Friday, January 5, 2018

Telecoms Market Update: Singapore

by James E. Carroll

Singapore, which boasts the world’s highest mobile penetration rate at over 150% and which has been ranked as the most "Tech-Ready Nation" by the World Economic Forum, is often cited as a living laboratory for advanced communication services given the compact size of this city-state and its excellent overall infrastructure.


In the telecoms sector, Singapore is a mix of state-owned incumbent operators (SingTel and to a lesser extent Starhub), tight regulatory and media controls, and small business start-ups. As we enter the 5G era, it is worth tracking the changes underway in this very dynamic market.
Singapore’s official regulatory body for telecoms and media, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), has published an Industry Transformation Map, setting out the vision for transforming the city-state into a fully digital economy. The goal is to grow the media and communications at a 6% CAGR, roughly twice as fast as Singapore’s overall economy, creating approximately 13,000 new jobs. This would mean 210,000 workers would be directly employed by companies in this sector by 2020, compared with 194,000 in 2016. 

Singapore’s Industry Transformation Map has three main thrusts:
  • One – invest in the four “frontier technologies,” namely Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics; Cybersecurity; Immersive Media; and Internet of Things;
  • Two – strengthen the core of the ICM sector and focus on education for the next generation of ICM professionals and companies;
  • Three – guide companies and workers from the other sectors to adopt digital technology to improve productivity and efficiency.

Encouraging investment and education has long been core to Singapore’s DNA. These are the principal factors which have made Singapore so successful to date.

The four frontier technologies are not surprising either. Everyone is chasing these four sectors, but Singapore’s ambition is better planned. In May 2017, a fund called AI Singapore was set up with S$150 million to catalyse, synergise and boost AI capabilities. A nine-month AI Apprenticeship Programme (AIAP) has also been established offering a blend of classroom, online and hands-on project work. The first AI apprenticeships will begin in March 2018.

The AI Singapore ecosystem currently consists of National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore Management University (SMU), Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), and Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).
The third thrust is interesting as it entails building a community between developers and users. This will take the form of a Strategic Partners Programme (SPP), which formally got underway in July. 
New collaborations with Memoranda of Intent (MOIs) were signed in November with three platform partners namely, IBM, Microsoft and Samsung to groom selected Singapore-based tech companies in their respective ecosystems.  IMDA expects these new partnerships to benefit between 80-100 companies. Huawei is also a strategic partner, signed in July 2017, with a goal to propel 35 Singapore-based tech companies.

The current market situation

There are three major networking infrastructure providers in Singapore, SingTel (Singapore Telecom, the previous incumbent operator), Starhub and M1. A fourth competitor, Australia-backed TPG Telecom, has regulatory clearance to enter the market and has launched initial services.  A local ISP known as MyRepublic is also attempting to become a mobile operator.



A brief background on StarHub

When Singapore first moved to abandon the monopoly status of SingTel in 1998, StarHub soon emerged as the likely favourite challenger. Starhub launched officially in April 2000 with the ST Telemedia, Singapore Power and two very powerful international carriers, namely, BT Group and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT). The new venture bought out some local ISPs and then merged with Singapore Cable Vision. During these early years, StarHub launched its mobile network and, with that, quickly established itself as a top consumer play for mobile, cable TV, and broadband Internet service. These consumer services remain core to the company today.

Temasek Holdings, which is a sovereign wealth fund of the Government of Singapore, holds an approximate 56% share of Starhub. The market capitalisation of Starhub is around S$5.032 billion (US$3.73 billion).

In 2009, Starhub was selected by Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) to design, build and operate the active infrastructure of the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (Next Gen NBN). Four proposals were considered: Intellinet (Axia + Cisco), Kliq (M1), 1NNOV8 (Singtel) and Nucleus Connect (StarHub). The OpenNet consortium backed by SingTel was selected to serve as the Network Company (NetCo) of the Next Gen NBN. Under the NBN structure established by the government, the NetCo (OpenNet) is responsible for deploying fiber while the OpCo (StarHub) is responsible for delivering wholesale services to Retail Service Providers (RSPs).

StarHub in 2017 has been flat or mostly declining, except Enterprise

In Q3 2017, StarHub reported revenues of S$580.4 million, down 0.8 % compared to a year earlier. The slight decline was mainly attributed to lower service revenues from Mobile, Pay TV and Broadband services, along with lower sales of equipment. These trends have been playing out for the whole year, as the nine-month report showed a decline of 0.6% overall.

One positive area cited by the company in its quarterly report was Enterprise Fixed service revenue. The growth in fixed service revenue was partly due to the consolidation of Accel Systems & Technologies Pte Ltd (ASTL), a newly acquired cyber security solutions provider.

Revenue for PayTV services for StarHub continue to decline as they lose customers. StarHub’s income also declined as the government trimmed NBN grants by S$4.1 million in Q3. In Q3, StarHub’s CAPEX to sales ratio was 9%, fairly low for a network operator.

For its mobile division, StarHub’s subscriber base at the end of Q3 was 2.256 million, down from 2.275 million the previous year. PayTV is down 10k from last quarter and about 40k since last year. Broadband decreased by 1k over the last quarter and 9k over the last year.

CEO to step down, looking for new talent possibly from abroad

On November 17, 2017, StarHub CEO Tan Tong Hai announced his resignation, effective May 1, 2018. He has served as COO since 2009, later being promoted to the chief executive role in 2013. Under his leadership, StarHub underwent many changes, most significantly transforming from a strictly consumer-oriented service provider to include enterprise networking services. Sales to enterprise customers have grown to more than S$ 900 million annually. He chalked up several other notable achievements, including the acquisitions of mm2 Asia and Accel Systems & Technologies, the launch of an integrated fiber and cable home broadband solution, and the transition to an IPTV service.

The company has indicated that they are conducting a global search for his replacement. This is interesting because it suggests that StarHub may consider business ventures outside of Singapore going forward.

Another milestone this year has been the acquisition of Accel Systems & Technologies, a local cybersecurity specialist whose capabilities are expected to bolster StarHub’s enterprise portfolio. Accel will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

Expanding the mobile infrastructure partnership with M1

For many years, StarHub has partnered with rival M1 to share mobile infrastructure costs. This has included combined antenna systems, in-building fibre and tunnel cables. In January 2017, the companies agreed to expand this relationship to include sharing radio access network, backhaul and access assets. It does not include the individual mobile core networks or support systems. The companies continue to compete for consumer mobile services. This infrastructure sharing agreement should benefit StarHub as it begins to roll out 5G.

APG submarine cable brings the capacity for new services, better prices

One of the factors contributing to the rise of StarHub’s enterprise division was the activation in late December 2016 of the Asia-Pacific General (APG) submarine cable network system. This added significant international capacity on the StarHub network. APG is a 10,900 kilometer submarine cable linking Mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. APG gives StarHub direct access to telecom partners in each of the countries with a landing station, such as Shanghai Nanhui, Chongming as well as Hong Kong, where major Chinese telecommunication providers deliver connectivity and ensure competitive access to multinational businesses.

“Singapore is China’s largest foreign investor. To serve Singapore enterprises expanding to China, we are pleased to provide them with a new international connectivity on APG, catering for the growing economic activities between China and Southeast Asia,” said Benjamin Tan, Vice President of International Business, StarHub.

StarHub’s partnership with APG is also significant because it increases route diversity to other Asian countries via submarine cables such as Asia-Pacific Cable Network 2 (APCN2), Asia Submarine-cable Express (ASE) and Asia-America Gateway (AAG).

Vodafone partnership opens a door to the outside

Unlike Singtel, which has numerous overseas investments and partnerships, StarHub has generally focused on only its local operations. Its most significant overseas partnership is with Vodafone, with whom it began a relationship four years ago, focused on mobile connectivity as well as co-branding and knowledge sharing initiatives. In November 2016, the companies agreed to expand this relationship to include high-speed data on Vodafone’s 4G networks for consumers. The partnership also gave a boost to StarHub’s enterprise services by helping them expand their businesses overseas via Vodafone’s International Enterprise network.

What’s next for Starhub?

In terms of revenue mix, mobile services have accounted for approximately 50% of Starhub’s turnover for past few years, with PayTV making up 15%, Broadband 8%, Enterprise 16% and sales of equipment (mobile phones, home gateways, etc.) making up the rest. There is little churn in Singapore’s mobile market but ARPU is falling as operators offer more and more generous data packages to subscribers. In the Pay TV segment, cord cutting continues to take hold. Starhub is losing subscribers every quarter even as it adds content with unique media partnerships. In broadband, Singapore’s excellent Nationwide Broadband Network (NBN), of which Starhub is a foundational player, delivers great performance/value to consumers but makes it difficult for operators to differentiate their services.  Outgoing CEO Tan Tong Hai has been right to focus on Enterprise services as a big growth opportunity, bring competition for advanced services and international connectivity to Singapore’s business community. Is it time to seek expansion opportunities abroad?

An Overview of Singtel’s international operations

The Singtel Group has been one of the most internationally expansive mobile operators, putting it in the category of Vodafone, Orange, Telefonica, Digicel, Etisalat and Zain. While most of the world’s mobile network operators find success only in their home market, Singtel is quite the global player. But instead of using its own brand wherever it goes, like Orange, the Singtel Group typically invests in a local player, keeping its distinct Singtel logo and Singaporean identity out of the public eye.
Through its six overseas investments, the Singtel Group currently touches 670 million mobile customers in 22 countries, with the largest concentrations being in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. In contrast, the population of Singapore is only 5.6 million – so you could say the company broadened its reach 100x by pursuing outside opportunities. For its own data network, Singtel has 370 PoPs in 325 cities.

Singtel’s major overseas holding include:

Australia - Optus – 100% share – Australia’s No. 2 mobile operator with 9.8 million customers for a 29% share of the market. Over 6 million of these subscribers are on the 4G network. The network footprint covers 95% of the population. Optus also serves 1.2 million broadband customers in Australia. For its most recent quarter, Optus delivered strong free cash flow of A$267 million up 21 percent from a year ago, despite higher capital investment in the network. Optus operating revenue was stable year-on-year at A$2,117 million with growth in mobile, mass market fixed and ICT & managed service revenues offset by lower equipment revenue.  Over the past few months, Optus went live with the world’s first three-carrier channel aggregation massive MIMO in Sydney, delivering speeds of over 800 Mbps. Optus expects to roll out this technology to other capital cities in the next six months.
Optus has also moved quickly down the path to transform into a mobile-led, multimedia content provider. The first step was the launch of Optus Sport, a 24/7 sports channel with on-demand and live multi-screen capability to broadcast Premier League football.  This has proven popular. Optus users have watched almost 13 million hours of Premier League and international football content including live matches, highlights, and expert analysis, since launch in 2016. Optus also offers data-free music and content streaming in selected prepaid and postpaid plans.  Its streaming partners include Netflix, Stan, ABC iView, Spotify, Pandora, iHeart Radio, and Google Play.

India – Bharti Airtel, in whom Singtel holds a 36.5% effective interest. Airtel is still the no.1 mobile operators in India with approximately 282 million customers for a 24% market share.  However, Airtel is under intense pressure from Reliance Jio, which is really shaken up the market with low pricing and generous data allowance. Earning here are under threat.
Through Bharti Airtel, which has its own international expansion strategy, the are 2 million more customers in southeast Asia and 82 million customers in Africa (Ghana, Niger, Chad, Gabon, Congo, DR of Congo, Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Madagascar, and the Seychelles..

Indonesia – Telkomsel, in whom Singtel holds a 35% share. Telkomsel is no.1 in Indonesia with 190 million mobile customers for a 47% share of the market. Most recently, the company posted its fifth straight year of double digit revenue growth.

Thailand – AIS, in whom Singtel holds a 23% share. AIS has 40 million mobile customers, ranking it no.1 in the country with a 45% market share. The carrier has rapidly expanded its 4G network over the past year and now covers 98% of the population.

Thailand – Intouch, in whom Singtel has a 21% share. Intouch is an active investor in local telcos and media, and technology firms.

Philippines – Globe, in whom Singtel has a 47% share. Globe has 59 million mobile customers, giving it a 50% market share. For the first nine months of 2017, Globe’s service revenues climbed 6% over last year.  There were 3 consecutive quarters of record revenues for both mobile and home broadband. Mobile data contributed about 43% of total mobile revenues for the first nine months of 2017, versus 38% a year ago. Mobile data service revenues reached P31.3 billion as of end-September 2017, or 20% above the P26.1 billion reported in the same period last year driven by higher data usage and the continued growth in smartphone penetration, which increased to 70% for the period. Mobile data traffic likewise improved by 73% from 249 petabytes (PB) in 2016 to 430 PB this year. Globe home broadband business likewise reported a robust 8% year-on-year growth, delivering a total of P11.7 billion revenues as of end-September this year. An interesting note is that Globe is a big proponent of fixed wireless for home broadband service.


The international strategy has largely been successful. This year, the regional associates in whom Singtel is a major shareholder deliver 48% of the Group’s overall profits.  Its Optus subsidiary in Australia accounted for 22% of Singtel profits. Meanwhile, operations in its home city of Singapore yielded just 30% of profits. The good news is that consumers across Asia are upgrading to smartphones and signing up for 4G data plans. In the first nine months of 2017, the number of data subscribers surged past 220 million – a 12% increase from the previous year. Mobile banking is another clear opportunity.  In India, Airtel received a bank licence from the Reserve Bank of India and in January it launched Airtel Payments Bank to offer banking services across the country, with 250,000 Airtel retail outlets. The same is happening in the Philippines.

An Overview of Singtel’s domestic operations

The SingTel Group long held the title of being the most valuable company in southeast Asia by market capitalisation. This crown was lost in late November when DBS Group Holdings Ltd., which is Singapore’s largest bank, shot past SingTel on an upward stock price trajectory. Bragging rights aside, SingTel presently has a market cap of US$61.5 billion, which is roughly 12 times greater than that of its nearest rival, Starhub, which is currently worth about US$5 billion.

Though it is now organised as a publicly-traded company in a market open to competition much of its incumbency status in the city-state of Singapore remains. It’s top ten shareholders are revealing:



Notably, the majority share of 51% belongs to Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund. This same fund also owns a 56% share in Starhub – of course raising questions about whether competition is free flowing or managed. Would Temasek really encourage or even allow a serious price war to break out in telecom services in Singapore if it were to damage one of its key investments?

Next on the list of Singtel investors are “old money” – the established banks that guide the export economy of this Asian tiger. This suggests a conservative board that’s more likely to favor safe and predictable dividends over fast growth opportunities. The company has consistently delivered on these expectations and senior management is right in line. Singtel has headed by Ms. Chua Sock Koong (59) as Group CEO since 2007.  She joined Singtel in June 1989 as Treasurer before becoming Chief Financial Officer in April 1999. Her background is as a distinguished accountant. Bill Chang (50) serves as CEO of the enterprise and ICT division.


A brief timeline

·         Singtel enjoyed monopoly status until 1998 but rival Starhub really got going in the early 2000s.
·        In 2001, Singtel completed its acquisition of Optus Australia. Also in this year, Singtel was awarded its first 3G license.
·         In 2012, Singtel acquired Amobee, a mobile advertising technology company, for $321 million
·         In late 2012, Singtel activated its LTE network.

A networking showcase, especially for mobile

In Singapore, Singtel currently holds approximately 82% of the fixed-line market, 49% of the mobile market and 43% of the broadband market. Fixed line connections continue to evaporate here, as they do everywhere else in the world, but mobile and broadband churn are very low.

In its local mobile market, Singtel currently serves some 4.1 million subscribers, capturing 49% of the mobile phone market. As seen in the official market statistics covered in part 1 of this article, mobile Singtel network footprint is practically ubiquitous within the city-state. There is no place you can go where there is not LTE and/or any of Singtel’s 1,000+ Wi-Fi hotspots available. Of course, this level of penetration is easier to achieve when there is only 278 square kilometers to cover in the whole country. The geography and the population density make Singapore an ideal place to showcase the latest mobile technologies.  Already, Singtel’s 4.5G LTE delivers mobile data speeds at 500Mbps nationwide.

One example is Singtel’s interest in Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) technology. In a joint trial conducted recently with Ericsson, Singtel witnessed 1.1 Gbps of performance. The test leveraged 256 QAM and 4x4 MIMO, and aggregated two licensed and three unlicensed spectrum bands on a TM500 Test System device. Singtel and Ericsson are also working on 4.5G LTE and 5G in Singapore. Earlier this year, high download speeds of up to 800Mbps were achieved on Singtel’s LTE network by deploying 256 QAM downlink, 4x4 MIMO and triple carrier aggregation techniques. In October 2017, Ericsson and Singtel established a 5G Centre of Excellence to facilitate 5G development in Singapore.

In August, Singtel confirmed that it is working with ZTE to complete the live deployment of the 2.6 GHz Pre5G massive MIMO network at one Marina Bay site in Singapore to enhance Singtel's 4G service.  ZTE noted that its Pre5G massive MIMO is suitable for high-density scenarios and will be deployed to help guarantee service quality during the high data traffic volumes that will result from the crowd gathered at the location during Singapore National Day. The higher speeds will help to address the surge in mobile data traffic seen by Singtel.

Average data usage per post-paid subscriber
March 2015 – 1.9GB
March 2016 – 2.4GB
March 2017 – 3.5GB

China's BaishanCloud raises US$50m

BaishanCloud, a cloud data services company with offices and R&D centers in Beijing, Seattle, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Xiamen and Guian, raised $50 million in its Series C of private equity financing.
Baishan's cloud suite is comprised of cloud delivery, cloud storage, and cloud linkage services. The platform includes data transmission, data storage, data consumption, and data governance capabilities for Internet and enterprise customers. The company was founded in 2015.

The latest funding round was led by Alpha Capital and Chunjia Capital, followed by new local strategic investors.

NodeSource secures $17.5M in new funding

NodeSource, a start-up based in San Francisco, raised $17.5 million in Series B funding, for its open source Node.js solutions for enterprises. The company's flagship product, N|Solid, is a fully-compatible enhanced Node.js platform designed for mission-critical enterprise applications running server-side JavaScript at scale. Cited customers include Citadel, Comcast, Condé Nast, Delta Airlines, Goldman Sachs, Mastercard, and PayPal.

The up-round investment was provided by Silicon Valley Bank, Industry Ventures and existing investors Crosslink Capital and RRE Ventures. NodeSource has raised #33.4 million to date.


Xtera sues Nokia and NEC over subsea transmission patents

Xtera has filed legal proceedings against Nokia Corporation, including Alcatel-Lucent, and NEC Corporation citing infringement of its intellectual property in subsea telecommunications systems.

Specifically, Xtera's complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (“ITC”) alleges that Nokia and NEC "are using its technology illegally and without permission, and seeking to prevent the companies from importing and selling in the U.S. products that infringe on Xtera’s patents." Xtera says the infringing products include submarine line terminal equipment and components needed to transport optical signals across the ocean. The company is seeking a permanent, limited exclusion order that would prevent entry into the U.S. of products that infringe on Xtera’s patents. Xtera is asserting five patents against Nokia and NEC, including: U.S. Patent Nos.: 8,380,068; 7,860,403; 8,971,171; 8,351,798; and 8,406,637.

Keith Henderson, Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Xtera, said, “Xtera’s investment in R&D, commitment to innovation, and focus on providing high-quality solutions to customers have always been, and will always be, at the core of our strategy... By initiating legal action, Xtera is not only taking steps to protect what is lawfully ours, but we are also helping to ensure that innovation and intellectual property, which are essential to scientific advancement, are appropriately safeguarded.”

Orange Business to support ESA's Copernicus data and information access service

Orange Business Services will deliver cloud connectivity services for the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Copernicus project, which will provide free and open access to near-real-time data, models and forecasts about our planet, harvested by a family of dedicated satellites and in-situ observations.

Orange is part of the Airbus Consortium, one of the four groups of companies selected for the Copernicus data and information access service (DIAS) project by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Specifically, Orange Business Services will provide cloud-based ICT services together with its globally operated public cloud solution, Flexible Engine, to complement Airbus’ deep aerospace expertise. The consortium led by Airbus will use the Orange Business Services globally-operated. "Flexible Engine" public cloud to meet the demands of Copernicus and ensure all its data is secure and freely available. Flexible Engine is a highly secure and reliable public cloud offering built on OpenStack technology.

“Big data analytics supported by the right cloud capabilities can help unlock the value of this data to innovate and create new business models to provide economic growth for Europe. The entire Orange team is proud to participate in a project as ambitious as Copernicus DIAS. By utilizing our know-how and public cloud solution Flexible Engine, we will offer users innovative solutions to take advantage of the big data collected by ESA,” explains Philippe Laplane, CEO of Orange Cloud for Business.

Ooma acquires Butterfleye for home security video system

Sunnyvale, California based Ooma, which offers a VoIP service for consumers and small businesses, has acquired Butterfleye, a start-up offering an AI-powered video camera and security platform. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Butterfleye raised $1 million in an Indiegogo campaign in 2016 to launch its security camera. The wire-free Butterfleye camera is designed to detect people, pets, and various sounds. The design features advanced battery technology, 16 gigabytes of internal storage and on-board image processing.

"Butterfleye offers a fantastic intelligent security camera system and we’re excited to add its capabilities to the Ooma Home security service," said Eric Stang, CEO of Ooma. "Our strategy is to build upon Ooma’s smart communications platform to provide advanced connected home solutions and this acquisition is an important step in that direction."

Thursday, January 4, 2018

AT&T updates its 5G and FTT rollout plans

AT&T confirmed plans to roll out mobile 5G service in a dozen U.S. markets by late 2018, making it the first U.S. carrier to do so. The initial launch is aimed at consumers. Trials of 5G business applications are also planned this year.

The company also updated its plans in the following areas:

  • LTE-LAA - AT&T, which deployed its first commercial LTE-Licensed Assisted Access (LTE-LAA) site in downtown Indianapolis in November 2017, now says it intends to launch the technology in at least 2 dozen additional metros this year. LAA offers theoretical peak speeds of up to 1 Gbps. In previous field tests, AT&T observed actual peak wireless speeds of 979 Mbps. 
  • AT&T 5G Evolution - this series of upgrades based on LTE-Advanced technologies launched in 23 major metros in 2017. Further rollouts are underway. 
  • LTE-M - AT&T's nationwide, low-power, wide-area LTE-M network went live in 2017. LTE-M supports large-scale IoT applications, like smart city services, smart metering, asset tracking, supply chain management, security and alarm monitoring, and personal wearables. 
  • Fixed Wireless Internet - in 2017, AT& launched high-speed internet access to over 440,000 locations across 18 states in mostly rural areas through technologies like Fixed Wireless Internet, as part of the FCC Connect America Fund. In 2018, AT&T plans to reach over 660,000 total locations in 2018 and 1.1 million locations by the end of 2020 in those 18 states.
  • Fixed 5G and AirGig - AT&T has pre-standard 5G fixed wireless trials underway in Austin, Texas; Waco, Texas; Kalamazoo, Michigan and South Bend, Indiana with residential, small business, and education customers. The company has also announced 2 trials of its AirGig technology, which targets transport for ultra-fast low latency internet over power lines. 
  • Fiber for Consumers and Businesses - AT&T Fiber currently reaches more than 7 million locations across 67 metros nationwide. This year, AT&T plans to add 3 million more locations on. By mid-2019, AT&T Fiber should reach at least 12.5 million locations across at least 82 metro area/ 
  • G.fast - In 2017, AT&T launched G.fast service supporting Internet speeds up to 500 Mbps for multifamily properties across 8 metro areas outside of its 21-state traditional service area. AT&T now to extend G.fast to apartment communities.


AT&T to boost CAPEX by $1 billion, issue $1,000 bonus to 200K employees

In recognition of the new tax reform legislation, AT&T announced plans to boost its 2018 CAPEX by $1 billion and to pay a special $1,000 bonus to more than 200,000 of its U.S. employees — all union-represented, non-management and front-line managers.

“Congress, working closely with the President, took a monumental step to bring taxes paid by U.S. businesses in line with the rest of the industrialized world,” said Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and CEO. “This tax reform will drive economic growth and create good-paying jobs. In fact, we will increase our U.S. investment and pay a special bonus to our U.S. employees.”

Verizon picks Samsung as a supplier for Fixed 5G

Verizon has selected Samsung Electronics America as a supplier of commercial 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) network solutions. Verizon will begin by launching commercial 5G services in Sacramento, California in the second half of 2018. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Specifically, Samsung will provide Verizon with commercial 5G home routers (CPEs), 5G Radio Access Units (RAN) comprised of a compact radio base station and virtualized RAN elements, as well as 5G radio frequency planning services. Samsung said it has leveraged in-house technology and assets to develop the first commercial ASIC-based 5G modems and mmWave RFICs.

Samsung and Verizon began 5G customer trials across seven U.S. cities in early 2017, and have successfully tested and verified 5G performance using millimeter-wave (mmWave) frequency to provide FWA pre-commercial service. These trials were conducted in California, Georgia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, Texas, and Washington D.C.

The companies cited the following findings from their 5G testing:

  • A single 5G radio has been able to reach the 19th floor of a multi-dwelling unit (MDU).
  • Broadband service has been achieved in line of sight (LOS), partial LOS and Non-LOS connections.
  • Environmental factors, including rain and snow, have not interrupted services.

“The industry has been discussing 5G connectivity for years, and through our joint collaboration with partners like Samsung, we are beginning to make it a reality for our customers," said Ed Chan, Chief Technology Architect and Network Planning, Verizon.

“Together with Verizon, we have explored the vast potential of 5G through market trials across the U.S.,” said Mark Louison, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Networks Division, Samsung Electronics America. “At the same time, Samsung applied lessons learned from these real-world trials to ensure that our complete end-to-end 5G portfolio is ready for commercial service. We are delighted to work with Verizon on this journey to create unprecedented user experiences powered by 5G.”

Verizon readies 5G fixed residential service launch in 2018

Verizon's first 5G application will be a fixed residential broadband service.

The first commercial launch will occur in Sacramento, California during the second half of 2018. Additional markets are also expected to launch in 2018.

Verizon did not disclose the performance characteristics of its 5G residential service but said it will provide unprecedented wireless speeds for Internet access.

Verizon estimates the market opportunity for initial 5G residential broadband services to be approximately 30 million households nationwide. The company also noted that the 5G residential rollout will not have a material impact on Verizon’s consolidated capital expenditures in 2018. CAPEX is expected to be consistent with the past several years.

Verizon tests FDD Massive MIMO with Ericsson, Qualcomm

Verizon, Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies conducted the first FDD Massive MIMO trial with a fully compatible customer device in December.

The test used the latest Ericsson Massive MIMO software and hardware on Verizon's network, along with a mobile test device powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform with X20 LTE using TM9 (Transmission Mode 9). TM9 is an enhancement for consumer devices that will make them fully compatible with Massive MIMO, enabling a better experience.

Verizon said the achievement builds on the momentum from the deployment of FDD (Frequency Division Duplexing) Massive MIMO (Multiple Input – Multiple Output) on Verizon's wireless network in Irvine, California.

"Massive MIMO is a critical component of our 4G LTE Advancements and will play an important role in 5G technology that will result in single digit latency and scalability in the billions of connections," stated Nicola Palmer, Chief Network Engineer and Head of Wireless Networks, Verizon.

AWS Direct Connect adds ten more locations worldwide

AWS announced ten more locations where its Direct Connect service is available. AWS Direct Connect provides secure 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps connections from inside a colocation data center or from a service provider.

Here are the latest AWS Direct Connect locations:


  • Bangalore, India – NetMagic DC2 – Asia Pacific (Mumbai).
  • Cape Town, South Africa – Teraco Ct1 – EU (Ireland).
  • Johannesburg, South Africa – Teraco JB1 – EU (Ireland).
  • London, UK – Telehouse North Two – EU (London).
  • Miami, Florida, US – Equinix MI1 – US East (Northern Virginia).
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota, US – Cologix MIN3 – US East (Ohio)
  • Ningxia, China – Shapotou IDC – China (Ningxia).
  • Ningxia, China – Industrial Park IDC – China (Ningxia).
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Equinix RJ2– South America (São Paulo).
  • Tokyo, Japan – AT Tokyo Chuo – Asia Pacific (Tokyo).



Brazil's Oi advances its bankruptcy restructuring plan

Oi, the largest telecommunications company in Brazil and South America, announced a major advancement in its bankruptcy restructuring, as creditors voted to approve a plan that reduces debt by approximately 65 billion reais (US$20 billion). The restructuring is believed to be the largest in Latin America to date.

The restructuring paves the way for a possible investment of acquisition by China Mobile, although no official confirmation has been forthcoming from the companies.


China Mobile looks to buy Oi Brasil

China Mobile is negotiating to acquire the mobile division of Oi, the largest telecommunications company in Brazil and South America, according to report in The China Daily.


The deal has not been finalized. China Mobile might have to pay US$3.5 billion in fines owed by Oi to the Brazilian telecoms authority, known as Agencia Nacional de Telecomunicacoes, or Anatel.

If it goes through, the deal would be historic on several fronts. None of the Chinese telecommunications carriers have acquired other carriers in other countries. China Mobile, which is already the world's largest mobile operator, would add nearly 41 million mobile subscribers in Brazil.

Oi, which was once known as Telemar, was formed through the merger of 16 state-owned incumbent local exchange carriers. The company was re-branded as "Oi" in 2007. In June 2016, Oi filed for bankruptcy protection, citing US$19 billion (R$65 billion) in debt. The case is still pending in the Brazilian courts.



Barracuda acquires Phishline for security awareness

Barracuda Networks has acquired PhishLine, a start-up offering a SaaS platform for social engineering simulation and training that delivers security awareness for better phishing protection. Financial terms were not disclosed.

PhishLine, which is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, offers data analytics and reporting to allow customers to measure and report on risks at macro and micro levels across the human and process layers. The company has three issued and eight pending patents for its SaaS platform, which includes multivariable attack simulations across email, text message, voice, and USB/mobile media; best-in-class data capture, analytics and reporting; and continual, complex analysis of employee performance. PhishLine was launched in 2011.

With this transaction, Barracuda said now delivers gateway security, data protection, AI-based targeted threat protection, and user awareness training for comprehensive protection against email-borne threats.

"Security awareness training is an important and quickly evolving area, particularly with increasingly targeted attacks making the human element a critical link in the security value chain," said BJ Jenkins, president and CEO at Barracuda. "PhishLine has a culture of developing innovative email protection solutions, including social engineering and data analysis offerings. Combining the power of the Barracuda security technologies with PhishLine's capabilities gives us the opportunity to deliver integrated, adaptive security training aimed at preventing email security threats."

Terahertz multiplexer achieves 50 Gbps wireless transmission

An international research team from Brown University and the Institut d'Electronique de Microélectronique et de Nanotechnologie (IEMN), CNRS/University of Lille, in France, has reported the first transmission of two real-time video signals through a terahertz multiplexer at an aggregate data rate of 50 Gbps.

The breakthrough, which was reported in the journal Nature Communications, combined radio transmission techniques with photonic-based THz circuits to achieve high-data rates. Tektronix played a key role in the demonstration, supplying its DPO70000SX 70 GHz Oscilloscope and its AWG70000 arbitrary waveform generators (AWGs).

The researchers used a waveguide system involving two metal plates in parallel to encode two high-definition television broadcasts onto terahertz waves of two different frequencies: 264.7 GHz and 322.5 GHz. QPSK modulation was used.

"The bridging of fiber optics and radio technologies using photonic-based THz circuits to achieve high-data rates is an area of continuous innovation and this is another example of how test and measurement enables innovation. Advanced test tools are needed today to generate and characterize signals at 100G, 400G and beyond and Tektronix offers a wide portfolio of optical communication test solutions, including those used on this ground-breaking research effort," stated Dean Miles, market development manager in Europe, Middle East and Africa for Tektronix.

Sercomm debuts LTE-M IoT button with 3-year battery life

Sercomm, which is a global manufacturer and supplier of telecom equipment and devices, introduced an LTE IoT button device,

The button connects to the cloud via LTE Cat M1 (any carrier frequency worldwide), and is designed to sustain up to two thousand clicks. It measures 65 x 65 x 25 mm.

As a "one-click button" the device could be programmed for a range of IoT applications, such as mobile ordering of products or supplies, triggering of automatic alerts, or provisioning of logistical services or maintenance tasks that occur at irregular intervals.

The button was designed and manufactured by Sercomm and based on Sequans’ Monarch LTE Cat M1/NB1 Platform, which provides support for power saving mode (PSM) and extended discontinuous reception (eDRX) to enable the long battery life needed by many IoT use cases. Battery life is estimated 3 years. Sequans’ Monarch is already certified by Verizon and AT&T and in the certification process with many other carriers.

Xilinx names Victor Peng as its new CEO

Xilinx named Victor Peng as its next president and chief executive officer, replacing Moshe Gavrielov, who will step down as CEO and from the board of directors on January 28th.

Since joining the company in 2008, Peng has spearheaded industry-leading strategy and technical shifts across the company’s portfolio of products and services, resulting in three consecutive generations of core product leadership and significant technology breakthroughs in integration and programming.  Most recently,

Peng joined Xilinx in 2009 and currently serves as Chief Operating Officer. He was appointed as a member of the board of directors in October 2017. Before joining Xilinx, Peng served as corporate vice president of the graphics products group (GPG) silicon engineering at AMD.

Swarm64 raises $12.5M for FPGA acceleration for databases

Swarm64, a Norwegian company with operations in Berlin, Germany secured a Series B funding round of US$12.5 million for its scalable data accelerator (SDA) for relational databases.

Swarm64 leverages an FPGA-based accelerator and real-time database software to perform analytics for high velocity and big data applications in PostgreSQL, MariaDB, and MySQL .


The funding round was led by Intel Capital and Investinor. Also participating in the round were Alliance Venture and Target Partners.

"We are very glad to welcome Intel Capital as a new investor. The cooperation with Intel will help us serve a global market with the most advanced technology.” says Karsten Rönner, CEO of Swarm64. “Many industries face an explosion in their data processing needs, be it from growing numbers of connected ‘things’, expanding business models that include data analytics or staying competitive in markets with ever higher data processing needs. The Swarm64SDA enables anyone with basic skills in relational databases to gain deep new business insights in less time.”

Mavenir acquires Aquto for mobile sponsored-data platform

Mavenir has acquired Aquto, a start-up based in Boston that offers a cloud-based sponsored data platform that helps mobile operators to increase marketing and advertising revenue. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Sponsored data enables users to gain cellular data connectivity through 3rd party sponsorships. Aquto said operators can use data sponsorships as a form of currency to improve mobile engagement across any type of mobile campaign (app downloads, in-app engagement, media, etc.).

Aquto's SaaS Platform Distribution is available either as a white-label Sponsored Data platform to enable single MNO or group of MNOs or as Global Sponsored Data Platform connected to all MNOs.

“What’s critical to the subscriber is mobile data connectivity and what’s important to carriers is monetization and loyalty,” said Pardeep Kohli. “In this marketplace, operators can monetize sponsors through the value exchange model - where mobile data is the primary currency. Enterprises can attach data rewards to a specific call to action (CTA). Users/consumers, when provided with sponsored data services, engage more with the operator and ultimately buy more data from the operator (i.e. reduced churn by 5% and increased ARPU by 15% for prepaid subscribers).”

Aquto was co-founded and led by Susie Kim Riley. Investors in Aquto included Matrix Partners, North Bridge Venture Partners, Iris Capital, and STC Ventures.

Nokia and Huawei sign patent license agreement

Nokia signed a multi-year patent license agreement with Huawei. Financial terms were not disclosed, but Nokia said it would begin seeing revenue in Q4 2017, including an element of non-recurring catch-up revenue.

"Huawei is one of China's largest companies and is among the world's leading smartphone manufacturers and we are delighted to welcome them to our family of patent licensees," said Maria Varsellona, chief legal officer at Nokia.


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