Ericsson signs deal with TDC to enable ‘Digital Denmark’ through 5G

Danish telecom giant TDC Group has selected Ericsson to deploy commercial 5G across the country.

The collaboration, which is part of a major network overhaul, will offer services through the Ericsson Operations Engine and enable the company to drive its ‘Digital Denmark’ campaign by assisting mobile broadband subscribers, enterprises, and industries to capitalise on 5G, IoT, and Industry 4.0.

Ericsson will provide its 5G platform for TDC’s 5G cellular network. The Swedish telecom giant will help modernise TDC’s complete Radio Access Network (RAN) with the latest solutions from Ericsson Radio System, and TDC’s core network will be modernised with Ericsson’s dual-mode 5G Cloud Core solution.

Ericsson 5G New Radio (NR) hardware and software products will be rolled out in 2019, aligning with the country’s 5G licensing obligations. 5G will go through a pilot testing phase from mid-2019 and will be available to selected customers only. The actual 5G network will likely to be initiated in October as soon as there is availability of licensed 5G spectrum.

Last month, Ericsson and Intel came together to start a multi-year collaboration to deliver ‘a new level of cloudlike agility, transparency and efficiency required for NFV, distributed cloud, and 5G’. This hardware management platform, which extends the agility of the cloud to the hardware infrastructure layer, will help speed time-to-market, maximise utilisation, and reduce total cost of ownership.

In January, Ericsson and Deutsche Telekom conducted a successful demonstration of a millimetre wave link with a data transmission rate of 40Gbps. During the trial, the focus was also on the stricter latency requirements in the 5G network architecture to support low latency or ultra-low latency use cases. The round-trip latency performance of the link tested was less than 100 microseconds, confirming the positive contribution of wireless backhaul technologies to satisfy network-specific latency targets.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo, and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

The evolution of the MVNO: Why now is the time for brands to take control

When the MVNO model first appeared, it was predicted that a wave of non-telecom B2C brands would seize the opportunity to diversify into mobile. With a few high-profile exceptions, the wave never came. The challenges were significant, not least  dependency on an often-inflexible relationship host network, and the complexity involved in building and managing the systems needed to make the service work.

In 2019, things have changed. I believe we may be on the cusp of new momentum in MVNO innovation, as sophisticated cloud platforms make it easier for brands to enter the market.

Amid the barrage of press releases issued during MWC Barcelona this year was a quiet announcement from Sprint and Google, which reported that the US operator will supply 5G connectivity for the Google Fi MVNO when it launches the new technology in key U.S. cities sometime during the first half of this year.

As 5G announcements go this one ranked among the less bombastic, particularly for an MWC week. But you don’t have to be making all the noise to be saying the most important things.

What's in a name?

Consider the naming, for a start. Many people may not have noticed that Google’s MVNO was recently given a significant rebrand. From its launch in April 2015 until the end of last year it was known as ‘Project Fi’, a name which offered some reassurance to those inclined to dismiss it as one of Google’s wacky experiments.

Now it’s part of the brand family, with a place at the table alongside Google Maps, Google Search, Gmail and the other billion-user siblings. The message is clear for those who hadn’t previously understood: Google takes this very seriously.

Then there’s the revelation that, despite being ‘just’ an MVNO, Google Fi will be fast to market with 5G. This is meaningful: MVNOs have often had to wait for advances in network technology. For example, in the UK, Virgin Media – one of the most successful MVNOs of all time, and part of a huge global brand family – didn’t get 4G until four years after host network EE made it available to consumers.

It’s also worth noting that Sprint appears happy to position itself in the supporting role here, despite this model playing hot operators off against one another for the chance to serve the customer.

The customer’s connection is cherry-picked by Google software based on quality, from available mobile networks, and an aggregated collection of public Wi-Fi access points.

Many operators, for whom network and service are one and the same, probably still bristle at this idea. After all, the customer relationship is owned by a non-telecom brand delivering a fully virtualised communications service which is entirely distinct from (and not even dependent on) a single network.  A brand which has been steadily introducing and integrating new high-value services; eSIM, same-cost data roaming in 170 countries, bill protection, spam protection, and VPN among them.

The brand opportunity

This level of virtualisation is the future of communications service provision – not just for consumer services but also for enterprise communications and the explosive Internet of Things opportunity.

When MVNOs first appeared, they had to overcome significant technology barriers to enter the MVNO market. Today those barriers are being torn down. Cloud-based communication platforms which combine all the back-office systems required to become an MVNO with the services to build exciting customer experiences and aggregated network capacity are changing the game. Perhaps most importantly these shifts will enable the brands rather than the operators to control the evolution of the MVNO.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo, and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

Ericsson gets some commercial 5G work from KT

Korean operator KT is buying a bunch of 5G NR kit and software to help it launch 5G commercially in a few weeks’ time.

It has been a decent week for Ericsson’s 5G sales team, with TDC in Denmark also signing on the dotted line. This latest win is the first commercial deal resulting from Ericsson being chosen as a 5G supplier late last year. They’ve presumably been working on this for a while, since the launch is so imminent, but KT only just gave Ericsson the green light to go public about it.

“Having worked successfully with Ericsson on 4G LTE, we are pleased to continue that partnership to make our 5G ambitions a reality with Ericsson’s leading 5G technology,” said Jinho Choi, VP of Access Network Design at KT. “By taking a global lead to enable nationwide commercial 5G services through commercially available 5G smartphones, KT is demonstrating our commitment to our customers and showing how we can drive a global 5G ecosystem where Korea plays a key role.”

“We’ve worked with KT for many years to bring the very best mobile user experiences to its customers,” said Patrick Johansson, Head of Ericsson Korea. “Notably on 5G, we worked closely together to show the world what 5G could do during a major global winter sports event in 2018. With 5G we aim to help KT to take their customers’ experiences to new levels, whether through enhanced mobile broadband for mobile subscribers, or helping to make national and global IoT and Industry 4.0 opportunities a reality for enterprises and industries.”

Specifically this gig concerns KT’s 3.5 GHz Non-Standalone (NSA) network. Korea is set to be the first country to offer some form of 5G nationwide on a commercial basis, although how many people will be able to make use of 3.5 GHz spectrum remains to be seen. In practice this is likely to be a Seoul thing, but it’s nonetheless an additional win for Ericsson to be associated with it.

BT pleads for open access to street furniture

BT is attempting to rally the industry in an attempt to convince local authorities to ditch the current exclusive concessions model in UK cities in favour of an ‘Open Access Model’.

As it stands, many local authorities operate a concessions model which grant a single player exclusive access to council-owned street furniture, such as lamp posts, to place mobile network equipment. This might seem attractive to the councils from a revenue perspective, but BT is arguing this will be to the detriment of the digital economy in the long-run.

“While the concessions model made sense in the early 2010’s when it first came into common use, the market and regulatory landscape have changed, and it’s become clear that exclusivity agreements act as a barrier to further 4G and 5G investments,” said Paul Ceely, Director of Network Strategy for BT.

“Government initiatives such as the DCMS Barrier Busting taskforce are showing the way, but we believe that industry needs to act. We are leading the way by handing back exclusivity in nine key areas.”

BT currently operates nine exclusive concessions (Glasgow, Cardiff, Brighton, Plymouth, Carlisle, Newcastle/Gateshead, Nottingham, Gloucester and Leicester) and is proposing to end these contracts should the result be an open access environment. The new model would grant all mobile operators and infrastructure companies access to street furniture, paying the local authorities a flat, consistent rate.

Although it is not a new gripe, the bureaucratic and regulatory environment across the UK has once again been blamed for connectivity problems. Almost all the operators have had a moan at the red-tape wrapped regulatory landscape at one point or another, but an open access model would appear to be a sensible step forward to encourage improved mobile coverage and experience.

However, what should be worth noting is there are authorities who have made progress in this area without prompts from industry.

“One of the reasons why the West Midlands was chosen as the location for the UK’s first region-wide 5G test bed was our commitment as a region to do what it takes to work with operators to get the 5G networks we need built in the fastest, fairest and most cost effective way,” said Henry Kippin, Director of Public Service Reform at the West Midlands Combined Authority.

“The timing and spirit of this Open Access initiative is ideal as we will make faster progress through operators and public services working together to a shared agenda so that 5G can fulfil its full potential in driving economic growth that can benefit all our diverse communities.”

While some small-minded public servants might point to the lost revenue when ending the exclusive concessions, you have to look at the long-term benefits. The West Midlands is now home to numerous 5G test beds, R&D facilities and is home to hubs of excellence for emerging technologies.

Whether the local authorities pay attention to logic is an entirely different matter, but any suggestions to decrease the red-tape complications of UK bureaucracy should be welcomed by all.

Huawei Win Awards In Multiple Domains At MWC19

Mobile World Congress 2019 may be over for this year, but innovation never stops.

In recognition of our contribution to the ICT industry, GSMA ranked Huawei best-in-class in six categories of the GLOMO (Global Mobile) awards at MWC19.

Involving a range of partnerships and tech innovations from the handheld to the city-wide, let’s take a closer look at the tech behind the wins.

The Solutions 

  1. 5G Uplink and Downlink Decoupling
  2. 5G Fixed Wireless Access
  3. C-V2X (Cellular Vehicle to Everything)
  4. eLTE for Smart City deployment
  5. Mate 20 Pro
  6. Mate X

MWC1

Category 1: Mobile Technology

Best Mobile Technology Breakthrough: Huawei 5G RAN Innovation (UL/DL Decoupling)

Huawei’s UL/DL technology separates the uplink and downlink on different bands in the co-site deployment scenario of 5G New Radio and LTE. This is crucial because 5G C-band (4 to 8 GHz) can severely limit uplink coverage compared to downlink coverage as a result of the higher bands and large power differences between sites and terminals. User experience is therefore negatively affected.

Huawei’s UL/DL decoupling solution:

  • Dynamically allocates spectrum resources at the TTI (Transmission Time Interval) level to cut the impact on LTE performance by less than 10%.
  • Improves C-band coverage and user experience by using LTE/4G bands to carry 5G uplink data.
  • Enables the same coverage in the C-Band and 1.8 GHz co-site deployment scenario, potentially maximizing the reach of 5G in C-band.
  • Improves user experience and reduces the number of new sites required.
  • Meets targets for 4G/5G co-site co-coverage and reduces the cost of integrated network construction.
  • Accelerates the deployment of 5G services.

Click the link to read more about 5G spectrum.

What the judges said

“Several benefits originate from this innovation – it demonstrates a good way of lowering the cost of 5G deployment and increasing capacity and coverage, especially with the reuse of existing hardware, and existing along with new spectrum.”

Category 2: Consumer

Best Mobile Operator Service for Consumers: The Sunrise 5G FWA Service

Under Sunrise’s “5G for People” strategy, the 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) solution deployed by the operator and Huawei in Switzerland delivers mobile Internet to rural areas that lack fiber infrastructure. Combined with Customer Premise Equipment (CPEs), which subscribers can easily install themselves, no complex engineering is required at the customer end.

Huawei’s end-to-end solution includes 5G core, bearers, sites, and Customer Premises Equipment (CPE).

  • December 2017: Sunrise launched its 5G trial network, setting a new world record in single-user throughput on 5G C-band using Huawei’s E2E 5G solutions.
  • In June 2018: the partners built the first commercial 5G site in Switzerland, turning 5G from concept to reality in six months.
  • By April 2019: the network will cover 150 areas in Switzerland, providing FWA services for the first batch of individual and enterprise users at a rate of 1 Gbps.

Click the link for more information about 5G WTTx.

What the judges said

“This solution shows the potential for 5G as an alternative to fiber in providing high-speed fixed broadband in sparsely populated areas. A very strong use case for 5G services, targeting a rural need with a highly scalable proposition.”

Category 3: Fourth Industrial Revolution

3d. Best Mobile Innovation for Automotive: Huawei & partners launch the first city-wide C-2VX deployment in China

MWC 2

City view of Wuxi in Jiangsu province, China

Built on an LTE-4G network in 2018, this city-level C-V2X (cellular vehicle-to-everything) network in Wuxi represents the world’s first E2E commercial solution scale deployment to demonstrate a range of C-V2X use cases.

Comprising RSUs and T-Boxes integrated with HiSilicon chips, the network provides high-bandwidth, low-latency, high-reliability communications for V2X scenarios, including vehicle to vehicle, vehicle to infrastructure, and vehicle to pedestrian, enabling a much better traffic flow and safer rides. The network:

  • Spans 240 intersections, the railway station, airport, and some major highways.
  • Covers most of the city area of around 170 km²
  • Covers 10,000 vehicles, including ambulances, delivery trucks, and taxis, with C-V2X devices, and is expected to cover 100,000 vehicles.
  • Enables a series of road safety applications for V2X-capable vehicles like warnings for roadworks, blind spots, and the proximity of emergency vehicles.

Take a look at the linked interactive map view and short videos showing the use cases.

MWC 3

What the judges said

“Cellular vehicle to everything (C-V2X) communication will ease congestion, improve traffic flow and make roads safer for all to use. A key barrier for emerging technology in automotive is regulation and time needed for testing and evaluation. While some deliberate over V2X technology, the success and scalability of this entry has led to wider deployment approval.”

Category 3: Fourth Industrial Revolution

3g. Best Mobile Innovation for Smart Cities: Huawei & Gaoqing Government’s Smart City Initiative

Over a period of two years, Huawei has helped construct an eLTE network covering Gaoqing, a city of 360,000 in China’s Shandong province. A convergent solution, the network integrates voice, video, data, and IoT services and:

  • Comprises 60 eLTE base stations covering 831 km
  • Connects terminals and sensors to supports a range of services, including city management, public safety, telemedicine, environmental monitoring (including water-level sensors on street corners).
  • Provides a platform for big data analytics.
  • Provides a reference for developing medium-sized smart cities that similar cities can emulate: Huawei  and Gaoqing government have jointly built a smart city showcase site that delivers a replicable and scalable construction model.

Learn more about Huawei’s smart city solutions.

What the judges said

“Connectivity, and 5G in particular, is set to change the urban landscape in the next 10 years. The organization of cities and its populations will be a hallmark of how we live, move, and interact in our societies. We are delighted that this award showcases some of these early and important innovations that show the early successes of this work.”

Category 4: Device

4a Best Smartphone (Judges’ Choice): Huawei Mate 20 Pro 

The Mate 20 Pro is a powerhouse of a device that delivers flagship performance. Some spec highlights are as follows:

  • The Kirin 980 emerged as the worlds first 7 nm mobile AI chipset
  • The Leica triple camera includes the Leica 20 MP ultra wide angle lens for outstanding snaps.
  • 4,300 mAh of battery power keeps the Mate 20 Pro powered for the long-haul.
  • Huawei SuperCharge and Wireless Reverse Charging offers super-fast and  convenient charging
  • 3D face unlock and the in-screen fingerprint sensor keep the device fully secure.

Don’t miss the full introduction to the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.

What the judges said

“An overwhelming winner among our panel of leading industry experts, the fantastic cameras, stabilization, and battery life among other features on this device are a real testament to this company’s efforts to become a leading smartphone player.”

Category 4: Device

4c. Best New Connected Mobile Device @ MWC 2019: Huawei Mate X

A definite crowd-pleaser at MWC19, the Huawei Mate X is taking smartphones into new territory. Watch this video of Huawei KOL and Cendol Technologies CEO & Founder Arnold Aranez introducing the device at MWC19.

Click the link for more details about the Huawei Mate X.

What the judges said

“It has been one of the most exciting and keenly contested years in for Best New Connected Mobile Device at MWC 2019 as can be seen in the shortlist. In a group of standout devices, the judges felt that Huawei Mate X showed more innovation and helped move the smartphone category into a new era. The combination of a folding screen and the inclusion of 5G impressed the judges in a very closely fought award.”

Going Forward

Six awards, multiple domains, and many partnerships. But it doesn’t end there. Huawei is committed to building a better connected, intelligent world for everyone, everywhere – a commitment we formalized at MWC19 with our digital inclusion initiative, Tech4ALL. Watch this space for more tech news.

 

Openreach dares to contemplate retiring its copper network

UK fixed-line wholesaler Openreach has launched an industry consultation into the switch to ‘full fibre’, which would involve retiring the legacy copper one.

There’s not a lot of point shelling out for a fibre network covering the whole country if a bunch of people don’t use it. Furthermore the cost of maintaining two parallel networks would be prohibitive, so Openreach seems to be saying full fibre will only happen if everyone is fully committed to it. The purpose of this consultation seems to be to chuck that idea out there and see what the rest of the industry, including the government and Ofcom, has to say about it.

“…we’re consulting with broadband providers to decide how and when we upgrade customers to even faster, more reliable and future-proof, full fibre broadband,” said Katie Milligan, MD for Customer, Commercial and Propositions at Openreach. “We believe this consultation is crucial to that process, and it will support further investment from across the industry. We’re really ambitious about upgrading the UK to the fastest, most reliable broadband there is.”

These are the three main areas Openreach wants feedback from UK CSPs on:

  1. How it builds the new network
  2. How the industry should migrate customers smoothly onto the new network
  3. How Openreach should eventually retire the existing copper network

Getting buy-in from the CSPs is vital, of course, because they and their customers are ultimately the ones that will pay for this network. The above points are all essentially about money: how are we going to pay for this network and make everyone use it? On top of those Openreach flagged up a few more specific ‘guiding principles’ that also need to be considered:

  • Building contiguous footprints within its exchange areas to avoid creating new not-spots
  • Working closely with CPs to upgrade every customer in those areas quickly once the new network is built
  • Offering a compelling, simple portfolio of products that supports new retail voice and broadband services
  • Upgrading the large majority of people voluntarily, whilst developing an industry process for late adopters
  • Withdrawing copper-based services progressively
  • Developing a consumer charter with industry and Ofcom that encourages transparent communications to homes and businesses affected, and includes protections for vulnerable customers

In other words those pesky ‘late adopters’ would eventually be given no choice but to upgrade. This is what Openreach had to say about the copper situation: “The process would start with a ‘no move back’ policy for premises connected with FTTP, followed by a ‘stop-sell’ of copper services to new customers, and ultimately a withdrawal in full.”

It seems a bit authoritarian, but if the economics of maintaining the copper network don’t add up then it’s hard to what alternatives there are. The danger of forcing consumers to take a service is that CSPs could take that opportunity to over-charge, so Ofcom will want to keep an eye on that side of things. The government, as ever, will ride on the coat-tails of the process in its never-ending search for cheap political capital.

“We’re building a Britain that’s fit for the future, and our plans for a national full fibre broadband network underpin our modern industrial strategy,”  said Minister for Digital Margot James. “Upgrading to gigabit capable connections will benefit homes and businesses all across the UK. I welcome Openreach’s consultation on how to make this process as simple and efficient as possible whilst ensuring a competitive market is in place for all consumers and infrastructure providers.”

Openreach also recently announced Salisbury is going to become the UK’s first place to get FTTP across an entire town, which will be complete in April 2020. It seems to be setting this up as an exemplar of how great everything can be if we all cooperate on this stuff and reap the consequent connectivity rewards. This consultation will be open until 3 May, after which Openreach will let us know how it went.

Three UK readies assault on broadband market

While its latest financials might not look mind-blowing, Three UK is steading the ship as it casts its eye towards the promised land of convergence and 5G.

Convergence is not really much of a buzzword anymore, such is the accepted nature of the model across the telco industry, though Three is seemingly readying itself for a broader push into broadband segment. The first job is to rebrand Relish, which will happen next month, and the next box to tick will be 5G.

“We are well set up for some transformational shifts in 2019 for our customers and our employees,” said Three UK CEO Dave Dyson. “It will be a year when our customers will start to see the real benefits of the next generation of 5G “mobile” technology, a technology that will not only replace 4G, but will also replace the need for wired broadband services.”

With the new ‘Three Broadband’ branding and a 5G network launching in H2, the Three marketers will have plenty to talk about when attempting to add to the 800,000 broadband customers it already has. In terms of the current state of play, Three said 10% of its current customer base is already ‘converged’ but 5G offers an opportunity to accelerate growth in the broadband business.

The team feels it has an advantage over rivals with its 5G holdings, offering superfast broadband connectivity which is not reliant on fibre. Whether UK consumers are swayed by the Fixed Wireless Access promise remains to be seen.

Looking at the position of the business, it would be fair to describe the last twelve months as healthy without being particularly good. This might not sound the most positive, but the raw materials are certainly in place for Three to make some very strong strides forward.

Total revenues over the last 12 months rose 1% to £2.4 billion, while total network connections reached 11.3 million. 99% of new customers were brought in through Three’s own sales channels, churn is down to 1.1% and net promoter score has reached a new high of +15. Three might not have torn up many trees last year, but the foundations of the business are very healthy.

Looking forward, the team is in the testing stages for its fully-virtualized 5G-ready cloud core network, while there are now 21 data centres live on the network. The business has also signed an agreement with SSE to improve mobile backhaul and 3G spectrum is being continuously re-farmed for 4G. All these initiatives will incrementally improve the customer experience.

“Three is fully embracing a business transformation to take maximum advantage of the opportunities digital businesses enjoy,” said Dyson. “2018 was the year when we set the foundations in place for us to jump up to the next level and become the UK’s best-loved brand by our people and customers, meeting all our customers’ connectivity needs.”

This kind of feels like a ‘calm before the storm’ scenario. Once the broadband rebrand is finished and 5G launched, we feel there will be some very aggressive moves from Three, staying true to its data-orientated roots but heavily integrated convergence messages on-top.

UK government grapples with bias in artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has enormous potential for good, but with applications processing data faster than we can comprehend, how do you protect against bias?

To address this issue, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has unveiled the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, with one of the first project focusing on the idea of programmed or learned bias in the algorithms which power AI.

“Technology is a force for good and continues to improve people’s lives but we must make sure it is developed in a safe and secure way,” said Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright. “Our Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation has been set up to help us achieve this aim and keep Britain at the forefront of technological development.

“I’m pleased its team of experts is undertaking an investigation into the potential for bias in algorithmic decision-making in areas including crime, justice and financial services. I look forward to seeing the centre’s future recommendations to help make sure we maximise the benefits of these powerful technologies for society.”

First up, the new centre will partner with the Cabinet Office’s Race Disparity Unit to explore potential for bias in crime and justice. As more applications emerge for use in the world of policing, assessing the likelihood of re-offending for instance, a lack of research on the potential of bias makes for a very dangerous scenario.

The algorithms which are in place might not demonstrate any bias at any point in the future, but implementation without understanding the risk is incredibly irresponsible. When these applications are used to inform decisions about policing, probation and parole, there is a very real-world consequence. Proceeding without such safeguards for bias in place is leaving developments down to chance.

This is of course just one application of AI, though the increased use of AI is becoming much more common. In recruitment, computer algorithms can be used to screen CVs and shortlist candidates, or in financial services, data analysis has long been used to inform decisions about whether people can be granted loans. The idea of unconscious bias can be applied to both instances with vert detrimental outcomes. In the recruitment case, there have already been reports circulating of gender bias.

Technology giant Amazon is one of those firms which got caught unawares. In 2014, Amazon began building an application which would review the CVs of the thousands of applicants it gets every week, giving each CV a rating between one and five stars. In 2015, it realised the application was not assessing the CVs in a gender-neutral manner, favouring male applicants for more technical roles.

The complication perhaps arises when machine learning applications search for attributes which are traditionally associated with roles. For a computer, data is everything and stereotypes are there for a reason, therefore it would appear to be a very logical decision to make.

This type of conundrum is one of the main challenges with AI. As these machines are driven by data and code, it is very difficult to translate ethics, morals, acceptable tolerances, nuance and societal influences into a language it understands. These are also limited applications, built for a single purpose. In the recruitment case, it looks at past attributes to decide, but does not have the ability to understand context. In this instance, the context would be sexism is not acceptable, but as the machine does not have the general knowledge or understanding of a human, how would it know?

This is the finely balanced equation which both industry and government have to assess. Without slowing the wheels of progress, how do you protect society and the economy from the known unknowns and unknown unknowns?

What is developing is the perfect catch-22 situation. The known challenges are known, but without a solution progress is a risk. Then you have the unknown challenges, those which might be compounded through progress but without anyone being aware until it is a complete disaster.

The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation is an excellent idea to benefit society in numerous ways. But, it faces an almost impossible task.

New Zealand telcos pen tech CEOs scathing letter over terror attack virality

New Zealand’s biggest telecoms providers have penned a scathing letter to several tech CEOs over failing to prevent a terror attack video from going viral.

A far-right terror attack targeted at the Islamic community in New Zealand left 50 dead and many injured. The perpetrator live-streamed part of the attack on Facebook.

Copies of the video spread like wildfire across social media platforms and Silicon Valley giants have failed to explain why they were unable to stop it.

Here is the letter jointly penned by Spark, Vodafone NZ, and 2degrees:

Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman and CEO, Facebook

Jack Dorsey, CEO, Twitter

Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google  

You may be aware that on the afternoon of Friday 15 March, three of New Zealand’s largest broadband providers, Vodafone NZ, Spark and 2degrees, took the unprecedented step to jointly identify and suspend access to web sites that were hosting video footage taken by the gunman related to the horrific terrorism incident in Christchurch. 

As key industry players, we believed this extraordinary step was the right thing to do in such extreme and tragic circumstances. Other New Zealand broadband providers have also taken steps to restrict availability of this content, although they may be taking a different approach technically.

We also accept it is impossible as internet service providers to prevent completely access to this material. But hopefully we have made it more difficult for this content to be viewed and shared - reducing the risk our customers may inadvertently be exposed to it and limiting the publicity the gunman was clearly seeking. 

We acknowledge that in some circumstances access to legitimate content may have been prevented, and that this raises questions about censorship. For that we apologise to our customers. This is all the more reason why an urgent and broader discussion is required. 

Internet service providers are the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, with blunt tools involving the blocking of sites after the fact. The greatest challenge is how to prevent this sort of material being uploaded and shared on social media platforms and forums.

We call on Facebook, Twitter and Google, whose platforms carry so much content, to be a part of an urgent discussion at an industry and New Zealand Government level on an enduring solution to this issue.

We appreciate this is a global issue, however the discussion must start somewhere. We must find the right balance between internet freedom and the need to protect New Zealanders, especially the young and vulnerable, from harmful content. Social media companies and hosting platforms that enable the sharing of user generated content with the public have a legal duty of care to protect their users and wider society by preventing the uploading and sharing of content such as this video. 

Although we recognise the speed with which social network companies sought to remove Friday’s video once they were made aware of it, this was still a response to material that was rapidly spreading globally and should never have been made available online. We believe society has the right to expect companies such as yours to take more responsibility for the content on their platforms.

Content sharing platforms have a duty of care to proactively monitor for harmful content, act expeditiously to remove content which is flagged to them as illegal and ensure that such material – once identified – cannot be re-uploaded. 

Technology can be a powerful force for good. The very same platforms that were used to share the video were also used to mobilise outpourings of support. But more needs to be done to prevent horrific content being uploaded. Already there are AI techniques that we believe can be used to identify content such as this video, in the same way that copyright infringements can be identified. These must be prioritised as a matter of urgency.

For the most serious types of content, such as terrorist content, more onerous requirements should apply, such as proposed in Europe, including take down within a specified period, proactive measures and fines for failure to do so. Consumers have the right to be protected whether using services funded by money or data.

Now is the time for this conversation to be had, and we call on all of you to join us at the table and be part of the solution. 

The letter acknowledges the huge task faced by the platforms. Facebook claims it removed 1.5 million videos in the first 24 hours after the attack (1.2 million before they were seen by users).

AI has played a part in detecting and removing such content, but YouTube noted its software failed to work as expected. A team of YouTube executives worked through the night to remove tens of thousands of videos that were uploaded as quickly as one per second in the hours following the massacre.

YouTube’s engineers “hashed” the video so any clones of the video uploaded would be automatically deleted. However, the many edited versions were unable to be picked up by the algorithm.

There's no clear solution to the problem, but more effort needs to be made to find one. Such a horrific video should not have been able to spread as it did.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo, and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

Money is piling up in the US 24 GHz auction

Over 30 companies have put more than $560 million in bid money on the table at FCC’s auction for the 24 GHz frequency. And this is only the beginning.

Following the underwhelming auction of the 28 GHz (dubbed Auction 101) spectrum, which only returned $703 million, the new auction of the 24 GHz (dubbed Auction 102) is heating up quickly. The auction started last Thursday and has gone through 11 rounds of the first phase of the auction, or the “clock phase”, when participants bid on a Partial Economic Area (PEA) blocks. By the end of round 11, the gross proceeds have reached a total amount of $563,427,235. There are still two days, or six more rounds to go, before the winners can move to the next phase of the process.

The “assignment phase” will allow the winners from the first phase to bid for specific frequency licence assignments. The total bid value for the 24 GHz frequencies could go up to between $2.4 billion and $5.6 billion, according to the estimate by Brian Goemmer, founder of the spectrum-tracking company AllNet Insights & Analytics, when he spoke to our sister publication Light Reading.

The key difference the has driven up the interest from the bidders for Auction 102 is the locations where the frequencies are made available. While major metropolises like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, were absent from 28 GHz auction, they are all on the current 24 GHz auction together with other major cities that would be the candidates for the 5G services to roll out in the first wave.

Bidders have included AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and more than 30 other companies. The FCC will announce the winners including those from Auction 101 only after both phases of Auction 102 are completed.

In addition to bidding for mmWave frequencies, operators like AT&T are also actively refarming the lower frequency bands in their possession that are used to provide 3G services. AT&T sent a notice to its customers in February that it will stop 3G only SIM activation, urging customers to move to LTE. The company said “we currently plan to end service on our 3G wireless networks in February 2022.” Specifically the company is planning to refarm the 850 MHz and 1900 MHz frequency bands, saying “it may be necessary for us to turn down one band of our owned and operated 3G network, such as 1900 MHz or 850 MHz service”.

Considering the AT&T only switched its 2G networks off at the beginning of 2017, this is a clear sign that the generational transition of mobile telecom services is accelerating. Earlier in the middle of last year, Verizon confirmed that it will shut down its 3G CDMA networks by the end of 2019. Even earlier at the MWC in 2017, T-Mobile’s CTO Neville Ray said the company was looking to sunset both GSM and WCDMA.