Monday, April 20, 2020

China Mobile: 31.7 million users now on 5G plans

China Mobile ended Q1 2020 with 946 million mobile users, down from 949 million at the beginning of the quarter, but up by 4 million customers in March.

Significantly, China Mobile ended the quarter with 31.7 million users with 5G plans.

The company's revenue from the sales of products and others went down by 34.9% year-on-year to RMB12.4 billion for the first quarter of the year. The decline was mainly caused by
contracted sales of handsets and IoT devices, amongst other products, due to COVID-19.

Some highlights:

  • Operating revenue was RMB181.3 billion, down by 2.0% over the same period last year; of which, revenue from telecommunications services was RMB168.9 billion, up
  • by 1.8% over the same period last year
  • EBITDA was RMB68.5 billion, down by 5.8% over the same period last year
  • Total Voice Usage (minutes) were 661.4 billion, compared to 794.1 billion in the previous quarter
  • Average Minutes of Usage per User per Month (minutes/user/month) were 234, compared to 278 in the previous quarter
  • Handset Data Traffic (GB) were 19.7 billion, compared to 17.5 billion in the previous quarter
  • Average Handset Data Traffic per User per Month (GB/user/month) were 8.3, compared to 7.1 in the previous quarter
  • SMS Usage (messages) were 241.6 billion, compared to 231.2 billion in the previous quarter
  • Average Revenue per User per Month (RMB/user/month) were 31.3, compared to 33.0 in the previous quarter

FCC approves Ligado for low-power L-band terrestrial network

The FCC voted unanimously to approve with conditions Ligado’s application to deploy a low-power terrestrial nationwide network in the L-Band that will primarily support 5G and Internet of Things services. 

“I thank my colleagues for coming together on a bipartisan basis to support Ligado’s application,” said Chairman Pai.  “The vote at the Commission reflects the broad, bipartisan support that this order has received, from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr on the one hand to Senator Mark Warner of Virginia and Congresswoman Doris Matsui of California on the other.  This vote is another step forward for American leadership in 5G and advanced wireless services.”

Among the conditions that Ligado must abide by:

  • Ligado must provide a significant (23 megahertz) guard-band using its own licensed spectrum to separate its terrestrial base station transmissions from neighboring operations in the Radionavigation-Satellite Service allocation. 
  • Ligado is required to limit the power levels of its base stations to 9.8 dBW, a reduction of 99.3% from the power levels proposed in Ligado’s 2015 application. 
  • Ligado must protect adjacent band incumbents by reporting its base station locations and technical operating parameters to potentially affected government and industry stakeholders prior to commencing operations, continuously monitoring the transmit power of its base station sites, and complying with procedures and actions for responding to credible reports of interference, including rapid shutdown of operations where warranted. 

  • Ligado Networks is a privately-backed company based in Reston, Virginia, with investors including Centerbridge Partners, Fortress Investment Group and JPMorgan Chase & Co. From the big hitting industry execs on the leadership team it is clear the company is serious. Ivan Seidenberg, a former chairman of Verizon Communications, serves as chairman. Also on the board of directors is Timothy Donahue, former executive chairman of Sprint Nextel and former president and CEO of Nextel Communications, and Reed Hundt, the former Federal Communications Commission. Doug Smith serves as Ligado's president and CEO; he is known for his work in engineering and launching nationwide networks for GTE, Nextel, Sprint Nextel and Clearwire.

Crehan: Server-class Ethernet networking doubles in past 2 years

Between the beginning of 2018 and the end of 2019, data center operators doubled their Ethernet server-class networking capacity, according to a recent report from Crehan Research.

This recent strong increase helped drive the market to a longer-term average annual growth of 30 percent – see accompanying figure. Crehan’s report further shows that the strong increase was a result of robust server-class Network Interface Card (NIC) port shipment growth, in conjunction with more bandwidth per port to handle increasingly demanding server and storage applications.

“Data center networking bandwidth deployments hit an inflection point with the arrival of 25, 50, and 100 gigabit Ethernet NICs and switches,” said Seamus Crehan, president of Crehan Research. “These technologies delivered much lower cost per gigabit of bandwidth, further accelerating network speed upgrades.”

The Crehan report also shows that customer adoption of newer Ethernet NIC speeds, especially 25 gigabit Ethernet, has been much faster than past adoption curves, with cloud service providers and early enterprise and telco adopters deploying about seven million of these connections in 2019, approximately three years after general market introduction.

“With the recent arrival of PAM-4 based NICs, we expect another strong cloud service provider server-networking upgrade centering around 100 gigabit Ethernet to start sometime next year,” Crehan said.

U.S. Cellular temporarily boosts spectrum capacity with Nokia

U.S. Cellular is working with Nokia to boost capacity in several markets, including the Northwest Region of the U.S., to help address surging traffic during the COVID-19 emergency.

The FCC has granted a 60-day temporary spectrum license to U.S. Cellular and other service providers across the country.

The temporary spectrum, which is licensed to Advantage Spectrum in the AWS-3 Band, was integrated remotely on Nokia Airscale Radio Access Network (RAN), bringing increased network capacity to 250 sites in parts of California, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.

In addition to keeping customers connected, U.S. Cellular is relying on Nokia's Endpoint Security solutions to detect new and established forms of malware related to COVID-19. Trojans and ransomware masquerading as popular virus outbreak location maps, as well as new apps pretending to locate medical masks, increasingly threaten to proliferate on end-user devices.

Scott Cohen, Head of U.S. Major Account Sales, Nokia, said: “Nokia greatly values our strong and trusted relationship with U.S. Cellular. During this global pandemic, Nokia understands now more than ever the importance of maintaining seamless network connectivity. Whether customers are at home working and streaming video or out in the field performing essential business functions, we are committed to helping U.S. Cellular keep their customers connected to the network from anywhere and at any time, as well as ensuring they can do so safely and securely with our Endpoint Security solutions.”

Mike Irizarry, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, U.S. Cellular, said: “For more than 10 years, Nokia has served as a trusted partner in helping U.S. Cellular deploy, scale and modernize our networks while keeping our customers safe from new threats. Their latest assistance in helping us launch this additional spectrum enables us to continue delivering our customers a fast, rich and uninterrupted network experience throughout this critical time.”

LeapMind unveils ultra low-power AI inference accelerator

Tokyo-based LeapMind introduced its "Efficiera" ultra-low power AI inference accelerator IP for companies that design ASIC and FPGA circuits, and other related products.

"Efficiera" is an ultra-low power AI Inference Accelerator IP specialized for Convolutional Neural Network (CNN)(1) inference calculation processing; it functions as a circuit in an FPGA or ASIC device. Its "extreme low bit quantization" technology, which minimizes the number of quantized bits to 1–2 bits, does not require cutting-edge semiconductor manufacturing processes or the use of specialized cell libraries to maximize the power and space efficiency associated with convolution operations, which account for a majority of inference processing.

LeapMind is simultaneously launching several related products and services: "Efficiera SDK," a software development tool providing a dedicated learning and development environment for Efficiera, the "Efficiera Deep Learning Model" for efficient training of deep learning models, and "Efficiera Professional Services," an application-specific semi-custom model building service based on LeapMind's expertise that enables customers to build extreme low bit quantized deep learning models applicable to their own unique requirements.

GCI activates first 5G cell sites in Anchorage

GCI activated the first 5G cell sites in Anchorage, Alaska. Ericsson is the network supplier.

“In June of 2019, we committed to launching 5G service in the spring of 2020. I am proud to announce today that we have delivered on that commitment,” said GCI CEO and Co-Founder Ron Duncan. “We have upgraded our wireless core, and we intend to upgrade the vast majority of cell sites in Anchorage, Eagle River and Girdwood to our 5-band 5G NR solution by the end of the year. At that point, we will have created essentially a brand-new wireless network in Anchorage, comparable in quality and performance to our industry-leading cable modem network.”

“We’re proud to partner with GCI to deploy 5G in Anchorage to give Alaskans the network quality and speed they want and need,” said Rob Johnson, Head of Customer Unit Regional Carriers for Ericsson North America. “Ericsson and GCI have had a long-standing partnership to connect customers in some of the most remote communities in Alaska, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with GCI to turn the Last Frontier into the First Frontier for 5G.”