What’s up with… Bharti Airtel, FCC, Connexin

TelecomTV Staff
By TelecomTV Staff

Jul 18, 2022

  • Bharti Airtel breaks its 5G private wireless duck
  • FCC highlights rip-and-replace fund shortfall
  • Connexin kickstarts broadband consolidation in north-east England

In today’s industry news roundup: Bharti Airtel opens its 5G private network sector innings; the FCC says billions more dollars will be needed to rip and replace all the Huawei and ZTE gear in US networks; the US regulator also wants to increase the minimum broadband speed threshold; broadband network consolidation is underway in north-east England; and more! 

Bharti Airtel touted the deployment of what it claims is the first 5G private network in India as part of a trial with engineering giant Bosch. Conducted at Bosch Automotive Electronics India (RBAI) facility in Bengaluru, the test was using trial 5G spectrum allocated by the government to implement two industrial use cases for improved quality and operational efficiency at the manufacturing site. The operator has found that 5G technology has driven automated operations while “ensuring faster scale-up and reduced downtimes”. Bharti Airtel claims that its 5G Captive Private Network can manage thousands of connected devices while delivering “greater reliability, enhanced security and huge flexibility”. Airtel Business CEO Ajay Chitkara expressed confidence that the Indian operator “has the world-class infrastructure, partnerships and expertise to deliver Captive Private Network Solution in any part of the country and to enterprise of any size.” The trial is part of its #5GforBusiness initiative, which aims to demonstrate 5G use cases for enterprises through big-name partnerships. Find out more.

The head of the US telecom regulator says there is a $3bn shortfall in funding for the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program. The scheme enables US network operators to claim compensation from the federal government for ripping out and replacing technology sourced from the Chinese vendor Huawei and ZTE, which have been designated a risk to US national security. On 15 July, Jessica Rosenworcel, chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), wrote to Senator Maria Cantwell, chair of the US government’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, to point out that the value of valid reimbursement claims from US operators totals $4.98bn, “reflecting a current shortfall of $3.08bn,” given that $1.9bn had been allocated to the fund previously. It’s worth noting that the Rural Wireless Association stated last year that the $1.9bn was never going to be enough to fulfil the US government’s wishes. Rosenworcel notes that the FCC will now go ahead and start allocating its current available funds to the operators, but that they will get less than 40% of the funds they need to replace the Chinese gear. What will the US government do? It’s desperate to rid the country of what it regards as a major security risk but the cost estimations have been way off target and, it’s worth noting, that inflation is going to make the cost of replacing Chinese technology more expensive as the months drag on. This leaves the network operators in an awkward position too. Let’s face it, this Huawei/ZTE saga is unlikely to ever end – operators will continue to discover Chinese technology in their networks for years, maybe even decades, to come. 

Still with the FCC… Rosenworcel has raised her voice about the need to increase the national standard for minimum broadband speeds. In a notice to her colleagues at the FCC, Rosenworcel suggested that the standard should be increased to 100Mbit/s for downlink connections and 20Mbit/s for uplinks, up from the current 25Mbit/s downlink/3Mbit/s uplink speed metric that was set in 2015. “The needs of internet users long ago surpassed the FCC’s 25/3 speed metric, especially during a global health pandemic that moved so much of life online. The 25/3 metric isn’t just behind the times, it’s a harmful one because it masks the extent to which low-income neighbourhoods and rural communities are being left behind and left offline,” the FCC chairwoman noted. The proposal also suggests a goal for the minimum broadband speeds to be increased to 1Gbit/s (downlink) and 500Mbit/s (uplink) in the future because “we need to set big goals if we want everyone everywhere to have a fair shot at 21st century success”, added Rosenworcel. She also appealed for the FCC to analyse affordability, adoption, availability and equitable access as part of its upcoming assessment of the state of broadband across the country.

Connexin, a communications and technology services specialist based in the north-east English city of Hull, has added to its fibre broadband network assets with the acquisition for an undisclosed sum of Pure Broadband, which has about 15,000 customers in the Hull area. The deal follows swiftly in the wake of Connexin’s acquisition of another Hull-based internet service provider (ISP), Wisper Broadband, earlier this month. “The acquisitions of Wisper and Pure Broadband, along with the rollout of our own 10Gbit/s capable full-fibre network, demonstrates our commitment to the region and investment into the local economy,” noted co-founder and CEO Furqan Alamgir. Expect to see more examples of such deals over the next couple of years as the UK broadband networks and services sector undergoes the inevitable consolidation process that will be needed to whittle the market down from the 100-plus companies currently fighting to build out networks and/or market broadband services to a finite number of customers – see UK FTTH/P sector set for inevitable consolidation, reckon operator execs and Memo to UK broadband sector – don’t screw up!

BT and its quasi-autonomous fixed line unit Openreach are preparing for two days of strike action on 29 July and 1 August following a recent ballot of Communication Workers Union (CWU) members. BT says it has awarded the best pay rise it could manage and will not be re-opening pay negotiations. “While we respect the choice of our colleagues who are CWU members to strike, we will work to minimise any disruption and keep our customers and the country connected. We have tried and tested processes for large-scale colleague absences to minimise any disruption for our customers and these were proved during the pandemic,” stated a BT spokesman. 

- The staff, TelecomTV

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