Quality is king as network dependency grows

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Andy Burrell, Head of Digital Operations Marketing at Nokia, looks at best practice for ensuring network quality.

In the space of a few short weeks, the COVID-19 outbreak has reshaped the global business environment more effectively than any business calling themselves a “disruptor” could have ever imagined possible.

Businesses of all types had to either institute plans for remote working and access, or rapidly scale them up – reconfiguring business models essential to maintaining business continuity and stability. A challenge even with a steady, years-long roadmap for change. As transformation is catalysed, new technologies that may have been in the pipeline for years are now being looked at as an immediate priority.

For many enterprises, and their supporting communications service providers (CSPs), 5G is one of those key technologies. Some may already be advanced in their network rollout and are expanding their use, and some are now accelerating plans to adopt and integrate 5G into their businesses.

For both these types of organisation, the question of network quality definition and maintenance should be front of mind. Departing from how previous generations of connectivity were measured, with 5G, quality will be defined by the customer’s business requirements, not the network’s capabilities (or limitations). In short, it is market driven not technology driven and is about connecting the network to the business. To deliver the service and network quality demanded by enterprise customers, CSPs must first rethink their definition of “quality” — and fundamentally reimagine their 5G network operations.

Guaranteed quality SLAs with network slicing 

An end-to-end 5G network delivers on throughput, reliability and latency and different use cases will demand different mixes of these elements. For example, an engineer’s VR headset may require high throughput, very low latency but only a medium level of reliability, whereas a network controlling an autonomous drone may need low throughout, low latency and high reliability. To accommodate this variety a 5G network can be sliced into segments tuned to a specific use case. A network can be sliced into hundreds or even thousands of virtual networks, each with its own custom quality SLA requirements.

Enterprises that rely on 5G for their business operations will not tolerate “best effort” approaches and will expect CSPs to deliver guaranteed quality, in other words a ‘committed SLA’. Alongside these multiple use cases which businesses currently rely on, and those yet to come, 5G networks will also incorporate legacy infrastructure in a hybrid network and will, for example, work alongside 4G (LTE networks) which have been around much longer and have wider coverage. Tracking these and ensuring a CSP delivers on multiple SLAs at once is too great a task for operations teams relying on manual processes.

Transform operations to transform service

With one of the main benefits of 5G being its reliability, it’s no surprise to recognise that the service level agreements enterprises expect from CSPs can include guarantees of as much as “six nines” (99.9999%) uptime — and steep penalties for not delivering on those guarantees. That’s a radical departure from the “best effort” approach. However, this is only supportable with CSPs who have highly tuned operations capabilities.

The multiple use cases, legacy technology and strict SLAs create a new complexity which means quality assurance must go beyond mere network “health checks” and become a fully integrated operational function. This means, effectively, the operations function needs to shift to match new, stricter, customer expectations. Making sure their needs and expectations are met and CSPs can properly control quality across a hybrid network and diverse range of 5G use cases, network and service assurance needs to be holistic and end-to-end, supported by automation and artificial intelligence.

At the foundational level, CSPs should be utilising AI and machine learning to accelerate root cause analysis (RCA) and service impact analysis (SIA). The immediate benefits to operations teams are clear – for example with Nokia’s Assurance Center we have seen a 90% reduction in alarm management using AI-based filtering and correlation, with 30% of issues being resolved automatically without human intervention.

Tapping into an AI ecosystem can also bring the benefit of lessons learned across multiple companies and CSPs. Nokia’s own experience with CSPs using its AVA Cognitive Services bears this out. For instance, these lessons contributed the operations that delivered 75 per cent greater data speeds for Hutchinson 3 in Indonesia.

With the disruption caused by COVID-19, Nokia has been hearing from CSPs and enterprises around the world on the challenges they face. As a result of the disruption caused by COVID-19, CSPs and enterprises have changed their managed service offer for operations to ensure the new pressures on networks, and operations teams, are mitigated. We have seen a demand for these advanced operations services now, in times of stress, and believe the future will fuel further demand for this sort of operations capabilities longer term.

CSPs can help keep their networks running by partnering with a managed services provider on business continuity planning (also called contingency planning). With this approach, the alarm monitoring in the CSP’s NOC is shadowed by and mirrored in the managed services provider’s delivery centres. In case of an outage, the managed services provider can use hot-standby switchover processes to step in and take over fault and performance management on a temporary basis — or even take on the full scope of operations, including expanding network capacity to cope with increased traffic.

Shifting patterns of use in both fixed and mobile networks have been stark in recent weeks. The changes have forced a change in transformation plans and timescales. With other elements of business practice and process in flux, it’s vital the communications infrastructure is as dependable as possible. Transforming CSP operations for the world of 5G is the only way to deliver on this new quality expectation.

 

Andy is responsible for Nokia’s Global Services marketing.  After more than 25 years in the telecoms industry he remains fascinated by the possibilities of technology, in particular the potential of 5G and Artificial Intelligence to transform networks, operations and business.  He loves to use his various devices to keep up with social media, news, and above all, the football results. Finally realizing that the phone call from Arsenal FC was never going to come, he has given up playing and now prefers to watch his kids chase their own dreams from the side of the pitch.  Tweet me @andyburrell or connect via http://linkedin.com/in/andrewburrell

European MVNO group Lebara picks Openet cloud charging platform

Irish BSS vendor Openet has chalked up a nice win with MVNO Lebara to sort out its charging systems in five European countries, including the UK.

This gig is all about the cloud, it seems with Openet’s Evolved Charging Suite residing in the AWS cloud and being managed by Rackspace. Openet is one of the BSS vendors most invested in concepts like digital transformation and ‘cloud native’ so this win would appear to be a vindication of that approach.

“The cloud-native charging system from Openet gives us so much flexibility in how we develop, rate and monetise services,” said Lebara CTO Torsten Minkwitz. “This, combined with our passion to deliver an amazing customer experience, will provide Lebara with a platform for growth.”

“We’re honoured that Lebara has selected Openet to provide real-time charging for its business in Europe,” said Paul Saunders, GVP of Sales at Openet. “The investment we made in re-designing our software to be truly cloud-native is paying off as our partners, like Lebara, will benefit from significant efficiency gains and cost savings that can be made by embracing cloud-native technologies. Openet looks forward to a long and successful relationship with Lebara and AWS.”

“We look forward to working with Lebara and Openet to help both companies leverage the value of the cloud and microservices based architecture so that Lebara can bring new products to market faster, introduce new business models, and deliver excellent customer experience while reducing its IT operating costs,” said Kyle Lichtenberg, Worldwide Partner Technology Lead at AWS.

That, of course, is what this obsession with the cloud is all about – speed and flexibility. MVNOs tend to focus on the pay-as-you-go market, which is more volatile and experiences higher churn. Since the basic underlying costs are similar for all of them, some of the best opportunities for differentiation would appear to be through tariff and charging innovation of the kind this software is designed to enable.

A look back at this week’s biggest stories

Whether it’s important, depressing or just entertaining, the telecoms industry is always one which attracts attention.

Here are the stories we think are worth a second look at this week:


Huawei gets the green light for £1 billion Cambridge R&D centre

Cambridge City Council has officially given Huawei permission to construct a 50,000 sq. meter R&D centre to focus on optoelectronics, serving as the international HQ for the segment.

Full story here


Most Brits reckon contact tracing data will be misused but will provide it regardless

Identity software company Okta has surveyed a bunch of people in the UK and found that we’re among the most willing to provide location data to help fight COVID-19.

Full story here


Internet use inevitably spikes in lockdown Britain

Average daily time spent online by UK adults topped four hours for the first time in April of this year, with much of the country compelled to stay at home coz of coronavirus.

Full story here


T-Mobile backtracks on California merger commitments after 12 weeks

It might have taken 653 days for the T-Mobile and Sprint merger to be approved in the US, but it has only taken 84 for the Magenta Army to ditch its promise to the Californian regulator.

Full story here


Nokia set to cut over 1,000 jobs at Alcatel Lucent

Finnish kit vendor Nokia is going to cut 1,233 jobs at its Alcatel-Lucent subsidiary in France as part of its continued search for profitability.

Full story here


FCC urges US telcos not to cut-off the poor

On June 30, the pledge to keep the US connected will end, with millions of citizens potentially facing a digital void unless bills are paid.

Full story here


 

NTT buys 5% NEC stake to add more momentum to ‘open’ ecosystem

NTT has announced a joint research programme with NEC, while also purchasing a 5% stake in the network infrastructure vendor.

Some might suggest the ‘open’ movement is receiving a disproportionate amount of attention, there are limited OpenRAN trials compared to the market hype, however this latest move from NTT adds more credibility to the foundations of the ecosystem.

The research initiative will focus on creating open architectures, such as OpenRAN, as well as supercharging NTT’s IOWN initiative, a programme to create network solutions based on photonic technology (lasers, fibre-optics etc.). This new venture will also give the pair an opportunity to sell new products, for example, a Digital Signal Processing (DSP) circuit, as well as optical transmission equipment incorporating this DSP circuit.

These technologies might only be the tip of the iceberg, with NEC promising the venture will also work with global telecoms operators and communication equipment vendors to develop products based on the O-RAN Alliance specifications.

Alongside this research venture, NEC has also announced NTT will purchase 13,023,600 shares of NEC’s common stock, which roughly equates to a stake of 4.8%. Like Rakuten, NTT is seemingly betting on the eventual success of the ‘open’ ecosystem but acquiring a stake in NEC also affords the telecoms operator some influence in the product development roadmap.

This is a very interesting development, as while research ventures are valuable to the community, this is also a market of credibility to the ‘open’ ecosystem; the more telecoms operators who are bought in, the more viable the ecosystem looks.

While there is certainly potential for the ‘open’ ecosystem, some might suggest the hype vastly outweighs the reality. This would surprise few, as the ability to hype a technology seems to be somewhat of a speciality for the telecoms industry.

Japan’s Rakuten would be the most prominent example of OpenRAN being implemented, but there are also trials at Vodafone, O2, MTN and Telefonica, while Dish in the US is keeping a keen eye on developments. In Germany, Mavenir recently announced it had completed trials with Deutsche Telekom for a containerized 5G Core solution.

There is progress being made in this space, but perhaps it should be placed in perspective. This is an embryonic ecosystem, still finding its feet. When we asked Telecoms.com readers when they thought OpenRAN would be market ready, the results were quite interesting:

  • 14% – it is ready right now
  • 8% – 2021
  • 26% – 2022
  • 37% – 2023 or beyond
  • 15% – it never will be

It does appear the majority are looking at the technologies with a sense of realism, but then again there is a healthy amount of scepticism. When asked who would win the RAN battle in LATAM, only 6% selected OpenRAN. 59% believed Huawei would prosper the most in the region, while 20% put their faith in Ericsson.

The shift in priorities for network infrastructure is a healthy move for the industry. It creates additional competition, and by removing the prospect of ‘vendor lock-in’ it opens the door for more innovation.

Such progress should be put in suitable context, however; let’s not get too excited just yet. That said, the more telecoms operators who dive in, like NTT has done here, the more credible the ‘open’ ecosystem looks to others.

For operators who transform, the remedy for revenue is already in sight

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Sajan Joy Thomas, Vice President – Product Office at Tecnotree, reviews the many ways operators can innovate to boost their bottom line.

Communications Service Providers (CSPs) have been accused of being averse to change and there’s a common and prevailing perception that innovation isn’t typically at the forefront of telecom Providers’ minds. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is currently showcasing how network capabilities are enabling millions of businesses to sustain communications services and productivity. Service Providers were largely well equipped to meet the 30% to 40% increase in bandwidth demand on their networks as millions of employees and students became home-bound. But how can CSPs continue to evolve and quickly deliver the communication services that enterprises expect while also increasing revenue?

Making Digital Self Onboarding a reality

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about the increased need to become fully Digital. A key service, to help maintain and even increase market share, is to provide Digital Self Onboarding. This marks a significant shift from the traditional way of onboarding customers.

In order to identify the gaps that should be addressed both technologically and behaviourally in an efficient and effective manner, Providers need to start mapping their current business processes in order to realise the vision of Digital Self Onboarding. Technological capabilities will need to be built or enhanced in the Operator’s ecosystem. The complexity associated with monolithic BSS/OSS systems with siloed product catalogues and complex purchase processes needs to be broken down to microservices based architecture, where each service will have a specific domain area to be addressed, in order to deliver an end to end Business Journey.

Operators will also have to embrace an Agile methodology in their operational processes and accordingly define priorities of the Business Journey that they would want to address one by one. As part of the prioritisation process, each Business Journey has to consider how it will make an impact to the customer’s life with improved customer experience and customer lifetime value and accordingly look at a way to evolve this with least disruption to the services offered including its technological impact.

Chatbots adding value and not frustration

Consumers have traditionally been resistant to Chatbots but there is an increasing openness from customers to this technology as long as it enhances the overall experience. Chatbots traditionally checked balances and purchased add-on services. For true customer acceptance it’s essential that bots evolve into the central channel for all customer engagements and interactions – replacing more than 90% of the need to call a contact centre.

But for this to work bots need to become more intuitive and include all the lifestyle applications that the customer is looking for, show personalised features and offer recommendations along with proactive notifications to address any potential issues or escalations that the customer may have.

Chatbots can be used to continuously collect data from customers and accordingly build intelligence using Machine Learning models to process the customer data that is collected through these interactions as well as various other sources.

Though Chatbots may not be able to completely eliminate the need for human interactions, with added intelligence to the application, they can handle most of the service and support queries, perform accounting and purchase transactions and detect the mood of the customer which it can then handover to a human resource if needed. By using Chatbots, operators can provide 24/7 support to its customers in a cost-efficient manner and proactively engage with the customer.

Streamlining billing and payments for your customers

Billing systems are typically designed to generate invoices for customers at the end of the billing cycle, which include an accumulation of amounts such as one-time charges, subscription fees and credit adjustments.

By automating many of the manual activities associated with the bill-run which are time and resource consuming – the billing process can be streamlined. However, there must be a mechanism to provide complete visibility of all transactions generated for the customer on a daily basis to enable thorough understanding of spends and take appropriate measures to manage account balances.

This will allow customers to make advance payments if necessary and keep certain specific type of services continuously active without any disruption. The operator can also set-up a Digital Wallet within their ecosystem to aggregate all forms of currencies and units available across different sources for the customer and use that as a form of payment method in order to pay for all types of services or bills.

Combining traditional and cloud services into one convergent bill

Another key challenge that both customers and operators are facing is to produce a convergent bill for all the services subscribed to by the customer.

It’s extremely difficult to keep track of multiple bills based on multiple bill cycles for multiple products subscribed from the same Provider or Provider’s Partner products. Producing a convergent bill, from a consumer perspective, makes life easier by having only one billing cycle, with all charges consolidated in a single bill thus allowing the customer to have a single view of all services and payments either based on the complete outstanding or on the services that the customer would want to continue to use.

Bundling services to facilitate partnerships

Operators traditional revenue streams have declined or remained stagnant. They must find other sources for increasing revenues by engaging with complementing partners with whom they can share revenues and help increase both customer base and ARPU.

Acquiring other companies, or making strategic alliances, offers another way to provide added value. Taking a customer-focused transformation, alongside strategic development (or acquisition) of new capabilities, CSPs can adapt and meet the demands of their customers.

Is 5G the solution?

Staying digitally connected has never been more important. There is an increasing demand to provide dedicated bandwidth for specific enterprise needs that requires higher Quality of Service (QoS).

This in turn calls for a need to have higher bandwidth and higher capabilities on the network, including network slicing in order to provide the right QoS. While the 5G network is expected to support large data and address the limitations from earlier generation networks, it’s for the operator to perform continuous monitoring of service assurance for latency and availability on the entire network. Enterprises subscribing to these 5G services would be highly dependent on the network capabilities in order to execute their services to users and many of the critical services envisioned to be provided along with 5G will need critical proactive monitoring of capacity and seamless availability.

Staying Relevant

It is important for operators to deliver the communication services that matter for enterprises, increase revenues and improve customer experience.

Ultimately, it’s a focus on customer experience that will determine whether or not CSPs can stay relevant. Developing more personalised and holistic experiences with data-led tech will help. This way, they’re improving the delivery of customer service – and how those customers feel about it. CSPs need to transform to thrive. The key differentiator is customer experience. Those Providers who are able to build new services around the customer, unlocking data to provide seamless, personalised experiences, will find themselves best positioned for success while increasing revenue.

 

Sajan has over 19 years of expertise in business and digital transformation, as well as experience in solution architecture & design, delivery management and operations. He has developed and implemented a variety of business application solutions using industry standard practices across various sectors. Sajan has spent 16 years in the OSS/BSS domain of the telecoms landscape including in wireless, wireline, TV, broadband and multi play.

A look back at this weeks biggest stories

Whether it’s important, depressing or just entertaining, the telecoms industry is always one which attracts attention.

Here are the stories we think are worth a second look at this week:


China raises the Huawei stakes by charging two Canadians with spying

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been imprisoned for 18 months and have only been charged after the Huawei CFO lost her extradition appeal.

Full story here.


White House pressure reportedly forces Huawei into flagship smartphone delay

Rumours have emerged to suggest Huawei has asked suppliers to halt production of components as it assesses the damage inflicted by political tension.

Full story here


Deutsche Telekom vaults itself forward in the 5G race

In what should be described as somewhat of a slow burner, Deutsche Telekom has made the bold claim it will be able to connect 50% of its population to 5G by mid-July.

Full story here


Softbank confirms it is exploring sale of T-Mobile US stake

Japanese telecoms operator Softbank has confirmed it is exploring options to offload its stake in T-Mobile US as COVID-19 weighs very heavily on other investments.

Full story here


Ericsson raises its 2020 global 5G subscriptions forecast due to China

The latest version of the Ericsson Mobility Report reckons global 5G subscriptions will reach 190 million by the end of 2020, due to faster than expected Chinese uptake.

Full story here


WhatsApp launches digital payments platform in Brazil

Social media giant Facebook has made the first tentative steps towards the digital payment environment with its WhatsApp messaging platform in Brazil.

Full story here


 

TM Forum gets a bunch of operators to sign up to its Open Digital Architecture

BT, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica, and Telenor are among 11 new signatories to a scheme designed to cloudify BSS and OSS and provide standardized, open software components.

Vendors joining the signing fun today include Nokia, Amdocs, Oracle and Netcracker, so this looks like a fairly broad initiative. TM Forum is all about BSS/OSS, digital transformation and open APIs, so this looks like a fairly core project for the organization. It is consistent with the broader trend of cloudifying the component parts of telecoms networks in order to introduce greater efficiency and flexibility.

“With the new major service providers and suppliers signing the manifesto for change announced today, TM Forum members are transforming IT and operations to be fit for the 2020s,” said Nik Willetts, CEO, TM Forum. “The momentum building to collaboratively deliver the Open Digital Architecture is the software market foundation our industry deserves, instead of sinking resources into maintenance and integration of customized legacy solutions that are blocking agility and innovation.”

“As we shift to the infrastructure-agnostic cloud native IT architecture needed to underpin a multi-service operator like Orange, it’s imperative that we are able to invest in the things which make a difference rather than spending millions of euros in integrating again and again legacy solutions and customization,” said Thierry Souche, Group Chief Information Officer at Orange Lab Services, who doesn’t seem to be one of the newbies.

“The Open Digital Architecture offers a modern approach and the standards required for the industry to thrive, avoiding rigid, complex customized solutions. This is not about commoditization of IT software. It’s about freeing us to focus on delivering new and differentiated services.”

“Telco operators are evolving from a traditional mindset to truly embrace modern ways of working,” said Enrique Blanco, Chief Technology and Information Officer, Telefónica Group. “The Open Digital Architecture is a true enabler to accelerate this digital transformation, allowing limitless scaling and multi-tenancy while remaining agnostic to the choice of underlying compute platform. This architecture paves the way to leverage cost-effectiveness, flexibility and scalability avoiding infrastructure lock-in while embracing true continuous integration and continuous deployment cycles.”

“Telecom networks and the supporting business, operations and experience systems are rapidly changing to one that is software-based, automated, intelligent, and customer- and experience-centric,” said Bhaskar Gorti, President of Nokia Software and Nokia Chief Digital Officer. “In short, a network architecture that gives CSPs many new opportunities and use cases, like network slicing, that allow them to better serve their customers. And those endpoints are what we are driving towards with the announcement today.”

“TM Forum represents a strong voice for the industry, defining standards that drive both agility and openness – two essential characteristics required for great customer experience and strong industry economics,” said Gary Miles, Chief Marketing Officer at Amdocs. “In an era of continuous development and integration, having open APIs and IT interoperability is critical to a dynamic and vibrant IT landscape – bringing service providers speed and optionality.”

TM Forum likes to stress the collaborative nature of its initiatives by getting people to sign a manifesto, which gives things a jarringly political character, but each to their own. If you would like to man the barricades during the BSS/OSS revolution then you can sign up to the manifesto here. Power to the people!

Microsoft fleshes out its mission to combat COVID-19 impact

Microsoft has not been shy regarding its work to ensure customers can continue to operate through this unforeseen period, and now it has offered more detail.

Like every cloud computing company or telecoms operator, Microsoft had to deal with a significant spike in demand as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted operations all over the world. The shift in working practices has thrust cloud to the forefront of every IT decision maker worth their salt, and should networks remain resilient during this period, this shift is more likely to remain permanent.

“This was a real-time moving event, and people needed to make decisions hour by hour and minute by minute,” Gary Bird, a Principal Program Manager for Microsoft Power Platform said. “You really saw the whole company lean in across all fronts to make solutions happen.”

Before offering too much of a congratulations to Microsoft alone, it is worth noting that all players in the cloud segment seemingly stepped up to the plate. Business operations were of course disrupted because of this pandemic, however investments which have been taking place in the data centre and cloud space over the last few years ensured these interruptions were managed.

To deal with the increase in demand, Microsoft’s Azure Wide Area Network team added 110 terabits of capacity to its fibre optic cable networks, as well as 12 new sites that connect the network to infrastructure owned by local internet providers. The team also moved its own internal Azure workloads to avoid demand peaks.

The preparedness of the major cloud players, such as Google and AWS alongside Microsoft, has not only ensured the economy could continue to function in some semblance of normality during this period, but it has perhaps also encouraged renewed enthusiasm for digital transformation programmes.

In a poll to Telecoms.com readers, 50% of respondents said they expect to continue the current home working dynamic in the long-term but would have to check into the office once or twice a week, while 34% said employees would be given the option to work as they please. Only 6% said their organisation is still not convinced by the benefits of remote working.

Although it is difficult to discuss benefits and positives to come from the COVID-19 outbreak, it does appear the vast majority of businesses have had their eyes opened to digital transformation. But it is always worth remembering that this catalyst for the cloud computing segment would not be if not for the resilience and performance of networks during this period.

Data forecasts indicate 4G is far from dead and buried

With 5G euphoria reaching fever pitch at times, the on-going importance of 4G networks is often overlooked.

Ericsson’s most recent Mobility Report has given 5G a positive spin in light of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, with the team revising forecasts upwards. China is driving 5G adoption, with Ericsson believing there will be more than 190 million subscriptions by the end of 2020, but it is the data consumption which is another interesting element of this story.

“Populous markets that launch 5G early are likely to lead traffic growth over the forecast period,” the report states. “By 2025, we expect that 45% of total mobile data traffic will be carried by 5G networks.”

45% might seem like a big number considering the world will still predominantly be on 4G connectivity tariffs as opposed to 5G (2.8 billion versus 4.4 billion), but there are a few other elements of this story worth bearing in mind.

Firstly, 5G-specific applications will consume more data than anything we have seen before. Dean Bubley of Disruptive Wireless pointed out that improved video codecs & better screens for new devices will automatically increase data consumption, in addition to the data-intensive applications which will be built for 5G. Bubley is actually surprised the 5G data consumption compared to 4G is not higher.

Another interesting element to consider for 5G data consumer is the adoption of fixed wireless access (FWA) services in the home broadband market.

Although the technology is not forecast to follow the same exponential trend, there is certainly a usecase for wireless home broadband solutions.

Many will tell you the FWA alternative does not have legs in terms of replacing fixed broadband connectivity, but that does not mean there is not a business case. Should Governments take a ‘outcome based’ approach to delivering the digital economy as opposed to the ‘technology based’ approach, FWA should certainly be considered in the mix, as long as the endgame is ubiquitous fibre networks.

It’s about managing this evolution in a financially sustainable manner. For the rural environments where ROI is more difficult to achieve, and perhaps the demand is not necessarily there for heavy-duty fibre infrastructure, FWA could act as a temporary measure to satisfy increased data appetites in the mid-term, but also providing necessarily flexibility for telecoms operators.

Should 5G catch on as a delivery technology for FWA, as it is forecast to by many, data consumption will increase rapidly. Data in the home is consumed in a much more aggressive fashion than via mobile networks, especially when you consider most mobile devices are handed over to a wifi router when the user enters the home.

These are two ideas which would suggest the forecasts of 5G versus 4G data could be conservative, certainly in more developed markets, but there are other complications to consider which gives credibility to the case that 4G should not be forgotten.

In markets such as the US, where Ericsson is forecasting 5G adoption of 74% in 2025, access to mid-band spectrum is key. One would hope the mid-band conundrum has been satisfied by this point, the FCC is spearheading several initiatives to fill the void, but it would surprise few if bureaucracy complicated matters and forced delays.

mmWave, which is being used in the US currently for 5G, has its limitations, most notably woeful coverage. The deployment of 5G networks is costly and time consuming, especially in a market as vast and geographically varied as the US. 4G coverage will be critical to fill in the 5G ‘not spots’ for years, if not decades, to come.

Dean Bubley of Disruptive Wireless also suggest indoor coverage could be an issue for 5G, forcing devices back onto 4G connectivity.

“For enterprises, most existing indoor wireless coverage systems are not suitable for 5G. Few building owners will pay for MNOs to upgrade the ‘signal-sources’ feeding the distributed antennas,” Bubley said.

“In any case, they can’t support 5G mmWave or in many cases even the 3.6 GHz band. Those frequencies won’t penetrate into many homes either. While some MNOs will use dynamic refarming of <1GHz spectrum for 4G and 5G to give outdoor-to-indoor coverage, for most users the indoor mobile experience will remain on 4G – or more likely WiFi – for many years.”

These are two notable elements for the case for 4G.

While there is certainly excitement regarding the deployment of 5G networks, it is always important to remember 4G connectivity needs attention as well.

The deployment of 4G networks is certainly not finished in some developed markets, let alone the developing markets. It can still serve a purpose and considering the delays in some 5G spectrum auctions around the world during this period of coronavirus disruption, its important role in society has been prolonged.

This is perhaps a timely reminder for those who need it; 4G is as important today as it was in yesteryear. 5G might attract the headlines as the ‘sexy’ connectivity sibling, but it is far from the only network worth considering.

Apple finds itself staring into the eye of a European antitrust storm

Otherwise known as Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition has been making life uncomfortable for Silicon Valley residents, and now its Apple’s turn.

As of June 16, Apple will find itself at the centre of two European Commission antitrust investigations. While the iGiant is no stranger to regulatory and legal scrutiny, these competition probes can prove to be very expensive for those founds on the wrong side of right. Just ask Google, who has been the recipient of almost €6 billion in fines over two years, or Qualcomm, where its most recent fine from the EC was €242 million.

The two inquiries focus on the Apple Pay service and App Store, with the EC investigating whether Apple has been abusing market power when it comes to working with developers.

“It appears that Apple sets the conditions on how Apple Pay should be used in merchants’ apps and websites” Vestager said of Apple Pay. “It also reserves the ‘tap and go’ functionality of iPhones to Apple Pay. It is important that Apple’s measures do not deny consumers the benefits of new payment technologies, including better choice, quality, innovation and competitive prices.”

For the App Store probe, Vestager seemingly believes that by only allowing iPhone and iPad users to download apps from the App Store but forcing developers to Apple’s own proprietary in-app purchase system, is an unfair application of market power. Vestager is also curious as to why Apple does not allow developers from informing users about alternative purchasing possibilities, which are usually cheaper, in the apps.

The question with both investigations is whether Apple is distorting fair market competition through simultaneously making the rules and playing the game.

Both Spotify and Rakuten have questioned whether Apple should be allowed to charge a 30% commission to developers monetizing apps and content through the App Store, but also offer an alternative service. Theoretically, Spotify and Rakuten would have to increase prices to remain profitable in compensation for the commission, while would allow Apple to undercut these as it does not have to take this 30% commission into account.

The separate investigation which is looking into Apple Pay is not quite as complicated. Apple devices have Near Field Communications (NFC) payment capabilities, but only for Apple Pay. This means traditional banks or alternative payment services are not available to Apple’s customers.

It has been reported that Apple receives 0.15% commission for every payment made through Apple Pay.

The German Parliament has already attempted to right this wrong, passing a law which would force Apple to open up to alternative digital payment service providers. Apple is still resisting, complaining that opening-up would impact user friendliness, but it appears the first blows have been dealt.


Which digital payments segment is likely to be the most popular?

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