The top five markets to watch in the Asia-Pacific MVNO sector

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this article, Helen Gaden of the MVNOs Series talks us through some of the key findings of a recent report they conducted into the Asia-Pacific MVNO market.

The Asia-Pacific region is alive with examples of every single nuance that plays a role in the MVNO industry – positive, open regulatory environments, and those that shut the door on virtual operators completely, highly successful symbiotic relationships with MNOs and monopolistic wholesale markets that strangle innovation and opportunity, MVNOs extending their reach into new markets, into new services, driving value with new business models, and embracing new technologies. Look to the APAC region and you can see it all.

The only problem with such enormous size and diversity is that it can be difficult to see the picture in full, or even to know where to look. However, there are certainly some key countries which emerge as key markets to watch; that standout as impressive growth drivers for MVNOs. In fact, there are five to be specific: China, Australia, Singapore, Japan and Vietnam.

Starting with the former, China’s MVNO sector finally seems to be finding its feet. With the entire Chinese mobile ecosystem adding an estimated $750bn to the country’s economy in 2018, equivalent to 5.5% of its GDP, China is certainly a nation where mobile technology takes central stage in economic strategy. And after testing the waters with an initial MVNO license trial in 2014, the Chinese government finally decided it had seen enough to make the experiment permanent last year, opening up licenses to international players for the first time as it looks to increase competition in the market.

As Renato Andrade Reis points out, China already represents a huge success story for MVNOs in that the 5% share Chinese MVNOs have of the country’s 1.2 billion mobile subscriptions has been achieved against the background of some hostile market conditions. “In China the market has developed despite the issues on pricing that in the beginning were complicated due to heavy competition from the local operators,” he said. “Growth has been based innovation – gaming, VAS, extra features. Chinese MVNOs really do present something of a white paper strategy example.”

In Australia, likewise, the market has grown substantially. As Gary Bhomer, founder and principal at Sydney-based firm Tel-Consult, points out: the growth in the Australian MVNO market “shows no signs of abating, with several new entrants on the way. Over the past two years MVNOs have taken an additional 3% market share and now account for a total of 13%.

“We’re seeing more non-traditional telco’s launch mobile propositions as an extension of brand. For established brands, an MVNO strategy can be a good way to extend an existing brand into a new segment, and provide a compelling way to interact and cross sell / up sell as well as leverage unique insights into your customer base. Recent examples include Nu Mobile, owned by Macquarie Bank, which has aggressive plans and second hand handsets as their key differentiator (Boost Mobile also recently launched second-hand device sales).“Other pending launches include Circles.life who are expecting to launch in the coming months following on from their success in Singapore, having also recently launched in Taiwan and planning at least two other Asian market launches.

Onto Singapore: their MVNO market has experienced one of the fastest rates of growth anywhere in the region over the past couple of years. Spearheaded by Circles.Life, one of the big MVNO success stories anywhere in Asia, virtual operators’ share of market climbed to 3% by the end of 2018, after the first virtual operators launched only two years previously.

While Circles.life embarks on aggressive expansion plans into other regional territories, 2019 has seen a succession of new MVNO launches in Singapore itself. The trend seems to be for larger telcos using the MVNO model to launch sub-brands targeting younger consumers, with examples including Giga, owned by the MNO StarHub, and Grid Mobile, a joint venture between Singtel and ST Telemedia. International players are getting in on the scene, too, with Malaysian brand redONE launching a subsidiary in Singapore ahead of planned roll outs in Vietnam and Thailand too.

But it isn’t just MVNOs that are adding to the competitive nature of Singapore’s mobile industry, either. Australian operator TPG Telecom last year became the fourth MNO running a network in the city state’s condensed mobile market, and announced its arrival with a low-cost SIM-only offer.

Across the pond in Japan, where more than 80 active MVNOs operate and over 18 million SIM connections are active, the Japanese virtual operator sector is one of the longest-standing and most developed across the APAC region. It has also enjoyed one of the most sustained periods of growth of any market – since 2014, Japanese MVNOs have more than doubled their share of mobile subscriptions, with the figure standing at 10.6% at the end of 2018.

During the same period, mobile ARPUs fell by 9%, which industry research consultancy Analysys Mason says compares favourably with the rest of the region. So while a growth in MVNO market share tends to be associated with falling prices due to increased competition and discounting strategies, Japan’s MVNOs have been able to grow share with theoretically better margins than most.

A couple of Japanese brands to draw attention to include the IIJmio consumer brand, which boasts 1.074m subscribers, and Rakuten Mobile, which has 1.5 million subscribers and recently announced the takeover of fellow Japanese MVNO DMM Mobile for US$21.2m.

On the other side of the coin, Vietnam is one of the youngest MVNO markets anywhere in the APAC region. In fact, the country’s first virtual operator launch took place as recently as April 2019. But after nearly a decade of frustrated attempts to get MVNOs off the ground in a nation of 95.5 million people, largely because of apparent reluctance on the part of the country’s MNOs to switch focus to wholesale services, there is now real hope that the model could take off in a big way over the coming years.

The pioneer Indochina Telecom Company (Itelecom), for example, has agreed a deal with carrier VinaPhone, mobile subsidiary of telecoms giant VNPT. Itelecom is reported to be focusing its initial service offerings on industrial workers in nine provinces and cities. Malaysia’s redONE, meanwhile, has plans to become the country’s second virtual operator by October this year.

The country also has a young, tech-savvy population, with high rates of smartphone penetration backed up by a fast, extensive 4G network. This, naturally, bodes well for hopeful MVNOs. Whilst the big carriers, Viettel, VNPT (through is Vinaphone brand) and MobiFone operate in a saturated market which has experienced flat growth for the past five years, the kind of service innovation and differentiation brought by MVNOs looks the main route to returning the mobile sector to growth.

 

For a more insights on this, download the free MVNOs Series report

NTT Docomo set to ditch Huawei phones over Android fears – report

Japanese operator group NTT Docomo will not offer Huawei smartphones when it launches its 5G network next year, according to a report.

The scoop comes courtesy of Nikkei Asian Review, which chatted to some NTT execs that preferred to keep it on the QT. The reason for this sudden reticence is fairly simple: if Google pulls the plug on Android support for Huawei phones the operator doesn’t want to be stuck with thousands of very expensive bricks that nobody wants to buy.

If this is true then it sets a very alarming precedent for Huawei, especially if the other Japanese operators follow suit. Japan was apparently Huawei’s fifth largest market last year and is right in the middle of the geopolitical arm wrestle between the US and China that has forced Google’s hand when it comes to Android support for Huawei phones.

The Nikkei Asian Review is on good form today, having also learned that Softbank is hoping to launch its 5G network two years ahead of schedule. How great an achievement this is, however, is open to debate, since many 5G networks around the world are already live. If the original projection by Softbank was that it wasn’t going to get its 5G act together until 2022 then it just as well it has belatedly pulled its socks up.

Apple and Ireland begin appealing €14.3bn tax bill

Lawyers representing Apple and the Irish Government has begun their arguments in the EU’s lower General Court in an attempt to protect the suspect corporate tax environment.

In 2016, the European Commission ordered the Irish Government to collect back-taxes off Apple to the tune of €14.3 billion, including interest. Apple does not want to pay tax. Ireland does not want to collect it. Europe wants a level playing field. The lawyers are looking forward to nuance to bolster their bank accounts.

During the opening arguments, Apple’s lawyers suggested the European Commission decision “defies reality and common sense,” according to Reuters. Both the iPhone manufacturer and the Irish Government will argue against the decision to tax environment contravenes state aid rules.

Let’s be clear. Ireland is a tax haven. It is facilitating corporate tax avoidance. It is helping corporates collect greater profits without rewarding the societies they strain. Irish Government officials should be embarrassed they are helping technology giants abuse its European partners, the very same European partners which bailed it out of financial doomsday a decade ago.

This is a selfish position, and just at the time when the country is looking to Europe to protect it as Brexit looms large on the horizon.

Some might argue the Irish Government is entitled to charge whatever tax it wants. However, a modern society works because the general public and corporations pay taxes. It pays for roads, schools, hospitals, police officers and postal workers. There are technology giants out there who are asking consumers to strain their wallets further each year and care less about their right to privacy, but they are not willing to contribute to the societies which are fuelling the monstrous profits reported every three months.

With international borders being broken down, much to the distaste of some, irregular taxation policies can be taken advantage of. This is what is happening here. It beggars belief that Ireland can argue the benefits of the single economy, and still maintain this position, weakening the position of partners, depriving them of much needed taxes.

This is not the position the European Commission has taken, but it is the one each of Ireland’s partners in Europe should. Why should Ireland be able to collect all the benefits of Apple’s assaults on the European digital economy when it is citizens of every other nation which is fuelling the iLeader’s growth?

For some, it might sound bizarre that the Irish Government doesn’t want to collect €14.3 billion off Apple, but there are two reasons for this.

Firstly, if the Irish lawyers were not to fight back against the enforced tax run, it is effectively conceded to the assertion that it is a corporate tax haven. The last thing the Irish Government wants to do is admit that it is helping the already richly rewarded residents of Silicon Valley rip-off neighbouring governments further with creative tax strategies.

Secondly, Ireland needs to ensure it is viewed as a friendly corporate-tax environment moving forward if it is to continue to attract corporations to its borders. Ireland doesn’t necessarily have the best talent, it doesn’t have the largest economy and it doesn’t have a local supply chain for manufacturing. It needs a plug to interest the likes of Apple, Facebook, IBM, Intel, Twitter, Pinterest, PayPal and Amazon to house their European HQ in the country.

The value of the technology industry to both the Irish Government and society should not be undervalued. The Irish economy entered severe recession in 2008, and then an economic depression in 2009. The country was in tatters, though it was saved by the technology industry.

Over the last decade, technology giants thrived in the tax haven, creating new jobs directly and indirectly, and continues to be one of the biggest drivers today. Silicon Docks is as important to Dublin as Silicon Valley is to California.

That said, the European Commission does not agree this dynamic should be allowed to continue.

Should the Irish Government continue this favourable tax regime for certain companies, a competitive advantage is offered. The Commission, ably led by Margrethe Vestager, has been tackling anti-competitive business practises for years. If such a monstrous company like Apple is given a competitive advantage, state aid to run riot, start-ups will always be on the back-foot. Competition will likely never emerge, and the consumer will be in a precarious position.

Over the next couple of days, lawyers representing Apple and the Irish Government will argue against the opinion of the European Commission, attempting to overturn an order to collect back-taxes and create a more reasonable tax environment. It will argue that it is perfectly reasonable for it to help Apple bleed the consumer dry and then hide profits from governments who are asking for a fair contribution back to society to pay nurses.

Ireland should be embarrassed.

GSMA boasts of climate change progress

The GSMA has announced 50 telcos around the world have signed-up to an initiative to drive greater transparency through the industry with regard to its contribution to climate change.

Representing more than 66%, 5.2 billion, of the worlds’ mobile connections, the 50 telcos will disclose their climate impacts, energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The initiative will also include the development of an industry-wide plan to achieve net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement.

“Today’s announcement marks the start of a collaborative action by the mobile industry to tackle the climate emergency, demonstrating how the private sector can show leadership and responsibility in addressing one of the gravest challenges facing our planet,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA.

“The mobile industry will form the backbone of the future economy and therefore has a unique opportunity to drive change across multiple sectors and in collaboration with our suppliers, investors and customers.”

Although the lobby group is giving itself a proud pat on the back, what is worth noting is that numerous other industries have already made prominent steps forward to addressing climate change. Airlines, for instance, have included a tick-box during the purchasing procedure which allows consumers to make a charitable donation to offset the carbon emissions attributed to their seat on the plane. It’s a step-forward of course, but the telco industry is not the quickest off the mark.

Using the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) framework, the industry will attempt to aid climate change enthusiasts limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Although the deadline date for the Paris Agreement is 2050, there is likely to be a huge amount of regional variance. The ability for companies to meet the deadline will be impacted by the ability to access renewable energy, current network deployments and the geographical nature of their location.

While it might not sound like much, limiting the increase in average temperatures by 2050 to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels instead of 2°C could have a significant impact. 11 million fewer people might be exposed to extreme heat, 61 million fewer people exposed to drought, and 10 million fewer people exposed to the impacts of sea level rise. The SBTi is also claiming this 0.5°C could also halve the number of vertebrate and plant species facing severe range loss by the end of the century.

This is certainly a positive step-forward, and while we suspect many will only be agreeing to the initiative as a PR push rather than a genuine belief in the perseverance of the environment over profits, does it actually matter? If the end goal is achieved, does anyone really care what the drivers of the players were?

HTC taps Orange for new CEO

Struggling Taiwanese device maker HTC has finally found a full-time CEO by tapping into the European telecoms scene.

Former Orange exec Yves Maitre (pictured, no relation) takes over as CEO with immediate effect. He replaces owner and Chairwoman Cher Wang, who stepped in as CEO more than four years ago after deciding to throw in the towel on smartphones.  Wang has spent that time pivoting HTC towards virtual reality and the Vive headset, as well as some other connected devices.

Maitre was most recently EVP of Consumer Equipment and Partnerships at Orange was well as being a member of Orange’s innovation technology group, with a focus developing disruptive revenue opportunities, so his appointment is consistent with HTC’s new direction. Wang and the HTC board have clearly committed the company’s future to emerging mobile devices.

“When I took over as CEO four years ago, I set out to reinvent HTC as a complete ecosystem company and lay the foundations for the company to flourish across 5G and XR,” said Wang. “So, now is the perfect time to hand over the stewardship of HTC to a strong leader to guide us on the next stage of our journey.

“I am truly delighted that Yves is taking the reins; he has a long association with our company, and he shares our passion for innovation. I firmly believe Yves is the right leader to continue to lead HTC to its full potential.”

“HTC has long been a bellwether for new technology innovation and I’m honoured to be selected by the Board of Directors to lead the next phase of HTC,” said Maitre. “Across the world, HTC is recognized for its firsts across the mobile and XR space. I am incredibly energized to grow the future of both 5G and XR alongside HTC employees, customers and investors.  We will set out immediately to continue the transition from building the worlds’ best consumer hardware to also building complete services around them to make them easy to manage and deploy.”

XR refers to mixed reality, which covers all forms immersive digital experience, including augmented reality. The advent of 5G is a potential boon for this kind of tech, especially when the low-latency stuff starts to kick in, as it will enable wireless VR without the kind of lag that makes people throw up. Recruiting someone from the operator side appears to be an acknowledgement of that.

HTC was arguably the most successful Android smartphone maker initially, establishing close ties to Google and shipping in impressive volumes a decade ago. But then much bigger players like Samsung and Huawei got their acts together and HTC simply couldn’t compete with their deep pockets and economies of scale. It will attempt to replicate that feat with XR and hopefully will have a better strategy for fending off the big guys next time.

AT&T sued for massaging DirecTV figures

If there is a headache in the shape of activist investor Elliott Management already, AT&T executives will be reaching for the aspirin once again as investors sue over suspect figures.

Filed in the US District Court for Southern New York, Melvin Gross is the man leading a coalition of investors to sue AT&T, suggesting the management team misled investors over the performance of its DirecTV video products. The massaged figures might be viewed as an attempt to save face (as well as jobs), though the lawsuit also suggests executives were attempting to justify the incredibly expensive acquisition of Time Warner through nefarious means.

“Moreover, several of the Executive Defendants had strong personal interests in promoting the success of DirecTV Now in order to persuade the market of the logic behind the Time Warner Acquisition,” the filing states.

“The failure of DirecTV Now, prior to the closing of the Acquisition, could have jeopardized the transaction, a result that would have been disastrous for the Defendants.”

Through a combination of fake email addresses and additional charges for customers without consent, practises which were allegedly encouraged by managers, AT&T is effectively accused of fraud. Investors are also suggesting the executive team presented misleading numbers down the omission of promotional numbers. 500,000 net adds disappeared once a three month for $10 deal disappeared, though this risk was apparently not appropriately communicated.

By hyping the performance of DirecTV Now, investors might be encouraged to double-down on momentum in the content unit, funding another monstrous acquisition. However, as the lawsuit states, investors might not be buoyed to spend $108.7 billion (including debt) should the 2014, $67.1 billion DirecTV purchase be viewed as a failure.

This is somewhat of a conspiracy theory, though the DirecTV Now numbers were not anywhere near as attractive during the financial earnings call once AT&T was committed to the Time Warner transaction. As you can see from the table below, the timing is a bit suspicious:

Period Net adds (loss in brackets)
Q2 2019 (168,000)
Q1 2019 (83,000)
Q4 2018 (267,000)
Q3 2018 49,000
Q2 2018 342,000
Q1 2018 312,000
Q4 2017 368,000
Q3 2017 296,000

The Time Warner acquisition was first announced in October 2016 and closed in June 2018. In the financial earnings call following the closure of the transaction (Q3 2018), the DirecTV gains started to crumble away.

With the aggressive expansion and success the AT&T executive team was suggesting up-to Q2 2018, investors will of course have been enthusiastic about adding to the momentum. On the other side, you can see why some are reasonably irked by the reality of the situation. It does appear the fact many of these gains were either irresponsibly attributed or unlikely to be anything more than short-term gain.

Although DirecTV is the focal point of the lawsuit, the Time Warner acquisition is the central cog which the saga flows around.

The content strategy from AT&T is relatively simple. The DirecTV acquisition offered a mobile-friendly content delivery model, and the Time Warner purchase offered a horde of content allowing the telco to compound gains. Both, theoretically, work independently, but the combination is more attractive if you have a bank account big enough to fund the expansion.

However, as the lawsuit suggests, investors might be a bit sheepish in giving the greenlight to a $108 billion acquisition if the ROI from the $67 billion purchase are not living up to the original promise. The AT&T theory and business model is theoretically sound, though if the lawsuit is successful, heads may roll due to the route the management team took to get to the finish line.

The content bet from AT&T is already looking suspect, and this lawsuit will not help the situation.

Alongside this filing, the management team is also under attack from Elliott Management, the vulture fund which specialises in restructuring businesses, promoting a shift towards a utilitised business model and realising short/mid-term gains through increased dividends and share price increases.

The activist investor has taken a $3.2 billion stake in AT&T and has recently sent a letter to shareholders attacking the AT&T strategy and competency of the management team. The content business has come under-fire, with Elliott Management pushing for divestments and a more stringent focus on traditional connectivity products. It’s a strategy which could force the telco down the utilitisation path, something which is unlikely to benefit the business in the long-term.

The emergence of this lawsuit certainly aids the Elliott Management case, however we think the timing is more coincidental. Some might suggest the vulture fund is behind the lawsuit, but we think it is more a case of pleasant timing.

For the AT&T management team, this is a potential disaster. Not only do these executives have an aggressive activist investor calling for their heads, they have now been named in the lawsuit, with the complainants suggesting they encouraged under-handed tactics to directly mislead the market. This is turning into a very uncomfortable month for the AT&T management team.

IBC 2019: Are the nuances of the content world being understood by telcos?

The traditional telco business model is being commoditised, this is not new news, but with more telcos seeking to drive value through content, do they understand the nuances of consumer behaviour?

Once again at IBC in Amsterdam, it is an OTT which is grabbing attention. This should come as little surprise considering the disruption which this fraternity is thrusting on the world of telecoms, media and technology, though here it is more than gratuitous. Cécile Frot-Coutaz, the head of YouTube’s EMEA business, outlined why these companies are leading the way; a fundamental and intrinsic understanding of today’s consumer and the consumer-driven market trends.

This is perhaps why the telcos and traditional media companies are struggling to adapt to a world dominated by millennials, generation Z and digital natives. They appreciate society is changing but have perhaps not correctly balanced the formula to fit cohesively and efficiently into the new paradigm.

This conundrum is most relevant in the content world. Telcos need to factor this complex and nuanced segment into the business model, but how, where, why and when is a tricky question. Many telcos want to do something completely new and very drastic, but the simplest ideas are often the best ones; how can connectivity be used to augment and enhance the fast-growing, fascinating, complicated and profitable content space?

From our perspective, telcos need to diversify, but the best way to do that is figure how connectivity can enhance growing businesses and segments. This might sound like an obvious statement, however the evidence is the nuances are being missed.

Take AT&T for example. This is a company which desperately wants to diversify to take advantage of the digital economy. One way in which it feels it can do this is through the acquisition of Time Warner, a $107 billion bet to own content, create a streaming platform and drive another avenue of engagement with the consumer. Sounds sensible enough, but why take such a risk when there are opportunities closer to home.

Another strategy is more evident in Europe where telcos are attempting to create partnerships with the streaming giants to embed the distribution of these services through their own platforms. See Sky’s integration of Netflix or Vodafone’s work with Amazon Prime. Again, it is a perfectly reasonable approach, but does this future-proof the business against the trends of tomorrow?

These are two approaches which will attract plaudits, but we would like to take the strategy closer to home once again.

During her presentation, Frot-Coutaz pointed to several trends which could define the content world of tomorrow, and it is a perfect opportunity for the telcos to add value.

Firstly, let’s have a look at the consumer of today and tomorrow. Millennials and Generation Z have fundamentally changed the way in which the media world operates, and content is consumed. Not only is it increasingly mobile-driven, but there are new channels emerging every single day. Technology is second-nature to these consumers, and this is shaping the world of tomorrow.

Another interesting point from Frot-Coutaz is the fragmentation of content. One of the objectives of YouTube is not only to own content channels, but to empower the increasing number of content creators who are emerging in the digital world. If the content creators make more money, so does YouTube.

Frot-Coutaz claims that the number of YouTube channels which generate more than $100,000 per annum has increased 30% from 2017 to 2018. These trends are highly likely to continue, further fragmenting the content landscape.

This is where owning content or embedding popular streaming services into platforms becomes problematic. Consumer trends suggest the variety of channels through which the user is consuming content is increasing not decreasing. Embedding Netflix into a platform is an attractive move, but it is only attractive to those who have an interest in Netflix. If connectivity solutions can be offered to consumers to simplify and enhance the consumption of content, agnostic of the platform, there is a catch-all opportunity.

Although Netflix and Amazon Prime might be the content platforms on everyone’s lips for the moment, the number of ways in which consumers engage content is gathering significant momentum. There are new challengers in the streaming world (Disney+ or Apple TV), traditional social media (Facebook or Twitter), challenger social media (Tik Tok) AVOD channels (YouTube), traditional conversational websites (Reddit), messaging platforms and who knows what else in the 5G era. What about the VR/AR platforms which could potentially emerge soon enough?

This is a nuance, not a drastic change in thinking, but it is an important one to understand. Do telcos want to be the owner of content, the distributor or the delivery model. Admittedly, the delivery model is not the sexiest in comparison, but it might hold the most value in the long-run.

Another way to think about this taking the example of Killing Eve, the BBC spy thriller. Is there more long-term value in the eyes of the consumer in owning the content, owning the distribution channel or owning the connectivity services which fuel consumption and engagement through all channels?

The best means of differentiation have always been the ones which are closest to home. If you look at the likes of Google, Microsoft and Amazon, these are future-proofed companies because they are taking their current services and creating contextual relevance. There might be examples which undermine this point, but the general claim holds strong.

At Google, the team diversified their business through the acquisition of Android. This evolution took Google from the PC screen and onto mobile, but it is an extension of the advertising business model in a different context. The same could be said about YouTube. A video platform is drastically different from a search engine, but the underlying business model is the same; identifying the needs of the consumer and serving relevant commercial content.

The telcos are looking to do the same thing, but perhaps there needs to be more of a focus on a proactive evolution of the business rather than reactive. The telcos are playing catch-up on the consumption of video through mobile and a shift to OTT distribution, but the current approach is perhaps too narrowly focused. Focusing on the core business of connectivity delivery is more of a catch-all approach, factoring in future trends and the increasingly fragmented digital society.

This is a very easy statement to make, the complications will be on creating products which encapsulate these trends and offer an opportunity for telcos to grow ARPU. We are sitting very comfortable in the commentary box here as opposed to in the trenches with the product development teams, but the nuances of content are there to be taken advantage of.

Wi-Fi Alliance launches Wi-Fi 6 certification

If you want to make a device using the latest generation of wifi tech, and prove it’s legit, then you need this certification apparently.

It looks making a wifi connected device isn’t just as simple as whacking a wifi chip in it. The Wi-Fi Alliance says its certification programme ‘brings new features and capabilities that enable substantially greater overall Wi-Fi network performance in challenging environments with many connected devices such as stadiums, airports, and industrial parks.’

“Wi-Fi Certified 6 is ushering in a new era of wifi, building on wifi’s core characteristics to provide better performance in every environment for users, greater network capacity for service providers to improve coverage for their customers, and new opportunities for advanced applications,” said Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 is the first device to sport new, improved wifi and here’s some of the cool stuff that comes with the new tech, according to the announcement:

  • Orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA): effectively shares channels to increase network efficiency and lower latency for both uplink and downlink traffic in high demand environments
  • Multi-user multiple input multiple output (MU-MIMO): allows more downlink data to be transferred at once and enables an access point to transmit data to a larger number of devices concurrently
  • 160 MHz channels: increases bandwidth to deliver greater performance with low latency
  • Target wake time (TWT): significantly improves battery life in Wi-Fi devices, such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices
  • 1024 quadrature amplitude modulation mode (1024-QAM): increases throughput in Wi-Fi devices by encoding more data in the same amount of spectrum
  • Transmit beamforming: enables higher data rates at a given range resulting in greater network capacity

In case you were still in any doubt about the excellence of Wi-Fi 6 and the need to participate in this certification programme, here are the obliging canned quotes from countless industry types.

“In addition to increased speed and capacity, Wi-Fi 6 will support the growing density of connected devices in the home, delivering lower latency, enhanced battery life, and better overall performance. Wi-Fi 6 helps guarantee that users get the most out of these new functionalities in complex environments where they cohabit with legacy devices will require smart management of the whole ecosystem. AirTies’ Smart Wi-Fi software and cloud-based management software will ensure that service providers maximize their investment in Wi-Fi 6 to meet the evolving needs of their customers. We look forward to supporting Wi-Fi Alliance and its new Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 program.” – Metin Taskin, CTO of AirTies

“Wi-Fi is the primary connectivity method for billions of devices, users and things. We applaud Wi-Fi Alliance’s Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 program as it will provide users with confidence that their devices meet the highest standards for security and interoperability and that they will provide the best possible user experience. As device densities continue to climb, bandwidth needs continue to surge and sophisticated new security threats continue to emerge, it will be increasingly important for users to select devices that are certified to meet the market’s most exacting standards, so they can take advantage of the emerging, innovative, next-generation use cases that Wi-Fi 6 is enabling.” – Chuck Lukaszewski, vice president of wireless standards and strategy for Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

“ASSIA’s mission is to develop technologies that improve reliability of wired and wireless network connections. ASSIA has built a large portfolio of wireless technologies that utilize Wi-Fi 6 today, and for Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 devices these ASSIA technologies bring significant gains in network performance as well as vendor neutral network management options. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 will help build a massive IoT ecosystem at a fraction of the cost of deploying licensed band equivalent systems. We look forward to being part of evolution during this exciting time!” – Tuncay Cil, Chief Strategy Officer, ASSIA

“With the growing number of connected personal and IoT devices pushing current Wi-Fi to its limits, Wi-Fi 6 ushers in a new era of networking performance, and the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 certification program ensures users get the best home Wi-Fi experience out of this amazing new technology. As a pioneer of the world’s first Wi-Fi 6 router and a rapidly expanding ecosystem of Wi-Fi 6 network adapters, motherboards, laptops and mini PCs, we at ASUS believe Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 is the answer for multi-device households and are happy to see the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 certification program from Wi-Fi Alliance is available now.” – said Tenglong Deng, General Manager, ASUS Networking and Wireless Devices Business Unit.

“Wi-Fi 6 is a game changer in unlicensed connectivity, offering consumers exactly what they are seeking – the fastest, most responsive and reliable Wi-Fi.” – JR Wilson, Vice President of Tower Strategy and Roaming, AT&T

“Wi-Fi 6 is a game changer for dense and congested environments, helping operators like Boingo facilitate a more seamless connected experience in large venues that include airports and stadiums. Higher data rates, better spectrum usage, and increased network capacity are among the standout features of Wi-Fi 6 and we’re excited to see the technology’s certification program take off.” – Dr. Derek Peterson, chief technology officer, Boingo

“Broadcom is thrilled to have three of our best-in-class devices included in the certification test bed for today’s official launch of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 — the BCM4375, BCM43698, and BCM43684. These Broadcom devices already power 10s of millions of Samsung Galaxy phones and routers around the world. Capable of supporting up to 160 MHz wide channels, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 devices offer consumers lower latency, better battery life and as yet unseen throughputs, all of which are critical for 5G services. As the full 6 GHz band is made available for unlicensed use – with multiple 160 MHz-wide channels — the Wi-Fi 6 consumer experience will be turbocharged for the gigabit home and AR/VR.” – Vijay Nagarajan, Vice President, Wireless Communications & Connectivity Division, Broadcom  

“Thanks to the work of Wi-Fi Alliance and the commitment of its members to interoperability, Wi-Fi has changed the world. Wi-Fi 6 represents a significant evolution of Wi-Fi, taking wireless connectivity to new heights and enabling new applications and use cases that will continue to shape the world we live in. As the rollout of Wi-Fi 6 accelerates, the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 program will provide Cisco’s customers assurance that the network and user devices will interoperate as expected; maximizing the benefits for businesses, the economy and users – which is exactly what Wi-Fi has been doing for the last 20 years.” – Matt MacPherson, Wireless CTO, Cisco

“Our world is becoming increasingly hyper-connected, and what gets me really excited about Wi-Fi 6, beyond the huge improvements in capacity and performance is the support for 2.4 GHz band and the power consumption improvements. With Wi-Fi Alliance and the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 certification program, we can ensure peak performance for all devices with next generation WPA3 security, no matter the use case. Whether for a factory, a stadium, or an office building, Cisco Meraki customers can be confident that deploying a Wi-Fi 6 network will deliver a secure, simple and superlative experience.” – Jayanthi Srinivasan, Director of Product Management, Cisco Meraki

“Wi-Fi 6 will help us meet the demands of tomorrow’s connectivity, with increased speed delivered to numerous devices simultaneously. Offering lower latency, better range, higher capacity and improved battery life for devices, Wi-Fi 6 ushers in the next generation of the world’s predominant wireless networking technology. We believe that Wi-Fi 6 will open a vast number of new applications and possibilities for our business.” – Cole Reinwand, Comcast Cable Communications, XFINITY WiFi

“Ruckus has always been at the leading edge of new certified technologies from Wi-Fi Alliance, and we’re proud that our extensive collaboration with Wi-Fi Alliance has contributed to the successful launch of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6. By being one of the first to incorporate Wi-Fi 6 features, the Ruckus R750 access point is both among the first fully Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 products and a high-performance Wi-Fi 6 access point used in the Wi-Fi Alliance test bed for interoperability certification. We look forward to participating with Wi-Fi Alliance in this exciting next phase of Wi-Fi industry growth.” – Morgan Kurk, CTO at CommScope

“Cypress’ early Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 leadership underscores our commitment to market enablement with advanced automotive applications including BSS color mapping, support for scheduling, and high performance in congested environments. The high-data rates supported by Wi-Fi 6 will also enable efficient factory automation using over-the-air downloads on parallel manufacturing lines. Consumers will be able to enjoy uniform home-to-car experiences benefiting from robust, secure, and longer-range Wi-Fi 6 connections while maintaining backward-compatible Wi-Fi 5 IoT device connections already installed in their home networks.” – Brian Bedrosian, vice president of marketing, IoT Compute and Wireless Business Unit at Cypress

“Some hype is just noise — but some new technologies really do transform their market. By finally gaining a megaphone, Wi-Fi 6 is one of those technologies. In addition to providing added capacity and coverage to support more connected devices, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 access points have the potential to completely transform enterprises and end-user experiences, something Wi-Fi 6 compliant and Wi-Fi 6 compatible access points can never claim.” – Perry Correll, Director of Product Marketing, Extreme Networks

“Wi-Fi 6 incorporates many new technologies, such as OFDMA technology, which divides the WLAN channel into multiple narrower subchannels, reducing competition, backoff and network latency and improving network efficiency. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 guarantees the experience of these new technologies and continues to enhance the competitiveness and influence of Wi-Fi in the data transmission field.” – Joe Yu, Wireless Product director at H3C

“Wi-Fi 6 is a major step forward in the evolution of Wi-Fi. Not only does it bring higher maximum data rates, it also improves robustness in crowded Wi-Fi environments, creating a better user experience with a sustained level of performance for the user. In addition, Wi-Fi 6 brings significant benefits to new low-power markets such as IoT and wearables, enhancing the current Wi-Fi 5 products targeting these markets with improved power consumption, low data rates, and the addition of OFDMA to share spectrum efficiently.” – Richard Edgar, Senior Director of Product Management, Ensigma, Imagination Technologies

“Wi-Fi 6 is the greatest advancement to Wi-Fi in the last decade. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 ensures that products across the industry will live up to the full potential and deliver user experiences promised by Wi-Fi 6. Intel is honored that our leadership solutions for both client PC/IoT and home routers/gateways were selected for the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 test bed.” – Eric McLaughlin, GM, Wireless Solutions Group, Intel Corp.

“Wi-Fi 6 has already taken center stage in serving public hotspots like coffee shops and sports arenas as well as residential customers, where high data rate and efficient access control among users are strongly demanded.” – Jaehyung Koo, Vice President, KT

“As a leader in delivering new Wi-Fi connections and experiences to consumers worldwide, NETGEAR is thrilled to see the advancement of the Wi-Fi 6 certification program. With a broad range of Wi-Fi 6 routers via our Nighthawk performance Wi-Fi line, and a mesh Wi-Fi 6 system joining the Orbi Whole Home Wi-Fi family, NETGEAR is committed to improving the way people live through the connections we make.” – David Henry, senior vice president of Connected Home Products for NETGEAR

“Quantenna is committed to providing an exceptional Wi-Fi user experience and is actively involved in the development and standardization process of Wi-Fi 6. With Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6, consumers can easily identify and be assured that the devices they get include advanced capabilities for quality and interoperability. We look forward to certifying our products that enhance next generation Wi-Fi use cases.” – Irvind Ghai, vice president of Marketing, Quantenna Connectivity Solutions Division at ON Semiconductor

“Wi-Fi 6 is a key development that brings end-users a superior roaming experience. It is a milestone for this technology which offers improved connectivity, especially in dense areas of population and means an overall enhanced roaming capacity.” – Cedric Gonin, International Carriers, Orange

“At Qualcomm Technologies, we’ve been heavily supporting the global transition to Wi-Fi 6 for several years and are happy to be a part of Wi-Fi Alliance’s Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 program. Qualcomm Technologies has shown its commitment in Wi-Fi 6 on the strength of our dogged pursuit and investment in the full potential of the new standard. We are excited to see the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 program launching, as it’s yet another indicator of the broad industry readiness to further establish a fervent, growing ecosystem of Wi-Fi 6 networks and devices.” – Rahul Patel, senior vice president and general manager, connectivity, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

“Samsung is excited for the official launch of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6. High speed 5G services need Wi-Fi 6 and so do consumers who want to seamlessly share the moments they create on their mobile devices. As a leading innovator in smartphone technology, we made this a reality when we launched the Samsung Galaxy S10 – the world’s first Wi-Fi 6 phone – earlier this year. Today, we are proud to officially announce that the Galaxy Note10 is the world’s first Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 smartphone.” – Inkang Song, VP and Head of Technology Strategy Group of IT & Mobile Communications Division at Samsung Electronics

“The Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 program ensures that devices based on 802.11ax technology meet industry standards for interoperability and security, thereby delivering superior performance and better coverage to users experiencing Wi-Fi 6. In the meantime, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 includes advanced features, which provide devices with features of peak performance and low latency in smart home or IoT scenarios, ensuring a fast, flexible and connected Wi-Fi ecosystem.” – John Yin, Marketing Manager, TP-Link

“Wi-Fi 6, as the newest generation of Wi-Fi technology, can bring users higher throughput, lower latency, lower power consumption, and also enhance network efficiency.  As an important member of the Wi-Fi Alliance, Xiaomi is committed to supporting Wi-Fi 6 technology in our applications, as well as engaging more deeply in Wi-Fi 6 certification, to bring our global users more and higher quality Wi-Fi 6 products.” Baoqiu Cui, Vice President of Xiaomi Corporation, Chairman of Technical Committee

The Connectivity Index reveals the world’s 34 most connected countries

Research conducted by Carphone Warehouse has led to The Connectivity Index, a ranking of the world’s 34 most connected countries.

The index takes into consideration things such as broadband access and mobile speeds, but also social and political factors.

Here are the factors Carphone Warehouse took into account when creating their index:

  • Information: number of 5G deployments, number of internet hosts, mobile speeds and electricity production.

  • Movement: number of air passengers, number of tourists, rail infrastructure quality and road quality.

  • Global Connectivity: balance of trade, number of immigrants, passport power and share of GDP per capita.

  • Social Connectivity: access to primary education, ethnic diversity, marriage rates, number of social media users.

Topping the overall connectivity list is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the USA. America ranks first for the number of air passengers and internet hosts, but it is also noted to have a slow average mobile speed and poor access to primary education.

Switzerland takes second place and is the only European country in the top five. It has the best rail infrastructure and road quality, as well as the highest number of 5G deployments. The country’s score is knocked down slightly for a low number of air passengers and internet hosts.

The UAE takes the bronze medal due to a high number of immigrants and first position for number of social media users. It’s noted the UAE has a low number of internet hosts.

South Korea is in fourth place, primarily due to having the world’s most powerful passport. A low number of immigrants and internet hosts affect its overall ranking.

Rounding out the top five is China. The country ranks high for electricity production and balance of trade, but low for number of 5G deployments, number of immigrants, and passport power.

Here are the top five countries in terms of 5G deployments:

  • Switzerland

  • South Korea

  • USA

  • UAE

  • China

Top five in terms of internet hosts:

  • USA

  • Italy

  • Brazil

  • Germany

  • Spain

And in terms of mobile speeds:

  • South Korea

  • Norway

  • Australia

  • Netherlands

  • Qatar

You can find the full connectivity index here.

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.

Q&A: Renato Andrade on industry growth and transformation and in APAC MVNO space

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Renato Andrade, an independent MVNO consultant for Acqua Telecom, sat down for an exclusive Q&A with the MVNOs Series to talk growth in Asia’s MVNO market, disruptive technologies and the ways in which MVNOs can leverage IoT to achieve success.

Can you give us a snapshot of the APAC MVNO industry as you see it?

We are seeing exciting developments in APAC’s MVNO industry, that’s for sure. Back in 2015, there was a lot of excitement surrounding the launch of MVNOs in China, but that was short lived: following a market war between the MNOs in the country, it became impossible to launch any MVNOs because the wholesale pricing actually ended up being higher than the retail pricing offered by MVNOs. Korean and Japanese MVNOs came into similar trouble due to regulatory changes.

Now, however, the APAC MVNO market in gaining momentum. This year, the regulatory blockers that had in the past stymied MVNO growth were lifted, which has consequently allowed MVNOs to flourish. This is especially true of China, where is has now claimed a healthy 5% share of the entire market.

In addition to the more relaxed market regulations and subsequent drops in wholesale prices, it must be noted that, particularly in China, Value Added Services from the MVNOs themselves play a big part in the customer attraction to these brands. MVNOs in the APAC market have been quick to catch onto this, following in the footsteps of frontrunner China. What does this mean? Let’s just say that the booming MVNO industry in China created somewhat of a domino effect, in that it demonstrated to other governments in the region that opting for the alternative option of MVNOs  can be a good (in this case very good) cause to pursue.  That is precisely what happened in Thailand and, soon thereafter, in Indonesia.

Whilst the growth we are now witnessing can be attributed an loosen market regulation and the drop on wholesale prices, it must be noted that, particularly in China, Value Added Services from the MVNOs themselves play a big part of the customer attraction to these brands examples which are closely followed in other APAC markets. Let’s just say that the booming MVNO industry in China created somewhat of a domino effect, in that it demonstrated to other proxi governments in the region that opting for the alternative option of MVNOs  can be a good (in this case very good) cause to pursue.  That is precisely what happened in Thailand and, soon thereafter, in Indonesia.

How is the telco landscape evolving the APAC region and how does this relate to MVNOs?

Much like the telecom operators in the rest of the world, telecom operators in the APAC region are focussing their efforts on 5G. More specifically, they are focussing on 5G deployment and working around the issue of profitability: how can they ensure that 5G is profitable for their business?  Unfortunately for operators in the APAC region, they also share a common dilemma felt by the other operators elsewhere on the planet.  5G has huge potential as an opportunity, yes. That’s a given. But, unfortunately, there aren’t yet enough applications available for operators to be able to sufficiently leverage this technology to drive up their profits.

That’s where MVNOs come into play. Now that MVNOs are no longer are viewed by operators as a threat themselves, yet, as a partner on diversifying the MNO’s customer acquisition efforts, MNOs are looking for MVNOs to also further help them fund their 5G deployment. IIJ in Japan has demonstrated that in Japan by partnering with Docomo and reaching areas and market niches that were not available to them before. The majority of MVNOs in Malaysia the same as they even sell their plans and cards within the main MNO’s shops and retailers.

On another level, yet still related to the growth of the MVNO market worldwide, MNOs are also depending on MVNOs to bring forward technologies and solutions themselves couldn’t focus on such as IoT, AI, MFS and others.

On IoT, for an MNO to operate a simple Smart City project it involves a high degree of knowledge of the particular city, customer service, engineering work, product managers and all the other resources needed for the project to be completed. For MVNO however, given that these are ventures themselves and developed by locals, deploying such as solution is much simpler – no high degree of planning (assuming these are locals) and 100% of the times much more successful and cheaper. Hence MNOs are absolutely open to support such MVNOs going to maket as it is a win win situation.

On MFS, by partnering with banks and Fintech companies, MNOs are expanding their Valeu Added Chain and bringing in new profits, increasing customer loyalty and ARPU on the process…and they don’t need to apply for Banking licenses, operate banking services, etc. They are simply making profits.

On AI very much the same, only this time it is outside development and research been fed into the existing MNOs structure and hence lowering costs, improving their service resulting on gains for the MNO. Imagine for a second that the MNO had to develop the AI themselves, the cost of such and the time for it to be implemented.

Are there any disruptive technologies that you see shaping the MVNOs industry in the APAC region in a significant way?

MFS is favourite of mine in terms of new technologies that have been implemented by MVNOs. EThis applies especially to Asia, where the WeChat and Alibaba payment platforms that use MFS technology are already common practice. MVNOs are enjoying ahealthy chunk of that market, with scertain MVNOs actually surviving solely on their banking services.  For some,  it may has been seen to be responsible for over 70% of their profits.

Undoubtedly the most talked about technology is 5G. You touched on 5G before, but what are your predictions and expectations for 5G launch and roll out, and what impact will this have on MVNOs?  

For MVNOs , the main play for 5G will be the development of the VMNOs – Virtual Mobile Network Operators – also referred by the MNOs as 5G Slicing.  Given the huge cost of deployment MNOs must contend with on their network, VMNOs will  very soon play a key role for MNOs  in expanding their reach to rural, hard to reach areas and customer niches. I see this as the MVNO of the near future, something that I expect will be the norm from 2020.

MNOs call it 5G Slicing and MVNOs call it VMNOs. It is basically the same. It means that the MNO would “slice” their frequency for 5G and create a “private channel” on which the MVNO could directly explore. For instance, Emergency services requires a private channel within the frequencies and antennas in order for it to be always available. IoT services also have the same requirements…so much they may even be placed on alternative networks, such as IoT-B or LoRa, etc on 4G.

MNOs are at the moment looking to sell these “slices” to several players and the pricing these players pay for it supports their own Network development.

How can MVNOs work with IoT and how can they become successful in the IoT space?

MNOs have neither the resources nor the knowledge to implement Smart Cities projects in less populated cities, whilst MNOs MNOs lack the attention requirements to attend to SmartMeters or Smart Services on an individual level. In fact, even if they did, their numbers would never add up to justify the implementation on the first place.

These are some of the millions of opportunities available for IoT MVNOs – covering the ground MNOs can’t.  Energy companies may need a set of coverage and systems in order to monitor their networks which sometimes may involve rural, difficult to reach from a traditional Network designing plan that MNOs are accustomed to deploy, or perhaps within a city, focusing on the buzz of Smart Cities, areas underground need to be monitored or require a more extensive set of systems to monitor for instance surveillance or smart services. The list is vast and no constrained by any means at the moment as thousands of projects are launched every year focused on monitorisation and smart services.

In your panel discussion at MVNOs Asia, you will be addressing the role of IoT in the APAC MVNO space. Specifically, what role will IoT play in shaping the APAC MVNO industry?

The IoT key role for MNOs is the deployment of 5G. We need to look back 5 years and remember all the promises 5G have made in terms of connecting devices and hence growing MNOs ARPU and reach. The reality nowadays for IoT is that the MNO needs ideas, operations, entrepreneurship which have come at a high cost and most of the time low profits. The way out of the problem is to outsource IoT services to smaller players, rightly called IoT MVNOs whom are more flexible and ready to take the task.  Everything from Smart Cities to Smart Meters are now better handled by such MVNOs and the MNOs are embracing that.

 

Interested in hearing more insights from Renato? Find out more about the MVNOs Asia event where Renato will be speaking