What’s up with… Cisco, IMImobile, AirHop, broadband speeds

  • Cisco is swallowing UK firm IMImobile
  • AirHop makes the leap to Azure
  • Broadband speeds are on the up

Cisco’s UK acquisition, the latest vendor addition to the Azure mobile network function menu and the upward trend in broadband speeds lead the way in today’s headline huddle.

Cisco is acquiring UK digital contact centre platform specialist IMImobile for $730 million in a deal that Cisco believes will help it to develop a Customer-Experience-as-a-Service (CXaaS) proposition for enterprise users. The news lit a fire under IMImobile’s share price, which gained 47% on London Stock Market trading on Monday to 593 pence, just shy of Cisco’s offer of 595 pence. See this press release for more details.

AirHop is the latest cloud native radio access network software vendor to offer its wares via Microsoft Azure. The company says the integration of its eSON product “enables network deployments with Microsoft Azure platforms (cloud, Edge Zones and Azure Private Edge Zones) to use near real-time Radio Access Networks (RAN) automation and optimization applications to accelerate 4G and 5G deployments for operator and private enterprise networks.” AirHop is one of the companies helping Rakuten Mobile to run a virtualized and increasingly automated mobile network infrastructure. For further details, see this announcement.

Ofcom has published an update for UK fixed broadband speeds and found that the average actual download speed of UK residential ISPs has increased from the 64 Mbps (14.0 Mbps upload) measured for its May 2020 report to 71.8 Mbps (14.2 Mbps upload) this month. According to ISP Review, UK broadband’s vital statistics are easily gathered and updated because the regulator is analysing data from custom modified routers installed in a few thousand homes to get the averages. Six months is a short period within which to register such a notable increase in average speeds though... In the US, apparent recent rises in average broadband speed has been claimed by the FCC’s outgoing Chairman Ajit Pai as a benefit of his move to end net neutrality and deregulate broadband. Critics have been quick to point out that the rises are more than likely the result of the pandemic and the sudden need for faster broadband speeds for home working, home schooling, in-home entertainment etc. spurring households to upgrade their services.

Russia's state-owned news outlet, Sputnik, reports that the Finnish parliament in Helsinki will, this very afternoon, pass a new Telecoms Act that will exclude "untrusted vendors" (presumably meaning the likes of Huawei and ZTE of China) from installing 5G or other equipment in the national network, thus giving an extra twist to what the site calls "tech nationalism". Finland's Justice Minister, Johannes Koskinen, says"We are not pointing the finger at any particular party but we must protect our network's key assets if there are strong grounds to suspect the use of such equipment would endanger national security or defence". However, he added, "We should ensure we don’t take action that closes doors for Nokia as a result of any backlash," That'll be a hard circle to square. Nokia has done well for itself since Huawei was included out of participation in the Australian, Japanese, UK and US markets as well as a range of those of some EU member states but could now lose access to China.

The U.S. Senate is set to vote as early as this week to approve the nomination of the Trump administration official, Nathan Simington, to the FCC. Sinington comes from the US Commerce Department. If Simington’s appointment is confirmed, the FCC could be deadlocked 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans when Democratic President-elect Joe Biden takes office next month  and the Senate may not confirm an appointee to the commission for months, if not longer - unless, that is, the republicans lose control of the Senate  following the runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5th.  That could see Biden unable to restore net neutrality in the US and Trump be assisted in his push to repeal social media protections and, he hopes, stymie moves by social media to limit the spread of disinformation. According to this Reuters story, Section 230 protects tech companies from liability over content posted by users. Trump and Republican lawmakers have criticised internet platforms’ content moderation decisions and accused them of stifling conservative voices.

AT&T’s Warner Bros division has ‘infuriated cinemas’ by announcing it will release all its 2021 blockbusters on HBO for a month at the same time as they go out to the cinemas - a reversal of the usual approach. Or as Warner Bros itself explains, “it’s a unique, consumer-focused distribution model in which Warner Bros. will continue to exhibit the films theatrically worldwide, while adding an exclusive one month access period on the HBO Max streaming platform.” The reason/excuse is Covid-19, which is expected to keep movie-goers out of cinemas for an unknown period of time next year. The cinemas fear that the public may get used to not going to the cinema, even when the pandemic is over.

Things haven't improved much in Zimbabwe since Robert Mugabe finally popped his clogs and Emmerson (The Crocodile) Mnangagwa took over as President of that benighted country back in late 2017. He pledged to revive the country's abysmal economy and to cultivate better relationships with erstwhile trading partners in the west whom Mugabe had threatened, dispossessed and alienated, but little of substance has so far been achieved. On the telecoms front the regulator, "POTRAZ" (the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe), has published a consultation paper on the country's National Broadband Plan which says US$123 million is required for its completion. For a nation that used to be the breadbasket of Africa and very wealthy as a result, that sum would once have been chickenfeed, but under current economic circumstances it is an enormous amount. What's more, the plan to deliver "broadband" connectivity to the entire country is so lacking in ambition that it actually calls for "up to" 1Mbps, (yes, 1 Mbps) to be available to all the population by 2030! All of the $123 million will be spent on deploying underground 1,848 kilometres of fibre-optic cable to complete the national "broadband" network. However, no calculation is provided as to the cost of deploying "complementary backhaul transmission systems to feed access nodes. To enhance network reliability there is a need for network redundancy for all the links." The POTRAZ report adds, "The requirement for stable and uninterrupted power could never be over-emphasised. A considerable parentage of the [original] optical fibre cable was over-head, which brought about vulnerability to theft, vandalism and fire." Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube, says the Zimbabwean economy is suffering "climatic, macroeconomic and Covid-19 shocks." Meanwhile the country's runaway inflation, is running at 639 per cent. That is being presented as a victory because it has come down from the 837 per cent recorded in July this year. Mthuli Ncube is an eternal optimist. Just today he has tweeted that next year $140 billion will bet set aside for national infrastructure development in Zimbabwe, although he did not say where the cash would be coming from. Perhaps, like the UK, Zimbabwe too has discovered that there is such a thing as a magic money tree after all.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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