What’s up with… Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, SoftBank

  • Vodafone Germany launches drone flight platform
  • DT ups its stake in T-Mobile US
  • SoftBank is the latest to team up with Sharp on a datacentre build

In today’s industry news roundup: Vodafone Germany is getting ready to play its part in the drone economy; Deutsche Telekom snaps up some cut-price T-Mobile US stock; SoftBank is the latest Japanese giant to hook up with Sharp on a new datacentre build; and much more!

Vodafone Germany has joined forces with data collection company FlyNex for the launch of a platform that pledges to facilitate commercial drone flights. Dubbed DroNet Hub, the “simple all-in-one platform” covers various stages in the runup to a drone taking off, including planning and organising the flight, and enables automated data collection and reporting. The system is powered by AI which, according to the telco, allows for aerial photographs to be analysed quickly, so automated reports can be generated and used to create 3D models or digital twins of the monitored area. Vodafone noted that its new tariff, ‘DroNet Connect Stream’, provides a high-speed data volume of 500GB, with an option to expand this to 1TB, which “ensures a consistent transmission of live data from the drone” to the hub. Furthermore, data from the mobile network is also integrated, to assist in understanding the connectivity and population density that lies ahead on a flight path. According to Vodafone Germany, its new solution will bring several improvements, including how companies monitor their infrastructure. The telco said it had made efficiencies in industrial plants, electricity pylons and wind farms that will not require risky inspections as drones can help with monitoring for structural damages. Find out more.

Still with Vodafone… Vodafone Group has connected the UK to the world’s largest subsea cable system, 2Africa. In a statement, the telco noted that it is the partner for the latest landing of the cable in Bude, Cornwall, which enables it to carry traffic on part of its 2Africa cable system to provide additional capacity to customers. The new landing will enable faster and more reliable connectivity between Africa and the rest of the world, and will help meet the expected future demand of services, including mobile and fixed broadband. The 2Africa cable system is expected to have a capacity of up to 180 Tbit/s (terabits per second) and be more than 45,000 kilometres in length upon completion, connecting 33 countries across three continents (Europe, Africa and Asia).

Deutsche Telekom (DT) has increased its stake in its subsidiary T-Mobile US at a discount price through the acquisition of some 6.7 million additional shares, which were held by Japanese telco SoftBank. This was agreed in June 2020 following the merger of T-Mobile US and Sprint. DT purchased the shares for US$99.51 each, 45% less than the current price of $179.82 per share, by exercising the call options specified in its agreement with SoftBank in 2020. “The transaction solidifies Deutsche Telekom’s majority stake in T-Mobile US”, the German telco noted, adding that the newly acquired stake represents around 0.6% of the US operator’s outstanding shares. The move boosts Deutsche Telekom’s stake in T-Mobile US to about 56.7%. Read more.

Speaking of SoftBank… The Japanese telco is to build a large-scale AI datacentre together with domestic electronics giant Sharp. The datacentre, which will be constructed at an LCD panel plant run by Sharp in Osaka (the Sharp Sakai Plant), will have a floor area of 750,000 metres and power capacity of more than 150 megawatts, and the facility will cover approximately 440,000 square metres (around 60% of Sharp’s plant land area). SoftBank aims to launch full-scale operations in 2025 and plans to boost the power capacity of the datacentre to more than 400 megawatts in the future. The company intends to use the datacentre for its own generative AI (GenAI) development, as well as other AI-related business and will open it up to universities, research institutions, businesses and others as a means to address various AI usage needs. The Japanese telco noted that it will consider using clean energy sources to minimise the datacentre’s environmental impact. Construction is set to start later this year and the two companies will consider working together on other AI-related businesses. SoftBank isn’t the only digital infrastructure giant teaming up with Sharp to build a datacentre at its Sakai plant – earlier this month KDDI announced it is working with with Supermicro, Sharp and Datasection to build what it describes as “the largest AI datacentre in Asia” on the site. 

Telenor IoT, part of Norwegian operator Telenor Group, has opened a new IoT test lab based in Karlskrona, Sweden that is equipped with a Faraday radio cage tuned specifically for testing different networks. The lab, which is being used by Telenor Group’s four Nordic operators – Telenor Sweden, Telenor Norway, DNA (Finland) and Telenor Denmark –  boasts “advanced steering and control systems allowing control of the available operator, access technology and even signal levels, allowing simulation of most network scenarios in a controlled and repeatable way,” and enabling Telenor’s customers to “understand how their connected IoT products behave before deployment,” the company noted in an email announcement sent to the media.  

US regulator the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking – FCC 24-62: In the Matter of Secure Internet Routing – that would introduce additional regulations to boost the security of data routed across the internet and “promote national security by requiring broadband providers to report on their progress in addressing vulnerabilities in the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP).” Back in 1980, the genesis of the BGP was first (literally) sketched out by a group of scientists attending a meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Over the course of lunch in a fast-food joint, the protocol was designed on “three ketchup-stained napkins” and, to this very day, the internet cognoscenti still refer to the BGP as the ”Three Napkin Protocol”. It is a standardised exterior gateway path-vector set of rules that determine the best network routes for data transmission on the internet based on paths and network policies or on rules set by a network administrator. The BGP is still widely deployed today but is showing its age, as it does not include security features sufficient to guarantee that the information relied upon to exchange traffic among and between independently managed internet networks can actually be verified as trustworthy. Security analysts across the globe have, for years now, been increasingly concerned that “bad actors” could counterfeit BGP information to hijack and redirect traffic and allow criminal gangs and various national states, including China, Iran, North Korea and Russia, to obtain information and disrupt internet services on a mass scale. Jessica Rosenworcel, chairwoman of the FCC, became very concerned about the security of internet traffic after a conversation with Vint Cerf, the ‘Father of the Internet’, who told her he wished he’d had the foresight to grasp the huge importance of the security of internet traffic when the technology was in its infancy, as it would have been easier to include safeguards then rather than retrofit them now. When FCC 24-62 is adopted as national policy in the US, the nation’s nine biggest broadband ISPs will be obliged to “prepare and update confidential BGP security risk management plans at least annually”. They will also be required to submit full progress details on the “implementation of BGP security measures that utilise the Resource Public Key Infrastructure” (RPKI), which permits Local Internet Registries (LIRs) to request a digital certificate listing the internet number resources they hold and thus provides verifiable proof of the holding of a resource’s registration by a Regional Internet Registry (RIR). Such validation of BGP origin is intrinsic to secure internet routing. The giant ISPs will not have to file subsequent detailed plans with the regulator, provided they meet with an FCC-mandated security threshold (which may change from time to time). Meanwhile, smaller ISPs will have to write their own plans, keep them on file and make them available to the FCC “on request”. The FCC emphasises that its new initiative is in full alignment with the overarching US National Cybersecurity Strategy Implementation Plan. The FCC has now set aside a three-month period to accept public comment on its new proposals and “other measures related to implementing RPKI-based security”.

Fibre-optic cabling is ubiquitous in today’s networks and is globally well regarded for its high-speed, low-latency data-carrying broadband capabilities, resilience and increasing cost effectiveness. What’s more, fibre is proving to have other useful attributes and applications: For example, fibre-optic sensing can measure natural, inherent changes in a cable’s light “back-scattering” properties and tiny variations in the physical state of either the length of a small run of fibre or the entire length of a massive festoon of cable by mapping real-time changes, such as acoustics, rotation, strain, temperature, vibration and a range of other parameters. The not-for-profit Fibre-Optic Sensing Association (FOSA), headquartered in Washington DC, says distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) effectively turns a run of fibre-optic cable into tens of thousands of virtual microphones able to monitor physical assets and geophysical effects. Thus, DTS can, at great distance, detect fires, monitor the temperature of power cables and identify leaks in pipelines and storage tanks. Meanwhile, distributed strain sensing (DSS) uses light propagated along a fibre to report seismic sensing data and report information on events, such as ground movement, fatigue in cabling and on the progress of bridge and excavation projects. What’s more, these valuable applications are available without the need to install dedicated internet of things (IoT) sensors. Fibre-optic sensors are either ‘intrinsic’, where the cable itself is the sensing element, or ‘extrinsic’, where the cable relays signals from a remote sensor to the electronics that process those signals. Thus, fibre may be exploited because of its small size and diameter, because there is no requirement for electrical power at the remote location or because a large number of sensors can be multiplexed along the whole length of a fibre by using a light wavelength shift for each of the sensors. What’s more, fibre-optic sensors are not affected by electromagnetic interference, do not conduct electricity and can be engineered to operate in high temperatures. They are ideal for use where there is high-voltage electricity or can be placed in and around flammable liquids, such as aviation fuel, and in many parts of the worldwide oil and gas industries. According to Pune, India-based Market Research Future, headquartered in Pune, India, the global fibre optic sensor market was $3.4bn in 2023, will hit $3.8bn this year and will reach $8.2bn by 2032, on a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.2% during the forecast period of 2024 to 2032. While North America remains the primary market, the Asia Pacific region is forecast to see the highest CAGR between now and the end of 2032, not least because of the rapidly developing automotive industries across India, Japan, and South Korea. Meanwhile, the large market players are spending big on R&D and there is an emerging trend towards the local manufacturing of sensors for local markets.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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