A look back at the biggest stories this week

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:


Facebook reignites the fires of its Workplace unit

Facebook has announced its challenge to the video-conferencing segment and a reignition of its venture into the world of collaboration and productivity.

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Trump needs fodder for the campaign trail, maybe Huawei fits the bill

A thriving economy and low levels of unemployment might have been the focal point of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, pre-pandemic, but fighting the ‘red under the bed’ might have to do now.

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Will remote working trends endure beyond lockdown?

It is most likely anyone reading this article is doing so from the comfort of their own home, but the question is whether this has become the new norm is a digitally defined economy?

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ZTE and China Unicom get started on 6G

Chinese kit vendor ZTE has decided now is a good time to announce it has signed a strategic cooperation agreement on 6G with operator China Unicom.

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ITU says lower prices don’t lead to higher internet penetration

The UN telecoms agency observes that, while global connectivity prices are going down, the relationship with penetration is not as inversely proportion as you might think.

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Jio carves out space for yet another US investor

It seems the US moneymen have a taste for Indian connectivity as General Atlantic becomes the fourth third-party firm to invest in the money-making machine which is Jio Platforms.

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Telecoms.com Daily Poll:

Can the sharing economy (ride-sharing, short-stay accommodation etc.) survive COVID-19?

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Return to work messages start to appear as Twitter hands power to employees

One of the questions which has lingered over the last few weeks is whether the COVID-19 enforced digital transformation will persist in the long-term, though the answer is becoming a bit clearer.

Twitter is one of the first of the technology giants to break the silence and make a commitment. Offices will be opened at some point after September, though the decision as to whether to come in or not will be left entirely to the employees.

“We were uniquely positioned to respond quickly and allow folks to work from home given our emphasis on decentralization and supporting a distributed workforce capable of working from anywhere,” said Jennifer Christie, Chief HR Officer at Twitter.

“The past few months have proven we can make that work.

“So if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen. If not, our offices will be their warm and welcoming selves, with some additional precautions, when we feel it’s safe to return.”

Twitter embracing the work-from-home dynamic is hardly surprising. This is a digital native company which attracts the interest of a certain demographic. This is also a company where the necessity to work within an office is very low, as it is a platform business; product design is virtual not physical after all.

On the other end of the scale, there are companies and professions where work-from-home is not an option. There are obvious categories, construction for instance, but also others which are less so. Due to regulatory and compliance issues, those who work in a company’s treasury department or conduct high-profile trades in the financial markets might find it difficult to work from the living room.

Another factor to consider is the creation of products, such as smartphones.

According to Bloomberg, Apple has already begun the process of reintroducing employees to some offices around the world. Senior managers are reaching out to employees to explain who will be working from home and who will have to come back into the office, but those who are creating new products, such as the flagship 5G smartphone to be launched in a few months, will not be able to work from home as it is highly unlikely each of these engineers have a cleanroom at their residences.

Other parts of the Apple business could work from home. Sales and marketing, for instance, or the developers who work from the software and services unit could very feasibly continue. As one of the Silicon Valley fraternity, Apple would presumably embrace the idea of mobility but it does also have to justify the $5 billion which has been spent to construct the new doughnut-shaped headquarters in Cupertino.

These are perfectly understandable answers to the longevity of the work-from-home question, but the most interesting developments will be around the companies who can function remotely, but probably don’t want to.

There are numerous industries which have resisted digital transformation programmes. This is because of a lack of vision, ‘lifers’ in middle-management roles who have no desire to evolve or executive management teams who were brought up in a different era and have no concept of digital. Despite what many would claim, the FTSE 100 and Dow Jones is littered with such organisations.

These are the companies who are spending money on the cloud currently, but only because they have been strong-armed through a digital transformation programme. They are thousands of companies who lack the foresight and imagination to realise the importance of evolution and many of these will revert back to pre-coronavirus operations.

But here is the question; how many of these luddites are there?


Telecoms.com Poll:

Do you think your business will continue the current work from home dynamic once the coronavirus pandemic has passed?

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KDDI catches the Lime bug as scooter revolution drives forward

KDDI has announced an investment in Neutron Holdings, the company which owns the Lime scooter sharing service which is becoming increasingly popular around the world.

With more people living in cities than ever before, new solutions to move said people around cities are needed. Most urban centres do not have the most helpful public transit systems and it is becoming increasingly impractical for everyone to drive. Transport sharing initiatives are one way to fix the problem and Lime is presenting a popular solution.

Some might not be familiar with the business, but they might well have spotted a stray electric scooter on the pavement. These are just obstacles for pedestrians to navigate, but an alternative means for anyone to speed up the commute. Beating Connie home to ensure the linens are fresh and clean could be so much easier.

By downloading the Lime app, users can locate the nearest free electronic scooter through an embedded mapping feature, before paying for the service through a QR code or entering a six-digit code located on the scooter. Each ride costs $1 (roughly) irrelevant of the length.

After being founded in San Francisco in 2017, the Lime bug has been catching worldwide. The main footprint is in the US, though the scooters can be found all over Europe, as well as in South America (Uruguay and Mexico), Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. The idea of ‘mobility as a service’ is certainly catching on.

As part of this investment, Lime will also join the newly-developed Smart EAST project in the city of Fukuoka. The city is often referred to as the most innovative in Japan and will be the first in the country to host a Lime scooter ride. Alongside fellow project sponsors Digital Garage Co. and KDDI, the aim is to ‘create a model city with comfortable, high quality lifestyle options and intelligent use of urban space through the introduction of cutting-edge technological innovation’.

“We’re thrilled to be working with the Smart EAST project to bring our electric scooters to Japan for the very first time,” said Mitchell Price, Lime’s GR and Policy lead in Asia Pacific. “Fukuoka is a city focused on the future, and with Lime electric scooters riders will be able to unlock sustainable urban mobility like never before.”

What is worth noting is that the firm might come under some criticism before too long. Although it is a creative way to answer the mobility challenge in increasingly congested urban environments, they are proving to be a nuisance occasionally. In some cities it is illegal to ride scooters on the pavements, tickets for the offence in Los Angeles increased by 1815% between January and July 2018, while some are also frustrated by the scooters being discarded willy-nilly with no consideration to others.

This is not necessarily surprising as there are no rules to dictate the practice of riding a scooter. City officials might well have ignored these ‘vehicles’ in by-gone years, simply because there weren’t enough to justify any serious consideration. However, should trends continue on the same trajectory, a conversation will certainly need to take place.

Arguably Uber kicked-off this revolution, though KDDI is looking to cash-in on a trend which is spreading to all forms of transport very quickly.

Funded through the KDDI Open Innovation Fund (KOIF), the aim of this venture is to invest in start-ups both domestically and internationally which are using connectivity in a way outside the norm. KOIF Number 3. was first launched in April 2018 alongside Japanese venture capitalist firm Global Brain looking into firms in fields such as AI and IoT, areas where 5G can compound growth potential.

KOIF Number 3. will run through to 2028 with 20 billion Japanese yen to play around with, focusing primarily on the Japanese, US and South Korean markets. Of course, this is an investment opportunity, though the investment will also present collaboration opportunities with KDDI and the other start-ups which the fund has invested in.

Nokia and Verizon claim another 5G first

Nokia and Verizon has teamed up to congratulate themselves on achieving another 5G first; the first successful transmission of a 3GPP New Radio (NR) 5G signal to a receiver situated in a moving vehicle.

With the self-imposed deadlines for launching 5G services edging ever closer, Verizon has completed another incremental step in making the bufferless cat video world a reality. With two antennas set up in Nokia’s New Jersey campus, Verizon whizzed past the building with receiver and measurement equipment in the boot of a Ford KA (maybe, maybe not) and managed to successfully hand off the signal from one radio sector to the other, on 28 GHz spectrum.

“Unlike some of the incremental 5G technology announcements we’ve seen lately, tests like the one we conducted are significant advancements in the development of 5G technology,” said Bill Stone, VP of Technology Development and Planning for Verizon. “By taking these tests out of the lab and into the field, we’re replicating the experience users will ultimately have in a 5G mobility environment.”

“We are pleased to showcase the acceleration of the mobile capabilities in 5G,” said Marc Rouanne, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia. “Enhanced mobile broadband is one of the first services being delivered on Nokia’s end-to-end 5G Future X portfolio. As a result, we can help our customers meet their early 5G deployment schedules and initial coverage demands.”

It might not seem like the most exciting of tests, unless Carly Rae Jepson was on the radio, but these incremental steps are important. The last thing anyone needs is to be driving from Boston to New York, cream cheese bagel in hand, only for your passenger to fly into a fit of rage because the video of a panda farting didn’t work properly.

Next week the dynamic duo will be testing whether it is possible to tweet Elton John while climbing the stairs to the third floor as the lift is broken.

Uber introduces taxis for patients in the US

Uber has unveiled its latest initiative which will be known as Uber Health in a bid to bring mobility to the health sector.

The theory is relatively simple. The team claims 3.6 million Americans miss doctor appointments each year due to unreliable transportation, while no-show rates in some corners of the US could be up to 30%. Healthcare organizations will be able to order rides for patients going to and from the care they need.

“We’re unveiling a new service focused on an issue vital to all of us: health,” said Chris Weber, GM of Uber Health on the company’s blog.

“Every year, 3.6 million Americans miss doctor appointments due to a lack of reliable transportation. No-show rates are as high as 30% nationwide. And while transportation barriers are common across the general population, these barriers are greatest for vulnerable populations, including patients with the highest burden of chronic disease.”

Coordinators working for the healthcare organizations will be able to schedule individual appointments for patients, caregivers and staff, or repeat rides for those who need it. All the tasks can be managed from a centralized platform, while there is also the option for patients to communicate via text. This is an important note, as it is not guaranteed older patients will have a smartphone.

While this is certainly an interesting idea, it might have limited success. Firstly, it would be limited to markets where the healthcare is driven by insurance. Any healthcare organization will order the rides and will most likely include it in the customer’s bill at the end of the procedure or treatment. It is tough to imagine organizations like the NHS, which is already pretty cash-strapped, forking out for Uber rides for its patients, unless there were exceptional circumstances.

Secondly, if one of the basic ideas for the service is that public transport is rubbish, this might be a bit of an oversight. How many of those in the US who can afford healthcare insurance are reliant on public transport? They will have their own vehicles, or able to order their own. This might be a service reserved for the caregivers or as a value add service, as opposed to becoming a standard and integral part of the healthcare experience.

It is an interesting idea which might make Uber a bit of money, but we can’t see this having more than a very minor impact on the healthcare space.