Free 5G – is it as good as it sounds? Although there may not be enough base stations or device yet, Three has completed the UK’s 5G portfolio with the connectivity upgrade at no extra cost for its existing customers.
Yes they have lost ground on their rivals over the last year but that will not be of issue in the grand scheme of things. Coverage is poor, penetration is low and smartphones are expensive. Samsung has announced its 5G series and Apple are set to launch theirs in September. Three could indeed be generating 5G momentum at exactly the right time.
“Three’s enviable position in 5G spectrum presents it with a golden opportunity to achieve the scale it craves to challenge larger rivals and spearhead a push into new markets,” said Kester Mann of CCS Insight. “It may never have such a chance to move its business on to the next level.
“A major marketing focus for three this year will likely be around speed and it is already talking about a 5G service twice as fast as rivals. This could put it on a PR collision course with rival EE, which has drawn heavily on network leadership in its own marketing since being first to launch 4G, back in 2012.”
At the end of this month all four mobile operators in the UK will be up-and-running with a mobile 5G offering. Three has said they will launch their so called free 5G services in 65 towns and cities across the country and with the free 5G service for any customer who has purchased a compatible device.
This is perhaps and interesting statement from Three. Both O2 and Vodafone have said that 5G connectivity would not be premium on some 4G tariffs, which leaves only EE who are charging customers for the pure pleasure of the fastest 5G on the market. Worth noting is that EE’s Essential 5G plan does not include Three swappables, but it does cost an extra £10 a month. There is also no option to have 5G connectivity alone, so irrelevant to what the telco says, it is a premium.
Three has always previously disputed the UK connectivity market along with aggressive pricing or data consumption models. It also looks like it will do the same on this occasion. O2 and Vodafone have priced 5G connectivity in the affordable range (£35 and £30 respectively) – for unlimited data SIM-only plans, while Three is swaggering in with £22 a month for postpaid plans and £25 for prepaid.
“Today we are celebrating what is possible through 5G with a showcase of our ultra-fast 5G capabilities marking the next step in our 5G journey,” said Three CEO Dave Dyson.
“Three is set up to be the fastest 5G network in the country; Three’s customers will benefit from the vast 5G capacity and speeds that only Three can offer, enabling the best 5G experience possible.”
Dyson refers to the telcos spectrum holding as the 5G advantage. Three holds 100MHz of adjoining spectrum in the mid-band frequencies and some useful licenses in the higher frequency bands too. This does provide three with the opportunity to disrupt the marker even though it will have to convince customers that this is enough to turn around perceptions from the era of 4G.
When analyzing the stats from Opensignal, Three has the worst spectrum availability for 4G connections across the UK, the worst video experience and second-to-worst upload experience, slowest latency and the second-to-worst average download speed. Looking at things from a more positive note, it did have the fastest 3G download speeds.
Three does indeed have a somewhat fragile reputation – although tolerated by some. Its main audience are data intensive, price conscious, city-centric consumers, but if the telco intends to make any realistic improvements on its market share, it will have to look far beyond this current demographic. To attract new customers, it will have to improve on its performance in the 4G era and let’s face it – they may be running out of time.
Network loads and cloud services – the answers are found in the numbers
The number of masks required, how many tests have been conducted, ventilators back-ordered, who has been infected, who is immune and who is not, are all part of instrumenting the current pandemic using network performance and cloud data.
The telecommunications sector has always used this but the current situation puts data scientists in their element.
Of course, the pandemic is catastrophic, however all the data that is being gathered will reinforce the current model and help us get closer to the right approach, should the next pandemic or another disaster of such magnitude, strike in the future.
Many are now looking for viable solutions through rigorous online collaborations. It is possible that this will become the only medium for command, control and organization. Undoubtedly, digital tools were important before and application such as Microsoft Teams were growing quickly. But now, it is widely reported that their usage is rapidly increasing and could be part of a critical lasting shift when the pandemic and its precautionary counter-measures, are no more.
An article in Forbes reports that Microsoft has seen a 775% rise in the utilisation of its cloud services in areas where lockdowns, social distances or ‘shelter in place’ orders are in effect. This accounts for much of the US, India, China, Canada, the UK, multiple European countries, and several countries in the Middle East. Other impressive statistics from Microsoft state that there are now 44 million daily Teams subscribers and a massive 900 million online meeting minutes.
Last week, online work communication solutions application, Slack saw 9000 new subscribers and the platform reached its highest rate of 12.5 million connected users.
Opensignal’s analysis of mobile experience from user’s smartphones, detected a week-on week increase in the percentage of time British smartphone users are spending on WiFi in the third week of March. This has risen by 6.4% every week to 68.9% by March 16 and has increased from 64.7% as per the previous week.
There are also other network stats which confirm Opensignal’s numbers. According to a tweet from BT’s head network architect, Neil McRae, “Traffic levels [are] almost routine now – constant 8-10Tb/sec across our fixed network at around midday – well off our peak and then growing in the evening to around the 15Tb/sec mark. All well below our biggest traffic peak. Mobile still slightly down. “
Countries like the UK where stay home rhetoric is in force have revealed that static mobile users are already having an impact on the numbers. This implies that no mobility means people are using their home broadband instead of their mobile phones – largely symptomatic of the current situation.
Another thing about the access network loads is that an increase in load on one network may lighten the load on another. Business users working from home may just be shifting their activity onto another access network, leaving the load on the core network.
The big question is will we see substantial changes in work and employment after massive amounts of the global population have been working from home for several months. How will this experience influence employment and Human Resources Policy?
Like most new concepts people might begin by detesting their enforced isolation and then look back on it with romanticism once it has finished. Perhaps they may even request for home working to be extended and even implemented on a permanent basis. However what is important is at least we will have reliable statistic to help reach the right decision.
Bahrain’s growth and development in the telecoms sector
The growing telecoms sector in Bahrain accounts for 4% of the Kingdom’s annual GDP. Mobile penetration is high, and the government have put necessary measures in place to ensure that infrastructure can facilitate 5G deployment. In 2017, the first 5G trial for Bahrain was conducted. As such, Bahrain is driving growth in the telecom sector this year, by adapting to the changes in the ever-evolving market.
The government claims that investment in next-generation connectivity has been advantageous. In the recent days, the government of Bahrain announced that 140,000 students are now benefiting from remote learning in the kingdom. In response to the current Coronavirus pandemic, Bahrain’s public and private educational institutes are offering lessons online – accessible through specified broadcast channels – to facilitate working from home.
The telecoms operators in Bahrain include Batelco, STC Bahrain and Zain Bahrain. The industry is regulated by Telecommunications Regulator (TRA) which has been actively trying to resolve spectrum or regulatory challenges for the full deployment 5G. Bahrain’s cohesive government support, along with proactive measures taken by operators, resulted in Batelco launching the first commercial 5G network in Bahrain in mid-2019.
Batelco also undertook a significant operational revamp in 2019 and launched Bahrain’s National Broadband Network operated by BNET. Bahrain’s telecommunications industry is driven by its Fourth National Telecommunications Plan which focuses on fibre-optic infrastructure implementation and establishing better connection; higher bandwidth is essential to increase data-transfer speeds across a network.
In general, Bahrain’s mobile broadband sector is showing high levels of telecoms maturity and growth with 4G networks in place and increasing mobile subscriber penetration. Bahrain offers a well regulated, competitive environment and significant LTE infrastructure as well as a National Broadband Network which paves the way for the advancements necessary to facilitate the demands of a hyper-connected society.
The Latest report by Budde.com provides statistics and analysis on the key sectors of Bahrain’s telecom market. The report presents an overview of:
- The regulatory environment
- The fixed network operators and services
- Telecom infrastructure
- Mobile operators and mobile infrastructure, supported by statistics
- A range of subscriber forecasts through to 2024
To read the report in full, click on this link. https://www.budde.com.au/Research/Bahrain-Telecoms-Mobile-and-Broadband-Statistics-and-Analyses
FinTech applications continue to rise amid Coronavirus pandemic
The current Coronavirus pandemic has driven a huge 72% increase in the use of FinTech applications in Europe. The research, published by deVere group found that at a time when most industries in the economy are starting to feel the impact of what is already being labelled an international recession. This sharp increase in app adoption and use is encouraging news for the FinTech industry as it experiments with more digital and flexible ways of banking. This also comes as another indication that the lasting effects of the virus will be the move towards a more digital and online society.
This 72% rise in FinTech applications usage is obviously due to increasing numbers of people adhering to a more robust lockdown and having to adapt to a world without banks.
“The world has changed in the last few weeks,” states James Green, deVere Group’s Divisional Manager of Europe. “The measures we’re now all taking to help fight back against coronavirus are affecting the way we interact, live, work, and take care of our finances.”
The rise in FinTech applications adoption is likely to be found, out of Europe too as COVID-19 has now infected more than 700,000 people around the world. An online gold purchasing application called Glint Pay has also reported a 718% increase in traffic during the last week alone. Furthermore, banking applications in Asia and the Middle East have also declared sharp upturns in usage. One bank in the Philippines has experienced more than twice the usual registrations for its online banking facilities.
The rise in such applications comes at a time of general growth in the utilisation of digital technology as people are having to find new ways of working, and communicating due to the ongoing pandemic. Netflix also recently declared record viewing numbers since lockdowns commenced several weeks ago. Remote conferencing application Zoom has also reported 32% boost in its share prices since the market began to decline in mid-February.
“A new era has already begun, with digitalisation and new technologies driving the shift,” James Green says. “This can be seen by demand soaring for video-calling platforms such as Google Hangouts, Skype, FaceTime and Zoom amongst others, as more people than ever work remotely.”
There is also the lingering question of, will this shift to all things digital last after the COVID-19 pandemic is over? It is likely that after months of lockdown, people will see leaving the house as a novelty once again and will enjoy going outside, just because they can. However, it is likely that with FinTech and banking applications, the effects will persist. The adoption of such applications has already grown slowly in the months and years prior to the outbreak. UK Finance reported last year that 72% of adults used online banking and 48% used mobile banking.
So, this implies that a long-term shift was already happening. It could also be argued that apps provide more convenience and efficiency than going to a branch, it’s probable that the forced exposure to FinTech and banking apps will create a large number of converts.
The same could also be argued for digital technology. Remote working had already seen an increase of 159% in the United States between 2005-2017 as Americans (mainly millennials) are spending more time at home and becoming more reliant on digital tech.
As such, the Coronavirus lockdown could fast-track and reinforce trends that were already in motion, especially if the lockdown lasts for several months, which could certainly help to drill habits in people.
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