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5G, Europe, the Cloud, the IoT: Telco 2.0 News Review

NTT: spectrum call this year for 5G in 2020; Qualcomm, Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei, ZTE 5G news; 3GPP sets 2018 target

Lots of 5G news this week, thanks to the conjuncture of 5G World and MWC Shanghai. NTT DoCoMo’s head of 5G, Takehiro Nakamura, says we need the spectrum position signing off this year for their planned launch in 2020. As usual, the 3.5GHz and 28GHz bands are in the frame, and NTT has been testing beam-steering in the 28 recently. He reckons it will take ten years to fully “optimise” 5G, but major trials at NTT will start next year and a lot of the moving parts seem to be ready.

Qualcomm announced a prototyping platform for the 5G New Radio below 6GHz, while Nokia and Intel are working together again, with Nokia’s Intel-powered AirScale servers being used as part of an OPNFV lab and also for a demo Nokia calls the “first 5G-ready network”. On a similar theme, Vodafone and Ericsson say they have tested a “5G smart network edge”, which sounds like some sort of distributed-core, edge-computing set up with the new radios. And there was a robot. Ericsson is also trialling its equivalent product to AirScale, HDS, with Deutsche Telekom and SKT as part of a 5G network slicing demo.

ZTE says it has a “5G Cloud RAN” solution, and more interestingly, that it has an actual customer for it who’s going to deploy it in Q2 2017. It does look like 5G is going in the edge-cloud direction, especially as Huawei and Telefonica are going to be cooperating on cloud-RAN and a new core network architecture, as well as no-cells and massive IoT.

BT’s MD of mobile, Steve Haines, says 5G is all about use cases, which beats it being a journey or a behaviour. Unfortunately, Nokia CTO for mobile, Hossein Molin, thinks they’re a problem, especially the ones that aren’t just bigger, faster mobile broadband.

On the timeline, Huawei’s president of wireless R&D, Ying Weimin, says “5G won’t happen overnight” and sticks with the 2020 target. The 3GPP, for its part, says it wants to wrap up the “normative”, i.e. agenda-setting, work on the New Radio by the end of 2016 and freeze the specification by June 2018, subject to a major decision point at the RAN 75 meeting in March next year. That would meet the Korean operators’ and Verizon Wireless’ goals, and deliver the first three radio profiles (ultra-broadband, low-latency, and low-power IoT) within LTE Release 15.

3GPP-5G-timeline.jpgCableLabs, meanwhile, has filed for an STA (Special Temporary Authorisation) to test 28GHz 5G equipment around its HQ in Louisville. Plans to test coexistence between LTE-U and 5GHz WiFi have been put back by a month.

Brexit for Vodafone, data centres; DTAG sells towers, new T2 exec; TI, TEF tower deals on hold

So it happened and all. For our full Brexit coverage, try a special Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing here. Beyond that, it looks like Vodafone is seriously considering moving the HQ somewhere else; you wonder if they’d keep the network in that case.

Data-centre investors are trying to put a brave face on it, but then you would if, like Digital Realty, you’d bought five London data centres off Equinix just a few months ago (although so far, DR is doing almost as well as Equinix out of the crisis). Amazon Web Services says it’s going to open the data centre it’s building in the UK, its first, but that may just be because it’s too far advanced for dumping it to make sense. Oracle, meanwhile, has just announced a partnership with BT to sell its cloud services.

The crucial problems are first of all, that some customers (especially financial services) are likely to move out of the UK, and secondly, that the EU’s General Data Protection rules force them to move EU customers’ data, even if the company itself stays. Also, does anyone have any idea what’s happening with Privacy Shield, the follow-on from the Safe Harbour EU-US data protection agreement?

In all the excitement, the news that Telefonica has taken O2 UK off the market was barely noticed, although now that its profits are worth 15% less to TEF, surely that can’t last. They also put off selling the towerco, Telxius.

Deutsche Telekom, for its part, is looking at selling its towers in Germany for some €5bn. The carrier has also decided it needs an AT&T-like chief of technology and innovation, a Chief Telco 2.0 Officer, and existing board member Claudia Nemat gets the job. That creates a vacancy for a head of Europe, who’s been chosen but not named yet.

A buyer for Telecom Italia’s towers has dropped out, and TI seems to think he’s saying they’re out of cash?

3 and Wind are still trying to keep the merger from falling apart completely. Here’s an interview with Li Ka-shing.

SnapRoute, betting on DIY cloud; Oracle vs. HPE; Yahoo! patents; Niel in the cloud; Iranian IX

Jason Forrester, formerly Apple’s head of infrastructure, is betting on a long-term need for private clouds with his startup, SnapRoute, whose software is meant to help enterprises build their own clouds using the kind of technology Facebook pioneered through the Open Compute Project, like the Wedge100 switch.

“Most enterprise applications are highly customized for the company’s needs, which means they don’t fit neatly into the public cloud mold,” he noted. That’s why most companies’ big accounting and inventory tracking systems aren’t on a public cloud, he said. When it comes to their money-maker software, companies need “complete command and control of their infrastructure,” he noted, adding dryly that “It’s hard to have that command and control if you can’t even tour your public cloud data center.”

There’s some technical insight in this Facebook Engineering blog post. Note the presence of AT&T and SKT among others. Interestingly, Simwood has a core network refresh on, and they’re going with the SDN/white-box switch route too.

Oracle has lost another huge lawsuit after the Google one, and it’s going to have to pay HPE $3bn over their decision to dump support for the HP Itanium chips, which basically finished the technology as a major contender.

As the break-up of Yahoo! moves closer, its trove of patents is up for grabs, and one in particular is attracting a lot of interest. Their Lockport, NY data centre was designed with pods of servers in so-called chicken coops designed to maximise natural cooling, and the patents might go for as much as $1bn.

In a related story, it turns out that the scary numbers for data centre energy use from a few years back were hugely exaggerated.

Here’s Xavier Niel’s latest disruption - C14 is a cloud-based long-term archiving solution, similar to AWS Glacier, vastly cheaper.

Cloud infrastructure spending slowed down a bit, to “only” 6% growth in Q1. According to IDC it’s now 32% of total IT spending.

IBM wants to resell all the clouds.

You can now use the open-source configuration-management system Puppet to drive your Cisco IOS-XR routers.

And Iran now has three instances of the DNS K-root server, at its three new Internet exchange points.

SKT’s LoRa goes live; Sigfox x Boilers; Actility x Foxconn; NB-IoT is a standard

That was quick - SK Telecom says its LoRa network is now open for business, six months early, with 99% population coverage, for just $87m. SKT is giving away 100,000 free LoRa modules for developers to fiddle with, and hopes to have 20 of its own apps going by the end of the year. First up are a “shared parking service” and, intriguingly, “manhole management”. Pricing is low - basic data acquisition (e.g. gas meters) is $0.30 per device, two-way is $1.75.

Sigfox, meanwhile, has signed up a French boiler manufacturer as a customer. That gets them 100,000 boilers, but more importantly, it gets them in with the Bosch Group, a huge force in engineering.

Actility is deploying its platform in China, with Foxconn as a strategic partner.

Amid all this, it seems a bit irrelevant, but the 3GPP has signed off NB-IoT as part of LTE R13, aka LTE-A Pro, both in its LTE eMTC flavour and its EC-GSM flavour, and Ericsson claims the first demo.

Sprint: Arora interview, new prepaid boss; 600MHz price tag; VZW sells smartphone bonds; Comcast IPv6

Sprint management has been out pressing the flesh, pushing the message on the analysts. Apparently it’s carrying more “tonnage per subscriber” than any other network, and yet they’ve only used 25% of their spectrum, without any measurable congestion. That might be true, because a lot of it isn’t readily usable without a complicated small cell rollout.

RootMetrics’ latest test campaign….disagrees, putting Verizon Wireless way ahead, and interestingly, showing T-Mobile closing in on AT&T in 2nd place.

Nikesh Arora gave an interview to Fortune on his way out of Sprint, and it turns out that Sprint is meant to be one of the “operating” businesses, throwing off cash that gets reused in the “investing” businesses.

SoftBank has a two-part strategy—one is the operating assets, which in the long term are supposed to generate cash flow and that cash flow is supposed to feed into the investing assets. The operating assets include SoftBank Mobile, Sprint, which is not producing cash flow at the moment but the hope is that it will, and the bright star, which is Yahoo Japan. The cash flow from those assets and sales of investment assets generate liquidity to invest more. That’s the broad strategy.

Ah well. Meanwhile, Sprint has a new chief of prepaid and wholesale, ex-Ntelos CEO Jim Hyde. The carrier could do with that - prepaid churn hit 5.65% in Q1, higher than Leap Wireless when it exited the market.

The first phase of the 600MHz auction is done, in which the TV stations that currently have the spectrum do a reverse auction to determine how much money they’d want to relinquish it. The total? $86bn for some 126MHz. This may be too much for the wireless operators unless a new entrant - e.g. a cableco - came in, and in that case, the FCC might run a second stage of the auction later this year.

Verizon is looking at securitising its smartphone instalment plan cashflows, rather like Sprint did. This certainly suggests it is rounding up financing for something - even before the 600MHz auction, there’s the Yahoo! bid to think about.

The FCC is linking its Business Data Services consultation - the rebranded Special Access - to 5G, arguing that there’s a need for more competition if we’re going to get the backhaul 5G will need. AT&T has lined up with Centurylink and the cablecos against Verizon’s proposal on the issue, abandoning the long-time lobbying alliance between the two RBOCs, while Level(3) supports Verizon.

Comcast has set a target to get to 50% IPv6 by the end of the year. It already has a full dual-stack IPv4/IPv6 solution across the network, but there are still old STBs that don’t support IPv6 and a few content providers who can’t serve it.

Having bought Cablevision, it looks like Altice is going to turn off their Freewheel VoWLAN service.

And Videotron has launched its DOCSIS 3.1 gigabit service.

Who didn’t buy LinkedIn? Google Gadget; Apple/Spotify row; killer self-driving car; Facebook tries even fewer ads

It turns out that Salesforce, Facebook, and Google all seriously considered buying LinkedIn, to the extent of having talks with management and carrying out fairly extensive due diligence. But they all passed it up.

Apparently, Google might be preparing a “Google-branded smartphone”. This would be something beyond the Nexus model, more like the Pixel C tablet, much more a “Google plus an ODM” model.

Apple, meanwhile, is buying Jay-Z’s streaming app, Tidal, and true to his example, getting in an overly dramatic beef, with Spotify. Apple has turned down an update to the Spotify app for iOS on the grounds that it sends you to Spotify’s website to sign in and pay your money, rather than using in-app purchasing, and therefore denies Apple its cut.

Here’s an interesting conversation about Apple’s decision to open up the iOS dialer app. Did Cisco do the API?

And here’s the low-down on the extensive changes to iOS and MacOS networking.

The first ever fatality with a self-driving car has occurred, after the car failed to distinguish a white lorry from the bright sky and accelerated under it. Tesla CEO Elon Musk says the accident rate is still much lower than for cars in general, but interestingly, if you exclude drink-drive incidents, this implies it’s quite a lot higher. Also, Tesla is behind on its production target.

Facebook is tweaking the Newsfeed again, supposedly to increase the percentage of stories from your friends, or in other words, to ration ad inventory and drive up its margins.

Here’s a really cute robot. Do we detect a trace of Bigtrak in the design?

And Linksys is still selling millions of its iconic WRT54GL routers every year, although they long since fell behind the WiFi state of the art. Why? They run open-source firmware, they’re cheap, they’re robust, and they stack.

China Mobile, NTT DoCoMo 4G updates; LG G5 “failed”; AIS gets Jas’s 900MHz; Telstra outages

China Mobile says it will have 500 million 4G users by the end of the year, or penetration of 60% three years from launch. It’s at 409 million or roughly 50% at the moment. By then, 90% of their data traffic will be on 4G. To get there, it intends to install another 100,000 eNode-Bs for a total of 1.4m.

NTT DoCoMo will be adding another LTE carrier later this year, aiming for 375Mbps by their year-end (i.e. March), before pushing on to 500Mbps for “Premium LTE” customers later next year.

LG has set up a “program management office” to take charge of its smartphone operation, with the withering explanation that:

“Friday’s announcement is because LG Electronics’ latest flagship G5 smartphone failed to generate sales”

The fall-out of Thailand’s 900MHz refarming is done with - Jas Mobile, the new entrant that won a block of 900MHz with clearance to deploy 4G but failed to make the down payment, has paid a $23.2m fine, and market leader AIS has ended up with the spectrum. Perhaps it was always meant to happen like that, or is that too cynical?

And Telstra is down again.

Android FDE hacked; Symantec virus scanner hacked, by e-mail; securing 5G

An exploit has been discovered that permits an attacker to break the full-disk encryption in Android 5.0 and above, on Qualcomm Snapdragon devices - i.e. a large majority of them.

It’s possible to hack some Symantec security apps just by sending an infected e-mail - you don’t even need to trick the user into opening it, the attack happens in the virus-scanning process.

Here are some interesting presentations on 5G security.

Also from the 3G, 4G, and 5G Wireless Blog, EE’s vision of an ultra-reliable network. It’s not ultra-reliable if you don’t pay the bill, though.

Medical people constantly have to defeat their own information security to do their job.

How MNOs work with prisons to deploy IMSI catchers.

And the botnet that’s made out of CCTV cameras.

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