What’s up with... BT & Rackspace, OneWeb in India, UK cybersecurity, Tonga

  • BT teams up for managed cloud services
  • OneWeb secures India deal
  • UK government preps broader cybersecurity rules
  • Tonga gets a 2G lifeline

An important cloud partnership for BT, an ‘in-the-family’ deal for OneWeb, a move to strengthen UK cybersecurity and critical comms in Tonga are the lead news topics of note today. 

BT and Rackspace Technology have teamed up to offer managed cloud services to enterprise customers, the operator has announced. The operator will host Rackspace’s cloud applications (service management, analytics, automation) in its data centres, a move that BT says will enhance its cloud offerings to business customers. “This innovative partnership with Rackspace Technology accelerates our plans to build a world-class hybrid cloud portfolio,” noted Bas Burger, CEO of BT’s Global business unit. “It will deliver outstanding experiences for our customers and ensure they benefit from the best services, backed by our partner’s leadership in cloud,” he added. Read more

OneWeb, the phoenix-from-the-flames low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite company, has sealed a six-year deal with Hughes Communications India Private Ltd. (HCIPL), a joint venture between Hughes Network Systems and Bharti Airtel, to provide satellite connectivity services across India. “As the leading satellite broadband provider in India, HCIPL is well positioned to deliver services to enterprise and government with OneWeb capacity, especially in areas outside the reach of fibre connectivity,” noted OneWeb in its official announcement. “OneWeb will connect towns, villages, and local and regional municipalities in those hardest-to-reach areas, playing a critical role in bridging the digital divide,” it added. Both Bharti Airtel and Hughes Network Systems, it should be noted, are investors in OneWeb, so the deal is somewhat “in the family.” OneWeb also notes its total number of in-orbit satellites has now reached 394, more than 60% of its planned fleet of 648 LEO ‘birds’. It’s interesting to note also that Starlink, Elon Musk’s LEO-based broadband services effort, has run into problems recently as it tried to sign up customers for its service. For more on the OneWeb/HCIPL deal, read this announcement.

The UK government has started the process to develop new cybersecurity laws in an effort to reduce the risk of attacks on British businesses. As part of the process, the government plans to update its Network and Information Systems (NIS) Regulations, which came into force in 2018, and broaden the scope of those rules to include “Managed Service Providers (MSPs) which provide specialised online and digital services.” Read more

Communications to and from the volcanic eruption- and tsunami-hit Pacific archipelago of Tonga are out. The only submarine cable, the 827-kilometre fibre-optic link to Fiji and on from there to the rest of the world via the Southern Cross Cable, has been severed in two places and inter-island cables do not exist. Satellite communications are badly disrupted by accumulations of volcanic ash on dishes and ancillary equipment, and also the amount of atmospheric dust that blots out both the sun and satellite signals. The communications blackout could last at least a month. The ‘Reliance’, the nearest cable laying and repair vessel to Tonga, is currently 4,225 kilometres miles away in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. The American cable company SubCom says once the ship gets to Tonga, the repairs to the underwater cable will take a minimum of a month - and considerably longer if swathes of the severed cable are buried beneath the rubble of underwater landslides. It’s not all completely bad news though. The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs says an interim 2G telecoms system and small network has been established and will provided necessarily limited but vital communications capabilities until the satellite systems are brought back online and/or the subsea cable is repaired and restored. Digicel, the Caribbean-based mobile network operator that also provides services to various Pacific islands, has established the 2G network that will provide voice and SMS coverage to about 10 per cent of the population of the devastated island. Fortunately, electrical power has been restored and the runway at Fuaʻamotu International Airport is being cleared of thousands of tons of volcanic ash to allow relief supplies to be flown in from Australia.

In the winter of 2021, the Canadian authorities declared China Mobile International to be a company decidedly non grata after an investigation found that it could be influenced and commandeered by the Chinese government “for non-commercial purposes, such as the compromise of critical infrastructure and foreign interference, to the detriment of Canada’s national security.” Many other countries have come to similar conclusions and have also decided to rip Chinese telecoms equipment from the heart of their networks. Last summer, citing security concerns, Ottawa told China Mobile International either to put itself up for sale or close down. The telco, which has had a presence in Canada since 2015, appealed the decision, arguing that it neither owns nor operates a telecoms network but merely partners with the Canadian operator Telus, which is headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. That didn’t wash with the Canadian government, so China Mobile International then demanded access to the information and evidence the federal authorities used to mandate the telco’s closure and said the government could not have concluded that it should be shuttered given the information the Canadians had access to, even though China Mobile International had not and has not seen it. Try that one out on the Politburo back home and see where it gets you – at best a one-way ticket to a re-education centre. The Canadian government gives short shrift to such sino-sophistry and simply says its decision was based on highly confidential data and information. It adds that the records are “cabinet confidences” and will be revealed to no-one outside the corridors of power in Ottawa. Unsurprisingly the Canadian courts have reserved judgment and China Mobile International has gone away to come up with another wheeze to keep itself in business for a few months longer.  

For yet another year in succession, ‘Little Rhody’ (Rhode Island, New England) the smallest state in the Union (and also the birthplace of H P Lovecraft, as well as being the land of the stuffed quahog), has come out top of the listings for the fastest statewide Internet access speeds in the US, with an average of 129.0Mbps. So says HighSpeedInternet.com, a site that tracks and monitors the services, prices and speed claims of ISPs across the US. New Jersey comes in second with 120.4Mbps, then come Delaware (119.1Mbps), Maryland (118.2Mbps) and Washington DC (117.7Mbps). Washington DC also holds the current record for the fastest Internet speed in any US metro area. Tim Tincher of HighSpeedInternet.com observes, “States with higher density population centers have typically had access to fiber connections longer than states that are more spread out in the western US, such as Idaho and Montana. The biggest difference between western states with slower speeds and the states on the east coast with higher populations is the amount of fiber connections that are available to consumers. Because communities in western states are more spread out and often have rougher terrain, technologies like fiber and 5G have been slower to roll out in these areas." Figures. The latest stats also show that the slowest Internet access speeds in the US are in states with a lot of rural areas. For example, Charleston, the capital of the state of West Virginia, provides an average of just 32.7Mbps, the slowest speed of any US metro area. Slightly ahead of it in the slow lane is Boise, Idaho, where 56.9Mbps is the norm. At places three and four, respectively, are Maine (with 56.3Mbps) and Wyoming (60.0Mbps). Slowest of the slow states is sparsely populated Montana, which manages a mere 54.4Mbps. Pretty dismal, you may well think, but nonetheless a massive improvement of last year, when the Big Sky country could only provide an average broadband access speed of 30.1Mbps. The most improved metro area is that of Huntsville, Alabama, where average Internet access speeds shot up from 27.4Mbps in 2020 to 82.4Mbps last year - and increase of over 200 per cent. That’s good news for broadband equipment vendor ADTRAN, which is based in... Huntsville.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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