Why doesn’t Huawei publish the details of its 5G deal wins?

Huawei says it has signed more 5G contracts than any of its competitors, but for some reason chooses not to publish any details.

This stands in stark contrast with Ericsson and Nokia, who both have publicly available web pages that not only offer a live total of their 5G deals wins (Ericsson says ‘commercial 5G agreements or contracts’ which seems a bit slippery), they also name as many of them as they have been authorised to and even detail how many live networks their kit is present in. Ericsson is especially transparent in that last regard.

Huawei has no publicly available information that we’re aware of, apart from ad hoc updates such as the one we reported on yesterday. We don’t know any of the operators it has signed 5G contracts with, nor how many live networks it is part of. Only in response to our specific questioning yesterday did we learn that the 91 number refers only to unique operator 5G RAN wins.

We asked Huawei why this is and were told that it’s up to their customers when the agreements are announced. The inference, then, is that none of its customers have given Huawei permission to go public, which seems odd. Or maybe not. It’s no secret that doing business with Huawei now has major geopolitical implications, so maybe all of its 5G partners want to keep that fact quiet, for fear of drawing the petulant attention of the US.

It’s hard to believe that not a single operator, for example the three Chinese MNOs, would want to go public. In fact Huawei execs were perfectly happy to name them when we asked about this yesterday, so why not publish? Vodafone’s European operations were also mentioned, so that’s a bunch of named wins already. And what about the other 24 wins in Asia, surely they’re not all scared of Trump.

The problem this creates for Huawei is that it helps bolster the US-driven narrative that a lack of transparency is reason enough to call all Huawei’s activities into question. We have written many times that Huawei deserves the same legal due process granted to everyone else, but it doesn’t help its cause when it chooses to be more opaque than its competitors over even minor matters such as this.

Huawei makes a number of bold claims at MWC replacement event

Huawei released a string of new products at its MWC replacement event in London and claimed to be number one in every field.

At its product and solution launch event, dubbed “5G, Bring New Value”, Huawei unveiled a number of new products including a new chipset, an updated 5G core, new solutions for private networks and optical transmission, a new IP router, and a new software suite.

These products were launched one by one after Ryan Ding, Huawei’s President of Carrier Business Group, already unveiled the 64T64R Massive MIMO 5G base station during his keynote, when he reiterated the claim he made a year ago that Huawei enjoyed 18 months’ leadership over its competitors. When asked to substantiate the claim in a subsequent analyst briefing, Huawei simply said its leadership is in all technologies.

Similar claims, if not down to the specific number of months of its leadership, were repeated in the other product launches. After the new flagship base station and other 5G solutions (Blade AAU, 5G X-Haul for higher network slicing precision, a new optical module for ultra-broadband transmission) were introduced in more details by Yang Chaobin, Huawei’s 5G Product Line President, Henk Koopmans (pictured), CEO of Huawei’s R&D UK, took the stage to unveil the new 5G chipset, called 5G pre-module. It has a 2/3/4/5G-in-one baseband that will work on frequency bands from sub-6GHz to mmWave.

Huawei stressed the reference design that comes with it which will make it easier for Huawei’s customers to onboard the platform and design and make their products. What is puzzling is Koopmans’s claim that this chipset, on a 7nm process, is the world’s most advanced design, and is the world’s first to support both standalone (SA) and non-standalone (NSA) 5G modes, clearly undeterred by the fact that the new Qualcomm 5G chipset launched two days earlier does exactly that, and is designed on a 5nm process.

Huawei’s new private network solutions, called HiCampus, include LAN switch and fibre. It focuses on providing its customers with full wireless connectivity, full fibre, and full AI. The AI capability is highlighted in the context of fast detection of root causes for network errors. Huawei claims that over 85% of its customers’ network errors can be automatically resolved.

Other new products introduced at the event include Huawei’s new 5G core, with highlight on what it calls “deterministic networking” (including E2E network slicing, service & topology awareness, and resource orchestration); intelligent optical network solutions, called OptiX, to deliver enhanced experience for home use (especially supported by embedded AI) and private networks (with passive optical LAN); NetEngine 8000, Huawei’s new IP router for data communications which the company claims to be the world’s first to be able to deliver service level agreement (SLA) assurance. Huawei’s new billing system, called Huawei 5G CBS R20, was the final launch at the event. The company claimed that the billing system has achieved the first live 5G SA implementation, with STC Kuwait.

Another key theme that threads all the product launches at the event was Huawei’s stress on the “green” advantage of its new products, with different percentages of energy consumption reduction attached to the feature introductions. This is assumed to not only demonstrate the power consumption efficiency that can save OPEX for its customers, but also echo the message from the GSMA representative at the event that telecoms industry is the first sector to comply with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

3GPP’s Release 16 timeline hangs in the balance thanks to coronavirus

Much has been made of the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the telecoms industry, though it now appears the critically important Release 16 timeline could be under threat.

Now the initial shock of the Mobile World Congress cancellation has settled, business is seemingly back to normal, though the coronavirus outbreak has not been contained. The Barcelona trip was cancelled, but so were a horde of other ventures into foreign lands. The 3GPP 5G standards meetings also fell onto the chopping block.

Interestingly enough, Release 16 from the 3GPP, industry specifications to deal with 5G standalone RAN, virtualisation, the 5G core, network slicing and various other topics, could also feel the impact of the virus. The consequence could be further delay on the release of the industry specifications.

“When experiments with e-meetings have happened in the past it is very easy for discussion to spiral and go quite tangential,” one insider told Telecoms.com. “90% of the negotiation to reach agreements on contentious topics happen over coffee, lunch and dinner… you don’t get that opportunity in an e-meeting.”

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, all Technical Specification Group (TSG) and Working Group (WG) meetings have now been replaced with electronic meetings for the first quarter. 3GPP has said this is only applicable where practical, and when not, presumably the meeting is cancelled.

For Q2, where the meetings were set to take place in China, activities have been cancelled for the moment. Replacement venues are being sought, but it is by no-means a guarantee the outbreak would be contained by this point.

In December 2018, 3GPP already announced a delay to the release of the standards. It might be stubbornly sticking to the existing timelines right now, but if it was not able to stay on schedule in 2018, what chance will it have while the coronavirus outbreak is still at large?

“We are obliged to suspend belief, but I suspect it won’t take much to blow past March plenaries without agreement on some key topics,” our source continued.

“The problem is it will only take one little thing to hold up the whole lot. The release has to be an independently implantable document set. If anything that is mandatory to support is not included, they have to make it optional, remove it completely to the next release or delay. First two options would require a lot of work in themselves.

“e-meetings do not make agreement easy, and it would only take one topic to get political to have someone attempt to throw everything into question as a tactic.”

As it stands, the group is attempting to negotiate the specifications for the RAN aspect of Release 16. The virtualisation components are all largely finalised, while the core aspect is not due until June, when Release 16 would be theoretically frozen. That said, any delay would push these timelines back once again.

According to Dario Talmesio, Principal Analyst & Practice Leader for Omdia, further delay to Release 16 could cascade and possibly have an echo effect throughout the industry. Time to ROI would be increased, which would not be considered welcome news for the financially strained telcos or vendors which have been promised shareholders 5G fortunes.

With RAN being the topic of debate currently, the standards hang in a precarious position. RAN is the aspect of network infrastructure which attracts the most attention because of the scale of deployment. While other standards missions can run in parallel, RAN is critical to product development timelines. Delays here would be heart-breaking for telcos and vendors, but there could also be a knock-on effect for the International Mobile Telecommunications-2020 requirements issued by the ITU.

Although our source was not necessarily the most confident, there are some who are a bit more optimistic.

“The next set of 3GPP meetings have been turned ‘virtual’ and in 3GPP SA2 at least all Release 17 proposals are postponed until the April meeting,” said Alan Carlton, VP of Wireless and Internet Technologies at InterDigital.

“In the upcoming meeting companies will only be allowed to submit corrections to Release 16. This will obviously cause some delays. New ad hoc meetings to catch up will have to be approved and it is not certain all companies will agree to that. Hopefully this is just a blip and thing will get caught-up post this somewhat unusual ‘flu’ season.”

The 3GPP is maintaining an optimistic position on the meetings for the next six weeks and will not make a call on the timelines until TSG Chairs have a chance to discuss progress.

Nokia and Ericsson compete for KDDI’s 5G core business

Within hours of each other Nordic kit vendors Nokia and Ericsson issued press releases announcing the completion of 5G core trials with Japanese operator KDDI.

Nokia is all about the standalone 5G core when it comes to KDDI and the trial it just completed involved its AirGile gear. Nokia likes to use the term ‘cloud-native’ a lot when taking up AirGile, as if the clever combination of ‘air’ and ‘agile’ into a neologism wasn’t enough. The 5G core is all about cloudy concepts such as agility and scalability, you see, and Nokia reckons it’s got all that stuff covered.

Here’s what the announcement had to say about the trial. “Nokia applied a service-based architecture to the 5G control plane, moving control functions completely into a cloud-based environment which provides operators with improved scalability, velocity and flexibility. The trial allows KDDI to highlight how a 5G control plane can utilize the communication model of today’s web services to create multiple software instances in a cloud environment.” If you want more than that you’ll have to go to the source.

“For Nokia, 5G is much more than radio,” said John Harrington, Head of Nokia Japan. “It’s an end-to-end network transformation. We are pleased to have successfully completed this 5G core SA network trial together with KDDI, as it marks a crucial milestone for KDDI’s 5G SA deployment as well as for Japan’s 5G. Nokia will continue to contribute to  the best of 5G and the cloud to enhance business processes and bring new applications and benefits to more markets and consumers.”

Hot on Nokia’s heels came Ericsson, which claimed a 5G cloud-native CI/CD software pipeline breakthrough, no less. For those telecoms dunces at the back, that stands for Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery, which is presumably preferable to sporadic or whimsical. “The container-based technology enables automatic deployment of new software and functionalities, while maintaining the high quality and availability of the 5G Core network,” we’re told.

“Our market-leading 5G core and unique CI/CD capabilities mean faster time-to-market, higher performance and cost efficiency,” said Jan Karlsson, Head of Business Area Digital Services at Ericsson. “Agile delivery of services while maintaining high quality and availability is a must in 5G Core networks. Our CI/CD end-to-end software pipeline achieves this. We are happy to continue to work with KDDI to automate their network operation.”

Based on our extremely limited understanding of these matters, the Nokia announcement feels like the more significant one, especially since the Ericsson one is represented by is digital services rather than networks unit. Since Japan has gone cold on Huawei, much of the business of its operators will be a straight fight between these two vendors. When it comes to KDDI’s 5G core, Nokia seems to be ahead right now.

Network Slicing – Test Now, Succeed Later

Network slicing is fundamental to make 5G networks successful. This whitepaper introduces the concept of network slicing and provides an overview of three primary 5G service types and core network functions. It also highlights how operators and network equipment manufacturers (NEMs) can take a lead on the competition by adopting test and measurement solutions available on the market today.

Discover:
• How 5G is different from previous cellular connectivity generations
• 5G use cases and challenges
• How testing helps meet quality of service expectations

 

 

 

Huawei is still the leader on 5G commercial contracts

Chinese vendor Huawei went ahead with its big pre-MWC event in spite of everything and the standard levels of self-promotion took place.

Just as with last week’s Ericsson event, the cancellation of MWC due to the threat posed by coronavirus cast a pall over Huawei’s pre-show extravaganza. In fact Huawei had taken the trouble to reassure attendees yesterday that all precautions had been taken to protect them from any viral nastiness, including the self-quarantine of any Huawei employees travelling from China. We’re pleased to report an almost total absence of sneezing at the event.

The first keynote was delivered by the President of Huawei’s Carrier Business Group Ryan Ding. He started by announcing in an admirably steady voice, while 4G delivers information, 5G delivers emotion. Ding served up the expected slide featuring photos of white boxes Huawei had intended to fondle at MWC, which included the claimed lightest ever 5G base station, weighing in at a mere 25 kilos.

The most interesting slide to us, however, contained an update on the number of 5G commercial contracts Huawei has won, which now total 91. This puts them ahead of the 81 announced by Ericsson last week and well ahead of the 63 most recently announced by Nokia. Appropriately enough, Huawei’s event was many times larger than Ericsson’s, while Nokia has had no pre-MWC event that we’re aware of.

Within that 91, more than half (47) are in Europe, which is likely to trigger US President Trump more than ever, 27 are in Asia and 17 are elsewhere in the world. There were some further boasts and an attempted demo of a live 5G broadcast from the BBC, which sadly lacked audio. Ding concluded with the announcement of a $20 million investment in its UK partner innovation programme.

The undoubted highlight of the morning, however, was a panel discussion on how 5G can enable a bunch of different industries. The reason it was so great was that it was moderated by no less than Telecoms.com Deputy Editor Jamie Davies, who shrugged off a rugby injury to bring his characteristic wit and insight to the chat.

The general tone of the panel, which featured five spokespeople from UK industry, was cautious optimism about what 5G brings to the table. It was note that in its current form it offers little more than a speed boost, but things should get interesting when low-latency kicks in with standalone 5G. There was lots of speculation about what can be done to drive consumer engagement in 5G, but few concrete answers.

These sorts of big corporate chest-beating events aren’t really designed for journalists as everything (bar the panel discussion) is very scripted and rehearsed. Having said that, apart from the deal winds, Huawei didn’t overdo the self-aggrandizing. It remains in a precarious geopolitical position and claiming leadership of everything, whether true or not, is probably not a great look for Huawei right now.

Nokia acquires Elenion to boost optical offering

Nokia plans to acquire Elenion, a privately-owned technology company whose proprietary silicon photonics design platform can lower the ‘per bit’ cost for network operators.

Through its acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent in 2016, Nokia has become one of the biggest suppliers of optical transport solutions. In the latest quarterly and full-year results, the IP routing and optical businesses registered healthy growth. This newly announced transaction looks to be an attempt to acquire unique technology know-how. The parties claim that Elenion’s silicon photonics design platform can, with its design toolset, improve the efficiency of the optical supply chain, and in turn, bring down the cost of data transmission on per bit basis for the operators.

The technology know-how can be highly relevant to Nokia’s core mobile business as well. The terse announcement stresses that Elenion’s silicon photonics technologies are highly integrated, low-cost, and ideal for short-reach and high-performance optical interfaces. This indicates that the technologies can be broadly applied in the dense radio networks expected for 5G, as well as the enterprise market where Nokia has made strong gains recently.

“As a world-class provider of silicon photonics solutions, advanced packaging and custom design services, Elenion provides a strong strategic fit for Nokia. Its solutions can be readily integrated into Nokia’s product offerings and address multiple high growth segments including 5G, cloud and data center networking,” said Sam Bucci, Head of Optical Networking at Nokia. “When combined with Nokia, Elenion technologies will accelerate the growth and scale of Nokia’s optical networking business, while enabling us to cost-effectively address new markets.”

“Nokia is an industry leader in networking systems, including advanced coherent optical interfaces and hyperscale datacenter solutions. Elenion benefits by having its technology incorporated into an industry-leading portfolio and with a company offering solutions across a wide array of networking applications,” added Larry Schwerin, CEO of Elenion Technologies. “Nokia’s strong optical industry leadership, size, scale, global reach, and ongoing commitment to investment in key technologies vastly accelerates the adoption of Elenion silicon photonics technology.”

The value of the transaction is not disclosed, and the companies expect the deal to close in Q1 2020 after regulatory clearance.

Qualcomm unveils third-gen 5G modem

Mobile chip maker Qualcomm has offered the first look at its third generation 5G modem, but it won’t appear in devices for a year.

The Snapdragon X60 5G Modem-RF System, to use its full name, will be the first of any kind to incorporate a baseband that’s manufactured on the 5nm process. This means the silicon can do more processing and use less power then older manufacturing processes. Other than that the headline new features concern carrier aggregation.

Not only will the X60 support CA across all 5G bands, including mmWave, it will also let you combine FDD and TDD streams. The significance of this kind of CA flexibility is that, in principle, it will allow operators to cobble together whatever bits of spectrum they find down the back of the sofa in a bid to deliver on the many promises made on behalf of 5G.

“Qualcomm Technologies is at the heart of 5G launches globally with mobile operators and OEMs introducing 5G services and mobile devices at record pace,” said Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm President. “As 5G standalone networks are introduced in 2020, our third-generation 5G modem-RF platform brings extensive spectrum aggregation capabilities and options to fuel the rapid expansion of 5G rollouts while enhancing coverage, power efficiency and performance for mobile devices. We are excited about the fast adoption of 5G across geographies and the positive impact 5G is having on the user experience.”

There’s not that much else to add for now, since this new product portfolio is still some way from existing in the wild. AnandTech did a comprehensive-looking deep dive here, if you fancy geeking out a bit on this, and there’s also the vid below. What does seem likely is that Qualcomm will maintain its 5G modem leadership for the foreseeable future.

Three to decouple traffic growth from price with CityFibre backhaul

CityFibre has been announced as the new preferred supplier for 5G backhaul for Three, as the telco aims to increase competition among its suppliers.

Three is the first major telco to be wooed by the CityFibre team, demonstrating the progress of the business over recent years. CityFibre should no-longer be considered a petulant disruptor in the connectivity world, but perhaps this is an indication the infrastructure challenger is a genuine contender.

“This is a huge vote of confidence in CityFibre from a national mobile operator with big plans for 5G,” said Greg Mesch, CEO at CityFibre. “Three’s decision to leverage our rapidly expanding networks nationwide shows the critical role full fibre infrastructure has to underpin 5G rollouts and reinforces CityFibre’s position as the UK’s third national digital infrastructure platform.”

“A competitive fibre backhaul market is critical for the fast and efficient rollout of 5G,” said Dave Dyson, CEO at Three UK. “CityFibre are aggressively rolling out fibre across Britain and our strategic partnership with them will use the UK’s largest 5G spectrum portfolio to deliver the fastest 5G network nationwide.”

As part of the agreement, CityFibre will connect the 5G sites which are set to go live in the coming months as Three launches its commercial 5G services. CityFibre will also provide Dark Fibre services to Three, and small cell access points throughout its city-wide networks, providing the local fibre capacity required to support 5G services in busy urban areas.

After talking to Three, this is an effort to future-proof it’s backhaul relationships against the growing tides of data consumption in today’s 4G environment and the forecasted 5G era.

The surge in data consumption has been regularly discussed in recent years, especially with the emergence of 5G, but it is important to remember this was an existing trend in the 4G era. As applications become more data intensive, telcos have had to bring down the price per GB to meet the demands of consumers. Three suggests traffic across its network could increase 20X thanks to 5G, but in 2010 the average consumer only used 269 MB of data per month.

As it stands, the price of data transmission is directly linked to the amount of traffic which flows across a network; the price per GB is fixed irrelevant of the volume of traffic. Three has said by diversifying its supplier base and increasing competition, the aim is to decouple price from traffic growth.

An oversimplification of this process would be to imagine economy of scale. The more of a service which is purchased, the price per unit decreases. The relationships which are in place moving forward are obviously much more complicated than this, though it does appear to be a case of Three attempting to ensure it is not backed into a corner with a single supplier holding the aces.

While this is a headline which has the potential to turn heads, diversification is a process which has been on-going within the Three business for some time.

BT Wholesale, a customer of Openreach, was the primary supplier of backhaul services for Three during the 4G era, though in recent years it has been unbundling BT exchanges for years. In July 2018, Three announced a major project to unbundle 177 BT exchanges with SSE Telecoms, while it has already been working with CityFibre to provide backhaul services in Hull.

The objective here is to have less of a reliance on a single supplier, BT Wholesale and Openreach as a result, and to improve diversification. It is working towards creating a more sustainable and healthy vendor ecosystem.

This is of course not the end for the Three/BT relationship. CityFibre can offer services in certain regions across the UK but not everywhere. SSE Telecoms will help fill the void, though there are locations where it is not commercially attractive for anyone to build out moving forward. These areas, where Openreach is the sole supplier, are subject to a price ceiling consultation from Ofcom.

With the likes of CityFibre and SSE Telecoms aggressively expanding networks, Openreach will certainly face tougher competition in the coming years. For decades, Openreach has maintained a defacto monopoly on backhaul services across the market, though the telco desire for reduced costs and resilience through supplier diversity does seem to be translating into fresh competition.

CityFibre network:

Etisalat goes big on OpenRAN with Parallel Wireless

Operator group Etisalat is trialing OpenRAN tech across its markets in Middle East, Asia and Africa in partnership with ORAN specialist Parallel Wireless.

One of the reasons for this sudden keenness on ORAN, which seeks to unbundle the components and software inside the radio access network with a view to making it cheaper and more flexible, is apparently the concept of ‘All G’. That refers the convergence of all generations of cellular technology onto a single software platform, which would both save cash and simplify network management.

“Today’s announcement is a global achievement setting a technological benchmark across our markets,” said Hatem Bamatraf, CTO of Etisalat International. “This is in line with our long-term strategy and vision of ‘Driving the Digital Future to empower societies’ that has translated to provide the best-in-class customer experience and deliver best value to our shareholders.

The global trials of OpenRAN with Parallel Wireless reiterate Etisalat’s commitment to our vision encouraging us to take the lead in OpenRAN by conducting field trials with various leading technology partners to create an innovative ecosystem in all of our markets. This is also the world’s first ‘All G’ OpenRAN set to provide efficiency and cost benefits for 4G and 5G in addition to setting a roadmap for the next generation of telecom networks.”

This looks like a significant win for Parallel, which is all-in on ORAN. Most of the telecoms industry (bar, maybe, the big RAN vendors) is keen on the concept of commoditising the RAN such that you can pick and choose your components and software. But we still seem to be some way from ORAN being able to support commercial mobile networks, so the key for companies like Parallel is to maintain momentum and interest while the technology evolves.

“As one of the leading communication providers in the emerging markets, Etisalat understands the true potential of greater leverage to their business, in both high end and low-end markets with a greater buying power by shaping the telecom ecosystem and embracing new network architectures, such as OpenRAN,” said Amrit Heer, Sales Director, MENA at Parallel Wireless.

“We are proud to have partnered with Etisalat for these engagements to deliver coverage and capacity without making extensive capital investments associated with legacy network deployments. We are proud to have been selected to support Etisalat in reimagining wireless infrastructure to be much lower cost ensuring access to innovative digital services in the region.”

ORAN is one to keep an eye on in the coming months and years. It represents a significant threat to the business models of the big RAN vendors, who sell ‘closed’ RAN solutions that require you to go all-in with them. At the very least the prospect of ORAN is a useful stick for operators to beat their vendor partners down on price with and we had expected it to be a major talking point at MWC 2020.