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How will the Coronavirus outbreak impact telecoms and tech?

Inside Telecom Staff



Coronavirus outbreak

We are able to see the impact of the Coronavirus everywhere at the moment. Supermarkets and retail chains are reporting a shortage on a number of goods – including toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Universities and schools have closed and most industries are also severely affected.

We took a look at some of the impacts on the tech and power sector in the long term. Forbes magazine stated that despite much of the Chinese economy being impacted by Covid-19, one sector that is ‘business as usual’ is the telecommunications infrastructure such as 5G and LPWA networks.

This may just be efforts to keep the current economy going in difficult times, which we regularly see. Attempts to maintain large flagship projects are often symbolic of such efforts.

Towards the end of last month, China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom collaboratively released the 5GDM (fifth generation digital network) White paper, along with the Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) and leading device supplier, Huawei.

This paper looks at how 5G is deterministic and focused on digitalizing the majority of industries. This includes the full integration of microservice – based 2-G, 3-G, 4-G and 5-G.

This technology can only be implemented after the deployment of 5G, however, it apparently provides a framework for substantial gains in productivity across multiple sectors, which include smart grids. The deployment of IoT, looks likely to cut cost and also boost efficiency through machine learning and – perhaps most relevant, in light of recent events, limit the risk of labour shortages.

Intelligence from Bloomberg also suggests that China will further triple the number of IoT industrial machines to more than 300 million units within the next four years.

LPWA (low power wide area) networking is the most favoured one when it comes to 5G and by the three big telecoms companies in China. This is because of its low infrastructure costs and narrowband IoT. It is predicted that by the end of 2020 more than 1.5 million base stations will be in place to power such a network.

By the end of last month, in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis, two of Chinas biggest telcos had announced an acceleration of the rollout of infrastructure. This includes 250,000 base stations by the end of September 2020. There is an immediate target of 100,000 by the end of June and 64,000 are already in use.

All three companies are positive about 5G prospects, even though industry analysts are negative about the impact of Covid-19 on 5G demand. Both China Unicom and China Telecom have collaborated to integrate networks. Furthermore, they have announced the acceleration of the rollout of 5G infrastructure. China Mobile claims to have signed-up 6.7 million users in Q4 of last year, and has once again ‘reaccelerated’ the installation of 5G base stations. 

Furthermore, an article by US Homeland Security, which speaks about the impacts of pandemics on vital infrastructure states that “Electrical outages will likely not occur but if so, they will be minor and sparse. The flow of natural gas will see little to no impact based on the built-in lag. Worldwide refinery of petroleum will be impacted and logistics of moving fuel oil, diesel fuel, gasoline, and lubricants will be affected, which is likely to further exacerbate critical manufacturing and the defence industrial base.” Another article that was published in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers magazine, Spectrum, talks of the newest acronym for this current crisis. FOG is Fear of Going to Work. A recent survey suggests that FOG is increasing and productivity is thus, decreasing. Despite the fact that such an article is largely focused on US companies, it is likely that this trend is replicated around the world. The survey said that 70.1% out of 6,000 respondents are unsure and worried about going to work as a result of the outbreak. 76.1% of respondents said that they are working from home. Furthermore, 45% had said that their productivity had decreased – the reasons have yet to be clarified.


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Indian telcos splash $10.6 billion on 4G spectrum, leaving 5G bands untouched

Yehia El Amine



Indian telcos splash $10.6 billion on 4G spectrum, leaving 5G bands untouched

Indian telcos across the board ended the two-day spectrum auction on Wednesday by committing a combined $10.6 billion to bolster their 4G spectrum across the country.

The government-led auction saw operators purchase spectrum in several bands, the 700MHz spectrum, however, which can run 5G speeds, was left untouched due to its high reserve price.

According to the Indian government, operators will be required to make an upfront payment of 25 percent of the acquired spectrum in the 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands, and 50 percent of the rest of the bands. The outstanding sum is to be paid in 16 annual payments after a two-year moratorium.

Echoing the events of 2016, operators did not submit offers for these frequencies due to the high price of the band, while spectrum in the 2.5 GHz remained unsold. The government had lowered the reserve price for spectrum in the 700 MHz band by nearly 40 percent compared to the previous auction back in 2016.

India’s second largest service provider Bharti Airtel statement mentioned that the “the reserve pricing of these bands [700MHz and 3.5GHz] must be addressed on priority in future. This will help the nation to benefit from the digital dividend that will inevitably arise out of this.”

The telco further explained that the 700 MHz band “did not get any bid from the operators as it made no economic sense for them based on the high reserve price.”

It is worth mentioning that India’s providers spent liberally on 4G bands mainly due to several licenses approaching the end of its expiration term.

Airtel acquired 48.85MHz of spectrum in 800MHz and 900MHz bands for $1.2 billion; 86.6MHz spectrum in the 1800MHz and 2100MHz for $841.3 million and 220MHz spectrum in the 2300MHz band for $418.5 million, according to the telco.

“Airtel has now secured the pan-India footprint of sub-GHz spectrum that will help improve its deep indoor and in building coverage in every city,” the company statement said.

In parallel, Rival operator Vodafone Idea acquired spectrum in five circles, which it says will help it to “enhance our 4G coverage and capacity, enabling superior digital experience for our customers.”

However, the company failed to mention the circles in which it has acquired spectrum; the carrier already had one of the highest quantum of spectrum in the country.

Meanwhile, Reliance Jio acquired 4G spectrum in 22 circles across India in the 800 MHz, 1.800 GHz, and 2.3 GHz bands for a total of $7.86 billion, becoming the largest buyer of frequencies in the process. The telco said in a statement that it has increased its spectrum capacity by 55 percent to 1,717 megahertz and claimed to be the largest holder of spectrum in sub-GHz and 2.3 GHz band.

“With our increased spectrum footprint, we are ready to further expand the digital footprint in India as well as get ourselves ready for the imminent 5G rollout,” said Mukesh Ambani chairman of Reliance Industries, Jio’s parent company.

Ambani previously informed the media that Reliance Jio Infocomm is planning on deploying 5G services in Q3 of 2021; the chief exec confirmed back in July last year that his engineers had developed a “complete 5G system,” claiming that Jio the 5G kit would be ready for trials when spectrum is made available by the Indian government with deployment possible sometime in 2021.

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First of its kind: Telefónica wins fiber deals with itself in Germany and Brazil

Karim Hussami



fiber businesses

Telefónica has been mucking about with its fiber businesses in a bid to stay in the market in a more cost-effective way.

After searching the market for a partner regarding fiber rollout in Germany, the Spanish multinational telco was excited to announce that the first customer on its Unsere Grüne Glasfaser (UGG) wholesale network, will be itself.

That is not surprising information, however, it seems Telefónica is hitting the ground running in the German fiber market.

Fiber rollout plan

As part of the fiber business, UGG will start rolling out fiber at the beginning of March, Telefónica revealed. Its first location will be the municipality of Maring-Noviand in the Rhineland-Palatinate.

It explained that around 775 households, comprising 1,500 inhabitants in the Moselle wine growing region will benefit from fiber expansion.

Telefónica noted that “Nearby Hermeskeil will be connected in the second wave, as will Baden-Württemberg towns of Malterdingen, Aach and Volkertshausen.”

The firm added, “Customers will be offered its ‘O2 my Home’ tariff,” without specifying at what point it expects to be able to provide retail services on the network.

On the other hand, the partnership with Allianz in German is one Telefónica plans to replicate as it rolls out fiber in markets outside of Spain. At the telco’s results presentation last week chief operating officer Angel Vila Boix said it will follow a similar pattern in Brazil, where it is looking for partners for its FiBrazil venture.

FiBrazil is being carved out of Telefónica’s Vivo unit in Brazil and therefore already has a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network covering 1.6 million premises, but with one or more partnership deals in place it aims to pass 5.5 million premises in the next four years. It will roll out a wholesale FTTH network in selected mid-sized cities across Brazil outside the state of Sao Paulo.

Canadian pension

Telefónica this week brokered a deal with Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) that will see the Canadian pension fund take a 50 percent stake in FiBrazil, with Telefónica holding the remainder, split between its Telefónica Brazil and Telefónica Infra units. CDPQ will invest up to R$1.8 billion (around $320 million) in the venture via both primary and secondary payments.

“Vivo will be FiBrasil’s anchor tenant, consolidating itself as the leading convergent operator in the country. The transaction is framed within our strategic pillars, allowing Vivo to improve time-to-market, while at the same time enabling a more efficient use of funds,” said Christian Gebara, CEO of Telefônica Brazil.

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Zain tops CDP global index on climate change

Inside Telecom Staff



Kuwait-based telecoms operator Zain Group has received the highest rank in MEA in the CDP global index on climate change exceeding the average for Asian markets, the company telecoms announced on Tuesday.

Zain Group announced its inclusion in the global list of the CDP with an advanced rating in Management Scope ‘B’ for the Climate Change Index. This rating makes Zain the highest ranked and only telecom operator in the Middle East and Africa to achieve this positive rating with respect to its efforts to address climate change.

CDP represents the gold standard for the most comprehensive data reporting for the international investment community.

According to the company statement, the operator is an active member of the GSMA Climate Action Team since in 2019, where it begun disclosing its environmental impacts, energy consumption and carbon emissions through the CDP, a non-profit organization with regional offices in 50 countries.

There are now companies, cities, and regions in over 90 countries disclosing emissions data to the CDP Foundation, which is also recognized by prominent global indicators, including the MSCI Index of Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG), which reflects the evolving needs of investors who aim to integrate indicators.

“Zain has taken significant strides towards addressing its environmental footprint by setting goals to reduce carbon emissions, reduce waste, raise awareness, and identify risks and opportunities for climate change,” Bader Al-Kharafi, Zain Vice-Chairman and CEO of the Group, said.

According to the statement, Zain has succeeded in meeting the requirements stipulated by the CDP for membership for the second year in a row, remaining one of a few signed-up members from the region.

The Kuwait-based operator attained the ‘B’ rating within the category of global companies that disclose the environmental impact of their operations, which indicates that the telco exceeded the global average of ‘C’, and the regional average for Asian markets of ‘D’.

“Having this high ‘B’ rating in recognition of our efforts to disclose and reduce the carbon footprint of our operations will spur us further in dedicating ourselves to the regulatory reforms included in the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015. Moreover, disclosure of climate measures is a strong indicator of transparency for our customers and investors,” Al-Kharafi added.

Only 35 percent of the 9,600 companies and institutions included the CDP list attained Management level score or higher, of which Zain was one, emphasizing the company’s commitment to fulfilling its promise to make systematic changes through the CDP, and to provide a transparent framework for climate change reporting.

Zain’s climate action plan has set targets to reduce emissions, reduce waste, and align with UN Sustainable Development Goal number 13. The company is committed to building climate change scenarios that would help limit global warming to 1.5℃ compared to pre-industrial levels, and the company strongly believes this strategy will help achieve a reduction in emissions, and operating costs, while also mitigating risks related to climate change.

The mobile telecommunications industry is working to become completely transparent about climate emissions for the industry. The sector has developed a roadmap for climate action at the industry level, with the aim of achieving “net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and reducing carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030, in line with the Paris climate agreement.

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