What’s up with… Reliance Jio, Ericsson, Nokia, Vodafone, Google Cloud, Bharti Airtel

  • India’s Reliance Jio hands major 5G deals to Ericsson and Nokia
  • Vodafone starts major SAP migration to the Google Cloud Platform
  • Bharti Airtel offers “always-on” IoT

In today’s industry news roundup: Reliance Jio hands major RAN deals to Ericsson and Nokia; Vodafone initiates major cloud migration; Bharti Airtel launches an “always-on” IoT service using eSIM technology; and more!  

India’s largest mobile operator, Reliance Jio, has made its 5G relationships with Ericsson and Nokia official, announcing major deals with the two European vendors for the supply of 5G standalone (SA) systems that will be used for the telco’s national 5G rollout. Both Ericsson and Nokia are supplying their radio access network (RAN) products, while the Swedish vendor is also delivering its E-band microwave technology for the backhaul part of Jio’s 5G network. The all-important 5G SA core platform has been developed in-house by Jio Platforms, the Reliance Industries division responsible for the conglomerate’s digital activities (including Jio). Jio Platforms, as we recently reported, is looking to sell its next-generation telecom software products to other network operators around the world. Jio, which has more than 382 million active mobile connections, has already switched on its 5G network in four major cities and plans a more widespread commercial launch to coincide with Diwali, a five-day annual celebration that starts next Monday, 24 October. Its aim is to cover the whole of India with its 5G services by the end of 2023, a rollout that will cost $25bn see India’s Jio to splash $25bn on achieving nationwide 5G coverage by end of 2023.  

Vodafone has initiated a major migration of its SAP platform, which is used for its finance, procurement and human resources functions, to Google Cloud, a key hyperscaler partner for the giant telco. The migration programme, dubbed EVO2CLOUD, will take two to three years and, according to the partners, will enable “the transformation of a broad SAP ecosystem composed of more than 100 applications that have been running on-prem for the past 15 years, to a leaner, more agile and scalable deployment that is cloud-first and data-led”. These are the kinds of cloud transformations that most, if not all, telcos will undertake in the coming few years and Google Cloud has laid out the process and the anticipated benefits in this detailed blog. The migration is part of Vodafone’s efforts to shift a lot of functions and applications to the cloud: It announced a major, six-year engagement with Google Cloud in May 2021 and since then has announced a number of initiatives based on Google Cloud’s platform and applications, including the AI Booster announced in July – see Vodafone builds on its Google Cloud relationship with AI Booster.

Indian operator Bharti Airtel has introduced a new internet of things (IoT) service that ensures IoT devices are constantly connected to a mobile network rather than just connecting at pre-determined times or when data is ready to be transmitted. The “Always On” IoT offering is enabled by a dual-profile, machine-to-machine (M2M) embedded SIM (eSIM) and its main target customers are vehicle tracking providers, auto manufacturers and other developers of use cases that include remote equipment requiring “ubiquitous connectivity”. After obtaining the necessary compliance approvals, the company aims to reach “market leadership” in this industry in the next few years. “We believe this is the next big opportunity in the IoT segment. Our strengths in the network, modern and GSMA-compliant platform, offering real-time access to data and flexibility to integrate the solution with custom APIs, will make Airtel Business stand out in the market”, commented Ajay Chitkara, CEO of Airtel Business. Find out more here.

British broadband services have been coming under the watchful eye of Which?, the brand name of the influential and popular UK Consumers’ Association that promotes informed consumer choice on the purchase of goods and services by testing products, highlighting inferior products or services, raising awareness of consumer rights and offering independent advice. It is now pushing for the UK government to classify broadband as an essential service along the lines of water, gas and electricity. The UK isn’t referred to as ‘rip-off Britain’ for nothing – it’s where prices for goods and services are frequently much higher than their equivalents in Europe or sometimes even North America, and are hedged around with iniquitous and all-but-indecipherable “T&Cs” (Terms & Conditions). Many domestic broadband contracts are now routinely for a  duration of 18 or 24 months, which is a questionable practice in the first place but hidden away in the dense reams of unreadable T&Cs that accompany them are clauses that permit an ISP or CSP to increase prices during and throughout the period of a contact. That’s pernicious enough, but to make matters worse consumers are not permitted to leave the contract without paying swingeing penalties when prices are increased mid-term. Many broadband providers, including BT, EE, Plusnet, TalkTalk and Vodafone, hike prices every April using the Consumer Price Index as a ‘guide’. With out-of-control inflation now running amok, next year’s price increases will be at least 10% but that won’t be the end of the matter – the ISPs will also tack on an additional 3.9% rise just because they can. This year, average broadband charges rose by between £33 and £43 compared to the original tariff customers signed-up to. Which? calculates that next year, in 2023, the average price hikes will be in the range of £87 to £113 above what consumers originally agreed to pay. Government regulations have, in theory, made it easier for consumers to switch providers when a contract ends but many of them stay with their existing suppliers despite raising prices. It’s the same with switching banks – inertia often rules. The next regulatory move should be the reintroduction of one-year contracts to ensure the current curse of mid-term price gouging can no longer apply. Thankfully, not all ISPs are as inflexible and grasping as those cited above. For example, Sky and Virgin Media O2 do not impose price rises in the middle of a contract but prices do rise (steadily) on an ad hoc basis. However, when that does happen, customers are at least free to exit their contracts without penalty. And it’s even better news elsewhere, some smaller but more responsive and less arrogant ISPs, such as Hyperoptic, Utility Warehouse and Zen Internet (and others) guarantee to maintain the same prices for their services for the duration of a subscriber’s contract. Unsurprisingly, they are increasingly popular choices for the put-upon, penned-in and ripped-off consumer.

Staying in the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is to introduce limits on the prices that US vendor Motorola can charge the embattled British government for running the Airwave emergency services radio network (ESN) on its behalf. The ageing and technologically redundant Airwave is an entirely separate, bespoke, mobile network that enables the police, fire, ambulance and other emergency services to communicate securely. The trouble with it is that the government is effectively locked into a monopoly provider that stymies any possibility of competition. Motorola Solutions, Inc. is the parent company of Airwave Solutions Limited and has a dual role in terms of the UK emergency services in that it both provides and manages the current network while, simultaneously, being deeply involved in providing aspects of the new (and very delayed) ESN that will replace it. Motorola bought Airwave Solutions in a merger deal in February 2016, a mere two months after it contracted with the government to provide the software for the ESN. The merger got the nod from the CMA, mainly because the Airwave Network was due to be shut down by late 2019 and be replaced by a new 4G ESN. It wasn’t, and what’s more, and pathetic, it won’t be operational until 2026 at the earliest, which is fine by Motorola as it continues to coin it from the old network anyway. After a market investigation that lasted a full year, the UK competition watchdog has concluded that Motorola will have made some £1.1bn excess profit from the operation of the network between January 2020 and December 2026 and will make at least £160 million a year in further excess profits if rollout of the new ESN is delayed beyond that date, as it almost certainly will be. Latest estimates say the new 4G ESN will not be operational until 2029 by which time it too will be technologically redundant as the rest of the world will be running on 5G and looking forward to 6G. The CMA says the UK Home Office (interior ministry) which foots the Airwave bill is being forced to pay “well above competitive levels, resulting in higher costs which are ultimately paid by taxpayers”. It adds that it will limit the price Motorola can charge “to a level that would apply in a well-functioning, competitive market”. In response, Motorola issued this statement: “Motorola Solutions rejects the CMA’s unfounded and incorrect calculation of excess profits which is based on an arbitrary time period of the Airwave project.” Well, it would say that, wouldn’t it? Some idea of the reality of the situation can be gleaned from the fact that recent figures show that while the Airwave Network makes up some 7% of Motorola’s global revenues, it actually accounts for 21% of the company’s global pre-tax profits.

Last week, Russian-speaking, Putin-supporting “Killnet” cybercriminals hacked into and brought down the public-facing websites of 14 important US airports. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) later confirmed that the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) cyberattacks did not impact vital operations or critical systems, such as air traffic control systems or internal communications, and described the incursions as no more than inconveniences to passengers that were soon rectified. Airports including Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, Birmingham Alabama, Chicago O’Hare, Denver International, Des Moines International, La Guardia New York City, Logan International Boston, Los Angeles International, Orlando Florida and Phoenix Sky Harbor International were hit. Reuters reported that the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency became aware of the attacks when La Guardia went offline at three o’clock in the morning. Immediately after the incursions, the TSA announced that it will mandate new performance-based cybersecurity requirements for some key aviation systems. The agency reminded US airport authorities that it had previously "updated its aviation security programs to require airport and airline operators to designate a cybersecurity coordinator and report cybersecurity incidents, conduct a cybersecurity assessment, and develop remediation measures and incident response plans.” Meanwhile the FAA also reminded airport authorities that airport terminal financial grants are contingent on airports ensuring that they “consider and address physical and cybersecurity risks relevant to the transportation mode and type and scale of the project." It added that “projects that have not appropriately considered and addressed physical and cyber security and resilience ... will be required to do so before receiving funds for construction."

It seems Vodafone’s efforts to revamp its portfolio didn’t happen quickly enough for investor Cevian Capital which, having built a stake in the giant operator at the beginning of this year and then calling for accelerated M&A activity, sold most of its holding by June, according to the Financial Times (as reported by Reuters). It’s worth noting that Vodafone attracted a major new investor in May that spoke out in support of the Vodafone management’s strategy: e& (formerly Etisalat) spent about $4.4bn to acquire a near 10% stake in Vodafone.

 The first two satellites of Amazon’s planned low-earth orbit (LEO) constellation, Kuipersat-1 and Kuipersat-2, are set to be completed later this year and are on course to be deployed on the first flight of United Launch Alliance's (ULA) new Vulcan Centaur rocket in early 2023, according to Amazon. The company says it has secured up to 92 launches with ULA, Arianespace and Blue Origin to deploy its Kuiper constellation of 3,236 satellites over the next few years.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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