What’s up with… Vantage Data Centers, T-Systems, AI at CES

TelecomTV Staff
By TelecomTV Staff

Jan 10, 2024

  • Vantage Data Centers banks $6.4bn for further expansion
  • T-Systems teams up with quantum computing specialist AQT
  • AI fever sweeps CES

In today’s industry news roundup: Vantage Data Centers lands $6.4bn to fund the further buildout of hyperscale facilities across North America and EMEA; Deutsche Telekom’s T-Systems teams up with a quantum computing specialist to offer its enterprise customers early access to next-generation processing; the CES event in Las Vegas is, as expected, awash with AI developments from the likes of Siemens, Samsung, Intel and Nvidia; and much more! 

Vantage Data Centers, neutral host datacentre operator that already runs 32 major campuses across the world, has raised $6.4bn from investment firms DigitalBridge Group (the company’s main investor) and Silver Lake (its original founder) to “accelerate and extend Vantage’s strategic capabilities across North America and EMEA to partner with global hyperscalers in meeting unprecedented cloud and AI demand.” The funding, which is in addition to the €1.5bn invested in Vantage’s EMEA business by AustralianSuper last September, will be used to plan and build additional datacentre facilities at ​​some of the existing 25 sites in North America and EMEA that Vantage already owns or controls. “We are delighted that Silver Lake is joining DigitalBridge to support Vantage’s continued expansion across North America and EMEA,” stated Sureel Choksi, president and CEO of Vantage Data Centers. “Cloud computing, AI and related technologies are driving unprecedented demand for digital infrastructure. The market opportunity in front of us is extraordinary, and we are excited to chart our next phase of growth with two premier investors who have been great partners to us and have an unmatched understanding of our global technology customers and their infrastructure needs,” he added. The resulting construction will add yet more capacity to the already enormous, but still growing, global datacentre sector: By mid-2023 there were 926 hyperscale datacentre facilities in operation, with a further 427 in the construction pipeline, according to the team at the Synergy Research Group, which tracks this market very closely. 

Deutsche Telekom (DT) has announced that customers of its T-Systems Quantum Cloud platform will be able to access quantum computers from AQT (Alpine Quantum Technologies). According to DT, AQT is considered a European market leader in building ion trap-based quantum computers, which are characterised by a “high quality” of calculations. The solution will be provided by DT’s enterprise services division, T-Systems, which will also offer consulting services. Under the terms of the agreement, customers of the telco will be able to develop quantum use cases on AQT’s quantum computers via cloud access, and enterprises will be able to make “an easy entry into quantum computing with ready-made programming modules”. “We identified quantum computing early on as a critical key technology for the future. The first customers are already live on the T-Systems Quantum Cloud and the cooperation with AQT expands their possibilities – on a sovereign, European infrastructure”, noted Jörn Kellermann, SVP of global portfolio and technology excellence at T-Systems. The pair believe their partnership will boost Europe’s standing in the field of quantum computing. Read more.

Siemens has used the stage of giant consumer tech show CES 2024 to announce innovations that advance “the industrial metaverse”. In one move, the German conglomerate joined forces with Japanese tech giant Sony to develop a way to enable immersive engineering. The solution, which is expected to launch later this year, is tipped to “kickstart content creation for the industrial metaverse”. In another development, Siemens is working with cloud computing giant Amazon Web Services (AWS) to make it easier for businesses of any size and industry to build and scale GenAI applications. To achieve this, it has integrated Amazon Bedrock – a service that offers foundation models from AI companies via a single API – with Mendix, a low-code platform that is part of the portfolio by Xcelerator, Samsung’s open business platform. Find out more.

AI dominated the agenda on the first day of CES 2024, with numerous companies demonstrating the technology’s applications and unveiling innovations powered by it. Samsung announced its ‘AI for All’ vision that will underpin its devices portfolio, including its “most AI-ready laptop series yet”, the Galaxy Book4, which was showcased at the event. Hewlett-Packard (HP) presented its AI-powered Spectre laptops, which come with a new suite of adaptive features, such as dynamic refresh rates, reduced energy consumption and quicker turnaround for GenAI workloads. Intel made several major announcements related to its ‘AI Everywhere’ strategy in the automotive market, including a new family of AI-enhanced software-defined vehicle (SDV) systems-on-chips (SoCs) for power and performance scalability, which are set to enable “the most desirable in-vehicle AI use cases”, such as driver and passenger monitoring. Intel also revealed plans to acquire Silicon Mobility, a fabless silicon and software company that specialises in SoCs for the intelligent energy management of electric vehicles (EVs). Nvidia, the leading developer of the technology that enables GenAI applications, also took the opportunity to showcase its latest innovations in the area: During CES, it introduced a new series of its GeForce graphics processing units (GPUs) that pledge enhanced gaming and GenAI performance. The company also showed off “a new wave” of AI-ready laptops and GenAI tools.

The European Commission is taking a closer look at competition levels in the fields of generative AI (GenAI) and virtual worlds. Interested parties have until 11 March 2024 to submit their experiences and provide feedback on how competition law can help ensure these new markets “remain competitive”. The commission has also directly requested information from “several large digital players”. The governing body said it will also investigate the impact on the market of “some of the agreements that have been concluded between large digital market players and generative AI developers and providers”. Finally, the commission will also be checking whether Microsoft’s $1bn investment in OpenAI from 2019 “might be reviewable under the EU Merger Regulation”. Margrethe Vestager, EVP of the European Commission in charge of competition policy, emphasised that it is “fundamental” that the markets of virtual worlds and GenAI stay competitive, and that “nothing stands in the way of businesses growing and providing the best and most innovative products to consumers.” She added that businesses and experts are welcome to share their views on any competition issues, and that the commission is “closely monitoring AI partnerships to ensure they do not unduly distort market dynamics.”

Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison (IOH) has agreed to sell its datacentre and edge sites portfolio to BDx Indonesia, a joint venture between the telco, BDx Data Centers and IT service management company Lintasarta, in a 2.6tn Indonesian rupiah (US$167m) deal. The move, which is “poised to revolutionise Indonesia’s digital landscape”, will see BDx Indonesia acquiring a portfolio of carrier-neutral colocation and edge sites in numerous Indonesian cities, including Jakarta, Surabaya, Batam, Medan, Makassar, Bandung and Semarang. The deal covers 10 “strategic sites” connected to six domestic and five international subsea cables. Upon completion of the deal, BDx Indonesia will have more than 150 megawatts in total capacity, in addition to a new 15 megawatt facility that is under construction near Jakarta, a 100 megawatt hyperscale campus in East Jakarta, and edge sites in all main islands of Indonesia. The takeover builds upon a partnership between Indosat and BDx that was agreed in 2022 to establish Indonesia’s “premier datacentre operation” and support the government’s digitalisation goals. BDx Indonesia, which has secured loans from three domestic banks for the transaction, currently runs four data centres in the cities of Jakarta and West Java. IOH’s president director and CEO, Vikram Sinha, explained that the deal propels the company’s evolution from telco to techco. “Collaborating with BDx Indonesia not only enhances our customer service but also reinforces our commitment to connecting and empowering every Indonesian,” he added. Find out more.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Programme, which began in 2020 and provides funding to US network operators for the replacement of “communications equipment and services in their networks that pose national security risks” (ie. technology supplied by Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE) is still progressing at a snail’s pace. You wouldn’t know that, though, from the opening lines of the FCC’s latest reimbursement programme report, which state that the agency is “pleased to report that Reimbursement Program recipients continue to progress with their plans to permanently remove, replace, and dispose of covered communications equipment and services. As of the date of this report, five Reimbursement Program recipients have filed final certifications with the Bureau indicating they have permanently removed, replaced, and disposed of all covered communications equipment and services that were in their networks as of the date they submitted their application to the Reimbursement Program. The Bureau expects this number to increase by the time it submits the next report.” Well, one would hope that the number would soon increase from just five because, as of early October last year, the FCC had approved rip-and-replace funding for 112 network operators, which have deadlines ranging until 23 September 2024 to rid their systems of the Chinese vendors’ gear, and by 29 December last year the commission had $396.5m in reimbursement claims. It’s worth noting, too, that the FCC’s total rip-and-replace budget remains at $1.9bn, despite FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel having asked the US Congress to increase the pot to almost $5bn to cover the total being requested by US operators that have signed up for the scheme. It seems, though that others have completed the process but just not filed all of the paperwork: The FCC estimates that about 10% of funding recipients have rid themselves of Huawei and ZTE gear but that 90% “have made some progress in their overall removal, replacement, and disposal plan but have not completed this work.” The holdups are due to the same reasons cited a year ago – namely “lack of funding, supply chain delays, labour shortages and weather-related challenges.” The lack of funding is a result of the remaining shortfall of almost $3.1bn between the available funds and the costs cited by the operators – as the FCC has shared the funds across all eligible operators, “recipients received allocations covering roughly 39.5% of the cost estimates in their applications that were deemed reasonable and supported,” and are required the find the rest of the money from elsewhere to meet their deadlines. The FCC noted: “Roughly 47% of recipients indicated in their most recent status updates that lack of funding continues to be an obstacle to completing the permanent removal, replacement, and disposal of the covered communications equipment and services in their networks in their entirety.” Previously, funding shortfalls had been cited as a hurdle by 39% of recipients. And here’s the crunch… 19% of those that have received funds have told the FCC they won’t be able to complete the rip-and-replace process unless they get more government cash. The FCC will report again on the funding programme’s progress on 8 July, but unless Congress stumps up more cash, it looks like there’s going to be Chinese network technology running at least some US telecom services for some time yet.   

News from two of the leading digital support systems (DSS) vendors, which includes our first mention this year of the upcoming Mobile World Congress (gird those loins, everyone)… Amdocs is already highlighting what it’s going to be showing off in Barcelona by unveiling CPQ Pro, which it describes as next-generation configure-price-quote software, which enables communications service providers (CSPs) to offer advanced enterprise services for all business types by leveraging generative AI capabilities.” The solution integrates the vendor’s generative AI (GenAI) platform, the wonderfully named amAIz, and “aligns with [the] Amdocs strategy of advancing generative AI co-pilot use cases across the communications industry, bringing reduced time to market, enhanced efficiency, and next-level customer experience through service differentiation across its products and services portfolio.” For further details, see this press release. Meanwhile Netcracker technology, a key rival of Amdocs, has expanded its relationship with Thailand’s biggest mobile operator, Advanced Info Service (AIS), which is to use Netcracker’s cloud-based Revenue Management system for all of its billing processes. The move will provide AIS with a “consolidated view on sales and revenue, the ability to bundle products, and an overall improved customer experience,” according to the vendor. Suppachai Panichayunon, head of the solutions business unit at AIS, stated: “Having a converged billing platform that conforms to an industry-aligned architecture and supports different deployment models and [has] the ability to test and roll out new products and offers will give us a significant advantage in our market.” Read more.

Neville Ray, the former T-Mobile US president of technology who retired after 23 years at the operator, has joined the board of directors at digital media and internet company Ziff Davis. His appointment, effective immediately, comes almost a year after his departure from the US telco was announced. “Neville’s extensive experience deploying wireless networks and overseeing technology operations at top companies in the telecom industry make him a valuable addition to our board,” said Ziff Davis CEO Vivek Shah. Ray expressed excitement to work with the Ziff Davis team “across its impressive roster of brands”, which include computer magazine PCMag, news website Mashable, provider of network intelligence and connectivity insights Ookla, and multiple other brands in the areas of technology, connectivity, gaming, health and cybersecurity. Read more.

Etisalat by e&, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) telco that is part of the broader e& group, has teamed up with Cisco to “collaborate on advanced connectivity solutions and services for businesses in the UAE”. As part of the relationship, Etisalat and Cisco will work together to develop a broad range of consultancy services for “various commercial segments, such as business continuity, disaster recovery,  tech-refresh framework, and sustainable tech-enabled solutions,” the partners noted in a press release. Etisalat by e& CEO Masood M. Sharif Mahmood noted: “This MoU marks an important step in our vision to create a more connected and sustainable UAE... Through our collaboration with Cisco, we endeavour to deliver pioneering connectivity and managed services solutions that enable our clients’ digital transformation journeys, and contribute to the success of their business objectives.” 

- The staff, TelecomTV

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