What’s up with… Digi & Telefónica, Samsung, Vodafone & Ericsson

  • Digi scores a gain in Spain with Telefónica
  • Samsung staff extend strike action indefinitely
  • Vodafone Germany taps Ericsson for compact antennas

In today’s industry news roundup: Digi Communications has further strengthened its position in Spain by striking a new roaming and network sharing agreement with Telefónica; thousands of Samsung staff are staying out on strike; Vodafone deploys compact antenna equipment in Germany to boost urban 5G coverage; and much more!

Digi Communications is pressing ahead with its goal to transform itself from a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) to a mobile network operator (MNO) in Spain by forging a new tie-up with Telefónica. In a statement, Digi noted that it has sealed a national roaming agreement and a radio access network (RAN) sharing agreement for a minimum of 16 years, replacing an existing MVNO deal between the two operators. In addition, the duo have agreed to share their respective mobile spectrum in Spain in the 3.5GHz band, and have sealed a new fixed broadband wholesale agreement for 10 years. Digi noted that the new partnership will allow it to “execute an efficient and timely transition of its mobile telephony business in Spain from a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) to a mobile network operator (MNO) and to roll-out its own mobile network”. The move comes in the wake of major shifts in the Spanish telecom sector as a result of Vodafone Spain’s acquisition by Zegona and the merger of Orange Spain and MásMóvil to form MásOrange. Digi has been active in the Spanish market for some time: At the end of the first quarter of 2024, it had 5 million mobile, just over 1.5 million fixed broadband and 496,000 fixed line voice customers in Spain – see Digi grows as it gears up for further Euro launches.

Samsung Electronics might be improving its financials but it has a lot of work to do right now on its employee relations, as about 6,500 workers at the giant smartphone, chip and network systems vendor that have just staged a three-day strike in South Korea over pay and working conditions have decided to extend the industrial action indefinitely as the vendor has shown no signs of being willing to hold talks. Staff first walked out a month ago for just one day, the first strike in Samsung’s history. The National Samsung Electronics Union, which represents about 30,000 Samsung staff (about a quarter of the company’s workforce in South Korea), is encouraging more of its members to join the strike. The union claims the action is already impacting chip production, but the tech giant has denied any impact, according to this report from The Guardian. “Samsung Electronics will ensure no disruptions occur in the production lines. The company remains committed to engaging in good faith negotiations with the union,” the company said in a statement. The union is seeking a 3.5% increase in base salary, but the company has so far refused to offer anything more than a 3% rise.

Vodafone has introduced compact antennas to enhance its urban 5G coverage in Germany. As part of a collaboration with Ericsson, the telco has deployed new compact antenna technology at a multi-story car park in Düsseldorf, as a way to address a frequent network expansion challenge – finding new locations for 5G antennas. The Swedish vendor noted that available rooftop locations would not be ideal as they do not meet the static requirements of network planners, while current 4G sites typically lack space for new antennas. "Strong winds exert pressure on the antenna surfaces that are mounted on the roofs,” stated Tanja Richter, head of technology at Vodafone. “The more mobile phone antennas there are up there, the higher the wind load. This also increases the demands on wind resistance and statics, meaning that not every existing rooftop location has been able to be upgraded with active 5G antennas to date." With the Swedish vendor’s compact antenna design, the active antenna is installed behind the passive antenna.  "This means we need less space on the mast for more 5G in city centres,” added Richter. “Innovations like this can further accelerate the expansion of 5G in Germany and help us to cope with the annual increase in data traffic of more than 30%," she stated. The new move allows for the deployment of antennas that support frequencies in the low and mid-band ranges, ensuring the high coverage and capacity required for city centres. Vodafone plans to add up to 500 more installations across Germany by the end of 2026.

Bell Canada has bolstered its enterprise services portfolio by acquiring technical services companies Stratejm and CloudKettle. The new additions to its business will strengthen the Canadian operator’s portfolio of professional and managed offerings in cybersecurity and Salesforce services. “These acquisitions will advance Bell’s strategy to be the leader in supporting medium and large organisations’ digital transformations and automation through cloud services. Combined with Bell’s pure fibre and 5G networks, enterprises will benefit from an exceptional and seamless AI-powered end-to-end customer experience”, the Canadian telco stated. Read more.

Proximus, the national operator in Belgium, and Colt have conducted a joint proof of concept (PoC) focused on API collaboration and end-to-end network-as-a-service (NaaS) automation. The Belgian telco noted that the test was based on industry forum MEF’s LSO Sonata APIs, which are “designed to streamline and enhance carrier-to-carrier”. During the trial, network services were successfully provisioned between the UK and Belgium, enabled by a new wholesale service by Proximus and Colt’s NaaS platform.

Vodafone UK says it successfully implemented a 5G standalone (SA)-enabled network slice for EBC, a drinks vendor, during this year’s Glasonbury music festival, for which the mobile operator constructed a temporary mobile network to ensure connectivity for the event’s 200,000 visitors. According to the operator, it “dedicated a small portion of the network to connect the EBC payment machines, through a technique known as network slicing. EBC manages 10 onsite bars across the Festival, each of which has multiple card [payment] machines. The demonstration connected three sites via a slice, which in total served 102 tills. During peak times, each till processed two transactions a minute… The slice was optimised to support the maximum number of concurrent transactions during peak busy periods and was protected from network congestion. The result was that payment machines were not impacted by general data usage, meaning customers were served faster,” noted the operator in this blog.

Aramco Digital, the new division of the Saudi oil giant that is run by former Rakuten Mobile and Rakuten Symphony chief Tareq Amin, has teamed up with global IT services and systems integration giant World Wide Technology (WWT) to “spearhead the development of an AI-powered Digital Innovation Economy in Saudi Arabia,” the partners have announced. The duo aim to “transform the Saudi economy, including key industrial sectors such as energy and healthcare, by integrating advanced AI solutions, unlocking new opportunities for the country and localising cutting-edge technologies with skills and know-how in the Kingdom.” The move is part of WWT’s ongoing regional strategy, it seems. “Last year we announced our ambitious plans to expand into the Middle East region with the goal of establishing a US-centric technology innovation hub,” stated WWT international board member Omar Mir. “[This] partnership with Aramco Digital marks a significant chapter in our mission to provide cutting-edge technology solutions in the region. With our substantial one-of-a-kind Lab and AI Proving Ground R&D environment, we enhance our capability to help the Kingdom’s economy experiment with and implement AI solutions tailored to their specific needs. Aligned with Saudi Vision 2030, it highlights our commitment to drive enterprise AI adoption at a global scale, further cementing our role as a key player in the Middle East’s burgeoning technology landscape. We look forward to pushing the envelope of AI innovation for the benefit of the Kingdom as WWT expands across the Middle East, one of the world’s most critical innovation proving grounds,” added Mir, who is surely one of the few people left in the industry still deploying the envelope-pushing idiom.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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