Ericsson benefits from Telia Norway’s snub of Huawei and Nokia

Ericsson has announced it will be the sole RAN vendor for Telia Norway, with the pair driving towards completing a nationwide rollout by 2023.

While the duo already had a relationship in place, Huawei might have hoped this was a market it would benefit in. At the end of September, the Norwegian Government indicated it was not going to pass a wide-spread ban on Huawei equipment, while the Chinese vendor has signed an MOU with the telcos parent company and does have a relationship to supply 4G network infrastructure equipment with the Norwegian subsidiary.

Telia Norway might not be the biggest telco, nor does it have the largest network, though being announced as a sole supplier is an ego boost if nothing else. The fact that this is a Nordic deal win might have some extra significance in Ericsson’s rivalry with Nokia. Being Swedish you might expect Telia to favour compatriot Ericsson, but it has no problem working with Nokia in Finland. Maybe Telia didn’t appreciate having one of its execs poached by Nokia.

“We are pleased to strengthen our position in the Nordic countries,” said Ericsson President of Europe and Latin America Arun Bansal. “As Telia Norway’s sole radio access network vendor, we’re working closely with them to bring the best possible commercial 5G experiences to their subscribers.

“5G is an innovation platform that not only delivers fantastic enhanced mobile broadband experiences but will also enable Telia Norway to pursue innovation opportunities with customers in the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0. across industry, enterprise and society.

“We are currently live with commercial 5G in 19 customer networks across 15 countries, spanning four continents. We look forward to adding Telia Norway to that list in 2020, alongside many other new customers in Europe and beyond.”

As part of the agreement, 5G New Radio will be deployed across the network, while Ericsson’s spectrum sharing software will also be implemented, allowing Telia to share its spectrum between 4G and 5G use. The plan is to launch commercial services next year, with the intention of hitting nationwide coverage by the end of 2023.

What is worth noting is that while Huawei might have been in the picture during the trial period, let’s not forget the Telia parent company is headquartered in Sweden, and the business has been running extensive trials with Ericsson for some time.

In Stockholm and Tallinn, TeliaSonera and Ericsson entered into a strategic partnership to let enterprise customers test 5G services in mid-2018, while the pair turned on the country’s first 5G network together at KTH the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm in December. Ericsson has also been working extensively with the Telia team in Estonia, focusing on the Port of Tallinn amongst other areas.

The Telia Norway agreement now takes the number of publicly named commercial 5G contracts at Ericsson up to 27. Although this might not be as high as its direct competitors, Nokia has 48 and Huawei has 50, Ericsson equipment is now part of 19 live network launches around the world.

Norway says yes to Huawei

The Norwegian Government has said it will not ban Huawei from providing network infrastructure equipment or services to fuel the drive towards 5G.

According to Reuters, Cabinet Minister Nikolai Astrup, the man who leads digital efforts across the government, has confirmed Huawei is free to operate in the country. While it is not the largest market for telco vendors, it is another positive sign that not everyone around the world will side with the US.

“We have a good dialogue with the companies on security, and then it is up to the companies themselves to choose suppliers,” said Astrup. “We haven’t got any bans against any suppliers in Norway.”

For Huawei executives, there will be a sigh of relief. Norway was one of the countries which was considering a ban on the grounds of national security, though this now appears to be a process designated to the past. It also demonstrates decisive action from a government; others around the world should take note.

Although Norwegian telcos fall into the fast-follower category for 5G deployment, they now have the advantage of certainty. Other countries, where services are already launched, do not have this confidence as decisions are still currently being made. The UK is a prime example of this.

The Supply Chain Review, on which Huawei’s hopes are pinned, is still under consideration. EE, Vodafone and Three might have already launched 5G services, though they are currently sitting in a state of purgatory. Without absolute confirmation of Huawei’s role in the UK’s digital infrastructure future, aggressive deployment plans are tricky. This is most apparent for Three and Vodafone, where Huawei is pencilled in to play a very significant role.

This dilemma is not present in Norway anymore. Telenor, Norway’s largest telco, plans to launch commercial 5G services in 2020 and can drive towards full-scale network deployment without any limitations on vendor selection from the government. We do not expect any single vendor will be a single-supplier, though it does have increased choice of suppliers compared to other nations.

Elsewhere in the Norwegian telco space, Telia and Ice will also be prepping themselves following the country’s first 5G spectrum auction in June. At the end of the auction, Telenor and Telia each walked away with two 10 MHz blocks 700 MHz spectrum, while Ice collected two 10 MHz blocks in 700 MHz and two 15 MHz lots in the 2100 MHz band. Further auctions are planning over the next few years, with the valuable 3.4-3.8 MHz and 26 GHz bands up for bid next year.

Looking at the relationships which are currently in place, Telenor and Telia have a partnership with Huawei, while Ice has elected to side with Scandinavian neighbour Nokia. Most recently, Telenor has been working with Huawei to trial 5G in the 26 GHz spectrum band, while Telia’s Swedish parent company signed a 5G MOU with Huawei in 2016. Both of the companies have Huawei equipment present in the 4G networks.

Ice is the smallest telco in Norway, it doesn’t have nation-wide coverage just yet, and has elected to work with Nokia. Nokia appears to be providing an end-to-end solution for the challenger telco, which is claiming to have already deployed 1000 5G-ready base stations in its network. Ice is an interesting telco to keep an eye-on, as while it is driving towards 5G connectivity, it still has a significant amount to invest to gain nation-wide coverage for its 4G network, which currently stands at 75% geographical coverage. This might not sound too bad, though when you consider the environmental challenges Norway’s landscape presents, it will be very difficult to improve this footprint quickly.

Another interesting element to consider here will be the impact this has on the relationship between the US and Norway. The US is continuing to pressure partners to place a ban on Huawei, and despite making progress in Poland, more countries are choosing to ignore the demands of the White House.

Looking at the Norwegian export statistics, you can see why the US does not have the same influence as it does with other states. Norway is the 36th largest export economy in the world and the 22nd most complex economy according to the Economic Complexity Index (ECI). Exports stood at $106 billion at the end of 2017, with crude petroleum and petroleum gas topping the list.

In terms of destinations, Europe accounted for 80% of all exports from the country, the UK led the way with 20%, while the US accounted for 4.7%. This is still a substantial number, though the US cannot force its will on the politicians in the same way.

Although the continued conflict between the US and China, in which Huawei is somewhat of a proxy for collateral damage, is causing discomfort for the vendor, it could be a lot worse. Worse case scenarios were drawn-up when the tension got to breaking point, though with numerous governments choosing to ignore the severity claims from the US, Huawei remains in a healthy(ish) position.

South Korea has the best mobile experience except for latency – Opensignal

Network measurement outfit Opensignal has published its latest ‘State of the mobile network experience’ report and Korea is mostly on top.

South Korea is well ahead of any other country in the world when it comes to download experience, with average speeds topping 50 Mbps, which most fixed broadband users can only dream about. Only Norway comes close, with even third-placed Canada a clear 10 Mbps behind. At the other end of the scale we inevitably have developing countries, but it’s surprising to see India still lagging at 6.8 Mbps average despite all the investment from Jio.

Download Speed Experience_Opensignal State of Mobile Network Experience 2019

It looks like all that Jio cash has been focused on coverage, with India doing a lot better in terms of 4G availability. Your average Indian punter get access to 4G 90% of the time, we’re told, but that’s still not good enough to challenge South Korea, which once more tops the list with 97.5% availability. Iraq, Algeria, Nepal and Uzbekistan once more prop up the table, as they did with download experience.

4G Availability_Opensignal State of Mobile Network Experience 2019

Intriguingly South Korea is nowhere near as good when it comes to latency experience, for some reason and is also dropping the ball in terms of video experience. We thought the two were related until we saw that Norway is top of the video experience pile in spite of being even worse than Korea when comes to latency, so maybe not. Europe is generally strong when it comes to latency and video experience.

Comparison of leading countries in Opensignal key metrics_Opensignal State of Mobile Network Experience 2019

Is telecom losing Europe’s next generation employees?

Telecoms companies did not feature in the top employers’ lists chosen by the current and potential young employees in a recent multi-country survey.

The Swedish consulting firm Academic Work recently published the results of a survey on current and future young employees in six European countries, which asked the respondents to choose their most “aspired” employer, hence the title of the survey “Young Professional Aspiration Index (YPAI) 2018”. Among the three Nordic countries where it broke down the details of the employers the young people most like to work for, Google came on top in all of them (it tied with Reaktor in Finland, the consulting firm behind the country’s big AI drive). None of the telecom companies, be it telcos or telecom equipment makers, made to the top-10’s.

 YPAI 2018

The survey was done in the four Nordic countries (Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark) plus Germany and Switzerland. Nearly 19,000 young people, a mixture of students (22%), current employed (59%), as well as job seekers (15%) answered the survey. The majority of the respondents came out of Sweden, while just under 1,000 respondents were registered from Finland and Norway. Presumably the sample sizes were not big enough in the other three countries to break down the top-10 company lists.

YPAI 2018 respondents

In addition to asking the respondents to name their preferred employers, the survey also asked them about their most important criteria when choosing a place to work. “Good working environment and nice colleagues” came on top in four out of the six countries (chosen by 60% of the respondents in Sweden, 78% in Denmark, 73% in Germany, and 66% in Switzerland). It tied with “Leadership” in Sweden. In Finland coming on top was “varied and challenging tasks”, chosen by 60% of those who answered the survey, while in Norway 64% of the young people surveyed chose “training / development opportunities” as the most important criterion.

Once upon a time (i.e. around the turn of the century), telecom was THE industry to work in. It has been losing some of its old lustre to the internet giants. If they “aspire” to re-take the top spot of the young people’s mind share, the Ericssons and Nokias and Telenors of the world may want to refer to these criteria when promoting their corporate image, as a starting point.

Ookla says Telenor is the world’s fastest mobile operator

Telenor Norway registered an average download speed of 72 Mbps in Q2 2018 according to measurement service Ookla.

In a blog post Ookla, which has Telenor as an enterprise client, was able to shed some light on how such speeds are achieved. There doesn’t seem to be anything too surprising; carrier aggregation , 256QAM, 4×4 MIMO and all that jazz all add up to a nice lot of bandwidth. On top of that it seems to have largely shifted voice traffic over to LTE, which presumably frees up more spectrum to widen the 4G pipe.

As a consequence Ookla has Norway in second place in its global wireless speed rankings, although its average speed of 57 Mbps indicates the other Norwegian operators are way behind Telenor and need to introduce some QAM and MIMO into their diets. Qatar is the clear number one and UAE is third, indicating the Gulf has been investing heavily on infrastructure, while Singapore and Iceland are in the top five for both mobile and fixed speed. The UK is 51st on mobile and 30th on fixed.

Ookla speedtest July 2018