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Five Middle East operators sign joint open RAN agreement

Hala Turk

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Five network operators in the Middle East signed on Sunday a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to provide support and deployment of open RAN technology in their future infrastructure rollouts.

Etisalat Group, Saudi Telecom Company (stc), Zain Group, Mobily – the Saudi operator part-owned by Etisalat- and du announced in a joint statement  their aim to “deploy Open RAN across their footprint, providing an opportunity to traditional RAN vendors to adopt open interfaces, software and hardware to build more agile and flexible mobile networks in the 5G and 4G era.”

The open RAN technology supports interoperation between vendors’ equipment. The main goal for using open RAN is to have an interoperability standard for RAN elements such as non-proprietary white box hardware and software from different vendors. Network operators that opt for RAN elements with standard interfaces can avoid being stuck with one vendor’s proprietary hardware and software.

The collaboration will present vast opportunities for operators and telecoms ecosystem with the availability of interoperable, competitive, and commercial-grade open RAN products, building a framework to exchange best practices and technical outcomes, the statement explained.

The operators will focus on introducing software capabilities in the open RAN environment that will support different technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI).

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for the Middle East operators to come together to promote the development of an open technology that will help to enhance the flexibility and efficiency of our networks,” said Hatem Bamatraf, Etisalat Group CTO.

From his side, Nawaf Al Gharabally, Zain Group’s chief technology officer considered “the innovative initiative by like-minded and visionary regional mobile operators is truly inspirational as it brings multiple benefits to all our stakeholders and further enhances the Middle East telecom sector’s position on the ICT world map.”

“Driving innovation and open RAN deployment is the shared responsibility of every telco operator,” du CTO Saleem Alblooshi added.

It’s worth noting that the five operators will not starting from scratch, as Etisalat followed its recent collaboration with Japan-based Rakuten Mobile, to deploy an Open RAN network in Afghanistan in partnership with Parallel Wireless, Intel and Supermicro.

Hala is a journalist and an editor with experience in the news industry. She enjoys writing motivational stories aiming to inspire people to overachieve.

Telecoms

BT, Microsoft partner to enhance voice calling

Hala Turk

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London-based telecom provider BT partnered on Thursday with Microsoft to enhance enterprise voice calling, security, and industry-focused services in various sectors. 

The new agreement will allow BT to switch its global managed voice services to the cloud and deliver them directly through Microsoft Teams. 

Microsoft’s Operator Connect plan, that supports telecom operators adding their calling plans to Microsoft Teams, will help the British partner to create new business models and revenue streams. 

According to Microsoft’s blog post this deal “paves the way for the development of revolutionary new cloud-based products and services for BT’s voice customers and the wider telecoms sector.” 

As for cybersecurity part of the deal, the pair will work together to build and launch a new generation of managed security services that will enable and secure the modern collaborative workplace. 

The British provider will team up with the U.S. tech giant to create unique security propositions to protect clients’ operations in the cloud as well as its own IT infrastructure. 

“BT and Microsoft are at the forefront of innovation in global digital platforms and connectivity that will take technology and communication beyond limits,” Bas Burger, CEO of Global at BT, and executive sponsor of BT’s partnership with Microsoft said in a joint statement.  

“This partnership will ensure all of Microsoft’s solutions work ‘Best on BT’ and support both companies’ commitments to improving digital skills in the community,” Burger added. 

In parallel, Omar Abbosh, corporate vice president of industry solutions at Microsoft, considered the partnership as the “start of an exciting, shared journey of innovation and collaboration that will shape the future of telecoms.” 

Abbosh further explained that BT can use Microsoft’s cutting-edge tools to develop new communications services that meet the needs and demands of today’s customers. 

It is worth mentioning that the number of users of BT’s managed Microsoft Teams collaboration service has almost doubled during the past 12 months, according to the pair. 

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Telecoms

5G drives Chinese mobile service to rise at 3.1% in 2026

Hala Turk

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Chinese mobile service revenues are expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate CAGR of 3.1 percent from $131.3 billion in 2021 to $152.7 billion in 2026, according to a study published on Thursday.  

London-based data analytics company, GlobalData published a study showing that the mobile data revenues will witness a rise in its CAGR reaching 6.8 percent due to the growing adoption of 5G services, followed by the rise in data Average Revenue Per Unit (ARPU). 

“5G subscriptions will surpass 4G subscriptions in 2023 and go on to account for 73.8 percent of the total mobile subscriptions share in 2026, driven by the ongoing 5G network expansion by operators and increase in the availability of 5G-enabled smartphones,” said Harika Damidi, Telecoms Analyst at GlobalData. 

In parallel, findings indicate that the average mobile data usage is expected to increase from 9.9GB per month in 2021 to around 32.6GB per month in 2026, as a result to the mounting consumption of high-bandwidth online entertainment and social media content over smartphones. 

However, data revealed that the mobile voice revenues are supposed to drop at a CAGR of 5.2 percent between 2021 and 2026, due to falling voice ARPU levels. 

Damidi explained that the increase in penetration of Internet of Things (IoT) and M2M services are also expected to drive market growth during the forecast period. 

The analyst further highlighted that two state-owned companies had led the Chinese telecom market in terms of mobile subscriptions last year.  

Damidi said that China Mobile ranked first followed by China Telecom, explaining that China Mobile “is making strategic investments in 5G base stations, data centers, industrial Internet, and IoT to ensure its leadership.” 

It is worth mentioning that, in 2020, China mobile generated a revenue of $118.8 billion, in comparison China Telecom’s $60.91 billion during the same year according to Statista.  

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Telecoms

Indian Telco Reliance Jio adds 3.5 million users in May

Hala Turk

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Indian telco Reliance Jio added 3.55 million wireless subscribers during the month of May, acquiring the highest rank in the telecom industry for four consecutive months. 

Despite the overall wireless subscriber base drop throughout that month by 6.27 million, Jio outperformed its fellow Indian telcos Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea. 

Both providers lost 4.61 million and 4.28 million subscribers, respectively. 

As per data shared by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Trai, Jio’s wireless subscriber base increased by 0.83 percent to reach 431.23 million.  

In contrast, Bharti Airtel’s base declined by 1.31 percent to 348.29 million.  

Similarly, Vodafone Idea’s wireless user base was down 1.52 percent to 277.62 million. 

In terms of wireless broadband users, Jio’s base stood at 431.23 million, followed by Airtel at 189.49 million and Vodafone Idea at 119.63 million.  

Industry experts believe the loss in user-base is mainly due to the lockdown and reverse migration to villages. 

Various states across the country were under lockdown in May to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The decision resulted in labors heading back to their towns. 

Additionally, several workers are thought to have discontinued their mobile subscription. 

Despite these factors, Jio was able to add subscribers due to its strong offline retail network at the micro-level. Also, the company was able to sell JioPhone to a good number of customers, many of whom have come from rivals Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea. 

Moreover, Reliance Jio’s fiber optic project deployed in 2018, enabled it to add around 200,000 wireline broadband users. 

It is worth mentioning that the Indian telco partnered on Thursday with Oppo to field test Jio’s standalone 5G networks. 

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