What’s up with… Intel, 5G in China, Bharti Airtel, smart home devices

TelecomTV Staff
By TelecomTV Staff

Jul 23, 2021

  • Intel ups full year outlook
  • China’s monster 5G growth
  • Bharti Airtel’s mobile switcheroo
  • Smart home sector to hit $80 billion

Boom time for Intel, 5G growth in China and some debatable customer experience moves by Airtel in India lead the way in this industry roundup.

Intel reported second quarter revenues and earnings ahead of expectations and raised its revenues forecast for the full year to $77.6 billion, but an expectation of lower-then expected margins for the third quarter sent the tech giant’s stock down by more than 5% to $52.89. The news came as CEO Pat Gelsinger (pictured above) told the Wall Street Journal he believes the chip shortages currently impacting sectors such as automotive could last until 2023. Read more.

China Mobile, the operator with the largest number of subscribers in the world, added millions more last month as consumers signed-up for 5G en masse. Figures just released for June 2021 show 28.7 million new 5G subscribers were added, bringing the total number of customers on China Mobile’s burgeoning 5G network to 250.69 million. In a statement the operator said it expects the number to continue to increase at “impressive rates.” To put things in perspective, as the end of June 2020, China Mobile had 70.2 million 5G subscribers. Adding the operator’s 4G and other mobile technology subscribers, China Mobile now has 945.5 million subscribers in total and expects to pass the 1 billion subscriber mark within the next few months. Meanwhile, during June its main rival China Unicom added 7.23 million 5G new 5G customers June and now has a total 113.33 million 5G subscribers up from the 106.1 million reported in May. Over the same period China Telecom added 6.66 million 5G subscribers in to take its total to 131.5 million. Including 4G users the operator now has 362.49 customers. Between them, China’s three main mobile operators had 961,000 5G base station in commission as at June 30. What’s more, China Broadcasting Network (CBN), which was awarded the country’s fourth 5G license late last year, will soon be bumping up the numbers too: IT is building a national 700 MHz 5G network in partnership with China Mobile, which has just awarded the first set of networking equipment contracts for the rollout, which is set to hit 400,000 base stations by the end of this year. Both companies say they will have shared nationwide 5G coverage by early 2024.

Bharti Airtel, simultaneously the second largest mobile network operator in India, where it has 353 million mobile customers and a 29.8% market share, and the second largest mobile network operator group in the world, with more than 470 million subscribers across South Asia and Africa, has announced the sudden ending of some very popular post-paid service plans in India and introduced new ones. It claims the changes were necessitated because “high-speed data is increasingly becoming a key need for customers as work from home and online education is the new normal, in a post-pandemic world.” There’s plenty of marketing verbiage and self-justification surrounding the changes with woolly guff about as “industry-leading data benefits backed by a 5G-ready network and superior digital-first customer care”, and the availability of “a range of exclusive benefits such as bundled content and business productivity tools,” but the reality is that post-paid prices have substantially risen. Plans that used to start to 199 Indian rupees (Rs) now cost Rs 299. Unsurprisingly, the price of Bharti Airtel shares rose by 4 per cent following the announcement. What subscribers think about the changes is not yet evident, but in due course it will be.

The availability of better-quality products and a lockdown-fuelled uptick in home technology investments by consumers will result in a surge in spending on consumer robotics and smart appliances this year, according to ABI Research, which believes the market will be worth as much as US$80 billion in 2021, 40% higher than in 2020. “Appliance manufacturers are seeing increasing value in adding communications into their product lines and that embedded capability is reaching further into their product portfolios and not just in the highest tier products,” notes Jonathan Collins, Smart Home Research Director at ABI Research. “It is the combination of increased consumer awareness, greater product availability and better price points that will see strong growth continue throughout the decade,” he adds. Read more

And as homes have more and more smart devices, so the need becomes greater to manage and secure them, a trend that is serving Plume, a developer of cloud-based smart home management software, well. Plume’s software is now managing more than 1 billion devices and that is giving it great insight into smart home trends. “Our homes are becoming more crowded with smart and connected devices than ever, providing unprecedented convenience, personalization, and enjoyment. While the pandemic accelerated and influenced some trends in the types of devices and patterns of usage in the smart home, Plume's analysis of the number, type and usage of devices found that many of these trends were in place pre-pandemic and are expected to continue post-pandemic as consumers embrace the overall value of smart homes. In addition to the expected increase in smartphone, laptop and tablet ownership and usage, Plume found that fitness devices, security cameras, voice assistants and connected cooking devices are all trending significantly upward” noted the company in this announcement.

And it’s not just homes that are getting smarter: So are workplaces. Ericsson has partnered with Three Ireland and Glanbia, a “global leader in agriculture and nutrition,” to launch Ireland’s first indoor 5G campus network in a live manufacturing environment. According to Ericsson, “The indoor 5G network, inside the multi-purpose dairy processing plant at Glanbia Ireland’s facility in Ballyragget, County Kilkenny, will bring enhanced indoor 5G coverage, low latency connectivity and improved data security across Glanbia’s largest Irish plant. The 5G solution will enable faster and more accurate maintenance tasks and provide for richer analysis of plant processes, helping to reduce manual administration and boost manufacturing efficiency.” Read more

Crowd-sourced anecdotage on property prices being boosted by good electronic communications (fibre broadband and cell reception) have been reliable press release fodder for several years. Now we’re told the tendency to pump up the pricing when one or both are evident, has become even more marked, according to Virgin O2. It has numbers: It claims a home well-serviced with mobile signal is now a property ‘must’ for nearly a third of home buyers and one in five of them are willing to stump up £10,000 more than the asking price to get it (£10,000! You could buy your own satellite for that, surely). It also reports that an excellent mobile and broadband connection ranked higher than good transport links, the traditional stalwart in a house buyer’s checklist.

Fixed broadband, xhaul and virtualization specialist DZS (formerly Dasan Zhone Solutions) has had a busy week. Having  teamed up with Quanta Cloud Technology (QCT) to “jointly accelerate virtualization and containerized Open RAN-based infrastructures for telco operators,” its President and CEO Charlie Vogt has joined both the ATIS Board of Directors and ATIS’s Next G Alliancelaunched a new line of next generation, 10 gig-class fiber access line cards, access switches and fixed form factor optical line terminal (OLT) solutions under the name XCelerate by DZS (which makes it sounds like a fragrance), and been selected by Consolidated Communications as a technology partner for the operator’s fibre access network expansion. 

Over past months, US operators have been tempting their customers to upgrade from 4G LTE to full 5G services by offering (ostensibly) “free” 5G handsets to those who’ll make the jump to sign a new contract and pay a premium for 5G bundles. The strategy has worked well with Verizon, owner of the nation’s biggest wireless network, adding a net 197,000 new customers in Q2 having lost 225,000 post-paid punters in Q1 this year. Now though, Verizon’s enticing free Galaxy S21 5G handset deal is suddenly off because the operator believes 5G adoption has now increased to the point that it will continue to rise without freebies and other blandishments. Whether that turns out to be the case or not remains to be seen, but industry analysts are saying Verizon’s hubristic canning of its popular promotion is too soon and too precipitate and it will pay the price when customers go elsewhere for their 5G fix. T-Mobile and AT&T have not withdrawn their 5G upgrade offers and continue to offer plans that provide subscribers, new and old, with either a “free” Apple iPhone 12 mini or Samsung Galaxy S21. It’ll be interesting to see if, by the Fall, Verizon has to eat its triumphalist words and go back offering the sort of 5G handset deals that its rivals have continued to offer and capitalise on throughout (and beyond) the Summer.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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