KPN bans Huawei from its 5G network core

Dutch operator KPN announced it has signed an agreement with Huawei to build the 5G radio network but will only select a western vendor for 5G core.

KPN said it will modernise its mobile network towards 5G, and has adopted a tightened security policy with regard to vendor selection. The company believes that “the mobile core network which from a security point of view is more sensitive”, while the RAN is less so.

As a result, the operator has entered into a preliminary agreement with Huawei to provide the radio access part of the 5G network, but the agreement is adjustable and reversable “to align it with future Dutch government policy.” Meanwhile, the company “plans to select a Western vendor for the construction of the new mobile core network for 5G.”

Jan Kees de Jager, KPN’s CFO, told the media separately that the upgrade will also involve swapping out Huawei equipment from its current core network, according to a report by Reuters. In contrast to what his counterparts in Germany and the UK have claimed, de Jager did not believe switching from Huawei for other vendors would lead to addition cost. Equipment from Nokia, Ericsson and other suppliers would be as affordable as Huawei for the 5G infrastructure, he was reported to tell the media.

“We appreciate KPN’s trust and are honoured by their decision to partner with us for the mobile radio access network modernisation,” said a Huawei spokesperson. “We are committed to support KPN in their ambition to maintain and strengthen their lead in the global telecoms industry.In general, Huawei believes that excluding parties based on geographical origin does not provide a higher level of security. Cyber security can be improved by establishing standards that apply to all parties in the sector. Today, the IT supply chain is highly globalised. Cyber security must therefore be addressed jointly at a global level and suppliers must not be treated differently based on the country of origin.”

KPN is essentially adopting the same policy as the leaked UK government guideline related Huawei’s role in the country’s 5G network: banned from the core but fine to use in the RAN. But precisely because it is adopting the same policy, KPN has to face the same issue raised by Tom Tugenthat MP, chairman of the British parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, that it will be very hard to insulate the non-core from the core on 5G network thanks to its virtualisation and software-defined nature.

Additionally, although equipment from different vendors should work together as they all comply with the 3GPP standards, standards do not cover every detail. As Huawei stand staff told Telecoms.com during MWC, there are plenty of discreet innovations vendors can make to optimise the performance of the system if both RAN and core come from the same vendor. So, operators might risk having subprime performance out of the network equipment sourced from different vendors, if not facing downright incompatibility headache.

KPN launches 5G trials alongside 3.5 GHz moan

KPN has announced the launch of four new 5G trials in the Netherlands, while also giving the government a bit of a nudge to grant access to the 3.5 GHz frequency band.

Although the 3.5 GHz frequency has been marked as a priority for 5G by the European Commission, Dutch regulators have not included the band in any spectrum auctions to date, or the auction scheduled for 2019. This has been a point of frustration for the telcos, who seem to be taking it in turn to urge regulators to rethink plans. While this is seemingly KPN’s turn, VodafoneZiggo made a similar plea towards the end of 2017 which fell on deaf ears.

“Where 4G connects people, 5G will connect the whole society. It is therefore very important that we, together with customers and technology partners, investigate how 5G can optimize business processes and improve the customer experience,” said Jacob Groote, Director of Product Management Business Market at KPN.

Right now the band being used for defence and intelligence at a satellite monitoring station in the north of the Netherlands, and closed broadband networks elsewhere. Regulators have said the issue will be cleared up in time for the 2019 auction, but there has seemingly been little progress to date, much to the frustration of the telcos.

Despite the confusion, KPN has also confirmed it will begin four new 5G trials focusing on Massive MIMO in urban areas with Nokia (Amsterdam), connection of drones for precision agriculture (a farm in Drenthe), virtual reality in industry (Rotterdam Harbour) and self-driving vehicles (motorways near Helmond).

In terms of the applications in agriculture, the team will work with Wageningen University and ZTE, to test out various precision agriculture practises based on drones. The trio will also be using millimetre wave with the aim of generating speeds greater than 1 Gbps. Over in Rotterdam Harbour, network slicing is the focus of the trial. Working with Huawei, the aim is to effectively demonstrate network slicing techniques for business critical applications using virtual reality.

Grudge holding KPN wins appeal over UPC-Ziggo merger

KPN has thrown a considerable spanner into the Liberty Global machine as the European Court of Justice overturns a decision to approve the merger between UPC and Ziggo back in 2014.

Liberty Global made the move to merge its UPC brand with Ziggo back in 2014, which was approved by the European Commission. KPN’s temper tantrum appeal is based on the argument the European Commission did not consider the anti-competitive impact of such a merger on the Pay-TV sports market in the Netherlands.

Agreeing with KPN, the European Court of Justice is also rubbing salt into the wounds of the European Commission by forcing the bureaucrats to pay the telcos legal fees. But that will not be the end of the ripples.

What is unknown for the moment is the impact this decision will have on the joint-venture between Liberty Global and Vodafone. The pair have merged certain parts of the business to form Vodafone Ziggo, though this new organization is currently in the process of integrating its mobile and cable operations. This is a complicated enough job as it is, such a distraction will probably not be appreciated by the team.

In terms of the next steps, Liberty Global will once again have to go through the clearance process, this time making considerations for the competition concerns. The decision will not have an impact on the deal between Vodafone and Liberty Global, this was a completely separate process, but it is an interference nonetheless.

KPN will be having a little giggle to itself though. Chaos achieved.

KPN and China Unicom sign reciprocal IoT network deal

Dutch telco KPN has cosied up to China Unicom to improve its access to the Chinese IoT market and will return the favour in Europe.

The two companies will offer reciprocal access to each other’s IoT networks, making use of remotely provisionable SIMs in IoT devices that allow switching to the cheaper network depending on where the device happens to find itself. Europe, of course, has gotten rid of roaming premiums so KPN’s domestic tariffs apply across the continent.

“This agreement will enable our customers to become global IoT players, since we are able to handle international requests quickly and easily,” said Carolien Nijhuis, Managing Director of KPN IoT. “We are constantly looking for strong partnerships and have found a trusted partner in China Unicom.”

“It’s really an exciting moment that China Unicom will be able to provide a global IoT solution partnering with KPN,” said Li Chong (Chairman, China Unicom Global Ltd) and Chen Xiaotian (General Manager, China Unicom IoT Business Unit), apparently in unison. “With this solution we are offering ‘one SIM, one portal, one experience’ to our customers. The partnership between China Unicom and KPN will enable Chinese and European enterprise customers to bridge the digital gap between global IoT deployments.”

The two operators will also offer a unified connectivity management portal, but how companies will track and manage their IoT devices when they’re not in either Europe or China remains a mystery. The trick is presumably to fly over Russia, India and the Middle East as quickly as possible and cross your fingers.