What’s up with… Verizon and Vonage, Ericsson, XpFibre

TelecomTV Staff
By TelecomTV Staff

Feb 9, 2024

  • Verizon to offer network APIs via Vonage platform
  • Ericsson unveils AI-enabled network operations system
  • Bidders line up for Drahi’s XpFibre

In today’s industry news roundup: Verizon plans to make its network APIs available via Ericsson’s Vonage platform; Ericsson unveils an automated intent-based network operations platform; investment firms are queuing up to bid for the XpFibre network assets of Patrick Drahi’s Altice France; and much more! 

Vonage, the cloud-based communications platform business that Ericsson acquired for $6.2bn in July 2022 and which is developing a global network API platform that the Swedish vendor believes is critical to its long-term future, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with giant US telco Verizon that signals their intention to “introduce Verizon network application programming interfaces (APIs) to the Vonage platform that will enable the developer community to access network services and capabilities,” the companies have announced. Vonage and Verizon will also collaborate on the development of new network APIs around which developers can create new applications. “As we evolve our API journey, we welcome collaboration with companies like Vonage who share our passion to make network capabilities available to developers for the advancement of the connected world,” stated Srini Kalapala, senior vice president of technology and product development at Verizon. “Working with global partners to make network capabilities available on a wider scale will provide exceptional value for enterprises and consumers,” added Kalapala. Seckin Arikan, head of communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) and global network platform (GNP) sales at Vonage, stated: “Vonage’s collaboration with Verizon will represent another key milestone in the execution of Ericsson’s strategy to create a global network platform business by enabling the company to offer network APIs in the US market. With a mature platform in place, Vonage is uniquely positioned to aggregate Verizon APIs into an intuitive and consumable format that can be readily adopted by developers. Together with frontrunner operators such as Verizon, Vonage is excited to bring new, next-generation network APIs to market.” The news comes only days after MásMóvil teamed up with Singtel to deploy Paragon, the Singapore-based telco’s all-in-one platform for 5G multi-access edge computing (MEC), and cloud orchestration that will enable the Spanish operator to offer network slicing, APIs and as-a-service applications to its enterprise and government customers – see MásMóvil sees 5G virtue in Singtel’s Paragon.

Ericsson is making strides in the fast-developing AI arena with the launch of AI-powered intent-based operations designed to enable “differentiated premium 5G services” for consumers and enterprises. The solution, within the vendor’s managed services Ericsson Operations Engine, will deliver an end-to-end framework to “translate business requirement intents into real-time network actions,” the company explained in a press release announcing the move. Additionally, the Ericsson Operations Engine (which is an AI-driven solution designed to streamline managed services) will leverage “one of the largest telco AI and automation use case libraries” and will be able to recommend and take required actions, check network intents are met and support evaluation of solution options. The Swedish vendor said that its new technology enables a broader variety of applications and use cases. As advanced 5G services, such as network slicing, roll out, scale and “grow more complex”, telcos will need a new generation of operating models to monetise configurable services with “detailed agreements on functional and non-functional characteristics,” noted Ericsson. The AI intent-based operations are tipped to “seamlessly support self-optimising networks that are driven by intent and hyper-automation,” and they can dynamically adapt for increased service demand variability. Ericsson is to introduce the technology following customer deployment trials with Malaysia’s wholesale 5G network operator, Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB). The telco’s CTO, Ken Tan, argued that the continued adoption of Ericsson’s new solution enables the operator to “scale the network without incremental cost, which is essential for making 5G affordable and available for consumers and enterprises, as Malaysia continues to adopt digitalisation.”

Investment company KKR and financial services firm Macquarie Group are reported to be among the shortlisted companies bidding for XpFibre, a French fibre infrastructure wholesale operator owned by billionaire Patrick Drahi’s Altice. Other potential suitors include pension fund Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec and private equity firm Global Infrastructure Partners, Bloomberg has reported (available without a subscription via BNN Bloomberg). It added that the discussions might not result in a deal and that the list of bidders could be joined by other interested parties in the future. According to Bloomberg, Altice owns 50.01% in XpFibre, while the remaining stake is held by a consortium, majority-led by OMERS Infrastructure. The report comes after news in September 2023 that Altice was striving to sell a range of its assets in order to cut the telecom, cable and media group’s staggering debt pile of around $60bn. At the time, the company was reportedly getting close to securing a €1bn deal for the sale of its French datacentres to Morgan Stanley, was on course to sell assets in Portugal (including Altice Portugal, which had reportedly received three acquisition offers in December 2023), and was exploring the option of selling a stake in SFR, the second-largest communications service provider in France. The company is under investigation in Portugal over a corruption scandal that erupted in July 2023 involving Altice group’s co-founder, Armando Pereira.

AI-generated robocalls are now illegal in the US. The nation’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has ruled that, with effect from 8 February, the use of voice-cloning technology (often used in common robocall scams that are targeted at consumers) is unlawful, and described calls made with AI-generated voices as “artificial”. This decision enables state attorneys general across the US to penalise “bad actors behind these nefarious robocalls”, the authority stated. “Bad actors are using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to extort vulnerable family members, imitate celebrities, and misinform voters. We’re putting the fraudsters behind these robocalls on notice,” said FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. FCC has stepped up its fight against this type of call after seeing a rise in the past few years and having expressed concerns that this technology “has the potential to confuse consumers with misinformation” by imitating the voices of celebrities, political candidates and family members. The commission’s ban on AI-generated robocalls comes as voice security and caller ID protection company, Hiya, published a report on the state of phone spam and fraud, which estimates that unsolicited calls increased by nearly a billion in the final quarter of 2023 (7.3 billion unwanted calls globally, compared with 6.55 billion in the third quarter). This means that there were 81.1 million unwanted calls per day in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to the company’s findings. “Phone fraud and spam is a growing, global problem from which no phone user is immune. All members of the telecom community, from carriers to vendors, must work together to increase consumer confidence in the phone as being safe and trustworthy. A failure to accomplish this goal would result in a breakdown of the world’s most longstanding communication tool,” argued Kush Parikh, president of Hiya.

Nokia Technologies, the intellectual property (IP) arm of the giant Finnish vendor, has concluded the final smartphone patent licensing agreement that had, until now, still been under negotiation (though it hasn’t identified the name of the licensee). The deal means that Nokia Technologies has signed seven major smartphone patent licence agreements over the past 13 months: In the past few weeks alone, Nokia has signed deals with Vivo, Oppo and Honor and had previously struck deals with Apple, Huawei and Samsung. As a result, Nokia Technologies now has “concluded its smartphone patent licence renewal cycle which began in 2021… [and] will now enter a period of stability with no major smartphone agreements expiring for a number of years.” It also means that Nokia Technologies now has an “annual net sales run-rate (contracted recurring net sales) of approximately €1.3bn,” excluding catchup revenues that will be paid to cover the periods when smartphone companies were using Nokia’s IP after previous licences had expired. For the first quarter of 2024, Nokia Technologies is due to report catchup revenues of €400m. It is also seeking to expand its business by striking patent licence deals with companies active in the internet of things (IoT), consumer electronics, automotive and other industry sectors. Read more

Five satellite players have joined forces to establish the Mobile Satellite Services Association (MSSA) in an bid to advance and scale the emerging direct-to-device (D2D) ecosystem for integrating satellite connectivity into consumer mobile devices. The founding companies of the non-profit association are Viasat, Terrestar Solutions, Ligado Networks, Omnispace and Al Yah Satellite Communications (Yahsat). One of MSSA’s goals is to develop a global ecosystem using more than 100MHz of L-band and S-band spectrum that has already been allocated and licensed for mobile satellite services. The new entity also plans to align with 3GPP standards to extend terrestrial mobile coverage for both mobile operators and over-the-top (OTT) internet services. In its statement, the association noted that the use of licensed spectrum for mobile satellite services will enable existing space networks to “immediately offer” narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) services. Other benefits include the lack of interference with terrestrial networks and more spectrum to advance 5G new radio (5G-NR) services. MSSA plans to form a D2D ecosystem, consisting of terrestrial mobile and satellite operators, OEMs, chip vendors and others. “Integrating satellite connectivity into consumer mobile devices is a transformative opportunity for the satellite industry. As a coalition of leaders with a unified voice, MSSA will be a driving force in making this new marketplace a reality, while respecting the rights of nations to meaningfully engage and retain sovereignty in a rapidly growing space economy,” noted Mark Dankberg, chairman of MSSA, and chairman and CEO of Viasat.

India’s government has approved a new spectrum auction process that will see 10.5GHz of mobile airwave capacity across multiple bands sold for a minimum of 963.2bn Indian rupees ($11.6bn). The spectrum up for grabs is in the 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz, 3300 MHz and 26 GHz bands. The government is also considering the potential for spectrum refarming, which allows operators to run different generations of mobile technology on the same airwaves. The big question for this auction is how much appetite there will be from India’s operator community to splash more cash on these assets: The only two companies with deep pockets are Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel and both have just invested billions in rolling out their 5G networks, while Vodafone Idea is in dire financial straits right now. Whenever the auction takes place, it’ll be interesting to see just how badly the operators need more capacity and how much they’ll be prepared to further invest.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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