What’s up with… Nokia & Infobip, Stage X & Rakuten, Huawei

  • Nokia and Infobip team up on network APIs
  • South Korean greenfield operator taps Rakuten
  • Huawei under further fire in the US

In today’s industry news roundup: Nokia and Infobip join forces to enable developers to create telco network-powered applications faster; South Korean operator Stage X relies on Rakuten’s know-how and technology to roll out a greenfield 5G network; Huawei and other companies face a ban on certifying wireless devices in the US over national security concerns; and much more!

Nokia and Infobip, two of the leading players in the increasingly hot telco network API platform sector, have teamed up to “enable the global developer community to leverage both companies’ application programmable interface (API) platforms to build a wider array of telco network-powered applications faster for consumer, enterprise and industrial customers.” According to the partners, Infobip’s cloud communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) provides developers with APIs for integrating real-time features, such as SMS, voice, video, chat apps, and network APIs into their applications, while Nokia’s Network as Code platform, which also comes with a developer portal, offers APIs for 5G network capabilities, such as quality of service (QoS) on demand, device location precision and network slicing, as well as 4G functions. Both support the Camara network API specifications and are involved with the GSMA’s influential Open Gateway initiative that is helping network operators to embrace the potential of API exposure. It’s a heavyweight combination: Nokia says it has signed Network as Code collaboration agreements with 11 network operators and ecosystem partners, including BT, Dish, NOS Portugal and Telia since its launch in September 2023; while Infobip, which has been recognised as the CPaaS sector leader, has signed 12 API collaboration agreements with the likes of Vivo, Claro, TIM Brazil, Vodafone, Orange and Telefónica. The partners have also worked in collaboration with Veon on its Geolocation Gateway service. The collaboration provides stronger competition for Vonage, the Ericsson division that has also been striking multiple telco network API agreements in recent months.

Here’s an interesting development… A greenfield 5G network operator in South Korea, Stage X, which was awarded a licence to become the country’s fourth infrastructure-based mobile service provider earlier this year, has agreed to a technology and business collaboration with Japan’s Rakuten Mobile and its vendor division Rakuten Symphony. According to the partners, “The agreement includes the sharing of industry knowledge and expertise from Rakuten Mobile, as well as the provision of industry-leading telecom solutions from Rakuten Symphony. Discussions will also encompass various aspects of Stage X’s upcoming projects, ranging from business operations to technical areas. In addition, the three companies will pursue cooperation considering expansion to mid-band frequency and the development of a 6G-based national network from a long-term perspective.” You can read the full announcement here, but what’s intriguing is that while it mentions how Rakuten Mobile “built and deployed the world’s first fully virtualised, cloud-native mobile network with a modern infrastructure” and that Stage X looks forward to “working with Rakuten and learning from their experience across a wide range of areas” as it “builds out its infrastructure to provide 5G services in the 28 GHz spectrum,” there isn’t a single mention of Open RAN. Whatever the reason, that’s interesting in itself! Given the challenges that greenfield 5G operators in Japan (Rakuten Mobile), the US (Dish) and Germany (1&1) have faced in recent times to get their services launched and customers signed up, this will be an interesting industry development to follow, as South Korea’s three existing mobile operators – SK Telekom, KT and LG UPlus – are well entrenched in a market that, at the end of the day, is not that big (South Korea has a population of about 52 million). To meet its licence requirements, Stage X will need to build 6,000 base stations within three years, which might seem like plenty of time but really isn’t…

The US is moving to ban Huawei, and other companies deemed to pose a national security threat, from certifying wireless equipment. A proposal from two Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officials – chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and commissioner Brendan Carr, aims to introduce rules that “would ensure that telecommunications certification bodies and test labs that certify wireless devices for the US market are not influenced by untrustworthy actors.” The move comes after the commission last week refused to allow Huawei’s test lab – “an entity that the agency’s national security partners have found to pose a unique threat to the security and integrity of our nation’s communications networks and supply chains” – to participate in the FCC’s equipment authorisation programme, which reviews wireless devices prior to sale in the US to ensure “they abide by FCC power and spectrum band requirements.” Now, with the new proposal, the authority would “permanently prohibit Huawei and other entities on the FCC’s Covered List from playing any role in the equipment authorisation programme while also providing the FCC and its national security partners [with] the necessary tools to safeguard this important process.” Commenting on the move, Rosenworcel argued that the security of communications networks “matters more than ever before”, and stressed that the FCC “must ensure that our equipment authorisation programme and those entrusted with administering it can rise to the challenge posed by persistent and ever-changing security and supply chain threats.” Voting on the proposal is set to happen at the FCC’s next open meeting, which is scheduled for 23 May.

O2 Telefónica (aka Telefónica Deutschland) has launched its first virtual RAN/Open RAN site in collaboration with Samsung Networks: The two companies announced their initial engagement for trials in October last year. This first site is in Landsberg am Lech, Bavaria, and is already delivering commercial 4G and 5G services to customers. “We are taking another big step in our Open RAN journey,” noted Mallik Rao, CTIO at O2 Telefónica. “Together with Samsung, we are utilising the latest Open RAN technologies in our mobile network. On the way to the network of the future, we are integrating new network solutions to provide our customers with outstanding connectivity. Open RAN is a building block that can help us to automate our network, deploy new updates faster and use network components more flexibly,” added Rao. Read more

Vodafone has joined LF Edge, an umbrella organisation within the Linux Foundation dedicated to creating global collaboration on edge computing, as a Premier member and has unveiled a “new, major project for LF Edge, called InstantX (Instant EXchange), which offers many potential applications that leverage low latency and highly responsive technologies to drive forward the industrial internet,” the operator has announced. “Just as 4G unlocked the consumer mobile internet, the industrial internet will be enabled by programmable 5G standalone networks, edge computing and open APIs. Connecting machines and applications with cloud-based, AI-powered services will become as commonplace as communicating via social media platforms. InstantX is key to this vision. It is designed to ensure the secure and reliable exchange and distribution of data in real time between users in a certain geography. It uses ‘far-edge’ or ‘industrial-edge’ computing power, which works by locating smaller, industrial servers outside a main datacentre but closer to users,” according to Vodafone. Read more.

Cash-strapped Indian telco Vodafone Idea is reportedly negotiating with lenders on taking out loans amounting to 150bn rupees (US1.8bn) in the next two years. In a report, Bloomberg suggested that the telco has connected with the State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda and Punjab National Bank, as well as private-sector lenders to raise the funding. State Bank of India may lead a consortium, which would also involve state-owned and private bankers, and the funds would be paid out in tranches, the report added. The move is said to be part of the telco’s plan to raise a total of 450bn rupees ($5.4bn) through the sale of new shares and by borrowing funds to invest in its 4G network and deploy 5G. As part of this plan, in April Vodafone Idea raised 180bn rupees ($2.16bn) through a follow-on public offer (FPO), a financial instrument via which an existing company already listed on a stock exchange can issue new shares.

T-Mobile US has closed its acquisition of Ka’ena Corporation, the parent company of consumer mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Mint Mobile, internationally focused value brand Ultra Mobile and wholesale wireless solutions provider Plum. The move, according to the self-proclaimed ‘Un-carrier’, “locks in Mint and Ultra’s connectivity to T-Mobile’s industry-leading 5G network for the long term” and allows them to scale their offerings. Ka’ena’s leadership team, including Mint founders David Glickman and Rizwan Kassim, are joining T-Mobile and will continue to run the brands, which will continue to operate “autonomously but closely aligned to the broader T-Mobile brand and business.” Hollywood actor and majority investor in Mint Mobile, Ryan Reynolds, will “continue in his creative role on behalf of Mint”. “Their focus will be to deliver amazing products, value and digital-first experiences for more prepaid customers in more places,” the company stated. As well as completing the acquisition, T-Mobile US unveiled a series of upgraded plans for current and future customers of Mint and Ultra. The deal was first announced in March 2023 and received the telecom regulator FCC’s blessing last month.

BT Group CEO Allison Kirkby has appointed Stephen Lewis as the telco’s new chief corporate affairs officer with effect from “late summer” this year: He will join BT’s Group Executive Committee and will “assume responsibility for the BT Group brand and group insight team” as well as overall corporate affairs, according to an emailed news alert sent to the media on Thursday. Lewis is currently a senior managing director in the Global Corporate Affairs Group at investment firm Blackstone and has previously held strategic communications roles at KPMG and Barclays. Tom Engel will continue as interim group corporate affairs director until Lewis joins later this year.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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