What’s up with... Vodafone & Mavenir, Capgemini and Airtel, China Mobile, 5G in Malaysia

  • Vodafone and Mavenir claim Open RAN ‘milestone’
  • Airtel turns to Capgemini for 5G enterprise service inspiration
  • China Mobile preps Hong Kong IPO
  • Malaysia’s 5G plans in turmoil

The latest on Vodafone and Mavenir’s Open RAN small cell efforts, news of a 5G R&D collaboration in India and the ongoing pig’s ear that is Malaysia’s 5G strategy are the first balls out of the news bag today...

Vodafone UK and Mavenir say they have completed the “first data and Voice over LTE (VoLTE) call across a containerised 4G small cell Open RAN solution in a lab environment.” The test is the latest step in the development of “an open and vendor-interoperable 4G connectivity solution for small to medium-sized office locations,” a market that Vodafone is keen on targeting. The pair claim this test is a “demonstration of [a] true containerised Open RAN platform for small cells, a major milestone in the evolution [of] RAN equipment.” That might be something of an overstatement, but it’s useful progress towards an alternative, server- and software-based cellular alternative for SMEs. The duo announced earlier this year that they were working on this development and expected to take the resulting solution to trials before the year’s end: For more on that, see this article from July. For more on the latest developments, see this press release

Major Indian operator Bharti Airtel has teamed up with Capgemini to “bring together their experience in connectivity and 5G solutioning [sic], and System Integration (SI) capabilities, to co-innovate a range of India-focused use cases.” Capgemini’s 5G Lab, situated within its Mumbai campus, and Airtel’s 5G Lab in Manesar will be the development hubs. Two 5G use cases have already been deployed by Capgemini at Airtel’s 5G Lab – one focused on Smart Health and the other on Immersive Remote Assistance for Field Operations and Maintenance. “These use case solutions leverage computer vision, video analytics, augmented reality and AI/ML technologies,” notes Capgemini in this press release

Hong Kong-headquartered China Mobile, the PRC’s biggest mobile wireless service in terms of revenues, is now delisted from the New York Stock Exchange and its long-awaited public flotation has now been given the nod by the Chinese regulator, which means, by extension, that the Chinese government has smiled on the listing on the Shanghai exchange. It will be the biggest IPO in China for 10 years with 845.7 million A-shares up for grabs. The company’s revenues have grown by 11 per cent in the current financial year to US$134 billion. If the IPO hits its target price, plans are to invest further in cloud infrastructure and in 5G including the deployment of another 500,000 base stations by the end of 2023.

There’s trouble in Malaysia, where the mobile operators are rebelling against the plan to have them all share a single national wholesale 5G network. According to Reuters, the country’s six mobile operators met with officials to explain why more than one physical network was needed to ensure healthy competition.  

A bit of an Ulster fry-up. The Audit Office of Northern Ireland has put the cat amongst the pigeons by publicly speculating that a significant part of the £165 million subsidy granted to improve rural broadband across Ulster (and paid out of taxpayer money) was necessary all. The plan, “Project Stratum”, was designed to provide faster broadband access to some 80,000 home and businesses in the rural hinterland that were getting less than 30Mbps services and were absent from the expansion and improvement plans and maps of commercial service providers. BT, the UK’s big, incumbent telco bid for the contract, which, as part of the tender process, required details of the premises that would receive upgraded broadband, but lost out to Belfast-based ISP, Fibrus. However, the proposal from Fibrus committed to covering 97 per cent of the target premises whilst BT’s plan was to connect 100 per cent of them. This meant that about 2,500 premises were omitted when Fibrus won the contract and Northern Ireland’s Department of the Economy has now calculated that to bring enhanced service to them will cost an additional £24 million. Unsurprisingly, questions are now being asked about the extra costs of providing full coverage to all the premises identified in Project Stratum. A few months after Fibrus won the tender, BT announced plans to invest £100 million on expanding 1Gbps broadband in Ulster. Some 16,000 premises in Project Stratum areas (that had been included in BT’s original tender documents), would directly benefit. Given that the purpose of Project Stratum was to provide services to commercially unviable areas, government concern is that, given BT’s intervention, some areas and premises were indeed commercially viable in the first place and thus should not have qualified for public subsidy. The Audit Office report will now be reviewed and considered by the Department of the Economy, but what the end-result may be is anyone’s guess. After all, in its tender documents BT did commit to provide fast broadband to the entire catchment area defined by the Northern Ireland government while Fibrus didn’t. That those area later fell under  BT’s 1Gbps extension programme is just business and  the operator did not benefit from any public subsidy.

Telefónica Deutschland (O2 Germany) says it has for the first time broken the 2 billion barrier for gigabytes of data and hours of voice calls carried over its network in one year. "Consumers' hunger for data continues to be unlimited. Our around 45 million customers are using more mobile data on the move than ever before, for example for music and video streaming," says the operator’s CEO Markus Haas. "We provide them with tariffs with large data packages for this purpose, as well as an increasingly powerful mobile network, in which we are investing around EUR 1.3 billion this year alone for further expansion. Over 99 percent of the population already benefits from our 4G network. Our rapidly growing 5G network will further push data growth in the coming years," added Haas in this press release.

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