Ofcom’s competitiveness quest continues with another ducts and poles assault

Ofcom has unveiled its latest edition of its business connectivity market review with an all too familiar feel; how can it force Openreach and BT to play nicer with competitors.

As with any former state-owned monopoly, BT/Openreach is in the enviable position of having the groundwork already laid for future-proof infrastructure. Of course it has not done enough across the years to meet the demands of tomorrow’s fibre-based diet, though one factor behind this is a lack of external pressure on the business. Without competition, the enforced need to invest and innovate is not there. This is ultimately Ofcom’s objective; create an environment which encourages other ISPs to lay their own connectivity foundations, decrease the reliance on Openreach and improve connectivity options for the consumer.

“We want to give companies greater flexibility to lay fibre networks that serve residential or business customers,” Ofcom said in a statement. “So today, we are consulting on proposals to allow access to Openreach’s ducts and poles to companies offering any type of telecoms services including high-speed lines for large businesses, networks carrying data for mobile operators and high capacity lines supporting broadband services. We intend to implement this unrestricted duct access from spring 2019.”

This review focuses on the areas where there is minimised or no competition for BT. Ofcom believes BT currently has almost 5,600 local exchanges, though at roughly 5,000 of these sites there is competition from fewer than two competitors. BT’s position has been deemed unacceptable in these areas.

Starting with the areas where there is evidence of potential competition, but BT still maintains ‘significant market position’, Ofcom will no longer impose a cost-based charge control or quality of service standards on BT’s wholesale services, which combined with access to BT’s ducts and poles, the theory is competitors will have a stronger incentive to build their networks.

In areas where network competition is unlikely to be a reality, Ofcom has proposed a price cap for services at 1 Gbps and below to protect customers and provide certainty and stability over the course of the review. What is worth noting is that this is a relatively short-review, as while the proposals could come into play next spring, 2021 would see a new review and therefore new proposals.

The final proposal comes at the 4,300 exchanges where BT faces no competition from rival operators for inter-exchange connectivity, and Ofcom has deemed opening up the ducts and poles will have little impact. Rival networks are too far from these exchanges to make it economically viable to serve these exchanges, therefore BT is the only choice as a supplier for backhaul. Ofcom is proposing a requirement for dark fibre at cost for inter-exchange circuits that connect to these locations.

This is of course not the first time the dark fibre suggestion has emerged from Ofcom. In April, Openreach officially launched a compromise between full dark fibre access and full managed service after months of bickering and reviews with BT attempting to resist the Ofcom intervention. Ofcom seemingly lost that battle, with fingers being pointed at suspect market definitions, though now it appears ready to restart the assault.

This is of course only the consultation stage of the process, though the plans are to get the new rules in place by next spring. Whether this timetable is realistic with the almost guaranteed legal challenge from BT remains to be seen, but this is just another step in the never ending Ofcom quest to improve connectivity and competition across the UK.

TIP 2018: what’s in it for Facebook?

At the Telecom Infra Project Summit 2018 we spoke to the Facebook execs behind the initiative to find out why they decided to get involved.

When Facebook first started talking about getting involved in in the telecoms industry via TIP and even developing novel wireless technologies such as Terragraph, it felt like a frustrated OTT going through the motions to light a fire under the sector. Facebook’s vested interest was clear: the better and more ubiquitous the connectivity, the more people will use Facebook.

As we explained earlier, a big part of this involves efforts to make telecoms infrastructure cheaper to buy, roll-out and maintain. In that respect TIP is a direct threat to the traditional big kit vendors, not only because tower networking costs probably equate to lower profits for them, but a major aim of TIP is to expand the whole telecoms ecosystem, thus creating additional competition for them.

In a couple of small media gatherings at the event we spoke to Jay Parikh, Head of Engineering and Infrastructure at Facebook, and VP of connectivity Yael Maguire. Parikh explained that TIP is not just a product of Facebook’s own connectivity needs but also of conversations he was having with operators two or three years ago in which they implored Facebook to get involved.

The biggest mutual problem faced by Facebook and the operator community is the exponential growth in traffic over networks combined with the increasing difficulty and cost of providing it. “We were worried that innovation was slowing down,” said Parikh, in reference to the collective concern felt at the time, one which the big kit vendors were failing to sufficiently address.

In response to persistent questioning about the return Facebook expects to get on its significant (but unspecified) investment, Parikh insisted that this isn’t a short term thing for his company. The strategic objective is to catalyse the telecoms industry and ROI will be gauged by the presence of novel connectivity innovation, as opposed to direct financial considerations.

It’s easy to be sceptical any time a company claims to be doing something for the greater good, but equally this would be a strange area for Facebook to diversify into if it was only looking for a new profit centre. Having said that the world’s dominant etailer now makes much of its profit from its cloud business so you never know.

Parikh kept his cards pretty close to his chest regarding any TIP financial metrics but it’s relatively easy to believe that a cash-rich Silicon Valley company might be prepared to spend money a bit more speculatively than a traditional outfit. Facebook considered its own fortunes to be intrinsically allied to those of the global telecoms industry, so helping it innovate is viewed as sufficiently self-interested by itself, for now at least.

When asked what the top priorities are for Facebook from TIP, Parikh cited the connectivity insights programme, which aims to give operators additional data to help operators make informed decisions derived, in part, from anonymised Facebook user data. Rural access work is also important as Facebook seeks its next billion users, and Telefónica’s work in Peru was cited as an example of this.

The third priority is Terragraph, which is positioned as an alternative to fixed wireless access delivered over unlicensed 60 GHz spectrum, of which there is plenty, with an emphasis on backhauling wifi. This is a key concern of Maguire’s, who noted that average video speeds are declining across the board thanks to the aforementioned imbalance between demand and supply.

Maguire explained that Terragraph started as a project designed to look into the viability of using the 60 GHz spectrum for backhaul. At such a high frequency there are a bunch of propagation challenges, with even oxygen itself contributing to signal degradation. But it turns out that if you get the precise line of sight alignment right and don’t try to transmit any further than 200m, then it can be used in much the same way we’re talking about FWA over mm wave for 5G.

In keeping with Facebook’s general tone on this stuff Maguire played down any direct antagonism between Terragraph and mm wave FWA, insisting they just wanted to offer up alternatives. I was also keen to stress that this technology is specifically intended for high bandwidth wireless backhaul. “It’s not a solves all problems technology,” he said.

So, in summary, Facebook says it’s not looking for any immediate return from its involvement and investment in TIP. Instead it expects to benefit from the telecoms industry innovating as a faster pace than it would have if Facebook hadn’t decided to get involved. Aside from justifiable scepticism about any company being so sanguine about immediate, demonstrable ROI there’s little reason not to take Facebook at face value on this, while also keeping a watchful eye out for mission creep as things progress.

Orange goes submarine with Google cable partnership

Orange has been announced as the latest partner to join Google on its monstrous mission to bulk out its connectivity infrastructure maze.

The telco will act as the French ‘landing partner’ for Google’s Dunant transatlantic submarine cable, which is set to come into operation in 2020. As part of the partnership, Orange will provide backhaul services to Paris, while also benefiting from fibre-pairs with a capacity of more than 30 Tbps per pair.

“I am extremely proud to announce this collaboration with Google to build a new, cutting-edge cable between the USA and France,” said Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange. “The role of submarine cables is often overlooked, despite their central role at the heart of our digital world. I am proud that Orange continues to be a global leader in investing, deploying, maintaining and managing such key infrastructure. Google is a major partner for Orange and this project reflects the spirit of our relationship.”

Announced back in July, Dunant (named after Nobel Peace Prize winner Henri Dunant) is Google’s first private investment across the Atlantic and supplements one of the busiest routes on the internet. The cable will be 6,600km long, connecting the west coast of France to North Virginia in the US. The cable is set to be the first to connect the two countries in 15 years.

While many organizations are investing in infrastructure through consortiums, Orange has invested in more than 40 submarine cables, few have taken Google’s approach in being the sole investor. It might be a more expensive approach, though Google will have more control over capacity and the route of the cable, perhaps giving it a bit of an edge over competitors. The weight of such investments have been putting some dents in the spreadsheets, the CAPEX column doubled during the latest quarterly earnings call, though it does put Google in a solid position.

From Orange’s perspective, the partnership will strengthen the telcos position to support the development of new uses for its consumer and enterprise customers in Europe and America. It will also be in a stronger position to provide services to wholesale market such as content-providers and third-party operators.

Nokia plugs openness ahead of Broadband World Forum

Open is one of 2018’s buzzwords and Nokia is cashing in on the bonanza ahead of Broadband World Forum in a couple of weeks.

This is only the first of several announcements from the Finns, but it builds on the fibre connectivity and virtualisation foundations set last year. The first installment is focused on fixed access network slicing and multi-vendor optical network units (ONU).

Starting with the network slicing piece, the team plan to launch a fully open and programmable network slicing solution for fixed access networks. While the buzz for network slicing has been primarily focused on the mobile side of telecommunications, Nokia’s Head of Fixed Networks Marketing Stefaan Vanhastel told Telecoms.com the solution can be just as effective in fixed access.

“Yes network slicing is a hot topic for 5G, but we are now starting to see the benefit for slicing in a fixed network,” said Vanhastel. “Operators can use residential network for 5G transport – why not, you already have a network and can save up to 50% of deployment costs. Why not use the same infrastructure for residential broadband, enterprise customers and 5G transport.”

In the same way network slicing can be used to create several virtual networks in the wireless business, why not do it in fixed access? Not only does it allow telcos to more efficiently plan for the world of 5G transport, while simultaneously serving a variety of customers, it opens up a host of new deployment models.

Vanhastel highlighted there are several non-traditional players building their own networks, individual cities or national governments for example, though these are not the people you would want running telco services. Local authorities have plenty of experience from a civil engineering perspective, digging the trenches and deploying the networks, but with network slicing capabilities several virtual networks can be created to bring-in the right expertise to deliver the services.

This is one idea which will aid the deployment of future proof networks, though network slicing could also help co-operative efforts and co-investment from competitors. The physical deployment of the network can be shared between any number of telcos, with each then claiming their own ‘slice’ which can be managed and configured independently. Openness and collaboration seems like a nice idea, though few competitors can play nice unfailingly, but with network slicing they only have to for a set period of time (in theory) before turning their attention to their own business.

Secondly, Nokia has launched Multivendor ONU connect, which it claims is the first fully open, virtualised solution that allows telcos to connect any optical network unit (ONU). The solution takes a ‘driver’ approach to how telcos deploy and manage ONUs, allowing for ‘plug and play’ functionality. As part of Nokia’s Altiplano open programmable framework, software is decoupled to allow the ONU management to be virtualised. An open-API framework allows third-party stacks to be on-boarded in a more time-efficient manner.

The approach will offer telcos the opportunity to realise the benefits of interoperability, connecting any modem to an access platform and potentially removing the painstaking task of integration. Vanhastel said that once the whole management infrastructure is virtualized, it would be possible to connect any fibre modem to access networks without the hassle, while updates or new ONUs can be quickly introduced through software upgrades.

Broadband World Forum might still be a couple of weeks away, but the Nokia marketing message is clear; simplicity and openness.

Three and O2 put positive spin on sh*t connectivity

Three and O2 have signed a deal with SSE Enterprise which will enable the pair to access its fibre ring, part of which is located in the Thames Water waste water network, to improve connectivity backhaul capabilities.

With 5G on the horizon, and demands for improved 4G experience, partnerships like this will be key to not only improve backhaul but also enable further 4G and 5G deployment by connecting cell sites and masts. Robust aggregation of fronthaul and backhaul access is necessary in order to provide greater resiliency, increase capacity and reduce latency. In other words, fibre is king if you want to meet the demands of the data-craving consumers.

Just to put things in perspective, UK data usage is set to grow thirteen-fold between 2017 and 2025 according to data from Ofcom, with the first 5G offerings set to hit the market during 2019. To meet this demand, 5G is key, enhanced 4G experience is key and backhaul is key. Fibre rules the roost.

“Networks will fundamentally underpin the UK’s digital economy and will be essential to 5G services,” said Colin Sempill, MD of SSE Enterprise Telecoms. “With this high capacity core in the London sewers, Three UK and O2 are tapping into our unique, diverse connectivity and putting their networks in a strong position to trial 5G offerings, while enhancing existing services for their customers.”

“New and innovative models are essential to improving the customer experience of mobile networks by increasing the availability of dark fibre for mobile backhaul and driving competition in the market,” said Dave Dyson, CEO of Three. “Our partnership with SSE Enterprise Telecoms and O2 is one of the first examples of using existing infrastructure to improve connectivity in an urban area.”

“This kind of agreement is essential to allow for continued investment and improvement of services for our customers,” said Brendan O’Reilly, CTO at O2. “This partnership is a great example of SSE Enterprise Telecoms, Three UK and O2 coming together in a collaborative and innovative way to address the growing challenge and pressure of obtaining access to fibre for mobile backhaul in the UK.”

SSE has been running some interesting projects to improve the speed and reduce the cost in terms of laying fibre over the last couple of months. In this example, SSE is licensed to lay fibre optic cables throughout Thames Water’s waste water network which it claims can reduce network deployment costs by 60% and speed up deployment by up to ten times. As the sewers can be as deep as 10 metres, laying the fibre in this way can decrease accidental fibre breaks as the traditional means see the cables laid only 12 inches below the surface. The waste water network is also geographically very wide-spread, it is a creative solution to the challenge of laying fibre more efficiently, even if it is a bit of a smelly one.

The agreement with Three and O2 will see approximately 100 points of connectivity exit from this central London sewer network via two BT Exchanges. By partnering with SSE Enterprise Telecoms, Three and O2 can operate their own Central London Area (CLA) network, while also accessing spare fibre ducts for future initiatives in London.

The last couple of months have seen SSE ink numerous deals with the telcos, including a separate partnership with Three where it has begun facilitating fibre optic connections for the telcos 20 core data centres. Last October, SSE also won a competitive tender from advanced fibre broadband specialists Grain to deliver network connectivity to Countesswells, a new £800 million development in Aberdeen.

Fiber-optic is important for 5G but operators will need a range of options

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Jake Saunders VP, Asia-Pacific & Advisory Services at ABI Research, looks at some of the backhaul questions that need to be answered as we enter the 5G era.

Momentum behind 5G is building. Through ABI Research’s own analysis, 48 countries have either carried out consultations or have taken steps to auction spectrum and licenses for 5G services. Korea, Japan and the USA probably have the most extensive 5G commercial deployment plans in place but what is particularly remarkable is the spread of countries across the globe that have committed to 5G commercial deployment by 2020.

5G offers an unprecedented leap in bandwidth speeds compared to the previous generation. This is made possible by using high-band frequency spectrum, as well as key antenna technologies, such as massive MIMO. Bands in three spectrum ranges will be needed for 5G: Sub-1 GHz, 1-6 GHz, and above 6 GHz. Crucial 5G spectrum bands above 24 GHz will be agreed upon at the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2019 (WRC-19); this includes 26 GHz and 40 GHz, which already have significant international support for 5G access. Outside of the WRC process, the 28 GHz band is also supported for 5G access by important markets such as the United States, Japan, and Korea. For the initial enhanced mobile broadband use case, spectrum within the 3.3 GHz to 3.8 GHz range is emerging as an important harmonized 5G “mid-band.”

Each cellular access technology has taken off at a faster rate than the previous generation. GSM took 6 years to reach 100 million subscriptions. 3G’s HSPA+ took 5.25 years, 4G’s LTE 3.5 years, LTE Advanced took 3 years. We will see if 5G further shortens the time to ‘100 million subscriptions’ but the rapid growth in subscriptions combined with the amount of 5G traffic that will be generated, will put increased pressure on the backhaul infrastructure of mobile networks. Over the course of ABI Research’s forecasts, mobile data traffic is anticipated to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 28.9% to surpass 1,307 exabytes on an annual basis in 2025. 4G and 5G subscribers may only represent 55% of total subscriptions in 2025, but they represent 91% of the total traffic generated in 2025.

Backhauling the Traffic       

The exponential growth of mobile data traffic has been driven largely by the uptake of streaming TV and movie services, as well as video content in social media and instant messaging. A 4G base station based on the Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI) architecture requires bandwidth of 1 Gbps to 10 Gbps per sector, while a 5G base station with the upgraded Enhanced CPRI (eCPRI) architecture requires 10 Gbps to 25 Gbps. However, mobile service providers cannot ignore the latency requirements for 4G and 5G services. A 4G or 5G base station based on eCPRI architecture requires no more than 75 microseconds, but even in the most latency-tolerant scenario (S1/NG), latency of no more than 30 ms is needed.

Many operators have either upgraded their networks to LTE-Advanced or are in the process of doing so. In the case of LTE-Advanced, new RAN optimization techniques impose critical performance requirements on the X2 interface (essentially the IP control and user plane for communications links), which results in a latency cap of no more than 10 ms from end to end. This means latencies across the backhaul network need to be <1 ms. In 5G, for mission-critical applications, latencies will need to be sub-1 ms.

fig 1 abi article (002)

Fig.1: 4G and 5G Bandwidth and Latency Requirements (Source: Ericsson)

Only 5G cell-sites served with fiber-optic cable or microwave links will be able to support the latency tolerances required by some LTE and 5G applications. For some ultralow latency critical applications, the length of the fiber-optic cable will be constrained by the fact that information can only be transmitted at 5 microseconds/Km. For eCPRI cell-sites, the fiber-optic link will need to be less than 15 Km. In geographic areas served by geostationary satellite backhaul, mobile operators may be constrained to 2G, 3G, and non-latency-sensitive LTE services.

5G Backhaul Will Need Options     

Mobile operators have a challenging time backhauling the mobile voice and data traffic from varied environments, such as urban, suburban, rural, offices, residential homes, skyscrapers, public buildings, tunnels, etc. Table 1 below outlines how mobile operators rely on a variety of backhaul approaches to transmit their traffic to and from macro and small cell base stations.

fig 2 abi article

Fig.2: Mobile Backhaul Technology Trade-Offs, Wireless versus Fixed versus Satellite (Source: ABI Research.)

Mobile carriers are increasingly facing the reality of having to deploy a Heterogeneous Network (HetNet) architecture of macro and small cells that may rely on 3G, 4G, and 5G. Microwave and millimeter bands (V-band (60 GHz) and E-band (70/80 GHz)) are suitable for HetNet backhaul because it allows for outdoor cell site and access network aggregation of traffic from several base stations, which can then be handed off to the mobile switching centers and finally the core network.

At the end of 2017, ABI Research estimates the majority share of backhaul links (an aggregate of macrocells and small cells) were supported by traditional microwave 7 GHz to 40 GHz (56.1%) backhaul equipment. The higher bandwidth requirements of LTE are driving a significant roll-out of fiber (26.2%). Bonded copper xDSL connections (3.5%) are available in 2017, but the need for this technology will continue to decline. Satellite-based backhaul, which primarily plays a role in backhauling traffic in peripheral locations or rural environments where microwave may not exist, represents 1.9% of backhaul links worldwide. Satellite backhaul has a minority share of the market-place but it is still an important backhaul access technology.

On a worldwide basis, fiber-optic backhaul is expected to grow to 40.2% of macrocell sites by 2025, which just eclipses microwave in the 7 GHz to 40 GHz band with 38.2%. Microwave Line-of-Sight (LoS) in the 7 GHz to 40 GHz bands is still a long-term viable solution for macrocell sites. Microwave links in the 41 GHz to 100 GHz bands will double from 5.1% to 12.6%.

 

Jake Saunders will be speaking on Eliminating the Digital Divide in the Evolution to 5G at 5G Asia 2018, taking place 18th – 20th September in Singapore. Find out more about the event and join him there.

Ericsson upgrades Radio System, partners with Juniper on backhaul and buys CENX

Ahead of MWC Americas Ericsson has embarked on a frenzy of announcements around its core product offering.

The headline news is a significant upgrade to the Ericsson Radio System, its signature RAN product suite that has been a major part of its apparent recovery. Specifically Ericsson is launching something called the RAN Compute portfolio, which consists of a couple of baseband processors and a couple of radio processing units designed to be positioned wherever in the network you want your processing to be done. In other words this is a mobile edge computing play.

The other big thing in new, improved ERS is some new software called Ericsson Spectrum Sharing. This is designed to help with dynamic support of both 4G and 5G on the same spectrum, so long as you’re using ERS shipped since 2015, and can be installed remotely. While some of 5G will take place on higher frequencies, the stuff currently being used by 4G has the best propagation characteristics and will therefore remain valuable. This is the kind of 5G software upgrade Ericsson has been promoting as a key feature of ERS from the start.

“The hardware and software that we are launching today continues to address the flexibility needed for the next-generation networks,” said Ericsson EVP of Networks Fredrik Jejdling. “They offer our customers an expanded and adaptable 5G platform, making it easier for them to deploy 5G.”

We had a chat with Nishant Batra, Head of Product Area Networks at Ericsson, ahead of the announcement and he stressed this is all about ramping ERS’s 5G capability. Initially the propaganda was all about it being 5G upgradable, then about being ready for the 5G launch. Now the narrative revolves around this kit being positioned for the mass deployment of 5G.

Ericsson wants the world to see a picture of growing positive momentum and trying to be the perceived leader in 5G kit is a key part of that. “The momentum has never been better and we want to keep accelerating,” said Batra.

All this RAN shininess isn’t much good without some top-notch backhaul, however, and nobody is claiming that as an Ericsson strength. 5G is set to massively increase the volume of data passing across networks so, which being sure to big-up its own Router 6000 backhaul product and microwave tech, Ericsson has announced the extension of its partnership with Juniper to augment its transport efforts, as well as a new partnership with ECI on the optical side. So much for the big Ericsson Cisco partnership eh?

“Our radio expertise and knowledge in network architecture, end-user applications and standardization work put us in an excellent position to understand the requirements 5G places on transport,” said Jejdling. “By combining our leading transport portfolio with best-in-class partners, we will boost our transport offering and create the critical building blocks of next-generation transport networks that benefit our customers.”

“Commercial 5G is expected to represent close to a quarter of all global network traffic in the next five years,” said Manoj Leelanivas, Chief Product Officer at Juniper Networks. “With both companies bringing together industry-leading network technology, Juniper and Ericsson will be able to more effectively capitalize on the immense global market opportunity in front of us and help our customers simplify their journey to fully operational 5G networks.”

In other Ericsson news it has indulged in a rare bit of M&A via the acquisition of US service assurance vendor CENX. This move is designed to augment Ericsson’s OSS and managed services offerings and CENX is all about cloud-native automation, so its technology and 185 staff should be especially helpful in the area of virtualization. They haven’t said what it cost.

“Dynamic orchestration is crucial in 5G-ready virtualized networks,” said Mats Karlsson, Head of Solution Area OSS at Ericsson. “By bringing CENX into Ericsson, we can continue to build upon the strong competitive advantage we have started as partners. I look forward to meeting and welcoming our new colleagues into Ericsson.”

“Ericsson has been a great partner and for us to take the step to fully join Ericsson gives us the best possible worldwide platform to realize CENX’s ultimate goal – autonomous networking for all,” said Ed Kennedy CEO of CENX. “Our closed-loop service assurance automation capability complements Ericsson’s existing portfolio very well.”

Lastly Ericsson has announced a new partnership with US operator Sprint to build a new virtualized core and operating system dedicated just to IoT. Network slicing will be a major feature of the 5G era and IoT has network requirements quite distinct from other usage models, so it makes sense to not just apportion a piece of the network to it, but customise all the other tech too.

“We are combining our IoT strategy with Ericsson’s expertise to build a platform primed for the most demanding applications like artificial intelligence, edge computing, robotics, autonomous vehicles and more with ultra-low-latency, the highest availability and an unmatched level of security at the chip level,” said Ivo Rook, SVP of IoT for Sprint. “This is a network built for software and it’s ready for 5G. Our IoT platform is for those companies, large and small, that are creating the immediate economy.”

“Sprint will be one of the first to market with a distributed core network and operating system built especially for IoT and powered by Ericsson’s IoT Accelerator platform,” said Asa Tamsons, Head of Business Area Technology & Emerging Business at Ericsson. “Our goal is to make it easy for Sprint and their customers to access and use connected intelligence, enabling instant and actionable insights for a better customer experience and maximum value.”

That Ericsson is making so many announcements ahead of MWC Americas would appear to be a major endorsement of the event and of the GSMA’s regional expansion of the MWC brand. The timing might also have been influenced by the staging of Huawei’s Operations Transformation Forum event and even IFA, and it’s clear there is room in the telecoms calendar for big Autumn trade fests.

3 + BT + SSE = 5G, FYI

UK MNO Three has announced a new deal that gives it access to a bunch of BT local exchanges to augment its backhaul. This will be handy for 5G, we’re told.

This move was made possible by a new project undertaken by SSE Enterprise telecoms to unbundle 177 BT exchanges over the next two years, thus enabling it to offer wholesale fibre services itself. Three is the first customer to seize this opportunity, which SSE is virtue-signalling as being a significant contribution to UK fibre access or something like that and Three seems to be adopting a similar position on 5G.

“By significantly increasing our access to fibre, we are putting our network on the best footing possible to take advantage of the benefits of 5G technology,” said Bryn Jones, CTO at Three UK. “Our customers use 3.5 times more data per month than the average UK consumer and this deal will help us maintain our leadership in providing a fantastic data service. Fibre is essential to the UK’s digital future and more needs to be done to improve its availability to ensure that the UK benefits from 5G at the earliest opportunity.”

“5G will allow Three UK to grow capacity on its network more than twenty-fold,” said Colin Sempill, MD at SSE Enterprise Telecoms. “But for 5G to live up to its potential, the right infrastructure must be in place. High capacity fibre connectivity is absolutely critical. We’re fully invested in supporting the UK’s digital ambitions, demonstrated in our recent investments in expanding our network, and it’s exciting for us to be playing such an important role in Three UK’s journey towards a 5G future for consumers and businesses.”

Three says this deal will allow it to increase its network capacity 20 times, which is pretty significant and necessary since it anticipates UK punters hoovering up 90GB per month by 2025. Oh, and in case you missed it, this will make it really good at 5G too. SSE, meanwhile, seems to be positioning itself as a major fibre backhaul provider thanks to this project.

Ofcom wants 57-71 GHz band to be free for fixed wireless

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has reserved a bunch of unlicensed high frequency spectrum to be used for fixed wireless links.

Following the usual exhaustive consultation process the 57-66 GHz band has been cleared of interlopers so that the telecoms industry can use it for things like wireless backhaul, video transmission and fixed wireless access. At the same time it’s also in the process of freeing up the 66-71 GHz band and has launched a new consultation designed, it seems, to harmonise those two bands into one fat pipe of unlicensed fixed wireless goodness.

Here’s the Ofcom statement heralding the new consultation:

a) For short range wideband data transmission:

  • extend the current licence exemption and technical conditions (from 57 – 66 GHz) up to 71 GHz; and
  • introduce new technical conditions to allow licence exempt use of lower power equipment operating in a fixed outdoor installation in the 57 – 71 GHz band.

b) For fixed wireless systems:

  • extend the current licence exemption (from 57.1 GHz – 63.9 GHz) to 70.875 GHz, and by doing so, change the current authorisation approach for fixed wireless systems operating in the 64 – 66 GHz band from light licence to licence exempt; and
  • extend the current technical conditions (from 57.1 – 63.9 GHz) up to 70.875 GHz.

The deadline for this latest consultation is 6 August 2018. Presumably this is the opportunity for anyone currently using that spectrum for non-telecoms stuff to state their case, but this has the feeling of a done deal. While it won’t be used for actual 5G radio, having 14 GHz of clear spectrum for fixed wireless should contribute to the overall 5G effort, so this is welcome news.

Nokia gets a big piece of China Mobile optical transport gig

The world’s biggest MNO – China Mobile – recently held a central bid to supply equipment for its regional optical transport network, in which it ranked Nokia top.

The gig seems to be that a bunch of vendors are going to help out with the deployment of an optical transport network for 13 city metro and two provincial backbone networks, but that China Mobile will apportion the work between them according to some arbitrary ranking system. The good news for Nokia is that it came top of that table and, as a consequence, will get more optical networking business.

The usual array of networking virtue is being ascribed to whatever Nokia is serving up for China Mobile here. It’s all about agility, flexibility, scalability and all the other -ilities. And, of course, it’s so ready for 5G you wouldn’t believe it.

“We are very pleased to work closely with China Mobile to provide the optical technology for its most advanced networks today and in the future,” said Yu Xiaohan, head of the China Mobile customer team at Nokia Shanghai Bell. “We’ll continue to fulfil our mission by making people’s life easier as we create the technologies that connect the world.”

In other Nokia Far-Eastern news it has announced the opening of its Cloud Collaboration Hub in Singapore, which is somewhat ominously described as an ‘execution centre’ where multivendor cloud services can be tried out. It joins existing ones in the US and UK, all of which exist mainly to help operators get ahead on the cloud game.

“With the launch of the Cloud Collaboration Hub in Singapore, we will help operators in Asia Pacific and Japan select the right transformation strategy and build their revenue drivers and business cases for cloud-based solutions,” said Sandeep Girotra, head of Asia Pacific and Japan at Nokia. “This will accelerate operators’ moves towards becoming digital service providers at a crucial moment when technology is undergoing a paradigm shift, anchored by trends such as 5G, the Internet of things and the cloud.”