What’s up with… Nokia, NTT Docomo, BT

TelecomTV Staff
By TelecomTV Staff

Dec 21, 2023

  • Nokia sells software units for €185m
  • NTT Docomo helps to develop the smellaverse 
  • BT approaches Huawei core tech replacement deadline

In today’s industry news roundup: Nokia is selling its device management and service management platform units to Lumine Group; NTT Docomo and partners have developed technology that could bring olfactory experiences to the metaverse; BT looks set to face financial penalties if it can’t replace Huawei technology in its core network by the end of the year; and more!

As part of its ongoing efforts to restructure its Cloud and Network Services (CNS) division, Nokia has agreed the sale of its device management and service management platform businesses to Lumine Group in a deal valued at €185m. The sale, which is due to be finalised during the first quarter of 2024, will involve the transfer of about 500 staff from Nokia to Lumine, which has been building up a broad portfolio of communications networking software systems as a result of multiple acquisitions for several years. The device management tools help communication service providers (CSPs) remotely manage broadband customer premises equipment (CPE) units and other devices, such as IoT sensors, while the service management platform is used to monitor service performance for customer care purposes: Nokia says the software is being used in more than 150 deployments worldwide. David Sharpley, group president at Lumine Group, noted: “We are absolutely thrilled to welcome device management and service management platform customers and employees to Lumine. Consistent with our autonomous operating model, we will be reviving the heritage Motive brand for this new standalone Lumine company and we look forward to partnering with Nokia to ensure operational continuity with all customers.” As part of the “active portfolio management” of the CNS division, Nokia had previously offloaded its cloud platform (CloudBand), container services and core network application development resources and staff (about 350 employees) transfer to Red Hat, and sold its VitalQIP DDI products to Cygna Labs in May: DDI comprises domain name system (DNS), dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) and IP address management (IPAM) tools.  News of the divestment comes as Nokia seeks ways to cut costs to meet its financial targets: The vendor announced in October that it was cutting up to 14,000 jobs as part of a company-wide restructuring process and was forced to revamp its medium-term financial targets recently following the loss of its radio access network (RAN) business at AT&T

Here’s an odd story that may, one day, have implications for future holiday seasons and perhaps even everyday life. In Japan, mobile operator NTT Docomo, the Miyashita Laboratory of the School of Interdisciplinary Mathematical Sciences, Meiji University and H2L Inc. have announced the development of a new technology that enables taste “information” to be shared between people. Docomo is claiming the technology as a “world first”. It is a somewhat bizarre concept, comprising a sensor that can detect an individual’s perception of taste and turn it into digital data. The data is then fed (if you’ll forgive the pun) to Docomo’s “human-augmentation platform” that “shares” the taste by comparing it to the tastes of many other people whilst taking into account the differences in taste sensitivity exhibited. Finally, that data goes to a “driving” device that synthesises and reproduces a taste “for the enjoyment of others”. The mind actually boggles. A Docomo press release explains that after a specific taste is analysed and quantified, a proprietary algorithm on the human-augmentation platform estimates how the first person perceived the taste via 25 data points, and then the taste is reproduced using the driving device for sharing with others. The driving device reproduces the five basic human taste sensations of sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami using 20 types of base liquids. For related tastes, it uses a “base solution” to ensure tastes that “are difficult to convey in words can be shared more clearly with others.” Docomo says the technology will initially be used to enhance virtual experience “in the metaverse space” thus moving it on from being “a purely visual and auditory world”. It will also be used in combination with film and animation. Back in the 1960s, Smell-O-Vision was a brief fad in cinemas, and involved ‘smells’ (such as baking bread) being released into the auditorium at specific times but it was not a commercial success – in fact, it was an abject failure. Docomo is hoping that 21st century technology might prove more of a hit. The press release has it that, “The inclusion of taste expressions will enable users to enjoy extra-rich content” –  we’re not so sure about that – “and experiences with an unprecedented sense of presence.” Imagine the joys of being able to enjoy the taste of kippers and the scent of a huge mound of ripe durian fruit as your legless avatar floats around in metaspace vainly trying to avoid being stalked by a virtual Mark Zuckerberg. It’s a Wonderful Life…

BT is at risk of being penalised as it appears to be on course to miss its 31 December 2023 deadline to remove all Huawei equipment from its core network. Bloomberg reported that the UK operator is still trying to replace its equipment with a core platform provided by Ericsson, but a spokesperson could not confirm whether the company will meet the deadline. According to the information, if the cut-off is missed, BT could face a fine of as much as 10% of its revenue, or £100,000 for every day it goes beyond the timeline. The use of Huawei gear in 5G radio access networks was banned in the UK in July 2020 over security risks, following a similar crackdown in the US – see UK gives Huawei 5G the order of the boot (for now). The deadline to stop buying new Huawei 5G equipment was 31 December 2020, and all kit produced by Huawei is required to be fully removed from all parts of 5G networks in the UK by the end of 2027. BT has previously extended its deadline to rip out Huawei kit: Following an initial deadline of 28 January 2023, the UK government extended the deadline to 31 December 2023 after BT experienced operational delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to media reports, BT calculated that its rip-and-replace efforts would cost the company £500m.

Further bullish news for the chip sector. After recent Omdia research outlined an uptick in global semiconductor revenue for the third quarter of 2023 driven by AI, now IDC has envisioned growth for 2024. In its latest forecast, the analyst company predicted recovery for semiconductor sales, expecting an annual growth rate of more than 20% in 2024. The market’s upward performance is expected to be driven by “exploding” demand for AI and high-performance computing (HPC), mixed with stabilising demand for smartphones, personal computers, infrastructure and resilient growth in automotive. “The semiconductor supply chain, including design, manufacturing, packaging, and testing, will bid farewell to the downturn in 2023,” said Galen Zeng, senior research manager for semiconductor research at IDC Asia Pacific. As for 2023, the chip sales market is expected to decline by 12% year on year, according to IDC’s calculations. Find out more.

Ookla continues to be a fantastic source of industry broadband service data and service trend analysis. The research firm has just unveiled its latest worldwide connectivity datasets, which show that the median global 5G download speed in the third quarter of this year increased by more than 20% year on year to hit 203.04 Mbit/s, up from 168.27 Mbit/s a year earlier, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) claiming the 5G speed crown from South Korea. In the fixed broadband sector, the median download speed of 83.95 Mbit/s in the third quarter was 19% better than a year earlier, while the median upload speed of 38.32 Mbit/s was a 28% enhancement. The UAE came top of the fixed broadband speed chart too, followed by Singapore.  

Ookla also released a fascinating analysis of the US fixed wireless access (FWA) market, where some of the major mobile players have attracted millions of customers to their relatively low-cost broadband services, especially in areas where fixed-line alternatives (cable, DSL, fibre) are not available. While FWA services have long been available in many markets, the enhanced service possibilities afforded by the use of 5G spectrum have prompted many operators in markets all over the world to launch new or improved FWA services, with the US market at the forefront of developments, noted Ookla lead industry analyst Mark Giles. T-Mobile US and Verizon are leading the way, having signed up 4.2 million and almost 2.7 million FWA customers by the end of the third quarter respectively, and their FWA download speeds are impressive with both service providers hitting an average of around 122 Mbit/s in the third quarter. Giles examined the US FWA market in detail, including the impact this is having on the cable broadband players – his report is recommended reading! 

Rakuten Symphony, the vendor offshoot of Japanese operator Rakuten Mobile, has conducted a demonstration of RAN intelligent controller (RIC) multi-vendor connectivity at Rakuten Mobile’s testing environment. It showed that “RICs can be used to manage RAN efficiency and reduce overall network power consumption not only in beyond 5G networks but also in 4G Open RAN networks”. Rakuten Symphony’s findings confirm that open radio access networks comprising multiple vendors could be “intelligently controlled” by following instructions from the RIC application. Optimising the network according to traffic conditions and other factors can result in improved Open RAN performance, as well as more efficient and energy-saving network operations, the vendor added.

There are now 2,900 private LTE/5G networks deployed globally (including trials and pilots), according to a new report from Berg Insight. It forecasts that between now and the end of 2028, the number of private LTE/5G networks will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 33% and there will be 11,900 networks in place by the start of 2029. The report adds that “a meaningful number of private LTE network deployments will also be upgraded to 5G, starting in the next two to three years” but does not specify what a “meaningful number” might actually be. 

- The staff, TelecomTV

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