Sunday, March 17, 2024

FCC advances Mobile- Satellite collaboration

 The FCC adopted a new regulatory framework that aims to advance collaborations between satellite operators and terrestrial service providers to offer ubiquitous connectivity directly to consumer handsets using spectrum previously allocated only to terrestrial service. The new regulations bolster supplemental coverage from space, or SCS, which will enable consumers in areas not covered by terrestrial networks to be connected using their existing devices via satellite-based communications. 

Specifically, the FCC has updated the United States Table of Frequency Allocations to enable satellite communications in frequencies previously dedicated solely to terrestrial services. This change permits two-way, secondary mobile-satellite service operations in specific spectrum bands lacking primary, rigid-use legacy holders, whether federal or non-federal. For these selected bands, satellite communication services (SCS) are approved only in instances where all terrestrial license holders within a distinct geographical area collectively agree to lease their spectrum rights to a satellite operator. This operator's part 25 license will then include these frequencies and outline the specific geographical area where the SCS will be provided.

The FCC also highlighted the importance of the work carried out by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) in developing wireless standards, especially concerning the partnership between satellite operators and terrestrial service providers. While earlier solutions adhered to 3GPP standards from before Release 17, it was Release 17 that first introduced features aimed at efficiently facilitating operations of non-terrestrial networks (NTN), incorporating feedback from industry stakeholders. This was a significant step in incorporating satellite technology into the global development of 5G systems. These standards provided for satellite access via New Radio (NR) in Frequency Range 1, targeting handsets and Very Small Aperture Terminals, alongside access for the narrowband Internet of Things and Long-Term Evolution Machine-Type Communication for satellite-based enhanced machine-type communication. Furthermore, 3GPP Release 18 expanded NTN support into Frequency Range 2, including operations in the Ku-band and introducing improvements for better coverage, seamless service continuity, and smoother mobility between non-terrestrial and terrestrial networks. More recently, 3GPP has decided to propose a 5G NR satellite access Radio Interface Terminal to the International Mobile Telecommunications-2020 (IMT-2020), marking another advance in integrating satellite capabilities into next-generation wireless systems.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel writes: "We are fast heading to a world where next-generation wireless networks will connect everyone and everything around us. They will open up possibilities for communications that we cannot even fully imagine today. But we will not be successful in our effort to make this always-on connectivity available everywhere if we limit ourselves to using only one technology. We are going to need it all—fiber networks, licensed terrestrial wireless systems, next-generation unlicensed technology, and satellite broadband. But if we do this right, these networks will seamlessly interact in a way that is invisible to the user. We won’t need to think about what network, where, and what services are available. Connections will just work everywhere, all the time."

Dell'Oro: AI Investments to Lift Hyperscale Cloud Capex

Accelerated computing is forecast to lift hyperscale cloud capex to 17 percent growth in 2024, according to a new report from Dell'Oro Group, which also found that AI infrastructure investments in the enterprise are also gaining momentum.

“After growing just 4 percent in 2023, worldwide data center capex is projected to rebound to double-digit growth this year,” said Baron Fung, Sr. Research Director at Dell’Oro Group. “While accelerated computing for generative AI applications will be the front-runner in data center investments, we expect a modest recovery in general-purpose servers and storage demand following a period of steep correction. Until last year, the hyperscalers led the way for AI-related investments. This year, we expect accelerated systems to account for an increasing part of server OEM sales and carry a significant backlog as enterprise customers deploy AI workloads,” explained Fung.

Additional highlights from the 4Q 2023 Data Center IT Capex Quarterly Report:

  • Dell led all OEMs in server revenue in 2023, followed by HPE and IEIT Systems. The revenue share of the white box server vendors surpassed that of the top 3 server OEMs in 2023.
  • Server and storage systems revenue is forecast to grow by 18 percent in 2024, as the product mix shifts to AI-optimized servers and to server platforms with the latest x86 CPUs from Intel and AMD, as well as ARM CPUs.
  • Dell'Oro projects that the top 4 US hyperscalers—Amazon, Google, Meta, and Microsoft—will each increase their data center capex by double digits in 2024.

Swisscom to acquire Vodafone Italia, creating nation's 2nd competitor

In a significant move to bolster its presence in the Italian telecommunications market, Swisscom has announced the acquisition of Vodafone Italia for EUR 8 billion, aiming to merge it with its Italian subsidiary, Fastweb. This strategic merger is expected to create a powerful converged operator in Italy, enhancing both mobile and fixed connectivity services across the country. Here are the key points related to the network operations, size, and footprint of this merger:

Combined Strengths and Synergies:

The merger brings together Vodafone Italia's premium mobile network with Fastweb's robust fixed connectivity infrastructure.

Expected annual synergies of approximately EUR 600 million will improve cost efficiency and scale, facilitating significant investments in Italy's telecommunication sector.

This convergence aims to deliver innovative, competitively priced services, enhancing user experience for both private and business customers across all market segments.

Enhanced Customer Benefits:

Mobile users will enjoy improved connectivity and service quality through a fully controlled end-to-end managed wireless network.

Broadband customers will benefit from enhanced service quality, leveraging Fastweb’s wireline network and Vodafone’s 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA).

The merger promises high-performance combined fibre and mobile solutions, offering greater service convergence at competitive prices.

Business and Public Administration Value:

Access to complementary assets such as Fastweb's cloud infrastructure and Vodafone Italia's mobile assets will offer a broader range of IT and communication services.

The merger facilitates a one-stop-shop experience for B2B customers, promoting faster digitalization for enterprises and public administrations in Italy.

National Impact and Competitive Landscape:

By creating a commercially resilient entity, the merger aims to ensure sustained investment in top-tier network infrastructure and innovation.

The combined operation will help close the digital divide and accelerate Italy's digital transformation, increasing competition in the telecommunications market.

Financial and Strategic Benefits:

The transaction, valued at attractive multiples, is expected to be cash flow neutral to Swisscom in the first year and accretive from the second year onwards.

Swisscom plans to increase its dividend post-merger, supported by synergy realization and free cash flow growth, while retaining its strong corporate credit rating.

Regulatory Approvals and Closing Timeline:

Subject to regulatory and customary approvals, the transaction is expected to close in Q1 2025.

Post-closing, the combined entity and Vodafone Group will enter into transitional and long-term service agreements, including a brand license agreement.

Swisscom CEO, Christoph Aeschlimann, and Vodafone Group CEO, Margherita Della Valle, have both highlighted the merger's strategic rationale, emphasizing the enhanced value proposition for customers and the strengthened competitive position in the Italian market. This move underscores Swisscom's commitment to growth and investment in both the Swiss and Italian telecommunication sectors, promising a new era of connectivity and digital services in Italy.

  • In November 2023. KKR and TIM reached a €22 billion agreement for KKR to acquire a key part of TIM's infrastructure: its fixed-line network. This network forms the backbone of TIM's landline and internet services in Italy. By acquiring this asset, KKR gains a foothold in the Italian telecom market and the potential to reshape the industry. The deal received a critical boost in January 2024 when the Italian government approved it under its "golden power rule," granting oversight but also requiring a security task force to monitor the network's operations. However, a potential roadblock remains. 
  • Vivendi, the largest shareholder in TIM, is unhappy with the sale price and has challenged the deal in court. This legal battle could delay or even prevent the acquisition from finalizing. 
  • It's important to note that this deal excludes Sparkle, TIM's undersea cable unit, which boasts a vast network of fiber optic cables that connect Italy to other parts of the world. TIM received a separate non-binding offer for Sparkle, but it was ultimately rejected. For TIM, the sale of the fixed-line network would provide significant funds to invest in the business and reduce its debt burden. It would also allow them to focus on their mobile network operations and potentially their remaining international assets like Sparkle.

Private investors acquire Verne data centers in UK, Iceland, Finland

Ardian, a private investment house, has acquired Verne (formerly Verne Global), a leading data center platform headquartered in the UK and diversified across Northern Europe, from Digital 9 Infrastructure plc (D9). Financial terms were not disclosed.

Verne, established in 2012, operates data centers in central London, Iceland and Finland. The company specializes in high-performance computing (HPC) workloads, including AI, Machine Learning, and Large Language Models (LLM), providing a competitive total cost of ownership, strong green credentials, and exceptional availability. Sustainability is central to Verne's mission, operating with 100% renewable energy in Iceland and 100% decarbonized energy in Finland and the UK.

“Having identified the company through our systemic matrix sourcing approach, looking through both a digital infrastructure and country specific lens, we identified Verne as a truly green data center compared with its peers globally. 
This investment is fully aligned with our approach at Ardian of investing into platforms and delivering strong returns through major industrial strategy backed by an accelerated capex plan.  Ardian will support Verne’s top tier management team to match the incredible and fascinating customer AI-driven demand. With this investment, Ardian Infrastructure is now exposed to the whole digital infrastructure value chain capitalizing on global digitalization trends.” Gonzague Boutry, Managing Director - Digital Infrastructure, Ardian.

“This is an exciting day for Verne as we become part of the Ardian platform. We have ambitious plans to continue growing the company and delivering sustainable data center solutions. We want to enable organizations to cost-effectively scale their digital infrastructure while reducing their environmental impact. We are hugely excited to be working with Ardian to help power our future.” Dominic Ward, CEO, Verne.

IP Infusion reports 61% growth spurt in 2023

IP Infusion, a privately-held supplier of carrier-grade networking software systems, reported a significant 61% year-over-year sales jump in 2023, marking the highest revenue in the company’s history.

  • Ninety-five new customers turned to IP Infusion’s  solutions in 2023, and 41 new partners joined the company’s extensively curated open networking ecosystem that now boasts 127 partners. 

  • IP Infusion had 351 repeat orders from existing OcNOS customer orders, solidifying the company’s role as the leading disaggregated alternative to legacy vendors such as Cisco, Juniper, and Arista.
  • To date, more than 42,000 total OcNOS licenses have been sold and two million ports shipped globally. IP Infusion’s reputation for carrier-grade products that provide flexibility, reliability, and low Total Cost of Ownership undergird its growing market position.
  • IP Infusion publicly announced 15 new OcNOS customer wins for 2023, including Africell Sierra Leone, Amplex Internet, BroadStar, DojoNetworks, EXATEL, Haefele Connect, Kinetix Networks, MetaLINK Technologies, Multinet, Netplus, Pine Networks, Scott Data, Telcom, Targo, and Vyve Broadband. As customers expand their networks and move toward open network deployments, the OcNOS Aggregation Router, Data Center, and Cell Site Router use cases continue to lead overall sales.
  • A key industry event in 2023 was IP Infusion’s strategic partnership with NTT DATA (part of NTT Group) in which NTT DATA and IP Infusion announced collaboration for go-to-market open networking solutions. IP Infusion also announced that it had provided technical support for the development of Beluganos — a new network operating system (NOS) for white box solutions to realize NTT Corporation (NTT)’s IOWN concept — and is providing sales and support for global markets with NTT and NTT Advanced Technology Corporation (NTT-AT), the core technology company of NTT Group.

“We are extremely gratified to see IP Infusion’s momentum continue to increase substantially throughout 2023 due to robust demand for our software and open, disaggregated network solutions,” said Atsushi Ogata, President and CEO of IP Infusion. “Today’s volatile global economy requires mature, cost-effective end-to-end open solutions for secure, reliable networks. We are confident that our OcNOS-based products offer the highest-rated solutions that meet complex use cases.”

Quintessent raises $11.5M for quantum dot lasers

Quintessent, a start-up based in Santa Barbara, California, closed $11.5 million in venture funding for its workin in heterogeneous silicon photonics and quantum dot laser technology.

The seed round was oversubscribed and included was led by Osage University Partners (OUP) with new investors including M Ventures, and joining existing investors Sierra Ventures, Foothill Ventures, and Entrada Ventures.

“We are grateful for the support from our new and existing investors who all recognize the need for foundational innovations to catalyze sustainable and reliable interconnect scaling for the era of accelerated computing,” said Alan Liu, CEO and co-founder of Quintessent. 

Liu was previously an Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton and advised on various photonics R&D programs for clients at DARPA and ARPA-E. Alan obtained his PhD from Professor John Bowers’ group at UCSB where he performed research that is now part of Quintessent’s core technology.

  • Last year, Quintessent and  Tower Semiconductor demonstrated a world first in heterogeneously integrating O-band GaAs quantum dot (QD) lasers with a commercial foundry silicon photonics process. Tower's PH18DB platform is targeted for optical transceiver modules in datacenters and telecom networks, as well as new emerging applications in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, LiDAR and other sensors. 
  • The companies, which are collaborating under the DARPA LUMOS program, cited benefits of semiconductor quantum dot lasers and amplifiers over traditional quantum well materials:
  • Lower relative intensity noise (RIN) in multiwavelength lasers
  • Optical amplifiers with near ideal noise figure
  • Improved optical feedback tolerance for isolator-free, on chip lasers
  • The ability to operate efficiently at high ambient temperatures
  • Significantly improved component reliability and lifetimes 

  • Heterogeneous integration of lasers/amplifier functionality and other silicon photonic elements on common substrate presents significant benefits such as: 
  • New product architectures and functionalities otherwise not achievable using external lasers, for example complete self-test at the chip level, or on-chip amplification
  • Reduced cost
  • Reduced power consumption and improved link margin
  • Improved system reliability