What’s up with… 5G network slicing, Iliad, Google Cloud

T-Mobile pulled off the country’s first use of 5G network slicing for remote video production on a commercial network at Red Bull’s Cliff Diving event in Boston.

T-Mobile pulled off the country’s first use of 5G network slicing for remote video production on a commercial network at Red Bull’s Cliff Diving event in Boston.

  • Analysts still bullish about 5G network slicing 
  • Iliad boasts a stellar H1 
  • AI is hot at Google Cloud Next

In today’s industry news roundup: 5G network slicing use cases are still few and far between, but the ABI Research team remains confident of significant growth; Iliad’s pan-European operations are driving market-busting sales and earnings growth; AI is front and centre at the Google Cloud Next conference; and more!  

For many in the industry, the jury is still out on whether 5G network slicing is going to be as big a deal as they had imagined. There is, for sure, a slow creep of examples as standalone architectures are finally deployed – T-Mobile US, for example, has just shared details of what it claims is the country’s “first use of 5G network slicing for remote video production on a commercial network,” which took place during Red Bull’s cliff diving event in Boston (see picture above). “It’s time we fulfil the promise of 5G,” noted the operator. “It’s time to unleash network slicing” it also blustered, as if slicing is a superhero that had been on a leash in a dark room around the back of the network operations centre but is now ready to make connectivity dreams come true. Vodafone also recently worked with Ericsson to provision network slices optimised for cloud gaming. But there’s hardly a flood of real-world use cases. That still might materialise, though more as a trickle than a flood, according to ABI Research. It noted that expectations for growth in the 5G network slicing market have been tempered, but that it “will continue an upward, albeit slowed, growth trajectory to reach $19.5bn by 2028.” The analyst firm added in this press release that the building blocks needed to underpin the provision of network slices are still to be put in place. “5G slicing continues to promise new value creation in the industry,” noted Don Alusha, senior analyst at ABI Research. “However, as reflected in multiple ABI Research market intelligence reports, a solid software and cloud-native foundation must be in place for that promise to materialise. That, in turn, is a prerequisite for a wider diffusion of 5G core adoption, an architecture that provides native support for 5G slicing,” he added. And for more on cloud-native telco foundations, check out TelecomTV’s upcoming summit on that very topic!  

French telecom operator Iliad claims to have outperformed the telecoms industry in Europe in terms of revenue growth in the first half of 2023, recording a consolidated revenues increase of 10.4% year on year to €4.44bn. The largest contributor was its operation in Poland (operating under the name Play) where sales grew by 17.9%, followed by Italy with 12.2% growth and France (operating under the name Free) with a 7.7% rise in sales. Despite the ongoing pressure from inflation and the hike in energy prices, Iliad has booked a 4.1% year-on-year increase in consolidated earnings before tax and other costs for the first six months of 2023. “This rise was fuelled partly by our solid sales growth and partly by the strong operating leverage we have in Italy, thanks to the rapid rollout of our mobile network,” the company stated. “Our first-half results reflect an acceleration of our businesses in our three host countries, France, Poland and Italy. And although we must remain cautious in a macroeconomic context that is still full of uncertainty, Iliad’s business model is proving its resilience,” noted Thomas Reynaud, CEO of the telco group.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is front and centre at this year’s Google Cloud Next event, which kicked off on Tuesday with an opening address from Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google and its parent company Alphabet. Pichai noted that Google has, for the past seven years, been taking an “AI-first approach, applying AI to make our products radically more helpful. We believe that making AI helpful for everyone is the most important way we'll deliver on our mission in the next decade. That’s why we’ve invested in the very best tooling, foundation models and infrastructure, across both TPUs [tensor processing units] and GPUs [graphics processing units],” he added. The king of the GPU market right now, of course, is Nvidia, which recently reported a 101% year-on-year increase in fiscal second-quarter revenues due to demand for its AI chipsets. Nvidia is a key technology partner to all of the hyperscale giants and, at the Google Cloud Next conference, Nvidia founder and CEO Jensen Huang joined Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian for a keynote presentation to announce their deepening partnership and celebrate the general availability of Nvidia H100 GPU-powered A3 instances, as well as to speak about how Google is using Nvidia H100 and A100 GPUs for internal research and inference in its DeepMind and other divisions.   

Still with the hyperscaler… Enterprise software company Eureka AI has partnered with Google Cloud to offer operators telecom analytics-as-a-service, which it claims will help telcos boost revenues and profitability. As part of the deal, operators will be able to offer Eureka AI’s AI platform and suite of analytics products to their business-to-business and enterprise customers. According to Eureka AI, its suite of products are “highly scalable” and secure, and enable operators to grow their digital business and financial inclusion. Among its offerings is a platform that leverages “alternative data for risk scoring” to address credit-underserved population segments around the world, as well as a market research platform and a product that enables segment analysis, app usage understanding and advanced interest-based marketing. “Our strategic partnership with Google Cloud on joint go-to-market efforts and faster Google Cloud deployments will accelerate growth and adoption of Eureka AI’s products globally,” said Benjamin Soemartopo, CEO of Eureka AI. Read more.

Speculation is growing that Huawei is using a domestically sourced 5G chip in its new Mate 60 Pro smartphone and is, therefore, capable of developing mobile phones as capable as those produced by rivals, which are able to source US-developed technology. Various media reports suggest the device sports a 5G-capable chip, in a move by the vendor to regain market share and overcome a US ban on purchasing advanced processors and software from US companies. According to Reuters, users have reported that the new phone uses the Kirin 9000s chip, developed by Huawei, and is capable of matching the network speeds of phones that are known to use 5G chipsets. However, following a low-key launch of the device, Huawei has been tight-lipped about which processor it uses, the report further claimed. The phone is reportedly priced at ¥6,999 ($960) and is capable of making calls over a satellite network. Reuters cited Huawei as saying the Mate 60 is its most powerful Mate model to date.

Nokia is eager to make strides in the private networks space, and its latest move involves a collaboration with NTT to target more than 3.2 million enterprises in Thailand with its 5G private wireless solutions. According to the Finnish vendor, combining its technology with NTT’s solutions will help with the digital transformation of Thai businesses and will bring “measurable increases in productivity, operational efficiency and worker safety”. It further stated that this will unleash use cases such as digital twins, so that enterprises can monitor the network and manage devices, in addition to employing video analytics and machine vision with real-time video and internet of things (IoT) streams, as well as pre-integrated industrial devices. Benefits are expected to be felt across sectors deemed “vital” to Thailand’s economy, including manufacturing, mining, healthcare and education. Nokia claims to be a leader in providing private industrial-grade wireless networking, having scored more than 635 private wireless customers globally. Read more.

US satellite communications company Globalstar has announced former Qualcomm chief Paul Jacobs as its new CEO, with effect from 29 August. Jacobs, who is also the founder and CEO of wireless services provider XCOM Labs, succeeds David Kagan, who has retired as CEO of Globalstar after nearly five years. Globalstar, which is known for delivering communications services from its constellation of low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites and provides infrastructure for Apple’s emergency messaging service, highlighted that Jacobs brings to the company “deep wireless industry experience and a track record of driving innovation-led growth, including growing Qualcomm’s revenues from $5.7bn to $25.7bn as CEO from 2005 to 2014 while adding approximately $50bn to its market capitalisation”. In taking the reins at the satellite company, he will be responsible for driving Globalstar’s strategy to “develop and deploy innovative solutions across terrestrial and satellite for customers around the world”. Separately, Globalstar has also signed a licensing agreement that allows it to gain exclusive access to “certain key XCOM technologies and personnel”, including its XCOMP solution – a coordinated multipoint radio system that pledges to provide “substantial capacity gains and other benefits in dense, complex, challenging wireless environments” in sub-7GHz spectrum. Globalstar will also access XCOM’s peer-to-peer connectivity technologies “that could have applications across cellular and satellite devices”. “Bringing together Globalstar’s terrestrial spectrum and relationships with leading partners around the world with XCOM’s differentiated technology, which is well suited for high-performance applications, creates a significant opportunity to deliver for private network customers with mission-critical needs. At the same time, Globalstar’s continued innovations in satellite connectivity are just as exciting, particularly in small form-factor devices. Through the combination of Globalstar’s resources and XCOM’s technology, we can bring even more innovation to market,” said Jacobs.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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