Singapore snubs Huawei over 5G

Singtel and Starhub have celebrated winning 5G licenses by announcing Ericsson and Nokia as their respective kit vendor partners.

Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority has been doshing out mid-band and millimetre wave spectrum and, since Starhub is building its 5G network in partnership with M1, these announcements cover all the main MNOs in the city state. As part of their respective statements Singtel announced Ericsson as its partner for the full monty of 5Gness, while Starhub identified Nokia as its preferred supplier.

“We are excited to get this greenlight to lead and shape 5G in Singapore by building a world-class, secure and resilient 5G network that will serve as the backbone of Singapore’s digital economy,” said Singtel Group CEO Ms Chua Sock Koong. “More than a business investment, we see this as a significant investment in Singapore’s digital future as 5G spurs innovation among enterprises and industries, creating new businesses, jobs and economic value in the process.”

Starhub didn’t offer a canned quote and also opted not to burn its bridges by indicating it might offer some work to other vendors. But this is a clear snub of Chinese vendors by Singapore, which joins other Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan and India in giving them a wide berth. It will be interesting to see how the 5G vendor situation evolves in nonboring countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Singtel, AIS and SK bundle together for gaming JV

SK Telecom has joined forces with Thailand’s AIS and Singapore’s Singtel to launch a new partnership to develop new gaming-related revenue streams.

The investment in a regional joint venture builds on an earlier Memorandum of Understanding with the intention of pursuing riches in the increasingly popular gaming sector. Designed to be a venture relevant across the South-east Asian region, the trio will partner with various international partners to leverage their presence in various markets.

“Gaming is growing in popularity as digital entertainment for our customers in the region,” said Arthur Lang, CEO of Singtel’s International Group. “There are some 200 million gamers in our markets, and the numbers continue to grow.

“In the past two years, we’ve worked with various partners in the gaming ecosystem on regional esports efforts, such as PVP Esports, to connect with Gen Z and millennial audiences. This has received strong support from the community and spurred us to deepen our engagement beyond esports into gaming content distribution.”

Although gaming is already incredibly popular in some markets around the world, improvements in connectivity and mobile devices have opened this segment up to new audiences, new experiences and new ways to make money. 5G is also touted to bring new elements to this segment, thanks to higher download speeds and improved latency.

“The games market in Thailand is showing remarkable growth,” said Alistair David Johnston, MD of New Business at AIS. “There are over 27 million active gamers across all platforms, with revenue in 2019 exceeding 23 billion baht, and expected to increase to 27 billion baht in 2020. AIS has been a pioneer in the Thai esports space, hosting several successful tournaments. AIS’ industry-leading fixed and mobile networks also provide a great gaming experience to our customers.”

While AIS will bring experience in esports and digital content to the partnership, SK Telecom is bringing expertise from the hugely successful Korean entertainment and gaming industry, and Singtel’s is said to bring deep regional knowledge, digital and telco assets. With 800 million gamers across the region, it certainly does look like an attractive proposition.

Singtel to push forward with 5G cloud gaming trial

In partnership with Razer and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Singtel is testing the readiness of its network to capitalise on the fast-growing cloud gaming segment.

As a concept, cloud gaming is attracting a lot of attention in the industry and is attempting to wrestle the crown of go-to 5G usecase away from robotic surgery. Now it seems the Singapore consortium is getting in on the act with its own trials.

“While this is not the roll out of a commercial cloud gaming service, this opportunity is the first step for Singapore to spearhead 5G projects,” said Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan.

“5G is a literal game-changer when it comes to cloud gaming,” said Mr Yuen Kuan Moon, CEO, Consumer Singapore at Singtel. “Latency and bandwidth are crucial to internet streaming and 5G will deliver next-generation connectivity that will support immersive gaming, even on mobile devices.”

The trial itself will focus on the demands of cloud gaming as a usecase on a 5G network, as well as the design and engineering of low latency hardware for cloud gaming. More specifically on the hardware side, ultra-fast responsiveness, portability and seamless device-to-device sync to cloud servers will be the focus of investigations.

With mobile devices commanding growth revenues in the gaming industry, the cloud gaming usecase is charging-up the priority list for telcos. This is perhaps particularly prevalent in the APAC markets, where mobile gaming has gained more traction than the Western markets, though it should not be forgotten this is very applicable for consoles also.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign for the cloud gaming segment is the aggressive moves being made by the internet giants to gain supremacy in the space. Amazon, Microsoft and Google are all fighting for attention in the early days, though it is worth bearing in mind more niche players such as Nvidia and HTC are also making moves.

This is maybe one of the most encouraging signs for telcos. Usually, there is very much a ‘built it and they will come’ attitude for network investment, though with cloud gaming services already being created and marketed, the demand from service providers is awaiting the creation of networks.

SingTel saw Q4 profit drop by 14%

SingTel reported almost flat revenues and 14% decline in net profit in the quarter ending 31 December 2018, blaming negative influence from its investments in Australia and India.

In its quarterly results announcement, SingTel reported a 1% year-on-year growth in revenues to S$ 4.626 billion (1 Singapore $ = 0.74 US$), or 4% in constant currency, but 11% decline in EBITDA, and 14% decline in net profit. The first nine months of FY2019 saw revenues almost unchanged (up by 0.2%) of the same period the previous year, EBITDA down by 8%, and net profit down by 51%. The total free cash flow is still solid at S$2.5 billion although it went down by 10% from a year ago.

“We have stayed the course despite heightened competition and challenging market and economic conditions. We’ve continued to add postpaid mobile customers across our core business in both Singapore and Australia while making positive strides in the ICT and digital space,” said Chua Sock Koong, Singtel Group CEO. “We remain focused on investing in networks and building our digital capabilities – areas that are important to our customers and our future success. We will also step up on managing costs, growing revenues and driving efficiencies through increased digitalisation efforts.”

The key factor that impacted the results was the return on its investment in regional associates. The total profit before tax (PBT) in its regional associate portfolio went down by 35% to S$342 million. The worst hit was Airtel, which suffered a S$167 million decline in PBT and registered a pre-tax loss of S$129 million. When broken down to different markets, Airtel fared better in Africa but came under “continued pricing pressures” (from Jio)

In Australia, SingTel’s subsidiary Optus has delivered a healthy growth of 16% in total revenues  to A$1.64 billion (1 Australian $ = 0.71 US$). The mobile operator also switched on Australis’s first commercial 5G network in January. The slower than expected migration to NBN by broadband users, however, has brought in a 9% decline in mass market fixed revenue.

Despite lowering its outlook for the full financial year (ending 31 March) from stable EBITDA to single digital decline, SingTel was still confident in its long-term prospective. “Our long-term view on our regional associates remains positive as they continue to ride the growth in data and execute well against the challenges and competition,” added Chua, the CEO. “We expect the regional markets to revert to more sustainable market structures and deliver long-term profitable growth. Meanwhile, we are working closely with them to build a regional ecosystem of digital services that leverages the Group’s strengths and unlocks the value of our joint mobile customer base of over 675 million.”

 SingTel 3QFY2019 results

Singtel and Ericsson boast about another 5G ‘first’

While press statements claiming a ‘first’ in 5G are becoming somewhat repetitive, Singtel and Ericsson have paired up to milk the increasingly tiresome claim once more.

The duo claim Singapore’s ‘first’ 5G pilot network will go live in the final quarter of the year at one-north in Buona Vista, the city state’s science, business and IT hub. Using trial spectrum allocated by Singapore’s Info-Communications Media Development Authority (IMDA), the trial will focus on enhanced Mobile Broadband speed and low latency communications.

“5G has the potential to accelerate the digital transformation of industries, as well as empower consumers with innovative applications,” said Mark Chong, Group CTO at Singtel. “We are pleased to take another bold step in our journey to 5G with our 5G pilot network at one-north and invite enterprises to start shaping their digital future with us.”

“5G represents a key mobile technology evolution, opening up new possibilities and applications,” said Martin Wiktorin, Head of Ericsson Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines. “We believe that 5G will play a key role in the digital transformation of the Singapore economy. Demonstrating the possibilities in this showcase event will be a catalyst for engagements with Singapore enterprises.”

The announcement was made at Ericsson’s Bringing 5G to Life event, which also featured a 3D augmented reality (AR) streaming over a 5G network operating in the 28GHz millimetre wave spectrum, in collaboration with AR firm Meta. The demo allowed participants to interact with virtual objects, with the feed also being streamed in real-time to a remote audience, with the ultimate use case being large-scale remote learning in various industries such as medical and education.

Etisalat, Singtel, SoftBank and Telefónica become security superheroes

Etisalat, Singtel, SoftBank and Telefónica have teamed up to form the Global Cyber Security Alliance, patrolling the shadowy information highway to protect innocent punters from the evils of Malwareman and Dastardly DDoS.

By pooling resources the new crime-fighting cohorts hope to address one of the biggest challenges in the industry; underinvestment and underappreciation. The new alliance will have more than 1.2 billion customers in 60 countries, 20 Security Operation Centres and more than 6,000 security professionals. Crime won’t stand a chance.

Security is one of those topics which constantly gets mentioned, though prioritization seems to be an issue. This is true for both buyers and sellers, as there are simply more interesting revenue generating or efficiency increasing areas which attract the attention. Looking at it purely from a commercial perspective, security won’t make positive impacts on the accountants spreadsheets therefore is not considered a priority. Some might call this a cynical view on the industry, but we think it is simply realistic.

Pop Art Style Typography“With digital technologies gaining widespread adoption and driving innovation across industry verticals, the security landscape has evolved. Organizations now face a new breed of threats and need to manage digital risks in their environments. Today’s strategic alliance will give us a unique opportunity to work hand in hand with our telecom counterparts and deliver innovative security services for digital risk management.”

Francisco Salcedo, SVP at Etisalat Digital

Comic page template“We need swift and coordinated global responses to defend enterprises that operate across transnational borders as cyber threats are increasing in frequency, scale and sophistication. Singtel and its US-based subsidiary Trustwave are both well-established security leaders across the Asia Pacific, Europe and the Americas. The group’s resources, combined with those of its alliance partners, will provide a robust cyber security platform to protect our global customers, allowing them to thrive in the digital economy.”

Art Wong, CEO of Global Cyber Security at Singtel

Pow comic book bubble text retro style“Hackers have well-established and organized communities where they cooperate to produce cyber threats – it’s time that the world’s largest network of operators formed a global alliance to strengthen our defence against these attacks. SoftBank is excited to join the initial alliance partners including Singtel, Telefonica and Etisalat, to offer enhanced security to our customers and advance our cyber defence.”

Andrew Schwabecher, Head of the Cloud & Cyber Security Division at SoftBank

Comic colorful page concept“The Security Alliance will help all its members to deliver disruptive innovation to secure our customers’ digital lives. For Telefónica, it’s a major step ahead in complementing our ability to develop as an intelligent Managed Security Service Provider and to continue to deliver outstanding growth.”

Pedro Pablo Pérez, VP Security at Telefónica and CEO of Telefonica’s cybersecurity unit ElevenPaths

One of the big problems facing security is the complexity of the task. Hackers and nefarious actors are becoming increasingly complex, with new types of threats emerging every single day. This is where such an alliance, with an incredibly large pool of customers becomes an interesting idea. If a new threat is detected on one customers network, it can be identified and nullified, before the insight is passed through the rest of the alliance. Scale and the sharing of insight allows new threats to be minimized.

The attitude towards security is perhaps the biggest challenge organizations are facing today. Most companies will try to keep any breaches or hacks as quiet as possible, however this means the threat is still potent. Should there be greater transparency when an attack has occurred, security parameters can be adapted to ensure potential vulnerabilities are addressed. While this idea of transparency might be unrealistic in a world which is dictated by share price, the alliance means knowledge can be disseminated without executives worrying about huge backlash in the public domain.

Cyber criminals beware, your days are numbered as the wheezy crime fighting alliance of telcos is on your tail, just let them finish this round of Dungeons and Dragons.

Singtel throws out a mixed bag for its latest quarterly results

Revenues up and profits down. Some regions did well and some did bad. The consumer business declined and Digital Life jumped up. A real mixed bag for Singtel.

Group revenues were reported at roughly $3.5 billion, a year-on-year increase of 5.6%, while profits for the quarter stood at $668 million, a decline of 9%. The domestic market demonstrated a slight decline while the Australian business posted its highest ever quarterly postpaid customer growth, but the regional businesses didn’t really pack a punch. On a positive note, the digital business units are performing well and the team is actually spending money on the network.

“We see our investments in network infrastructure and spectrum as critical to our future growth and longer term returns in this digital world,” said Chua Sock Koong, Singtel Group CEO. “Already, our transformation strategy is delivering with digital and ICT services accounting for 23% of our revenue this quarter.

“In our core business, the digitalisation of our services across the Group has enabled us to deliver better customer experience and manage costs. The Australia business, particularly mobile, drove profitable growth. We will strive to provide more value to our customers by anticipating their needs and staying ahead of the competition.”

Looking at the regional businesses, Singtel’s share in Bharti Airtel might be causing a few headaches. It was only a couple of days ago the team announced it was increasing its stake to 39.5% and the African business does seem to be repaying this faith. Unfortunately, heating competition in India, where the majority of the business is, is continuing to weigh heavy on the market incumbent.

Elsewhere, Telkomsel’s earnings fell in Indonesia, while Globe’s earnings in the Philippines were affected by higher depreciation and finance costs on network investments. Not exactly living the dream.

On the more positive side of things, Group Digital Life revenue jumped 106% as the content and technology business is proving a smart bet. A real mixed bag from the Singtel team.

Ericsson and Singtel claim APAC LAA record

Ericsson and long-time operator partner Singtel have announced they managed to hit 1.1 Gbps in a joint trial of a new LAA configuration.

License Assisted Access is all about increasing the amount of spectrum available for mobile broadband by using chunks of unlicensed spectrum too. This test, conducted in a Singtel lab, used 4×4 MIMO, 256 QAM, and any other LTE goodies they could throw into the mix, to aggregate two licensed and three unlicensed spectrum bands. The result was apparently an APAC first.

“We are very encouraged by this breakthrough in peak speeds,” said Mark Chong, Singtel’s Group CTO. “In Singapore, a large percentage of mobile traffic is generated indoors with more mobile customers browsing the web, streaming video and accessing cloud applications on the go. We are now in a position to deploy LAA technology to boost our LTE mobile capacity to meet increasing traffic demand. This will allow us to deliver a faster and more reliable mobile connectivity experience even during peak periods.”

“Licensed Assisted Access took wireless technology to a whole new level, delivering the increased capacity and faster speeds that operators demand as they evolve their networks,” said Martin Wiktorin, Head for Ericsson Singapore, Brunei & the Philippines. “This trial is a significant milestone in the use of LAA, pushing the limits of Gigabit LTE in a unique configuration of advanced technologies.”

Earlier this year Singtel and Ericsson announced the opening of Singapore’s first 5G center of excellence, a symptom of the two companies’ enduring chumminess. As a technologically advanced city state Singapore is quite a handy place to try out new wireless technologies, especially when it comes to capacity as opposed to coverage.

Singtel chooses Ericsson for 5G Center of Excellence

The launch of Singapore’s first 5G Center of Excellence has been claimed by operator Singtel in partnership with kit vendor Ericsson.

The two will chuck an initial $1.5 million onto the pot over the next three years to get things going. On top of all the usual 5G R&D, the CoE will focus on the commercial implications of 5G and will align itself to the state-sponsored Smart Nation initiative.

“This is a critical next step in our journey to 5G,” said Mark Chong, Group CTO of Singtel. “We’re pleased to partner Ericsson to enhance our 5G core competencies and create a robust 5G ecosystem that will allow Singtel and our enterprise customers to benefit from the anticipated growth opportunities 5G will bring. We invite customers in various verticals, such as transportation, port operations and next-generation manufacturing, to start shaping their new digital business models with us.”

“The establishment of the 5G CoE is timely and goes hand in hand with the Government’s move to encourage industry trials in 5G,” said Ericsson Country Manager for Singapore Martin Wiktorin. “Together with Singtel, we plan to set up a 5G test bed in 2018 for trials with key enterprise customers, with the objective of enabling a strong foundation to help design Singapore’s 5G future.”

The various 5G use-cases that will be explored by the CoE include opportunities created by low-latency connectivity such as remote control. Most tech megatrends are exploited first by industry and that seems to be the focus here. Singtel and Ericsson have a long established partnership, and cited their joint winning of the ‘Advancing the Road to 5G’ Global Telecoms Award as evidence of their great double-act.

Singtel signals the end of copper networks

Singtel has announced plans to accelerate the rollout of fibre networks in the nation, including the aim of progressively closing copper-based ADSL by early 2018.

As part of the plans to become a more digitally orientated nation, Singtel will cease copper deployment to commercial buildings that obtain Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) status from April 2018. What would be deemed a slow conversion to fibre in the rest of the world is being taking up a couple of notches in Singapore.

A TOP is essentially a certificate which states a building can be occupied for commercial purposes. For those companies who acquire a TOP prior to April, the option for copper will still be available, but this will soon be a thing of the past. Just to put things in a bit of context, Singtel made the same move, ceasing the deployment of copper, for new residential buildings in 2013.

“We are pleased to make this technology adoption push in support of today’s digital economy and tomorrow’s connected Smart Nation,” said Wong Soon Nam, Vice President of Consumer Products at Singtel.

“Fibre-based networks today is capable of offering far greater speeds and supporting a much wider range of services than the prevailing copper-based networks. Fibre also provides customers with a robust connectivity that supports unified business communication applications and smart home services.”

This is certainly a statement of intent, following up a very early commitment to rid the nation of copper in 2013, and shows why Singapore is one of the more advanced digital economies worldwide. To drive the digital economy, the infrastructure has to be top of the line, there is no other way around it.

And some might ask why other nations aren’t following the Singapore lead, making such strong commitments to fibre infrastructure and digitally enabled business models. Let’s just put things into a bit of context for the moment.

Singapore is the 176th smallest country in the world, with a land-mass of 277.6 sq. miles. It has a population of roughly 5.6 million. Now let’s put this in comparison to London. The population of London is just under 8.8 million, and the city covers a land-mass of 607 sq. miles. Now, London is certainly a big city, but the comparison emphasises the scale; Singapore is tiny.

Singapore might well be on the way to be a digital nation, but considering its size this is a much simpler job that the overwhelmingly, vast majority of other countries.