What’s up with... Huawei, Open RAN in Brazil, Qualcomm

TelecomTV Staff
By TelecomTV Staff

Aug 6, 2021

  • Huawei’s H1 sales take a 29% hit
  • US piles on Open RAN pressure in Brazil
  • Qualcomm sparks bidding war for ADAS specialist

Huawei’s shifting fortunes and the related links between political pressure and communications networking choices lead the way in today’s industry roundup.  

Huawei has reported revenues of 320.4 billion Chinese Yuan ($49.4 billion) for the first six months of this year, a 29.4% drop from the same period in 2020, mainly due to the cataclysmic 47% year-on-year decline in smartphone sales to CNY135.7 billion ($20.93 billion) caused, directly and indirectly, by US trade restrictions. The Chinese vendor’s Carrier business unit also reported lower sales, down by 14.2% to CNY136.9 billion ($21.1 billion), but the Enterprise business grew its revenues by more than 18% to CNY42.9 billion ($6.62 billion). Current rotating Chairman Eric Xu stated that the aim is to "survive” the next five years and “do so sustainably,” adding that while the “consumer” (device) business is in decline, Huawei hopes to grow its Carrier and Enterprise businesses. Read more.   

The US authorities are aiming to unseat Huawei and install American Open RAN technology at the heart of Brazil’s communications networks, it seems, with US national security adviser Jake Sullivan meeting Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro to discuss security issues and also meeting “representatives of Brazilian government agencies and technology companies developing future telecommunications networks... [to discuss] using Open RAN technology in future 5G networks in Brazil, as well as the importance of information security,” reports Reuters. Open RAN looks like it might be a real option in Brazil, with multiple telecoms and tech firms – including Brazil’s Telecommunications Research and Development Center (CPQD), Cisco, IBM, NEC, Nokia and Qualcomm – forming an industry lobby group earlier this year called ‘Open Ran do Brasil’ according to Bnamericas. Nokia has already been busy working on Open RAN options for Brazil with CPQD: See Nokia spies Open RAN opportunity in Brazil.

Qualcomm has sparked a bidding war for Veoneer with a takeover bid worth $4.6 billion ($37 per share) for the Swedish ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) technology specialist. “As the automotive industry continues to transform, it is becoming increasingly important for automakers to have a partner who develops horizontal platforms that drive innovation and enable competition. The proposed acquisition will bring together our industry-leading automotive solutions with Veoneer’s assisted driving assets to deliver a competitive and open ADAS platform to automakers and Tier 1 suppliers at scale,” said Cristiano Amon, president and CEO of Qualcomm. But the wireless chip giant isn’t the only one interested in acquiring Veoneer, which received and accepted a $3.8 billion bid from Canadian auto parts specialist Magna International a few weeks ago. Veoneer’s board has said it will evaluate Qualcomm’s proposal. For more on Qualcomm’s bid, see this announcement.

In the UK, the digital divide is narrowing but remains a real problem in remote and rural areas where deployment of cable is geographically challenging and economically unfeasible. Way out in the sticks, the most common solution is satellite broadband, and the latest figures show that in excess of 1 million people (that’s hundreds of thousands of rural homes and small businesses) are now connected to such services. That’s the upside. The downside is that 1 million more would opt for broadband access via satellite were it not for the cost of service set-up and high monthly bills. At least 200,000 UK homes, the majority of which are in remote areas, still have to put up with Internet access speeds of below (and often well below) the 10Mbit/s that UK regulator Ofcom designates as a minimally acceptable basic connection. According to uSwitch.com the popular, free, online and phone-based comparison and switching service for consumers, it costs up to £500 per household to set-up a satellite dish and broadband link. It’s a price that two-thirds of potential remote and rural subscribers cannot afford to pay. Interestingly, the uSwitch report points out that while the average monthly cost of cable Internet access for urban and suburban customers is £33.60, for those in rural areas the price is lower at £29.70 per month. Nonetheless, given the lower wages paid in such areas, the price of connectivity is still too high. Another frequently-cited concern, by 46 per cent of potential subscribers, is that extreme weather conditions, especially winter winds, rain and snowfalls, can adversely affect satellite broadband to the point that it can be almost unusable for days and weeks on end. A lot of hopes are riding on the arrival of Elon Musk’s Starlink service.

The global Artificial Intelligence (AI) spend is predictably set for multi-billion growth over the next two years at least, according to IDC’s Worldwide Semiannual Artificial Intelligence Tracker. Software, hardware, and services are estimated to grow 15.2% year-over-year in 2021 to hit $341.8 billion. Further acceleration is expected in 2022 when the growth rate is projected to hit 18.8%. The $500 billion mark will be reached by 2024, it says.

That China Telecom, one of the Chinese carriers barred from the New York Stock Exchange by the US authorities for being under the influence of the Chinese government, is planning to raise money in China instead is hardly a surprise: It said it would. What seems to have surprised the markets is that the 47.1 billion yuan ($7.3 billion) listing in Shanghai is set to be the world’s biggest so far this year, according to Bloomberg, even exceeding the Hong Kong IPO by TikTok rival, Kuaishou Technology. Analysts say the China Telecom listing will help the operator diversify its financing channels, helping it play a major role in China’s ambitious 5G network rollout programme where it will invest in an Industrial 5G platform, fund cloud-network integration, and other R&D efforts. Not that China Telecom is finding it easy to raise that sort of money. It initially wanted to net a larger amount and, according to Bloomberg, the planned sale of 10.4 billion ‘A’ shares is down from the 12.1 billion it had said it would initially sell. But analysts think the telco can exercise an over-allotment option and raise as much as CNY54.2 billion from the sale, according to a statement to the exchange.

Dutch national operator KPN is putting its money where its green mouth is by striking a deal for a €1 billion line of credit that has its interest rate linked to the telco’s sustainability performance for the term of the financial agreement. KPN announced this year it has a target to achieve ‘net zero’ emissions in its operations and ecosystem by 2040. Read more.

Digitalisation may be motoring ahead but while consumers often spend quite a lot of time browsing the Internet in search of new digital devices, a growing minority still prefer to go out to a bricks and mortar store to see and handle the real thing before buying. So says “Decoding the Digital Home”, the fourth chapter of a long-term, ongoing consumer study by the big consultancy company EY. Some 31 per cent of all consumers like to see digital devices in reality rather than just in cyberspace and that figure rises to 34 per cent for the under-35 years age group. The overall percentage is rising as Covid-19 lockdowns ease and people can move around more. The report also shows that consumer awareness of the latest products and services is surprisingly low. Just 43 per cent of households understand the features of smart home products while only 37 per cent understand the benefits of 5G mobile. What’s more, 33 per cent of households admit to finding communications services very difficult to understand and more than 40 per cent can’t differentiate between the services offered by broadband providers. Interestingly, consumers distrust, and tend to shun, digital customer support services such as chatbots instead preferring (if that’s the right word) to contact a customer call centre and hopefully and eventually speak with a human agent. Perceived technological complexity is also a major problem with 39 per cent of those surveyed in the EY study stating that they are not confident setting up a smart appliance, and 26 per cent complaining that setting up and managing TV apps is difficult and frustrating. Navigating service provider websites is also a pain to many users with 20 per cent saying a mobile provider’s website or app is difficult to navigate while 23 per cent complain that a broadband provider’s website or app is hard to understand and use. Surprisingly, this rises to 31 per cent and 30 per cent respectively amongst supposedly tech-savvy 18-24 year-olds. Commenting on the report, Adrian Baschnonga, EY Global Telecommunications Lead Analyst said, “Consumers lack confidence setting up and managing connectivity and content services, while interacting with service provider apps and websites is a painful experience for many, with younger users particularly exposed. Connectivity providers must help their customers become more self-reliant by offering clearer guidance on how to install services and manage their preferences. Failure to do so will undermine satisfaction and increase the risk of churn.” 

Cambridge 1, the UK’s most powerful supercomputer to date, has gone live. Among its first tasks, in the time of Covid, is the processing of healthcare and pharmaceutical data to speed up genome sequencing and the discovery of new drugs to help treat dementia and multiple sclerosis. Cambridge 1, which has cost £50 million to date, is sited in the town of Harlow in Essex and housed at Koa Data, a co-location company that specialises in life-sciences. Companies supporting Cambridge 1 include the pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the DNA laboratory Oxford Nanopore Technologies, King’s College London university and the world-famous Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust hospitals. Cambridge 1 is based on and around the Nvidia DGX SuperPod system which is a cloud-native, multi-tenant AI system able to deliver 400 petaflops of AI performance and 8 petaflops of Linpack performance. The Linpack Benchmark is a measure of a computer's floating-point rate of execution. It is determined by running a computer program that solves a dense system of linear equations. Cambridge 1’s facilities can be securely shared across entire teams of researchers and developers. It is powered by highly energy-efficient and powered entirely from renewable sources.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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