Tag: 5G

Telkom fixed-line bloodbath

Source: MyBroadband

Telkom’s interim results for the six months ended 30 September 2020 revealed what most people expected – a big decline in fixed-line subscribers.

The company’s fixed-line subscribers dropped from 1 975 000 in September 2019 to 1 432 000 in September 2020.

This means Telkom lost 543 000 fixed-line subscribers year-on-year, which equates to a 27.5% decline in its fixed-access line customer base.

The latest decline follows a trend which started in 2001 when the company lost 531,000 subscribers from its peak of 5,493,000 fixed-line users in 2000.

Over the past two decades, Telkom launched numerous new fixed-line products, including ADSL, VDSL, and fibre, but this was not enough to stem the losses.

Many Telkom subscribers dumped their fixed-line services and migrated to competitors like Vumatel, Vodacom, MTN, and Rain.

While copper theft was to blame for some of the losses, Telkom was its own worst enemy in many cases.

The company’s poor customer service and billing problems caused tremendous frustration among its users, which prompted them to look for alternatives.

Telkom, however, put the decline down to factors outside of its control like competition from mobile services, copper theft, and tough economic conditions.

The operator has also proactively started to replace its copper-based clients to fixed-LTE – a strategy which is paying dividends.

The decline in fixed-lines can be expected to continue as Telkom is planning to stop providing copper-based services altogether by 2024.

Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko said phasing out copper was needed because maintaining multiple cable network technologies is costly, and expertise on copper networks is dwindling.

Curiously the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed Telkom’s plan to decommission its copper network.

It has created an immediate strong demand for broadband access, and the company’s fibre network is not able to meet this demand.

Telkom’s wholesale arm Openserve is now using its copper network to satisfy this demand in the short term.

The company did, however, say it will continue its decommissioning strategy in locations where copper is not “economically viable”.

Copper used to rule until fibre, LTE, and 5G arrived
For over a decade, Telkom’s ADSL was the only game in town for most South Africans who were looking for affordable, uncapped broadband access.

Sentech’s MyWireless and WBS’s iBurst wireless products provided some competition to Telkom in selected areas in the mid-2000s, but ADSL remained the preferred choice.

Things started to change when Vumatel launched affordable fibre access in Parkhurst in October 2014.

Vumatel showed it was possible to take on and beat Telkom in the fixed-line market, which sparked a fibre revolution in South Africa.

Many other fibre network operators, like Frogfoot, Octotel, Cybersmart, Vodacom, MTN, and SADV, followed Vumatel’s example and started to roll out fibre across the country.

Telkom was on the back foot, and many households and businesses dumped their ADSL line for fibre-to-the-home and fibre-to-the-business.

Improvements in mobile technologies, which made it possible to offer fast and affordable fixed-wireless broadband access, emerged as another big competitor to ADSL.

Over the last few years MTN, Vodacom, Cell C, Telkom, and Rain launched competitively priced fixed-LTE and 5G products.

Telkom even proactively moved many of its ADSL subscribers to its new fixed-LTE products in many areas.

Both fibre and wireless access provide higher speeds at lower prices than ADSL, which means DSL is seen as old and tired technology which should only be used as a last resort.

The effect was a rapid decline in copper lines as ADSL and VDSL subscribers migrated to these new technologies.

 

The Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has gazetted a new policy on the deployment of communications networks in South Africa, according to a recent MyBroadband article.

  • The policy aims to promote the accelerated deployment of electronic communications networks
  • Mobile networks and other licensees the right to select, enter, and use public or private land for the deployment of their network infrastructure
  • Any infrastructure built on private land would belong to the network which built it
  • Property owners are liable for damage to these facilities
  • This also applies to the proposed wholesale open-access network (WOAN)

MyBroadband states that licensees must provide the property owner with a notice that includes the following information:

  • The reasons for engaging in the activity
  • The date of commencement of such activity
  • The objection process to its plans
  • The planned location of the installation
  • Environmental, water, health, and safety information
  • Additionally, owners may not charge companies for building infrastructure on their property, except under certain conditions.

This policy is currently open to written comments from interested parties, and will be until 30 working days after the date of publication.

Comments can be sent to the contacts below:

By Jon Porter for The Verge

Huawei’s networking equipment is to be phased out of the UK’s 5G networks, the government has announced. Telecoms operators will not be allowed to buy new 5G telecoms equipment from the Chinese firm from January next year, and they will have seven years to remove its existing technology from their 5G infrastructure at an expected cost of £2 billion. The announcement follows a new report about Huawei’s role in the UK’s national infrastructure from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre.

The decision marks a U-turn from the government’s previous position, announced in January, which allowed Huawei’s equipment to be used in the country’s 5G infrastructure, with certain limitations. Under that position, Huawei would be limited to a 35 percent market share, and its equipment couldn’t be used in core parts of the network or geographically sensitive locations. Now, however, its equipment will be completely removed from the country’s 5G networks.

The UK’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden warned that the decision “will delay our rollout of 5G.” As part of the announcement, the government said that it is also advising full fiber broadband operators to transition away from buying Huawei’s equipment.

In recent months, the British government has seen mounting pressure, both domestically and internationally, to phase out the use of Huawei’s equipment entirely. That pressure has been driven by concern from security experts that Huawei’s equipment poses a national security risk by allowing Beijing to spy on Western countries. Huawei has strenuously denied these allegations.

International pressure has mainly come from the US. Huawei has been on the country’s “entity list” since May 2019, meaning US companies cannot sell technology to the company. However, in May this year, The New York Times reported the US toughened its stance with the announcement of new sanctions against Huawei. Under the new measures, which are due to go into effect in September, Huawei and its suppliers, like chip manufacturer TSMC, cannot use American tech to design or produce Huawei’s products. At the time, US officials characterised the move as “closing a loophole” through which Huawei could effectively have previously used American technology.

These new measures could have a big impact on the products Huawei is able to produce, which critics argue could make its equipment less safe to use. The restrictions “will force the company to use untrusted technology that could increase the risk to the UK,” according to a security report that leaked earlier this month.

For example, Huawei’s own HiSilicon chipsets could be impacted by the measures. BBC News reports that the semiconductor industry relies on electronic design automation (EDA) software to automate the process of designing modern chips like Huawei’s Kirin 990 5G processor. However, the sanctions mean that this software can no longer be used in the design or production of Huawei’s chips since the major EDA developers have ties to the US. It makes it difficult for Huawei to produce its own modern top-of-the-line processors, according to BBC News, pushing it towards third-party chips that, it’s argued, could be harder for UK cybersecurity officials to vet.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also facing pressure from inside his own party. The government suffered the biggest defeat of its current term back in March, when BBC News reports 38 Conservative MPs voted against the government in favor of an amendment calling for an end to the use of Huawei equipment in the country’s 5G networks by 2023. Increasing numbers of Conservative MPs claim that the equipment poses a national security risk, potentially allowing Beijing to spy on the UK, according to the Financial Times. Although the government won the vote, the incident put pressure on Johnson to take a tougher stance.

Responding to the news, a spokesperson from Huawei called the decision “disappointing” and said that the company is “confident” the new US sanctions wouldn’t affect “the resilience or security of the products we supply to the UK.” It claimed that they were driven by US trade policy rather than security and urged the British government to reconsider its decision.

News of a possible ban has proved unpopular with telecom firms, many of which have already started using Huawei’s equipment to build out their 5G networks. In comments later published in The Guardian, BT chief executive Philip Jansen told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that it would be “impossible” to remove Huawei entirely from the country’s telecoms infrastructure in the next decade and that it would take five to seven years to remove it from the 5G network. Jansen warned that forcing the removal of Huawei’s equipment too quickly could create outages and security risks of its own.

By Arjun Kharpal for CNBC

For decades, some within Britain and the US have celebrated a “special relationship” — historically, politically, economically and culturally. That bond looks set to be challenged after the U.K.’s decision to allow Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to take part in its next-generation mobile networks.

Known as 5G, those networks promise super-fast data speeds but also provide the technology to underpin critical infrastructure in the future.

Washington has maintained that Huawei represents a national security threat because its networking gear could be used by the Chinese government for espionage. The Trump administration has also raised concerns about the link between Huawei and the Chinese Communist Party. Huawei has denied that its equipment could be compromised and says it has no links with Beijing.

The U.S. piled pressure on the U.K. to block Huawei. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Britain had a “momentous decision ahead on 5G.” But Britain chose to allow Huawei to participate in parts of 5G networks called the Radio Access Network. This is essentially the part of the network that hooks up your devices with the actual 5G signal. Huawei can participate in the RAN, but no more than 35% of a single vendor’s equipment in this part of the network can come from the Chinese vendor.

Britain’s decision has “disappointed” the Trump administration and now U.S. lawmakers are warning about deteriorating relations between the U.K. and U.S.

“Here’s the sad truth: our special relationship is less special now that the U.K. has embraced the surveillance state commies at Huawei,” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The Chinese Communist Party has infected Five Eyes with Huawei, right at a time when the U.S. and U.K. must be unified in order to meet the global security challenges of China’s resurgence.”

Five Eyes refers to an intelligence-sharing alliance involving Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab suggested that intelligence sharing was not at risk.

Intelligence-sharing at risk?
“This decision is deeply disappointing for American supporters of the ‘Special Relationship’. I fear London has freed itself from Brussels only to cede sovereignty to Beijing,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., tweeted, referring to Britain’s exit from the European Union.

“The short-term savings aren’t worth the long-term costs. In light of this decision, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence should conduct a thorough review of U.S.-UK intelligence-sharing,” he added.

Earlier this year, Cotton introduced a bill that would stop the U.S. from sharing intelligence with countries that use Huawei equipment for their 5G networks.

But analysts said this was unlikely to happen.

“It is highly unlikely that the U.S. will follow through with threats to cut off or curtail intelligence sharing over the U.K. decision,” Paul Triolo, practice head for geotechnology at Eurasia Group, told CNBC.

“The U.K. has tried to carefully balance the economic and security concerns around Huawei and 5G by raising the bar substantially on vendor and carrier security posture, while restricting high-risk vendors from key portions of the network. It is more likely the U.S. will work with the U.K. government to ensure high security standards are met. Blowing up the Five Eyes intelligence sharing partnership over this is just not on the cards.”

Trade deal complications?
The decision comes as as Britain heads toward Brexit on Friday when it will officially leave the European Union.

The U.K. is working toward striking a trade deal with the EU and the U.S. U.K. Finance Minister Sajid Javid said earlier this month that striking an agreement with the U.S. is “a huge priority for us,” and that the two nations have “already started working closely together (toward that goal).”

But experts said, with Brexit around the corner, that the Huawei deal could complicate trade negotiations.

“I think the tone coming out of Washington is one of unhappiness — but hasn’t totally condemned it, leaving a middle road potentially to do some kind of deal down the road,” said Neil Campling, head of technology, media and telecoms research at Mirabaud Securities.

“However, from Saturday (aka post Brexit) the U.K.’s bargaining position on trade deals with any potential partners is weakened, and so the U.S. may well be waiting to tactically and aggressively ramp up the heat at a later time. Nothing is certain at this juncture,” he told CNBC.

At the same time, Britain has to think about its relationship with China, one of its key partners. In December, Wu Ken, China’s ambassador to Germany, threatened Europe’s largest economy with “consequences” if it blocked Huawei. This could have been in Britain’s mind too.

Campling said there was “never a perfect solution” to Britain’s Huawei decision given the competing interests. And Lew Lukens, former deputy chief of mission of the U.S. Embassy in London, said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to balance the competing sides.

“I think Boris Johnson is laying down a marker in some ways saying, ‘I’m not going to do what Donald Trump says, we are going to forge our own path and balance these competing interest,’” Lukens told CNBC. “I think he’s confident they can keep the U.S. on the same side and these other markets on the same side.”

Rain and Huawei roll out high-speed 5G in SA

By Siseko Njobeni for Business Live

SA’s data-only network operator Rain, which is partly owned by businessmen Patrice Motsepe, Paul Harris and Michael Jordaan, has partnered with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to roll out the high-speed 5G network by the middle of 2019.

The roll-out will make SA one of the first countries to launch 5G, which promises faster download speeds, reliable network connectivity and the ability to connect more devices at once.

“The network will provide fibre-like speeds without installation complexities, time delays and cost of laying fibre in underserviced areas,” Rain CEO Willem Roos said on Tuesday.

Rain and Huawei made the announcement at the 2019 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, where 5G took centre stage.

“5G is here. If there is any doubt, you only have to walk around [the conference],” said Harris, who is also Rain chair.

He said that the development of 5G products later in the year would hit the industry like a tsunami.

Roos said Rain would take advantage of its existing 4G network and allocated spectrum.

Huawei said its products would enable Rain to use the existing network, saying leveraging existing infrastructure would accelerate the roll-out of the 5G network. Rain had about 3,000 4G sites in SA, Roos said.

“It is well-known that as broadband penetration increases in a country, you get better economic growth. With better economic growth, you can see improvement in employment. We are big supporters of [President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan] to re-energise investment in SA.

“We made a promise to invest a significant amount of money in 5G,” Roos said.

“We hope to have rolled out a significant number of towers in [Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban] by mid-2019 to offer commercial services to clients.”

Rain planned to roll out the network rapidly, aiming for “significant” coverage in metropolitan areas initially, he said. The company said it wanted to deploy 1,000 5G sites in major cities in the next two years.

Responding to a question during the announcement, Roos said Rain had no immediate plans to expand to the rest of Africa. “Obviously, there is complexity around spectrum, licences and those kinds of issues. Certainly, SA can play a crucial role as the gateway to Africa. We will see if commercial opportunities that make sense arise.”

GSMA director-general Mats Granryd said: “The arrival of 5G forms a major part of the world’s move towards an era of intelligent connectivity, which alongside developments in the Internet of Things, big data and artificial intelligence, is poised to be a key driver of economic growth over the coming years.”

GSMA is a global mobile industry body.

It said in a report that 5G would account for 15% of global mobile connections by 2025.

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