Ericsson survey reveals 28% of operators expect to deploy 5G by 2018

Ericsson has released the results of its 5G Readiness Survey 2017 which features some fascinating insights on how the industry is preparing itself.According to the survey, 5G trials are being carried out by 78% of the respondents in 2017 compared to 32% in 2016. 28% of the respondents expect to deploy 5G in 2018.

According to the survey, 5G trials are being carried out by 78% of the respondents in 2017 compared to 32% in 2016. 28% of the respondents expect to deploy 5G in 2018.

Operators have also developed their business strategies for 5G services and are now looking at new avenues foreseeing opportunities in the enterprise and industrial segments, besides the traditional consumer segment.

Thomas Noren, Head of 5G Commercialisation, Ericsson, said: “In the 2016 survey, 90% of the respondents pointed to consumers as the main segment in their 5G business planning. This year, it is an even split between three segments and operators have identified business opportunities not only in the consumer segment but also with enterprise users and specialized industries.”

According to the survey, operators are seeing that the consumer market is becoming saturated. As a result, 5G planning is more evenly distributed across specialised industry segments (58%), business users (56%), and consumers (52%) in 2017.

The top three industry sectors for 5G applications, according to the respondents, were media and entertainment, automotive and public transport. Many also ranked healthcare as well as energy and utilities as attractive sectors for 5G applications. Majority of the respondents believed that IoT will play a key role and third-party collaboration will also be essential in this context.

When asked to opine on 5G monetisation, the respondents said they believe that additional revenue will be generated from increased market share, migration of 4G subscribers, higher prices for new services, and by expansion into new enterprise and industry segments.

The respondents comprised 50 executives from business and technical areas and were interviewed in July. They work for 37 operators globally that have announced publicly they are working on 5G.

Jio finally reports revenue still makes a loss

Reliance Industries has started to tell us the financials about its chaotic telecoms venture, and it doesn’t make for easy reading.

For the three months ending September, Reliance Jio reported roughly $950 million in revenue, not a bad number, on total expenses of approximately $1.01 billion. That is a total loss of around about $63 million.

Now we aren’t saying that losing $63 million is a good thing, but the Jio execs must be secretly pleased with themselves. Considering it is a company which has barely charged a thing since it came to being, a loss of $63 million isn’t really that bad going. But we’ve doing the maths, and there must be some clever accounting going on here. We do not pretend to be particularly knowledgeable in this area, but running one of India largest telcos will surely cost a bit more.

In this quarter to the end of September, the outgoings of the business were $1.01 billion, but in the previous quarter it was as low as $5 million and the year up to the end of March was $7.4 million. Clearly running such a prominent telco will not be this cheap, Jio is deferring costs. One question which remains is how much has been deferred to future quarters? How much debt is Jio actually in?

If you are that way inclined, we’ve copied the financials below. Have a fun Friday night.

Jio Report

TIM prepares to launch nationwide commercial NB-IoT service

Italian operator TIM says it’s the first in Italy to make its network ready for NB-IoT services, which will be offered at the end of this month.

75% of the TIM network is apparently up and running with NB-IoT technology, which is one of the more advanced flavours of narrowband wireless available. This means 5,000 municipalities will be able to live the internet of things dream in a couple of weeks.

Quite what form that will take, however, remains to be seen. It’s one thing having access to the latest narrowband tech, but what are they going to use it for? According to TIM it ‘will enable the commercial development of services starting with smart meters, which will permit not only real time monitoring of consumption and the telemanagement of gas, water and electricity transmission and distribution networks, but also district heating and environmental management.’

Smart metering seems to be quite a popular early use-case for IoT, but the business case remains unproven and for consumers they seem to solve problems most of us didn’t realise we had. But having said that we have to start somewhere and TIM seems to be doing a good job of leading the way, in Europe at least.

ViaSat throws temper tantrum over European in-flight connectivity

ViaSat has decided to throw a hissy-fit over the Ofcom decision to grant Inmarsat a license for its European Aviation Network, threatening legal action over the move.

Ofcom must be sitting back and wondering if it is able to do anything right. Every decision it seems to make is met with a chorus of lawyers serenading the watchdog to the legal dancefloor. Three is usually the one who complains it isn’t getting more help despite not putting its hand in its pocket, and now ViaSat seems to be doing the same thing.

“We are extremely disappointed by Ofcom’s decision to grant Inmarsat authorization to operate its EAN,” said Rick Baldridge, ViaSat’s President and Chief Operating Officer.

“The facts are clear: Inmarsat is abusing the initial grant of the 2GHz spectrum, as set forth by the European Commission (EC) by changing the original tender granted to them with their intent to deploy a Pan-European terrestrial wireless network; and admittedly missing numerous deadlines as related to the original award.

“This blatant misuse of spectrum needs to stop now. It establishes precedent for any organization to use spectrum without following the rules. As we’ve publicly stated: we believe the EAN violates the original decision of the EU legislature that the S-Band be used for mobile satellite systems—not a terrestrial wireless network (also known as an Air-to-Ground or ATG).

“We remain diligent in our efforts to have the EC halt Inmarsat’s ATG deployments in the S-Band; declare Inmarsat’s ATG plans as inconsistent with EU law and the original S-Band spectrum award; and retender the spectrum.”

Having a screaming competition and throwing the spanner in the administrative works is not uncommon when the stakes are so high, but you do have to feel a bit sorry for Ofcom here. ViaSat seems to be a bit bitter that it is losing out to its rival Inmarsat, and is lashing out at the regulator. And here are two reasons why we feel a bit of sympathy for our friends at Ofcom.

Firstly, Ofcom is simply granting authorization for Inmarsat to operate its EAN. The European Commission is the body which awarded the EAN, Ofcom is just saying you can use it in the UK. ViaSat is currently taking the boresome bureaucrats in Brussels to a European court to block Inmarsat’s planned aeronautical-connectivity service, which is possibly where most of the attention should be directed. We can’t see what Ofcom has done wrong here to be honest.

Secondly, one of the ViaSat arguments is that this usecase was not outlined in the initial auction of the 2 GHz frequency band, and if it was, it might have paid a bit more attention. We think this is a bit unfair, as while we generally do not defend the lethargic legislators, are they supposed to list every possible usecase of these frequency bands? Crack out the crystal ball and consult the stars, this is unrealistic, as you would have to assume there will be there will be no innovation over the next couple of years.

It is also dangerous, as if you strictly limit the usecases if doesn’t offer any incentive or option to innovate and play around with new ideas. Imagine buying a frequency band, but the only ways to monetize it are the ones we have thought of now; you wouldn’t try to think of anything else and innovation would die! Some might be of the opinion that if ViaSat wasn’t able to have the foresight to understand that there might be a few new ideas in the future, it was the right decision to go down the Inmarsat route anyway.

Inmarsat is a UK company while ViaSat is American and seems to be bringing that country’s corporate culture into play. We didn’t get our way, so let’s sue someone. Welcome to the moaners club ViaSat, Three has got a chair waiting for you.

Samsung loses its CEO despite record profits

The CEO of Samsung Electronics – Oh-Hyun Kwon – has thrown in the towel, citing an “unprecedented crisis” at the company as his reason.

The specifics of that crisis were not revealed in ‘an emotional letter’ (according to the Samsung press release) sent to all employees by Kwon, who seems to have more job titles than a medieval monarch. He is also Vice Chairman, CEO of the Device Solutions business (chips and LCDs) and CEO of Samsung Display, and has been at Samsung for 32 years.

“It is something I had been thinking long and hard about for quite some time.” emoted Kwon. “It has not been an easy decision, but I feel I can no longer put it off. As we are confronted with unprecedented crisis inside out, I believe that time has now come for the company start anew, with a new spirit and young leadership to better respond to challenges arising from the rapidly changing IT industry.

“There are no words to describe how proud I am that we built together one of the most valuable companies in the world. We have come a long way to create a company that truly changes how people live, work and communicate with each other.

“But now the company needs a new leader more than ever and it is time for me to move to the next chapter of my life. I would like to share my sense of pride and honor with you, and thank each one of you for your dedication and commitment to the company.”

The obvious elephant in the room is the corruption scandal in Korea that resulted in Samsung Vice Chairman Jae-Yong Lee being sentenced to five years in prison for bribing the government. The former South Korean President – Geun-Hye Park – had been impeached for accepting bribes in exchange for political influence.

Lee is a member of the family dynasty that founded Samsung and was effectively its leader at the time of the scandal due to his father’s ill health. It had previously been thought that he might take one for the team and contain the scandal by doing some time, but Kwon’s resignation implies that strategy has failed.

The big question this poses is: who else at the top of Samsung will also be contaminated by the scandal? Anyone with knowledge of the alleged dodgy payments is presumably vulnerable and it seems plausible to assume that Kwon’s resignation is a further attempt at containment.

Looking at Samsung’s latest numbers, however, you could be forgiven for thinking we could all do with a crisis like this. In its Q3 guidance, Samsung reckons it’s almost going to triple its operating profit year-on-year to 14.07 trillion won (~$12.5 billion), which takes it into Apple territory. While the fact that Samsung was grappling with the exploding Note7 debacle a year ago needs to be considered, these are still impressive numbers, especially if the Note8 keeps its cool.

Is there a storm brewing at AT&T’s video business?

An SEC filing from AT&T has revealed progress at the business over the last couple of quarters might be nothing more than a false dawn.

The US telco has used a backdrop of earthquakes and hurricanes as justification for a slightly ropey third quarter, but are these disasters just a bit of a smoke screen to hide a business struggling to adapt to the new status quo? In terms of the actual performance, AT&T has warned despite growth of its OTT content platform, DirecTV Now, total video subscribers will show a net loss of 90,000.

The actual quarterly announcement won’t be out for a while (October 24), so this is nothing more than a bit of damage limitation. Share price has declined by about 6% (at the time of writing) over the course of the week, though this will likely stabilise, and the impact of less-than-ideal financials will be lessened. Pretty standard stuff.

Natural disasters will have an impact on the business, as damage to infrastructure will certainly effect sales, but worryingly for AT&T the cord-cutters are leaving in the thousands, and traffic is not being matched the opposite direction. Executives can boast about a 300,000 subscriber gain on its OTT service, but a net loss of 90,000 means 390,000 customers left its legacy service. It might be simple to point out, but the AT&T spin machine has done a pretty decent job in glossing over the fact.

But natural disasters are not the only thing executives need to worry about. Another explanation is ‘heightened competition in traditional pay TV markets’. Increased options for the consumer is always going to mean you aren’t going to get as many new subscribers as you want, but the fact AT&T is overseeing a subscriber net loss this quarter says one thing to us; there are better services out there.

Another slightly worrying area is the cash side of the video business. Taking a very simplistic approach, we appreciate it is a more complicated equation, but DirecTV Now is substantially cheaper than the traditional alternative. Using the current offer on the website, DirecTV will cost you $25 a month, while the OTT version is down to $10.

These are short term offers, the price will increase, but AT&T is essentially creating an alternative service which is cheaper for the consumer, but it isn’t replacing the lost subscription numbers from the original. Less subscribers at a smaller monthly bill, means less money. There will be technological and financial benefits to running an OTT service as opposed to the traditional cable, but how much more efficient can it actually be?

Competition is certainly intensifying in the content space, and AT&T needs a bit of a boost from somewhere. Completing the Time Warner deal cannot come soon enough.

That said, Paolo Pescatore from CCS insight is certainly a bit more positive about the AT&T outlook:

“This news underlines the cut throat market nature of TV in the US,” said Pescatore. “The concept of cord cutting or shaving is not knew and people will continue to flock to online video services. Specifically in the US companies who offer TV services via satellite or cable will continue to struggle.

“But those like AT&T are still very placed. The numbers do show strong support for its online video service DirecTV Now. And overall it is a very good offering. This is where the battle lies and everyone is piling into offering live TV, along with on demand and original content. In this context, this will put pressure on those that do not have a good online video service. The acquisition of Time Warner will only strengthen AT&T’s position.”

Microsoft and AWS buddy up to democratise machine learning

Microsoft and AWS have teamed up to launch open-source, deep learning library called Gluon which will make machine learning more accessible to a wider-range of developers.

That will be the key to winning the machine learning race. Not making the most complex and advanced ML proposition, but the one which is the most accessible to developers of all standing. This democratization has even brought Microsoft and AWS together, two companies which are usually heated rivals in the cloud game.

For the most part, the immensely complex operations which have been built up in our mind for AI will be the exception not the rule. Self-driving cars for instance will be an incredibly complex job for any AI application, as will AI assistance for doctors diagnosing patients, but for every example like this there will be dozens of examples of simple automation. Mundane automation where the process has to correct itself every now and then to recognise anomalies, but it is simple data processing as white collar jobs come under threat.

This is where accessibility will win out. It won’t take an award winning developer to create these programmes, it’ll probably take a normal one, who has been given the tools needed to make a better understanding of machine learning. A good example is in accountancy. The Financial Director of a company needs to know accountancy and the financial trade inside out, a book-keeper who’s role it is to manage the payroll doesn’t need to have such a complex understanding of the trade. Some AI applications will be incredibly in-depth and complicated, some will not.

“Today, AWS and Microsoft announced Gluon, a new open source deep learning interface which allows developers to more easily and quickly build machine learning models, without compromising performance,” said AWS’ Matt Wood.

“Gluon provides a clear, concise API for defining machine learning models using a collection of pre-built, optimized neural network components. Developers who are new to machine learning will find this interface more familiar to traditional code, since machine learning models can be defined and manipulated just like any other data structure.

“More seasoned data scientists and researchers will value the ability to build prototypes quickly and utilize dynamic neural network graphs for entirely new model architectures, all without sacrificing training speed.”

Deep learning engines like Apache MXNet, Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit, and TensorFlow have managed to speed up a training process, but the process still requires the developer to build the training model itself. This is not a simple or quick task. Other models go the other way, allowing for a simple build, but the training takes longer. Gluon aims to sit in the middle.

It is a simple idea, but the best ones usually are. Every developer will want to play around with machine learning, and to incorporate it into their work in some manner, but not all will have the skillset. AWS and Microsoft are trying to simplify the process to democratize what is being touted as a fairly significant breakthrough.

 

Join the conversation about the state of carrier network automation and building sustainable business cases on 2 November in Central London.

 

DT claims Europe’s first 5G antennas in Berlin

Deutsche Telekom has got four of its radio cells in Berlin pumping out shiny New Radio goodness in a real-world setting, claiming a European first.

Technically this is ‘pre-standard 5G NR’, but the lack of a standard hasn’t stopped everyone banging on about 5G for year and DT isn’t about to miss out on all the gun-jumping fun. We’re told this mini-network is managing a throughput of 2 Gbps so a single device and a latency of 3 milliseconds.

“We are demonstrating 5G live here, in the middle of Berlin, rather than in a lab. This is a very decisive developmental step on the way to the global launch of 5G, which is planned for 2020,” said Claudia Nemat of Deutsche Telekom. “If everything is connected to everything else, customers need a high-performance, reliable and secure network. Industry in particular will benefit from 5G as a powerful enabler for a wide range of applications. We are ready for 5G.”

That last statement, of course, is what this and a million other equivalent exercises are about. Everyone wants to be seen to be all over the latest megatrends and the stock statements about what a big deal it will all be have already been repeated to the point of cliché. This one was done with Huawei kit over the 3.7 GHz spectrum band.

“5G is getting close to prime time,” insisted Deng Tai Hua, President of the Huawei Wireless Network Product Line. “The successful live transmission over 5G is an important technical contribution to the 5G community for the two companies. Huawei will continue investing in R&D and enhance its cooperation with partners to make progress in 5G technology and the development of an industry ecosystem.”

It’s not really getting close to prime time, is it? We’re still a couple of years away from 5G being used by normal people and even then this robotic, virtual-reality utopia we’re urged to envisage with every announcement such as this isn’t going to suddenly spring out of these 5G labs cropping up left, right and centre. Still, well done DT, keep up the good work, etc.

Facebook might have cracked the mass market for VR

There have been murmurs that VR euphoria might be a bit of a dud, but they clearly haven’t made it to Mark Zuckerberg’s office as Facebook doubles-down on the tech.

Zuckerberg announced the Oculus Go, priced at $199, as the ‘most accessible’ piece of kit the industry has produced to date. And if it proves to be any good, he might have a point. $199 is still perhaps a bit on the expensive side, but it is a price point which has the potential to slip into the mainstream. Association with the Facebook brand won’t hurt it either.

“We believe that one day everyone is going to use virtual reality to improve how we work, how we play and how we connect with each other,” said Zuckerberg at the Oculus Connect conference. “We know the most important technologies don’t start off mainstream, in fact, a lot of them seem almost too crazy or complex to start.

“Conventional thinkers will always say there is something more familiar, so why build a completely new platform. Why build a PC when people only want a word processor. Why build the whole internet, when most people like dialling up through AOL. Why put a computer in your pocket when most people just want a phone that texts well. And why build virtual reality when most people think 2D screens are pretty good today.”

In fairness to Zuckerberg, he does have a point. The naysayers are not usually the ones who the technology is not geared towards. Smartphones didn’t enter the mainstream through the older generations, it was the ones who were in their 20s, 30s and 40s who made them ubiqtuous before the craze moved upwards. The argument could lend itself well to the world of VR as well. It will still be years before the technology penetrates the mainstream, but it will be a different generation of influencers at that point who may be more open to the technology.

This sounds like a logical argument, but Zuckerberg is a very charismatic bloke, and all his charisma will be needed to make this fad a trend. The pitch here is about connecting people in the virtual world. We might call it anti-social, but the generations of tomorrow might not. With every breakthrough the older generations will stick by the anti-social argument, and highlight it wasn’t like that in their day.

The phone meant people didn’t talk to each other in person, texting meant we didn’t talk to each other over the phone, social media platforms meant we didn’t go to the pub for gossip. We might look at virtual reality as an isolated experience, but who is to say future generations (assuming mass market penetration occurs) won’t find a way. It is simply redefining the concept of socialising, as we did with the technology breakthroughs we experienced.

The important thing with all of these breakthroughs is there eventually was a company who managed to get the price right. The Oculus Go bundle, which undercuts one of its main rivals in HTC, does have the potential to make this a reality. And the fact it is tetherless makes a difference as well. All of a sudden we have an affordable and practical device, which can be marketed to teenagers and adults alike, not simply the wealthy early adopters.

This isn’t the polished product which mass production will allow for, it doesn’t have inside-out tracking or fully tracked motion controllers, so it can’t compete with the premium pieces of kit on the market, but this is a product which seems to be designed for everyone. We’re still not entirely convinced the technology will dominate the world in the way Zuckerberg seems to think it will, but at this price point, it is being given every opportunity to make it into the hands of normal people.

Bharti says we’ll have a bit of Tata

Rumours have been swirling for a few days and it would appear there is some substance; Bharti Airtel will absorb Tata Group’s struggling mobile business.

The acquisition is still subject to regulatory approval, however it would transfer all customers and assets of Tata Consumer Mobile businesses to Bharti Airtel. It wouldn’t necessarily be considered one of the major players in the Indian space, but Bharti will still bolster its ranks by an additional 40 million customers. Not a bad bit of business considering all past liabilities and dues to be settled by Tata.

“This is a significant development towards further consolidation in the Indian mobile industry and reinforces our commitment to lead India’s digital revolution by offering world-class and affordable telecom services through a robust technology and solid spectrum portfolio,” said Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Airtel.

“The acquisition of additional spectrum made an attractive business proposition. It will further strengthen our already solid portfolio and create substantial long-term value for our shareholders given the significant synergies.”

The merger would include assets in the 1800, 2100 & 850 MHz bands, as well as the right to use Tata’s existing fibre infrastructure. This is where Bharti will have to fork out a bit more cash however, as it would undertake a small portion of the unpaid spectrum liability.

It’s a rumour which has been around for a while, as Tata never really got going in the Indian mobile space. Aside from being a side-player in the prolonged battle between Jio and Bharti, it has also been battling minority shareholder NTT Docomo in a $1.2 billion dispute. This was an argument which was settled a few months back, but it would appear Tata just wants clear of the raging consumer mobile war. Might not be a bad move considering how slim the profit margins are looking.

While consolidation will certainly help Bharti fight back against Jio, you have to wonder whether the consumer is going to get the sharp end of the stick. Tata is just the latest brand to disappear, with Telenor exiting in February and Vodafone merging with Idea; you have to start wondering whether there are going to be enough providers around to offer variety in the second most populated country in the world.