Digicel assures Fiji and Samoa residents that 5G is perfectly safe

Digicel’s operators in Fiji and Samoa have followed up their announced plans to roll out 5G with safety assurances to customers in an apparent move to assuage worries over various Internet rumours and conspiracy theories about 5G health risks.

Earlier this month, Digicel Fiji and Digicel Samoa announced that they had both partnered with Nokia to upgrade their networks to 5G. This week, both telcos issued identical statements that aimed to address questions and concerns about the health and safety aspects of 5G technology.

“We are taking every measure to ensure a safe and seamless rollout of 5G technology,” the statement said.

Digicel said that “there is no scientific evidence linking telecommunications technologies, including 5G, to adverse health impacts,” which is consistent with the position of  global health authorities, including the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Digicel also noted that existing electromagnetic energy (EME) safety standards encompass 5G technology, and that 5G devices and networks in both Fiji and Samoa have undergone rigorous testing to ensure compliance with established local safety regulations.

“Due to advancements in network design and device power management, 5G technology emits lower levels of EME compared to previous generations like 2G, 3G and 4G,” Digicel said.

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) issued guidelines for 5G electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation in 2020, which state that while 5G generally complies with its original 1998 EMF guidelines, 5G is still an evolving technology. Consequently, the 2020 guidelines are set well below minimum safety levels, and add a few changes, including “whole body average restrictions for frequencies above 6 GHz, restrictions for brief (less than 6 minutes) exposures for frequencies above 6 GHz, and the reduction of the averaging area for frequencies above 6 GHz.”

ICNIRP also acknowledges in its 2020 guidelines that the higher frequencies used for 5G don’t penetrate the human body as deeply as lower frequencies. The ICNIRP also noted that 5G’s use of beamforming can reduce overall exposure to EMF radiation in a given cell.

For several years now, the internet has been awash in misinformation and conspiracy theories regarding 5G health and safety risks. Various rumours claim without credible evidence that 5G kills birds, causes cancer, weakens immune systems and is the cause of COVID-19. Conspiracy theorists claim 5G is a weapons system that governments will use to monitor and control people.

“We encourage individuals to rely on credible sources and expert opinions when assessing information related to telecommunications and health,” Digicel said.

Digicel Fiji and Digicel Samoa have not yet given specific timelines for commercial 5G launch dates.

Digicel Samoa was granted conditional approval from the Government of Samoa earlier this month to launch 5G. Digicel Fiji has said it anticipates “imminent completion” of regulatory approvals by the Fiji Government. Its rival Vodafone Fiji received a 5G non-commercial license earlier this month to conduct live end-user trials on its 5G pilot network, with a full commercial license expected to be issued later this year.


Smartphone shipments to increase by 3% in 2024

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HCLSoftware and Atlas Cloud Services team up to support businesses in Morocco

Following yesterday’s news that companies in Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire are being enabled to digitally boost their businesses, there’s news of another business-focused digital offering in Africa – this time in Morocco.

HCLSoftware, the software business of HCLTech, and Atlas Cloud Services – a branch of Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P) Morocco – have joined forces in a partnership aimed at supporting businesses’ digital transitions in Morocco.

The partnership places a strong focus on digital and software sovereignty within Morocco. The partners say it will ensure access to state-of-the-art cloud services that encompass collaboration, productivity, availability, security and infrastructure.

Additionally, the solution is designed to meet the specific requirements of businesses, offering a comprehensive range of features – such as robust professional messaging, secure instant communication, efficient video conferencing and flexible data storage – that can be accessed from any location.

The partnership also aims to enhance technological capabilities by localising data within Morocco.

The collaboration between HCLSoftware and Atlas Cloud Services also aims to harness talent from Mohammed VI Polytechnic University for future inclusion within HCLSoftware. This, the partners say, represents a commitment to fostering local talent through extensive training and support for HCLSoftware’s solutions.

HCLSoftware develops, markets, sells and supports solutions in four key areas: digital transformation; data and analytics; AI and intelligent automation; and enterprise security.

Atlas Cloud Services, a subsidiary of UM6P, responsible for overseeing data centres in Morocco, strives to accelerate the digital transformation of the national and regional ecosystem, while ensuring digital sovereignty of Moroccan businesses.


Keysight outbids Viavi on Spirent in dramatic move 


US-based Keysight Technologies has out bid rival Viavi Solutions on the purchase of Spirent Communications, offering £1.16 billion for the company this week 

Earlier this month, US technology company Viavi Solutions made a £1 billion takeover bid for UK-based telecoms testing group Spirent Communications.  

At the time, Viavi CEO Oleg Khaykin said that the deal would “deliver enhanced product solutions and applications, accelerate growth in new markets and strengthen innovation through expanded engineering and design capabilities”. 

Now, however, facing a higher offer from Keysight, Spirent has withdrawn its non-binding agreement with Viavi. 

“Following my discussions with the Keysight management team, I am excited about the broader reach and expanded long-term prospects for Spirent arising from the combination with Keysight,” Spirent CEO Eric Updyke said in a statement to Reuters. 

Spirent is a leading provider of automated testing for networks, with a portfolio that includes 5G, cloud, and autonomous vehicle services. 

In a statement on the London Stock Exchange, Spirent directors said that “combining with the Keysight Group will allow the business to better serve customer needs, with increased resources and a broader product offering.”  

“The Spirent Directors also consider that the Acquisition provides an exciting opportunity to better deal with the complexity customers are seeing in today’s world with the Combined Group’s broader capabilities, operational and financial power, and investment in research and development,” the statement continued. 

“Our superior Offer recognizes the value of Spirent’s achievements to-date, and the exciting prospects of the combination of our complementary product portfolios to provide end-to-end solutions for customers across their lifecycle needs,” said Satish Dhanasekaran, President & Chief Executive Officer of Keysight in a press release. 

Keep up to date with the latest international telecoms news by subscribing to the Total Telecom daily newsletter  

Also in the news:
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True confident on merger with Dtac, despite lawsuit

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Amazon invests $2.75 billion in AI startup Anthropic 


Founded in 2021 by former Open AI executives, Anthropic is now one of the most well-funded AI firms in the world 

Amazon has announced an investment of $2.75 billion in San Francisco-based AI startup Anthropic, as it looks to compete with AI rivals such as Google and Microsoft through its AI chatbot Claude. 

The move is Amazon’s largest external investment since it was founded in 1994. 

As part of the deal, Anthropic will use Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its primary cloud provider, as well as using AWS’s Trainium and Inferentia chips to build, train, and deploy AI models. 

Back in September, Amazon announced that it would invest an initial $1.25 billion in Anthropic in exchange for a minority stake in the business, with the possibility that the investment could reach up to $4 billion. With this week’s investment, that  milestone has now been hit. 

“Generative AI is poised to be the most transformational technology of our time, and we believe our strategic collaboration with Anthropic will further improve our customers’ experiences, and look forward to what’s next,” said Dr. Swami Sivasubramanian, vice president of Data and AI at AWS in Amazon’s press release. 

Interest in Anthropic is growing at a meteoric pace, having received around $7.3 billion in funding over the past year alone. 

Part of this backing has come from South Korea’s SK Telecom (SKT), which invested $100 million in the company in an effort to develop a multilingual large language model (LLM) customised for global telcos.  

SKT currently has ambitions of becoming a world leader in AI, with Chief Financial Officer Kim Jin Won saying on an earnings call last year that the company was “stepping up efforts on all fronts to transform itself into an AI company”. 

In related news, this month AWS, Anthropic, and Accenture joined forces to help organisations in highly regulated industries – such as healthcare, banking and insurance – to adopt and scale generative AI solutions so that their organisations can improve innovation and productivity.  

“By combining Anthropic’s focus on model performance and safety, AWS’s approach to security and reliability, and Accenture’s deep domain expertise with technical know-how, we aim to build tailored solutions that enable key use cases,” said Anthropic’s CEO Dario Amodei in a statement. 

Keep up to date with the latest international telecoms news by subscribing to the Total Telecom daily newsletter 

Also in the news:
VEON exits Kyrgyzstan to focus on key markets
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T-Mobile gets green light to appeal class action lawsuit


A US judge ruled this week that T-Mobile can appeal a pending class action lawsuit that is seeking damages related to T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint

This week, Illinois U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin has ruled that T-Mobile can proceed with an appeal of a class action lawsuit that could cost the company billions of dollars in compensation.

The class action lawsuit, which is being brough by seven subscribers of AT&T or Verizon, argues that the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile reduced competition in the wireless market to such an extent that it forced AT&T and Verizon to increase their prices. This, they say, saw tens to hundreds of millions of consumers paying more for their wireless services than they would have otherwise.

The plaintiffs are seeking monetary compensation as well as other remedies, which could even include the reversal of the Sprint–T-Mobile merger entirely.

Back in November, courts declined to dismiss the lawsuit at T-Mobile’s request, saying that AT&T and Verizon’s price increases could “plausibly” be linked to the merger.

T-Mobile immediately signalled their intention to appeal the decision, saying that the case’s “expansive conception of antitrust standing is unprecedented”.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers, on the other hand, argued that a length appeal process would delay potential compensation and could make dissolving the merger more difficult. They subsequently argued that the case should be put before a jury before an appeal was presented.

Now, Judge Durkin has confirmed that T-Mobile will be allowed to proceed with their appeal, with the operator arguing the plaintiffs’ have not sufficiently alleged antitrust standing.

Antitrust lawyers will be watching the proceedings of the case closely. Federal antitrust law allows consumers to bring private challenges against mergers and acquisitions, but cases arguing that a company’s M&A activity had negatively affected a rival’s customers are very rare.

If the case is ultimately allowed to proceed, it could significantly expand the scope of future antitrust proceedings.

Has the Sprint–T-Mobile merger negatively affected the US mobile landscape? Join the discussion live Houston, Texas, at this year’s Broadband Communities Summit

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Telecommunications (security) Act (TSA): are VPNs the right solution for secure remote access?


By Rob Pocock, Technology Director, Red Helix

The initial deadline for the Telecommunications (Security) Act (TSA) 2021 is fast approaching. Drafted in response to our growing reliance on communications technology, and to help protect our networks from an expanding threat landscape, the Act is set to have a major impact on the UK’s approach to security and resilience in the telecoms industry.

The first of the deadlines requires all network operators in the tier 1 category (those with an annual turnover in excess of £1 billion) to action ‘the most straightforward and least resource intensive measures’ by March 31st, 2024. While there is no explicit guidance as to what this means, one of the easier measures to action is the implementation of secure remote access – a necessary measure which will help prevent unauthorised access to telecoms networks and systems.

There are a couple of different solutions that operators can put in place to try and achieve this. The traditional approach would be to use a VPN. In fact, as part of the code of practice, included with the guidance on regulation 4 ‘Protection of data and network functions’, there is a recommendation to use exactly that. Yet, while a VPN may address some of the requirements within the legislation, it is now quite outdated technology and could fall short of achieving others.

To avoid further work later down the line, and to benefit from far more robust network access control, operators ought to consider implementing a Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA) solution instead. It is widely recognised as the successor to VPN technology, offering increased security by working to the assumption that all requests have hostile intentions, and uses US military-grade AES-256 encryption to keep connections secure.

The shortcomings of a VPN

VPNs have been around for several years, and work by creating an encrypted tunnel between a user’s device and the network. This creates a point-to-point connection that, in theory, cannot be accessed by unauthorised users. They have, however, seen little change since they first came about in 1996, and their effectiveness in the context of modern cyber security threats is being increasingly questioned.

There are two key reasons for this. Firstly, authentication requirements for the VPN itself are often very basic, requiring little more than a username and password. Secondly, they can make it difficult to control or prevent any over-privileged lateral movement once inside the network. Therefore, if a cyber criminal were to bypass the authentication requirements, there is a chance they’ll be able to access systems and data across the entire organisation.

Of course, using a VPN is no doubt better than not having any access controls in place whatsoever, but it is far from the most secure choice. A VPN is also unlikely to help operators meet some other the more stringent security measures required in the TSA. For example, regulation 7 identifies measures needed to reduce supply chain risks, and regulation 8 outlines further details on the measures required for the ‘prevention of unauthorised access or interference’, both of which would be hard to achieve full compliance with using a VPN alone.

Additionally, there is a section included in the TSA code of practice that states providers should establish the principle of ‘assumed compromise’. This means assuming that network oversight functions are subject to high-end attacks that may not have been detected, and to ensure there are measures in place to make it difficult for the attacker. As lateral movement can be hard to prevent with a VPN, this is another area in which they are lacking.

Improved access control through ZTNA

In contrast, ZTNA has been designed with assumed compromise in mind, operating on the principle that the network is always hostile. Trust is never implicit, meaning users are only granted access to the specific applications and resources they need; with granular policies to determine what, where and when information can be accessed.

Not only does this meet with the requirements outlined in regulation 4 for which a VPN was recommended, but it can go a long way to complying with some of the other regulations as well. ZTNA’s comprehensive approach to network security ticks off most of the measures outlined in regulation 8, alongside many of those included in regulation 7 – by providing control over what third-party suppliers have access to, and limiting any potential damage should they be compromised.

ZTNA is also likely to become more of a significant factor in obtaining or maintaining cyber insurance. Owing to the rise in severity and frequency of cyber attacks, insurers have continued to increase the requirements needed to pass the risk assessment process. While the exact standards may vary between insurance providers, strong access control is one that appears to feature often, and the use of ZTNA will go a long way in demonstrating this.

Ultimately, ZTNA represents a more forward-looking approach to access control, aligning with the broader trend in cyber security of moving towards a more adaptive, dynamic, and user-centric security model. With its emphasis on continuous verification and granular access policies, it is a more robust solution that hits a number of the TSA regulations and will provide operators with stronger protection across their networks.

A future-proof solution

As the first deadline for the TSA approaches, network operators are faced with a choice. Either use traditional VPN technology to achieve secure remote access or to implement the more advanced ZTNA.

Despite their long-standing presence within the industry, VPNs fall short in addressing modern cyber security challenges, owing to their basic authentication processes and limitations in controlling internal network movements. ZTNA, on the other hand, offers a robust solution operating under the principle of ‘assumed compromise’, ensuring stringent access controls and aligning with several of the TSA’s requirements.

While continuing to use a VPN may seem like the most straightforward approach, and can help operators to meet the first ‘least resource intensive’ deadline, it is likely to be only a temporary solution. ZTNA is an easy to implement alternative that offers a more comprehensive, adaptable, and future-proof strategy – so why settle for something inferior when the option for better security is already present?