What’s up with... 5G in Belgium, WIOCC, ‘Bitcoin City’

TelecomTV Staff
By TelecomTV Staff

Nov 25, 2021

  • Belgium preps 5G auction, opens door for new entrant
  • WIOCC loads up for more Africa rollouts
  • El Salvador goes with the flow re Bitcoin...

Good news from Brussels (not the sprouts), some new funding for an African wholesaler and one of those “you couldn’t make it up” stories from Latin America give us some Thanksgiving news nibbles. 

Belgium is finally closing in on an auction of 5G spectrum, with the second quarter of 2022 the target time period now that the country’s authorities have approved the legal framework for the process. "There will finally be a 5G roll-out in our country next year," noted Telecommunications Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter, who is also set to introduce a bill to the Belgian Parliament that will “introduce additional security measures for the provision of 5G mobile services,” which could mean the introduction of restrictions on certain vendors/suppliers (that remains to be seen). That the auction is upcoming is good news for the country’s network operators, Proximus, Orange Belgium and Telenet, which so far have had to get by on temporary 5G permits to roll out pilot schemes and trials. Not such good news for that trio is that the Telecoms Minister has made provision in the 5G auction for the potential introduction of a new, fourth operator: This according to De Sutter, would be “good news for all Belgians” as they’re paying “high prices” for their current services and a bit of extra competition might help push mobile tariffs down. Potentially, there is also the option for a B2B player to enter the market to focus on 5G business applications. Belgium is not a big market but it might just be suitable as the next European location for an Open RAN-enabled greenfield network rollout to follow in the wake of 1&1 in Germany.

WIOCC (West Indian Ocean Cable Company), the operator consortium that runs a subsea network which runs around the continent of Africa, has raised $200 million by selling new shares and agreeing debt provisions withCAPE IV, a fund managed by leading Africa focused private equity fund manager, African Capital Alliance (ACA). “As well as introducing a strong new investor into the company, the capital will be used to support WIOCC’s expansion strategy across Africa and accelerate its investment in enhancing the continent’s digital infrastructure,” it noted in this announcement. “Strategic investments in the new Equiano and 2Africa international subsea systems will augment and complement WIOCC’s existing core network infrastructure, cost-effectively adding multi-Terabits (Tbps) of capacity and significantly increasing its options for delivering the high-availability solutions demanded in markets across Africa,” it added. Read more.

It might read like a feeble first-draft script for the next James Bond film, but plans by the government of El Salvador to build a circular Bitcoin City under a volcano at a cost of “around” 300,000 of the virtual coins are, amazingly, real enough. Currently, the El Salvadorean treasury holds 1,120 bitcoins. Back in September, the impoverished Latin American country became the first in the world to authorise the use of the virtual currency as legal tender. Now comes a new city that will “initially” be funded by bitcoin-backed bonds to the value of US$1 billion. Half the money raised will be spent on buying bitcoins and the other half will go towards paying for the infrastructure needed to mine bitcoins and also to keep the streets “clean and tidy.” The city will be constructed “next year” on the slopes of the active Conchagua volcano in the La Union region of south-eastern El Salvador. The central plaza of the new city will “look like a bitcoin symbol from the air.” Speaking at a raucous shindig held in a beach resort to mark the conclusion of a week of volcanic hype about El Salvador’s plans to get rich quick via the cryptocurrency, the country’s young president, Nayib Bukele, dismissed claims by politicians and economists that gambling on bitcoin as the sole strategy to fuel the national exchequer will result in inflation and monetary instability. Wearing a white T-shirt, white jeans and a reversed white baseball cap (a style that the Canadian fashion icon Justin Bieber abandoned years ago), Bukele made this deathless pitch (and he did it in English): "Invest here and make all the money you want. This is a fully ecological city that works and is energised by a volcano. No taxes will be levied, apart from value-added tax.” He added that the new city will “have everything. Residential areas, commercial areas, services, museums, entertainment, bars, restaurants, airport, port, rail - everything devoted to Bitcoin.” What could possibly go wrong? Apart from increasingly extreme fluctuations in the value of the cryptocurrency and/or a super-volcanic explosion followed by some rather warm lava flows...

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the US, and those millions of people flying across the nation in search of a turkey dinner might be glad to hear that AT&T and Verizon have announced that they will reduce power levels of their 5G services whilst the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigates claims that C-band signals may interfere with flight deck safety systems in general and aircraft altimeters in particular. During the time of the Trump administration, the Federal Communications Commission, the US telecoms regulator, auctioned-off C-band frequencies despite the objections of the FAA and trouble has been brewing ever since. Between them AT&T and Verizon spent an eye-watering US$81 billion to secure C-band licences for themselves and are understandably eager to start using the technology. The FAA continues to insist that the frequencies have the potential to interfere with cockpit systems to the point, in extremis, of causing catastrophic accidents. AT&T and Verizon blinked first and the impasse was broken when the telcos agreed to delay the use of C-band spectrum until January 5, 2022. Yesterday that was extended to July 6, next year. In a joint statement, both operators announced, “We have voluntarily agreed to certain precautionary protection measures. Though there is no credible evidence that a legitimate interference problem exists, we agreed to take these additional steps to alleviate any safety concerns.” AT&T and Verizon’s arch-rival T-Mobile, which has licences for a much smaller range of C-band frequencies (and for which it paid much less than its competitors) is precluded by law from providing 5G services over them until December 2023. Meanwhile, aviation authorities in Canada, France and Japan have also registered their concerns about possible interference with aircraft safety systems and have issued regulations requiring reduced power settings.

UK-based public relations agency CCgroup has published a report that highlights which “marketing channels and content types IoT buyers deem most influential when identifying, shortlisting and selecting technology vendors.” The report, How can IoT technology vendors successfully market and sell to buyers?, reveals that “trade and business media, along with industry analysts and vendor-owned marketing channels have the most impact on IoT buyers when selecting vendors.” And intriguingly, “social media is also a highly influential channel, with almost half of IoT buyers stating that social media has contributed to vendors being selected for RFPs.” That’s right, IoT vendors, you need to set up that TikTok account pronto!! Find out more here

In another triumph for European science a team of boffins have bounced a LoRa message off the Moon. Quite why they did so is somewhat unclear, but the 730,360 kilometre round trip set a new world record for the furthest distance yet that a LoRa (Long Range) message has travelled. LoRa is a patented, proprietary low-power wide-area network communication technology based on spread-spectrum modulation techniques First developed by Cycleo of Grenoble, France it was later acquired by Semtech, the semiconductor company based in California in the US. Semtech is the founding member of the LoRa Alliance which is committed to enabling large-scale deployment of Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) IoT through the development and promotion of the LoRaWAN open standard. The press release on the event stresses that “for a brief moment in time the entire message “PI9CAM” (the call sign of the telescope) was in space on its way from Earth to the Moon and back.” Wow! Well, given the distance and the speed of communication it would have been, wouldn’t it? Otherwise it would have got back before the message was sent thus resulting in a distressing temporal paradox where it is still 1961, Steve Jobs volunteers for the Samaritans and works weekends serving root beer in a drug store in Mountain View while dinosaurs roam freely around Menlo Park. The signal was transmitted via a Semtech LR1110 RF transceiver chip (in the 430-440 MHz amateur band), amplified to 350 Watt, using the 25-metre dish of the Dwingeloo radio telescope. Just 2.44 seconds later the bounce-back message was received by the same chip. Commenting on the success of the experiment, Thomas Telkamp, the CTO of Lacuna Space, a global connectivity provider for the Internet of Things, said: “Seeing the message coming back from the Moon was exhilarating. From the round-trip time we were able to calculate the distance to the moon, matching very well the predicted values of NASA's JPL Horizons ephemeris system. We even used the echo to see the shape of the moon, which we didn’t imagine we could.” The press release adds that the experiment proved “that LoRa technology, used for many IoT applications, can cover such great distances, and that it is possible to send and receive low-powered messages from the Moon. This could become relevant for future lunar communications.” Next time maybe they could try something really Goofy and bounce a message off Pluto.

Email Newsletters

Sign up to receive TelecomTV's top news and videos, plus exclusive subscriber-only content direct to your inbox.