Telia, Ericsson and Intel to deploy first public 5G live network use cases in Europe

Telia is working together with Ericsson and Intel to deploy the first public 5G live network use cases in Europe.

The activity includes a high-speed 5G connection to a commercial passenger cruise ship delivering internet connectivity to its passengers while in port, and an industrial use case featuring a construction excavator remotely controlled with a live 5G network. This is an important milestone for all three partners in the global 5G roadmap, making it possible to bring live 5G services in Tallinn and Stockholm in 2018, which are two of the most digitalised cities on the planet.

Gabriela Styf Sjöman, global head of networks at Telia, says: “We want to be early with 5G and will bring it to life in Stockholm, Tallinn and Helsinki in 2018. We work together with our partners in the whole ecosystem to explore the powerful effect it is going to have for our customers and in society. It’s not only about building a new network but it’s also about building a new way of thinking and perceiving what a mobile network can be and can do. High speed, low latency, guaranteed capacity and truly mobile is going to push the boundaries of digitalisation and we want to be there pushing it together with our partners.”

As this publication reported earlier this month, two Italian cities are also in the queue to get their share of 5G. This will be made possible by Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM), in partnership with Fastweb and Huawei, who will soon start testing 5G in Bari and Matera. The first use case scenarios are provisionally set for June 2018, with three quarters of the area set to be covered by the end of the year and full coverage for both cities by the end of 2019.

T-Mobile shows how its 600MHz rollout will affect coverage

T-Mobile has updated its coverage map to show how its new 600MHz network will affect coverage.

The map has been updated mere days after rumours circulated T-Mobile and Sprint have agreed on a merger-in-principle. It goes to show how T-Mobile is looking to further improve its coverage whether the anticipated deal passes regulatory approval or not.

During a FCC spectrum auction earlier this year, T-Mobile bought the rights to use the 600MHz band known as ‘LTE Band 71’ for $8 billion. The band was once used for UHF TV but has been freed up for LTE use.

Customers will need compatible devices to make use of Band 71. Right now, that’s limited to just the LG V30 releasing October 5th. Many anticipated flagships, including the iPhone X and Pixel 2, won’t have support. T-Mobile claims there will be a Samsung phone with support for it by the end of the year.

What are T-Mobile’s rollout plans?

Currently, T-Mobile has deployed support for Band 71 in Scarborough, Maine, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. If these real-world tests are successful, the operator will advance to other cities and states.

Prior to the end of the year, T-Mobile is promising Band 71 support in:

  • Parts of Wyoming.

  • Northeast and Southwest Oregon.

  • West Texas.

  • Southwest Kansas.

  • The Oklahoma panhandle.

  • Western North Dakota.

  • Other areas of Maine.

  • Coastal North Carolina.

  • Central Pennsylvania.

  • Central Virginia.

  • Eastern Washington.

The only potential roadblock is that existing TV stations in some areas still need to vacate Band 71. Most are on-track or ahead of their deadline, however,

It’s clear T-Mobile isn’t ready to wind down for this year just yet — we won’t either, and we'll keep you updated with all developments.

How much of an impact do you think T-Mobile’s 600MHz rollout will have on rural coverage? Let us know in the comments.

FCC’s Pai barks up the wrong tree with Apple FM attack

Ajit Pai, the Chairman of US telecoms regulator the FCC has criticized Apple for not activating FM functionality that the latest phones don’t even possess.

“In recent years, I have repeatedly called on the wireless industry to activate the FM chips that are already installed in almost all smartphones sold in the United States,” wrote Pai (pictured) in a public statement.

“When wireless networks go down during a natural disaster, smartphones with activated FM chips can allow Americans to get vital access to life-saving information. I applaud those companies that have done the right thing by activating the FM chips in their phones.

“Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted doing so. But I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. That’s why I am asking Apple to activate the FM chips that are in its iPhones. It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first.”

Pai also referred to an emotive editorial published by the South Florida SunSentinel today entitled ‘Allow access to smartphones’ hidden radios’, which by total coincidence makes almost exactly the same point. South Florida, of course, was the part of mainland USA most affected by the recent hurricanes.

The only problem with all this public safety grandstanding, it seems, is that the functionality they insist is just a flick of the Apple switch away doesn’t actually exist. In an emailed response to MacRumours, Apple said the following. “iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models do not have FM radio chips in them nor do they have antennas designed to support FM signals, so it is not possible to enable FM reception in these products.”

Oh dear Ajit, that’s a bit awkward isn’t it? Maybe there’s some residual credibility to be had from older iPhones not covered in the Apple statement. In its analysis of that issue Daring Fireball notes that even if latent FM radio functionality is included on the phone’s SoC, you still need a special antenna to make it work, which no iPhones have.

The analysis concludes with the inference that Pai’s statement is probably a crude attempt to distract attention from the criticism the FCC has been receiving for its response to those very same natural disasters. Pai was appointed by Trump and seems to be learning quickly from the misdirection playbook.

The virtual battle for the soul of the smart home

Google has made its move in the prolonged battle with Amazon for control of the smart home, but are the speakers a glamourous distraction from the real fight.

It has been a couple of months of back and forth. Whichever seems to release a new piece of hardware or update to the virtual assistant, it doesn’t seem to be long before there is a counter move from the opposition. It’s one of the longest games of ‘mine is bigger than yours’ we’ve seen in the tech space for a while.

But is it nothing more than an intriguing side-quest? Are there genuine ambitions to compete in the hardware game or is it a ploy to get the rest of the industry up to speed? We have a feeling victory in the smart home will be more on the software side than the hardware.

Let’s start with the hardware. Following a little spat with Amazon over how YouTube is displayed on the Echo Show, Google is set to bring out ‘Manhattan’, a similar product to the Echo Show in it being a smart home device with a screen. According to TechCrunch sources, Google has been working on the device in a secret lab somewhere with the intention of releasing it towards the end of this year, or the beginning of 2018.

But is this just a ruse to get the rest of the world up to speed? Neither Amazon or Google have heritage (or particularly successful heritage) in the hardware world, but without the introduction of Amazon Echo or the Google Home device there might not have been much momentum in this sub-sector. But now there is, as the rest of the industry start to bring out their own connected devices after seeing there is an appetite from the consumer.

Let’s be honest, Google and Amazon might pump a load of cash into hardware, but they probably won’t be able to compete with the established players in the electronics market once they are moving in the right direction. Would you rather buy a TV off Amazon or Samsung? A speaker off Google or Bose? The electronics brands have better reputations, and we have a feeling once the idea hits the mainstream markets, the general public will go with what they know.

But we don’t think that matters. Once the rest of the hardware space is making connected devices on a mass scale, this side-quest could be considered mission complete. It would allow Amazon and Google to concentrate on what they do best; software and services.

This is where the financial battle of the smart home will be won or lost. Who can get their virtual assistant into the most devices and manage the relationship with the consumer. An example of this is Google’s new partnerships with Nvidia and Sony. On the Nvidia Shield TV and Sony Bravia TVs, the virtual assistant and connected platform will be Google.

This means Google will manage the relationship with the consumer, and also the money which can be taken from it. Once the idea of having a virtual assistant has been normalised, the money will start streaming in. If you as Alexa to order you a pizza from the top-rated takeaway in your area, Amazon will probably be taking a cut of the cash. Or if you ask Google to add toothpaste to your shopping list and then to organize the delivery, it will take a slice of the action somewhere. Both will be facilitating the interaction between the consumer and third parties, and they won’t be doing it for free.

The one who has their virtual assistant in the most devices around the world will make the most cash. Yes, there will still be money to be made from the hardware products, but this is not the core competency of either of these businesses. Creating an audience behind a walled-garden and then monetizing access is a brilliant business model, and one few have been able to nail.

This is perhaps one of the reasons we are surprised Facebook hasn’t been making more promising strides in the virtual assistant world. This is a business model which is almost a carbon-copy of how the social media platform stormed to the top of the technology world. There are reports of Zuckerberg and his cronies working on their own assistant, but they are proving to be quite late to the game.

So yes, the battle of one-upmanship is proving to be an entertaining one, but let’s not forget about where these organizations traditionally make serious cash. Software is going to rule the world, and it won’t be very different here. The winner of the smart home will be the one with the best virtual assistant.

The Ericsson and Intel 5G roadshow heads to Tallinn

Ericsson and Intel are spending so much time together these days that people are starting to talk.

Having been seen walking hand-in-hand through Beijing earlier in the week, ostensibly in the name of field-testing 5G multi-vendor interoperability over the 3.5 GHz band, the glamourous pair made their way to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia today. By complete coincidence that is also the location of a meeting of the EU’s leaders, so that should ensure a nice lot of paparazzi will be milling around, looking for choice photo opportunities.

The pretext for this European leg of the couple’s world tour is the deployment by Telia of what it claims are the first 5G live network use cases. Ericsson and Intel are helping out with these projects, which include a 5G connection to a passenger cruise ship and a construction excavator remotely controlled over 5G.

Gabriela Styf Sjöman, Global Head of Networks, Telia Company says: “We want to be early with 5G and will bring it to life in Stockholm, Tallinn and Helsinki in 2018,” said Gabriela Styf Sjöman, Global Head of Networks at Telia. “We work together with our partners in the whole ecosystem to explore the powerful effect it is going to have for our customers and in society.

“It’s not only about building a new network but it’s also about building a new way of thinking and perceiving what a mobile network can be and can do. High speed, low latency, guaranteed capacity and truly mobile is going to push the boundaries of digitalization and we want to be there pushing it together with our partners.”

“Our own report about the 5G business potential identifies a huge opportunity for telecom operators globally who address industry digitalization with 5G,” said Arun Bansal, Head of Europe and Latin America at Ericsson. “We foresee that they can benefit from a market opportunity of $582 billion by 2026 and this represents a potential to add 34 percent growth in revenues. Capturing this market potential requires investment in 5G technology as well as business development, and go-to-market models.”

“Our work together trialing early usages of 5G technologies and the experiences it will bring to different industries, demonstrates the importance of collaboration and the need for seamless flow of data across the network, cloud and devices to make 5G a reality,” said Asha Keddy, GM of the Next Generation and Standards Group at Intel. “Intel’s 5G platforms are critical enablers for today’s active, real-world 5G trials with service providers around the globe, providing crucial insights and helping to define the future of 5G.”

As well as giving our leaders the setting for a slap-up dinner at our expense, Tallinn is also hosting the EU Digital Summit. This is the latest in an entrenched campaign by the Eurocracy to be seen to be keeping up with the US and Far East when it comes to emerging tech trends. Ericsson and Intel seem to have decided that getting in with the public sector is a good way enhance their own 5G credibility as well as a potentially handy source of public subsidy.

Vivendi’s Amos Genish appointed as TIM CEO by Vivendi CEO

Long-shot Amos Genish has sensationally been plucked from obscurity at Vivendi to run Italian operator TIM in a move nobody saw coming at all.

In a crazy coincidence he will find himself working closely with his former boss at Vivendi – Arnaud de Puyfontaine – who just happens to be Chairman of the TIM board. What are the chances of that eh?

“It is a privilege and an honour to have been appointed Chief Executive Officer of TIM, a company that has a great history and a bright future ahead of it”, said an otherwise speechless Genish (pictured), who recovered his composure long enough to serve up a subsequent montage of tech buzzwords.

“We’ll continue transform TIM to be a truly digital telco,” he continued. “Our DigiTIM program is based on some key fundamentals which are mostly focusing on providing superior customer experience, leveraging digitalisation to enhance the interface with our clients; smart analytics through big data to personalize our products and services; and adding video and multimedia on top of our best in class connectivity for a convergent offer, while continuing investing in our ultra-broadband coverage to support the evolution to the Gigabit Society.”

“We have a clear long-term vision: to return TIM to its rightful splendour, making a crucial contribution to the digitalisation of the country, the creation of Digital Italy, through investment and people,” said de Puyfontaine. “TIM must have a constructive collaboration with the institutions and regulators: creating value for TIM means creating value for the country.”

With the inference that any interference with his plans will directly damage the whole of Italy and is thus, in effect, treason, de Puyfontaine is moving to the end game of his cut-price acquisition of TIM. He also took this opportunity to vote himself some more powers, opening the possibility that board meetings will be conducted in French from now on and that the company will soon be rebranded to Timendi, or maybe Le Tim.

Huawei has another go at slicing the 5G euphoria

Huawei has unveiled its latest breakthrough in the world of smart grids, with a bit of 5G network slicing magic.

At the PT Expo China 2017 in Beijing, Huawei successfully demonstrated 5G network slicing application for smart grids, in what it has claimed is a world first. Such an implementation of 5G is designed to restore power to affected areas in 300ms.

The technology itself is based on Huawei’s 5G Core solution Service-Oriented Core (SOC), part of its E2E 5G solution, and demonstrates how 5G network slicing can be customised to individual verticals. According to Huawei’s Wireless X Labs research, constructing a smart distribution network on top of a communications network is key to an efficient, high-quality power grid.

“Using 5G network slicing for smart grid services is a brand-new approach,” the company said in a statement. “Network resources provided by carriers can be converted to mutually isolated network slices, to meet the differentiated network requirements of various services on the smart grid.

“Network slicing can also be used to collect data on electricity usage, for distributed power, for pile control at electric vehicle charging stations, for precise load control, and for other crucial services a smart power grid should offer.”

The challenge here is built on the idea that public networks cannot isolate services well enough to keep services secure and latency low. The introduction of 5G capabilities will allow the division of the telecommunications network into isolated network slices, allowing the power grid to be customized to specific industry needs. It’s actually an example of a practical and sensible use case for 5G, instead of use cases which are a bit cosmetic. Like streaming cat videos faster, for instance.

OpenSignal: Three mobile operators in the UK pass 70% LTE availability

The latest ‘State of Mobile Networks’ in the UK report from OpenSignal has been released providing a look at how the industry has progressed over the past year.

OpenSignal’s last report was released six months ago and highlighted one operator, EE, had crossed 70 percent LTE availability. In today’s report, EE has been joined by O2 and Vodafone who were also able to deliver LTE connectivity in more than 7 of every 10 tests. This leaves Three UK as the only major operator yet to pass this milestone.

While this marks significant progress in a short amount of time, LTE in the UK is yet to be as ubiquitous as it should be. Back in July, when OpenSignal released its last ‘State of LTE’ report, South Korea led in availability with 96.38% while the Netherlands led Europe with 86.06 percent.

EE now ties with Three for 3G download speeds despite becoming less reliant on it

In terms of LTE speed, Singapore led globally with an average download speed of 45.62 Mbps. In Europe, Hungary led the region at 42.61 Mbps. The UK, meanwhile, fell behind many of its neighbours with an average download speed of 22.65 Mbps.

OpenSignal introduced a new (experimental) metric in this report for determining the average peak speed calculated by examining only the fastest test collected across its large community of real users.

The following ‘peak speeds’ were determined:

  • EE (136.1 Mbps)

  • Vodafone (113.2 Mbps)

  • Three UK (94.1 Mbps)

  • O2 (69.6 Mbps)

If correct, it shows EE has an average peak speed almost double that of O2. This meant Three UK, while behind in LTE availability, managed to avoid falling into last place by a significant margin of 24.5 Mbps.

LTE in the UK is yet to be as ubiquitous as it should be

OpenSignal notes Three UK had a faster average speed (22.3 Mbps) than Vodafone (18.9 Mbps) which is somewhat at odds with its peak speed findings. The researchers claim this is ‘almost certainly’ the effects of congestion on Vodafone’s network due to a much larger subscriber base.

“Our testers on Three’s network were able to get much closer to the full potential of Three’s LTE network,” wrote OpenSignal in a blog post. “Meanwhile, Vodafone had a very powerful network in our peak speed results, but our users were able to tap into much less of that potential on an everyday basis.”

As for O2, OpenSignal notes its low peak speed indicates more limited LTE resources. However, the researchers praise the network for seemingly ‘managing those resources well’ due to peak speeds about 4.5 times faster than its average tested 4G speed of 15.1 Mbps. Vodafone’s peak speed, for comparison, is about six times faster than its average.

Three UK was originally designed to capitalise on 3G and the network has long offered the fastest speeds for it. However, over the summer, OpenSignal notes EE now ties with Three for 3G download speeds despite becoming less reliant on it as it transitions to 4G.

829,136,423 measurements were taken for OpenSignal’s report conducted between June 1st, 2017 and August 31st, 2017. Find a full copy of the report here (PDF).

What are your thoughts on the state of UK mobile networks? Let us know in the comments.

Infographic: What Brits think of the smart home

The smart home is proving to be one of the most hotly contested areas of the burgeoning technology industry, but how do we actually feel about the idea of a connected home.

One thing we can guarantee is the tide is turning one way, and there’s no going back now. Even if you resist the most obvious technologies in the connected society, just by using a smartphone you are already contributing to it. Whether it is Facebook or Google Maps or Clash of Clans, you have already aided the data economy.

“Smart technology promises to transform our homes by enhancing security, improving energy efficiency and generally making our domestic lives smoother and more efficient,” said MoneySuperMarket’s Dan Plant. “However, many people are understandably anxious that the benefits will be countered by threats, such as hacking and loss of privacy.”

Turns out this is a massive concern of the Brits. 76% are fearful about the concept of the smart home, but it hasn’t stopped the wave growing. Perhaps it is a bit of a compromise. Yes, there are risks, but the benefits seems to outweigh the fears. Whether it is the lazy side of us who are keen for a robot dog walker, or the cash conservationist who is looking for cheaper insurance premiums, there is an argument to twist our arm.

“It’s up to the makers of smart devices and applications to reassure consumers that they are not putting themselves at risk,” said Plant. “And it’s also vital that any cost savings that flow from adopting connected technology, such as reduced pay-outs for burglary claims, are passed on to customers in the form of lower home insurance premiums.”

Smart homes

EE is A-OK in the UK but oh no O2

EE is top of OpenSignal’s ranking for peak speed tests in the UK, but the rest aren’t too far behind. Well, aside from O2 that is.

This is of course a slightly misleading metric, how often are we going to get the fastest possible speeds on our smartphones, but it will put a bounce in the step of a few people. The results themselves were taken as an average, examining only the fastest LTE tests collected from OpenSignal’s user community. And here are the results:

  1. EE with average peak speeds of 136.1 Mbps
  2. Vodafone at 113.3 Mbps
  3. Three hit 94.1 Mbps
  4. And bringing up the rear, O2 limped across the line at 69.6 Mbps

It might not be great reading for the guys at O2, but there is a glimmer of hope.

“O2 had the lowest peak speed of 69.6 Mbps (nearly half that of EE’s) in our analysis, which is an indication of more limited LTE resources,” said OpenSignal’s Kevin Fitchard.

“The good news is that O2 seems to be managing those resources well. It’s peak speeds were about 4.5 times faster than its average tested 4G speed of 15.1 Mbps. O2 may not have a lot of capacity compared to its competitors, but it’s able to consistently deliver that capacity to its customers, according to our data.”

Talking about peak speed is all well and good, but considering those who live in the city will have to deal with congestion on the network and those in the countryside will have to deal with weaker signal, it is a bit of a pointless exercise. A more accurate measurement would be the average 4G download speed, which OpenSignal has done for us as well.

  1. EE still leads with an average of 29 Mbps, though this is down from 31.8 Mbps during the last OpenSignal report
  2. Three clocked in at 22.3 Mbps
  3. Vodafone at 18.8 Mbps
  4. And bringing up the rear, O2 limped across the line at 15 Mbps

This paints a bit of a more accurate picture, but doesn’t sound anywhere near as attractive. It is perhaps another example of the misleading nature of advertising in the telecommunications space (should providers be forced to state average speeds?), but that is another point for another article.

One final metric which might be worth considering is coverage, and this might save a few blushes in the O2 offices. But bear in mind, this is a measurement of how often users can access a 4G network rather than a measure of geographic or population coverage.

  1. EE at 78.46%
  2. O2 at 74.17%
  3. Vodafone at 71.35%
  4. Three at 57.14%

We decided to put the results to the test, using your correspondents Vodafone 4G connection in London Zone 2. Not massively the same, but not a million miles away.

Speed Test