GSMA cosies up to O-RAN Alliance

The GSMA, the telco industry lobby group, has announced a new partnership with the O-RAN Alliance to accelerate the adoption of Open Radio Access Network (RAN) technologies.

Although the benefits of OpenRAN technologies are still widely disputed by opposing corners of the industry, there is clear momentum gathering. With telcos desperate to make the commercial realities of network deployment more attractive, it should come as little surprise new ideas are being embraced.

“As the demand for data and vastly expanded mobile communications grow in the 5G era, a global, cross-border approach is needed to rethink the RAN,” said Andre Fuetsch, Chairman of the O-RAN Alliance, and CTO of AT&T.

“The GSMA collaboration with the O-RAN ALLIANCE is exactly the sort of global effort that’s needed for everyone, operators and vendors alike, to succeed in this new generation.”

The promise of OpenRAN technologies is simple. Firstly, more competition will be introduced to the market to encourage diversity and resilience. Secondly, once hardware and software have been disaggregated, deployment costs will be decreased, and innovation can be increased as best-in-breed technologies can be selected for each segment. Finally, vendor lock-in will become a thing of the past.

The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) has recently released a report which demonstrates the drive of the mobile network operators (MNOs). 53% are now prioritising total cost of ownership (TCO) reductions as profits erode and capital expenditure expenses increase.

What is worth noting is that the MNOs are taking a realistic view on the development of this segment. 66% believe Open RAN technologies will be critical to the survival of numerous MNOs as ARPU falls, but it will be several years before a comprehensive, resilient and competitive ecosystem emerges. A third of tier-1 and half of tier-2 telcos believe they will have commercially launched OpenRAN by 2023, but this does not mean the death of traditional network infrastructure within a generation.

While all these promises sound very interesting, optimism is not shared by all in the industry.

“Not all openness is good and not all closed-ness is good,” Nokia CTO Marcus Weldon said this week.

The likes of Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei will give messages of support to OpenRAN in public, but there will always be an undertone of doubt, as is in Weldon’s message above. The OpenRAN movement fundamentally destroys their business model so it is not difficult to understand why they have resisted and not been as helpful as they could have been to date. Slowing down this movement provides a bit more time for profits without disruption to operations after all.

The OpenRAN ecosystem is not ready yet, despite what some might insist, though progress is being made. And while this partnership might seem like little more than a ribbon cutting ceremony it is also very important. Like Vodafone or Telefonica embracing OpenRAN trials, a partnership with the GSMA provides credibility for the technologies, encouragement for less adventurous and innovative telcos.


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New appointment arrives to clean up Three’s network fiasco

UK telco Three has announced the appointment of Carlo Melis as Chief Network Officer just as the Huawei saga starts to rear its head once again.

Over the course of the last week, the rumour mill has been churning at full capacity, with Huawei’s name popping up on more than one occasion. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing a backbencher revolt unless ‘high-risk’ vendors are removed from networks within years, while the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is once again investigating whether the firm is in a sound enough position to work with UK telcos.

One might have said there were better times for Melis to join the business.

Arriving from Wind Tre in Italy, Melis has been working on network resilience during the on-going COVID-19 landscape though eventually his attention will turn to managing the spectrum portfolio and presumably creating a network which can rival market leaders within the UK. Much work has been done in recent years, though thanks to outside influences, Three is still in somewhat of a difficult position.

“Three has been on an incredible journey, completely overhauling its network and IT infrastructure and laying the foundations for a 5G network that will dramatically transform the experience for its customers, at the same time as delivering major 4G improvements,” said Melis.

“I’m looking forward to joining Three, bringing my expertise to build on the great progress already achieved and to deliver a network that will stand the business in good stead long into the future.”

The last few months have certainly been an eclectic mix of ups and downs for the Three business. The fixed wireless access (FWA) proposition and campus network offering was looking healthy before Ros Singleton left the business. These business units are still functional, but look a little weaker without Singleton involved, however it is the more mainstream 5G programme which looks more precarious.

Announced at almost the exact same time as the departure of Phil Sheppard, who was effectively the company’s CTO, was the conclusion of the Supply Chain Review. Huawei was designated a high-risk vendor, and therefore limited to providing a maximum of 35% of a telcos network infrastructure equipment. This is a significant problem for Three which decided Huawei was going to be the sole supplier of RAN equipment for its 5G network.

These are the complications Melis needs to manage over the next few months. Alongside the teething problems of a new cloud core and ensuring the 4G network remains stable during this period of dramatically increased traffic, the 5G deployment strategy needs to be reimagined. Of course, this becomes difficult when even more uncertainty is introduced by rebellious politicians and the NCSC investigation.

It could have been a smoother start for Melis…


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Network outages costing enterprise customers millions

In years gone, internet downtime would have been considered a first world problem, but now it is costing enterprise organisations millions every time a digital baron period emerges.

With connectivity as the foundation of almost every business nowadays, few can operate without a stable internet connection. From the delivery of mission critical data to the functioning of tills and credit card machines, a digital blackout will cost businesses money.

According to a survey from Open Gear, only 8% of respondents suggested network downtime had cost them nothing. 31% stated outages had cost their business more than $1.2 million while a further 17% said such shutdowns hit revenues by more than $6 million. It should come as little surprise 83% of the respondents said network resilience was their number one concern.

With the coronavirus pandemic further increasing dependence on communications networks, thanks to coerced remote working practices, a stable network becomes ever more important. Another interesting element is the ever-increasing distribution of a network; problems are no-longer contained to the data centre.

Services like Netflix has found a more accommodating home on the network edge, with last mile services and remote locations being used to cache content for users. The idea is to reduce latency and remove choke points on the network, but redundancy cannot always be built into the site and on-site engineers are very rare.

42% of the survey respondents stated the problem in remedying the outage was getting engineers to the site, a challenge which will only be compounded as the network becomes more distributed and the edge becomes more prominent.

There are two key trends which could accelerate the edge which are worth keeping an eye on. Firstly, telcos are partnering up with the major cloud players to ensure more edge services can be offered to enterprise customers. Telecom Italia has an extensive relationship with Google Cloud, for example, while Verizon is firmly in bed with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

The second interesting trend is the cloud players gaining competency in the telco segment, perhaps reducing reliance on telco partnerships (relegating the telco to a commoditised partner). The cloud players also have deeper existing relationships with enterprise companies, maybe accelerating the edge trends. Microsoft acquiring Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch Networks are two examples, as is the hiring spree the cloud players have undertaken over the last 18 months.

The edge presents a significant opportunity for the telcos, assuming they are not designated the role of ‘dump pipe’ but it also presents major challenges. Network resiliency is a hurdle for a functional digital society, but it is one which can be addressed with the tools available today, such as artificial intelligence and network automation.


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IBM still searching for its place as it targets the edge

IBM’s struggle over the last decade has been well documented, but with a pivot following a pivot, the $34 billion Red Hat acquisition is beginning to make waves.

Today marks the launch of IBM’s Think Digital event, a virtual conference to discuss everything and anything IBM. There will of course be numerous announcements across the extravaganza, but the Red Hat focused boasts are some of the most interesting.

“In today’s uncertain environment, our clients are looking to differentiate themselves by creating more innovative, responsive user experiences that are adaptive and continuously available – from the data centre all the way out to the edge,” said Denis Kennelly, GM of IBM Hybrid Cloud.

“IBM is helping clients unlock the full potential of edge computing and 5G with hybrid multi-cloud offerings that bring together Red Hat OpenShift and our industry expertise to address enterprise needs in a way no other company can.”

Multi-cloud is a term which will become increasingly important over the next few years, as enterprise organisations aim to realise the power of cloud computing, marrying the benefits of ‘best in breed’ with rationalisation projects to improve operational efficiencies. On top of these complex operational challenges, the edge is becoming a much more prominent proposition for all in the ecosystem.

Built on Red Hat OpenShift, IBM will now offer several new services and products to enable companies in this new digital environment. The Edge Application Manager or Network Cloud Manager, for example, take IBM into new segments in the on-going pursuit of relevance.

“IBM’s new version of Edge Application Manager and introduction of Telco Cloud Manager is part of IBM’s hybrid cloud strategy which is now extending through telcos to the edge,” said Nick McQuire, VP of Enterprise Research. “The moves essentially put IBM’s marker down on edge computing which represents a new era of computing outside the data centre and the public cloud.

“With the emergence of 5G and low-latency applications which are acting as accelerators, telcos too must transform so IBM is hoping that its relationships with telcos globally, though Red Hat and its services and arm, will make it better placed than the hyper-scalers to take advantage of this shift.”

As McQuire points out, this is an effort to further differentiate the business, but also evolve the company to ensure it is operating in more sustainable markets in the future. The issue over the last few decades has not only been IBM’s relevance to market trends, but also its ability to compete in the new segments.

In January 2018, IBM reversed a trend which had been haunting the management team. This earnings call offered investors the first period of year-on-year revenue growth for almost six years. Big Blue had been on the decline, but it seemed to be turning around the business with its cloud computing unit and AI proposition Watson leading the charge.

However, the business failed to accelerate around the turned corner.

In the cloud computing segment, IBM failed to keep pace with market leaders, falling off as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud proved they were in a different league to the rest. And in AI, the segment has not boomed as some might have anticipated, though IBM still has one of the worlds’ leading technologies in Watson.

With these two ventures failing to live up to the lofty promise, although they did push the IBM business back into growth, Red Hat is supposed to offer an alternative play at the enterprise connectivity and IT markets.

What is worth noting is that AWS, Microsoft and Google, as well as other cloud competitors, have made moves into the enterprise edge market as well. With the emergence of 5G, the cloud industry could well be ready to move into the next phase of development, but the question is where does IBM fit in?

IBM has dipped its fingers in numerous pies, but Red Hat is a definitive move ahead of a new surge in the cloud market. Companies don’t spend $34 billion on organisations which are going to supplement offerings, this is another material shift in the IBM operations as it continues to search for its place in the digital ecosystem.

BEREC says COVID-19 won’t break the internet

BEREC has released a statement which suggests the increase in internet usage across the continent is more or less stabilising, though networks did manage to stand up to the strain.

It might seem like a ridiculous idea now, but during the first few days there were worries the dramatic shift in behaviour would place dangerous levels of pressure on the fixed and mobile networks. The latest statement from the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) does not appear to be worried any more:

“30 national regulatory authorities (NRAs) have shared their data on the impact of the crisis on the telecommunications’ networks and the actions taken so far. Since the last week, many NRAs reported a stabilisation in the overall traffic, but some NRAs still observe an increase of the overall traffic.

“According to the available information, some operators have increased their network’s capacity to cope with the sustained traffic growth. Operators, which did not take any such measure, are still closely monitoring their network’s capacity to check if an upgrade is necessary.”

There are still surges in traffic, though on the evidence available thus far, networks are able to stand up to the pressure.

In Italy, Vodafone suggested traffic on its fixed network has increased 50% while Telecom Italia blamed a 70% surge on more people playing Fortnight and Call of Duty. The Italian networks did not perform as well as under normal circumstances, but customers were able to do as they please, from a digital perspective at least.

Although the telcos might not have welcomed the stress which came with the dramatic shift in network usage, it is a useful test.

“There have been many bold predictions made about the future in recent weeks,” said Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri. “My hunch is that things will broadly go back to how they were before this crisis began. But trends and technologies that were already happening will speed up. So more remote working and video conferencing will increase the need for better connectivity.”

Remote working and mobility were two trends which were slowly emerging thanks to better connectivity in the digital economy, but coronavirus might have acted as an accelerator. Some companies will go back to the pre-COVID-19 normality, but others will see the benefits of remote and flexible working, holding onto at least some of the enforced changes.

Networks are holding strong, some even boast of leftover headroom, though events of today might see the evolution of the workforce alter the demands on connectivity.

COVID-19 unlikely to slowdown 5G rollout – analyst

Credit rating agency Fitch Ratings has stated it does not believe the COVID-19 outbreak will have a material impact on the rollout of 5G networks across the US.

Although the US was one of the latter nations to feel the full force of the coronavirus, it is now accelerating through the nation. Despite there being very significant impacts to the economy on the whole, the Dow Jones index is down 25% since mid-February, Fitch Ratings seems to believe the telco space will be able to resist the worst impact.

“We believe the telecom sector has a lower level of risk to economic pressures as a result of the coronavirus, particularly when compared with other sectors, such as airlines, non-food retail, restaurants, lodging and leisure, automotive, and media,” the firm said in a research note.

“The lower risk is due to the integral nature of wireless services in consumers’ day-to-day lives with predictable recurring payments supported by low post-paid churn levels. As such, wireless phone services have a high position in consumer priority payments.”

For AT&T and Verizon, companies with stronger balance sheets according to Fitch Ratings, the impact to free cash flow (FCF) would be limited, though the rest of the industry should also be in a healthy position. Dividend cuts would be a last option, but the analysts believe this is a long-shot as the industry should be in a strong-enough position to continue strategic investments in 5G networks and related fibre spending.

The theory here, which holds sound for the moment, is that connectivity contracts are likely to be one of the last bills which will be trimmed back on. With more people facing a lockdown, the money flowing into the telco industry should be sustained (if not slightly increase) as the internet becomes the lifeline of social lives and remote working.

What is worth noting is that enterprise revenues would have been factored into ROI calculations over the long-term. As it stands, funds for 5G pilots and projects are likely to have been diverted elsewhere by enterprise organisations, though this only becomes a material problem for the industry if severity of COVID-19 persists as it is today, with the world under strict lockdown.

Another risk worth bearing in mind would be a recession. With unemployment rising rapidly in the US, subscriber churn could increase and defaults on device financing plans could rise. Some lower-income customers may convert post-paid accounts into pre-paid/lifeline service in an effort to cut costs. All of these factors would result in lower revenues for the industry, with T-Mobile more exposed than others, though it does seem in balance, the prospects are more encouraging.

Finch Ratings is taking a long-term view on the industry, and assuming the world returns to relative normality, 5G should be able to continue on track. But this assessment is incredibly limited, only looking at the financial capabilities of the telcos. What the team does not consider are external factors.

Employees could be forced to remain at home due to illness, engineers might have to be redirected to prioritise other projects such as improving the resilience of 4G networks or supply chains might be impacted. From a financial perspective, the 5G rollout should continue as forecasted, but there are many moving parts which are very sensitive to the spanners flying all over the place.

Mavenir looks to cash in on US xenophobia

At times, US anti-China rhetoric flirts with the line between protectionist and xenophobic, but that won’t bother the likes of Mavenir as it touts its All-American credentials.

It what appears to be a relatively unprompted submission, Mavenir lawyers have filed documents with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stating the firm is as patriotically-US as apple pie, watery lager, high-powered rifles and gas-guzzling jeeps.

The objective here is quite clear; the US political administration does not like China, is prepared to spend big to supercharge an alternative telco vendor to the likes of Huawei or ZTE, and Mavenir wants to get rich as the establishment attempts to drown the success of China’s technology industry under the patronising veil of national security.

It is opportunism at its finest.

“Mavenir noted that it is the industry’s only US-owned, US-headquartered, end-to-end network software provider delivering OpenRAN and virtualized networks,” the filing states.

There are of course other companies who could be deemed American, though it appears they have their own faults. Parallel Wireless, for example, is headquartered in New England, is funded by Californian moneymen, but some of its founders are Indian. It almost ticked all the boxes!

Although it is an unusual strategy from Mavenir, it might work.

US politicians might be losing the political battle to extend its anti-China rhetoric throughout the world but presenting a genuine alternative might be one way to aid this propaganda campaign. An alternative which is also driving forward the attractive OpenRAN technology to add a cherry on top.

While it might still be a technology in its infancy, OpenRAN is capturing the hearts and minds of those who want to force through disruption in the RAN ecosystem. The Nokia/Ericsson/Huawei cartel does not present a significant amount of competition, which OpenRAN could help with, while it could also make the economics of 5G network deployment more attractive.

There are a few initiatives which are progressing around the world. Rakuten is deploying a fully virtualised network with the OpenRAN community at the heart. Admittedly it doesn’t have to worry about legacy technologies muddying the waters, but Vodafone, MTN, Telefonica and Etisalat are attempting to blend OpenRAN into a more traditional network work environment, with legacy complications and all.

Earlier this month, the Democrat Senator for Virginia Mark Warner introduced a new bill to Congress. The Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act will aim to provide $1 billion to create Western-based alternatives to Chinese equipment providers Huawei and ZTE. This is the prize the Mavenir gold-diggers are chasing.

And to sweeten the deal, Mavenir has also suggested it is able to help the poor rural providers dig out the dangerous technology from naughty Huawei and ZTE. We suspect it will all be done for a patriotically attractive price, or at least attractive to the Mavenir swashbucklers.

This is what some might call underhanded PR, a tactic which is more at home on ‘The Thick of It’ than the telecommunications slugfest. But it is an excellent of opportunism, which will probably be successful for the All-American vendor.

Supply Chain Review offers clarity and new headaches for MNOs

Any decision is better than the purgatory of uncertainty which the telcos have been sitting in for months, but the Supply Chain Review offers a whole new wave of headaches.

There are still grey areas to consider, but the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has offered a foundation for telcos to build on. Some might be slightly disappointed by the decision, certainly some more than others, but any decision was better than playing the waiting game; action can now be taken.

Huawei’s contributions to a UK MNOs 5G radio inventory can not exceed a 35% share. However, another interesting element to consider is that Huawei radio equipment cannot carry more than 35% of internet traffic either. This presents new questions as to how networks are built. Huawei technology might not be able to be clustered in certain urbanised areas, which has been the trend in the past.

But new questions are arising for each of the players in the market.

Is Huawei to lose leadership position in the UK market?

Speaking during a call to the press, Huawei VP Jeremy Thompson said capturing 35% market share in any nation would be a job well done for Huawei, though this is assuming customer relationships are rebalanced.

For Huawei to capture 35% market share, it would have to be a major supplier to all the UK MNOs and for all the MNOs to use every inch of the 35% network share. This is a situation which is very unlikely to happen.

EE and Vodafone are over the 35% limit for Huawei equipment in their 4G networks, therefore these relationships will have to be structured down. Three named Huawei as its sole 5G RAN supplier, Samsung provided 4G RAN equipment, therefore it will definitely lose business here as well. There is room for growth at O2, but this is a telco it has not had notable success in recent years.

Huawei’s RAN equipment makes up less than 1% of O2 radio inventory, only present due to trials, and this is unlikely to change.

As Thompson pointed out, Huawei’s market share in the UK when the Supply Chain Review was initially launched was 35%. Its business with its three main customers will have to decrease for them to meet the targets in three years, and it is unlikely to increase its commercial activity with O2.

Huawei could very feasibly lose its RAN leadership position due to bureaucracy as opposed to head-to-head competition.

Three has the biggest headache of all

Three is not in a healthy position but fortunately its 5G deployment is not that advanced.

“We note the government’s announcement and are reviewing the detail,” said Three UK CEO Dave Dyson.

Last year, Three began stripping Samsung 4G equipment out of its network to ensure interoperability with its sole 5G RAN supplier, Huawei. Fortunately, Three has not been accelerating its deployment plans as quickly as EE or Vodafone, therefore does not have as much work to undo. Three will not have to start again from the beginning, but it will have to redevelop the strategy.

As a city-centric telco, the Huawei decision made sense as the Chinese vendor arguably has the best equipment for the situation. Investing so significantly in Huawei might have been a bold decision two years ago, but it is now looking like nothing short of a disaster.

Business as usual for O2

“Huawei kit makes up less than 1% of our owned network infrastructure,” said an O2 spokesperson. “We will continue to develop our 5G network with minimum disruption with our primary vendors Nokia and Ericsson.

“Whilst we agree with the government that diversity of supply is the best way to serve customers, careful consideration must be given to the distinction between ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ as 5G networks develop and evolve. We’ll now take time to review the full report.”

There are roughly a dozen Huawei radios in the O2 network, a legacy of trials during yesteryear prior to supplier decisions being made. O2 has said it will work exclusively with Ericsson and Nokia in the past, painting a gloomy picture for Huawei, though there is always room for change.

Earlier this month, O2 announced it would be aiming to integrate OpenRAN alternatives into some areas of the network. This was slightly unexpected news and would have altered deployment plans in pursuit of commercial efficiencies. This demonstrates that the plans are not 100% set in stone.

Huawei’s commercial relationship with O2 can only get better, and if it does want to maintain its RAN leadership position in the UK, it will have to figure out how to break into this business. Ultimately, very little changes for O2 unless it wants to change itself.

EE and Vodafone have some thinking to do

“While Vodafone UK does not use Huawei in its core – the intelligent part of the network – it will now analyse the potential impact of today’s decision on the non-core elements of its network (masts and transmission links),” a Vodafone statement reads.

“Vodafone UK uses a mix of Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia equipment for its 4G and 5G masts, and we continue to believe that the use of a wide range of equipment vendors is the best way to safeguard the delivery of services to all mobile customers.”

For its 4G network, Ericsson supplies 50% of the radio inventory, Nokia 12% and Huawei 38%. Vodafone CTO Scott Petty has previously suggested plans to phase out Nokia, though that position might have to be reconsidered. Vodafone will have to scale down its Huawei relationship moving forward into 5G and find a suitable replacement.

Interestingly enough, Vodafone has also launched its own OpenRAN initiative, though whether this technology is resilient for a straight swap remains to be seen. It will at some point, but Vodafone will not want to wait until that point.

EE is in a similar position.

“This decision is an important clarification for the industry,” said a spokesperson from EE parent company BT.

“The security of our networks is an absolute priority for BT, and we already have a long-standing principle not to use Huawei in our core networks. While we have prepared for a range of scenarios, we need to further analyse the details and implications of this decision before taking a view of potential costs and impacts.”

EE currently works with Huawei and Nokia. The share of Huawei radio inventory exceeds the 35% limit, though it has time and options to renegotiate over the next three years. It is a bit of a headache for the team, but not the end of the world.

The difficulty which EE faces is the current structure of the network. Huawei provides the radio equipment for the urbanised areas, while Nokia is focused on rural. The internet traffic crossing Huawei radios on EE’s network will dramatically exceed the 35% restriction.

Are Nokia and Ericsson in a stronger negotiating position?

For cut-throat sales opportunists, this is a very interesting position for Ericsson and Nokia. Unless OpenRAN makes significant progress in the short-term future, or Samsung starts swinging punches, 65% network share is effectively a straight shootout between the two.

As Heavy Reading Analyst Gabriel Brown has pointed out, the limits are only directed towards 5G access and is therefore more manageable, but the knowledge of restrictions will always be in the mind of some salespeople; this adds weight to the vendor negotiating position.

Ericsson and Nokia will of course never acknowledge this position, but these are commercial organisations who have seen profits eroded over the last few years. And the guys sitting at the negotiating table are salespeople who like getting big bonus checks.

Could this be the catalyst for OpenRAN and Samsung?

When there are challenges for some, opportunities will always be presented for others. Ericsson and Nokia are certainly set to prosper thanks to Huawei limitations, though the same could be said for the OpenRAN ecosystem and Samsung.

OpenRAN has been touted by US politicians as a potential alternative to Huawei equipment, Senator Mark Warner is proposing a $1 billion fund for the ecosystem, though needs might accelerate demand.

With Huawei’s RAN equipment under restriction, there is certainly a dent in the competitive landscape. It could have been a lot worse, but it will have an impact. The question is how much enthusiasm will be placed in the OpenRAN movement to compensate and create the competitive environment so many are hoping will emerge.

Vodafone and O2 have already dipped their toes into the OpenRAN waters, with commercial deployments to accelerate over the next 2-3 years, though the Huawei saga could make this seem like an attractive alternative to more. The UK Government has seemingly not banned Huawei completely for competition fears, therefore it might be tempted to invest in some developing ecosystems, as would EE and Three.

Samsung is a different story.

This is a vendor which has credibility in the RAN market but has never made a significant impact on the UK telco industry. It did have a healthy relationship with Three prior to the Huawei shift, but activities otherwise have been limited in this segment. Huawei limitations could present an opportunity.

At Three, it would make sense to head back to tried-and-tested waters, while other telcos might consider the Korean vendor to ensure increased diversity in the supply chain. If reliance and variety is the goal, few would want to put more eggs in the Ericsson or Nokia baskets.

With relationships in Korea with KT and SK Telecom, as well as Verizon in the US, Samsung has credibility. The Huawei woes might just be enough to tip the scale in this vendors favour, if it start to throw the right punches.

End of the UK road for ZTE?

The 35% limit is not a restriction for a single supplier, but for any suppliers who are deemed ‘high-risk’. Huawei and ZTE both fall into this bracket therefore it is likely to present a question to the telcos; do we work with Huawei or ZTE? There is room for a slice for each, but this is highly unlikely to happen, especially since the review concludes there is no way to mitigate the risk posed by ZTE.

When it comes to the global market share of RAN, ZTE is a company which falls into the ‘also ran’ category. It has experienced success in Africa and Asia, and of course in China, but exposure in Western Europe has been incredibly limited. In the UK, there is very little evidence of success, though Jersey Telecom named the vendor as its sole 5G RAN supplier.

Jersey Telecom will have to have a complete rethink of its strategy, like Three, but the writing seems to be on the wall for ZTE. This could be the end of the vendor as a player in the UK market.

Apple iPhone XR is struggling with the O2 UK network

One of Apple’s slightly less expensive smartphones is repeatedly losing its connection to the O2 UK network.

According to the Beeb, a bunch of O2 customers were reporting their iPhone XRs being cut off from the network over the festive period, some of them several times a day. As is increasingly the way of things, much of the corroboration for the claim was taken from Twitter, with one beleaguered tweeter saying he had been enduring this connectivity blight since 16 December. Another was reduced to buying a second hand iPhone 7.

“We’re working closely with our partners to resolve an intermittent issue affecting some of our customers using iPhone XR,” an O2 spokeswoman told the BBC. “We thank any customers affected for their patience.” The spokewoman apparently went on to say something to the extent of ‘have you tried turning it off an on again?’ which the affected users presumably had.

Apple also responded to the Beeb, saying it was aware of the issue and that it was working on a software patch to fix it. The bloke who has this issue since 16 December says O2 told him it was Apple’s fault but neither company has formally confirmed this as far as we can tell. If this is the case then the least Apple could do is make a public statement to that effect.

Ericsson gets some 5G work from MTN South Africa

Swedish kit vendor Ericsson is helping out MTN South Africa with its 5G RAN, transport and core.

MTN expects to start rolling out its commercial 5G network sometime next year and has revealed that Ericsson will be one of the vendors heavily involved in the process. There’s no talk of exclusivity, however, so we can assume at least one other is mucking in, while complicating the picture further is MTN’s recent warm words about the OpenRAN project.

“South Africa is undergoing a huge digital transformation, which will open up new business opportunities and boost the nation’s economy,” said Giovanni Chiarelli, CTIO of MTN South Africa. “To enable and speed up this process, MTN, with Ericsson as our partner, is rapidly upgrading our network to deliver the quality, capacity, and overall network performance that our enterprise and customers demand. Launching 5G will accomplish this transformation and, with fixed wireless access, will ensure high quality, increased capacity, and greater reliability for our customers.”

“With this deal MTN South Africa will be one of the true 5G pioneers in Africa,” said Nicolas Blixell, VP of Ericsson Middle East and Africa. “We will work closely with them, just as we have done with other generations of technology, to bring the benefits of 5G to them and their customers. Citizens, enterprises, industry and society in general in South Africa are set to benefit enormously from 5G and we are here to help MTN South Africa make that happen.”

Ericsson now claims 76 commercial 5G agreements or contracts with unique operators, of which 30 are publicly announced and 23 are live. Here’s Ericsson’s latest 5G deal win map which, for some reason, doesn’t feature this one. Bit of an internal communications breakdown there it seems.