What’s up with… BT, Liberty Global & Nokia, AI-AI

  • BT has high hopes for its NB-IoT platform
  • Nokia is helping Liberty Global’s Telenet operation expose its network APIs
  • SK Telecom and NTT Docomo join the AI-native air interface (AI-AI) gang

In today’s industry news roundup: BT ploughs millions into a new narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) network to push smart city developments; Liberty Global’s Belgian subsidiary relies on Nokia technology to create new network use cases for one of the largest ports in the world; SK Telecom and NTT Docomo join Nokia and NTT for future proof-of-concept 6G AI-native air interface (AI-AI) system developments; and much more! 

BT has launched a new “multimillion-pound” narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) network, which it believes will boost smart city and industry developments across the UK. Underpinned by the mobile network run by the group’s consumer-focused division, EE, the NB-IoT network is expected to provide 97% of the country’s population with coverage based on spectrum in the 1800MHz band. The new network is low-power and can transform a range of industries, including utilities, construction and the public sector, by “securely and reliably connecting the devices to automate many processes that currently require manual oversight or direct involvement,” according to the telco. Among the benefits highlighted by BT is the solution’s potential to “enhance efficiency and reduce costs,” for example by automatically detecting leaks in water infrastructure. The company told TelecomTV that while it has offered NB-IoT trials and deployments in the past, “these have been piecemeal and in specific locations”, and its latest launch covers a dedicated NB-IoT network for its business customers. “Growing numbers of businesses are beginning to realise the benefits of IoT applications, and our UK-wide NB-IoT network opens up a wide range of connectivity solutions for monitors, sensors, and other smart devices. Whether it’s building the smart cities of the future or reducing carbon emissions, our network will provide customers with the reliability and efficiency they need,” stated Chris Keone, MD of BT’s private 5G networks and edge unit, Division X. The company did not confirm the amount of the investment into the new “multimillion-pound” network.

Liberty Global and its Belgian subsidiary Telenet are to use Nokia’s Network as Code platform to expose network APIs that can be used to develop new network use cases for the Port of Antwerp, one of the world’s largest ports. Liberty Global has been working hard behind the scenes to embrace the potential of network APIs and tap into the work being done under the guise of the Open Gateway initiative that was launched a year ago by industry body the GSMA. Now its Telenet operation will use Nokia technology to create a portal that can be used by developers to build new applications with the aim of improving the operational efficiency of the port. According to the vendor, the companies recently completed a trial that demonstrated how Liberty Global, “via Telenet’s 5G standalone network with slicing capabilities, can allow remotely located captains to operate vessels more safely and efficiently, supported by real-time data made available through ultra-low latency network capabilities and zero-touch automation,” stated Nokia in this press release. “The trial – which represents a part of Liberty Global’s network-as-a-service programme (NaaS) – was conducted with Belgian partners Seafar NV, a shipping entity, and Imec, a research and innovation hub for nanoelectronics and digital technologies. The trial used Nokia’s Network as Code Platform with developer portal, in combination with Imec’s edge application middleware that bridges the gap between the vessel’s real-time requirements and the 5G network. These were integrated into Seafar’s Shore Control Center to address its need for reliable, high-quality, low-latency connectivity, which existing commercial networks do not provide,” added Nokia. Madalina Suceveanu, managing director of mobile and cloud technologies at Liberty Global, added: “This multi-faceted trial simultaneously leverages the power of 5G standalone, cloud, edge computing and AI-driven computer vision applications. 5G-era networks are rich in capabilities that can now drive improvements to customer experiences for both enterprises and consumers in ways that were simply not possible just a few years ago. The framework we have developed in partnership with Nokia will give us the opportunity to access a large untapped market here, plus realise the development of even more use cases in many other sectors beyond shipping,” she added. Network APIs are a very hot topic currently as Vonage, a subsidiary of Nokia’s main rival Ericsson that is developing a global platform to help expose telco network APIs to the developer community, has been brokering deals with telcos such as AT&T and Verizon. The network-as-a-service topic, or telco-as-a-platform as it is also known, is set to be one of the major talking points at the upcoming MWC24 show in Barcelona and will also be the subject of deep-dive analysis by industry experts during TelecomTV’s upcoming Telco as a Platform Summit in March. 

In other network API news… Japanese telco SoftBank, another operator involved in the Open Gateway initiative, has developed a “common API defined by the open-source project Camara” that “utilises the features of 5G” for a private 5G network trial at the Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus in Fujisawa City. SoftBank used the API to develop a number of applications, including a “system that controls the image quality and communication quality of cameras for the purpose of remote monitoring.” Read more.

South Korean operator SK Telecom (SKT) and its Japanese peer NTT Docomo have made further strides in developing the 6G ecosystem. In a collaboration that also involves NTT and Nokia, the telcos have developed the 6G AI-native air interface (AI-AI), a next-generation technology that is deemed to be key for future networks, as it could “give radios the ability to learn from one another and their environments” and could “greatly boost network performance while increasing energy efficiency.” According to SKT, the quartet will be developing “future proof-of-concept 6G AI-AI systems, which will then be put to the test using selected use cases and real environmental scenarios” both in the lab and outdoors. They will also look to improve AI model performance by using data generated from real networks or through simulation, with the end goal being to build AI training models for “a best-in-industry AI-AI solution”. The four companies plan to show a video demonstration of a proof of concept of the technology at SKT’s booth at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week. Discover more.

Japanese telco KDDI is working on an initiative to put generative AI (GenAI) into the hands of the customers. The company will combine its metaverse and Web3 service, dubbed αU (Alpha-U), with Google’s GenAI model Gemini Pro. The first services based on the technology will be introduced in the shopping and entertainment sectors, allowing users to take a picture of an item and use it without having to visit physical stores, and to generate live music scenes in real time, for example. KDDI also plans to open these AI functions up to other companies and to provide developmental support. It will showcase these innovations at MWC Barcelona 2024, with an official launch planned for later this year. Find out more.

Singtel has conducted what it claims to be the world’s first live implementation of app-based network slicing, in collaboration with Ericsson and Samsung. The potential for app owners will be significant, according to the Singapore-based telco, as the technology will let them activate a dedicated, customised slice of Singtel’s 5G network “to boost the performance of their apps and enhance user experience.” It added that the solution differs from other network slicing technologies, which are only capable of providing a differentiated network experience to subscribers’ lines but not selected apps. The implementation deployed an advanced network slicing technology known as user equipment route selection policy (URSP) with application detection control (ADC). In the test, the technology used Singtel’s entertainment app, Cast, during the live streaming of the recent Australian Open tennis tournament. Singtel noted the solution will be especially beneficial to apps that require higher data performance, such as those focused on workplace productivity, enterprise communications, gaming and media streaming, as well as AI, augmented reality and extended reality. Find out more.

Deutsche Telekom (DT) plans to present its new “ultra-mobile mast” for the first time at MWC Barcelona 2024. Dubbed “Cell Tower to Go”, the solution is capable of delivering coverage to wherever temporary capacity is required, such as on company premises, at major events and in disaster areas. The new offering, according to DT, is “significantly smaller and lighter than previous solutions”, and offers “even more flexible mobile radio coverage and higher capacities.” Read more.

Finnish telco Elisa and its international software business, Elisa Polystar, have partnered with Wind River in achieving what they claim to be “a fully automated” deployment of cloud infrastructure, cloud-native network functions and end-to-end monitoring for telco edge datacentre sites. In a statement, Wind River noted that the innovation will help telcos to expand their distributed edge deployments “to a large scale with economic efficiency and superior network performance”. The technology, which has been jointly developed by the players, aims to significantly lower the deployment time of the whole end-to-end service and operator intervention time. According to statistics from Wind River, the technology can reduce the time needed to audit the configuration of the underlying hardware by 80%, while human interaction time can be cut by 90%. The solution will be demonstrated at Mobile World Congress 2024 at the companies’ respective booths: Wind River (Hall 2, 2F25) and Elisa and Elisa Polystar (Hall 5, booth 5F35).

Samsung, Juniper Networks and Wind River have joined forces to offer a virtual cell site router (vCSR) to help telcos operate their networks with end-to-end virtualisation. According to Samsung, this will drive greater virtualised radio access network (vRAN) and Open RAN efficiencies, providing enhanced flexibility, agility, sustainability and faster time-to-market for the introduction of new services. The companies have integrated the Juniper Cloud-Native Router, a fully containerised network element, with the Samsung virtualised distributed unit (vDU) on Wind River Studio Cloud Platform. “By running multiple network elements on a single virtualised RAN (vRAN) server, the companies are essentially eliminating the need for physical router hardware typically deployed at a cell site and reducing the total cost of ownership for network deployments of 5G and beyond,” the South Korean vendor explained, adding that this offers a more intelligent mobile network compared to traditional networks. The technology will be showcased at Mobile World Congress 2024 at the companies’ respective booths: Samsung (Hall 2, 2M20), Juniper Networks (Hall 2, 2D12) and Wind River (Hall 2, 2F25).

- The staff, TelecomTV

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