What’s up with… 5G SA roaming, BT and Nokia, SK Telecom

  • T-Mobile US claims 5G SA roaming first
  • BT teams up with Nokia on 5G RedCap
  • SK Telecom monetises the metaverse

In today’s industry news roundup: T-Mobile US collaborates with Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier, Sunrise and AIS Thailand on 5G standalone roaming trial; BT, with help from Nokia and MediaTek, is the latest to check out the potential of 5G RedCap; SK Telecom is offering content creators a way to monetise their metaverse activities; and much more! 

T-Mobile US and Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier, the international wholesale division of Deutsche Telekom, have completed a test of 5G standalone (SA) roaming in partnership with Swiss operator Sunrise and Thai telco AIS Thailand. In the test, the companies used two of Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier’s solutions, namely internet protocol exchange (IPX) and hosted security edge protection proxy (SEPP), to conduct “the world’s first” test of roaming on a 5G SA network. As a result, the partners managed to complete 5G SA roaming between the US and Switzerland, and between the US and Thailand. “5G SA roaming changes the very meaning of staying connected while abroad,” said Ulf Ewaldsson, president of technology at T-Mobile US. He added that 5G SA roaming “opens the door for even faster speeds and increased reliability, enables emerging technologies like network slicing and will ensure the experience our customers have at home on our network travels with them practically anywhere.” T-Mobile noted that the 5G SA roaming solution allows customers to travel internationally while continuing to benefit from the best 5G experience available with 5G SA. While the roaming capabilities in question are not commercially available yet, T-Mobile US and Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier are providing a trial programme for those interested to test 5G SA. Find out more.

5G reduced capability (RedCap), designed to support internet of things (IoT) applications and provide greater bandwidth than is possible with LTE-M, continues to gain momentum… UK telco giant BT has completed trials of the technology using RedCap devices, in partnership with Nokia and MediaTek. The testing was carried out at BT’s Adastral Park, the operator’s research and innovation centre in south-east England, and used a 5G standalone (SA) network by its mobile business, EE, as well as Nokia’s AirScale RAN portfolio and MediaTek’s RedCap testing platform. According to the UK incumbent, RedCap can expand the IoT ecosystem and speed up its deployments, as the technology brings 5G to devices that do not need the full capabilities of the network (such as wearables or health trackers). BT announced it is also assessing the technology to support novel 5G use cases for businesses and consumers. “This trial with Nokia demonstrates the potential of RedCap technology in unlocking a new wave of innovation within the 5G services ecosystem. This is especially the case as we move towards the arrival of 5G SA, bringing with it enhanced reliability, responsiveness, security and speed which – through 5G RedCap – promises to benefit a host of new IoT devices and use cases,” said Greg McCall, BT’s chief networks officer. Other telcos exploring the potential of RedCap include Verizon and AT&T in the US, Optus in Australia, SK Telecom in South Korea, and China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom.

SK Telecom (SKT) has boosted the appeal of its metaverse service, ifland, with a new way for content creators to monetise their online material. According to the South Korean telco, it has established “a profit structure” designed to open the economic system within the platform by introducing a virtual currency dubbed ‘stone’, which can be acquired through in-app purchases. The currency can be used to purchase items and to sponsor hosts of events within the service. With the move, ifland’s influencers will now be able to generate profit by receiving stones from users who sponsor them to hold events or by creating online items. SKT has also launched non-fungible token (NFT) items on the platform by linking ifland to its NFT marketplace, TopPort. The telco expects the adoption of its new system to give rise to “a virtuous cycle that promotes the works and activities of creators and influencers, and provides users with a wider variety of items and better experience”. Find out more.

As expected, Telecom Italia (TIM) has received a binding offer from KKR for its NetCo unit, which includes its national fibre access network infrastructure. The NetCo bid is valid until 8 November, but that deadline could be extended until 20 December, the telco noted in this short announcement. Telecom Italia did not provide any financial details, but various reports suggest KKR’s offer is worth around €23bn. The operator is looking to divest assets in order to reduce its crippling debt pile, which stood at just more than €26bn at the end of June this year. The NetCo fixed access network comprises 15.8 million connections, of which 8.2 million are fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) lines. KKR also submitted a non-binding offer for TIM’s stake in Sparkle, its international networks and services unit. The telco’s M&A team will now examine KKR’s offer and then submit it to the board. That’s the point at which KKR’s bid could hit its next stumbling block, as the board includes representatives from the operator’s largest single shareholder, French media giant Vivendi, which has long held the position that the NetCo unit should not be sold for anything less than about €30bn. 

Qualcomm is cutting 1,258 jobs, about 2.5% of its total workforce, in California, with the roles set to be eliminated in mid-December, CNBC has reported, citing a document filed with the California Employment Development Department by the wireless chip developer. Qualcomm noted in its third-quarter earnings report – in the 10-Q document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission – it expected to take “restructuring actions to enable continued investments in key growth and diversification opportunities” before the end of the year, due to the “continued uncertainty in the macroeconomic and demand environment,” and that those actions would “consist largely of workforce reductions”. For the third quarter of this year, Qualcomm reported revenues of $8.45bn, down by 23% year on year, and earnings before taxes of $1.76bn, down 59%. 

Liberty Global has completed its takeover of Belgian network operator Telenet and now owns 100% of the shares. It had announced earlier this year its intention to increase its stake from the 59% it owned previously and take full control of the mobile and broadband services provider, a move that had the support of the Telenet board. “We’re delighted to be taking full ownership of Telenet, a move that will benefit not only Telenet customers but also Liberty Global stakeholders and shareholders as we continue to simplify our business,” stated Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries in this announcement. “Liberty Global has been a committed, majority shareholder in Telenet since 2007 and we fully support management’s exciting growth plans for the business. Under full Liberty Global ownership, Telenet will now undoubtedly be on a stronger footing to further grow the business, modernise its network and cement its preeminent position in Belgium for the long term,” he added.  

The number of mobile operators in Taiwan is set to shrink following the Fair Trade Commission’s approval of the merger between Taiwan Mobile and Taiwan Star Telecom (aka T-Star), according to The Taipei Times. The decision follows the approval earlier this year of the planned merger between Far EasTone and Asia Pacific Telecom: Once those two mergers are complete, the number of mobile operators in the island nation will drop from five to three.  

ZainTECH, the digital solutions provider of Kuwaiti operator Zain, has agreed to take over Jordan-based Specialized Technical Services Company (STS), which provides digital transformation solutions to countries in the Middle East. According to the telco, this will help its digital services unit to expand its portfolio targeted at enterprises and government bodies. It described STS as a company known for its “advanced hybrid multi-cloud solutions, robust managed cloud services and comprehensive cybersecurity offerings”, in addition to a “state-of-the-art” security operations centre (STS SOC), infrastructure and system integration capabilities, as well as licensing solutions. “This deal comes 20 years after Zain’s first regional expansion into Jordan and is a testament to our commitment to driving the Kingdom’s and the region’s digital transformation journey,” commented Bader Al-Kharafi, vice chairman of Zain and group CEO. Read more.

Wireless technology developer PCTEL is to be acquired for almost $140m by network interconnect and antenna modules vendor Amphenol, the two companies announced late last week. “Today marks an exciting milestone for PCTEL as we join forces with one of the world’s leading antenna solutions companies in Amphenol,” noted PCTEL’s CEO David Neumann. “Our team has done an excellent job of growing the business, establishing a leadership position in both antenna and test and measurement (T&M) innovation, and meeting our customers’ strong global demand for high-reliability applications. Amphenol is a leading global provider of interconnect, sensor and antenna solutions. Their sustained financial strength and unique entrepreneurial culture will create a valuable home for our employees around the world. We look forward to the accelerated growth opportunities enabled by the combination of our two companies,” added Neumann. Amphenol, which generates revenues of about $12bn per year, supplies companies in the telecom, aerospace, automotive and industrial sectors with fixed and wireless network connectivity products. Read more.  

- The staff, TelecomTV

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