What’s up with… Twitter, Apple and Google, Pharrowtech

  • Twitter exits Brussels
  • Apple and Google probed by the UK’s competition regulator
  • Wireless chip specialist Pharrowtech beds down in Blighty

In today’s industry news roundup: Twitter’s retreat from Brussels raises concerns; UK competition authority delves deeper into the power wielded by Apple and Google; Belgian mmWave specialist seeks UK engineers; and much more!

Almost a month after Elon Musk took control of Twitter, the beleaguered social media giant has closed its office in Brussels, its main interface with European regulators, after its staff here were either fired or resigned. The move, reports the Financial Times, has sparked concerns that Twitter will abide by the European Union’s increasingly strict rules related to online content. The Brussels office was only small, with just six employees ahead of Musk’s $44bn acquisition, but two of those, Julia Mozer and Dario La Nasa, who were responsible for Twitter’s digital policy in Europe, left last week, according to the FT, and now the office is empty. According to the newspaper, the same scenario has played out in other key markets, such as India and France, where key employees who interacted with national governments have either been fired in the widespread cull of staff or have resigned due to Musk’s heavyhanded demands. Twitter, which has been shedding advertisers and much (if not all) of its remaining credibility, as well as employees, since Elon Musk took over, appears to be in an increasingly parlous state…

Following a consultation that began in June when it published its Mobile Ecosystem Market Study report, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has “launched a market investigation into cloud gaming and mobile browsers after receiving widespread support for its proposals,” the authority announced this week. The June report found that “Apple and Google have an effective duopoly on mobile ecosystems that allows them to exercise a stranglehold over operating systems, app stores and web browsers on mobile devices.” The CMA noted: “Responses to the consultation… reveal substantial support for a fuller investigation into the way that Apple and Google dominate the mobile browser market and how Apple restricts cloud gaming through its App Store. Many of those came from browser vendors, web developers, and cloud gaming service providers who say that the status quo is harming their businesses, holding back innovation, and adding unnecessary costs.” Read more.

Belgian wireless chip developer Pharrowtech, which earlier this year raised €15m in its Series A funding round to help accelerate its work on mmWave hardware and software for applications, such as fixed wireless access and 5G backhaul, is opening a design centre in the UK and is “seeking engineers with skills in digital modem design, real-time embedded software and digital silicon,” the startup noted in this announcement. “The last two years have been a period of rapid progress for us, with product launches, significant investments, and successful trials with leading companies in the wireless industry,” noted CEO and co-founder Wim Van Thillo. “We are now focused on building our world-class global team of experts to fulfil our ambitions and deliver innovative technology that meets the needs of next-generation wireless applications. With its well-established history in wireless systems and silicon design, the UK is an ideal location for the next phase in our growth,” he added. The company is currently in trials with chip manufacturer Renesas and wireless technology test specialist AntenneX.

Today sees the operational inauguration of Europe’s Leonardo pre-exascale supercomputer sited in the Cineca datacentre in the Bologna Technopole, Italy’s massive new international research centre. According to the TOP500 Project, the EU is now home to two of the four most powerful supercomputers in the world. The other is LUMI, in Finland, which became operational in June this year. The numbers involved in pre-exascale supercomputing are mind-boggling. It defines a computing system able to execute more than 100 Petaflops and less than 1 Exaflop. A PetaFlop is equal to 1,000,000,000,000,000 (one quadrillion) floating-point operations per second or FLOPS. The ‘exa’ in exaflop means a ‘quintillion’. That is a billion billion or a 1 followed by 18 zeros. Indiana University in the US explains what that means in this way: “To match what an exaflop computer can do in just one second, an individual would have to perform one calculation every second for 31,688,765,000 years.” The Leonardo system was built by the French multinational IT giant Atos, which notes the Leonardo system is based on 3,500 Intel Xeon processors and 14,000 Nvidia A100 GPUs. According to the EuroHPC JU (high-performance computing joint undertaking), the co-operative initiative between the EU, individual European states and private companies and partners, Leonardo is “specifically well suited for high-intensity computing tasks, such as data processing, high-performance data analytics (HPDA), artificial intelligence and machine learning.” In due course, as it develops, Leonardo will be boosted with quantum processors to ramp up operations to even greater speeds. Ultimately, the aim is to develop a world-class supercomputing ecosystem in Europe. In the near future, all EuroHPC supercomputer facilities and access will be pooled and made available to partner countries, organisations and enterprises via cloud-based services offered through a federated HPC infrastructure with terabit connectivity. In 2023, another European pre-exascale supercomputer will join the ranks when the Mare Nostrum 5 will come online at the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre in Spain. Europe’s supercomputers will be used for the most demanding and difficult applications, including modelling the human brain, biomedicine, materials science and the development of AI. The TOP500 project, which began in 1993, publishes detailed bi-annual rankings of the 500 most powerful non-distributed computer systems in the world. The first annual update always coincides with the International Supercomputing Conference in June each year and the second is presented at the ACM/IEEE Supercomputing Conference in November, so the rankings are very much up to date and current. Europe’s first fully exascale machine is expected to be operational either late next year or in early 2024. The top two rankings in the world right now are HPE’s Frontier exascale machine and Japan’s Fugaku system. And, should you want to move on from exascale, then consider yotta. One up from zetta, yotta is the largest decimal unit prefix in the metric system It represents 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, or one million million million million – which equals one septillion. Boggle, boggle, boggle.

The global market for radio access network (RAN) equipment has shrunk year on year for the second quarter in a row, according to market analysis conducted by the Dell’Oro Group. It says its preliminary findings suggest the “slower momentum” seen in the first half of the year continued during the third quarter of 2022, though it didn’t share a third-quarter value for the market. “After four years of extraordinary growth that catapulted the RAN market to record levels in 2021, the RAN market is now entering a new phase,” noted Stefan Pongratz, vice president at Dell’Oro Group. “Even with 5G still increasing at a healthy pace, comparisons are more challenging and the implication for the broader RAN market is that growth is decelerating,” he added. According to the research firm, the top four vendors outside of China (where Huawei and ZTE dominate) in the third quarter were Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei and Samsung, with Dell’Oro also noting that Nokia had gained market share for the third consecutive quarter. 

 Meanwhile, supply chain issues continue to dog the optical equipment market, with the Dell’Oro team reporting a 6% year-on-year decline in the value of the sector during the third quarter. “The main culprit for this market revenue decline was the lack of component supply needed to make finished goods,” noted Jimmy Yu, vice president at Dell’Oro Group. “Optical vendors have a growing amount of backlog due to higher demand for DWDM equipment but are not able to deliver completed systems when they are short on one component or two. Another factor lowering the market revenue is the strengthening US dollar. Since the market revenue is based on US dollars, most sales in Europe and Asia are converted to fewer US dollars and [this is] reducing the reported market size,” added Yu.

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the US, a big holiday and a big holiday weekend. Almost all businesses will be closed, some for several days, and of those that are open, staffing levels will be reduced to skeleton mode. Indeed, weekend and holiday staffing levels are down by at least 33% on average and in many cases by considerably more, leaving systems substantially more exposed to incursions. It’s not altogether surprising, then, to learn from a new report published by Cybereason, a specialist cybersecurity technology company headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, that enterprises lose more money and assets from cyberattacks that hit over national holidays and weekends than they do if the incursions happen during the working week. What’s more, the bigger the company, the longer it takes to analyse, stop and recover from an attack. Cybereason chose market research consultancy Censuswide of London, England, to survey more than 1,250 cybersecurity professionals between September and October this year. Each respondent worked at medium to large businesses that had suffered one or more ransomware attacks during a holiday or weekend in the previous year. The results show that holiday and weekend cyberattacks are on the rise, with 13% of respondents reporting that their organisations lost more money from a holiday or weekend ransomware or other type of cyberattack than had been the case in 2021. Organisations and enterprises involved in the travel, transportation and education sectors suffered proportionately greater economic impact than other industries. Lior Div, Cybereason’s CEO, said: “The overall success cybercriminals have attacking on holidays and weekends leads to them more aggressively targeting companies during these times as a way to further fuel their criminal empires.” He added that attackers “strike on holidays and weekends because they know companies’ human defences often aren’t as robust at those times. It allows them to evade detection, do more damage and steal more data as security teams scramble to mobilise a response.” Interestingly, but again not altogether surprisingly, educational organisations (where holidays are frequent and summer breaks are long) are the slowest to respond and the most likely to suffer financial losses. The report cites the example of a recent and far-reaching ransomware attack on the Los Angeles Unified School District in California. You mighty think that an attack on a school district wouldn’t be of much significance, but it was. Vice Society, the infamous ransomware group, invaded the school district’s systems at 10.30pm on the Saturday of the Labor Day weekend. Within hours it released about 250,000 files of stolen data, including social security numbers, contracts, tax forms, invoices and passport details, on the dark web. Happy holidays!

France-based telco group Orange plans to create a joint venture (JV) with French bank Banque des Territoires that will develop a digital platform to help local authorities manage and enhance “the value of their territorial data”. Dubbed Hexadone, the JV will provide “a simple and robust, sovereign and secure, open and interoperable digital platform”, which is expected to launch in the first half of 2023, with the goal being to aid authorities’ efforts for a more efficient implementation of a regional data management policy. The platform “will facilitate the aggregation and the quality control of the existing data from local authorities’ information systems, business applications, sensors, open data, public and private ecosystems and citizens” and is expected to enable local authorities to manage their data and use it for decision-making or operational needs, as well as making it available “to other players who contribute to address local needs”. 

The search for renewable and sustainable energy continues. In the Orkney Islands, 20 miles north of the tip of mainland Scotland and across the wild Pentland Firth, lies the comparatively remote and moderately calm waters of Scapa Flow. It is here that a major marine trial of Archimedes Waveswing, a pressure-actuated wave-energy converter, is underway and proving to be a big success. The Waveswing prototype “submerged wave power buoy” is a big yet elegant beast: 7 metres high, 4 metres in diameter and weighing 50 metric tonnes. The brainchild of Inverness, Scotland-headquartered AWS Ocean Energy, Waveswing “reacts to changes in sub-sea water pressure caused by passing [overhead] waves and converts the resulting motion to electricity via a direct-drive generator.” And waves are, of course, endlessly available, endlessly renewable and endlessly sustainable resources. The sea trials are being held under the aegis of a European Marine Energy Centre (EMERC) testing site in Scapa Flow. The body of water is protected from both the North Atlantic and the North Sea by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Hoy. The site is 15 miles long from north to south and 8 miles wide, has a mean depth of 95 feet and is scoured by fast and fierce tides. In the final set of system tests for 2022, the average amount of power the wave energy converter was able to capture and convert to electricity during a period of unspecified but “moderate wave conditions” was in excess of 10 kilowatts (kW) and the peak power achieved was 80kW. Describing the results as “highly encouraging”, AWS Ocean Energy said the technology has also been proven to operate just as well in “more challenging conditions,” including Storm Force 10 and above. New tests will be carried out in 2023 and AWS Ocean Energy CEO, Simon Grey, says the company intends to “develop [Waveswing] platforms hosting up to twenty 500kW units with a potential capacity of 10MW per platform.” Neil Kermode, managing director of the EMEC, added: “It has been great to see the Waveswing deploy, survive and operate at our test site this year. We know there are epic amounts of energy in the seas around the UK and indeed the world. It is really rewarding to see a Scottish company make such progress in harvesting this truly sustainable energy.” The Archimedes Waveswing system is suitable for deployment in water depths in excess of 25 metres as a single buoy or for integration into a multi-absorber structure. A single unit can be configured for ratings between 15kW and 500kW whereas a multi-absorber unit can offer up to 10MW from a single platform. The company says Waveswing is “ideal for remote power applications, such as powering subsea oilfield assets and oceanographic monitoring.” Many other sectors will benefit from the technology, including datacentres (and possibly those belonging to the other, rather larger, AWS…) and potentially submarine network facilities. It’s green up north.

French mobile and fixed broadband service provider Iliad, better known for its brand Free, has signed a commercial agreement with Orange’s towers subsidiary Totem that gives Iliad access to Totem’s 18,500-plus sites (towers and rooftops) in France. Iliad currently reaches 99.8% of the French population with its 4G signals and more than 87% with its 5G services. 

- The staff, TelecomTV

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