Monday, February 26, 2018

GSMA study warns the megacities could face bandwidth crunch by 2025

The world’s largest and densest cities, such as New York, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tokyo, could face a wireless bandwidth crunch in their urban cores by 2025 warns a new report published by the GSMA.

The gap between mobile data traffic demand and available network capacity could become acute, with as much as 48 percent of traffic demand going unserved in ultra-dense urban areas by 2025. The report cites the rise of 5G and IoT as potentially increasing demand by 50 percent.

The GSMA report makes six key recommendations for policymakers to promote infrastructure investment:

  • Release additional affordable spectrum: Greater availability of spectrum at fair prices could accelerate investment and have significant benefits in terms of network capacity.
  • Facilitate deployment of fronthaul and backhaul infrastructure: Successful deployment of new macro and small cells to boost network capacity requires access to backhaul networks.
  • Provide more access to advantageous macro-cell and small-cell sites: Rents for cell sites have risen steeply. Access to sites on publicly owned buildings and street furniture would remove a significant obstacle to new cell deployment.
  • Allow network sharing agreements: Permitting operators the flexibility to enter into commercial agreements on network sharing would substantially reduce capital and operating costs for operators.
  • Enable small-cell deployment: Streamlining planning approvals for widespread small cell installation could expedite network investment and increase capacity in large cities.
  • Harmonise power density limits: Regulations setting exposure to levels of radiofrequency electromagnetic files should be harmonised with internationally recommended limits.


Metaswitch lands extended reseller agreement with HPE

Metaswitch has signed a global resale agreement with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) aimed at accelerating fixed and mobile network operators’ deployments of advanced services including VoLTE and VoWiFi on private, public or hybrid cloud infrastructures.

Under the deal, Metaswitch’s core network software products, including the Clearwater IMS core and Perimeta session border controller (SBC), will be integrated with HPE’s own virtual network functions and management platforms to deliver end to end virtualized VoLTE, VoWiFi and advanced communications services.

Metaswitch said this reseller relationship builds on the previous announcement of the integration of Metaswitch’s Clearwater core with HPE’s infrastructure platforms and NFV Director orchestration platform.

“Metaswitch has established a strong track record of collaboration with HPE that is giving operators a modern and compelling alternative to more limited, legacy approaches,” said Martin Lund, CEO of Metaswitch. “Today’s announcement marks a new level of collaboration between the two companies and is a significant step forward for carriers seeking more agility and velocity in service development and delivery.”

“HPE and Metaswitch are committed to easing operator adoption of virtualized infrastructure, applications and service innovation by pre-integrating best of breed cloud-native VNFs, management and orchestration, and subscriber management offerings in a rapidly-deployable package” said David Sliter, VP and GM Communications & Media Solutions, HPE. “Metaswitch offers service providers the only truly cloud native real time communications software solutions available in the market today. Metaswitch cloud native communications software solutions complement our range of advanced subscriber management platforms, orchestration software and cloud infrastructure elements on which operators can affect real architectural transformation.”

Ericsson announces first Energy Infrastructure Management contract

Ericsson announced its first Energy Infrastructure Management contract with a mobile network operator -- Crnogorski Telekom, Montenegro’s leading telecommunications service provider and a member of the Deutsche Telekom Group

Ericsson’s Energy Infrastructure Management integrates big data analytics, energy management software, and lithium-ion batteries for energy storage. The solution provides an efficient means of measuring, monitoring and maintaining energy infrastructure at a mobile tower.

Ericsson said that Crnogorski Telekom has previously used a combination of diesel generators and lead-acid batteries as a source of backup power for its cell sites. New lithium-ion batteries from Panasonic offer superior energy density, are less vulnerable to damage from excessive discharging and extreme temperatures, and require less maintenance.

Under the 10-year contract with Crnogorski Telekom, Ericsson will assume responsibility for the design, roll out and management of lithium-ion battery and power infrastructure solutions for the operator’s cell sites. Ericsson will provide these services via an Energy Network Operations Center, thereby ensuring the highest levels of energy efficiency and availability. Panasonic, Ericsson’s partner, will handle the manufacturing, supply, asset ownership, dimensioning, 10-year performance service-level agreements (SLAs), and support for battery and power infrastructure. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Peter Laurin, Head of Managed Services at Ericsson, says: “Together with Panasonic, we will reduce the cost of energy equipment ownership for targeted Crnogorski Telekom sites by up to 40 percent. This is primarily a result of Ericsson’s advanced power source selection logic, extended battery life-cycles, and the reduced need for site visits. Our offering is based on an as-a-service business model, which provides Crnogorski Telekom with immediate savings with minimal upfront investment. Energy typically accounts for anything from 10 to 60 percent of an operator’s operational expenditure.”

NETSCOUT brings NFV Service Assurance to VodafoneZiggo

NETSCOUT has been awarded a new multi-year agreement by VodafoneZiggo to support its Network Function Virtualization (NFV) transformation. Specifically, NETSCOUT will deliver end-to-end visibility and analytics into VodafoneZiggo’s converged, hybrid network to ensure the seamless delivery of services.

VodafoneZiggo is a joint venture of Liberty Global, the largest international TV and broadband internet company, and Vodafone Group. It provides fixed, mobile, and integrated communication and entertainment services to consumers and businesses in the Netherlands.

“The same NFV and virtualization technologies that drive service agility also bring significant challenges to identifying network and service performance. NFV networks do not usually operate in isolation, but rather work alongside existing physical network functions. With 360° visibility across the entire network, VodafoneZiggo can rely on our solution to rapidly pinpoint the exact location of an issue, wherever it occurs. By selecting to partner with NETSCOUT, VodafoneZiggo can move ahead with its NFV transformation with confidence that new and existing services and applications are performing optimally,” said Anil Singhal, co-founder, president, and chief executive officer, NETSCOUT.

Ranovus ships its On-Board Optics and CFP2 Direct Detect Transceivers

Ranovus announced the general availability of its 200G On-Board Optics and CFP2 optical transceiver solutions.

The devices are based on the company’s multi-wavelength Quantum Dot Laser (QDL), Ring Resonator based Silicon Photonic (SiP) modulators, Driver ICs as well as Receiver building blocks. 

Highlights of Ranovus’ 200G CFP2 and Optical Engine product features are:

  • Supporting DCI, metro access, 5G Mobility and multi-access edge computing applications
  • Supporting transmission distance of 15km, 40km and 80km+
  • Platform capable of supporting Industrial Temperature Range
  • Offering 96 DWDM channels in the C-band now and L-band in the future
  • Supporting 1.6 Tb/s 1RU Shelf Density
  •  Form factor and compatible electrical interface with CFP2-DCO
  • 56Gb/s PAM4 PHY with multiple programmable FEC options to optimize link performance
  • Full diagnostics and self-monitoring capabilities to enable high-reliability networks
Ranovus said these products are now in lab trials with multiple optical networking equipment vendors for 5G mobility and cloud infrastructure markets. A demonstration with ADVA is planned for the upcoming OFC show in San Diego.

“Our demonstration will feature transmission of 400Gb/s in an FSP 3000 CloudConnect™ terminal and over 80km of standard single mode fiber utilizing our open line system,” said Christoph Glingener, CTO/COO at ADVA. “In partnership with Ranovus, we have made impressive progress to validate direct detect technology as an effective way for data center operators to lower their cost per bit and improve energy efficiency.”

Hetzner Online connects data centers in Germany and Finland with Infinera XTS-3300

Hetzner Online, a leading web hosting and data center operator in Germany, has deployed the Infinera XTS-3300 to extend its data center business into Finland.

Hetzner Online owns several data centers in Germany and expanded its network into Finland with a subsea optical network powered by the Infinera XTS-3300 to address demand from customers in Eastern Europe and Russia. The new subsea network connects Hetzner Online’s existing metro terrestrial networks in both countries where the Infinera XTM-Series is deployed.

Infinera's XTS-3300 is a compact, high-performance subsea network solution enabling internet content providers (ICPs) like Hetzner Online to quickly deploy low-latency subsea networks.

Sequans teams with Skyworks on LTE-M/NB-IoT

Skyworks Solutions, a developer of analog semiconductors, and Sequans Communications announced a jointly-developed connectivity engine for next generation LTE devices.

Specifically, the new solution combines Skyworks’ front-ends with Sequans’ Monarch LTE-M/NB-IoT platform. The feature-rich product includes an integrated baseband, SRAM, RF transceiver, RF front-end, passives and power management in a single 8.8 x 10.8 x 0.95 mm package with proprietary RF shielding. It is compliant with 3GPP Release 13/14 LTE Advanced Pro specifications, including VoLTE support, is optimized for LTE UE categories M1, NB1, and NB2 and operates across broad frequency ranges (700 MHz to 2.1 GHz) to support global deployment and roaming capability. Proprietary power management techniques offer improved battery life. The solution has been pre-certified with leading operators through existing certifications of Sequans’ Monarch platform.

“Through our collaboration with Skyworks, we have created one of the most critical LTE engines for IoT available in the world today,” said Georges Karam, Sequans CEO. “Our comprehensive and powerful module incorporates every major component needed to enable the widespread deployment of LTE devices on any band, in an extremely small and thin package. This new form factor represents a truly ground-breaking architecture for a broad range of applications.”

All data centre traffic becomes cloud data centre traffic

Cisco is now predicting that global cloud data center traffic will reach 19.5 zettabytes (ZB) per year by 2021, up from 6.0 ZB per year in 2016 – a 3.3-fold growth, representing a 27 percent compound annual growth rate from 2016 to 2021.  By that year, the Cisco forecasters will have a very difficult time distinguishing regular data centre traffic from cloud data centre traffic.  Fully 95 percent of data centre traffic will be cloud data centre traffic.  This does not necessarily mean public data centre traffic, just that nearly all data centres, public and private, will have adopted cloud virtualisation technologies by that date. Cisco’s definition of cloud encompasses virtualisation in networks, servers, storage, applications, and services.

Earlier security concerns about sharing servers and storage resources amongst applications, even within an organisation, have given way to the forces of cost and power efficiency. Data is now much less stored and processed in a confined physical environment. More and more, even “data at rest” moves to wherever the algorithms of efficiency demand.  This has huge implications not only for large data sets moving across wide-area boundaries, but also for east-west traffic within data centre campuses.  Virtualisation means that data forever will be on the move.

The newly-published Cisco Global Cloud Index (2016-2021), which is now in its seventh annual edition, predicts that the number of hyperscale, public cloud data centres will nearly double from 338 in 2016 to 628 globally in 2021.  It will take a massive construction effort to pull this off.  Nearly every month, we report when AWS, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Alibaba, IBM, Oracle etc. unveils plans for new facilities. Typically, these are warehouse-sized builds on a new plot of land in a remote location, where renewable energy can be procured in quantity and at a reasonable cost. Increasingly, we are seeing these data centre campuses being built close to urban centres.
With this level of expansion, one wonders why certain telcos (Verizon, Centurylink and possible AT&T) are selling off their data centers rather than holding them as strategic assets or appreciating investment. Possbily, these facilities are too old and would required extensive HVAC upgrades to accommodate the high number and density of servers that hyperscale cloud facilities require. Or maybe they realize that simply cannot compete with the likes of AWS or Microsoft Azure, so better to exit the business sooner rather than later. It is odd given the surge in cloud data centre traffic that Cisco is predicting.

Some other key findings - by 2021, hyperscale data centres will support:

  • • 53 percent of all data centre servers (27 percent in 2016)
  • • 69 percent of all data centre processing power (41 percent in 2016)
  • • 65 percent of all data stored in data centres (51 percent in 2016)
  • • 55 percent of all data centre traffic (39 percent in 2016)
  • • By 2021, 94 percent of workloads and compute instances will be processed by cloud data centres; 6 percent will be processed by traditional data centres.
  • • Overall data centre workloads and compute instances will more than double (2.3-fold) from 2016 to 2021; however, cloud workloads and compute instances will nearly triple (2.7-fold) over the same period.
  • • The workload and compute instance density for cloud data centres was 8.8 in 2016 and will grow to 13.2 by 2021. Comparatively, for traditional data centres, workload and compute instance density was 2.4 in 2016 and will grow to 3.8 by 2021.
  • • Globally, the data stored in data centres will nearly quintuple by 2021 to reach 1.3 ZB by 2021, up 4.6-fold (a CAGR of 36%) from 286 EB in 2016.
  • • Big data will reach 403 exabytes (EB) by 2021, up almost 8-fold from 25 EB in 2016. Big data will represent 30 percent of data stored in data centres by 2021, up from 18 percent in 2016.
  • • The amount of data stored on devices will be 4.5 times higher than data stored in data centres, at 5.9 ZB by 2021.
  • • Driven largely by IoT, the total amount of data created (and not necessarily stored) by any device will reach 847 ZB per year by 2021, up from 218 ZB per year in 2016. Data created is two orders of magnitude higher than
data stored. 

  • • By 2021, big data will account for 20 percent (2.5 ZB annual, 209 EB monthly) of traffic within data centres, compared to 12 percent (593 EB annual, 49 EB monthly) in 2016.
  • • By 2021, video streaming will account for 10 percent of traffic within data centres, compared to 9 percent in 2016.
  • • By 2021, video will account for 85 percent of traffic from data centres to end users, compared to 78 percent in 2016.
  • • By 2021, search will account for 20 percent of traffic within data centres by 2021, compared to 28 percent in 2016.
  • • By 2021, social networking will account for 22 percent of traffic within data centres, compared to 20 percent in 2016.
  • •  By 2021, 75 percent (402 million) of the total cloud workloads and compute instances will be SaaS workloads and compute instances, up from 71 percent (141 million) in 2016. (23% CAGR from 2016 to 2021).
  • • By 2021, 16 percent (85 million) of the total cloud workloads and compute instances will be IaaS workloads and compute instances, down from 21 percent (42 million) in 2016. (15% CAGR from 2016 to 2021).
  • • By 2021, 9 percent (46 million) of the total cloud workloads and compute instances will be PaaS workloads and compute instances, up from 8% (16 million) in 2016. (23% CAGR from 2016 to 2021).


Metaswitch and Cloudify partner of NFV automation

Metaswitch and Cloudify are partnering to automate NFV management and orchestration (MANO) for global operators, increasing service agility and reducing service-affecting manual errors.

Under the deal, Metaswitch will OEM Cloudify’s virtual network functions management (VNFM) capabilities in delivery of its own VoLTE TAS, vSBC and vIMS VNFs and the two companies are collaborating closely in customer engagements, bridging gaps in operators’ NFV MANO systems.

Cloudify is a TOSCA-based open source cloud orchestration platform that helps operators to transition from non-virtualized appliances to virtualized, and ultimately cloud-native architecture with full lifecycle management and orchestration as well as service function chaining.

“Cloudify and Metaswitch share a long-standing commitment to lowering the barrier to entry for carriers looking to transition to new cloud-native services,” said Nati Shalom, CTO, Cloudify. “Together we deliver a simplified solution for achieving a more agile service environment through a convergence of networks and IT systems from an infrastructure and process perspective.”

“The biggest obstacle to achieving the full potential of NFV is the lack of maturity in the operational automation capabilities of the OSS toolchain,” said Martin Taylor, CTO of Metaswitch. “Our integration with Cloudify simplifies and accelerates lifecycle management automation, giving carriers faster, error-free operational management of their cloud-based virtual network infrastructures.”

Saturday, February 24, 2018

KT tested 5G at PyeongChang 2018 Games with Intel

KT conducted a number of 5G tests at the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea.

As an official partner of the Olympic Winter Games, KT installed optical fiber cables and the telecommunications infrastructure in 70 of the Olympics venues.

A limited 5G trial service was established in collaboration with Samsung and Intel.

The public was invited to view this at promotional areas in PyeongChang and in the KT 5G Pavilion in Olympic Park in Gangneung.

Because planning for the event started several years ago, KT developed a "PyeongChang 5G Specification".

KT is planning on launching a commercial 5G service in 2019 based in the 5G NR specifications, which were completed last December. Network building and optimization is planned for this year.

In a press release, Intel confirmed its collaboration with KT at the Winter Games. Intel said a total of 22 5G links were established at 10 sites.  The 5G connections were used for image capture viewpoints, IPTV, virtual reality, Wi-Fi and other telemetry.

The pilot demonstration showed multi-vendor interoperability. New services were shown to spectators and visitors in several Olympic venues and public areas.

Intel envisions 5G laptops with Dell, HP, Lenovo and Microsoft

At Mobile World Congress, Intel is showcasing a 5G connected laptop that could be available commercially in the second half of 2019.

Intel is collaborating with Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft on the design of Windows PCs featuring the Intel XMM 8000 series commercial 5G modems.

The current design is a detachable 2-in-1 laptop with an early 5G modem and powered by an 8th Generation Intel Core i5 processor.

Intel outlines its 5G radio modem portfolio

Intel outlined its product roadmap for 5G silicon. First up is Intel XMM 8000 series, a family of 5G new radio (5G NR) multi-mode commercial modems, and the Intel XMM 7660 LTE modem.

Highlights of Intel’s wireless roadmap:

  • Intel XMM 8000 series: will operate in both sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave global spectrum bands. Intel is aiming to enable a range of devices to connect to 5G, including PC, phones, fixed wireless consumer premise equipment (CPE) and vehicles.
  • Intel XMM 8060: will offer multi-mode support for the full 5G non-standalone and standalone NR, as well as various 2G, 3G (including CDMA) and 4G legacy modes. It is expected to ship in commercial customer devices in mid-2019. Intel is targetting broad deployment of 5G networks in 2020.
  • Intel XMM 7660: Intel’s latest LTE modem delivers Cat-19 capabilities, supports speeds up to 1.6 Gbps, and features advanced multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO), carrier aggregation and a broad range of band support. It will ship in commercial devices in 2019.

Intel also announced it has successfully completed a full end-to-end 5G call based on its early 5G silicon over the 28GHz band. Intel says it is participating in dozens of 5G trials around the world.

“Intel is committed to delivering leading 5G multi-mode modem technology and making sure the transition to 5G is smooth,” said Dr. Cormac Conroy, Intel corporate vice president and general manager of the Communication and Devices Group. “Our investments in a full portfolio of modem technologies and products are critical to achieving the vision of seamless 5G connectivity.”

Another idea for base stations in balloons

Just in time for Mobile World Congress 2018, Ericsson is introducing “a new tethered-aerial infrastructure product” – basically a base station in a balloon that is tethered to the ground – as a means of delivering mobile broadband in rural locations.

We like this idea! It sounds more reasonable than Google’s Project Loon (update below), which recently has been in service over Puerto Rico, or Facebook’s Aquila drone aircraft, whose current status and future prospects are murkier.

Ericsson’s tethered aerial infrastructure is also being called a “Super Tower”. Essentially, it is a multisector LTE base station placed at a height of 250m (800 feet), perhaps 6X higher than the typical towers you might see alongside a motorway. The base stations, of course, come from Ericsson’s portfolio. The balloon – or aerostat, as it is properly called) was developed by Altaeros Energies, a Boston-based startup with funding from SoftBank, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Suhail Bahwan Group, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation, and RNT Associates, wholly owned by Mr. Ratan N. Tata, former Chairman of Tata Sons. Altaeros founders come from M.I.T.

From the 250m height, the SuperTower base station can cover the equivalent territory of about 30 base stations. This will bring compelling economics in lightly-populated rural areas.

The helium-based aerostat can be inflated and deployed in 24 hours. The company says that the cost of helium is negligible in an overall operating budget. The floating up employs 3 tethers. If all three were to break, onboard valves would crack open and release helium, causing the balloon to slowly descend. The company says its balloons should be able to survive windstorms of up to 160 kph (100 mph).

It should be noted that Altaeros has also been working on a different version of its helium-filled aerostat that floats a wind turbine at the 250m height. Wind speeds at this elevation are typically stronger and more consistent than at ground level. Late last year, Altaeros deployed one of its SuperTowers in rural Maine, but there has been little reporting about the outcome of this pilot run.

Navigational hazard?

Of course, an LTE base station floating at a 250m height does present a navigational hazard to low-flying aircraft. In the U.S., the aerostats need FAA permission, but just like for skyscrapers, much permits are obtainable if due safety considerations are met.

In addition to providing rural broadband, the SuperTowers could also be used for temporarily delivering Internet access following natural disasters or for special events, such ay s outdoor concerts or festivals. The military reportedly is interested in using the aerostats rapidly deployable communication networks. Similar aerostats are already used for border protection and other surveillance applications.  Ericsson plans to offer the SuperTowers to mobile operators in late 2018.

Where are the Loons?

In contrast to Altaeros’s tethered SuperTowers, Google’s Loon balloons can be literally anywhere the wind takes them. The tetherless loons typically fly in the stratosphere at heights of about 18,000m (60,000) – above commercial air traffic.  X (formerly Google X), which is the subsidiary that Alphabet has established to turn this science project into a commercial business, attempts to steer the balloons by adjusting the altitude to catch prevailing winds. This is a difficult proposition for network planning even in good weather because to provide service to users on the ground it is essential that the floating base station not drift too far away.

The Altaeros SuperTower balloons are directly wired into the backhaul network in a predictable structure. The backhaul from a Loon balloon can travel to other Loon balloons first before eventually finding a downlink to a ground station. Like the Altaeros configuration, the Loons carry a lightweight LTE eNodeB enabling them to connect directly to the handsets of users below.

Google initially launched pilot trials of Loon balloons in the southern hemisphere in 2013 from launch sites in New Zealand, Chile, and Argentina.

A real-world use case for the Loon balloons emerged after Hurricane Maria struck the Caribbean in late September 2017 and devastated the communications infrastructure in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Two weeks following the disaster, the FCC granted a provisional license for X to launch its balloons in Puerto Rico in hopes of alleviating the dire situation – nearly 90 percent of the islands base stations remained out of service two weeks after the storm.

So how is Loon performing in Puerto Rico? At this point, we only have anecdotal evidence. X has only disclosed limited data on the program. We know, for example, that in the first week, X was launching the loon balloons from Nevada and guiding them all the way to Puerto Rico using its algorithms and machine learning. On November 9, a tweet from the team at X said the balloons were supplying basic Internet connectivity to 100,000 AT&T and T-Mobile users in Puerto Rico – good progress! We also learned that Nokia was supplying base stations for Project Loon. SES Networks and Liberty Cablevision provided ground station connectivity in Puerto Rico.

What is also interesting to see are user reports and balloon sightings shared on social media, especially when the balloons have drifted west to the neighboring island of Hispaniola.

The website Flightradar24.com even provides tracking maps, from which we surmise that connectivity at any one spot will vary with the wind.  A series of tether balloons could serve the same purpose and maybe at lower cost and greater reliability.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Nokia and T-Mobile hit 1.3 Gbps with Licensed Assisted Access

T-Mobile has hit download speeds of 1.3 Gbps using Nokia's commercial Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) technology.

The high-performance was achieving using 14-layer transmissions during tests conducted at T-Mobile's lab in Bellevue, Washington. The tests employed an Nokia AirScale Micro RRH connected to an AirScale system module. Speeds of 1.3 Gbps were achieved by aggregating LTE carriers in licensed and unlicensed bands using five-component carrier aggregation, 256QAM, 4x4 MIMO and LAA on 14 antenna layers.

Neville Ray, chief technology officer at T-Mobile, said: "We are working to deploy small cells that support LAA and build on the LTE-Advanced features we've deployed across the country, laying a foundation for 5G. Our priority is ensuring customers have the best mobile experience, so we are accelerating LAA and five carrier aggregation to give them even higher speeds and greater network performance."

Marc Rouanne, president of Mobile Networks at Nokia, said: "Nokia is providing a path towards 5G that allows operators like T-Mobile to attain gigabit speeds with LTE by leveraging all available licensed and unlicensed spectrum. With LAA, we are helping T-Mobile gain higher download peak rates than could be achieved with licensed spectrum alone. This adds capacity beyond the spectrum licensed to this operator, and the existing network sites are used with limited TCO investment."

Rackspace extends partnership with Cisco to advanced security

Rackspace is extending its long-running partnership with Cisco to include advanced security solutions.

Rackspace, which was already one of Cisco's largest firewall customers,  continues to pilot Cisco’s advanced security solutions. Rackspace has deployed and served as a testing partner for Cisco’s stateful firewall, the ASA series, to the ASA 5500-X Series, to now the Cisco Firepower Next-Generation Firewall for advanced threat protection.

Rackspace is deploying high volumes of Cisco’s Next-Generation Firewalls and integrating them directly into its services,  helping enable its customers to manage their hosted environments more efficiently and securely.

“As a company that is committed to enabling its customers on their digital transformation journeys, Rackspace is constantly evolving to solve customers’ IT challenges,” said David Neuman, Chief Information Security Officer, Rackspace. “The value of a partner that understands what a global market is looking for in different customer verticals is extremely important to us. We depend on partners like Cisco to help us understand not only what we’re doing today, but what’s on the horizon and we can collaborate to deliver next-generation capabilities.”

South Atlantic Cable System makes landfall in Brazil

The South Atlantic Cable System (SACS) has made landfall at Fortaleza, Brazil, marking a major milestone in the development of the system.

The SACS subsea system is a 40 Tbps, 6,165 km cable linking Angola to Brazil. It features four fibre pairs, with each fibre pair capable of transmitting 100 wavelengths at 100 Gbps. SACS is scheduled to be ready for service in mid-2018.

Once SACS has been fully commissioned, we will see a significant improvement in communications and content sharing between Angola, African countries and the Americas. With SACS, the delay in transporting digital content, known as latency, will be reduced fivefold, from the current 350 thousandths of a second to just over 60 thousandths of a second," stated António Nunes, CEO of Angola Cables.

Quanta Cloud Technology partners with Radisys on optimized RAN

Quanta Cloud Technology (QCT) has selected Radisys; MobilityEngine LTE-Advanced and 5G RAN software to run on its open server hardware platforms, delivering optimized high performance and low latency RAN solutions to mobile operators globally.

The solution also integrates Affirmed Networks’ cloud native 5G Mobile Core and leverages Radisys’ integration services.

QCT is a leading hardware vendor that has embraced the telecom industry shift to open hardware, including OCP-based hardware, rackmount servers, COTS-based x86 platforms and more. Radisys’ MobilityEngine software introduces open and disaggregated mobile access cloud solutions.

The companies said that by pre-integrating and pre-validating MobilityEngine RAN software and Affirmed Networks’ 5G Mobile Core Solution onto QCT’s hardware form factors, Radisys and QCT can offer to their customers differentiated, performance-optimized solutions for LTE-Advanced Pro and 5G RAN with faster time-to-market and reduced risk.

“This integrated solution leverages Radisys’ DNA in software and integration services and Quanta’s full portfolio of industry-leading open server hardware to offer our customers a truly multi-vendor solution that is built for the demands of 5G mobile edge computing,” said Neeraj Patel, Vice President and General Manager, Software & Services Solutions, Radisys. “We are committed to partnering with QCT as a preferred OCP hardware provider and with the industry-leading Virtualized EPC vendor Affirmed Networks, to deliver right-fit technology solutions to our mobile operator customers that don’t compromise on performance while reducing cost and risk.”

“Our extensive hardware portfolio is designed to meet the needs of mobile operators that are transforming their networks to meet the requirements of 5G and mobile edge computing,” said Mike Yang, President of QCT. “QCT is dedicated to fostering partnerships with technology software leaders such as Radisys in order to deliver pre-integrated and pre-validated solutions to mobile operators that reduce deployment times for next-gen networks. Radisys’ MobilityEngine RAN software and integration expertise allows making commercial deployments of new open architectures a reality.”

Zayo to divest its Minnesota Local Exchange Carrier

Zayo Group will sell its Scott-Rice Telephone Co. business unit, a Minnesota ILEC (incumbent local exchange carrier), for $42 million to New Ulm Telecom, Inc.

Zayo acquired Scott-Rice Telephone as part of its March 2017 purchase of Electric Lightwave and has since managed it separately within its Allstream business segment. Scott-Rice Telephone serves residential and business customers in areas of Scott and Rice counties southwest of Minneapolis.

“This transaction represents further progress toward the separation of our Allstream business,” said Matt Steinfort, Zayo’s CFO. “It is consistent with Zayo’s strategic focus on communications infrastructure, and our goal of maximizing the value of our non-core assets.”

Orange and KPN test LoRaWAN roaming

Orange and KPN have conducted roaming between their respective nationwide public IoT networks based on the latest LoRa Alliance specifications. The testing included Actility, an IoT connectivity platform supplier.

In October, the LoRa Alliance released the first version of the LoRaWAN Backend Interfaces Specification. This governs how LoRaWAN sensor data are passed between different networks to enable roaming. Based on this specification, Orange and KPN set up a secure roaming interface between their Actility network server platforms, and have successfully tested Orange devices operating on the KPN network in the Netherlands and KPN devices operating on the Orange France network.

Interoperability opens up the possibility of connecting sensors or trackers that move between countries. It also simplifies the implementation of international business applications – by removing the need to both integrate several IoT platforms and contract with multiple LoRaWAN operators – thereby reducing time to market for customers.

“This first successful LoRaWAN compliant roaming communication in the field is a critical milestone to unlock several key segments of the IoT market by removing the barrier of national borders,” says Bertrand Waels, head of Alternative Radio Access at Orange. “Our tests in an open collaboration with KPN in the Netherlands and with the support of Actility show that the specifications published by the LoRa Alliance do work reliably in the field.”

Profile of the telecommunications market in Kenya – part 6

See part 1part 2part 3part 4part 5, part 6\

SECTION 5 National level networks

Kenyan National Optical Fibre Programme

The National Optic Fibre Backbone (NOFBI) is a project aimed at ensuring connectivity in all the 47 counties of Kenya both to ease communication across counties as well as improve government service delivery to the citizens such as the applications for national identity cards, passports and the registration of birth and death certificates.  The project is being implemented in 2 phases: NOFBI Phase 1 which started in 2007 and involved laying 4,300 km of cable and NOFBI Phase 2 which kicked in in 2014 and was designed to add a further 2,100 km of cable. The programme is being driven by the Government of Kenya with funding from the Chinese government, construction by Huawei, operation and maintenance by partially government-owned Telkom Kenya and oversight by the Ministry of ICT.

Other Kenyan optical fibre backbone projects

In mid-September 2015 it was announced that as part of the Eastern Africa Regional Transport, Trade and Development Facilitation Project the World Bank had released KSh 54 billion of funding to support the building over the next 2-3 years of major communication links between Kenya and the South Sudan including mainly  a $500 million superhighway between Lokichar in Turkana County in Kenya ("about 200 miles from the Sudan border )and the South Sudan borderpost of Nedapal  together with a fibre optic link which would cost KSh3.9 billion of which the Kenyan section would cost KSh2.4 billion. About 25% of South Sudan imports come from Kenya.

KENET The Kenyan Educational Network

KENET provides broadband internet services, by connecting member institutions to national and global internet It has PoPs in Nairobi(at the University of Nairobi and the United States International University) as well as Meru, Kisumu, Eldoret, Nakuru and Mombasa. KENET have access to a 10Gb/s Internet connection that is dedicated to education and research. Researchers and educators can transfer larger data sets per day between campuses in support of their research, as well as access grid computing infrastructures and high-performance computers. Students and staff have access to commodity Internet (educational videos, Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, coursera, etc) through dedicated commodity connections, supported by peering arrangements and caches for major content providers.

As of September 2017, KENET was providing Internet services to 220 campuses in different parts of Kenya. By September 1, 2017, KENET was generating over 13 Gb/s Internet traffic, about 60% being Google traffic (Google PoP in Mombasa and Google cache) and 6% Akamai traffic. KENET had a national distribution capacity of over 27 Gb/s consisting of leased lines and KENET dark fiber with 83 universities on a 1 Gb/s port to the KENET backbone network. KENET also peers directly with GEANT and London Internet Exchange in London through UbuntuNet Alliance, and is now connected to Africa Connect providing direct connections to African NRENs (e.g., RENU in Uganda, ZAMREN in Zambia and TENET in South Africa).

SECTION 6 - Specific end markets

Money transfer market

In mid July 2017, the Kenyan Wall Street reported that Visa was taking on both MPESA and Pesalink by announcing a partnership with nine Kenyan banks namely Barclays Bank; Cooperative Bank; Ecobank; Family Bank; KCB Bank: NIC Bank; Prime Bank; National Bank of Kenya; and Standard Chartered Bank; to offer free money transfer using Visa’s mVisa system hosted on its Visanet network. The report added that mVisa would now also be accepted at a number of merchant locations across the country through Direct Pay Online and Jambo Pay and noted that the countries in which mVisa was engaged Included live systems in Kenya, India, Rwanda and Egypt with plans to launch in Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Vietnam underway.

e-commerce and mobile payments market

Kenya’s e-commerce sector is currently dominated by brands such as Jumia, Kilimall, OLX, Pigiame, among others. In November 2017, Safaricom announced that it planned to enter this market with its Masoko(=“markets” in Kiswahili) product which would start with 200 vendors and about 30,000 consumer goods ranging from electronics to food and would provide a platform for merchants to trade goods on social media sites. Independent observers expected Safaricom to face stiff competition from market leader Jumia which four year after its launch now supports 5,000 vendors and about 500,000 products listed on its e-commerce.

SECTION 7 - Major Kenyan communications systems vendors 

Huawei

Huawei appears well embedded in Kenya across a broad range of products and, services including as noted above being responsible for constructing a national fibre network linking all 47 Kenyan counties. With an estimated, 5,000 staff in Africa and operations in 40 countries including R&D groups in Angola, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa Huawei has adequate economies of scale in the continent where based on its global sales one might expect it to be doing up to $2 billion of business

In August 2010, it was reported by Business Daily Africa that Safaricom had signed a three-year contract with Huawei for the supply of its core network requirements, and roll out of a 4G network at a cost of KSh12 billion ($143 million).

In July 2012, Business Daily Africa reported that Huawei had secured an exclusive tender to build a KSh6 billion national fibre optic infrastructure and e-government projects expected to start in August which would link Nairobi with 36 other towns through a Wide Area Network (WAN).

In November 2016, Safaricom and Huawei announced that they were celebrating 14 years of partnership which had included the modernisation of Safaricom’s network infrastructure for both 2G and 3G as well as key involvement in Safaricom’s Transmission, core network and CBS billing system as well as in the implementation of M-PESA the revolutionary money transfer system owned by Safaricom’s parent company Vodafone.More recently the companies had partnered for the rollout of 4G LTE and the national police surveillance system. In the report, Huawei claimed its mobile phone share in Kenya was around 10% at that time but it was targeting a 20% share using a range of phones. Including ultra low-cost phones selling at KSh5,000 In August 2017, Safaricom and Huawei announced that in order to accelerate the introduction of FTTH in Kenya Safaricom would adopt Huawei's end-to-end (E2E) FTTH solution.

Safaricom's plan is to utilize existing metropolitan area network (MAN) optical cables and preferentially use aerial cables. The architecture also looks to integrated the fixed broadband optical distribution networks (ODNs) with Safaricom's mobile backhaul networks. This enables Safaricom to deploy mini optical line terminals (OLTs) and wireless base stations in the same cabinet, realizing fast deployment and decreasing network construction costs.

In summary, although Kenya is now beset by a very difficult political/tribal conflict, the nation's overall telecommunications market has been improved significantly over the past decade and is positioned to continue forward progress in delivering better digital services to all corners of the land.

Profile of the telecommunications market in Kenya – part 5

See part 1part 2part 3part 4, part 5

Airtel Kenya

Airtel Kenya, the second largest operator in Kenya in terms of subscription numbers with a 15.3% market share, is one African national telecommunications unit of Airtel Africa, a subsidiary of Bharti Airtel the leading operator in India which entered the African market in June 2010 under the firm conviction that due to its size, financial resources, strong concentrated owner management and technical skills , also supported by a 32% holding by SingTel, and with its background in providing very lowcost mobile services in India it would be able to rapidly take a leading and profitable role in pan-African communications. At the time it set itself key three-year targets for sales (to reach $5 billion) and for EBITDA profitability. In the event it failed by a considerable margin to meet those targets. Since then Airtel Africa has continued to suffer financial problems and has been searching ways of restructuring itself so as to be more profitable.This has included selling off assets and exiting certain markets

In 2015, then chief executive Adil El Youssefi said the company would quit Kenya if regulations were not introduced to tame the dominance of market leader, Safaricom.

In the year to December 2016, Airtel Kenya made an after-tax loss of (KSh8.1 billion), making it one of Airtel’s worst performing markets in Africa.

In August 2017 Airtel Kenya showed current liabilities at KSh55 billion against KSh9.7 billion in current assets as at December 2016, making the company’s local operations technically insolvent. Data from CA indicated that Airtel’s market share shrunk three per cent in the previous quarter, with total subscribers standing at 6.1 million as at June 30, 2017.

In December 2017, based on an article in India’s Economic Times, which had interviewed Bharti founder and CEO Sunnil Mittal, several news-sources reported that Airtel Africa was planning to quit operations in Kenya , Uganda and Rwanda where its operating margins were very low.However the next day the company denied this but said it was open to some form of partnership. In late December 2017, it was reported that Airtel had acquired TIGO Rwanda for 6x projected EBITDA thus positioning itself both as a strong number 2 to MTN in the Rwandan market and also strengthening its overall commercial and financial position in the East African regional market. In October 2017 TIGO Rwanda was reported to have added 68,555 new mobile subscribers raising its total subscriber base to 3.45 million and raising its market share from 36.5% to 40%.

Telkom Kenya

This originally Kenya state-owned incumbent fixed-line Kenyan telco, was privatised in 2007 when it sold a 70% stake in itself to Orange Group (aka France Telecom). Orange managed it rather unsuccessfully for nine years during which it experienced losses and limited growth in the number of customers and revenue and also had frequent disputes with the National Treasury over the management of the operator. In mid-2016 Helios Investment Partners, a London-based private equity firm acquired the 70% share in the company and in  June 2017 the company rebranded itself, dropping the Orange brand and adopting Telkom as its new trading name. It also shed the old Orange corporate colour in favour of blue and yellow colours. At the same time, Helios ceded a 10% stake to the National Treasury, retaining a 60% shareholding while the Government saw its shareholding go back up from 30 to 40%

Jamii Telecom

In January 2012, broadband ISP Jamii Telecom announced a $3 million upgrade of its fibre network in anticipation of being able to bid for imminent government RFTs to supply broadband services in remote rural areas

In early December 2017 Jamii Telecom became the fifth mobile operator in Kenya and launched its “Faiba” 4G Mobile service and also became the first telco in Kenya to offer VoLTE. Voice calls are free and following  investment estimated in the range of $25 -$50 million in its network Jamii will offer HD voice and video

Wananchi Telecom Ltd

Wananchi Telecom was incorporated in March 2005 as part of Wananchi Group  Holdings which also included SimbaNet, iSat and Zuku. SimbaNet is a licenced public data operator; iSAT is a satellite teleport service provider and Zuku is an ISP and payTV provider. Wananchi Telecom is a tier one Kenyan data communications carrier . also a recognized international carrier, with operations in over 5 countries in the East African region and a presence in over 30 countries though own networks and partner integrated ecosystem. Wholesale services available include IPLC, MPLS L2/L3, DIA, Global IP transit, African and GGC peering and Colocation with access to a dedicated 247 NOC in Nairobi. In mid-May 2017 it was reported that with the aim of concentrating their resources on Zuku their residential telecoms business Wananchi Group had reached an agreement to sell the corporate internet and data unit Wananchi Business Services which included  SimbaNET, Wananchi Telecom and iSAT to Synergy Communications which is owned by African private equity fund Convergence Partners Communications Infrastructure Fund. However minority shareholders in a private equity firm, Africa Telecommunication and Media Technology Fund I (ATMT Fund I), that has a stake in Wananchi are currently litigating to prevent that happening,

MTN

MTN of Johannesburg, South Africa, is Africa’s largest pan-continental teico with annual sales of around $15 billion and mobile and/or fixed operations in around 23 countries which collectively serve almost 250 million subscribers. Most of these are in Africa but the company also has operations in Afghanistan, Cyprus, Iran, Syria and Yemen. MTN attempted to enter the Kenyan market directly in 2008 but had some difficulty in doing so and consequently acquired UUnet, a local cable TV operator. MTN followed this up in mid 2014 by acquiring a 33.3% share of pan-African internet group AIG(Africa Internet Group) which was a joint venture between Rocket Internet and Millicom International Cellular, founded in 2012 and had a presence in over 13 countries on the continent, including South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. Other investors in AIG ,which had a valuation of around $1 billion, have included AXA, Goldman Sachs and Orange. At that time AIG operated several separate e-commerce ventures including Zando(South African fashion company), Carmudi(online car sales) as well as Jumia, Kaymu, Jovago(travel), Lamudi(real-estate), Easytaxi and Hellofood all of which have operations in Kenya.

At the end of March 2017, MTN announced that it had opened a KSH 1.33 billion Kenyan  ($12.9 million),40 rack by 72 servers, data centre in Nairobi, Kenya, designed to offer a cloud service to SMEs mainly by reselling Microsoft’s cloud service Azure.

Liquid Telecom Kenya

Liquid Telecom Kenya is part of the pan-African Liquid Telecom Group which is itself part of the large Econet Group global conglomerate founded in 1993 by secretive Zimbabwean Christian billionaire and philanthropist Strive Masiyiwa, which is mainly focused on  global telecommunications but which also has investments in financial services, insurance, e-commerce, renewable energy, education, Coca-Cola bottling, hospitality and payment gateway solutions. Econet also has a Pay television outfit, Kwesé TV, which is already competing favorably across Africa with Naspers’ DSTV. Shares of the company have surged in value over the past year. In July 2017 Liquid Telecom successfully raised $700 million in a bond and term loan financing package from international financiers.

The Zimbabwe-listed  Econet Group has telecommunications interests in 17 countries and in late November 2017 Bloomberg reported that it was considering launching an IPO on the London Stock Exchange based on a valuation of $8 billion

 Liquid Telecom Group is dedicated to the ambitious aim of “bringing cheap affordable broadband services to the whole of Africa” and already operates in over 12 countries including Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Rwanda, Uganda South Africa and Zambia, Zimbabwe and the UK via  50,000kms of cross-border, metro and access fibre networks together with a terrestrial satellite system designed to serve rural and remote areas

In late January 2013 Liquid Telecom acquired Kenya Data Networks from Altech from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed Altech Group in a deal that would according to the company, make it the largest terrestrial fibre operator on the continent. Altech would get an 8.6% stake in Liquid Telecom and 10% shareholder voting rights. In addition to the assets, Altech would however also subscribe a further US $16.5 million for the stake.
In mid-December 2015 Liquid Telecom CEO Nic Rudnick announced that his company had issued a RFT(Request For Tender) to interested submarine cable builders for the construction over the next two years of a new “fully funded”, 10,000 km, 20-30Tbit/s capacity. fibre cable along the east coast of Africa which it had named Liquid Sea and which it said would link South Africa to the Middle East and thus to Europe and which would link to Liquid Telecom’s existing terrestrial network in Eastern, Southern and Central Africa and which would “include landing stations in several ports that are currently not served by existing subsea cables”

In late January 2016, Liquid Telecom announced that it had extended its Kenyan fibre services to  Garissa, the 120,000,mostly ethnic Somali inhabitants, capital town of Garissa County via a KSh60 million fibre network spanning over 21km which will be used to provide high-speed internet for Garissa County’s public, commercial and residential buildings.

In mid-August 2016 it was announced that in cooperation with Kisumu County government, Liquid Telecom Kenya was laying a KSh54 million,12.4km, metro fibre optic network in Kenya’s third largest city, Kisumu, located on Lake Victoria and with over one million residents, that was expected to boost Internet speeds in the lakeside city ten-fold and cover Kisumu central business district, Milimani and Kondele up to Kibos, Kicomi and Migosi junction. The new network was designed to integrate multiple local ICT systems including county information systems, schools, libraries, transport, hospitals, power plants, water supply networks and waste management.

In May 2017, it was reported that, after the expiration of a three year contract, former Airtel Kenya MD, Moroccan-born Adil Youssefi, had been appointed the new CEO of Liquid Telkom Kenya, replacing Ben Roberts, who would become board chairman of Liquid Telecom Kenya.

In early September 2017 Liquid Telecom announced that it was upgrading to 100G DWDM technology its East Africa Fibre Ring ,a fully redundant regional system with multiple routing options which was completed in 2014, and links together Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania, with onwards connectivity to Liquid Telecom’s fibre networks in Burundi and eastern DRC. It also offers direct access to international subsea cables. The upgrade enabled 100G links to the cities of Kigali in Rwanda, Kampala and Tororo in Uganda, and Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya, with further 100G upgrades planned for the East Africa Fibre Ring in the near future.

In mid-October 2017, Ben Roberts MD of Liquid Telecom Kenya announced the signing of a Ksh 600 million, 40%/60%, 10 year agreement with Ketraco(Kenya Electricity Transmission Company), the country’s power transmission company that would enable Liquid Telecom to use Ketraco’s wire lines to extend fibre optic cables to counties such as Garissa, Isiolo, Garsen, Lamu, Rabai, Namanga, and Meru. As of 2015 Ketraco had 4,149km of transmission lines in operation, plus 4,489km planned or in construction and a further 4,207km expected to be installed over the longer term.

In early November 2017, Liquid Telecom announced that it would become a Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute partner across Africa when the Microsoft Azure cloud platform became generally available in 2018. Liquid Telecom CEO Nik Rudnick said his company would be adding CloudConnect nodes to over 25 PoPs across Africa, and also making major upgrades to Liquid Telecom data centres in Johannesburg and Cape Town thus enabling it to offer direct private connections to Microsoft’s South African ExpressRoute locations to businesses of all sizes in Africa

MVNOs

The leading Kenyan MVNO by far is FinServe Africa Limited’s Equitel which uses the Airtel Kenya network and serves over 1.7 million subscribers. Equitel which operates the Pesabank interbank money transfer system is now the second largest handler of mobile cash in Kenya after Safaricom. Two other MVNOs Sema Mobile and Mobile Pay also use the Airtel Kenya but neither has been very successful so far. Two other companies Lycamobile Kenya and Homeland Media Group have CAK licenses and are expected to enter the market soon.