Decision on Huawei and 5G in Canada to wait until federal election

Canada’s public safety minister Ralph Goodale has said that the Canadian people will have to wait until after the federal election later this year before it is determined that Huawei can provide equipment for the country’s next-generation 5G wireless network.

Canada requires more information from the US regarding the potential security threat the latter believes Huawei poses, he said.

Goodale told The Canadian Press: “I think at this stage, with the amount of time that's left between now and the issuing of a writ that it is unlikely for that decision to be taken before an election.” He further said that the country will continue a vigorous and on-going review of which organisation is ideal for providing the equipment for Canada’s new 5G technology, which is considered as the ‘spine’ for the forthcoming wave of transformative AI tech. 

Britain too has expressed that it is not yet ready to finalise the decision on Huawei, but said that stricter industry-wide security controls will be introduced. As this publication reported earlier this month, presently the UK has Huawei equipment scrutinised at the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre in Banbury.

Three UK CEO, David Dyson, said at the time: “We've already started to deploy equipment for when we launch 5G in the second half of the year. So if we had to change vendor now, we would take a big step backwards and probably cause a delay of 12-18 months.”

In March, it was reported that Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was suing Canadian authorities for alleged unlawful conduct following her arrest in the country last December. According to Meng’s lawyers, the Canadian Border Services Agency delayed executing her arrest warrant in a bid to extract added evidence from her before she was arrested.

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.

Vodafone officially walks away from New Zealand

Vodafone has completed the sale of its Kiwi business to a consortium of investors for €2.1 billion.

Although Vodafone is technically leaving the country, the brand will remain. The consortium, featuring Infratil Limited and Brookfield Asset Management, have signed an agreement to continue using the brand, while also accessing favourable roaming rates in countries where Vodafone is maintaining its presence.

“This transaction is a continuation of our strategy to optimise our portfolio and reduce our debt,” said Group CEO Nick Read.

“I am pleased we will continue our 21-year relationship with the business and talented team in New Zealand through a Partner Market agreement, delivering Vodafone’s technology and services to benefit the country as it transitions to a digital society.”

The sale of the Kiwi business was announced back in May as Vodafone searched for ‘financial headroom’. It appears this business unit was deemed surplus to requirements at a business which has been facing financial pressures in recent months.

Although Vodafone has remained profitable in a difficult time for telcos on the whole and maintained semi-favourable positions across the world, there are more difficult times on the horizon due to some lavish spending.

Not only does Vodafone have to source cash to fuel 5G deployments in various different markets, there are a couple of spectrum auctions to keep an eye on and marketing euros which need to be spent combatting resourceful rivals in some countries. The recent acquisition of Liberty Global’s European assets will also place stress on the spreadsheets.

It is been a couple of busy weeks for the Vodafone PR team, as aside from this transaction there have been network sharing announcements in Italy and the UK, as well as the prospect of a tower infrastructure business being spun off. The team is certainly working hard to generate extra cash in any way it possibly can.

Facebook is reading minds while Amazon perfects text-to-speech

A Facebook-funded study has achieved a breakthrough in decoding speech directly from brain signals at the same time as AWS has made automated speech more realistic.

The study funded by the creepily-named Facebook Reality Labs was conducted by San Francisco University. Its findings were published yesterday under the heading ‘Real-time decoding of question-and-answer speech dialogue using human cortical activity’. It claims to have achieved breakthroughs in the accuracy of identifying speech from the electrical impulses in people’s brains.

The clever bit doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the actual reading of these impulses, but in using algorithms and context to narrow down the range of possible sounds attributable to a given piece of brain activity. This helps distinguish between words comprised of similar sets of sounds and thus improve accuracy, with a key piece of context being the question asked. Thus this breakthrough is as much about AI and machine learning as anything else.

At the same time Amazon Web Services (AWS) has announced a new feature of its Polly text-to-speech managed service. The specific announcement is relatively minor – the ability to give the resulting speech a newsreader style of delivery – but it marks a milestone in the journey to make machine-generated speech as realistic as possible.

When you combine the potential of these two developments, two eventualities spring to mind. The first is an effected cure for muteness without the need for interfaces such as keyboards, which would be amazing. The second is somewhat more ominous, which is a world in which we can no longer be sure we’re communicating with an actual human being unless we’re face-to-face with them.

The AWS post makes joking reference to HAL 9000 from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, but thanks in part to its own efforts and those funded by Facebook, that sort of thing is looking less like science fiction and more like science fact with every passing day.

 

Do you have some clear ideas about how the edge computing sector is developing? Then please complete the short survey being run by our colleagues at the Edge Computing Congress and Telecoms.com Intelligence. Click here to see the questions.

Unlimited data is inevitable with 5G, but try telling operators that

We’re quickly moving into the 5G era and many assume the concept of unlimited data bundles will be commonplace, but how will the telcos fare in this new world?

As it stands, the telcos are under pressure. This is not to say they are not profitable, but many shareholders will question whether they are profitable enough. Tight margins and a squeeze on core revenue streams are common enough phrases when describing telco balance sheets, but this could get a lot worse when you factor in unlimited data packages.

As Paolo Pescatore of PP Foresight pointed out, when you offer unlimited data you are effectively killing off any prospect of revenue growth per subscriber in the future. In some markets, there are still fortunes to be made, but in some, such as the UK where 4G subscription penetration is north of 100%, where are you going to make the growth revenues from when consumers are demanding more for less?

More consumers are seeking unlimited or higher data allocations but are not willing to pay for the experience. Some MNOs might be able to resist, but the more rivals who offer such tariffs the more the rest will be forced into line. It’s the race to the bottom which is profitable in the short-term, but growth will end quickly. The price per GB is only heading one direction and unlimited data allocations will end the prospect of upgrading customers.

O2 fighting for air

This is the conundrum which the telcos are facing in the UK right now. All four have announced their 5G intentions and all four are promising big gains when it comes to the next era of connectivity.

Starting with O2, the only one of the four MNOs not to have released 5G pricing to date, this is a telco which looks to be in the most uncomfortable position. Over the last few quarters, the management team has boasted of increased subscriber numbers, but this can only go on for so long in the consumer world. Soon enough, a glass ceiling will be met and then the team will have to search for new revenues elsewhere.

This is of course assuming it plans to go down the route of unlimited data, it might want to stick with the status quo. That said, if everyone else does, it will not be able to fight against the tide for fear of entering the realm of irrelevance.

The issue here is one of differentiation. The idea of attracting new customers by offering ‘bigger, meaner, faster’ data packages will soon end and telcos will have to talk about something else. O2 does have its Priority loyalty programme, but with rivals launching their own version this USP will fade into the noise.

Differentiation and convergence are two words which have been thrown around a lot over the last few years, though O2 has thus far resisted. Last year, CEO Mark Evans suggested he was not bought into the convergence trend and would continue as a mobile-only telco, though this opinion does seem to be softening.

If O2 is going to be competitive in the almost inevitable era of unlimited data, it will have to source growth revenues from somewhere. It is making a push into the enterprise connectivity world, which will bring new profits to the spreadsheets, though does it want its consumer mobile business to stand still?

Bundles of fun

This is where the other telcos in the UK have perhaps got more of a running start in the 5G era. EE has its connectivity assets in broadband and wifi to add value, as well as a content business of some description. Three is already known as the data-intensive brand, while its FWA push will take it into some interesting connectivity bundling options. Vodafone also has FWA, a fibre partnership with CityFibre and is arguably the leader in the enterprise connectivity market. The rivals are offering more than mobile connectivity as a stand-alone product.

Looking at Vodafone to begin with, the recent announcement is certainly an interesting one. The innovative approach to pricing, tiering tariffs on speeds not data allocation, will attract some headlines, while it is also super-charging its own loyalty programme, VeryMe. It has secured content partnerships with the likes of Sky, Amazon, Spotify and gaming company Hatch, while its FWA offering also includes a free Amazon Alexa for those who sign-up early enough.

Combining the FWA product or its fibre broadband service, courtesy of CityFibre, also gives them the ‘connectivity everywhere’ tag, a strength of BTs in recent years, to allow them to communicate and sell to customers in a different way. Perhaps it is missing a content play to complete the convergence bundle, but it is in a strong position to tackle the 5G world and seek additional revenues should the unlimited craze catch.

The same story could be said of Three. With the acquisition of UK Broadband, it has forced itself into the convergence game and kicked off the ‘race to the bottom’ with an unlimited 5G data offer. As long as you have a Three 4G contract, you can get 5G for no additional cost, assuming you have a 5G compatible phone of course.

Three’s strength and weakness lies in its reputation. It is known for being the best telco if you have an insatiable data appetite, this works very well for the 5G era, though it is also known for having a poor network. Three regularly features at the bottom of the network performance rankings, especially outside of the big cities where it has not done nearly enough to satisfy demands.

This will of course change over the next couple of months. Three is working to improve its network with additional sites and a new Nokia 5G core, however it will have to do a lot to shake off the reputation is has acquired over the last few years.

EE is perhaps the most interesting of the four. It has lost its position as the market share leader when it comes to 4G subscriptions, but it does have the reputation for being the best in terms of performance throughout the country. It is regularly the fastest for download speeds, but its 5G pricing is by far the most expensive to be released so far.

That said, with the BT assets it has for wifi and broadband, as well as the content options, there is plenty for the consumer to be interested in. Should BT be forced to readdress the pricing conundrum, it might not have the fear regarding a glass ceiling on revenues as there are plenty of other products to engage the consumer. It will be able to find additional revenues elsewhere.

MVNO no you didn’t

Outside of the MNOs, you might also start to see some competition. MVNOs are nothing more than ‘also rans’ today, but Sky has officially entered the 5G race. This is an interesting competitor, one who could cause chaos to the status quo.

Firstly, understand mobile is not the primary business for Sky. This is an add-on, where it is seeking to drive additional revenues and attract more customers through bundled services. It is the leader in the UK when it comes to premium content and has a thriving broadband unit also. Sky can add services on top of connectivity to make itself seem more attractive than the traditional mobile service providers.

Then again, there are only a couple of MVNOs who can pose this challenge. Sky is one, while there are persistent rumours Amazon wants to get involved with the connectivity game and Google has its own Fi service. These are also companies who are at the mercy of the MNOs in terms of the commercial agreement with the MVNOs, so damage is likely to be limited unless one network owner decides to go down the wholesale infrastructure route.

But you cannot ignore these companies. They are cash-rich, constantly searching for new ways to make money and have incredible relationships with the consumer. They are also the owners of platforms and/or services which are very attractive to the mass market; bundling could be taken into a new context with these firms.

Diversity is our strength

This is of course only looking at the services which are common throughout telco diversification plans today, there are other options. Orange has launched a bank, has experimented in energy services and is making a move towards the smart home in partnership with Deutsche Telekom. Over in Asia, gaming is an important element of many telcos relationships with consumers and this trend is becoming much more prominent in the European markets also.

Elsewhere, the smart home could certainly offer more opportunities for telcos to add-value to an emerging ecosystem, while the autonomous vehicles offers another opportunity and so does IOT. The issue which many of these telcos are facing is competition from the OTTs. Arguably, the battle for control of the smart home might already have been won by the OTTs, though the same could be said for autonomous vehicles and IOT.

In many of the emerging segments, telcos will remain a connectivity partner though they certainly need more than that. This will remain a consistent stream of revenue, though it will also sleepwalk telcos to utilitisation. In IOT, as an example, the major cloud players are crafting business units to engage enterprise businesses for edge and IOT services; this is a market which the telcos would love to capitalise on for both enterprise and consumer services.

Security is another which is increasingly becoming a possibility. The concept of cybersecurity is generating more headlines and consumers are becoming more aware to the dangers of the digital world. Arguably, the telcos are in the strongest position to generate revenue from this segment; there is trust in the brand and they have largely avoided all the scandals which are driving the introduction of new regulation.

Unlimited data is certainly not commonplace today, but with the services of tomorrow promising to gobble up data at an unfathomable pace, it would surprise few to see more people migrating to these tariffs. The question is how you make money once you have migrated everyone.

Diversification and the acquisition of new products is not a simple task, but then again, it is becoming increasingly difficult to imagine how single revenue stream telcos will be able to survive in the world of tomorrow.

 

Do you have some clear ideas about how the edge computing sector is developing? Then please complete the short survey being run by our colleagues at the Edge Computing Congress and Telecoms.com Intelligence. Click here to see the questions.

Apple and Samsung both had a mixed second quarter

While Apple registered modest growth, with the strong performance of Services compensating the declining iPhone sales, Samsung’s revenue and profit continued to plummet, thanks to weakness in the semiconductor market.

Apple’s Q2 2019 results (its financial Q3 2019) were respectable, if not exciting. The total sales went up by 1% to $53.8 billion from $53.3 billion a year ago, therefore making it the company’s record June quarter in terms of revenue. Gross margin slightly declined from 38.3% to 37.6%, and the operating margin dropped from 23.7% to 21.5%.

The iPhone contributed almost $26 billion, a decline of 12% from $29.5 billion the same quarter in 2018. This represented the first quarter when the iPhone accounts less than half of the total revenues since 2012. Notably, the iPhone is the only product category that reported year-on-year decline this quarter, with growth reported in Mac (+10.7%), iPad (+8.4%), Wearables, Home and Accessorie (+48%), and Services (12.6%). The $11.5 billion revenue generated by Services now accounts for 21.3% of the company’s total income.

“These results are promising across all our geographic segments, and we’re confident about what’s ahead,” said Tim Cook, the CEO. “The balance of calendar 2019 will be an exciting period, with major launches on all of our platforms, new services and several new products.”

If by “promising” Cook meant decelerated decline, he was right. Apple’s revenues continued to drop in Europe (-1.8%) and Greater China (-4.1%), the second and third largest markets after the Americas, albeit at a slower pace. Greater China would have registered a growth on constant currency, Cook insisted.

When it comes to the “balance of calendar 2019”, Apple gave a guidance showing mild improvement in Q3 (its financial Q4). The midpoint guidance points to a 16% growth in revenue, largely similar gross margin (38%), similar operating expenses, implying an improved operating margin of about 24%.

While the iPhone’s shrinking contribution may be expected, the strong performance of Services was encouraging. The company claimed it now had 480 million subscriptions across all its service portfolio, and both Apple Pay and the ad income from App Store search delivered triple-digit growth. The 3rd-party subscription revenue generated by the App Store went up by 40%. The Service growth momentum is likely to be further strengthened by the launch of the video streaming service Apple TV+ and the subscription gaming service Apple Arcade in the next quarter. The Services strength helped lift Apple’s share price by 4.2% pre-market.

Apple 2019_Q2A

Apple 2019_Q2B

A few hours later Samsung Electronics announced its less impressive though not surprising Q2 numbers. The company continued to see its profit plummeting by more than half, a trend we have seen in the preceding quarters, and largely in line with the profit warning the company published earlier this month. The total revenues declined by 4% to KRW 56.13 trillion ($47 billion) with the operating profit coming in at KRW6.6 trillion ($5.6 billion), down from KRW14.87 trillion ($13 billion) a year ago, indicating an operating margin of 11.8%, down from 25.4%. The net profit of KRW 5.18 trillion ($4.4 billion) represented a 53% decline from Q2 2018.

Not everything is bleak. IT & Mobile Communications division, Samsung’s largest revenue generator and which includes Samsung’s mobile handset business, reported a 7.8% sales growth although the operating margin declined by 41.5%. The revenue growth was largely driven by the strong sales of the Galaxy A series geared towards the young users. This has helped Samsung gain market share in a contracting smartphone market. On the other hand, the flagship Galaxy S10 series have met “weak sales momentum”, the company conceded. Recently Samsung announced that it has fixed the problem with the Galaxy S10 Fold and is now ready to launch it in “select markets”.

Continued to be worrying is the Display and Semiconductor business division, the biggest profit generator for Samsung. Despite that the display panel business turned profitable after making loss in Q1, weakness in the memory chip segment drove the operating profit down by 71%, on the basis of a revenue decline of 27%, indicating strong price pressure. This has led to the data centre customers to continue to adjust the inventory levels, Samsung claimed.

Another uncertain, though Samsung did not explicitly discuss, is the on-going trade dispute with Japan, which has resulted in trade embargo on the export of selected high-end equipment from a few Japanese companies. This could potentially impact Samsung’s plan to deliver the more advanced semiconductors in the second half of this year. Samsung insisted that it did “see 2H demand recovery” though.

At the time of writing Samsung’s share price was down by 2.6%.

Samsung 2019_2Q

 

Openreach adds another 35 cities to ‘fibre first’ programme

Openreach has announced a further 36 cities and towns which will be upgraded to Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband technology over the next 12 months.

As part of the ‘fibre first’ programme, 74 cities and large towns will undergo extensive upgrade programmes to ensure fibre is a realistic option for broadband services. It might have taken a while to get the UK on-board with the necessity for future-proofed broadband infrastructure, though momentum is gathering.

“We’re pressing ahead with our investment and Openreach engineers are now building in communities all over the country, keeping us on track to deliver against the bigger ambitions we set out in May,” said Clive Selley, MD of Openreach.

“The Government wants to see a nationwide full fibre network and we’re keen to lead the way in helping them achieve that. We know that if it’s going to happen, Openreach will need to be at the front doing the heavy lifting, so we’re working hard to build a commercially viable plan.”

With the continued aggressive push towards fibre broadband throughout the country, the prolonged battle between BT and Ofcom to retain control of Openreach makes much more sense. The telco fought bitterly to keep Openreach in the Group and now with enthusiasm for fibre higher than ever before it is was a justified battle, even if it did negatively impact the relationship with the regulator.

However, things are not all rosy for Openreach.

“One headwind to investment which affects all full fibre builders is business rates, and we’ve been encouraged by the Scottish Government’s move to extend rates relief north of the border,” Selley stated. “I’m convinced that prioritising investment in faster, more reliable and future proof broadband networks will prove to be a no-regrets decision for future generations.”

Complaints over regulation are of course not a new element of the telecommunications industry, though this is one which has been persistent. The industry has been promised changes, though few has been realised to date.

That said, the fibre revolution is catching. New Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pushed the issue onto the front pages with a ludicrous statement of 100% fibre penetration by 2025, though momentum was gathering prior to this. Last year, at Broadband World Forum in Berlin, one panel session discussed the improved appetite from investment funds and bodies to fuel the objective. The consumer demand has been proven, therefore the money men are starting to get interested.

What is worth noting is that Openreach is not the only firm who is on the charge with fibre expansion. Virgin Media’s Project Lightening is progressing successfully, while CityFibre is leading the charge for the ‘alt-nets’ to broaden the footprint in areas which might be deemed less commercially attractive.

With ambitious Government targets pushing the fibre rollout, it is encouraging to see promises entering into reality.

AT&T joins the retail robot revolution

AT&T Business has unveiled a new partnership to target the retail segment, a vertical which might look completely different in a few years’ time.

Working alongside Badger Technologies, the aim here is to improve capabilities which are already in place as opposed to create a human-less shopping experience. With its new 5G capabilities, improvements for indoor coverage and expansion of MEC, the duo are targeting operational efficiencies throughout the super market.

“In-building cellular solutions, including 5G and edge computing, are critical drivers of digital transformation for retailers,” said Mo Katibeh, CMO of AT&T Business.

“These technologies will eventually equip robots with both the compute power and lower latency needed to increase revenue, improve the in-store experience, and elevate employees to better assist customers. Badger Technologies’ robots can help retailers make sure they have products in stock and in the right place, increasing customer satisfaction. That leads to increased revenue. That’s the power of data.”

Robots in supermarkets are not exactly a new idea. In some of the larger retailers in the US, small robots roll through the aisles hoping to identify out-of-stock, mispriced or misplaced inventory as well as store hazards, informing human colleagues of up-coming tasks which need to be completed. However, running these systems over wifi can be inefficient and even impossible when it comes to transmission and processing of data.

Although this is a very simple application focused on improving efficiency as opposed to revolutionising the retail experience, it is an incremental step towards automation in the industry. In a few years’ time, there might not be any need to have humans working in the supermarket whatsoever; MEC and improved connectivity will be critical components.

Firstly, you have to look at the home delivery segment. Not all consumers will buy into this concept, however with improved connectivity, this could be a completely autonomous process. Amazon fulfilment centres already incorporate robotic processes to reduce the need for humans, whereas progress is being made on autonomous vehicles and small robots to make the delivery over the ‘last mile’. In theory, this does not have to have a single human in the process.

One other area which seems to attract headlines every couple of weeks are the cashier-less stores. The concept is not new, self-check out machines are becoming increasingly common, though this idea could be taken up another level. Amazon is once again making progress here, potentially removing the need for self-scan tills completely, though improvements in indoor connectivity and MEC could help this idea progress even further.

Finally, you only have to look at companies like Boston Dynamics to see the advancements which are being made with humanoid robots. Cashiers are heading towards the door and it might not be too long before shelf-stackers might follow them. Robotics is a field which is advancing ridiculously fast (see video at the bottom of article), and while the economics will not make sense for the moment, that is only a matter of time.

The warehouse could be robotic, payments could be managed through sensors and apps, on-shelf-stock and hazards could be monitored by simplistic robotics and cameras, restocking and hazards cleared by advanced robotics and deliveries could be performed by drones or autonomous vehicles. With MEC decreasing latency, cloud-based AI constantly improving all the processes and indoor connectivity ensuring everything runs smoothly, soon enough there might not be any need to have a human involved in the supermarket.

This might seem like an unrealistic idea right now, but always remember this Bill Gates quote; most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten.

Q2 smartphones: Samsung grows, Huawei slows and Apple flows

The latest global smartphone shipment numbers reveal a return to growth for Samsung, a major reduction in growth for Huawei and transition for Apple.

As you can see from the table below, Q2 2019 marked the first quarter in which Samsung registered year-on-year smartphone shipment growth for the first time in almost two years, in an overall market that continues to contract. One of the reasons for this could be the Galaxy S10 being better received than its predecessor as well as it being the main early 5G phone.

“Samsung shipped 76.3 million smartphones worldwide in Q2 2019, jumping 7% annually from 71.5 million units in Q2 2018. Samsung has lifted its global smartphone marketshare from 20% to 22% in the past year,” said Neil Mawston of analyst firm Strategy Analytics. “Strong sales in midrange and entry segments increased Samsung’s shipments, but its profit margin declined due to fierce price competition.”

While Huawei’s smartphone shipments continued to grow, it was at a much slower rate than for the past couple of years, but that was still a considerable achievement all things considered. “Huawei captured a healthy 17 percent global smartphone marketshare in Q2 2019, up from 15 percent a year ago,” said Mawston. “Huawei surged at home in China during the quarter, as the firm sought to offset regulatory uncertainty in other major regions such as North America and Western Europe.”

Apple iPhone shipments declined for the third quarter in a row, as Apple continues to diversify in favour of services such that iPhones accounted for less than half of total Apple revenues for the first quarter ever. “Apple iPhone shipments fell 8 percent annually, making it the worst performer among the world’s big-five smartphone players,” said Woody Oh of SA. “Apple is stabilizing in China due to price adjustments and buoyant trade-ins, but other major markets such as India and Europe remain challenging for the expensive iPhone.”

The rest of the table is all about the Chinese vendors, all of whom saw flat year-on-year growth. “Oppo took fifth position with 9 percent global smartphone marketshare during the quarter, holding steady from 9 percent share a year ago,” said SA’s Lindi Sui. “Oppois expanding hard into Western Europe, with new models like the Reno 5G, but it is coming under pressure at home in China from a resurgent Huawei.” Lucky Western Europe.

Talking of Chinese vendors, Counterpoint Research has identified massive growth from a new brand called Realme, which managed to ship almost five million units, having only started a year ago. Realme seems to specialize in the sub-premium category, in common with OnePlus, which is also owned by Shenzhen-based BBK Electronics, along with Oppo, but the focus of Realme’s hard expansion seems to be India.

q2 2019 smartphones

Utilities to focus on disrupting pedestrians not vehicles

The UK Department of Transport has unveiled a new consultation which proposes new utilities infrastructure would have to be installed under pavements as opposed to roads.

The aim is to reduce disruptions to traffic across the country. Said disruptions to people’s journeys and congestion are estimated to cost the economy around £4 billion, though the new proposition is supposedly one which can address this. This new approach will be applicable to telcos for fibre, but also electricity, gas and water companies.

The consultation document states:

“Unless the Permit Authority consents to the placing of apparatus under the carriageway including to assist with the roll-out of national infrastructure projects or to enable urban greening and street trees, it is a condition of this permit that activities placing new apparatus underground should, where possible and practical, be placed under the footway, footpath or verge.”

The concept of the consultation is simple. When laying new infrastructure utilities and telcos will have to dig up pavements not the road anymore. It seems it is a lot more important to get people to work than to keep the pavements safe, though this might be an interesting approach to reduce the disruptions caused by 2.5 million road works each year.

As part of a wider scheme which will be known as ‘Digital Street Manager’, the Department of Transport also intends to force the utilities to be much more organized when deploying or upgrading infrastructure. It seems residents and local authorities are sick of roads being repeatedly being dug up, when realistically multiple projects could be completed back-to-back, minimising disruptions.

While this is not the sort of consultation which will have people rioting in the streets, there are pros and cons to both sides of the argument.

The idea of digging up pavements as opposed to roads has been the norm in some countries around the world for some time, such as Germany, and it does reduce disruptions. This is not to say it can be applied every time, but however it is sensible. Most roads have pavements on both sides of the road, therefore pedestrians can simply cross the road should there be work being done.

That said, there is criticism. Some might suggest the work would still overflow onto the road as there are few pavements which are wide enough to house a digger and several workmen. You also have to wonder what those with front doors which open directly onto the pavement would do during the works. Presumably in some awkward situations they would have to just give up on going in or out of their home until the work has been completed.

Another point to consider is the ‘real estate’ which is actually available. Gas or water pipes are not exactly small, and most pavements are not exactly wide. When you have to find space for the pipes, electricity wires and fibre cabling, you might run out of room rather quickly. In some cases, it might simply be impossible.

It is an interesting idea, and while something does need to be done to ensure civil engineering projects are completed in the most efficient manner, the industry has been calling for less red-tape not additional regulations…

Huawei pins its UK hopes on Boris Johnson’s fibre plans

The UK’s new Prime Minister has inherited the difficult Huawei decision and the Chinese vendor has wasted no time in applying some gentle pressure.

While campaigning for the top job, Boris Johnson pledged to deliver full-fibre broadband to every single person in the UK by 2025. Many, including this publication, scoffed at the blind optimism of it all, but Huawei seems to see it as an opportunity to demonstrate how important it remains to the UK economy.

Speaking during Huawei’s first half financial announcement, Huawei’s President of Global Government Affairs, Victor Zhang, had plenty to say about the UK. “Boris Johnson has mentioned many times the importance of delivering ultrafast fibre broadband to rural areas,” he said. “We strongly support this vision and are committed to helping the UK deliver it. Rural fibre broadband isn’t just important for connectivity to the home, it will also help power 5G in remote communities.

“The fibre availability in the UK has had a big gap compared to elsewhere. I fully support the UK government and the new Prime Minister to deploy full fibre in the UK. It’s critical for productivity and economic development and in helping remote communities flourish. We can’t deploy 5G in these areas without fibre.”

Ah yes, 5G. That’s the biggie for Huawei, with the US continuing to pressure the UK into an outright ban of the company from participating in any part of its 5G network. With Johnson and US President Trump apparently on good terms Huawei must be privately fearing the worst, but it has to hope Johnson remains open to all sides of the matter.

He at least doesn’t seem to feel rushed into making a final call one way or the other, as the decision to postpone it once more last week would seem to imply. Huawei is choosing to derive optimism from this. “We welcome the support of the UK government with the supply chain review,” said Zhang. “These new regulations are an important step to ensuring robust security and the best technology for all. Personally, I believe the UK will continue to make the right decisions in terms of using the best technology.”

As important as the Huawei decision is, Johnson can’t really afford to think about anything other than Brexit for the next three months as, if he screws that up, there’s a good chance he won’t even be in power anymore. If we finally do properly leave the EU that would probably be bad for Huawei as it would presumably make the US more influential in setting our foreign policy, but that remains a big if.