. This is mostly related to video and in the future will also include various other integrated media, like AR and VR, Zhang said.

The third type of 5G use case focuses on scenarios where people and things gather, such as transportation hubs, and places with large number of people or large objects moving around.

The fourth type is deployment of 5G in hazardous environments. For example, some working environments might expose personnel to toxic gas, loud noise or other safety hazards. 5G can play an important role in ensuring safety.

Zhang cited some of China Telecom’s collaborations in the resource and utility sectors.

One was with oil and gas giant Sinopec, which was one of the first to trial 5G because it was willing to pay for the base station rollouts and services.

Another was the Shendong Coal Group in the mining sector, which had worked with China Telecom to roll out private networks under the wells, requiring investment of over 100 million yuan ($15.6 million).

China Telecom had also partnered with Qingdao Power Grid in a project where network slicing ensured the connectivity and lower latency to support precision power distribution.

We have looked at Fixed 5G (F5G) in our blog posts here and here. During the talk, Zhang also discussed F5G. 

He highlighted that in F5G,  there's a F before 5G where this F stands for fiber connection. Fiber connections and 5G joining hands will usher in another wave of technological innovations with 5G.  Base stations already need fiber for data transmission, etc. These connections can be extended to OT industry, which would mean that the fiber connection can be used to control robots, etc. If fiber connections are deployed together with 5G, mining and other use cases in verticals will emerge in addition we know do today.

The video of his talk is embedded below:

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Sunday, 16 January 2022

No plans for 5G in Cayman Islands

 

The Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean. The 264 sq. km territory comprises the three islands of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman located south of Cuba, northeast of Costa Rica, north of Panama, east of Mexico and northwest of Jamaica. Its population is approximately 66,000.

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on economies throughout the Caribbean region. The reduction in the number of tourists has had a knock-on effect on the telecom sector, with declines seen in subscriber numbers (particularly for prepaid mobile services — the mainstay of short-term visitors) and revenue. Fixed and mobile broadband services are two areas that have benefited from the crisis to a small extent as employees and students have resorted to working from home, but their contribution to the sector has been insufficient to offset steep falls in other areas of the market.

One major casualty may be the region’s second largest mobile operator, Digicel. The company filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy in the US in April 2020. It continues to operate in all of its Caribbean markets as it seeks to refinance billions of dollars of debt, but the pressure is mounting as voice revenues continue to drop from quarter to quarter, and recent adverse currency fluctuations have made the debt burden even worse.

The other major operator, regional incumbent Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC), is experiencing similar drops in subscriber numbers and revenue. However, CWC has the benefit of having the financial backing of its new owner, telecoms multinational Liberty Global. CWC is steadily expanding and enhancing its fixed and mobile networks in many of the countries it serves around the Caribbean, despite many locations being small islands with very small populations. The investment strategy should enable CWC to at least maintain its market share — if not grow it substantially should Digicel falter.

As a result governments, regulators, and even the mobile network operators have shown that they have little appetite for investing in 5G opportunities at the present time. Network expansion and enhancements remain concentrated around improving LTE coverage. Until the economies and markets stabilize, and overseas visitors return (with increased spending power as well as higher expectations), there is unlikely to be much momentum towards implementing 5G capabilities anywhere in the region.

Flow is the incumbent provider and Digicel came to the Caribbean 2001-6 to end this monopoly. In the Cayman Islands they are now on par each sharing about 50% of the market and many locals have two SIM cards.

Flow uses the American frequencies of 850 and 1900 MHz for 2G/GSM and 850 MHz for 3G up to HSPA+, while Digicel employs European frequencies of 900 MHz for 2G and 2100 MHz for 3G. 4G/LTE has started on both networks in 2013 on 700 MHz (bands 13/17).

Flow up to 2015 was called Lime and rebranded, is the incumbent provider in the Caymans. It's operated by Cable & Wireless that has been sold to Liberty Global.

Note that 2G and 3G is on 850 and 1900 MHz. They advertise a '100% coverage' for 4G/LTE on 700 MHz (B17) available for prepaid. In 2016, they announced that their network is now an LTE-A network.

Flow Cayman Islands is aiming to extend its fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network across Grand Cayman and the majority of the Sister Islands by the end of 2021.

The pledge is part of the operator’s goal of ensuring that every home in the Cayman Islands can access 1Gbps download speeds, reports Cayman Compass.

TeleGeography notes that Flow’s fibre service is available in all districts on Grand Cayman, although it cannot be accessed in certain areas. The operator’s priority is addressing this via network expansions in areas including West Bay and Spotts. Flow has stated that it will migrate customers from its copper network at no additional cost.

Digicel started in 2006 to challenge the monopoly of Lime that is called now Flow. They claim to have a '99% coverage', but their coverage map is in fact much more limited. While they have a somewhat lower coverage than Flow, their prices are generally lower than Flow's too.

They use European frequencies of 900 and 1800 MHz for 2G, 850 MHz for 3G, 1800 MHz (Band 3) and 700 MHz (Band 13) for 4G/LTE. Their 4G/LTE network offers twice the bandwidth of their competition but unlike them, is not an LTE-A network.

In 2019 Digicel Cayman has announced an upgrade to its 3G and LTE networks to increase data speeds and ensure 99.9% coverage across Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. As part of the ongoing improvement and upgrade process, Digicel has opted to discontinue its 2G coverage, which will reduce the company’s power consumption while improving its service.

‘By replacing 2G with 3G and LTE we are lowering our carbon footprint and enhancing performance and reliability. It is a win-win for both Digicel and our customers,’ explained Kevin Mullings, Switch Engineer at Digicel Cayman.

Thursday, 13 January 2022

MTN highlights the OSS Challenge and Integration with Transport Network

At Layer123 conference, Lloyd Mphahlele, General Manager-Group Technology, responsible for Transport and OSS tools at MTN group, talked about the transforming of the OSS in which he highlighted integration with the operator OSS and management environment as a key challenge that must be addressed to move forward.

In his talk, he covered:

  • The OSS challenge
  • MTN Approach
  • MTN Journey and Use Cases
  • The Road Ahead

The presentation emphasised the Transport Network integration with OSS and touched on the announcement made in partnership with TIP last year regarding MTN Uganda deploying TIP DCSG at scale to advance network automation.

The video of his talk is embedded as follows:

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Sunday, 9 January 2022

Lebanon is Deliberating 5G Connectivity

Lebanon’s economic crisis has had a dire effect on the country’s telecom services. Although some progress has been made with developing 5G, the poor economic conditions have contributed to an erratic electricity supply and a lack of fuel to maintain generators. This has meant that internet services to areas of the country are cut on a regular basis, frustrating all those who depend on stable connectivity, and stalling business growth. Adding to the difficulties are the combined stresses of the pandemic and the political crisis. 

There are two operators in Lebanon: Touch (formerly MTC) managed by Zain and Alfa managed by Orascom.

Both of them are owned by the state, but each managed by a foreign telecom company. 2G/GSM is on 900 MHz up to EDGE, 3G on 2100 MHz up to HSPA+ and 4G/LTE has started on both networks on 1800 MHz (Band 3) in 2013. During 2016 both Touch and Alfa implemented substantial 4G/LTE upgrades and expansions. In 2017 there was 85% 4G/LTE coverage of population across most parts of Lebanon. Service quality is quite good, fast and reliable.

Touch, previously called MTC, is state-owned, was managed by the Kuwaiti Zain group. It's the leading provider in Lebanon with about 2/3 of the customer base and the best coverage in 2G and 3G. 4G/LTE has been spread to over 85% of the population in 2017.

Touch has launched the country’s first 5G mobile site, located at its headquarters in downtown Beirut in September 2016. Data speeds of 1.4Gbps were tested at the site, with latency of less than 6ms.

Alfa is state-owned too, but this operator was managed by Egypt-based Orascom Telecom. It calls itself "the leading mobile provider in Lebanon" but in fact is the smaller of the two operators with only 1/3 of all customers.

Yet it's coverage is quite on par and they offer a few more options than the market leader. They have also conducted their own 5G trial.

Recently the Lebanese government has resumed management of state-owned operators Alfa and Touch after operating contracts held by Orascom Telecom Media and Technology (OTMT) and Zain Group, respectively, expired. Minister of Telecommunications Talal Hawat said an international tender for new contracts would be readied within three months, covering management and operation of the businesses.

GSMA Intelligence figures showed Touch held a 50.6 per cent market share by connections at end-2019, with Alfa accounting for the remaining 49.3 per cent.

Thursday, 6 January 2022

LMT Explains 5G Routes Project

It's been a few years since we last wrote about Innovations from the Latvian MNO, LMT. They have no doubt continued their innovations and one such project that they are involved in is discussed here.

5G-ROUTES is a 5G-PPP Phase 3 project whose aim is to validate through robust evidence the latest 5G features and 3GPP specifications (R.16 & R.17) of Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) under realistic conditions. In particular, it will conduct advanced large-scale field trials of most representative CAM applications to demonstrate seamless functionality across a prominent 5G cross-border corridor (Via Baltica-North), traversing Latvia, Estonia and Finland.

Art奴rs Lindenbergs, innovation lead at LMT has been very active in this and other projects LMT is participating in. He has been quoted in many articles recently highlighting this and other EU projects. You can see examples here and here.

In the 5G Techritory conference in November 2021, he gave an overview of the 5G Routes project. It is embedded below:

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Sunday, 2 January 2022

Cyprus is hoping for 5G to gain ground in 2022

Cyprus has suffered from the effects of the pandemic, which essentially closed down the tourism sector during 2020 and into 2021. Nevertheless, the incumbent telco Cyta reported strong revenue growth in 2020, largely due to greater use of broadband and mobile services, though investment fell as a result of pandemic-related delays in completing planned projects. Cyta has offered mobile services under the Cytamobile-Vodafone brand since 2004 following a partner agreement with Vodafone Group, while Epic was acquired by Monaco Telecom in mid-2018. In mid-2021 Monaco agreed to sell its entire passive infrastructure in Cyprus. The number of mobile subscribers fell in 2020, largely the result of subscribers scaling back on multiple SIM cards as an economic measure.

The island of Cyprus is de facto divided into various jurisdictions here we are focusing on the Greek-speaking part controlled by the government of the Republic of Cyprus (hereinafter referred to as "the South"). In the South different providers operate from in the North, although there is now roaming between the two which wasn't the case in the past. A call between the South and the North is possible, but will be charged as a foreign call to another continent.

For a tourist it's very easy nowadays to cross between the South and North at multiple points and visit the other part. But you should know that you will lose coverage soon after doing so. Furthermore, EU law is suspended in the North, so roaming prices are not regulated. Generally it's not advisable to use a SIM from the South in the North or vice versa.

The networks in South are: Cyta Vodafone, epic (formerly MTN) and PrimeTel.

2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz, 4G/LTE is in the South on all three networks on 1800 MHz (B3) available for prepaid. More spectrum on 800 and 2600 MHz (B20 and B7) followed. There is no 4G/LTE in the North yet.

In 2020 the four provisional winners for 5G licences, Cyta, Epic, Cablenet (an MVNO) and Primetel, all bought 5G spectrum frequencies and started their preparations to develop networks to connect all devices. Cyta and Epic acquired a 2×10 MHz block in the 700 MHz and 100 MHz in the 3.6 GHz, while Cablenet and Primetel acquired a 2×5 MHz block in the 700 MHz and 50 MHz in 3.6 GHz.

Cyta for CYprus Telecommunication Authority is jointly owned by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus and Vodafone and is still the largest operator in the country giving a reasonable coverage at the highest rates around.

4G/LTE started in 2015 in the towns of Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos.

Cyta launched the first 5G network in Cyprus in January 2021.The Cytamobile-Vodafone 5G network has a population coverage of 70 per cent and is expected to reach 98 per cent in around 12 months, the company said. All Cytamobile-Vodafone subscribers, individuals and companies have access to the 5G network at no extra charge. All a subscriber needs is to be to have a 5G device certified on the Cyta network and to be in an area with 5G coverage. At the 5G Techritory Conference 2021, Chrysis Phiniotis, CTIO of CYTA presented a talk on 'CYTA 5G Journey to the Top'. His talk is available here.

Epic is the second network operator in the South: Coverage map. In 2018 it was sold to Monaco Telecom who rebranded it in June 2019 to epic. It offers data at slightly more competitive rates than Cyta at a slightly lower coverage.

4G/LTE started in 2015 on 1800 MHz in major towns and is now available to prepaid users too. In 2017 about 93% of the population of the South is supposed to be covered on 1800 MHz (B3) and 800 MHz (B20). 

The Epic 5G network was also recently launched and is expanding at a very fast pace to soon cover most of the population, along with a wide range of supported mobile devices.

PrimeTel PLC is a multiservice provider with various fixed broadband and mobile services. It is very popular for ADSL, TV and landline phone service in the South. It's the first MVNO in the South too.

It started in 2011 using the Cytamobile network. In 2014 they have been granted a license to build own physical network on 3G and 4G/LTE. It has already covered 60% of territory by its own 4G/LTE and 99% on its own 3G since 2015, making Cyta no more needed, but roaming with Cyta is still operational for 2G (GSM/GPRS/EDGE) modes. 4G/LTE is open for prepaid customers without surcharge. Be aware that 4G coverage is still spotty in rural areas.

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