‘5G is not a mobile technology; it’s a convergent tech’ says ETNO’s Lise Fuhr

5G should be regarded as a convergent technology first and foremost rather than merely a mobile capability, according to Lise Fuhr, Director General at the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association.

Addressing a global gathering of telecom professionals at Informa Tech’s Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam, Fuhr said for the most part European telcos considered 5G to be a “mix of fixed networks, it’s a mix of mobile technology” – but did highlight the need for an overhaul of the typical operators’ business model in the face of the imminent 5G rollout.

“And I think it’s, first and foremost, also about putting intelligence into networks,’ Fuhr added. “5G and broadband are changing our lives, so these are really important for Europe; and they’re important for the European competition, for years to come.  That’s why I think the political environment is important for what we do and how we see connectivity here in Europe.”

Fuhr also emphasised the need for operators and stakeholders to clearly chart the challenges as well as the drivers involved with the actual delivery of 5G. “If we are to deliver broadband to all of Europe, and also to actually meet the gigabyte society targets set by the Commission, we need to look into what the challenges are [and] we need to look into the enablers.”

In addition, she advocated a three-pronged 5G strategy for Europe-based operators looking to capitalise on opportunities as part of the rollout, detailing an approach that included more than developing perspectives on investment and policy or regulation.

“And that is, our business models are changing,” Fuhr explained. “We also need to look into how 5G is changing the way we actually have our business models.”

“We are, with 5G, creating a platform for connectivity. We are going to be able to deliver more tailored services to the end users, but also to the industry,” Fuhr said, adding that the traditional siloed outlook on the part of some Europe-focused telcos had been rendered obsolete.

“In Europe we see 5G mostly as an industrial network, and as an industrial business space, and that’s why we need to refocus on how we work. Because now we’re not only telcos; now we need to reach out to other industries,” she said.

Referring to the automotive industry, where connected and automated cars are poised to become important offerings, Fuhr argued that specifical industries will require tailored networks.  “They know that they need a specific network to fulfil their requirements, and actually to deliver on automated cars,” she said, noting also that companies like Bosch and Siemens for instance will have varying needs in terms of what possibilities 5G can provide.

“They will need to have networks that are tailored to their industrial manufacturing” said Fuhr. “And that’s why we, as an industry, need to look into how we combine our forces. How we actually work together. Because if we don’t create a relationship, and include these stakeholders in what we do, they might lose trust in us.”

Raising the spectre of some disenchanted stakeholders potentially approaching regulators to apply for spectrum licences to enable them to devise their own mobile networks, Fuhr warned, “And then we’re in another ballgame than we are today. Because we need to be the one delivering on the infrastructure. I think we’re best placed to do so, and we’re experts in it.”

“But, in doing so, we need to accommodate the requirements. We need to accommodate what the consumers, what the industries, want from us,” she said.

 

Richard van der Draay was in Amsterdam as a guest of Informa Tech

NBN Co chief champions ongoing customer experience focus as rollout nears completion

Stephen Rue, chief executive officer at NBN Co, the company rolling out the Australian national broadband network took some time out during Informa Tech’s Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam to review some recent developments of the rollout as it gathers pace in the final stages.

Having just used his #bbwf keynote to unveil a new international broadband speed report commissioned by NBN Co, Rue was eager to emphasize the importance of maintaining an ongoing company focus on customer service – particularly as the project’s benefits to retail service providers become more apparent as the project nears completion.

TELECOM TIMES: Thank you for your time. To what extent do you feel the wholesale remit of the NBN project was always going to present some issues and invite closer scrutiny? Looking back, can you nominate some key decisions, approaches or moments when strategic focal points were selected, which ideally could have been managed differently?

STEPHEN RUE: I have to be honest with you. I look forward, I don’t look back. I think the important thing for me is that NBN is here. We will have completed the large-scale rollout by June next year and for me, what’s important now –  having built a network across the whole nation – is we do a few things.

We look at customer experience, at how we and the retailers together, and also how we and the retailers working with regulators, can ensure we get a great experience for people.

Increasingly, we will see people use services like teleHealth to educate their children and to connect more with people. It means being able to live and work in regional and rural Australia and set up a business and stay in Australia [while] being able to sell products across the whole nation. So customer experience is important.

Then it’s also about helping uplift the digital capability of the nation through ensuring we help people utilise that asset. For example, we have a team called NBN Local. Its remit is to go and meet with stakeholders like the National Farmers Federation, and small businesses like aged care facilities, and assist them in helping the community through the broadband services they use.

Thirdly, it’s about getting to a cash flow positive position. That’s important so that we can continue to invest back into NBN, meaning that as technology moves and as consumer needs move, we can move with them.

TELECOM TIMES: Actually, I have a keen interest in the new area of digital Health, teleHealth or whatever it may end up being called, i.e. the interplay between tech/telco and health/well-being – a promising niche increasingly coming to the fore.

More specifically, I feel we could use more awareness around how tech and connectivity can have a far reaching, beneficial impact on the lives of those facing severe health issues. Is this an area NBN Co and its enterprise partners and endusers may want to focus on more as the rollout gathers pace in the completion phase?Is this an area NBN Co and its enterprise partners and endusers might want to focus on more, perhaps as a strategic focal lever to tweak as the rollout picks up pace in the haseIs this an area the NBN may be focusing on more as a strategic focal point that may be tweaked as the rollout gathers pace in the end phase??

STEPHEN RUEAs an organisation, we are very focused on what we call digital literacy and ensuring that we assist, as best as we can, organisations’ understanding of what their digital needs are and seeing how we can offer solutions to them.

And when I think about teleHealth, I also think about people I visited recently at the Royal Flying Doctors, and their ability to be able to access health services, whether they be psychological health services, or medical doctors from a distance as they meet their patients further out in rural and remote Australia.

TELECOM TIMES: In terms of the NBN as part of the nation’s move into the digital era, what is your expectation of the value of this opportunity to the Australian economy when we look at the next decade?

STEPHEN RUEWe did research a couple of years ago that indicated that the benefits of NBN on its rollout to the economy would be around about 10 billion dollars a year.

The investment in business is clearly important to enable entrepreneurs to be successful but also to ensure that there are jobs being created and that indeed those jobs are not just in the capital cities. 

We’re very focused on the Australian economy in various ways [such as] investing in regional and rural Australia – so the economies in [those areas] remain vibrant by looking at things like agriculture and tourism. 

We’re also very focused on providing services to small businesses. We introduced a series of new products last year directed toward business. We have invested in what we call a Business Operations Centre, whereby we provide additional services to some businesses in terms of assisting with connections of the system, when obviously there is a fault on the network.

TELECOM TIMES: In regard to the AlphaBeta speed check report launched here at Broadband World Forum, in your view which elements should be present within any comparison methodology that might warrant a claim of being truly even-handed, if not entirely independent?

STEPHEN RUE: I think in terms of the report today, what’s important is that when you compare speeds and capabilities between nations that you do a few things. That you use data that’s reliable and that you use large sample sizes, and you look at the percentage of the population that actually has access to that network.

And I think that when you do that, it’s important to put countries in context with each other – comparing countries of a particular size is important as well. So that we can actually see what you’ve created, and how that network stands up against international comparison.

TELECOM TIMES: Listening to KPN CTDO Babak Fouladi keynote, it occurred to me that the whole false dichotomy of there being a choice in emphasis between 5G and the business case for a vast deployment of ubiquitous fast fibre – such as the one in which we’ve been revelling in Australia – didn’t appear to feature as a hot topic of debate in the European market.

Do you think it’s too late in the game for Australia to understand that a future proof digital economy will need to ensure both elements are underpinned to an advanced level?

STEPHEN RUE: I think they serve different needs, and I think people in their homes will continue to consume a large amount of data, with ongoing exponential growth of video [and] increasingly people working from home. And you will see an ongoing growth in data which will need a great fixed line network. 

But equally, we will see, over time, the mobile operators upgrade to 5G and I think that will also provide different benefits for the consumerMy view is: 5G and fixed broadband networks are both important. 5G will, I’ve got no doubt, provide great benefits to the Australian economy. 

I think they’re both important and they’ll live beside each other. And the reason I say that is, when you look at the growth on our network of the amount of data that’s being consumed, it continues to grow exponentially.

There’s no doubt that we’ll be getting to a point in time in the next decade when, for example, it will be more than a terabyte of data [that is] consumed on fixed-line networksThat actually means that the fixed line network is very important. But equally, 5G will be important for the benefits that they will provide to the internet-of-things and to businesses.

In terms of our own NBN business, we’ll look to deploy 5G on some of our fixed wireless networks. But obviously, the mobile players will look at how the 5G network is built out throughout Australia.

Richard van der Draay  was in Amsterdam as a guest of Informa Tech

Security will prove key differentiator for 5G: Palo Alto Networks

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By Sean Duca, VP and regional CIOr, Asia Pacific and Japan, Palo Alto Networks

Consumers and businesses are set to benefit enormously from the exponential network improvements promised by 5G.

More than just an incremental upgrade, 5G will create opportunities for the most exciting science fiction inventions to become science facts. It will lead to a level of connectedness and interconnectedness that hasn’t been seen before as data is shared between devices and applications at speeds even faster than the human brain.

However, consumers and businesses won’t be the only parties benefiting from these improvements. Cybercriminals will be able to take advantage of 5G to mount even more sophisticated attacks, gain better economies of scale, and target more attack vectors. Therefore, it’s essential for any person or business considering moving to 5G be aware of security upfront, according to Palo Alto Networks.

With 5G applications, a cyberattack can go beyond locking up data or compromising business operations. For example, cybercriminals could cause car accidents as autonomous vehicles become ubiquitous, or loss of life by hacking surgical robots or connected lifesaving devices; and these are just two of literally millions of examples of society’s potential reliance on 5G-enabled devices and applications.

Security will absolutely be the key differentiator for 5G; without security baked in as part of the fabric, 5G applications will be risky. It’s also imperative to take stock of where security is at today because threats aren’t waiting for 5G.

Palo Alto Networks recommends a three-pronged approach to improve security in preparation for 5G:

1. Government: address systemic issues present in today’s mobile networks

There are currently security issues in mobile networks that create risks for all users. Therefore, the government needs to step up to do more to regulate telecommunications providers to ensure they’re doing everything they can to keep the network secure.

If there are challenges that remain unaddressed in today’s networks, they are only going to get worse when 5G arrives. To successfully deliver on the promise of 5G, security is absolutely fundamental and must underpin everything. Government-mandated security can help.

2. Telecommunication providers: provide value-added security services to customers

Currently, telcos provide data and carriage with no responsibility for security. This means they’re missing an obvious opportunity to differentiate their offering with a value-added security service.

When passengers go to the airport, they know every single bag will be inspected before it gets on the plane. The same should be true of network traffic. Telcos should be inspecting all of the traffic that passes through their networks and blocking traffic where appropriate. This should be a point of differentiation for telcos moving to offer 5G services.

3. Customers: demand secure offerings to enable innovative applications

When businesses are looking to provide next-generation services like autonomous cars or robotic surgery, they need to demand that their telco provides a secure network for these applications. Customer demand is a powerful way to compel providers to improve security.

Telcos can dedicate a piece of their network to specific customers who demand it, such as those who want to provide a service like autonomous cars, and ensure strong security across that slice of the network. With the potential for innovation that 5G offers, now is the time for telcos to prove that they can play a key role in providing the essential underpinning security required for these applications to work.

Security will be a fundamental enabler for 5G, with 90 per cent of mobile service providers identifying security as a key differentiator according to an Ericsson survey. (1)

Therefore, before embracing 5G, organisations should look to service providers to provide a resilient network with robust security mechanisms in place. They should take a preventative approach, and establish application-layer visibility and consistent security across all 5G applications and devices.

On a macro level, it’s critical for government and industry to work together to identify ways to build security into 5G networks from the outset, and continue to identify and drive progress towards best practices.

 

References:
(1) “Exploring IoT Strategies,” Ericsson, April 2018, https://www.ericsson.com/en/internet-of-things/trending/exploring-iot-strategies

Huawei Australia tips ACCC acceptance of TPG claims vendor’s role in planned mobile net build is pivotal vindicates 5G case

Huawei Australia has provided evidence in the Federal Court proceedings no. 818 of 2019, Vodafone Hutchison Australia versus the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission & Anor.

According to the Shenzhen-based vendor, the evidence it offered supports TPG’s propositions that it is unable to roll out a mobile network in Australia without Huawei, and that the products that the network specialist proposed to provide to TPG were superior in terms of technology, quality and costs.

Specifically, Huawei  Australia said as part of the proceedings it provided four affidavits to TPG which were served by the operator in support of its joint application with VHA for a declaration from the Federal Court of Australia. “The ACCC has not objected to the content of the affidavits at all and, as part of its acceptance of the Huawei evidence, no Huawei witness was called for cross-examination,” it added.

As a result, Huawei Australia said this constituted “therefore, uncontested evidence of fact that has been accepted by the Australian Federal government authority.”

“We are very pleased that the ACCC has accepted our proposition that our 5G products are world-leading and cannot be replicated by any of our competitors,” said Jeremy Mitchell, Director of Corporate and Public Affairs at Huawei Australia.

“It is therefore even more regrettable that Australians will not be able to access our world leading 5G technology and will pay more for inferior technology and get poorer quality 5G.”

ComCom: No regulation for NZ mobile – but 5G spectrum auctions need close attention

New Zealand’s Commerce Commission has given a thumbs up for the Kiwi mobile market  – and a thumbs down to any regulatory intervention – saying it’s a competitive market, serving customers well.

The Mobile Market Study final report says New Zealand’s mobile consumers are benefiting from an increasingly competitive market environment with market share among the three national players – Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees – has become more evenly balanced, with 2degrees taking more market share.

The report shows Vodafone and Spark still hold the lion’s share of the market, with 40.5 percent and 37.9 percent of subscribers, with 2degrees, which entered the market in 2009, now holding 20.5 percent of the market.

“We haven’t identified any particular problems or structural issues that could be hampering competition,” says Telecommunications Commissioner Stephen Gale of the report findings.

Unsurprisingly the findings were welcomed by Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees.

The study also shows an emerging market for ‘virtual’ operators selling mobile services without having to build their own mobile network.

The mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) holds just 1.1 percent market share, but has seen growth in recent months with companies including Vocus – which earlier this year slammed the preliminary Mobile Market report – Warehouse Mobile and Kogan entering the market. Trustpower also plans to enter the fray, bundling mobile offers with its existing broadband and energy services.

“Because of these developments, the Commission does not consider there is any need for regulation of wholesale access at this time,” the Commerce Commission says.

But Gale flagged the need for wholesale and retail competition matters to be at the forefront of decisions relating to the upcoming auction of radio spectrum for 5G services in order to ensure continued competition.

“With Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees each having a network of similar technology with similar geographic and population coverage metrics, looking forward we consider the allocation of spectrum to be particularly important for future competition,” Gale says.

The report, instigated back in 2017, comes as Vodafone and Spark jockey for 5G leadership. Vodafone has been testing 5G with plans to have a commercial service up and running in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown in December.

Meanwhile Spark – which had its original 5G plans shot down by the New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau over Huawei network security concerns – has launched a limited, invitation only, 5G service in Alexandra. The service uses Nokia technology.

When is unlimited not unlimited?

When it come to the services Kiwis are receiving from their mobile telco providers, the report notes that New Zealand’s 4G performance is ranked eighth out of 88 countries in an OpenSignal report, though the availability of 4G at 57th out of 87 countries.

It notes that mobile plans offering higher volumes of data are increasingly popular. To highlight that, it noted the total number of residential subscribers purchasing voice, SMS and data bundles with allowances of 3G or more was up from 133,000 in 2016 to 497,000 in 2018.

Spark, in its cross submission on the reports preliminary findings paper, noted a shift towards unlimited data plans, including ones that can be shared across several users, as a predominant trend in the retail market.

However, Teligen, which does telco benchmarking, much of which the ComCom report relies on, no longer considers New Zealand’s ‘unlimited’ data plans to qualify as unlimited, because of telco’s throttling the speed once a threshold has been reached.

The average volume of data used by mobile consumers was 2GB per month in 2018 – a figure the report says is growing strongly.

Prices for mobile services in New Zealand have been falling and compare well with other OECD countries, the report notes – though not all fare so well compared with Australia, with mobile prices per GB for the highest data plans offered in New Zealand coming in around NZ$80-$85, versus NZ$56 from Vodafone Australia and NZ$103 for Telstra.

“For the 2G and 5G  baskets, the New Zealand price reported by Teligen is currently at or below the OECD average.”

For larger baskets, however, mobile pricing in New Zealand is relatively high when compared to Australia, but below the OECD average.

One area the report does note a need for change is in the low number of consumers moving telco plans. Sixty-eight percent say they rarely, if ever, compare plans and 54 percent saying they haven’t switched providers in the past five years.

“By shopping around more frequently consumers are likely to trigger more competition between mobile providers,” Gale says.

“We are keen to see more consumer activity and will be looking into ways we can help New Zealanders understand whether they are getting the best deal possible and, if not, consider switching.”

However, in response, Vodafone NZ says its data shows a high number of Vodafone customers change the make-up of their mobile plans each year – if not their provider.

Australia’s peak mobile telecoms body welcomes Federal Government 5G inquiry

The peak national body representing Australia’s mobile telecommunications industry, The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), has welcomed the announcement by the Federal Government of a Parliamentary Inquiry into 5G.

Responding to the announcement that the Committee’s remit will cover the capability, capacity and rollout of 5G as well as the application of 5G, including use cases for enterprise and government, AMTA CEO Chris Althaus said the Association wished to contribute to a thorough examination of the implications of 5G technology from all perspectives.

“As the 5G evolution continues, it is critical that Government and society alike understand the magnitude of the 5G opportunity, and its relevance and benefit to all sectors of our economy and society,” he said.

“The mobile industry currently contributes nearly A$23 billion of Australia’s GDP, and the productivity benefits enabled by mobile applications and services are forecast to boost the economy by A$65 billion in 2023; equivalent to 3.1% GDP.”

While Althaus emphasised that businesses and society more broadly could expect to see considerable opportunity and progress through faster download speeds and improved connectivity through advances in The Internet of  Things and other new technologies, he acknowledged that “some questions and concerns exist within the community in relation to 5G and, to that end, we are committed to raising awareness and understanding around credible research to ensure public confidence in the safety of 5G mobile networks.”

“AMTA looks forward to contributing to that discussion further by providing information to, and potentially appearing before, the recently announced Parliamentary Inquiry,” Althaus said.

Aborted mobile rollout leaves A$237m dent in TPG financials

TPG Telecom’s (ASX:TPM) aborted mobile network rollout plans have hit the telecommunications provider’s finances for the year to the tune of A$236.8 million.

The publicly-listed telco halted its mobile network rollout in January after the Australian Government banned the use of equipment made by Chinese telecommunications manufacturer Huawei – slated to be a key equipment supplier for the network – in Australian 5G networks.

In its preliminary financial report for the year ending July 2019, published on 5 September, TPG told shareholders that its decision to halt the rollout of its mobile network result in an impairment expense of $A236.8 million.

The scrapped rollout also led to an increase in amortisaton and interest expense related to mobile spectrum licences it bought to enable its mobile play, the company said.

The company’s results were also impacted by A$9 million in one-off transaction costs associated with its planned merger with Vodafone Hutchison Australia, which has been put on ice by the Australian competition watchdog.

On 30 August last year, TPG and Vodafone Hutchison Australia entered into an agreement to merge their two businesses and establish a combined entity that would boast both TPG’s fixed line infrastructure and Vodafone Australia’s mobile network.

However, the move was opposed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). TPG and Vodafone Australia subsequently launched legal proceedings in the Federal Court in a bid to have the decision reversed.

The case is set to be heard in the Federal Court from 10 September and wrap up within three weeks of that date. If the Court sides with TPG and Vodafone Australia, and the merger does eventually go ahead, the merged group will be listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) and renamed TPG Telecom Limited.

These factors, among others, contributed to a 56 percent tumble in TPG’s profit for the year, to A$175 million. The company’s preliminary reported earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), meanwhile, came to $572.6 million, well short of the $A826.7 million it notched up the prior year.

However, TPG saw only a relatively minor 0.7 percent drop in revenue during the period, to nearly A$2.5 billion, although the company said that EBITDA continued to be adversely impacted by the loss of margin as DSL and home phone customers migrate to low margin National Broadband Network (NBN) services.

The effects of the NBN rollout are set to be felt for at least another year, with TPG telling shareholders that its 2020 financial year is expected to be the year that suffers the greatest impact from customer migration to the NBN. Indeed, the combined impact from residential DSL and home phone customers migrating to the NBN is expected to be around $85 million for the group.

TPG said that the annualisation of the deterioration of profitability of existing NBN customers experienced in the second half of the company’s 2019 financial year as a result of increased NBN wholesale cost per user is forecast to create a further NBN headwind for FY20 of approximately A$25 million.

It is anticipated that, by the end of FY20, TPG will have less than 15 percent of its residential broadband customer base remaining on ADSL, as more customers migrate to the NBN.

“Operating cost efficiency programs across the Group are expected to continue to deliver savings and another of growth is forecast for the Group’s Corporate Division but, in this peak year of NBN headwinds, organic growth for FY20 is not expected to be sufficient to offset the headwinds,” the company told shareholders.