What’s up with... Starlink in India, Samsung in the UK, Huawei everywhere

  • Starlink gets ahead of itself in India
  • Government relations might help Samsung in the UK
  • Huawei might be a bit down but it far from out

A license speed bump in India, an R&D agreement that hopefully doesn’t come with strings attached and a reminder that Huawei is hardly a spent force are the lead news items today.  

Starlink might be building up a sizeable presence around the world with its satellite broadband service, but its line of sight is currently obscured in one of the largest, and most rural, markets in the world – India. The country’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has issued a public statement saying that Starlink “is not licensed to offer satellite-based internet services in India,” but has started to promote the service and is taking pre-bookings from citizens in India. And the DoT is not happy – it says “the public is advised not to subscribe to Starlink services being advertised.” The service is being promoted at the equivalent of about $22.00 per month for a broadband service that delivers 50-150 Mbit/s downstream. Read more

Will the UK, with its dwindling Huawei presence and ever-stronger Nordic infrastructure footholds, ever end up as a more diversified 5G network infrastructure market? It will if the current government’s relationship-building strategy has any impact. One of the first major international trade agreements the UK struck after Brexit was with Japan, which helped to bring NEC more into the mobile networks fold in the UK last year – the Japanese vendor is now involved in a number of 5G R&D and test efforts, including those involving Open RAN. Now the UK has struck a 5G and AI research agreement with South Korea, and there’s little doubt as to what the representatives of the South-East Asian country are hoping for: As the Korea Herald reports, Lee Tai-hee, South Korea's Deputy Minister for planning and coordination at the Science and ICT ministry, asked Chris Philp, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for help in getting South Korean technology (ie Samsung) into Britain’s 5G networks. Samsung has already been named as a key partner for Vodafone UK’s initial Open RAN rollout, but in the broader scheme of things that is just a drop in the ocean as it covers about 2,500 rural sites during the next six years. What Samsung, NEC, Mavenir and others would like, of course, is a piece of the pie that Ericsson and Nokia are getting... but that’s a ‘big ask’, as they say in the football world, and a junior minister at the DCMS is going to struggle to have any impact on network operator procurement decisions.    

Huawei is facing up to the reality that it is permanently and irrevocably barred from a variety of lucrative smartphone markets and will never be allowed to deploy 5G (and other) infrastructure in many western countries (with the Irish Republic looking like the next market that will shun Chinese vendors by following the EU’s 5G Security Toolbox guidelines). Thus, as it changes tack it is also adapting its business model to embrace new and different technologies and revenue opportunities even as the US continues to add companies to its ever-lengthening Entity List. The latest to be added to the scrolls of doom are Chinese quantum computing companies. However, investigations by Assembly Research, PP Foresight and others shows that Huawei equipment remains central to more than 1,500 carrier networks across 170 countries. Its reach is wide and deep in 720 cities, and the mammoth company maintains strong partnership relations with close to 300 Fortune Global 500 companies. It would cost untold sums of money for any of those customers to rip Huawei equipment out of their network infrastructure and are unlikely to do anything as radical as that unless legally compelled to do so by national governments. Many existing customers in other parts of the world (such as Africa, Latin America and parts of the Far East) may find Huawei kit is good value for money (it is comparatively cheap, which is why so many western carriers bought the equipment in the first place) and are unconcerned about or disbelieving of the security and privacy implications of having alleged spyware at the heart of their in their national comms infrastructure. Thus, they could well decide to buy future generations of Huawei products or, in some cases replace it only when it becomes obsolete - which could be 30 years hence - so Huawei will retain a loyal(ish) customer base for a generation or more yet, giving it many years to change course to a new business model. No wonder Huawei still comes out on top when the global vendor market shares are published

Earlier this month, an unusual outbreak of brotherly love across rigid party lines broke out in the US Senate when, in bipartisan agreement, Democrats and Republicans alike co-operated on framing a new law that would require the owners and operators of “critical infrastructure” to report cybersecurity breaches and ransomware attacks to the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency within 72 hours of a breach being made or an extortion demand being received. Not only that, but victims of ransomware attacks would have to tell the feds within 24 hours of having paid cybercriminals to release their systems and data. The legislation was proposed with the intent of getting a handle on the frequency of ransomware incidents, their severity and the range of payments demanded and paid. The federal authorities estimate that fewer than one in ten ransomware incursions are ever reported and it is not known how much money eventually finds its way to the ransom gangs and cybercriminals. The new law would have provided some indication of that whilst quick reporting would help US security agencies and the police to track and trace digital extortionists. Not much wrong there, you might think. However, some Republicans broke the consensus and prevented a new anti-ransomware legislation being included in the annual Defense Policy Bill on the grounds that the provisions of the Incident Reporting and Ransomware Bill would place “another onerous government mandate on businesses.” Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

As Senators squabbled on Capitol Hill, a new report by Symmetry Systems and Osterman Research shows that businesses and organisations deploying zero-trust architecture to counter or at least ameliorate ransomware attacks increases protection against them by 144 per cent. The research shows that 53 per cent of respondents said they are very worried about ransomware attacks and are willing to pay to apply zero-trust architecture and principles to their systems, networks and data and to protect customer data as well. Application of zero-trust principles means there is no single point of failure of a system is breached. Thus, although hackers may know details such as database location, user names and even passwords that cannot apply that information to break into applications or access identity management. This is particularly important given the growing preponderance of hybrid-cloud environments where a mishmash of users, developers, contractors and vendors get data via a static infrastructure and cloud applications. 

The global optical networking market shrunk in value by 2% during the first nine months of this year compared with the same period a year earlier due to a dip in transport network investments in China, which, of course is a massive market, notes research house Dell’Oro. In the rest of the world, however, investments are on the rise, with demand outpacing supply, which has been somewhat hampered by the global component shortages. The Dell’Oro team estimates that during the third quarter of this year, the optical equipment market outside China grew by 6% year-on-year, but could have grown by as much as 10% “if it was not for component shortages and other supply issues plaguing the industry.” Read more.  

KDDI has confirmed it will shut down its 3G network on 31 March 2022, saying that the number of people currently using 3G services now that 4G and 5G services are available, has decreased significantly. But the move should not come as a surprise: KDDI actually announced in November 2018 that it planned to shut off 3G in March 2022, and it has stuck exactly to its timetable... 

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