Germany frees up the whole of C-Band for 5G and the GSMA approves, sort of

The German government has decided to make the entire 3.4-3.8 GHz band available for 5G use, which is a good idea.

For 5G to do its thing, it needs big chunks of continuous spectrum to ‘fatten the pipe’. Piecemeal auctions of 3.4-3.8 GHz spectrum (otherwise known as C-Band) such as we had in the UK earlier this year, are not as useful as offering up the whole lot in one go. The eventual outcome may end up being the same, but the whole process is a lot more complicated.

This decision has been met with approval by the mobile industry trade association, the GSMA. “The C-Band is the most vital frequency band for 5G,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. “Germany is demonstrating 5G leadership in the timely release of this vital spectrum, but risks undercutting its 5G future with unnecessary obligations. Spectrum is a limited resource and it must be used and managed as efficiently as possible to ensure a 5G future that will benefit all.”

Among the GSMA’s regulatory gripes are proposed coverage obligations for 3.6 GHz spectrum, which it says disregard the laws of physics. Since the time of Isaac Newton this had been frowned on by polite society and the GSMA has chosen to use this emotive concept to point out what short range these high frequencies have.

They do seem to have a point here. 5G is all about capacity and surely coverage obligations can be left to earlier generations in the short term and 5G over lower frequencies in the long term. As characterized by the GSMA this stipulation seems to be gratuitous, counter-productive and a classic example of regulation for the hell of it.

Other than that there are some inevitable whinges about roaming obligations and high reserve prices for the auction. In the latter case we have sympathy for the GSMA position as any attempt by the German government to push up the price of spectrum is a blatant cash grab and an indirect tax on mobile subscribers.

Germany reportedly mulls Chinese kit vendor ban for 5G

Germany is the latest ‘western’ country rumoured to be thinking of prohibiting Huawei and ZTE from its participating in its 5G infrastructure.

This is according to a report from Reuters, which claims to have spoken to senior German officials who are planning a last-ditch drive to persuade the government to ban Chinese firms from getting involved in its 5G roll out on national security grounds. The report sounds slightly sceptical that any such efforts will succeed, but the mere fact that they’re giving it a go must be of grave concern to Huawei et al.

“There is serious concern,” one of these anonymous senior German officials told Reuters. “If it were up to me we would do what the Australians are doing.” They are, of course, referring to the decision made by the Australian government back in August to rule out any foreign vendors it thinks might be subject to governmental interference – a clear reference to China.

This seems to be part of a broader drive to have more of a conversation around 5G security in Germany than is currently taking place. Huawei, of course, has insisted that nothing is more important to it than security, but it must be pretty concerned that these stories keep coming up. Even if no ban takes place this sort of thing must compromise the trading environment for Chinese vendors, who will presumably have to go to greater lengths to prove themselves than the likes of Nokia and Ericsson.

Speak to the right people and Africa is about much more than just the digital divide

Yesteryear’s conversation in Africa was all about balancing the commercial realities of bridging the digital divide, but this year’s AfricaCom has showcased the bigger ambitions of South Africa.

Perhaps we haven’t been giving the right people the podium in the past, but the conversation in Africa has always been focused on the same thing. How do you deliver connectivity to the masses on a continent which has significantly lower ARPU than more developed regions? While this is still a priority, this year’s AfricaCom conference is demonstrating there are bigger ambitions than simply enhancing coverage.

Yesterday we heard MTN’s ambitions to create a more agile organization which operates in the OTT space and can be branded as a digital services beast, and this morning’s presentations had a smart city twist. It might seem odd that we’re discussing such advanced ideas when basic connectivity is an issue, but why not? If Africa is going to compete in the digital era these conversations need to happen now, and these individuals need to be given their time in the limelight. The smart city segment in South Africa is an excellent example.

Looking at Cape Town, Omeshnee Naidoo, the city’s Director of Information Systems, told the audience the city has a fibre spine 1000km long but the project is still at the starting gate. The infrastructure rollout is set to finish in 2021, while the team has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Google to provide public wifi. The next step is figuring out how the initiative can now incorporate the citizens.

Johannesburg is in a similar position. Lawrence Boya, the smart city Director, said the city also has a fibre spine 1000km long, and currently more than 1500 public wifi spots. The challenge now is optimising the infrastructure and making sure government services are making use of the assets not going down the private route. Boya also highlighted the team are trying to figure out how to take the concept of smart cities down to a personal level for the citizens.

In both of these examples, steady progress is being made and the idea of the smart city might not be that far away. More government help is needed, both from a policy side as Boya highlighted South Africa currently lacks the framework to make smart cities sustainable, but also collaboration. Naidoo suggested public sector across the board in South Africa is far too siloed. To be fair to some local governments however, data sets have been opened up to the general public, providing the fuel for these new ideas.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to be honest, but perhaps we are guilty of pigeon holing Africa. Too many people, and admittedly Telecoms.com does this too often, suggest the only challenges in Africa are focused on expanding the connectivity footprint. This is patronising and ignores the excellent work which is happening further up the stack. It’s not the case that these initiatives are difficult to find, but maybe we need to give them more airtime instead of taking the easy ‘Africa needs to improve connectivity’ angle.

Telecom Italia kicks out CEO Amos Genish

In one of the least surprising board room purges ever, Telecom Italia (or TIM for short) has got rid of its CEO Amos Genish.

“TIM’s Board of Directors met today and deliberated by a majority vote to revoke with immediate effect all powers conferred to Director Amos Genish, giving mandate to the Chairman to resolve further obligations in relation to the existing working relationship with Genish,” said a TIM announcement today.

“In accordance with the succession plan for Executive Directors adopted by TIM, the proxies revoked to Director Amos Genish were provisionally assigned to the Chairman of the Board. The Chairman of the Nomination and Remuneration Committee has called for a meeting of the latter, in compliance with its responsibility in identifying the new CEO.

“A new meeting of the Board of Directors to appoint a new CEO was convened for November 18. The Board of Directors thanks Amos Genish for the work done in the interest of the Company and all its stakeholders in these fourteen months of intense activity.”

The removal of Genish had seemed inevitable since investor group Elliott won a battle with French conglomerate Vivendi, for control of the TIM board room, back in May of this year. Genish had previously been installed as CEO while Vivendi was still calling the shots, but after winning control Elliott made all the right noises about Genish having their full confidence.

This always seemed somewhat tenuous, with Genish’s loyalties presumably under suspicion and him providing at the very least a convenient scapegoat as and when things took a bad turn at the company. That came to pass last week when TIM said it was writing down the value of its assets by €2 billion and exacerbated by a disagreement between Genish and the board over what to do about TIM’s fixed line network.

Rumours emerged early this week that Genish’s days were numbered and that the board was about to convene a special meeting to agree on his demise. Hilariously TIM issued statements to the press denying such a thing was going to happen just a day or two before it did. TIM has a rich history of deceptive press communications but this outright lie was shameless even by its standards.

“This is a shock,” Analyst Paolo Pescatore of Midia Research told Telecoms.com. “However, ongoing turmoil at the company continues to drag it down. The company is very well placed given its assets and early move to secure a leadership position in 5G. Further tussles will hand its fierce rivals a competitive edge.”

So what next? Elliott apparently has less than a week to come up with an alternative CEO that will do its bidding and the remaining Vivendi board members will presumably oppose whoever they put forward. Above everything else, however, this is another opportunity to finally appoint a CEO whose first name is Tim. Surely everyone can agree on the importance of that.

Intel brings forward launch of 5G modem in bid to silence doubters

Apple’s decision to go all-in on Intel modems comes with a lot of pressure, so Intel is desperate to convince us it’s up to the task.

A week ago reports appeared to confirm that Apple’s first 5G phones will come in 2020 and will exclusively use Intel modems. Telecoms.com was among the commentators asking whether or not this would turn out to be a rash decision by Apple, with rival Qualcomm expected to be ahead in the 5G modem race.

Intel seems to have taken this scepticism as a personal challenge and has consequently announced it will now be launching it more than half a year sooner than previously thought. The Intel XM 8160 5G modem will now be released into the wild in the second half of 2019, although there’s nothing in the announcement to indicate it will power an iPhone that soon, with the September 2020 models still the likely recipients.

In fact Intel says the earliest you will see it in devices is in the first half of 2020, which does beg the question of whether this ‘bringing forward’ of the launch is purely cosmetic. Could Intel have merely tweaked the definition of ‘launch’ to allow for some kind of meaningless soft-launch six months earlier. Maybe Qualcomm will retaliate with a similar move.

“Intel’s new XMM 8160 5G modem provides the ideal solution to support large volumes for scaling across multiple device categories to coincide with broad 5G deployments” said Cormac Conroy, GM of Intel’s Communication and Devices Group. “We are seeing great demand for the advanced feature set of the XMM 8160, such that we made a strategic decision to pull in the launch of this modem by half a year to deliver a leading 5G solution.”

The fact that the XMM 8160 is ‘multimode’, supporting 5G NR in SA and NSA modes across multiple frequencies, as well as legacy wireless standards is something Intel is keen to flag up. So much so it did a special diagram.

The Intel XMM 8160 5G modem will offer very clear improvements in power, size and scalability in a package that will be smaller than a U.S. penny. It will be released in the second half of 2019, and it will support the new standard for 5G New Radio (NR) standalone (SA) and non-standalone (NSA) modes as well as 4G, 3G and 2G legacy radios in a single chipset. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Privacy International lines up US firms for GDPR breaches

UK data protection and privacy advocacy group Privacy International has submitted complaints to European watchdogs suggesting GDPR violations at several US firms including Oracle, Equifax and Experian.

The complaints have been submitted to regulators in the UK, Ireland and France, bringing the data broker activities of Oracle and Acxiom into question, as well as ad-tech companies Criteo, Quantcast and Tapad, and credit referencing agencies Equifax and Experian. The complaints are specifically focused on the depth of personal data processing, which Privacy International believes violates Articles five and six of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“It’s been more than five months since the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect,” a Privacy International statement read. “Fundamentally, the GDPR strengthens rights of individuals with regard to the protection of their data, imposes more stringent obligations on those processing personal data, and provides for stronger regulatory enforcement powers – in theory. In practice, the real test for GDPR will be in its enforcement.

“Nowhere is this more evident than for data broker and ad-tech industries that are premised on exploiting people’s data. Despite exploiting the data of millions of people, are on the whole non-consumer facing and therefore rarely have their practices challenged.”

The GDPR Articles in question relate to the collection and processing of information. Article Five dictates a company has to be completely transparent in how it collects and processes information, but also the reasons for doing so. Reasonable steps must be taken to ensure data is erased once the purpose has been fulfilled, this is known as data minimisation. Article Six states a company must seek consent from the individual to collect and process information for an explicit purpose; broad brush collection, storage and continued exploitation of data is being tackled here.

In both articles, the objective is to ensure companies are being specific in their collection of personal information, and that it is utilised in a timely manner before being deleted once it has served its purpose. These are two of the articles which will hit the data-sharing economy the hardest, and it will be interesting to see how stringently GDPR will be enforced if there is any evidence of wrong-doing.

This is where Privacy International is finding issue with the firms. The advocacy group is challenging the business practises on the principles of transparency, fairness, lawfulness, purpose limitation,

data minimisation, accuracy and integrity and confidentiality. It is also requesting further investigations into Articles 13 and 14 (the right to information), Article 15 (the right of access), Article 22 (automated decision making and profiling), Article 25 (data protection and by design and default) and Article 35 (data protection impact assessments).

While GDPR sounds very scary, the reality is no-one has been punished to the full extent of the regulation yet. This might be because every company has taken the guidance on effectively and is operating entirely within the legal parameters, though we doubt this is the case. It is probably a case of no-one being caught yet.

The threat of a €20 million fine, or one which is up to 3% of a business’ total revenues, is nothing more than a piece of paper at the moment. If there is no evidence or fear authorities will punish to the full extent of the law, GDPR doesn’t act as much of a protection mechanism or a deterrent. When a genuine violation of GDPR is uncovered, Europe needs to bear its teeth and demonstrate there will be no breathing room.

This has been the problem for years in the technology industry; fines have been dished out, though there has been no material impact on the business. The staggering growth of revenues in the industry has far exceeded the ability of regulators to act as judge and executioner. Take the recent fines for Apple and Samsung over planned obsolescence in Italy. The $10 million and $5 million fines for Apple and Samsung would have taken 20 and 16 minutes respectively to pay off. This is not good enough.

Regulators now have the authority to hold the suspect characters in the industry accountable for nefarious actions concerning data protection and privacy, but it has to prove itself capable of wielding the axe. Until Europe shows it has a menacing side, nothing will change for the better.

Telecoms was the ultimate winner at the 2018 Glotel Awards

The winners were evenly distributed among a broad range of operators, vendors and industry specialists at the 2018 Global Telecoms Awards.

A very enjoyable night, which featured a hilarious stand-up set from comedian Russell Kane, culminated with the winners of 14 awards being revealed. The awards span the full breadth of the telecoms industry, recognising the many technologies and activities required to connect the world.

You can see the full list of winners and highly commended entries below. It was especially pleasing to see so many different companies represented among the winners, indicating a healthy  and diverse industry. The headline of this story is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it’s with total sincerity that we, the Telecoms.com team, say it’s a pleasure and a privilege to play a part in celebrating the global telecoms community.

 

Advancing the Road to 5G

WINNER

Huawei for Microservice-based 5G Core Solution

HIGHLY COMMENDED

InterDigital for 5G-Crosshaul

 

AI and Automation Initiative of the year

WINNER

Verizon Wireless in collaboration with Accenture for Enhanced Customer Engagement

 

Best Digital Transformation Project

WINNER

BT for Help Re-design

 

BSS/OSS Transformation excellence

WINNER

Vlocity for KPN BSS Transformation

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Netcracker Technology for Netcracker 12

 

Connecting the Unconnected

WINNER

Cambridge Broadband Networks for VectaStar

 

Content Matters

WINNER

SK Telecom: Oksusu Social VR

 

Fixed Network Evolution

WINNER

ADTRAN Gigabit Gfast with GTTB Model

 

Ground-breaking Virtualization Initiative

WINNER

China Mobile Hong Kong and Huawei for Core Network Cloud Transformation

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Tata Communications Transformation Services for Virtual Cloud Exchange (VCX)

 

IoT Initiative of the Year

WINNER

Dialog Axiata & Ericsson for the first commercial Massive IoT network

 

Managed Services Innovation of the Year

WINNER

Netcracker Technology for Netcracker Managed Services for Digital Transformations

 

Mobile Money Mastery

WINNER

Mahindra Comviva and Econet Wireless (Cassava Fintech) for EcoCash Merchant Payments powered by mobiquity Money

 

Most Innovative Cloud Service

WINNER

KT for 5G Edge Cloud with Network Intelligence

 

Security Solution of the Year

WINNER

CUJO AI for AI Security

HIGHLY COMMENDED

AdaptiveMobile Security for SIGIL

 

Telecoms Transformation

WINNER

Smart Communications for Smart Network Transformation Program

HIGHLY COMMENDED

China Mobile Hong Kong and Huawei for Core Network Cloud Transformation

Bullish Ericsson raises its sales forecast

Ahead of its capital markets day, kit vendor Ericsson has announced it now hopes to bring in 10% more cash in 2020 than it previously did.

The company had recently set its sales target for 2020 at SEK 190-200 billion, but thanks to a more bullish outlook for its networking division, as well as the inclusion of revenue from Red Bee Media and a favourable currency adjustment, Ericsson is now aiming for SEK 210-220 billion. The overall operating margin target of 10% in the mid term and 12% in the longer term remains.

“With our focused strategy we have created a strong foundation of stability and profitability,” said Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm (pictured). “Our strengthened portfolio and competitive cost structure have enabled us to grow in the third quarter 2018, for the first time since 2014, on a constant currency basis, despite headwind from exited contracts and businesses. As the industry moves to 5G and IoT we are now preparing to take the next step to generate profitable growth in a selective and disciplined way.”

Here are the revised sales and margin targets by business segment.

SEK b. Networks Digital Services Managed Services Emerging Business and Other Group
2020 Net sales ambition 141 – 145(128 – 134) 41 – 43 23 – 25 5 – 7 210 – 220
2020 Operating margins 15% – 17% Low single digit 5% – 8%(4% – 6%) Break-even(current business)  >10%
Operating margin by 2022, at the latest 15% – 17% 10% – 12% 8% – 10% -  >12%

The target increase for Networks is down to a more optimistic view of the underlying market, the anticipation of some market share gains and diversification into ‘adjacent markets’, which presumably means selling networking gear to industries other than telecoms. The aim for Digital Services is just to break even, while automation and AI are expected to improve the margin at Managed Services.