What’s up with… SK Telecom, Nokia and Red Hat, private networks

  • SK Telecom invests in flying taxi developer
  • Nokia and Red Hat cosy up in the telco cloud
  • IDC dampens private network sector growth expectations

In today’s industry news roundup: SK Telecom takes a stake in Joby Aviation and updates its AI app; Nokia and Red Hat have brokered a significant telco cloud relationship; IDC scales back its private wireless networks sector growth expectations; and more!

South Korean operator SK Telecom, which is keen to position itself primarily as an AI company, has acquired a 2% stake in electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft developer Joby Aviation for US$100m: The two companies had announced a strategic partnership last year focused on the development of systems and technology to support flying taxis, or ‘urban air mobility’ as it is more formally known. According to SK Telecom, the investment “paves the way for Joby to participate alongside SKT in Korea’s K-UAM Grand Challenge, a phased demonstration programme, led by the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, to foster the adoption of aerial ridesharing in Korea.” It will also lead the two companies to explore ways to extend their collaboration into other markets. SK Telecom says it is “actively promoting” the development of urban air mobility and its enablement through “the application of cutting-edge ICT technologies including AI”. Read more.  

Still with SK Telecom… the operator says it has released a major overhaul of its artificial intelligence (AI) service called A. (pronounced A dot) that makes it a “smarter conversational AI” platform, which enables “customers to enjoy various content based on personal tastes and preferences” and engage in conversations with AI-generated characters in a chatroom. Is this the future? In addition, SK Telecom has added a feature called ‘Chat T’ to A. using OpenAI’s ChatGPT. “By asking ‘Chat T’ questions, users can receive rich and informative responses beyond simple answers,” according to the Korean operator. Read more.  

Nokia and Red Hat have struck a quite remarkable partnership that will see the Finnish vendor’s cloud platform (CloudBand), container services and core network application development resources and staff (about 350 employees) transfer to Red Hat, which will integrate the Nokia technology with its OpenStack and Openshift platforms. The big picture argument here is that the telco cloud landscape is increasingly fragmented and there is an growing number of options for network operators as they shift towards a single horizontal cloud infrastructure to support not just their core applications, such as packet core and subscriber data management, but OSS, BSS and IT applications: Nokia has decided that there are too many options to support and that it would be better for everyone, including the network operators, if there was a single, full-stack telco cloud platform with integrated applications that network operators could select – and that option is Nokia plus Red Hat. The two companies insist this isn’t an exclusive relationship – an operator can still run Nokia’s core applications on VMware or Wind River’s cloud infrastructure, for example – but Red Hat is Nokia’s preferred and primary cloud infrastructure partner and it is Red Hat that will take on Nokia’s ongoing telco cloud R&D. This is a major shift (pardon the pun) in the market and it looks like a very bold move… we will report further on this development in the coming days, but in the meantime you can read the official announcement from the partners here.  

Economic and industry headwinds seem to have put a burden on the growth of private LTE and 5G infrastructure and, as a result, IDC has estimated slower-than-expected growth in this space in the upcoming years. The analyst firm predicted that global revenues for private LTE/5G infrastructure will reach $5.2bn in 2027, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21% over the 2023 to 2027 forecast period. In 2022, that figure was just over $1.9bn. “The private cellular networks market continues to show promise, as both LTE and 5G are being rolled out to address enterprise and industrial challenges. Notably, LTE remains a key contributor across both the utilities and mining sectors to provide mobile coverage over large grids,” commented Patrick Filkins, research manager for internet of things and telecom network infrastructure at IDC. At the same time, 5G is beginning to see “more traction” within verticals, such as manufacturing, warehousing and logistics, which are expected to be the main driving forces behind most of the growth in the period to 2027. Read more.

Japanese company NTT has launched its latest hyperscale datacentre campus in India. Dubbed Chennai 2, the “state-of-the-art” facility spans six acres and has a total planned capacity of 34.8 MW critical IT load. This launch takes NTT’s datacentre total in India to 16 facilities. The company has also launched a new subsea cable system, MIST, in the Indian city of Chennai. According to NTT, the system can handle almost 200 Tbit/s of data and it is “the only service provider in India that can offer this unique combination of an interconnected datacentre platform with global connectivity, via MIST, along with a full stack of technology services.” This will provide a “readily available, high-performance hosting infrastructure” and access to its global networks, so that enterprises can extend their digital businesses to overseas markets, it added.

The hot trend of increasing connectivity demand has reached one of the coldest places on the planet… Satellite communications player Viasat has achieved a “key milestone” in its polar mission to deliver high-speed broadband across the Arctic in 2024. In a statement, the satellite company noted that it has completed thermal vacuum testing (simulating space and upper atmosphere conditions, including temperature and altitude) for one of the two satellites, which are part of the Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission. The testing was conducted in collaboration with Space Norway, a Norwegian state-owned company that manages strategic space infrastructure. The mission’s plan is for Viasat to deploy two satellites in a highly elliptical orbit (HEO) above the Earth to deliver “persistent coverage” to users in the far north. The satellites will be the first ones for the newly combined company, following Viasat’s recent acquisition of Inmarsat, that are not situated in geostationary orbit (GEO), as the company branches out into “multi-orbit, cooperative networks to provide seamless global connectivity”. According to Viasat, HEO satellites will bring “a revolutionary upgrade” in coverage in the Arctic Circle region, as demand for communications services keeps growing. “Arctic connectivity is urgent because it supports scientific research, enables new trade routes and underpins strategic government action in a new geopolitical landscape. This project is about developing our networks ahead of that need by providing high-quality mobile broadband services for travel in and out of the Arctic,” noted Guru Gowrappan, Viasat’s president. Find out more.

- The staff, TelecomTV