Pelosi rips into Facebook for ‘shameful’ behaviour

Democrat Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has sent a tsunami of abuse towards Facebook, suggesting the social media giant has zero interest in serving its users.

Speaking during her weekly press briefing, the defacto leader of the Democrat party tore into Facebook’s policies of refusing to factcheck statements made by politicians, facilitating the sponsored misleading of voters by Russian parties during the last election, and cosying up to the current political administration for no other reason than for financial gain.

“I think the Facebook business model is strictly to make money,” said Pelosi. “They don’t care about the impact on children, they don’t care about truth, they don’t care about where this is all coming from, and they have said even if they know it’s not true, they will print it. They have been very abusive of the great opportunity which technology has given them.

“All they want are tax cuts and no anti-trust action against them, and they smooze this administration in that regard.”

Pelosi isn’t necessarily saying anything which numerous people are thinking. Facebook is a profit-making machine and has demonstrated on numerous occasions its executives put money before the privacy rights of customers or the experience of the platform. Pelosi coming out in such an aggressive stance against the social media giant is certainly an interesting twist though.

As a company, Facebook should be a bit nervous about any Democrat momentum heading into the November General Election. Although the Democrat candidate has not been named yet, there are plenty who have been very critical of Big Tech in general and Facebook in particular.

The bookies currently have Joe Biden as the favourite to win the Democrat nomination for the General Election, a man who recently said he would get rid of Section 230, the law that shields Facebook from liability for what their users post. Elizabeth Warren is another who is attracting attention, and she launched her campaign for nomination under the promise she would break-up Big Tech. Bernie Saunders and Pete Buttigieg, two more front-runners, has echoed Warren’s desire to dismantle Silicon Valley.

In years gone, the Democrat party was traditionally the side of the political sphere which would favour Silicon Valley and its disruptive residents. This is far from the truth today, as Big Tech is finding it has few friends sitting on either side of the aisle.

BT and Vodafone set to moan to PM about Huawei

The CEOs of BT, Philip Jansen, and Vodafone, Nick Read, are working on a letter they will sent to the UK Prime Minister, begging him not to ban Huawei.

We know this because they have leaked their plans to multiple UK media. The letter will say there is insufficient evidence that the use of Huawei kit represents a security risk to justify a ban on them using its kit in their networks. It will also stress what a nightmare it will be for them if they have to replace all their Huawei gear, as well as the down sides of reducing competition.

One reason for this mounting panic is the presumed absence of any compromise solution. The US has, to some extent, put its future relationship with the UK on the line over this decision. At the same time UK PM doesn’t want to seem like he just does whatever the Americans tell him and presumably doesn’t want to set back the roll-out of UK 5G.

Having said all that it comes as very little surprise that BT and Vodafone would be contemplating such a move, since they have made their feelings abundantly clear in the past. Even then the leaks hedge their position by saying they are just considering sending this redundant letter, but if it’s so important then surely the bigger news will be if they don’t. Perhaps they think having the two UK telecoms industry champions speaking with a common voice will have greater resonance, but they’re not sure. Let’s see.

Europe urges UK to call Trump’s bluff on Huawei

EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan doesn’t reckon US President Trump will follow through on threats to suspend intelligence cooperation with the UK.

During an interview with UK former EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mendelson, long-time senior Eurocrat Hogan was repeatedly asked about the impact of Trump’s trade and security policies. Most of the interview (below) is taken up with Mendelson’s interminable questions and Hogan’s tutting about protectionism and Trump in general, but there were occasional highlights.

Principal among them from a telecoms perspective was Hogan’s assertion that he reckons the Trump administration is bluffing when it threatens the UK with estrangement from the Five Eyes anglophone intelligence alliance if it allows Huawei gear into its 5G network.

“I think that’s a bit of sabre-rattling,” said Hogan (15:30). “I don’t think that will actually happen at the end of the day. I think everybody has an interest in making sure that we’re safe and secure and I think that the United States, at the end of the day, you can call their bluff on that one.”

Hogan may be right but it’s questionable how wise it is to openly goad Trump in this way, who may now feel tempted to follow through on the threat just to teach him and the EU a lesson. Furthermore, if you take the US position at face value, sharing intelligence with an ally that has allowed Huawei into its 5G network will make it less safe and secure. So while Hogan’s assessment may have been accurate at the time he made it, he may yet come to regret taking such a supercilious public attitude towards the US

 

What are Boris Johnson’s alternatives to Huawei?

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece John Baker, SVP of Business Development at Mavenir argues that OpenRAN must signal the start of a new cycle for infrastructure vendor market.

For many years now, the telco infrastructure market has been dominated by just three vendors – Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson.  Other firms have fallen by the wayside, unable to compete on price or move fast enough to keep up with changes in technology.

Of course, the mobile ecosystem has always encouraged innovative players to develop new solutions and there are plenty of companies supplying the operator community with specialist network products and services. Having said that, there is no doubt that the operator choices for its end to end Network infrastructure vendor have reduced over the last 10 years.

Now one of those three Network vendors, Huawei, is facing a geopolitical and commercial storm itself. The US government has turned against it for its 5G infrastructure and is putting pressure on other NATO countries to do the same – causing Britain’s PM Boris Johnson to cry out ‘but what are the alternatives?’

Whatever the truth of the matter or the motive for raising it, US fears about hidden spyware or an over-reliance on the technology from a vendor thought to be controlled by a ‘competing nation’ is causing a major market stir and threatening to exclude Huawei from operator tender lists across the USA and Europe.

Commercially, this can be portrayed as good news for Nokia and Ericsson, but it is not quite that straightforward.  Firstly, a reduction to just two vendor choices cannot be good for the market. Secondly, all this is happening at the same time as the technology is rapidly evolving, creating new ways of building networks and delivering services.

Operators concerned about their dwindling source of options for network  infrastructure – and already frustrated by the feeling of being trapped into ‘vendor lock-in’ of hardware-centric solutions – are therefore increasingly attracted to the commercial and technical opportunities of virtualization; and especially to the new breed of vendors emerging with software-centric  solutions.

What’s more there’s a general feeling that the traditional vendors, after naturally taking a protectionist stance to the hardware model that underpins their businesses, are no longer at the leading edge of the technology when it comes to the software-led world of virtualized networks. Ericsson, for example, has so far shied away from embracing OpenRAN – an initiative that allows networks to be built using off-the-shelf servers rather than proprietary boxes.

The OpenRAN initiative is at the heart of the Facebook-led Telecom Infrastructure Project (TIP) looking to bridge the digital divide by lowering the cost of mobile network deployment. It’s also been welcomed by Vodafone, as evidenced by the RFP it has issued looking to convert its entire European footprint to an OpenRAN model.

Late last year, analyst Stephane Teral at IHS Markits cited my own company, Mavenir, as being best placed to become the new third choice vendor in the market.  But this revolution in supply is not just about adding one or two new vendors to the supply chain to answer Boris Johnson’s plea.

It’s about the creation of a truly new infrastructure market model.  One where open interfaces, software-led, cloud-based network architectures with end-to-end automation become the new normal.  It’s a wind of change bringing a new cycle in the infrastructure vendor market – giving operators more choice, lower costs, more service flexibility, and a faster return on network investment.

 

John Baker is the Senior Vice President of Business Development at Mavenir. A veteran of the mobile industry, board member for 5G Americas, and sought-after industry speaker, John Baker leads the 5G team at Mavenir, intent on disrupting the market by transforming operator network economics. A visionary and driving force behind Mavenir’s business strategy, John is at the forefront of the company’s drive to change operator views on wireless infrastructure deployment—promoting a software-focused approach to innovation, with no ties to supporting legacy hardware.

Will telcos follow Big Tech in pursuit of a greener life?

Microsoft has stated its green ambitions, delivering a plan to be carbon neutral by 2030, halving the carbon emissions of the business.

By the mid-point of the decade, Microsoft plans to have its own direct carbon emissions almost down to zero, while it will work to drive the same efficiencies through its supply and value chain. The business will also invest $1 billion to accelerate the development of carbon reduction, capture and removal technologies.

“While the world will need to reach net zero, those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith. “That’s why today we are announcing an ambitious goal and a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove Microsoft’s carbon footprint.

“By 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.”

While many executives might claim to have a green agenda, the technology, media and telecoms industries are being led by the US Big Tech giants. This is one example, though Apple claims to have transitioned to 100% renewable energy for the electricity it uses in its offices, retail stores and data centres in 43 countries. In the last three years, Apple has reduced its carbon footprint by 35%.

The question is whether telcos have the same attitude as Big Tech in driving towards a more sustainable future. And according to Paul Gowans, Wireless Strategy Director for Viavi, there are some significant business benefits as well as corporate social responsibility.

Gowans pointed out that the network is energy guzzling asset for every telco, and depending on where you are, this can have a very different impact on the spreadsheets. For example, the world average price is $0.15 per kWh, though this decreases to $0.11 per kWh in South Korea and increases to $0.35 per kWh in Germany, more than 3X the cost. The economics of running a network vary, therefore the appetite for increasing the energy efficiency of networks does also.

There are of course numerous ways to tackle this issue, though Gowans pointed to an algorithm written by Viavi which powers down certain parts of the network during certain times of the day. It seems like the most obvious answer, but powering down certain cell sites in residential, commuter towns between 9-5 or the Square Mile in London over the weekend, can have an impact on the bottom line without impacting customer experience; most of the users will be elsewhere.

This is where green and clean technologies might make more of an impression for the budget holders at telecoms companies; appealing to the wallet might be much more successful than appealing to their sense of social responsibility. Their primary objective is to make more money for shareholders after all.

With 5G pressurising balance sheets, and for some scaled telcos with vast numbers of cell sites such as China Mobile or Verizon, introducing green strategies is not just a hippy-style to save the environment, there is could be some serious cost efficiencies to be realised.

BT seeks stickiness and diversification through Google Stadia partnership

UK ISP BT says it’s the first European network to partner with Google over its Stadia cloud gaming service, which it will bundle with some broadband offers.

The press release features a needless amount of banging on about ‘moving the cloud gaming industry forward’, and ‘initiatives designed to build awareness, access and availability of it in the UK,’ as if cloud gaming is some kind of philanthropic initiative. But the long and short of it is that BT is offering Stadia for free with some bundles for a couple of weeks and then from 7 February will bundle Stadia Premier Edition with special cloud gaming add-ons to some of its fibre packages.

“We continually look to provide our customers with the most exciting products and experiences, and by partnering with Google on Stadia, we’re able to help them push the limits of gaming,” said Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer Division. “We’re also investing in the UK’s fastest 4G, 5G and fibre networks, so our superfast home broadband service is the perfect accompaniment for those wanting to make the most from this innovative streaming gaming platform.”

“We’re excited to continue our cross-product partnership with BT in the UK to further drive the cloud gaming industry forward,” said Michiel van Eldik, General Manager of Devices & Services at Google EMEA. “BT has an established track record of leading the industry in delivering next-generation services and products to their customers. Through today’s announcement, we are able to make the best gaming content even more accessible, and to continue to change the way people access, play and enjoy their favourite games.”

Exciting times then. BT seems to think gaming is where the smart ISP diversification money is at these days, having recently announced its sponsorship of the Excel Esports team. How excited BT customers will be with all this, however, remains to be seen as initial reviews of Stadia concluded it’s a bit rubbish.

25% of Europeans hold back personal information due to security concerns

For years, the tech industry has under-invested in security and now it might be about to hit executives in the place it hurts; the wallet.

Interestingly enough, those who are at greatest risk here are the creative thinkers who have figured out how to make money from the free-flowing data-sharing economy. It is the 21st century’s version of turning water into wine, making money off users without charging them anything, but it appears there are issues.

According to Eurostat, the office for statistics in the European Commission, 25% of Europeans have avoided handing over personal information because of security concerns, while 44% have limited their private internet activities in the last 12 months.

The investments behind security present an interesting conundrum for businesses. Firstly, security investment have to be made, but as this has been deemed a ‘cost centre’ as opposed to directly driving revenues towards the profit columns, they have been limited. This is a cynical viewpoint to hold, but we wouldn’t be talking about underinvestment in security if investment wasn’t being directed elsewhere.

The most interesting talking point to take away from these statistics is that there now is a business case. Users won’t use your services unless security can be demonstrated. It is a direct tie to the bottom line, which should theoretically increase the flow of investment towards security products and initiatives. We might get to that wonderful environment were security is not considered an afterthought.

One question which remains is whether this is too little too late.

Some companies have been investing in security for years. Some have been able to steer clear of the privacy scandals and data breaches. Some can prove their security credentials to customers today. These look like very attractive businesses to the growing number of security conscious customers.

Perhaps one of the reasons people are becoming more security conscious is the element of danger. In bygone years, it was difficult to communicate the dangers of the internet to users because there weren’t enough examples of real-world consequence. A company lost X amount of personal information, but what is the direct impact on my life? Because it is not as apparent, people generally undervalue the danger. This might be changing.

According to the Eurostat figures, 1% of the European Union population experienced financial loss resulting from identity theft, fraudulent messages or redirection to fake websites. That is just over 5 million people who were financial impacted by the dangers of the interest inside 2019 alone.

When customers start to see the digital economy as a threat to their bank account, which is becoming more common today, they will start paying more attention to security credentials.

What services were avoided due to security concerns
Service Percentage
Social or professional networking 25%
Public wifi 19%
Downloading content 17%
eCommerce 16%
Internet banking 13%

Europe wants to force all mobile phones to use the same charger port

Six years ago the European Union started ‘encouraging’ mobile phone makers to unite around a common charger format, but they didn’t take the hint.

The encouragement was introduced as part of an update to the Radio Equipment Directive, through which the European Commission tries to control that market. In the name of reducing waste (without detailing how) and simplifying their use, MEPs voted to mandate the move towards a universal charger port for mobile phones. At the time the EC decided nudge theory was the best place to start.

“The modernised Radio Equipment Directive is an efficient tool to prevent interference between different radio equipment devices,” said EU spokesperson Barbara Weiler at the time. “I am especially pleased that we agreed on the introduction of a common charger. This serves the interests both of consumers and the environment. It will put an end to charger clutter and 51,000 tonnes of electronic waste annually.”

How many consumers were consulted for them to come to that conclusion is unclear, but who can honestly say they bear no emotional scars from having to switch between two or three port formats every now and then? Similarly it’s not immediately obvious what ecological benefit of a unified charger will be, since devices always come with one anyway, but what do we know?

Anyway, for all the EC’s efforts we’re still faced with the bleak situation of having to contend with up to three charger formats and, quite frankly, it won’t do. If mobile phone makers won’t respond to encouragement, it seems, then more assertive techniques are required to ensure compliance with the grand plan.

So recently there was a call to introduce common charger for all mobile phones, which noted ‘The Commission’s approach of “encouraging” industry to develop common chargers fell short of the co-legislators’ objectives. The voluntary agreements between different industry players have not yielded the desired results. A common charger should fit all mobile phones, tablets, e-book readers and other portable devices, MEPs will insist.”

Now, by happy coincidence, or perhaps not, the industry is gravitating towards the USB-C format anyway, especially at the top end, so it’s presumably just a matter of time before it becomes ubiquitous. When that does happen the EU bureaucracy will be able to pat itself on the back for chalking up another win for consumers and the environment.

UK stumbles to 13th in Digital Readiness rankings as Singapore leads

Cisco has unveiled its Global Digital Readiness Index to rank the efforts of 141 countries around the world in pursuit of the digital economy.

Of the ten largest economies globally, only the US cracks Cisco’s top-ten for digital readiness as Singapore shows everyone else how it’s done. While the realities of dominating the future digital economy are very different from such surveys, the report does give an opportunity to benchmark and figure out who should be learning from who.

“Technology has the potential to be the single greatest catalyst for economic and social progress,” said Tae Yoo, SVP of Corporate Affairs at Cisco.

“In every corner of the world, digital technology is helping us become more connected to each other and the organizations upon which we rely. It opens markets, creates jobs, and better connects citizens and customers.”

This statement demonstrates why so many governments around the world are prioritising digital investments and attempting to aid the telecommunications industry financially. Digital infrastructure helps public services improve, enhances society, fosters innovations and generates economic prosperity.

But it is a race. There is only so much money to go around and it will likely be captured by those who progress to the digital, connected world of tomorrow the fastest. This is demonstrable by the success of the 4G era.

The US has been an economic superpower for a considerable period of time, but this was compounded by capturing a meaty slice of the profits from the 4G era. By launching and scaling 4G networks rapidly, new companies and services were given an incubation environment to thrive.

The likes of Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Lyft, AirBnB, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, TripAdvisor, Tinder, Match, Expedia and Snapchat, all thrived because the connectivity landscape allowed them to. A company generally needs to establish itself domestically before it can tackle the global markets, and this is what digital preparedness offers; the potential to secure newly created wealth for your national economy.

In the Global Digital Readiness Index, Cisco is attempting to create a league table so we can predict the winners and losers of tomorrow digital economy.

Singapore leads the way, which is perhaps no surprise, with Luxembourg, the US, Denmark and Switzerland leading the top five nations. With the exception of the US, the majority of those in the top ten are smaller nations, with more concentrated populations, which helps on the infrastructure deployment side, but there are other factors to consider.

Cisco has judged 141 nations based on seven criteria; basic needs, business and government investment, ease of doing business, human capital, start-up environment, technology adoption, and technology Infrastructure.

Unfortunately for those of us in the UK, 13th place globally will have to do for the moment.

Ranking Country Score (out of 25)
1 Singapore 20.26
2 Luxembourg 19.54
3 USA 19.03
4 Denmark 18.98
5 Switzerland 18.86
6 Netherlands 18.66
7 Sweden 18.42
8 South Korea 18.22
9 Iceland 18.16
10 Norway 17.98
11 Finland 17.95
12 Australia 17.89
13 UK 17.86
14 Germany 17.85
15 New Zealand 17.75

Satellite Synchronization is Critical to 5G Mobile Cellular Network Operation

Synchronization in carrier networks has been in use forever, but because of its elevated role in 5G, it is now getting more attention. Mobile cellular networks must be synchronized so that towers (base stations) with overlapping coverage do not interfere with each other causing dropped calls or service degradation. 3G and 4G mainly needed frequency synchronization, but 5G cellular technology and 4G LTE-TDD require phase synchronization to make the advanced modulations and techniques work without interference when cells overlap.

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