AT&T takes another step towards the global IOT dream

AT&T has signed a partnership agreement with Canadian telco Rogers, to extend LTE-M coverage for IoT customers of both companies, throughout Canada and the US.

Rogers IoT customers will now have the ability to roam on the AT&T LTE-M network, with the same privilege being offered the other direction. With AT&T relying heavily on IOT to drive new engagement with enterprise customers, this is another example of the US telco spreading its wings across the globe.

“More and more of our enterprise customers are launching IoT applications across international boundaries,” said Chris Penrose, President of Advanced Mobility and Enterprise Solutions at AT&T.

“Having access to the Rogers LTE-M network across Canada will help them simplify deployments and scale their North American IoT plans.”

The emerging IOT world is one which offers a huge amount of promise for the ambitious AT&T team. In a briefing at Mobile World Congress this year, AT&T told us the opportunity was not only from connectivity, but to move up the value-chain and create platforms and customisable software solutions for enterprise.

There are of course multiple elements to ensure this dream can be realised, however a network which reaches beyond the borders of the US is critical. The IOT business can survive in a single country, but if you want to work with the big boys you have to be able to offer a network which meets the demands of an international business.

With the Rogers partnership, the trio in Canada has been completed. AT&T has a network in Mexico and also a significant partnership in Europe. The European collaboration offers AT&T access to KPN’s LTE-M network in the Netherlands, Swisscom’s in Switzerland and Orange’s in France and Romania. The European operators also gain exposure on AT&T’s networks in the US and Mexico.

With these partnerships in place in Europe, AT&T can expect to cover a significant proportion of the continent, though there are still some significant holes. Orange plans to fill in some of the blank spots with LTE-M launches in Belgium, Slovakia, Spain and Poland, though there is still some work to do.

This is the challenge which AT&T faces in the IOT world. It might be one of the largest and most profitable telcos worldwide, but it is largely limited to the US. If you look at other operators, Orange or Vodafone for example, the physical presence around the world is much more notable. This will factor into the thinking of a few multi-national customers.

‘Five Eyes’ align security objectives but where does this leave Huawei?

After a meeting in London, the members of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence alliance has released a communique to reinforce the relationship and outline quite generic objectives.

As with all of these communiques, the language sounds very impressive, but in reality, nothing material is being said. In this document, the UK, US, New Zealand, Australia and Canada have committed to countering online child sexual exploitation and abuse, tackling cybersecurity threats and building trust in emerging technologies.

Although nothing revolutionary has been said, the reinforcement of this alliance leaves questions over Huawei’s role in the aforementioned countries.

“There is agreement between the Five Countries of the need to ensure supply chains are trusted and reliable to protect our networks from unauthorised access or interference,” the communique reads. “We recognise the need for a rigorous risk-based evaluation of a range of factors which may include, but not be limited to, control by foreign governments.”

Government officials will never be so obvious as to point the finger at another nation, at least not most of the time, but it isn’t difficult to imagine who this statement is directed towards.

So where does this leave Huawei? Banned in Australia and the US, denied work in New Zealand and on thin ice in Canada. The only market from the ‘Five Eyes’ where is does not look doomed is the UK. But can the other members of the intelligence club trust the UK while Huawei is maintaining a presence in the country’s communications infrastructure?

The US has already spoken of withholding intelligence data should the partner nation allow Huawei to contribute to 5G networks, and this alliance is already very anti-Huawei. In re-affirming its position to the alliance, the UK is certainly sending mixed messages only a week after a statement which suggested Huawei might be safe.

Of course, this might mean very little in the long-run, but it is another factor which should be considered when trying to figure out what Huawei’s fate will actually be.

For its own part, Huawei is doing as much as possible to disprove collusion and security allegations. Aside from the cybersecurity centres opened to allow customers and governments to validate security credentials, it has recently signed up to the Paris Call.

“The quest for better security serves as the foundation of our existence,” said John Suffolk, Global Cyber Security & Privacy Officer at Huawei. “We fully support any endeavour, idea or suggestion that can enhance the resilience and security of products and services for Governments, customers and their customers.”

The Paris Call is an initiative launched by the French Government in November 2018. It is a call-to-action to tackle cybersecurity challenges, strengthen collective defences against cybercrime, and promote cooperation among stakeholders across national borders. To date, 67 national governments, 139 international and civil society organizations, and 358 private-sector companies have signed up to the collaborative initiative.

Although we are surprised it has taken Huawei so long to sign up to the initiative, it is another incremental step in the pursuit to demonstrate its security credentials and build trust in the brand.

Even with this commitment from Huawei, you have to question how the UK can continue to be a member of the ‘Five Eyes’ alliance and work with the Chinese infrastructure vendor. The concept of the alliance is to align activities and this communique talks about managing risk individually but also about supporting the efforts of other partners.

It does appear the UK is attempting to have its cake and eat it too. We suspect there will be pressure on the newly-appointed Prime Minister Boris Johnson to fall into line before too long, and it will be interesting to see how the newly formed Cabinet manage expectations externally with international partners and internally with British telcos who rely on Huawei.

Huawei trolls the US by talking up Canadian 5G ambitions

Huawei has issued a press release talking up its great relationship with US neighbor and close ally Canada, especially when it comes to 5G.

The announcement was headlined: ‘Huawei doubles-down on Canadian investment and partnership with three major commitments’. The first is more of a commercial objective as Huawei said it will be launching a 5G smartphone in Canada before the end of the year. It also has the distinct added benefit of justifying statements like ‘Huawei brings 5G to Canada’, which is sure to antagonize the US.

The other two commitments were some kind of partner training programme that will train 1,000 Canadians in ICT and a donation of $100,000 towards Ottowa flood relief. The Ottowa river is inclined to burst its banks periodically and Huawei employs quite a few people there, so it’s also letting them take paid time off to help out when this happens.

“We are incredibly proud and humbled by the work we have accomplished in Canada over the last 10 years,” said Eric Li, President of Huawei Canada. “With a team of over 1,100 employees from coast to coast – 600 of whom are engineers – we have the best and the brightest Canadian minds and we will continue to invest in training for the Canadian marketplace. Canada is the home of Huawei 5G and we are working to ensure we remain at the forefront of 5G technology and development.”

That last sentence reads like blatant trolling to us. The US had repeatedly made it clear to its allies that thoroughly disapproves of any Huawei 5G presence in any of their networks so it would presumably feel highly triggered by this sort of thing. Huawei also issued statements by other execs talking about Canada, 5G and security as it’s divide-and-conquer counter-strategy shows no signs of relenting.

Huawei trolls the US by talking up Canadian 5G ambitions

Huawei has issued a press release talking up its great relationship with US neighbor and close ally Canada, especially when it comes to 5G.

The announcement was headlined: ‘Huawei doubles-down on Canadian investment and partnership with three major commitments’. The first is more of a commercial objective as Huawei said it will be launching a 5G smartphone in Canada before the end of the year. It also has the distinct added benefit of justifying statements like ‘Huawei brings 5G to Canada’, which is sure to antagonize the US.

The other two commitments were some kind of partner training programme that will train 1,000 Canadians in ICT and a donation of $100,000 towards Ottowa flood relief. The Ottowa river is inclined to burst its banks periodically and Huawei employs quite a few people there, so it’s also letting them take paid time off to help out when this happens.

“We are incredibly proud and humbled by the work we have accomplished in Canada over the last 10 years,” said Eric Li, President of Huawei Canada. “With a team of over 1,100 employees from coast to coast – 600 of whom are engineers – we have the best and the brightest Canadian minds and we will continue to invest in training for the Canadian marketplace. Canada is the home of Huawei 5G and we are working to ensure we remain at the forefront of 5G technology and development.”

That last sentence reads like blatant trolling to us. The US had repeatedly made it clear to its allies that thoroughly disapproves of any Huawei 5G presence in any of their networks so it would presumably feel highly triggered by this sort of thing. Huawei also issued statements by other execs talking about Canada, 5G and security as it’s divide-and-conquer counter-strategy shows no signs of relenting.

Rivals get Rogered in Canadian 600 MHz spectrum auction

Canada made 70 MHz of 600 MHz spectrum available nationally in a recent auction and Rogers got nearly half of it.

Low frequency spectrum such as this is especially handy in huge countries such as Canada due to its long range. Canada split the band, which covers 614-698 MHz including the guard band and duplex gap, into seven chunks of 10 MHz. Each of those in turn was divided into 16 regions, making 112 licenses in total. As you can see in the table below Rogers got 52 of those, dropping C$1.725 billion for the privilege.

Canada 600mhz auction

“We are proud to make leading and meaningful investments to build the 5G ecosystem in Canada and to help drive our country’s global competitive advantage,” said Joe Natale, CEO of Rogers Communications. “This 5G spectrum is a precious and scarce resource that will benefit Canadians and Canadian businesses across the country.”

It’s interesting that this is being positioned as 5G spectrum. Unlike millimetre wave, for example, there’s nothing uniquely 5G about low frequency spectrum, so we can only assume the Canadian government made the spectrum available on the condition that it’s used for 5G. Having said that the quote further down from Shaw appears to contradict that.

In distant second place in terms of spend was Telus. “The acquisition and deployment of this spectrum is critical to the advancement of our national 5G growth strategy and to the global-leading network quality, speed and coverage we provide to Canadians,” said Telus CEO Darren Entwistle. “As the demand for wireless data continues to grow, the acquisition of 600 MHz spectrum will enable Telus to deliver enhanced urban and rural connectivity to our customers on Canada’s fastest and most reliable network.”

Shaw Communications subsidiary Freedom Mobile seemed to get a good deal by paying half as much as Telus for more population coverage. “We have made significant investments to improve the wireless experience for Canadians, becoming a true alternative to the incumbents, with a differentiated value proposition,” said Brad Shaw, Shaw CEO. “The addition of this 600 MHz low band spectrum will not only vastly improve our current LTE service but will also serve as a foundational element of our 5G strategy providing innovative and affordable wireless services to Canadians for years to come.”

Conspicuously absent from the process was Bell, which seems to think it didn’t need any because it’s already sorted for low frequency spectrum. “Bell leverages each new generation of wireless network technology to drive renewed innovation and productivity growth, and with 5G we’ll take connectivity further than ever before with smart cities, connected vehicles and other revolutionary service advancements for both consumers and business users,” said Bell’s CTO Stephen Howe. “Bell looks forward to participating in upcoming federal auctions of the mid band 3500 MHz and high band millimetre wave spectrum that will be required to drive the Fifth Generation of wireless.”

So while Rogers got loads more licenses than anyone else, Freedom Mobile could be viewed at the big winner in terms of cost per population covered. According to Ovum’s WCIS Freedom only accounts for around 5% of Canadian mobile subscribers right now. Judging by the outcome of this auction it has ambitions to significantly increase that share in the 5G era.

Huawei lawyers-up in North America

Huawei’s CFO is suing Canada, while the company is also reportedly set to sue the US government.

While the US and Huawei kept their conflict muted during Mobile World Congress last week, they have wasted little time in picking up where they left off after that brief hiatus. Having said that there was widespread talk on the show floor last week that there were many representatives of the US government and other public institutions at the event, apparently canvassing for support.

Anyway, the BBC reports that last Friday Huawei’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou, filed a civil suit against Canada for breaching her civil rights when it arrested her late last year. The move coincided with the official commencement of her extradition process to the US, which wants to try her for a bunch of alleged crimes. Her case seems to rest on some perceived irregularities in the process by which she was arrested, but is probably part of a broader coordinated legal counter-attack by Huawei.

Meanwhile Huawei is also preparing to sue the US government, according to multiple reports, the first of which seems to have come from the New York Times. This suit is apparently unconnected to the latest US offensive, and concerns the much older ruling that banned US federal agencies from using Huawei products.

Once more, however, this would appear to be part of a greater legal push against the US by Huawei. In this case, by suing the US and therefore obliging it to defend itself, the cunning plan could be to bring specific allegations into the open, which Huawei could then refute. One of the biggest criticisms of the US war on Huawei has been a lack of specifics, so this seems like a plausible tactic.

At this stage it’s still really difficult to see how the war between the US and Huawei will play out. On one hand momentum seems to be against Huawei, with US allies feeling compelled to at least go through the motions of siding with it. On the other, if Huawei can publicly demonstrate that a significant proportion of the charges against it are unfounded, then maybe it can start to swing some Western public opinion its way. Either way both sides seem dug-in for a long conflict.

US starts to get twitchy over travel to China

The US Department of State has renewed its warning over citizens travelling to China over fears of retaliation following the arrest of Huawei’s CFO in Canada.

After Washington ordered the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada last month, China has seemingly retaliated with a spree of its own arrests. Reports suggest as many as 13 Canadians have been held in China, including former diplomat Michael Kovrig and consultant Michael Spavor. Reacting to the news, the US State Department has issued its own warning.

On the State Department website, the caution level has been raised to ‘Level Two’, suggesting citizens ‘exercise increased caution’ when visiting the country. ‘Level Three’ would see the government advising citizens to reconsider travel plans, while ‘Level Four’ suggests the country should be avoided.

“Exercise increased caution in China due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws as well as special restrictions on dual US-Chinese nationals,” the website states. “Chinese authorities have asserted broad authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China by using ‘exit bans,’ sometimes keeping US citizens in China for years.”

Despite the tension caused by the political conflict between Washington and Beijing, it does not appear to have affected the attitude of executives. Apple CEO Tim Cook has suggested he will not be revising his own plans to travel to China, though it would be tough to see the Chinese government holding Cook considering there are seemingly no grounds to do so. Apple is currently ignoring a ban on iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 sales in the country, thanks to the patent dispute with Qualcomm, but this seem like thin justification to arrest the CEO.

This international conflict is multi-faceted, but technology is one of the key components. Ultimately, the US wants to withstand the challenge the Chinese are making to Silicon Valley’s domination of the technology world and the benefits this brings the entire US economy. Despite these moves from the US State Department, experience suggests the Chinese will not make any drastic moves against the US; it has been much more measured and strategic in its approach to tackling the trade war to date than the White House has been.

That said, it would not surprise us if a couple of US citizens start appearing in jail cells either.

NZ and Canada decline to jump on the Huawei banned wagon

Despite the current fashion for banning Huawei among US allies, New Zealand and Canada have both indicated they may not play ball.

The Chinese kit vendor has been a pariah in the US for years, but more recently Australia decided to join in the fun and there have been rumours of other countries with close ties to the US following suit. But a couple of reports this week point towards a lack of unanimity on the part of ‘the west’ over this matter.

Reseller News spoke to Kiwi MP Andrew Little, who indicated his government is not convinced Huawei poses a security threat. “New Zealand develops its own, independent security policy based on inputs from a range of sources,” said Little. “As you’d expect with any change in technology of such significance as 5G, officials are considering whether the existing framework will remain fit-for-purpose in the new environment.”

While this appears to leave open the possibility that NZ might yet sanction Huawei, US neighbour Canada seems to be taking a more absolute stance. Earlier this week the Globe and Mail published a story with the following headline: ‘No need to ban Huawei in light of Canada’s robust cybersecurity safeguards, top official says’.

This is the verdict of Scott Jones, the head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, who reckons Canada is perfectly capable of working out for itself whether any technology presents security concerns.

“We have a very advanced relationship with our telecommunications providers, something that is different from most other countries to be honest from what I have seen,” Jones is reported as saying. “We have a program that is very deep in terms of working on increasing that broader resilience piece especially as we are looking at the next-generation telecommunications networks.”

Huawei is understandably keen to see these decisions reported as widely as the Australian one. It seems reasonable to assume that if enough US allies ban it from 5G infrastructure then it will become increasingly difficult for the rest not to follow suit. Europe has kept quiet on the matter and so long as countries like NZ and Canada decline to play ball Huawei might feel it’s on top of the damage limitation

Huawei claims first North American live FWA trial with Telus

Barred from the US, Chinese networking giant Huawei pointedly went north of the border to show everyone how it thinks fixed wireless access should be done.

Huawei is trying to coin the term ‘Wireless to the Home’ to describe its FWA, although its chosen abbreviation of WTTx seems deliberately designed to keep its options open. Either way FWA is generally expected to be one of the first commercial manifestations of 5G and Huawei isn’t about to let Ericsson and Nokia have things all their own way just because they’re allowed into the US and it isn’t.

This was ‘an end-to-end user trial for WTTx 5G service using a specially-designed 5G CPE (Customer Premise Equipment) unit,’ according to the release. It was conducted in partnership with Telus in Vancouver, specifically in a part of Vancouver that has been designated a ‘5G living lab’, which seems to consist of Telus employees.

“This trial represents continued progress toward the launch of 5G, as we start to replicate both the in-home experience and network footprint we will see when 5G becomes commercially available in the near future,” said Ibrahim Gedeon, CTO at Telus. “Wireless 5G services will generate tremendous benefits for consumers, operators, governments and more through the use of advanced IoT devices, big data applications, smart city systems and other technologies of the future.”

“Millimetre Wave technology will be an important tool in ensuring widespread deployment of 5G technology in Canada,” said Dr. Wen Tong, Huawei Fellow, and CTO of Huawei Wireless. “Huawei’s 5G solutions and terminals will enable 5G coverage over a neighbourhood or small community cost effectively, while providing more convenient and high-speed home broadband Internet access services. This friendly user trial will drive the global 3GPP unified 5G standard and build a solid foundation for the 5G early commercialization.”

This effort apparently builds on some trials the two companies did in the middle of last year. It used the 28 GHz spectrum band, and a massive 800 MHz of it, as well as groovy new technologies such as Massive MIMO, F-OFDM, and Polar Code. Huawei is clearly unhappy at its treatment by the US and it wouldn’t be surprising to see it up its investment in Canada to make a point.