‘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

Germany’s imminent 5G spectrum auction comes under fire

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By David Morelo, Telecom Times Europe Correspondent

Germany’s upcoming 5G spectrum auction has been subject to heavy criticism within the country since the Federal Network Agency, known locally as the Bundesnetzagentur or BNetzA, published its 119-page draft in September 2018. The regulator has now said it will move ahead with its action plan, and major telcos in Germany, as well as industry lobby group GSMA, are flagging the plan as a commercial nightmare.

The Federal Government considers the fifth generation of cellular mobile communications, which promises faster data speeds and lower latency, to be a key technology in enabling the upcoming digital transformation, offering enormous innovation and value creation potential.

“In the future, there will be billions of objects, sensors or machines worldwide that communicate with each other. The consumer internet will be enlarged and will become an industry internet,” explained The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), in 5G Strategy for Germany. “This industrial and intelligent interconnection creates unprecedented challenges in terms of connectivity, capacity, safety and security, as well as service quality.”

Even though Germany’s 5G strategy is clear, the country currently does not meet the standard for 4G coverage, so the political pressure to improve the situation is huge. That pressure might have been a reason why the proposed 5G auction plan won a nod from lawmakers after months of controversy, with the BNetzA agency immediately opening applications and saying the auction would kick off in early 2019.

“Our decision sets vital preconditions for the digital transformation of industry and society. Through the award of frequencies, we are creating planning and investment certainty, and contributing to a fast, needs-based rollout of the mobile radio network in Germany,” said Jochen Homann, BNetzA President.

In the first 5G auction round, the BNetzA aims to auction spectrum in the 2.0 Gigahertz and 3.6 Gigahertz bands, which are ideal for industrial applications but not suitable for boosting Germany’s patchy data coverage due to their relatively short range. However, the 3.7–3.8 Gigahertz and 26 Gigahertz ranges, which are suitable for local applications, will be on offer as well.

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Jochen Homann, Bundesnetzagentur President

“A nationwide buildout with 5G technology would be excessively costly,” said Homann, who cautioned that the frequencies on offer were not suitable for countrywide coverage and noted that longer-range frequencies could be auctioned in future licensing rounds.

The BNetzA included several conditions for the upcoming 5G auction. Coverage obligations for the 3.6 GHz band include a population coverage of 98 percent with 100 Mbps and 10 ms latency by the end of 2022, as well as all major transport routes, and they will not be applicable to any new entrant.

Spectrum license holders are also required to negotiate with other players seeking network access, with the regulator acting as an arbitrator in the event the companies are unable to reach commercial agreements. Also, each existing carrier must install 1,000 5G base stations and 500 other base stations in certain areas by the end of 2022.

The requirement for operators to provide coverage across the country and the fact that newcomers are allowed to meet significantly lower coverage requirements and invoke a negotiation requirement for national roaming immediately led to pushback from Germany’s telcos and GSMA.

“The mobile industry is essential to delivering on Germany’s vision for 5G leadership. We are alarmed that—despite real and substantial concerns raised by the mobile industry on the original proposals—the proposed terms make the situation worse by doubling down on unrealistic conditions that put Germany’s 5G future at risk,” said Mats Granryd, Director General at GSMA.

“Although the frequencies on offer can provide very high capacity, they only cover a relatively small area and are not well suited to wide area coverage such as countryside roads, waterways, and railways. The investment needed to achieve the obligations far outweighs the value of the licenses. The auction rules contain massive advantages for newcomers that undermine fair competition by allowing them to meet significantly lower coverage requirements and to invoke a negotiation requirement for national roaming,” added GSMA.

Vodafone, one of Germany’s three major mobile operators—along with Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica Deutschland—even threatened legal action, arguing that the proposed terms are too onerous and “clearly unlawful.” The operator would like to see any attempt to ease the entry of a fourth network operator removed from the auction conditions because new operators would otherwise have no incentive to invest in their own infrastructure or expand coverage outside metropolitan areas.

Vodafone has even provided some data to disprove the idea that a new operator, most likely United Internet and its subsidiary 1&1 Drillisch, is needed to drive competition in the German market. According to the company, prices have been falling 2.1 percent per year since 2010, and, at 23 percent, Germany already has the highest share for virtual operators in Europe.

Increasing the number of virtual operators in the country could further the digital divide between urban and rural environments and decrease the telcos’ ability to invest just as the industrial and intelligent interconnection is creating unprecedented challenges and causing connectivity demands to grow at a massive rate.

Key global research cements FTTB business case: NetComm Wireless

New data on the global adoption of Fibre-to-the-Home internet access technologies has showcased a significant and sustainable pipeline of Fibre-to-the-Building market opportunities for Netcomm Wireless.

According to the Sydney-based fixed wireless specialist and NBN Co partner, the Connecting Everyone report – released by French research firm Idate at its Paris DigiWorld Summit – unveiled some real-world challenges in providing universal FTTH
coverage while also flagging major opportunities for ultra-fast Gfast and fixed wireless capabilities to deliver high-speed broadband.

The study – originally commissioned by NBN Co, the company deploying the Australian national broadband network – found that across the total serviceable global FTTB and FTTH market comprising some 670 million premises, 60 per cent of those were being served with FTTB technology.

“This is an extremely important factor to bear in mind when we think about the actual state of play in the broadband market in terms of network deployment and for regulators when they think about how much real FTTH has actually been deployed globally,” said the report authors. “It shows us that the number of premises in which operators have actually run new fibre all the way inside the residence is actually still a small proportion of total broadband homes in the global market.”

“Many operators we spoke to for this report concluded they could not see an investment case for upgrading networks from FTTB to FTTH,” said Jean-Luc Lemmens, Head of Telecom Practice at IDATE. “This means that FTTB services will be part of the mix for a very long-time to come.”

Other key findings included:

  • Significant FTTB (fibre-to-the-building) opportunities exist in several European markets for Australia’s Netcomm to help operators devise a solution that is easier, more cost-effective and faster to deploy.
  • Many European countries are learning the same lessons Australia learnt when it embarked on universal FTTH deployment, and turning to Netcomm due to its expertise in this field with NBN Co.
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Els Baert ,Director of Marketing and Communications at NetComm

Speaking at the summit, Sydney-based Netcomm marketing and communications director Els Baert said that while aiming to deliver universal FTTH was admirable, almost all markets faced specific challenges, which made attaining that goal unrealistic.

Connecting Everyone shows that there is a significant market opportunity for us in the FTTB market to help operators devise a solution that is easier, more cost-effective and faster to deploy,” she said, noting Netcomm’s partnership with NBN Co to roll out its Gfast enabled 8-port and 16-port DPUs onto the network’s Fibre-to-the-Curb (FTTC) network in multi-dwelling units – the first of which are slated to be delivered in the first half of 2019.

“We have concluded seven lab trials and one field trial with major operators in Europe who are actively exploring alternatives to building a full FTTH network,” Baert said. “Due to our expertise in this field with NBN Co many operators are turning to us for our insight and innovation.”

In addition, Netcomm said the data highlighted a lack of progress in connecting rural areas to FTTH networks, with regulators increasingly considering to use a broader array of access technologies.

“Fixed wireless opens up the possibilities for alternative network providers to build high speed broadband networks far quicker and more cost effectively than delivering universal FTTH,” Baert added. “When using 3.5GHz and 4-carrier aggregation, speeds of up to 400 Mbps can be provided in a range of up to 14 km around the base station.'”

Taking into account Europe’s unique challenges, Baert said the region could use its heritage to its advantage by harnessing its natural town planning built around churches to utilise those capabilities.

“By installing a base station in the towers, rural areas could be covered in record time, with minimal investment,” she said.

Sojuz delivers final European MetOp satellite into orbit

A Soyuz rocket has successfully delivered its third and final European Meteorological Operational Polar satellite from the Guiana Space Centre, reaching a sun-synchronous “mid-morning” polar orbit about an hour after liftoff.

Located over 500 miles above Earth, this type of orbit keeps the satellite constantly exposed to sunlight as it travels between Earth’s north and south poles.

From its orbit, the satellite will monitor changing climates around the globe to improve weather forecasts. It compliments other weather satellites of the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) as well as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States.

Soyuz is a series of spacecraft designed for the Soviet space program by the Korolev Design Bureau in the 1960s which remains in service today. The Soyuz succeeded the Voskhod spacecraft and was originally built as part of the Soviet manned lunar programs.

The Metop-C, which was jointly developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and EUMETSAT for the space segment of the EUMETSAT Polar System, carries nine different scientific instruments that measure everything from temperature and wind speed to humidity and ozone in the atmosphere and provide data of unprecedented accuracy and resolution.

“These data are used mainly for numerical weather prediction; the basis for weather forecasting. Recent studies show that MetOp-A and MetOp-B have already reduced errors in one-day forecasts by as much as 27 percent,” said ESA officials in a statement.

The Metop-C cost U$550 million to develop and launch, with an operational lifetime of five years. Its predecessors, MetOp-A and MetOp-B, have the same operational lifetime but are still in orbit even though they were launched in 2006 and 2012 respectively.

The launch of the Metop-C followed hot on the heels of a deformed sensor on a Russian version of the Soyuz rocket forcing a Russian-American space crew to make an emergency landing in Kazakhstan.

Africa set for 5G but 3G, 4G to be key mobile broadband drivers: Ovum

Advanced operators and markets in Africa are poised for early 5G launches, with South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, and Mauritius to unveil mobile 5G services by 2022, according to Ovum.

However, Ovum forecasts the take-up of 5G in Africa overall to be modest initially, with only 5.9 million mobile 5G connections on the continent at end-2023.

Instead, continued increases in 3G and 4G subscription numbers will power the growth in mobile broadband in Africa over the next few years. The number of mobile 3G connections on the continent will rise from 456.6 million at end-2018 to 697.6 million at end-2023, while the number of mobile 4G connections in Africa will increase fivefold from 50.5 million at end-2018 to 271.6 million at end-2023, said Ovum.

Africa mobile subscriptions forecast by technology, 2018-23

At end-2023, mobile broadband connections – based on 3G and more advanced technologies – will represent 73.3% of the total 1.33 billion mobile connections on the continent.

The first use case for 5G in Africa will be for fixed-wireless broadband, followed by enhanced mobile broadband after 5G-capable smartphones become available.

As 5G technology advances, its capabilities will expand to include massive machine-type communications and ultra-reliable low latency communications, which could enable new 5G services in Africa for automation and remote monitoring and management in sectors such as agriculture, health, extractive industries, and smart cities.

However, despite advances, Africa is still behind much of the rest of the world in terms of connectivity. Ovum data shows at the end of June 2018, 43.5% of mobile subscriptions on the continent were based on mobile broadband connections (see Figure 2). That is considerably below the global average of 70.7%.

Africa’s 10 largest mobile markets by subscriptions, 2Q18

Matthew Reed, Practice Leader, Middle East and Africa at Ovum comments said Africa is becoming better connected, and that is opening up new opportunities for growth in a range of data and digital services, including the more sophisticated offerings that will become possible with 5G,” he said.

“But at the same time many on the continent still do not have reliable or affordable access to communications services and there continues to be a need to address that digital divide.”



Ciena supplies WaveLogic Ai optical tech to Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier

Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier, the telco’s international wholesale division, has deployed Ciena’s WaveLogic Ai coherent optical service in a bid to bolster bandwidth offerings and reach longer distances across its network.

“Technology changes very fast with new trends and services emerging constantly in the digital era.” said Deutsche Telekom head of carrier enterprise services Bertold Frech.

Deutsche Telekom customers will be able to access  a more adaptive network with larger bandwidth and lower latency by point-of-presence consolidation and signal regeneration elimination.

“Most of these trends have the need for high capacity, high performance connectivity in common, which is the foundation for many of these new digital services,” he added.

The agile optical infrastructure is based on Ciena’s 6500 packet-optical platform powered by WaveLogic Ai, a programmable coherent modem that can scale to 400 Gbps per wavelength.

“It enables Deutsche Telekom to reach longer distances, deliver end-to-end optical services and achieve finer connectivity granularity for carriers and internet content providers throughout Europe,” said Ciena.

T-Mobile Poland marks 6,000th base station with carrier aggregation

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By David Morelo, Europe Correspondent

T-Mobile Poland has expanded its array of base stations with support for carrier aggregation, in a bid to dramatically increase the capacity of its LTE network.

The mobile operator first launched base stations with carrier aggregation – a technology that allows two or more carriers into a single data channel –  in February 2016, eventually launching some 600 of them throughout that year.

In Q1 2017, T-Mobile Poland implemented the technology in 400 additional base stations.

“It took us twelve years to build our nationwide GSM network, eight years to build our UMTS network, and only 3 years to build our LTE network,” said T-Mobile Poland External Communications unit manager Konrad Mróz.

Currently, T-Mobile Poland has around 3,000 base stations that apply two-carrier aggregation for download speeds of up to 220 Mbps.

Nearly 800 base stations apply four-carrier aggregation (800 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, and 2600 MHz) for download speeds reaching up to 590 Mbps. According to the operator, its base stations with the highest speeds are located in Warsaw, Poznan, Katowice, Krakow, Tricity, and Wroclaw.