What’s up with… Singtel, Celestial AI, broadband speed records

  • Singtel teams with vendor trio for quantum security push 
  • Optical interconnect specialist banks $175m
  • UK university claims new broadband speed record 

In today’s industry news roundup: Singtel uses its quantum-safe network and teams up with three key vendors to offer quantum security services to enterprises; Celestial AI takes its funding to almost $380m as it develops interconnect tech that can cope with AI workload demands; Aston University claims broadband speed of 301 Tbit/s (yes, you read that correctly); and more!

Singtel is teaming up with Cisco, Fortinet and Nokia to provide quantum security solutions to enterprises via its quantum-safe network (QSN), which it has developed in partnership with ID Quantique (IDQ). “With this collaboration, enterprises can tap on Cisco’s routing platform, Fortinet’s firewalls and Nokia’s optical devices to boost their defences against advanced cyber threats,” noted Singtel in this announcement. “These solutions utilise quantum key distribution [QKD], which is a secure method for distributing encryption keys only known between shared parties, from Singtel’s QSN and can be easily integrated into the enterprises’ existing network and security infrastructure,” added the telco. “The task of building a nationwide QSN requires close collaboration between telcos, IT, and technology leaders,” noted Singtel’s MD of enterprise, Lim Seng Kong. “We are bringing together global leaders in their fields to bolster our ecosystem of quantum-safe solutions so enterprises can better optimise their investments, solve complex problems, innovate and scale with ease. The evolving nature of cyber threats also necessitates that we continuously update our security posture. We welcome the industry to join us on this journey as we prepare for the quantum age,” he added. Quantum-safe networking developments are coming more to the fore as the quantum computing era gets ever closer, as we noted in our recent article about the collaboration between Ciena and Toshiba. Please participate in a short industry survey (it takes two minutes to complete) about quantum-safe networking that TelecomTV is running for the next few weeks and which will result in a free-to-download DSP Leaders Report

Optical interconnect technology developer Celestial AI has raised $175m in its Series C funding round led by Thomas Tull’s US Innovative Technology Fund (USIT). New and existing investors also participated in the round, including AMD Ventures, Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT), Temasek, Temasek’s wholly owned subsidiary Xora Innovation, IAG Capital Partners, Samsung Catalyst, Smart Global Holdings (SGH), Porsche Automobil Holding SE, Engine Ventures, M-Ventures and Tyche Partners. The company, which has now raised about $377m in its various seed and series funding rounds, noted that “hyperscalers are increasingly constrained by utility power availability, memory capacity and [the] high cost of operation” as they strive to deal with the “explosive growth in demand for generative AI applications and next-generation datacentres.” Celestial AI believes its Photonic Fabric optical interconnect technology can help alleviate these challenges “by revolutionising memory and compute fabrics”. Dave Lazovsky, Celestial AI founder and CEO, stated: “This highly oversubscribed financing round is another testament to Celestial AI’s position to disrupt the market, and reflects the magnitude of business opportunity before us. Today’s advanced AI models require exponentially more I/O bandwidth and memory capacity but are currently constrained by low bandwidth and high latency. Our Photonic Fabric technology is rapidly becoming the de facto standard for accelerated computing optical interconnectivity, driven by unparalleled performance and efficiency,” he added. 

Not coming to your home from an ISP anytime soon… Scientists at Aston University in the UK’s second-largest city, Birmingham, say they have achieved a new world record internet data transmission speed of 301 Tbit/s – that’s 301,000 Gbit/s – on a standard single-fibre optic cable on an existing network. Put another way, that is 4.5 million times faster than the UK’s 69.4 Mbit/s average commercial downstream broadband speed, according to figures released six months ago by UK regulator Ofcom. The international research team at Aston University achieved the breakthrough thanks to their development of new optical processing amplifier technology and optical gain equalisers that made it possible to access wavelengths of light that had not previously been exploited in standard fibre optic systems. Dr Ian Phillips of the School of Computer Science and Digital Technologies at Aston University said, “Broadly speaking, data was sent via an optical fibre like a home or office internet connection. However, alongside the commercially available C- and L-bands, we used two additional spectral bands, E-band and S-band. Such bands traditionally haven’t been required because the C- and L-bands could deliver the required capacity to meet consumer needs.” However, it is expected that the new technology will be of immense utility in meeting the increasingly massive demand on networks as more and more data is transmitted. The E-band is adjacent to the C-Band in the electromagnetic spectrum but is three times as wide. S-band (short wavelength) starts at the end of the E-band and stops at the start of the C-band. Traditionally, the S-band has been of limited value in optical data transmission because, by the time technology was advanced to the point that S-band lasers could be manufactured, it was also possible to build C-band lasers. These operated at 1550nm in the C-band, whereas attenuation was lower in the S-band (hence its comparative redundancy). Now, though, S-band is seen as a possible carrier via which to extend fibre capacity, and research into that particular wavelength is accelerating. Dr. Phillips explained that, “Before the development of our [the Aston device], no one had been able to properly emulate the E-band channels in a controlled way.” Team member Professor Wladek Forysiak at the Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies, added, “By increasing transmission capacity in the backbone network, our experiment could lead to vastly improved connections for end users.” This is excellent news as the quest to increase data capacity on fibre-optic comms networks and ensure faster and more reliable data transmission continues around the world. Other aspects of the research are related to sustainability: Greatly increased data transmission on existing deployed fibre networks means there is less need to build-out more new cables and that’s good for the environment. The Aston University scientists worked in partnership with researchers from the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) in Japan and Nokia Bell Labs in the US. By the way, to get some sort of a handle on just how fast the new data transmission world record is, it would take one second to download 9,000 high-definition films, or a single minute to download every film listed on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). 

Austria’s Telekom Control Commission has completed its third auction of 5G spectrum, with seven “frequency packages” awarded in each of the 3.6 GHz and 26 GHz bands for total proceeds of €24.7m (€8.5m from the 3.6 GHz packages and €16.2m from those for the 26 GHz packages).  National operator A1 Telekom landed two blocks in the 26 GHz band and landed 3.6 GHz spectrum in four regions for a total outlay of €7.2m. T-Mobile Austria (aka Magenta Telekom, part of the Deutsche Telekom empire), acquired two blocks in the 26 GHz band and 3.6GHz frequencies in three regions for a total of €10.5m. Hutchison Drei Austria (H3G) acquired three blocks in the 26 GHz band for about €6.9m. For further details, see this announcement

China’s three major operators, China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom, invested 385bn Chinese yuan (CYN) ($53.3bn) in their networks in 2023 (including investments in tower joint ventures), but their collective capex will shrink by 5% year on year to CYN366bn ($50.6bn) in 2024, according to Nikkei Asia. We recently reported that China Telecom is shifting more of its tech spending towards AI and cloud now that its peak 5G investment cycle is over. 

Bye-bye to Wi-Fi in the mobile industrial robotics sector? Major US telco Verizon has published a gung-ho new report, Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband and the future of robotics, in which it positions itself and its 5G technology as the optimum solution in the smart automated, mobile industrial robotics sector. The company claims that, “powered by Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband”, automated industrial machinery is expected to become smarter, more nimble and, ultimately, safer (note the “ultimately” there). During a recent ‘Verizon 5G Day’ held at the telco’s headquarters in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, Bill Stafford, associate director of robotics at the company’s emerging technology solutions group, said: “Cellular technology is really good at mobile devices. Wi-Fi is not. Wi-Fi doesn’t innately hand over between access points. An autonomous mobile robot will guide itself, does all the compute onboard, doesn’t have all the wire guides, or any type of QR code that would normally be used to navigate the robot throughout the facility.” Stafford was boosting the contention that an autonomous mobile robot would require a 5G connection over a private network to be able handle its tasks reliably (and safely), and as a proof of his contention adduced that “we have several partner clients in the auto manufacturing industry. They've been doing robots for quite a while. They’re at the scale of thousands of robots, and what they’re starting to see is a degradation in their Wi-Fi capabilities... as we increase the number of autonomous devices that are living on our Wi-Fi networks, the Wi-Fi is just not keeping up.” His words were amplified by Thierry Sender, Verizon’s director of IoT and real-time enterprise product strategy. He stated: “There’s no area more prepared for positive 5G disruption than the manufacturing industry. 5G should deliver never-before-seen enhancements and improvements to all aspects of industry.” It seems that an “ultra-fast, low-latency network should help enable robots to become fully integrated pieces of the industrial internet of things (IIoT). A next-gen network also has the potential to radically increase the viability of augmented and virtual reality on the factory floor, changing the way robots and humans work together.” Furthermore, 5G robots require less inbuilt computing power, as complex functions can be run and managed on servers sited nearby. And there you have it – the claim is that, compared with Wi-Fi, private 5G offers near-instant response times and supports high device density (vital for coordinating fleets of robots and heavy equipment). Interference is minimised, coverage is consistent and roaming is seamless. It’s a convincing argument.

Hot on the heels of the announcement that Ciena and Toshiba have collaborated to demonstrate their capabilities in the field of quantum-secure networking comes the news that SoftwareQ and Nu Quantum are working together to create the theoretical blueprint for a modular fault-tolerant quantum computer. The aim of Project Quarrefour is to quantify the requirements of a network able to combine a multiplicity of small quantum computing (QC) ‘nodes’ into a much bigger, practical, compute platform to address the biggest challenge quantum computing currently faces, that of ‘scaling’. The new compute platform will become the foundation of a distributed, error-corrected, fault-tolerant quantum computer. Nu Quantum is a rapidly growing Cambridge, UK-headquartered startup focusing on the single photon (the smallest and purest unit of light) exponentially to advance quantum technology. Currently, the capabilities of quantum computers are limited because their fundamental building blocks, qubits, are very, very difficult to assemble in numbers large enough and stable enough in a single core to be able to solve vital and massive problems before collapsing. Researchers have found that it is much more efficient to interconnect many smaller cores, each with tens and up to thousands of qubits, using a scalable quantum network. Nu Quantum’s product is a quantum networking unit (QNU) capable of efficiently scaling discrete quantum processing units (QPUs) to form a larger and more useful quantum computer. The company says its technology is interoperable with, and can be applied to, different qubit modalities, and claims these assets will accelerate the time-to-market of transformative quantum computing. SoftwareQ, based in Kitchener, Ontario, provides state-of-the-art, scalable, quantum computing software, including compilers, optimisers and simulators. The research is part of a joint programme between the UK and Canadian governments and is partially funded by Innovate UK and the National Research Council of Canada. In collaboration, Nu Quantum and SoftwareQ are using hardware-software codesign techniques: Codesign is a research framework that emphasises the co-creation of research objectives, methodologies, data collection, and dissemination among researchers, educators, and technology developers. In this case, the codesign approach is to integrate SoftwareQ’s advanced compiler technology into the real-time firmware of Nu Quantum’s control system. This will result in the identification and description of the most promising architectures able to take maximum advantage of every qubit and link available in a quantum computer as soon as it becomes ready, thus speeding progress towards useful (and commercial) quantum computing. Dr. Carmen Palacios-Berraquero, the founder and CEO of Nu Quantum, stated: “Nu Quantum is on a path towards a solution for modular networking and high-performance entanglement. This collaboration with SoftwareQ will help guide future development work towards architecting and building a fault-tolerant networked quantum computer. We’re thrilled to be working on such an ambitious project with an outstanding partner.” Dr. Vlad Gheorghiu, the CEO and co-founder of SofwareQ, added: “In partnering with Nu Quantum, we are not only forging a powerful collaboration between two pioneering entities but also fostering stronger ties between Canada and the UK in the realm of quantum computing. Through our joint efforts, we aim to push the boundaries of quantum compiling, scalability, and fault-tolerance, unlocking new possibilities and paving the way for transformative applications. We are delighted to collaborate with Nu Quantum on this ambitious project.” 

Is ‘hyperglobalisation’ over? A new report from GlobalData, the London, UK-headquartered data analytics and consultancy company, reckons it is and that the technology, media and telecom (TMT) sector is the most (geo)politicised in the world. The thesis of its publication, Geopolitics in Tech, Media, and Telecom, is that global supply chains that were built over 20 years plus and operated to optimise profit and increase the speed at which international trade could be conducted to deliver benefits both to producers and consumers under the aegis of globalisation, “have been twisted out of shape”. The result of this distortion is leaving the global economy having to accommodate, and try to deal with, highly significant geopolitical disruptions. Thus, in a world experiencing slower growth and heightened geopolitical tensions, the operating environment for TMT companies has become riskier, more complex, and more expensive to negotiate. Against this backdrop, the GlobalData report posits that the TMT industry has become the most geopoliticised. The report focuses on five key geopolitical flashpoints – US-China, Europe, India, the Middle East, and Latin America – to analyse and understand how technologies including AI, batteries, semiconductors and 5G have become so exceptionally geopoliticised as to be liable, indeed likely, to be weaponised in the future. Carolina Pinto, thematic analyst at GlobalData, said,  “US-China competition should not be confused with cold war dynamics. We now live in a multipolar world, with multiple players, including India, South Korea, Japan, and the Middle East, having significant pull and individual drive factors.” Mike Orme, consultant at GlobalData, added: “It speaks volumes about the scene that now confronts business leaders, which has formed so suddenly and alarmingly since 2020 that the global insurance industry itself is struggling hard to get to grips with the new and exploding world of geopolitical risk.” The report makes plain that the era of hyperglobalisation is over. This is evidenced by the movement “towards a period of decoupling supply chains.” It accepts that whilst optimisation of production costs, a major raison d’être for hyperglobalisation in the first place, remains important, the emerging new order puts a higher value on security and resilience. “The fragmentation of US-China relations has bifurcated supply chains and incentivised companies to reshore closer to home markets” it continued, adding that the struggle for global mastery between the US and China is “actively shaping regulation across geographies and industries, with the tech sector at the forefront of this disruption. Competition has stimulated technological developments, but the frictions created by intensifying trade and investment barriers arising from geopolitical rivalry may hinder additional advances across various tech-linked sectors.” Pinto noted that, “Decoupling completely from China is virtually impossible and many western companies are finding it extremely difficult and expensive to do so. The reality is that there are no alternative manufacturing destinations that provide the same organised infrastructure and cheap labour that China has offered for the last 50 years. Nevertheless, companies must build supply chain resilience by diversifying and shortening supply chains closer to their customer and product bases. Doing so will minimise the impact of future supply chain disruptions.” Also very evident in a world riven by trade wars, technological nationalism is on the rise along with political populism. The focus and dependence on ever more sophisticated AI in and on the most advanced microchips is resulting in the semiconductor sector being increasingly geopoliticised. The report added, “the US gave birth to the semiconductor industry and owns most of the critical intellectual property (IP) associated with chip design and manufacturing. Since 2020, the US has weaponised its chip IP to deprive China of key technologies, from chip design software and chip manufacturing equipment to the chips themselves. By doing so, the US aims to stall China’s access to advanced AI chips and progress in building itself a self-sufficient domestic semiconductor industry.” Orme makes the bleak point that, “The world resides on wafers of silicon, but with the global semiconductor industry supply chain blown apart by geopolitically inspired and hugely expensive reshoring projects, leading-edge chips will cost a lot more, and the demand side concentration of power among the customer elite will compound.” Happy days!

- The staff, TelecomTV

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