What’s up with… T-Mobile US, Arm, Telia

  • T-Mobile US edges closer to an FTTP play
  • Arm celebrates IPO success with AI pitch
  • Telia offloads its Danish unit

In today’s industry news roundup: T-Mobile US is reportedly in talks to enter the fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) services sector; Arm hands SoftBank an IPO success; Telia exits Denmark; and more!  

T-Mobile US is reportedly in talks to become an anchor tenant for a fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network set to be built by Tillman FiberCo, a unit of infrastructure investor Tillman Global Holdings LLC and private equity firm Northleaf Capital Partners, which formed a $500m broadband infrastructure joint venture earlier this year, according to Bloomberg. The move would mark T-Mobile’s first major push into the fixed broadband services sector and would follow its early success in signing up millions of customers for its 5G-enabled fixed wireless access (FWA) service. The operator ended June with 3.7 million “high-speed internet” FWA customers, having added 509,000 during the second quarter, the operator noted in its earnings release. 

Arm handed its investors – and its patent, SoftBank – an IPO hit on Thursday as its stock leaped in value by almost 25% on its first day of trading on the Nasdaq: The shares floated at $51.00 and closed Thursday at $63.59, up by 24.7%. As the company’s valuation was rising, its CEO, Rene Haas, issued a rallying cry to his colleagues and the sector, and firmly positioned Arm as a company that will play a key role in the development of an artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled society. “In 2017, we pivoted from designing general-purpose CPUs [central processing unit] for smartphones and consumer devices, to designing purpose-built CPUs for specific markets. Arm’s growth is no longer solely defined by the smartphone market. We have a much more diversified business with market-specific compute platforms deployed in more mobile devices, cloud infrastructure, automotive and IoT [internet of things],” he noted. “Our unrivalled software ecosystem has given Arm the broadest software support of any CPU architecture ever invented. This is critical for developers in the age of AI. They can confidently write their code for Arm compute platforms, know it will work on Arm and there will be demand. AI on Arm is literally everywhere. As CEO of Arm, it is our opportunity to bring AI to everyone, everywhere and that excites me most. Seventy percent of the world’s population relies on Arm technology today, putting us in a unique position to advance AI across all devices. And as a public company, Arm is in a stronger position to strengthen our already talented engineering team and invest in more AI opportunities,” added Haas. Read more

Telia, the telco group with operations in the Nordic and the Baltic regions, has sealed a “final and binding agreement” for the sale of its operations and network assets in Denmark to energy and broadband services group Norlys. The deal, which will see Norlys acquire 100% of Telia’s Danish unit, is valued at 6.25bn Danish kroner (DKK) (around $893m), equivalent to 8.9 times the earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) that Telia Denmark reported in 2022. In April, the Swedish operator said it intends to exit Denmark and shift its focus on “markets in which there is a clear path to securing and defending leading market positions”. The transaction awaits approval from Norlys’s owners and respective regulators, and is expected to close by the first quarter of 2024 – see Telia exits Denmark in $926m M&A deal.

Deutsche Telekom (DT) is to showcase its latest innovation, a “cell tower to go”, at this year’s Digital X event in Cologne, Germany. The German operator will use a new mobile transmission mast, which supports 5G and LTE and is “significantly smaller, lighter and more flexible than previous ones”. According to its claims, the entire technology can fit into “a compact micro container” as it is 1.6 metres long, 2 metres wide and 2.6 metres high. Sporting such specifications, the mast is set to save space, will be easy to transport and can be set up by just one person in less than an hour. The solution, which was developed as a prototype by two DT employees, is planned to deliver additional mobile coverage at the event site. DT added that the compact mobile mast can be used for temporary coverage by enterprises, such as at events, large construction sites and in the agricultural sector. “The new micro-container provides even more scope for short-term mobile communications needs, regardless of time and place. After successful practical tests, we are presenting the innovative and particularly flexible mobile coverage solution to our business customers in live operation for the first time at Digital X”, noted Hagen Rickmann, DT’s managing director of business customers. The micro-container will be available for free tests from November. Find out more.

The SASE (secure access service edge) sector is on fire, according to the research team at Dell’Oro Group, which says global SASE solution revenues grew by 38% year on year during the second quarter of this year to more than $2bn, its highest ever quarterly total. “Quarterly revenue has doubled in just 10 quarters as enterprises go all in to improve networking and security services in the mobile- and cloud-first era,” noted Dell’Oro in this announcement. The top five SASE vendors in the second quarter were Cisco Systems, Zscaler, Palo Alto Networks, Broadcom (Symantec) and Fortinet, with Cisco regaining market leadership after losing its crown (albeit temporarily) to Zscaler in the first quarter of this year.

Here we go again. After multiple failed efforts, the search for the fabled 5G ‘killer app’ for consumers is to be renewed. In the US, AT&T and cable operator giant Comcast have just been announced as “founding partners” in the 5G Open Innovation Laboratory (5G OI Lab), which was actually first launched back in May 2020. The reality is that the two companies are part of something that sounds like a page out of the organisation chart of the Roman Army under Julius Caesar circa 55BC. AT&T and Comcast are now the equivalent of centurions in the 5G OI Lab’s Batch 8 Cohort (together with 17 other founding and corporate partners) that have enlisted in the “Fall Program for innovative global startups, technology platforms, integration, and enterprises”. Jim Brisimitzis, founder and general partner of the 5G Open Innovation Lab said, “We are thrilled to welcome AT&T and Comcast as founding partners to help drive our vision to bring industry experts together and, collectively, drive innovation into overlapping ecosystems. 5G and edge are new foundations that can be used to drive new business models and technology across segments and companies.” Jay Cary, vice president of strategic alliances and corporate strategy at giant US telco AT&T, commented, “Collaboration is the key to innovation. As we continue forging ahead to realise 5G’s full potential, it is important to work with the nimble startup and innovation community so we can move faster and solve real-world technology challenges more holistically and effectively for our customers.” Meanwhile, Comcast does not actually have a 5G network but has a strong position in wireless comms via its reseller arrangement with Verizon. The Batch 8 Cohort brings the number of participating companies in the 5G OI open ecosystem up to a total of 118. Globally, 5G has yet to achieve its potential and it is rapidly becoming apparent that the problem is with the 5G business model rather than the technology itself. Consumers are reluctant to pay a premium for 5G services that are perceived to be only slightly better than the established and popular 4G/LTE to which 5G services continually default anyway. That’s why T-Mobile, an original founding member of the 5G Open Innovation Lab, along with Intel and Nasa, has left the organisation to be replaced by AT&T and Comcast. T-Mobile now openly describes 5G as “an enterprise play.” On the consumer side no killer app that will bring excited subscribers flooding in has yet been identified. Part of the problem is that, at a national level, the US has yet to articulate a coherent radio frequency strategy and, as a result, no licensable full-power mid-band spectrum has been identified or set aside for commercial exploitation. Analysts say this state of affairs could continue for years to come, which augurs badly for the prospects of consumer 5G even as the first murmurings of plans for 6G are being heard. The earlier iterations of mobile comms generations (2G, 3G, 4G) were sold to consumers on their speed, but 5G is basically about latency and the prevention of delays to data traffic and in apps. The enterprise market understands this better, hence the growing interest in private 5G networks. Consumers don’t get it and aren’t keen on paying extra for little gain. Hence the 5G killer app remains as elusive as an Abominable Snowman riding the Loch Ness Monster as it searches for Eldorado, the Lost City of Gold. It may never be found but it won’t stop service providers from continuing to look for it. 

Just days after Murat Erkan resigned with immediate effect following four and a half years as the CEO at Turkcell, the Turkish operator has appointed Bülent Aksu, who was chairman, as its new head honcho. Şenol Kazancı, who has been a board member since April 2021, takes over as chairman. 

The great Victorian engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, has many long-lasting connections to the English West Country city of Bristol. In 1840 he built Temple Meads, the town’s first railway station and his greatest achievement, the Great Western Railway, runs through it. He built the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge over the Avon Gorge. His SS Great Britain, the world’s first iron, screw-driven transatlantic liner, was built and launched in Bristol in 1843 and in the 1970s its battered hulk was brought back from the Falkland Islands for restoration in the very dry dock where it was originally constructed and where it is now on public display as it was in at the height of its fame in the 1850s. And now Brunel is to be commemorated again, providing the name for a new supercomputer that will help to drive AI research in the UK. The Isambard-AI will be constructed at the University of Bristol and used by scientists and researchers at the new AI Research Resource centre, or AIRR for short (though maybe it should perhaps be pronounced “ARRR” in celebration of the piratical cadences of the distinctive Bristolian accent). Isambard-AI, which is being funded as part of a broader £900m UK Department of Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) investment programme, will be one of the most powerful supercomputers in Europe, and will help to maximise the potential of AI and the ‘safe use’” of the technology. Professor Simon McIntosh-Smith, senior lecturer of high-performance computing at Bristol University, commented, “We're delighted to be chosen as the site to host the UK's first ever Artificial Intelligence Research Resource. Isambard-AI will be one of the world's first, large-scale, open AI supercomputers, and builds on our expertise designing and operating cutting-edge computational facilities, such as the incoming Isambard 3.” The latter machine will be used for research into both AI and machine learning (ML).

- The staff, TelecomTV

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