What’s up with… Bell Canada, Arm, next-gen 5G

TelecomTV Staff
By TelecomTV Staff

Feb 8, 2024

  • Bell Canada cuts jobs, slows FTTH rollout
  • Arm’s fiscal Q3 sprinkled with AI ‘pixie dust’
  • 5G innovations abound ahead of MWC

In today’s industry news roundup: Bell Canada axes nearly 5,000 jobs and slows fibre network expansion in 2024; chip designer Arm reports stellar fiscal Q3, helped by increasing AI investments; in the run up to MWC24, cutting-edge 5G trial results are being shared by the likes of BT, Elisa, Verizon, Qualcomm and Ericsson; and much more! 

Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE), the owner of Canadian telco Bell Canada and mass media company Bell Media, is to axe some 4,800 jobs, including 750 contractors (representing 9% of its total workforce) this year as part of the “largest workforce restructuring initiative” it has carried out in almost 30 years. Announcing the plans alongside its financial results, the company estimated the job cuts will bring “in-year cost savings” of between CAN$150m (US$111m) and $200m (US$148m), adding that the changes will “position Bell for future success”. Capital expenditures (capex) are also facing cuts of more than $1bn (US$742m) in 2024-25, with half of this target set for 2024. Parts of this plan will be made possible by rolling back fibre network expansion due to “federal government policies and the CRTC’s wholesale access rate decision that discourages network investment”, the company noted, referring to a move by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) from November 2023 related to wholesale network access. At the time, the commission decided to provide competitors of large telecom players in Ontario and Quebec with “a workable way to sell internet services using the fibre-to-the-home [FTTH] networks of large telephone companies”. Following this decision, Bell has now said it plans to “cap fibre speeds” at 3Gbit/s. “Today’s changes are difficult, but necessary to respond to evolving external drivers, accelerate our transformation and ensure Bell’s future health and longevity so that we can continue to advance our purpose to advance how Canadians connect with each other and the world,” commented Mirko Bibic, president and CEO of BCE and Bell Canada. Looking at BCE’s 2023 earnings, the company reported a 2.1% year-on-year increase in operating revenues to $24.7bn (US$18.3bn), while net earnings declined 20.5% to $2.3bn (US$1.7bn). Read more.

Meanwhile, Bell Canada’s domestic rival, Telus, has unveiled plans to press on with upgrading its network from copper to fibre. In a statement, the operator noted that it has migrated more than half a million residential customers from its legacy network to its high-speed fibre optic internet service called PureFibre. Telus added that as of the end of 2023, it has migrated 98% of eligible customers, making 14 “key geographies” across the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta now “completely copper free”. The company also noted that as fibre is up to 85% more energy-efficient than copper, this type of network has helped it eliminate more than 7,400 tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since 2018. “This is attributed to the decommissioning of thousands of copper devices and our copper retirement programme, where we have recycled or repurposed more than 3,600 tonnes of copper, offsetting the need to mine new copper sources,” the company explained. Find out more.

Semiconductor design giant Arm has reported better-than-expected fiscal third-quarter financial results, with a 14% year-on-year increase in revenues to $814m, the highest ever quarterly sales figure for the company, while its gross profit increased 13% to $788m. The company noted that the revenue growth was driven by licensing payments, from semiconductor manufacturers that use its designs, and royalty payments, which come from chip makers that use its patented technology (intellectual property, or IP). In its letter to shareholders, the company noted: “Our highest-ever royalty revenue was driven by multiple factors. Firstly, we continue to benefit from higher royalty rates as the adoption of Armv9 technology increases. The royalty rates for Armv9 products are typically at least double the royalty rates for equivalent Armv8 products, and this will continue to generate royalty revenue growth as multiple end markets transition to Armv9. Secondly, Arm continues to gain market share in the growth markets of cloud servers and automotive, which drive new streams of royalty growth. Lastly, the broader semiconductor market is showing signs of recovery, particularly in smartphones which returned to strong growth in Q3. Arm’s licensing revenue was supported by increasing demand for new technology driven by all things AI. From the most complex AI cloud applications to the smallest edge devices, AI on Arm is everywhere. Arm’s performant and power-efficient CPU platform is used by more and more software developers, making it easier for OEMs to adopt Arm technology, which generates further demand for Arm-based chips.” And the future is looking healthy for Arm, according to experienced technology and investment analyst Richard Windsor. “Arm topped off a good set of earnings that silenced its critics and added a sprinkle of AI pixie dust that gave the market confidence that the AI story is real,” he noted in his latest Radio Free Mobile blog

BT Group has completed a network slicing trial that it says “promises new consumer and enterprise capabilities” in the 5G standalone (SA) era. In collaboration with Ericsson and Qualcomm, the UK telco conducted a test of an end-to-end consumer and enterprise 5G differentiated connectivity enabled by network slicing, at its R&D hub in Adastral Park, using Ericsson’s 5G core and radio access network (RAN) technology with devices powered by Qualcomm’s mobile platform Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. The trial established network slices designed for gaming, enterprise and enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), demonstrating how “by allocating a portion of the 5G SA network to provide dynamic partitions for specific use-cases, optimal performance can be maintained for bandwidth-heavy activities, including mobile gaming and video conferencing even during peak times”. According to BT Group’s chief network officer, Greg McCall, the trial shows how slicing enables the company to differentiate quality of service, to guarantee performance for various segments.

BT’s announcement is just one example of heightened efforts to boost, or at least test, 5G capabilities ahead of Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona at the end of this month. Yesterday, Ericsson announced it has partnered with Qualcomm and Finnish telco Elisa to demonstrate high uplink speeds in a commercial 5G SA network, achieving an upload speed of 230 Mbit/s using uplink carrier aggregation. According to the Swedish vendor, this demo will enable “a seamless user experience” for Elisa’s subscribers. And Ericsson’s efforts in 5G advancements don’t stop there – the vendor has also been working with Verizon to test a 5G technology called low-latency, low-loss, scalable throughput (L4S), which is said to be capable of reducing latency and improving quality-of-service metrics for time-critical, high data rate consumer and enterprise applications – see Verizon targets next wave of time-critical 5G apps with L4S.

Satellite-to-smartphone network operator AST SpaceMobile has landed a contract from the US government that marks a “significant milestone” in the still-developing company’s “growth trajectory” and highlights “the versatile, dual-use capabilities of its technology,” the company noted in this announcement. The financial details of the deal have not been disclosed. The unspecified “tasks’ that the company will perform on behalf of the US government will be carried out using AST’s BlueWalker 3 satellite, which is already in orbit, as well as “its next five commercial satellites,” the launch of which has been delayed until later this quarter. AST SpaceMobile, one of a number of companies hoping to develop a business from the provision of communications services from low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites to standard smartphones, recently attracted new funding from AT&T, Google and Vodafone – see AT&T, Google join AST SpaceMobile funding round.

Cloud-based BSS vendor Totogi, one of a new breed of cloud-native digital support system (DSS) developers, has scored a deployment with New Zealand mobile network operator 2degrees. The telco will use Totogi’s AWS-based charging-as-a-service system for its digital brand and mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) services. Totogi, which is currently headed up by acting CEO, Danielle Rios Royston, is keen to pitch service providers with its software-as-a-service model and 2degrees clearly thinks this is the way to more efficiently manage its back office business support operations and become more competitive. “Embracing Totogi’s Charging-as-a-Service is a strategic leap for 2degrees, marking a new chapter in our journey of innovation and customer service excellence,” noted Chris Bradley, head of digital architecture at 2degrees. “Totogi’s rapid onboarding capability is pivotal, enabling us to swiftly adapt to ever-evolving market demands and accelerate our revenue growth. This partnership not only enhances our operational agility but also empowers us to offer tailored, dynamic solutions to our MVNO partners. The New Zealand territory is dominated by three MNOs, so modern, software-defined MVNO offerings will help reshape the market in the years to come, and bring innovation and consumer benefits to customers. It’s an exciting time for 2degrees as we harness Totogi’s state-of-the-art technology to reinforce our position as a leading digital telecom provider in New Zealand.” Read more.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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