EE to extoll the virtues of its 5G signal at Glastonbury

As a regular sponsor of the Glastonbury Festival UK MNO EE is going to use the opportunity to bang on about 5G this year.

Continuing its rich tradition of claiming every incremental 5G ‘first’ it can, EE has announced this year’s Glasto will be the UK’s first 5G-connected festival. It won’t be mobile 5G mind, just a 5G-powered wifi hotspot, but you can’t have everything can you? On top of that EE will be doing its usual thing of installing temporary masts to boost boring old regular mobile signals.

“Smartphones have become a festival must-have as we’ve seen each year with more and more data being consumed at Glastonbury Festival,” said Pete Jeavons, Marcomms Director at BTEE. “As the long-standing technology partner to this iconic event, we are committed to building a network powerful enough to cope with this huge demand. With the introduction of 5G this year, we are able to trial this new technology at Worthy Farm and make history as the UK’s first 5G-connected festival.”

Glasto took a gap year in 2018 but the year before attendees used 54 terabytes of data, according to EE. The operator reckons that number will be closer to 70 terabytes this year as festival-goers strive to top the virtue-signalling of previous years. There will be a somewhat retro feel to the event this year, with headliners The Cure joined by Janet Jackson and Kylie Minogue as the 80s makes its presence felt, perhaps in a bit to lure rockstar politician Jeremy Corbyn once more.

The UK may allow Huawei to get involved in its 5G after all

The UK government is said to have agreed to let Chinese telecom kit maker Huawei join the building of non-core parts of the country’s 5G network.

The Telegraph reported that the country’s highest security decision-making body, the National Security Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, has agreed to open the “non-core” parts of 5G to Huawei’s equipment, for example antennae. The report said the Prime Minister was in favour of the decision, despite concerns raised by her Home, Foreign, Defence, International Trade, and International Development secretaries.

The government replied to media queries by claiming “we have conducted an evidence-based review of the supply chain to ensure a diverse and secure supply base, now and into the future. This is a thorough review into a complex area and will report with its conclusions in due course,” reported Reuters. The spokesperson also insisted that decisions by the National Security Council were confidential.

Huawei, while waiting for a formal announcement, looked to be confident that the decision would go its way. It told that media that it was “pleased that the UK is continuing to take an evidence-based approach to its work, and we will continue to work cooperatively with the government, and the industry,” quoted by the BBC. Earlier the media reported a decision on Huawei would be made in the spring, and the company’s market share would capped at 50%.

Views from the country’s other related offices are split. Earlier the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which oversees Huawei’s work in the UK, was said to believe the risks posed Huawei could be managed. When questioned on the new rumoured decision, Ciaran Martin, the chief executive of NCSC, told the media that he was “confident ministers will reach a decision that will provide for the safer 5G networks that we need.” He also highlighted the “more fundamental risks” from sovereign states like Russia and North Korea as well as the sophisticated attacks by cyber criminals.

Tom Tugenthat MP, chairman of the Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committee, on the other hand, was not so sure. He tweeted “There’s a reason others have said no” referring to the US, Australia, and New Zealand. The other two countries of the “Five Eye” intelligence alliance, Canada and the UK are yet to make decision on whether Huawei will be allowed to build their 5G networks. “It is unwise to co-operate in an area of critical national infrastructure with a state can at best be described as not always friendly,” Tugenthat said. The alliance will hold a meeting on security in Glasgow, Scotland.

One point Tugenthat highlighted but has evaded the others is the virtualisation nature of 5G. He stressed it by pointing out that 5G is highly software defined (in his words, “internet system that can genuinely connect everything”), and it will be very hard to insulate the non-core from the core.

 

Apple boss wants more state intervention in tech business

Tim Cook, CEO of the world’s largest tech company Apple, has once more called for greater regulation of the sector.

Speaking at an event organised by Time magazine, Cook said “We all have to be intellectually honest, and we have to admit that what we’re doing isn’t working. Technology needs to be regulated. There are now too many examples where the no rails have resulted in a great damage to society.”

Now it must be stressed that Cook was referring to privacy and data protection, which happen to be far greater concerns for Apple competitors such as Google, Facebook and Amazon than Apple itself. On the matter of gadgets he was much less strident, noting only that it isn’t Apple’s aim for people to be glued to their devices all the time, which could be interpreted as another dig at its internet competitors.

Cook seems to consider himself a deeply moral person, saying thins like “I’m not sure this is the right thing but I focus on what’s right,” and “At the end of the day we’ll be judged more by did we stand up for what we believed in, not necessarily do they agree with me on everything.” On this basis he seems to reconcile himself to the growing dependence on devices such as those sold by his company by blaming that on the services rather than the devices themselves.

Having called for greater state intervention in the activities of his competitors Cook was quick to stress he doesn’t think companies should get directly involved in politics. “Apple is probably one of the only large companies that doesn’t have a PAC (political action committee). I refuse to have one because it shouldn’t exist. I think the people that should be able to donate are people that can vote.” Those are good points but, as his previous points indicate, there are many ways for tech companies to behave politically.

 

Huawei increased revenues by 39% in Q1

Chinese telecoms kit giant Huawei defied its critics by raking in loads more cash in the first quarter of this year.

In Q1 2019 Huawei brought in CNY179.7 billion in revenue, up 39% year-on-year. It also trousered 8% of that in profit, which was apparently a slightly better margin than last year. As has been extensively documented Huawei isn’t a public company so it technically doesn’t have to say anything publicly about its business, but is serves a few nuggets up compliance with the International Financial Reporting Standard.

There was some more subtle gloating in the Huawei announcement. By the end of March 2019 Huawei says it had signed 40 commercial contracts for 5G with leading global carriers, which is loads more than Ericsson, and had shipped more than 70,000 5G base globally. It also claims to have shipped more Wifi 6 products than any other company and reckons it shifted 59 million smartphones in Q1.

Of course any Huawei numbers have to be frame by the ‘despite escalating tensions with the US’ proviso, but it must be said it’s not a bad effort to so dramatically increase revenues when facing such geopolitical headwinds. There were no canned quotes or guidance but CNY179.7 billion equates to around $27 billion, while Ericsson’s SEK49 billion is more like $5 billion. Enough said.

How AI innovation is transforming supply chain planning

Business leaders that anticipate market demand opportunities or risks - and then respond quickly in a dynamic way -- will gain a significant competitive advantage. Today, agility is a key benefit of a modern supply chain.

Global revenue from demand planning applications will generate over $8 billion by 2025, as Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities offered by forward-thinking IT vendors and service providers continue to improve data-driven supply chain transformation.

Supply chain AI market development

According to the latest worldwide market study by ABI Research, the growing e-commerce sector and the need for supply chain AI solutions in the Asian market are also responsible for this forecasted growth.

With the volume and variety of valuable data proliferating inside and outside the typical enterprise, AI and machine learning capabilities are becoming integral to successful supply chain planning.

Only with these cognitive computing technologies can companies leverage demand sensing, which uncovers the hidden relationships between hundreds of demand drivers and their effect on actual product sales.

As AI technologies and machine learning models become increasingly sophisticated and enterprises get better at collecting complex data, demand sensing capabilities, and therefore supply chain efficiency, will improve further.

"It is becoming vital for enterprises to understand how product demand is impacted by continual shifts that occur internally in the supply chain and externally in the market," said Nick Finill, senior analyst at ABI Research.

The need for more advanced, machine learning-based demand sensing capabilities means that complex data from outside of the enterprise is very valuable. Relying exclusively on internal data, such as historical sales figures, is no longer enough in the current climate of global supply chains.

Being able to digest and analyse structured and unstructured data from the external market - such as weather data, social media posts, and economic indicators - will become a critical need as global supply chains transform.

Demand planning software vendors are playing a crucial role in driving innovation and a more demand-driven approach to business planning within the supply chain. Savvy vendors in this space are creating compelling products and services for companies in need of external technical expertise.

Outlook for supply chain AI applications

"Forecasting demand is only half of the equation, however," said Finill. "Companies must understand how to effectively execute demand-driven planning and involve the entire business in a coordinated, holistic response that maximises profitability for the wider enterprise."

According to the ABI assessment, companies that can make value-based operational decisions driven by reliable demand sensing capabilities will have a compelling advantage over those that can’t.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo, and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

Samsung delays launch of foldy phone after bad reviews

Korean electronics giant Samsung was due to launch the Galaxy Fold this week but after a few of them broke in the hands of reviewers it has changed its mind.

Exactly how long that delay will be hasn’t been revealed, but Samsung will presumably take as long as it needs to perform the stress testing and due diligence it should have performed before handing over review units. As we previously reported, at least three different kinds of major flaw were uncovered almost immediately by some reviewers so this could take a while.

Samsung’s announcement were a case-study in marketing speak and general turd polishing. “While many reviewers shared with us the vast potential they see, some also showed us how the device needs further improvements that could ensure the best possible user experience,” it said. “To fully evaluate this feedback and run further internal tests, we have decided to delay the release of the Galaxy Fold. We plan to announce the release date in the coming weeks.

“We will take measures to strengthen the display protection. We will also enhance the guidance on care and use of the display including the protective layer so that our customers get the most out of their Galaxy Fold. We value the trust our customers place in us and they are always our top priority. Samsung is committed to working closely with customers and partners to move the industry forward.”

In other words: people don’t want their two-grand devices to break within days so we’re going to make sure it doesn’t before we put it on sale. That’s totally fair enough but once the legal and marketing departments have got through with it we get the above. It looks like Samsung has also canned a couple of launch events, so it’s all rather embarrassing, but infinitely better than actually selling a dodgy device as Samsung knows well.

 

UK MNOs suck compared to MVNOs – Which

Consumer publication Which asked its members to rate UK mobile operators and found the small ones tend to do better across the board.

Vodafone sucked the most, according to Which, managing only a one-star rating for each of customer service, value for money and technical support. 19% of Vodafone customers surveyed said it was poor value for money, while 18% said its customer service was poor and 13% thought the same about its technical support.

There are various other unflattering datapoints attributed to EE and O2 too, but you get the general point. It turns out that market leaders can be a bit complacent, which challenger brands try harder. Who knew? Thee UK, accordingly, scored better than the other three MNOs, but MNVOs such as Giffgaff scored more highly than the lot of them.

“The continuing reign of smaller networks over the big players goes to show exactly how important customer support and value for money are to mobile users,” said Natalie Hitchins, Head of Home Products and Services at Which. “If you think you are paying too much or are not getting the level of service you expect from your provider you should shop around for a better deal – you might find you save yourself some money and probably a lot of grief too.”

Great advice Natalie, thanks. Some other people said things that amounted to much the same. In response Vodafone sounded contrite but EE defiant. Which also had a look at average contract prices and found that the bigger operators have the nerve to charge more for their substandard service.

AT&T will stick with 5GE after settling with Sprint

US operator Sprint has settled the case it brought against AT&T for unfair competition with the 5GE marketing gimmick with apparently little to show for it.

The legal trade publication Law360 reported that Sprint and AT&T have reached a settlement of the case Sprint brought to a federal court in New York in February. A short statement was mailed to the media, “The parties have amicably resolved this matter,” it said. A source told Law360 that AT&T will continue to use “5G Evolution” or 5GE in its marketing and ads materials. No details on the terms of settlement have been disclosed.

In the court case, Sprint complained that AT&T was conducting false advertising, therefore misleading consumers, and in turn, directly harming Sprint’s business interest. In addition to the law suit, Sprint also took out a full-page ad in the New York Times in March to warn consumers “Don’t be fooled. 5G Evolution isn’t new or true 5G. It is fake 5G.”

The other big US operators were not holding back from attacking AT&T’s antics either. Verizon’s CTO wrote an open letter calling on the industry “to commit to labeling something 5G only if new device hardware is connecting to the network using new radio technology to deliver new capabilities,” as well as promised that Verizon “won’t take an old phone and just change the software to turn the 4 in the status bar into a 5.” T-Mobile, on the other hand, in keeping with its CEO’s maverick spirit, uploaded a video showing someone taping over the LTE indicator on the phone with a sticker labelled “9G”.

Even the OEMs would not let go the chance to mock AT&T’s shenanigans. Xiaomi, when launching its 5G smartphone before MWC in Barcelona, pointedly highlighted the 5G network by Orange it used for the demo was real 5G, “not fake 5G”.

A few days before the announcement of settlement AT&T defended itself at the court that consumers were not fooled into believing the 5GE is actually 5G. On the other hand, for the purists like the EU-backed 5G Infrastructure Association or Qualcomm, none of the 5G networks launched so far in Korea and the US can be called “real 5G”.

Huawei frustration shows as CIA allegedly shows the goods

In China, Huawei cybersecurity bosses vented their frustrations, while in the US, the CIA has reportedly produced evidence of Chinese Government investment in the telco vendor.

According to The Times, the CIA has produced strong, but not concrete, evidence of the Chinese Government investing in Huawei. The investment is allegedly from the People’s Liberation Army, China’s National Security Commission and a third branch of the Government’s investment network, perhaps demonstrating the collusion the US has so repeatedly claimed. This could prove to be the most damning report of the telco vendor to date.

The CIA reportedly shared the evidence with members of the Five Eyes intelligence community, potentially undermining Huawei’s primary argument against collusion with the government. To date, Huawei has consistently defended itself, pointing to evidence it is a private company, owned by its employees with founder Ren Zhengfei being the largest shareholder with 1.14%. This position would certainly put it on stronger grounds considering many other Chinese economic champions are at least partly state-funded.

The ‘evidence’ has only been seen by a handful of senior intelligence officials to date, though it is not claimed to be concrete proof of collusion with the Chinese Government. That said, ‘strong’ proof might be all many nations need, evidence for this is the 5G blocks made by the US, Australia and New Zealand, three of the Five Eyes members.

For the two remaining members, this could be a very worrying development for Huawei. The UK and Canada, two important markets for Huawei, are undergoing investigations as to whether Huawei should be allowed to continue selling to their domestic telcos. Whether this is deemed weighty evidence remains to be seen.

What is worth noting is this is all hearsay for the moment. The Times has not stated it has seen the evidence, nor has it declared its sources. For all we know, the sources could well be the CIA, and the strength of the evidence could be greatly exaggerated. This would not be stretching the realms of possibility for some, though the up-coming supply chain review in the UK will shed light on the situation.

The news is certainly breaking at an interesting time for Huawei. Last week, cybersecurity executives, including Global Head of Cybersecurity John Suffolk vented his frustrations to a room full of journalists.

“Being a Chinese company means the spotlight will always be on you in some places, that is not our fault but something we will deal with,” said Suffolk.

The press conference was certainly an impactful one, with Suffolk clearly frustrated with the current state-of-affairs. While suggested the US was ‘belittling’ other nations capabilities to make their own decision and accusing the US of undermining its supposed pursuit of ‘open competition’, Suffolk called for a more impartial and obvious assessment of security.

According to Suffolk, Huawei has passed every security investigation and testing procedure put in front of it and would be open for more. Suffolk said the team would never openly publish its code, that would not be a commercial sensible decision, but anyone who would like to audit the codes is fully welcome to.

As it stands, the US is yet to produce evidence to back-up its claims of collusion with the Chinese Government. This document might well have ‘strong’ evidence, though as there is yet to be any confirmation from the security agencies outside the US, we’ll keep hold of a healthy level of scepticism. The US has already demonstrated its ability to exaggerate and over-react, so we will wait for measured opinions to make their case.

Should the evidence prove to be adequate, this would be a significant dent to Huawei’s ambitions and claims. Firstly, it contradicts Huawei is a private company.

At the Huawei Analyst Summit this week, a few executives pointed to this fact as evidence of innocence, promising the company was only owned by employees. This may well put it in a better position than its rivals, which have entered into Joint-ventures with state-owned organizations, but should the evidence counter this claim Huawei’s credibility will be suitably dented.

Secondly, a direct link between the Chinese Government and Huawei prove to exist, this would scare a lot of Western governments, many of whom are already suspicious of Chinese espionage. Huawei equipment in telecommunications networks might prove to be one step too far.

The next couple of days will answer a lot of questions. While the UK Government, regulators and The National Cyber Security Centre are remaining quiet for the moment, there will be a statement before too long. This will give us a much better idea of the strength of the evidence.

Nokia downplays report claiming it’s struggling to deliver 5G kit in South Korea

A report has alleged that Nokia is struggling to fulfill its 5G commitments to the three South Korean MNOs, but Nokia sort of insists everything’s cool.

Now it must be stressed this is just one report from a website called Business Korea that we’re not familiar with and we have yet to see the same claims made independently anywhere else. Having said that, if there is some substance to it then that’s not great news for Nokia and could have brand as well as financial consequences.

The headline reads ‘Mobile Carriers in Trouble for 5G Equipment from Nokia’. It starts by claiming that shipments of Nokia 5G gear are three months behind schedule and then goes on to say “Nokia’s equipment is lower in quality than those supplied by Samsung Electronics, Ericsson and Huawei. The former has shown some problems in interoperability testing and massive traffic processing.” It concludes by speculating that operators may need to take emergency measures to compensate for these failings.

We asked Nokia what it makes of all this and it responded with the following statement: “Nokia is actively delivering our 5G equipment to operators in Korea and we are confident that we will fulfill the 5G equipment needs of all customers. We have already started delivering 5G units to customers there and are increasing our 5G production capabilities. As a leading global communications company, we are committed to delivering best in-class products to all our partners and customers.”

That’s not the strongest rebuttal is it? The report doesn’t suggest no gear is being delivered, just that it’s late and not very good. Expressing confidence is not the same as saying the report is wrong and vowing to increase production capabilities sort of indicates they’re not currently up to scratch. Having said that it’s quite possible that everything’s fine and this report is barking up the wrong tree. The coming weeks may reveal more.