What’s up with… DT, quantum technology, Rakuten Mobile

  • Deutsche Telekom is still growing at home and in the US
  • US seen as quantum technology patent leader
  • ID Quantique aims to make satellite security quantum proof
  • Investor pressure could lead to Rakuten Mobile cuts

In today’s industry news roundup: Deutsche Telekom continues to boost its numbers; the US is ahead in quantum technology patent filings; ID Quantique looks to make satellite comms ultra secure; Rakuten Mobile tipped to slim down its workforce: and more.

Deutsche Telekom (DT) touted itself as “an anchor of stability in difficult times” as it reported a rise in net revenue of 8.8% year on year in the third quarter to €29bn and net profit skyrocketing by 77.5% to €1.6bn. The German telco also booked strong performance across its services revenues, which were 12.5% higher year on year to €23.6bn. Based on these figures, DT raised its full-year forecast for the third time this year and now expects to surpass its previous EBITDA-AL (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation after leases) goal of €37bn. The operator explained its growth with a successful start of new mobile rate plans in its domestic market, organic growth driven by growing customer numbers elsewhere across its European operations, and “record levels” of new post-paid customers and service revenue growth at T-Mobile US. The company’s enterprise services unit T-Systems, which is in the process of being revamped after DT backed away from efforts to sell the unit, also had “a good quarter” with revenue remaining flat at €900m. “Our businesses continue to grow. That puts us in a position to raise not only our guidance – for the third time this year – but also our dividend,” commented Tim Höttges, DT’s chairman and CEO. See more.

The US and an increasingly bellicose China are in deadly serious competition to be the global leaders in the strategically crucial field of quantum computing. According to GlobalData’s Patent Analytics Database, the US is currently five years ahead of the People’s Republic, and intends to stay in the vanguard of quantum technology. Hence the passing, this August, of the US Chips and Science Act. One of its purposes is to spur US quantum capabilities whilst actively hindering Chinese efforts to advance its quantum technology. Thus, it is unequivocally framed to cut off China’s access to US-made microprocessor technology. Then, only last month, the Biden administration imposed further new, and immediately effective, restrictions outlawing completely the export to China of semiconductors manufactured using any US equipment. Simultaneously, the US authorities are consulting with allies in the UK, Europe, Asia and Australasia on the imposition of similar restrictions on high-tech trade with China. Indications are that many allies will follow suit. According to GlobalData’s Patent Analytics Database, the US is the global leader in quantum computing. Among the many commercial companies researching the technology, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), IBM and Northrop Grumman (the huge aerospace and defence technology company) have made the most patent filings, respectively for 1,000, 1,885 and 623, to date. Meanwhile, the US government has committed $3bn in funding to federal quantum projects that are either already in train or being planned. The biggest project is the $1.2bn US National Quantum Computing Initiative. And, of course, the military and security services will be assiduously tending their own quantum gardens. As expected, considerably less is known about Chinese advancements and investments in quantum technology. The country proclaims itself to be the world-leader in secure quantum satcoms and to be an autocracy with a command economy that can be directed to do anything the president and politburo might require; it can devote huge resources to any technology perceived to give the PRC a strategic geo-political advantage – such as global quantum supremacy. Just look at Alibaba’s innocuously named DAMO Academy (Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook), which has already invested $15bn in quantum technology and will continue to plough more and more money into the venture. The Chinese government has also invested at least $10bn in the National Laboratory for Quantum Information Science, whose sole purpose is to conduct R&D only into quantum technologies with “direct military applications”. GlobalData, the London-based data analytics and consulting house, calculates that by 2025 the worldwide commercial quantum computing market will be worth $5bn per annum, driven substantially by Sino-US rivalry/animosity.

Continuing the quantum theme, Swiss company ID Quantique, a spin-off from the Group of Applied Physics at the University of Geneva, is launching technology to make satellite security quantum proof. The company was founded in 2011 and has more than a decade of experience in quantum key distribution systems, quantum safe network encryption, single photon counters and hardware random number generators. The latest additions to its portfolio – although ‘armoury’ might be a better descriptor given the avowed intent of various malign state actors to hi-jack, steal and corrupt data and to disrupt and even destroy satcoms systems – are two extremely robust, ruggedised and radiation-hardened QRNG (Quantum Random Number Generator) chips designed and fabricated especially for space applications. The generation of genuine randomness is a vital component of cybersecurity: Systems that rely on deterministic processes, such as Pseudo Random Number Generators (PRNGs), to generate randomness are insecure because they rely on deterministic algorithms and these are, by their nature, predictable and therefore crackable. The most reliable way to generate random numbers is based on quantum physics, which is fundamentally random. Indeed, the intrinsic randomness of the behaviour of subatomic particles at the quantum level is one of the very few absolutely random processes known to exist. Thus, by linking the outputs of a random number generator to the utterly random behaviour of a quantum particle, a truly unbiased and unpredictable system is guaranteed and can be assured via live verification of the numbers and monitoring of the hardware to ensure it is operating properly. The two new space-hardened microprocessors, the snappily named IDQ20MC1-S1 and IDQ20MC1-S3, are certified to the equally instantly memorable ECSS-Q-ST-60-13, the standard that defines the requirements for selection, control, procurement and usage of electrical, electronic and electro-mechanical (EEE) commercial components for space projects. The IDQ20MC1-S3 is a Class 3 device, predominantly for use in low-earth orbit (LEO) missions. The IDQ20MC1-S1 is a Class 1 device, for use in MEO and GEO mission systems. IDQ is the first to enable satellite security designers to upgrade their encryption keys to quantum enhanced keys.

Ahead of the Rakuten Group’s latest earnings report, which will be issued on Friday at 3pm Japan time (6am UK time), Bloomberg has reported that Rakuten Mobile, Japan’s greenfield 4G/5G operator that has been losing significant sums of money each quarter and dragging down the financial performance of its parent company, plans to reduce its headcount and once again seek external investment in the competitive mobile operator. Rakuten Mobile has been struggling to build its mobile customer base as it competes with established players NTT Docomo, KDDI and Softbank – by the end of June it had some 5.5 million mobile customers compared with NTT Docomo’s near 85 million. The Rakuten management has always said that the network rollout and customer acquisition phase would result in losses, but that the strategy would work out in the long term as the mobile operation becomes part of the broader Rakuten Group services portfolio that fuels growth and inspires customer loyalty. It seems, though, that investors may have reached a breaking point and want to see some kind of action taken by CEO Hiroshi ‘Mickey’ Mikitani

A good performance from its enterprise services division and its operation in Brazil helped Telecom Italia (TIM) to report a 1.1% year-on-year organic increase in third-quarter revenues to €4bn, despite an 8.6% decline in consumer revenues in Italy. Cloud and security service demand, in particular, helped drive an increase of 5.5% in enterprise revenues in Italy, while organic revenues in Brazil grew by more than 24% to €1.06bn. The Italian national operator, which is still in the throes of trying to offload its fixed line assets into a new independent national wholesale network operator, also announced that it had started the process of setting up its enterprise division as a separate legal entity, a move that would enable it to attract investors to take a slice of that growing business. Such moves are key to enabling TIM to address its debt situation, but it’s in danger of selling a lot of its crown jewels. Read more.

Ladies and gentlemen, please prepare to gird your loins – literally. Here’s why: LG of South Korea has developed a very thin, lightweight, stretchable display screen that can ‘elongate’ by 20%, which is pretty much the direct opposite of what Musk is doing with Twitter. Yup, in what is claimed to be the “world’s first”, the company that used to be Lucky Goldstar (LG) has manufactured a flexible display that can be stretched from 12 inches to 14 inches, just like that. Subsidiary LG Display describes the screen as “a full-colour freeform display designed to be lengthened up to 14 inches” that will “support 100 pixels-per-inch resolution". So not particularly high-res then. LG says the display is built around “a highly resilient film-type substrate” that is made from the same sort of specialised silicon used in contact lenses. It exploits a “40 micrometre-LED light source to secure a high level of durability”, which allows the screen to maintain its resolution and brightness whilst being pulled in various directions. The Seoul-headquartered company says it has achieved a technological breakthrough and succeeded in making a flexible spring-wired system that is uniquely different to the traditional liner-wired displays. The new screens can be stretched and bent more than 10,000 times without damage or distortion before the inevitable happens and they split into their component parts. LG is positioning its novel free-form, stretchable display as the next evolutionary step in display technology after rollable and foldable screens. It says the displays can be fixed to curved surfaces including vehicles, aircraft, furniture and things with uneven surfaces, such as “clothes and skin”. It is evident that the new displays could have a significant impact when, for example, attached to the uniforms of emergency workers, such as the police, fire, ambulance and medical staff, and used to share and disseminate real-time information. However, many people beyond the first flush of youth will draw the line at wearing clothes that turn them into walking advertising screens, which will also display the lumps, bumps and “uneven surfaces” that today’s vestments are so carefully designed to camouflage. In the cinema these days, just before the main feature, audiences are asked to “please turn off your mobile phones”. The time is surely coming when as you sit in your seat and the lights go down people will be demanding that their neighbours "turn their pants off".

But if you think that’s ludicrous… ​​How lethal can the metaverse get? Palmer Luckey, the founder of virtual reality (VR) headset company Oculus (who was later fired by what was previously known as Facebook, now Meta), has painted a disturbingly bleak picture. He unveiled in a blog that he is working on creating a VR headset that “perfectly recreates reality using a direct neural interface that is also capable of killing the user”. The idea for the device follows the popular Japanese novel series Sword Art Online where players are trapped in a VR world where they are combatting and if they die in the game, this also happens in real life if they are wired with “NerveGear” tech. Luckey noted that the concept would involve tying explosive charge modules to a photosensor that can detect when the screen flashes red at a specific frequency, so that when “an appropriate game-over screen is displayed, the charges fire, instantly destroying the brain of the user”. He stated that work on the device is still at the halfway mark and so far, “I have only figured out the half that kills you. The perfect-VR half of the equation is still many years out”. Luckey rushed to say that, currently, the headset “is just a piece of office art, a thought-provoking reminder of unexplored avenues in game design”. According to him, it is also “the first non-fiction example of a VR device that can actually kill the user” but he added that it “won’t be the last”. Luckey is also the founder of Anduril Industries, a company that develops surveillance and defence systems for the US military services.

- The staff, TelecomTV

Email Newsletters

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