Singtel to push forward with 5G cloud gaming trial

In partnership with Razer and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Singtel is testing the readiness of its network to capitalise on the fast-growing cloud gaming segment.

As a concept, cloud gaming is attracting a lot of attention in the industry and is attempting to wrestle the crown of go-to 5G usecase away from robotic surgery. Now it seems the Singapore consortium is getting in on the act with its own trials.

“While this is not the roll out of a commercial cloud gaming service, this opportunity is the first step for Singapore to spearhead 5G projects,” said Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan.

“5G is a literal game-changer when it comes to cloud gaming,” said Mr Yuen Kuan Moon, CEO, Consumer Singapore at Singtel. “Latency and bandwidth are crucial to internet streaming and 5G will deliver next-generation connectivity that will support immersive gaming, even on mobile devices.”

The trial itself will focus on the demands of cloud gaming as a usecase on a 5G network, as well as the design and engineering of low latency hardware for cloud gaming. More specifically on the hardware side, ultra-fast responsiveness, portability and seamless device-to-device sync to cloud servers will be the focus of investigations.

With mobile devices commanding growth revenues in the gaming industry, the cloud gaming usecase is charging-up the priority list for telcos. This is perhaps particularly prevalent in the APAC markets, where mobile gaming has gained more traction than the Western markets, though it should not be forgotten this is very applicable for consoles also.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign for the cloud gaming segment is the aggressive moves being made by the internet giants to gain supremacy in the space. Amazon, Microsoft and Google are all fighting for attention in the early days, though it is worth bearing in mind more niche players such as Nvidia and HTC are also making moves.

This is maybe one of the most encouraging signs for telcos. Usually, there is very much a ‘built it and they will come’ attitude for network investment, though with cloud gaming services already being created and marketed, the demand from service providers is awaiting the creation of networks.

 

BT Mobile joins the 5G fray

BT has become the latest mobile player to enter the race for 5G subscriptions, though it does beg the question how economically attractive it is to own two rival services.

Launching in 20 cities and towns around the country, BT Plus and BT Business customers will be the first to be offered upgrades to the service. Convergence is a key pillar of the BT turnaround strategy, and the introduction of 5G to the BT brand does build in more relevance moving forward.

“Our 5G service provides customers with a faster and more reliable connection in high demand, crowded areas across the UK at peak times,” said BT Consumer CEO Marc Allera.

“When combined with the best fibre, the UK’s fastest 4G network and biggest wi-fi network, BT is helping consumers and businesses stay connected wherever they are and whatever they need to do.”

Despite the fact BT is in the most powerful position in the UK when it comes to connectivity assets, it hasn’t really been able to cash-in on the convergence craze just yet. The issue which has not been addressed to date, and now we suspect it won’t be in the near future, is rival brands, fighting for the same consumer, to contribute profits to the same bank account.

Customer acquisition in a mature and saturated market is incredibly expensive. The most successful strategies are generally those geared towards price, though this does create the dreaded ‘race to the bottom’. Perhaps one of the reasons convergence has not hit the high notes at BT is the multi-brand strategy which the team is persisting with.

EE has an excellent mobile brand, but it found wanting in broadband. BT leads the market in broadband but lacks clout in mobile. If either of these brands want to create value through convergence, they will have to lure customers onto a secondary-service which does not have the reputation of rivals. This is an expensive means of customer acquisition, both in terms of advertising and lower ARPUs.

These brands are not only fighting to lure the same customers away from the same rivals, they are also attempting to steal subscriptions from each other. It doesn’t seem like the most logical plan.

At some point, the brands will have to merge into one. Convergence doesn’t make the most sense when you trying to sell two different brands in the same bundle. We suspect the BT brand will win out, especially when you see the expensive brand advertising campaign which has been launched with the England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland football associations.

That said, it is important for the BT brand to enter the 5G fight if it does want to remain relevant in the mobile world moving forward.

Looking at the deal, BT consumer customers can choose from 6 GB, 30 GB, or 60 GB 5G mobile plans, and can also gain a £10 monthly discount if the plan is purchased alongside a broadband package. This might gain some traction, though there is still plenty of opportunity for pricing strategies to shift over the coming months.

Although many of those with 5G ambitions have unveiled their pricing strategies, there is still plenty of volatility left to realise. Pricing seems to expensive right now, though the telcos will be stubborn while the early adopters are purchasing. These are consumer who are less likely to be deterred by price. As soon as the mass market starts to get interested, this is where we can envision the pricing war genuinely kicking off.

http://telecoms.com/500275/bt-mobile-joins-the-5g-fracas/

Huawei and Sunrise claim 3.67 Gbps from one 5G cell to multiple phones

Swiss operator Sunrise is happy to work with Huawei on 5G and their collaboration is yielding some impressive download speeds.

Not only do they claim to have hit a 3.67 Gbps top speed on a 5G downlink, they say they managed it to ‘multiple’ smartphones from one 5G cell. Sunrise was one of the first European operators to go live with 5G and that fact, together with announcements like these, ad weight to the fear that countries which ban Huawei from their 5G networks may lag behind those who don’t.

Having said that this was just a test, rather than a live network. It was conducted over 100 MHz of C-Band spectrum on Sunrise’s commercial network, using Huawei 5G gear. Huawei took the opportunity to plug its MU-MIMO technology, which is says ‘substantially increases 5G capacity without additional requirement of spectrum and power resource.’

Switzerland has long been a geopolitically neutral country and seems to feel free to go easier on Huawei than many other western countries have. Perhaps as a consequence Huawei will be hosting its latest 5G client event in Switzerland. Announcement like this, as well as general statements of 5G prowess, could also be designed to put pressure on other European countries by showing them what they will be missing out on if they block Huawei.

http://telecoms.com/500258/huawei-and-sunrise-claim-3-67-gbps-from-one-5g-cell-to-multiple-phones/

Telefónica demos surgery with a bit of help from 5G

Some surgeries were performed in Spain with real-time assistance from Japan thanks to the low latency of 5G.

This is still far from the remote surgery that has for so long been used as an illustration of the utopian potential of 5G, but is nonetheless a dramatic illustration of the kind of things it could unlock. A surgeon performed some operations in Malaga and had real-time assistance from another doctor who was dialling in from Tokyo. That assistance would have been far less useful if there had been a lag on the line.

The demo was part of the Advanced Digestive Endoscopy Conference and featured some degree of augmented reality. It claims also to be the first in medical congress in which the training sessions have been broadcast live with almost no latency, thus enabling attendees to interact thanks to 5G and AR.

“The operations organised at this conference are just an example of the numerous practical applications that 5G can have in healthcare,” said Mercedes Fernández, Innovation Manager at Telefónica. “Thanks to two key features of this technology – the low latency that allows transmission without delays and the ability to handle large video streams at high speed – it was possible to perform this intervention with the added value of doing so live and in real time with the interaction of doctors and attendees to provide solutions and ask questions about the clinical case that was undertaken.”

“The experience of previous years in organising innovative training courses in digestive endoscopy allows us this year to provide a global training course thanks to 5G technology, something that might seem science fiction but that we are making reality today” said Dr Pedro Rosón the surgeon who performed the operations.

“The use of 5G and augmented reality is, without doubt, what stands out in comparison with our previous editions and with any other standard medical workshops. We are therefore proud to keep and to continue offering an innovative training space with the live conducting of cases by specialists from Spain and abroad, with an emphasis on theory and reviewing the latest advances in interventional endoscopy.”

Remote assistance via 5G that makes use of AR may well be one of the primary use-cases used to sell 5G to industry. The potential it offers for providing training in the field is clear and it could transform the way training and mentoring is conducted. These are still early days, but each demo such as this one likely makes mainstream acceptance of this kind of technology more likely.

http://telecoms.com/500163/telefonica-demos-surgery-with-a-bit-of-help-from-5g/

EE plugs transport hubs as priority for 5G

As telcos jostle for top-spot in the 5G stakes EE has added further colour to its network deployment plans, with the UK’s busiest transport hubs taking priority.

Having switched on, albeit very limited, 5G coverage in 20 cities around the UK, EE is surging ahead to expand the coverage of the high-speed airwaves. As is the standard approach to deploying a new network, the busiest hubs for connectivity are first on the agenda, with the green light lit in London Waterloo, Liverpool Street and Charing Cross train stations.

“Switching on 5G in more busy places will help to keep our customers connected to the things that matter to them the most,” said Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s consumer division.

“Our engineers are building new 5G sites every day and increasing capacity on 4G sites – all part of our ambition to keep all of our customers connected 100% of the time.”

Although some might be a bit irked that train stations are getting 5G exposure rather than their home or office, it does make sense for the telcos. These are areas which are subject to congestion and notable network strain during peak hours, and let’s not forget, 5G offers greater spectral efficiency to ensure more devices can be connected simultaneously. Addressing these network congestion challenges will be a key objective to improve customer experience.

Aside from the three stations named above, Highbury and Islington station, New Cross Gate Overground station and Shoreditch High Street Overground station are further London sites which will be given the 5G connectivity buzz. Outside of London, Market Street on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, Belfast’s Great Northern Mall and City Hall, Cardiff’s St David’s shopping centre and Morgan Arcade and Albert Square in Manchester will also get the 5G upgrade.

The coverage map is gradually becoming more attractive for those considering a 5G contract, though there are still concerns about whether enough attention is being paid to 4G networks.

“5G will undoubtably unlock a range of exciting new consumer and business use cases,” said Ingo Flomer, CTO at Cobham Wireless. “However, there aren’t many 5G handsets available and in use today. Commuters still rely on 4G to access work emails or enjoy video streaming while on the move.

“Getting reliable 4G mobile coverage is still a challenge for commuters on lots of the UK’s most popular rail routes, as well as in stations, but it needn’t be such a hurdle. Solutions exist that can overcome the challenge of providing reliable voice and data coverage in stations and rail lines – an important part of the passenger experience.

“There will come a time when blanket 5G coverage is needed. Now, however, it is important to deliver adequate 4G mobile coverage to guarantee quality of service for consumers, and support business and operator growth in all areas in the UK.”

Flomer has a genuine point. Everyone who regularly uses public transport across the UK, or use stations outside of London, will have come across the same frustrations. Inconsistent and unreliable 4G connectivity.

According to the latest Ofcom Connected Nations report, only 66% of the UK landmass is deemed to have access to ‘good’ 4G data services from all four telcos. As you can see from the table below, EE is offering the best breadth of coverage, though there is still some work to do.

Telco Geographic coverage
EE 84%
O2 74%
Three 78%
Vodafone 79%
All four 66%

Those who live and work in the city will not realise some of these frustrations. The 4G coverage map has not been completely filled in yet, and some will still fall through the gaps created by the digital divide.

One of the promises of the connected world is mobility. The idea of improving accessibility to the internet and embedding connectivity in more devices is to make people more productive and enable more people to work anywhere. Employees and employers alike will certainly be interested in this message, though the network does have to be there to fulfil the promise.

Right now, there are still too many holes in the networks spread across the UK. Some communities are being left behind, while transportation links, not just the hubs, need to be given adequate attention.

In fairness to the telcos, this is a difficult equation to balance. Bank accounts do have their limit and some companies are being asked to spend across a range of different areas. Compromises have to be made, though some might question whether the telcos have found the right mix yet.

5G might be grabbing the attention, but it will be 4G which will be the most important networks for years to come. 5G smartphones will remain too expensive for many, while it will take years to get the 5G network coverage map anywhere near as extensive as 4G. It is promising to see EE’s network gathering momentum, but we need to ensure 4G expansion is still a priority for telcos.

http://telecoms.com/500146/ee-plugs-transport-hubs-as-priority-for-5g/

US warns Italy over the Huawei job

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is back in Europe and this time he is attempting to scare the Italians into line.

It has been a quiet few months for the White House enforcer, though Pompeo is back in the European ring throwing punches towards Italy and his old foe, Huawei. At a press conference in Rome, the same line has been delivered to the Italian press; if Italy works with Huawei, it does not bode well for its relationship with the US.

“And so to the extent that an Italian company makes a decision to invest in or provide equipment that has a network that our national security teams – our intelligence teams, our Department of Defence – conclude isn’t a trusted network, where we have risk to our information that we can’t figure our way through, we’ll have to make some very difficult decisions,” Pompeo said.

“We want to be a partner with Italy in all of these things, but it is not the case that we will sacrifice America’s national security to put our information in a place where there’s risk that adversaries or the Chinese Communist Party might have access to that.”

Although this is the most relevant point to the telecommunications industry, it should also be noted there is existing tension between the US and Italy.

The US is unhappy over loans and subsidies which have been granted to EU aerospace company Airbus. Thanks to this assistance, Airbus is now able to challenge US rival Boeing on the global stage, though the means by which success has been realised has irritated the White House. Tariffs have been suggested on certain European food exports such as whiskies from Ireland and Scotland, as well as wine and cheese from Italy.

While there have been protests from officials against the tariffs, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has said the US is free to pursue the charges if it chooses to. This has led to increased tension between the US and various European nations, including Italy. During his four-day tour of the country, Italian farmers exchanged stern words with Pompeo to demonstrate their frustration.

It might not be directly relevant to the Huawei saga, but it is another chapter in the story which indicates the US and Italian Governments are not on the friendliest of terms.

In terms of the telco and technology space, Italy has not made any commitments to ban Huawei to date, though Pompeo seems to think it is necessary to edge the Italian Government along. It is a message which the statesman has delivered on several occasions to European counterparts; if you work with Huawei, we might not work with you.

What is odd, however, is that the Italian telecommunications scene hasn’t been the most profitable for Huawei to date. Vodafone and Telecom Italia both rely on Ericsson as their main equipment provider, while Iliad recently announced it was continuing its relationship with Nokia. Wind Tre’s main supplier Chinese state-owned ZTE, which might irritate a few in the US, though Huawei, the victim of much of the White House’s aggression, isn’t a major player here.

More than anything else, this seems to be more symbolic from Pompeo. There might be other distractions in the world of politics, but it is always useful to re-iterate it point about Huawei.

This threat from the White House is not necessarily new however. The same has been said to the UK, largely ignored by the Germans, irritated Hungary and proved somewhat successful in Poland. Only the Poles have taken a firm stance against Huawei, aligning themselves with the US by signing an agreement on 5G security which effectively bars Chinese vendors from supplying equipment for Polish 5G networks.

Looking at the economics side of the argument, the US accounts for 9.3% of all exports, making it the third-largest destination behind Germany and France. Wine accounts for 4.1% ($1.83 billion) of the exports to the US, pasta 0.69% ($310 million) and cheese 0.71% ($317 million). The US is a very important trade partner of the Italian economy, and the tariffs mentioned above will certainly have an impact.

While banning Huawei from the Italian market would not necessarily have a material impact, it would be a symbolic gesture. This is another example of the US attempting to harness support in its on-going battle with the Chinese, though the Pompeo threat causes any reaction from the Italian Government remains to be seen.

 

http://telecoms.com/500106/us-warns-italy-over-the-huawei-job/

Verizon buys into alternative realities

Verizon has announced the acquisition of Jaunt XR, adding augmented and virtual reality smarts to its media division.

While few details about the deal have been unveiled, the deal will add an extra element to a division which has been under considerable pressure in recent months. The Verizon diversification efforts have proven to be less than fruitful to date, though this appears to be another example of throwing money at a disastrous situation.

“We are thrilled with Verizon’s acquisition of Jaunt’s technology,” said Mitzi Reaugh, CEO of Jaunt XR. “The Jaunt team has built leading-edge software and we are excited for its next chapter with Verizon.”

Jaunt XR will join the troubled media division of Verizon which has been under strain in recent months. The ambition was to create a competitor to Google and Facebook to secure a slice of the billions of dollars spent on digital advertising. On the surface it is a reasonable strategy, but like so many good ideas, the execution was somewhat wanting.

Since the acquisition of Yahoo, Verizon has had to deal with the after-effects of a monumental data breach, write off $4.6 billion of the money it spent on the transaction, spend big to secure a distribution deal with the NFL and cut 7% of its staff. The first few years of living the digital advertising dream has been nothing short of a nightmare.

Looking at the financials, during the last quarter the media division reported $1.8 billion in revenues. This was down 2.9% from the previous year and accounted for only 2% of the total revenues brought in across the group.

With Jaunt XR brought into the media family, new elements could be introduced to the portfolio. Details have not been offered just yet, though with VR, and more recently, AR expertise, there is an opportunity to create immersive, engaging content for the mobile-orientated aspects of the business.

This transaction will certainly add variety and depth to the services and products in the media portfolio, but soon enough you have to question whether Verizon is throwing good money after bad. This has not been a fruitful venture for the team thus far.

 

http://telecoms.com/500021/verizon-buys-into-alternative-realities/

Uber app gets a major overhaul

Ride sharing giant Uber has emphasised its diversification and desire to play nice with the broader market in a major new version of its app.

Somewhat ambitiously positioned as ‘an operating system for everyday life’, the new app elevates Uber Eats to have equal billing with the Rides service. Uber Eats offers a takeaway service for places that don’t do such a thing themselves, such as most fast food providers. It’s the other main way freelance drivers can earn money through Uber.

On top of that there’s fairly significant new security feature called Verify Your Ride, which provides the passenger with a special number, that the driver needs to input before the journey can begin. This seems to be designed to address concerns about rogue drivers masquerading as Uber ones and the obvious security risk that poses.

The other major change is the addition of a bunch of non-Uber travel information, such as public transport, to search results. This counterintuitive move has presumably been made to placate regulators and anyone else hostile to the Uber business model, by indicating Uber’s willingness to play nice with broader society and not abuse its dominant position in the ad hoc transport sector.

“We recognize that becoming an integral part of people’s lives comes with real responsibility,” said Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in the associated announcement. “That’s why we are working to make sure every customer is treated like a VIP, every driver and courier feels like a valued partner, and every city feels like we’re a good citizen. With that in mind, today we also announced a number of innovative features and new partnerships.”

Right now you can be treated like a VIP for just $25 per month through Ride Pass, which offers discounts. That is now being extended to Eats in the form of Uber Pass, which also grants ‘free’ deliveries. There’s also Uber Rewards, which rewards you with little treats if you use Uber enough. Uber is looking to diversify on the back of its strong position, while at the same time taking measures to mitigate that dominance, which is sensible.

http://telecoms.com/499952/uber-app-gets-a-major-overhaul/

Next year is when 5G will start to get really interesting

At a 5G/IoT day in San Diego, mobile chip giant Qualcomm outlined the current state of play with 5G and what we can expect from it in the near future.

As has been well documented, the telecoms industry got its act together a year earlier than was originally anticipated on 5G, thanks in part to using a non-standalone version as a stepping stone. This enabled the enhanced mobile broadband aspect of 5G to be introduced nice and quickly, but more novel features such as ultra-reliable, low-latency and network slicing require the full-fat, standalone version of 5G.

That will be fully standardised with release 16, which is scheduled to be rubber-stamped by the 3GPP in the middle of next year. That will open the door for things like autonomous vehicles, smart factories, mobile VR and all sorts other wireless exotica, which in turn should open up all these exciting new commercial use-cases and revenue streams 5G has long been promising.

We were able to chat to Durga Malladi, who is the 5G GM at Qualcomm, and he was quick to push back on our characterisation of eMBB as the relatively boring side of 5G. His phone was set up with Verizon 5G and he did a live speed test which yielded a download speed of 1.8 Gbps. That’s pretty impressive and, while we’re not sure where the immediate need is for such mobile bandwidth, the tech industry always seems to find a use for it.

Smart factories are something Qualcomm is especially keen to bring attention to as a validating use-case for 5G. Using unlicensed spectrum, a factory could be set up with its own private network, with a guaranteed level of ultra-reliability, that will enable all the machines and people to constantly wirelessly communicate with each other. That in turn could enable new levels of orchestration and efficiency.

A lot of the day involved Qualcomm talking up its own contribution to the progress of 5G, which is fair enough and it wouldn’t be Qualcomm if it didn’t. The company is right in the middle of all this stuff, however, so it does know what it’s talking about, and it used the event to prepare the assembled media and analysts to prepare for a big 5G year next year.

http://telecoms.com/499890/next-year-is-when-5g-will-start-to-get-really-interesting/

BT said to plan copper broadband network switch off by 2027

A new report claims UK operator group BT is planning to complete the full conversion of its fixed line network from copper to fibre within eight years.

The gossip comes courtesy of Sky News, which reckons BT CEO Philip Jansen is in ‘secret talks’ with the government regarding the timetable for switching off the copper broadband network. What makes these talks more secret than any others between CEOs and politicians isn’t stated. And, of course, the very act of publishing the story also means they are definitely not secret now anyway.

Apparently Jansen is at the head of an entire covert cabal, including regulators and other industry stakeholders, intent on dictating the UKs broadband agenda for years to come. A kind of telecoms Illuminati, the report would have us believe. The initiative seems to have been catalysed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s stated aim of achieving full UK fibre coverage by 2025.

We asked BT for a comment on the report and got the following: “As we made clear at the time of our last financial results there needs to be a determined acceleration towards a pro-investment policy and regulatory regime, so BT is keen to see the industry work together with government on the big challenges – such as digital switchover and rural coverage – that we all want to see addressed.”

That seems to be a circuitous way of saying “we don’t comment on rumour and speculation,” but fair enough. Speaking to other industry figures we get the impression that Sky’s source (assuming they didn’t just make it up) probably leaked in order to put pressure on the government and regulators to create the environment to make this broadband utopia possible.

Meanwhile Greg Mesch, CEO of CityFibre, opined the following: “In light of our funded and mobilised Gigabit City programme to deploy wholesale full fibre infrastructure to at least five million homes, Ofcom’s exclusive focus on BT Openreach as the vehicle for migration from copper to fibre is wrong. Retiring the copper network needs to be managed in a way that promotes competition, benefiting every builder of fibre networks, rather than simply reinforcing BT Openreach’s existing market dominance. Consumers should have the power to switch to any full fibre network. CityFibre stands ready to play its part in transferring the nation’s homes and businesses onto a new generation of fibre networks.”

BT has consistently stated that it will only hit these kinds of targets if the right regulatory, public investment and industry cooperation environment is created. By contributing to a public expectation of full fibre by 2027, maybe BT hopes to put the ball in the government and Ofcom’s court. BT can then say it’s doing everything it can to make this happen, but is hamstrung by an unhelpful public sector.

http://telecoms.com/499776/bt-said-to-plan-switch-off-copper-broadband-network-by-2027/