OpenRAN enthusiasm spreads to Turkey

Mavenir has announced Turkcell as its latest customer, with the pair planning to deploy OpenRAN vRAN technologies in the telcos domestic market.

As part of the agreement, Mavenir’s Virtual RAN solution will be deployed on Turkcell Telco Cloud and it will be first workload that will be going live on Turkcell Edge Cloud. Mavenir claims this vRAN architecture and platform can support 4G as well as both the NSA and SA implementations of 5G NR.

“At Turkcell, we have reached more than 60% virtualization in our mobile core network. We already take great advantage of what virtualization has to offer and are willing to extend the benefits of virtualization coupled with OpenRAN for the next step in Turkcell’s Radio Access Network evolution,” said Gediz Sezgin, Turkcell CTO.

“With its broad experience and expertise in RAN technologies and Network Virtualization, Turkcell will make great contribution for innovation on open vRAN towards 5G era. We are excited to take on and lead this journey.”

Turkcell becomes the latest in a string of companies seeking to drive forward with the OpenRAN technologies, though it is not entirely clear how scaled the deployment will be. There are of course interesting promises being made by the OpenRAN community, though few telcos would be prepared to invest comprehensively during these embryonic stages of development.

To understand where OpenRAN might gain the most traction it would probably be best to look at the regions with the lowest ARPU. Turkey is an interesting market, as according to data from Cable.co.uk, the average price of GB on mobile tariffs is as low as $2.25. This is certainly not as low as some other markets, though it starts to get tricky to drive ROI when data tariffs are below global averages.

The promise of OpenRAN is to commoditise the hardware components of the radio access network, which will allow hardware and software to be decoupled. This should, in theory, reduce the cost of radio deployment and remove any vendor lock-in threats which may still persist. This is an attractive idea for companies who need to rebalance the expenditure/profitability equation.

For the moment it is difficult to see what the long-term position of OpenRAN in the vendor mix will actually be. It is not resilient enough a technology just yet for scaled deployments, though some have suggested enthusiasm for trials is a stick to beat traditional vendors down on price.

In the markets where ROI is disastrously difficult to realise, OpenRAN will certainly play a role in the future, as it will probably in rural regions. Though it does remain to be seen how much of a dent OpenRAN will put into the fortunes of the traditional RAN vendors.

Google giving up on Turkey

Google has announced that new Android devices sold in Turkey will no-longer be sold with its own applications pre-installed following an antitrust dispute with authorities in the country.

“We’ve informed our business partners that we will not be able to work with them on new Android phones to be released for the Turkish market,” Google confirmed in a statement.

“Consumers will be able to purchase existing device models and will be able to use their devices and applications normally. Google’s other services will be unaffected.”

Android will of course be still available in the country, it is an open-source operating system after all, though Google has informed business partners in the country it will no-longer be able to work with them thanks to the friction with the Turkish Government.

The words Google and antitrust do of course sit together as comfortably as Bill and Ben, though it seems there is little chance of resolving this conflict in the immediate future. Google was found to be in the wrong following an antitrust investigation, though it has been unable to align itself to the demands of the authorities to move forward.

As part of the antitrust conclusion, Google was forced to pay 93 million lira ($17.4 million) and make changes to contracts with its business partners. Google complied, though on November 7, Turkey’s competition board said the changes were not sufficient.

The original complaint was filed by Russian search firm Yandex, with Turkish authorities hoping Google would allow consumers to choose which search engine was default on new devices. This was never going to be something Google would agree to, it undermines the business model after all, hence the situation today.

Google now has 60-days to appeal the decision, and while it might be uncomfortable for the moment, we cannot see the Turkish authorities winning this battle. Google holds the cards here; if it doesn’t like the situation it can always threaten to abandon Turkey, leaving Yandex the opportunity to distort competition. We struggle to see this being a palatable outcome for the Turkish competition board.

Red Hat gives thanks for Turkcell virtualization win

Turkish operator Turkcell has launched a virtualization platform called Unified Telco Cloud that’s based on Red Hat’s OpenStack Platform.

As the name implies this new platform is all about centralising all its services onto a single virtualized infrastructure. This NFVi then allows east selection and implementation of virtual network functions, or so the story goes. Examples of operators going all-in on this stuff are still sufficiently rare for this to be noteworthy.

As a consequence this deal win is also a big deal for Red Hat, which has invested heavily in attacking the telco virtualization market from an open source direction, as is its wont. Red Hat OpenStack Platform is its carrier-grade distribution of the open source hybrid cloud platform. Turkcell is also using Red Hat Ceph Storage, a software-defined storage technology designed for this sort of thing.

“Our goal is to remake Turkcell as a digital services provider, and our business ambitions are global,” said Gediz Sezgin, CTO of Turkcell. “While planning for upcoming 5G and edge computing evolution in our network, we need to increase vendor independence and horizontal scalability to help maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of our CAPEX investment.

“With the Unified Telco Cloud, we want to lower the barrier to entry of our own network to make it a breeding ground for innovation and competition. In parallel, we want to unify infrastructure and decrease operational costs. Red Hat seemed a natural choice of partner given its leadership in the OpenStack community, its interoperability and collaboration with the vendor ecosystem and its business transformation work with other operators.”

Another key partner for Turkcell in this was Affirmed Networks, which specialises in virtualized mobile networks. “We initially selected Affirmed Networks based on their innovation in the area of network transformation and virtualization and their work with some of the world’s largest operators,” said Sezgin.

It’s good to see some of the endlessly hyped promise of NFV actually being put into effect and it will be interesting to see what kind of ROI Turkcell claims to have got from its Unified Telco Cloud. With organisations such as the O-RAN Alliance apparently gathering momentum, open source could be a major theme of this year’s MWC too.

Turkey President threatens iPhone boycott

The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has threatened a boycott of US electronics in response to tensions over a US citizen imprisoned in Turkey.

A couple of years ago Erdogan arrested a bunch of people after an apparent attempted coup and American Pastor Andrew Brunson was among them. He has been locked up since then and US President Donald Trump recently decided to increase the pressure on Erdogan to let him go, sanctioning a couple of politicians and increasing some tariffs, resulting in big falls in the value of the Turkish currency.

Multiple media have reported Erdogan as saying the following at a press conference. “We will implement a boycott against America’s electronic goods. If they have iPhone, there is Samsung on the other side and we have our own telephone brands. We are going to produce enough for ourselves. We have to serve better quality goods than we are importing from them.”

Yeah, good luck with that Recep. These threats seem to have been largely discounted but they do illustrate once more how easily US companies such as Apple can become collateral damage when politicians use trade as a diplomatic weapon. If we assume Erdogan wasn’t just drunk, he was probably chest-beating because that has proven to be the language Trump understands.

It’s quite possible that Brunson is merely a proxy for Trump to have a go at Turkey, which seems to be chummy with perennial US antagonist Russia. “We view the policy of sanctions as unlawful and illegitimate, driven mostly by a desire to dominate everywhere and in everything, dictate policies and call shots in international affairs,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.