What’s up with… Vodafone Idea, 5G, Cellnex

  • Vodafone Idea is set to raise $5.43bn for 4G, 5G investments
  • There are already 1.6 billion 5G connections worldwide
  • The collective carbon footprint of mobile operators is shrinking

In today’s industry news roundup: Beleaguered Indian operator Vodafone Idea is aiming to raise more than $5.4bn to invest in its mobile infrastructure; there are already 1.6 billion 5G connections worldwide, according to the GSMA; the carbon emissions produced by mobile network operators fell by 6% globally between 2019 and 2022; and much more! 

Beleaguered Indian operator Vodafone Idea plans to raise 450bn rupees ($5.43bn) through the sale of new shares and by borrowing additional funds in order to invest in its 4G network and roll out 5G, Reuters has reported. The telco, which is in dire financial straits but still boasts more than 220 million cellular connections and a 20% share of one of the largest mobile markets in the world, is losing millions of customers each month as it has struggled to remain competitive with the sector’s market leaders, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, both of which have already rolled out national 5G networks and attracted more than 50 million 5G customers each. According to the Reuters report, the amount of capital being raised should be enough for Vodafone Idea to pump some new life into its 4G services and kickstart its 5G rollout, which the operator’s CEO, Akshay Moondra, said could be up and running within seven months of gaining access to new investment funds.  

Industry association the GSMA used the third day of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2024 in Barcelona to hail the “5G momentum” of late. The association’s The Mobile Economy 2024 report found that by the end of 2023, there were 1.6 billion 5G connections worldwide, representing the “fastest mobile generation rollout to date.” As of January 2024, as many as 261 telcos in 101 countries had launched commercial 5G services, of which 47 are provided by standalone (SA) networks. Another 90 operators in 64 markets have committed to 5G deployments, and by the start of the current year there were plans for 89 more SA network deployments. The association’s data and analytics arm, GSMA Intelligence (GSMAi), predicts that global 5G connections will reach 5.5 billion by 2030, making 5G the most dominant connectivity technology, with it expected to account for 56% of all mobile connections worldwide by the end of the decade. According to the GSMA, the key drivers for opportunities in the industry will include developments in 5G SA, 5G-Advanced, enterprise internet of things (IoT) and AI, the GSMA’s Open Gateway initiative and new revenue potential through the Billing and Charging Evolution (BCE) standard. Unsurprisingly, the GSMA’s findings also put a spotlight on generative AI (GenAI), stating that 56% of mobile operators are currently testing applications, which translates to a likely growth in global mobile data traffic. “This will be driven by applications, including the use of GenAI-enabled chatbots for customer service efforts or the continued growth of AI-generated video and music content,” the association noted. “Opportunities are now appearing in areas including API [application programming interface] monetisation and 5G RedCap [reduced capability] for enterprise IoT – all supported by 5G-Advanced and 5G SA networks. 5G SA brings home 5G’s early promise, particularly where slicing, low-latency and massive IoT capabilities tied to enterprise service needs can be met. 5G-Advanced will only extend that further,” said Peter Jarich, head of GSMAi.

Another recent report from the GSMA has offered some good news regarding the industry’s impact on the environment. According to the association’s fourth Mobile Net Zero report, the carbon emissions produced by mobile network operators fell by 6% globally between 2019 and 2022. This is based on data from telcos who, between them, cover more than 80% of global mobile connections. Far from surprising is a finding that depicts regional variations in terms of operational emissions (Scope 1 and 2) reduction: Europe ranked first with a 50% decline, while North America, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa recorded 20% to 30% reductions in emissions generated by telcos. And while operational emissions have risen in Greater China and the Asia Pacific region – the world’s largest and second-largest mobile markets respectively – “global emissions overall decreased, despite growing data usage,” according to the report. The GSMA is bullish that the sustainability goals the sector has set itself – to reach net zero by 2050 by ensuring that emissions by 2030 are 45% less than their levels in 2020 – are possible. To make it happen, overall emissions, which also include Scope 3, need to fall by around 7% per year by the end of the current decade. Alongside the study, the GSMA also unveiled a partnership with solutions provider Shields Environmental Group to create a network equipment commerce platform, which will enable telcos to “reuse, redeploy and recycle their network assets,” as part of their net-zero efforts.

Continuing with the climate action-related topic… Japanese telco Rakuten Mobile and its vendor offshoot Rakuten Symphony have demonstrated an AI and machine learning (ML) model that “enables energy savings of up to 25%” via an interface to RAN intelligent controller (RIC) that configures antenna use. Claiming the move to be an industry-first, the companies explained that the vendor’s implemented RIC can set a policy via “an intelligent interface that allows communication between rApps and xApps, providing insights on the usage of specific cell sites, allowing the reduced usage of specific elements and consequently making significant energy savings.” The trial results were also demonstrated at MWC Barcelona 2024. “From day one of their existence, Rakuten Mobile and Rakuten Symphony have been committed to building automated, intelligent and open networks that are powered by software and run in the cloud. This research reinforces the commitment of both organisations to sustainable, automated networks that can be made more sophisticated through artificial intelligence,” said Sharad Sriwastawa, co-CEO of Rakuten Mobile and president of Rakuten Symphony. Read more.

The Polish arm of European neutral host giant Cellnex is reportedly attracting significant interest from potential suitors. According to Bloomberg, private equity companies Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), as well as infrastructure investor Macquarie Group, are mulling the purchase of a stake in Cellnex’s subsidiary in Poland. The report adds that other interested parties include investment firms EQT and Antin Infrastructure Partners, which are exploring options to obtain minority stakes in the unit, and suggests that a potential deal could value Cellnex Poland at as much as €4bn. In September 2023, Cellnex agreed to sell a 49% stake in its Nordic business (in Sweden and Denmark) for €730m. It is also said to be planning to sell assets in Austria and the Republic of Ireland. Cellnex gained full control of its Polish subsidiary last year after acquiring a 30% stake, previously held by Iliad, in a €510m deal.

Telia is in the final stages of completing the $926m sale of its operations in Denmark to Norlys, which provides a range of services and utilities, including electricity, natural gas, broadband and TV services, to more than one million homes in the country. Telia noted that the deal, first announced in April 2023, has received regulatory approval from the Danish Competition Council and now expects the divestment process to be completed by the beginning of April.  

SK Telecom (SKT) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to develop a liquid-cooling technique that optimises the energy efficiency of AI datacentres together with liquid cooling solutions provider, Iceotope Technologies, and SK Enmove, base oil and lubricants provider. The South Korean operator said the move aims to address the fact that air conditioning and cooling systems consume the largest amount of energy in datacentres, and added that reducing the energy consumed by these systems is key to realising a power-efficient AI datacentre. The trio will use SK Enmove’s thermal fluid to deploy precision liquid cooling at SKT’s AI datacentre testbed. SKT believes the collaboration will demonstrate the capability of this cooling type to save power. In the future, the telco also plans to develop an AI-based autonomous cooling system that can analyse the temperature and the power load in a datacentre, and can automatically control supply temperature and flow rate of thermal fluids. Read more.

Vodacom has asked the Constitutional Court of South Africa for leave to appeal a court ruling that it must pay compensation for an idea that was allegedly invented by a former employee more than 20 years ago. In a statement, the telco noted that it has requested permission from the judicial institution to appeal a judgment by South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) from 6 February 2024 that it should pay compensation to Kenneth Makate, an ex-employee of Vodacom who came up with a “buzz idea” for a service that was later launched by the operator. The service in question, ‘Please Call Me’, was developed and launched by Vodacom in 2001. Following the court order in 2016, the telco determined “reasonable compensation” of 47m South African rands (US$2.4m) should be paid to Makate for the idea. However, Makate disputed the amount, so the country’s High Court asked Vodacom to reconsider the settlement offered. The company is instead requesting an option to appeal against the judgment.

- The staff, TelecomTV

Email Newsletters

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