FTTH lessons for the UK market from French and German experience

Between 2021 and 2026, the FFTH Council Europe estimates that fibre homes passed will grow from 7 million in 2021 to 25 million by 2026. This places a major onus on the whole industry, from operators to suppliers.
By 2021, France already had 21 million homes passed with FTTH. Omelcom has been a key stakeholder in France’s FTTH rollout strategy, selling several hundreds of thousand Aerial subscriber nodes, several million FTTH outlets,& …

Between 2021 and 2026, the FFTH Council Europe estimates that fibre homes passed will grow from 7 million in 2021 to 25 million by 2026. This places a major onus on the whole industry, from operators to suppliers.

By 2021, France already had 21 million homes passed with FTTH. Omelcom has been a key stakeholder in France’s FTTH rollout strategy, selling several hundreds of thousand Aerial subscriber nodes, several million FTTH outlets,  Fiber optic connections and multimedia in home distribution cabinets.

The lessons from the French market are simple: when the rollout accelerates, the stakes in terms of cost optimization, speed of installation and installation quality become paramount.

This phase is a true “Industrialization” of FTTH deployments. The challenge here is to continue the rollout in an « industrial » way, allowing to perform fast and massive FTTH building connections at the optimum costs while using the best-in-class products. Rollout methods must evolve to take into account these new constraints. Equipment that is used for the connections is a critical element in the overall performance: not only in terms of the cost, but ease of installation and speed are also major elements.

The cost of connecting a new building can be reduced by shortening average installation time as well as rationalizing the number of boxes within the dwelling. At the same time, the connection quality has to be ensured and guaranteed through well-devised products that are comprehensive and intuitive in terms of fiber management.

Omelcom has now brought this expertise to Germany with great success, the other major growth market in Europe alongside the UK, and already made significant inroads there. In Germany, the development of the optical fiber is mainly done underground, using micro-conduit cables, high tech IP68 underground boxes, compact multi dewelling boxes and OTO’s (Optical termination Outlets) that Omelcom produces and in the end will facilitate the use and deployment.

This experience of the French and German markets is now being brought to the UK. In the UK, the existence of Openreach’s PIA (Physical Infrastructure Access) data means that operators will utilise the existing infrastructure in terms of poles and ducts to minimise costs where feasible.

A number of operators including Openreach are using micro-ducts to speed up the roll-out of their new Gigabit capable FTTP technology. This can cause problems for the industry, with particular emphasis on the need to provide effective sealing. Our experience of micro-ducts in Germany has enabled us to ensure that we often provide the sealing as an integrated element in the connectivity box. This has led to developing larger boxes for the German market than we have traditionally supplied in France and we are therefore very well placed to meet the needs of the UK market.

With its strong focus on innovation, supporting the customers in their quest for excellence, Omelcom has already systems adapted to the UK market and is always seeking to develop new ones for its customers and in general for the UK market.
 

Are UK telecoms operators deploying fibre fast enough to hit government targets? Find out from the operators at this year’s live Connected Britain event 

Startup Stories – Go West

Tell us about your start up RunFibre is an internet service provider in the West of UK that is rolling out fibre infrastructure and partnering with other fibre operators to reduce the digital divide. What is your USP?
We work collaboratively with communities…

Tell us about your start up
RunFibre is an internet service provider in the West of UK that is rolling out fibre infrastructure and partnering with other fibre operators to reduce the digital divide.

What is your USP?
We work collaboratively with communities, other ISPs, and carriers to serve the hardest to reach areas.

What is your relationship with the telecom sector?
RunFibre have a good relationship within the industry and because of this we are able to bring partners together to work more collaboratively.

How have you got to your current stage of development?
RunFibre’s leadership team represents a unique combination that could be a first for an ISP of our nature. The CEO of our company is a highly driven individual with years of experience in the industry. Together with our CTO’s vast experience in software and programming, we have been able to accelerate growth while keeping costs extremely low.

Why did you establish the business?
We launched RunFibre to help bridge the digital divide in our region. We have a passion for connecting the people and properties that have been left out by other providers.

What does the future hold for your business?
We will be expanding our rural rollout in rural South Gloucestershire & Wiltshire, where we will help more rural hamlets access help from DCMS’s Rural Voucher Scheme.

HEADQUARTERS: South Gloucestershire
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 8
LAST FUNDING TYPE: Privately funded
WEBSITE: www.runfibre.co.uk
FOUNDERS:
David Swanston – Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer 
Curtis Barnett – Chief technology Officer 
Michael Swanston

You can meet RunFibre in the Startup Village at Connected Britain – Book Here

MTN turns to crowdsourcing to overcome South African energy crisis

Widespread power outages have been commonplace in South Africa for over a decade, with the national energy supplier Eksom having struggled to meet the national demand for electricity during peak times since 2007. 
 
Now, however, this energy crisis is deepening further still due to strike action from Eksom workers, forcing one of the country’s largest mobile networks operators, MTN, to turn to the public for help in keeping their network up and running.
 
This week, MTN has announced that it is seeking new partnerships from businesses throughout the country…

Widespread power outages have been commonplace in South Africa for over a decade, with the national energy supplier Eksom having struggled to meet the national demand for electricity during peak times since 2007. 

Now, however, this energy crisis is deepening further still due to strike action from Eksom workers, forcing one of the country’s largest mobile networks operators, MTN, to turn to the public for help in keeping their network up and running.

This week, MTN has announced that it is seeking new partnerships from businesses throughout the country, aiming to use their private generators to help power the company’s mobile network.

“There is no doubt the country is facing a power crisis but at MTN, we want to turn this crisis into an opportunity for small businesses by ‘crowd sourcing’ generators to further support our network,” said MTN South Africa’s CEO Charles Molapisi.

MTN has reportedly already deployed around 2,000 additional generators at sites around the country to help meet the energy demand in recent months, consuming roughly 400,000 litres of additional fuel per month.

The company has also been aggressively rolling out additional and more advanced batteries at these mobile sites, but the inconsistency of the energy supply from the national grid makes charging these units a challenge. 

“MTN has upgraded its battery back-up solutions on over 80% of the sites already this year and is currently deploying more additional batteries. However, MTN is still faced with the challenge that the current outage schedule does not allow enough time for batteries to charge,” said MTN’s chief technology and information officer, Michele Gamberini. “We want to assure our customers that we are doing all we can to maintain connectivity during this challenging time.”

South Africa’s power crisis dates to 2007, when, despite many years of anticipation from analysts, Eskom failed to produce enough electricity to meet the rising demand within South Africa, with corruption and mismanagement being blamed for the company’s ineffectiveness.

Since then, to avoid a catastrophic failure of the national grid at peak times, Eksom has utilised ‘load shedding’, essentially rationing power to various suburbs and rotating blackouts between these areas at prearranged times. The organisation has even outlined eight stages of load shedding severity, with each stage increasing the amount of power that must be cut from the national grid. 

In Stage 1, just 1,000 MW of the national load is shut down, typically resulting in three outages for residents over a four-day period, each lasting two hours at a time. But as the stages are increased, the effects become much more dramatic. Earlier this week, Eksom announced Stage 6 load shedding for just the second time ever, requiring the shedding of 6,000 MW and resulting in cuts over a four-day period for four hours at a time.

But with Eksom workers now striking over pay causing huge disruption to the grid, analysts fear that Stage 8 could soon be introduced, plunging residents into darkness for 48 hours over a four-day period or 96 hours over eight days.

If such severe measures are implemented, it will not just be mobile networks like MTN’s that struggle to remain operational, but other critical infrastructure and services, like, emergency services, hospitals, and schools. 

With the prolonged Stage 6 power cuts wreaking havoc with South Africa’s already low growth economy this week, the calls for Eskom CEO André de Ruyter’s resignation are already beginning to ring out in the media. Drastic measures will need to be taken to avoid a national catastrophe the likes of which even the country’s mobile operators – which had proved so resilient throughout the pandemic – will find difficult to navigate. 

 Want to keep up to date with the latest developments in the world of telecoms? Subscribe to receive Total Telecom’s daily newsletter here

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Connecting America: The Total Telecom roundup of broadband development

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the USA promises to see billions invested in broadband and bridging the digital divide. Total Telecom are keeping track of events by pulling together a timeline from multiple news sources, here, in one location. If you are interested in a more in…

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the USA promises to see billions invested in broadband and bridging the digital divide. Total Telecom are keeping track of events by pulling together a timeline from multiple news sources, here, in one location. If you are interested in a more in-depth look at how progress is being made, check out our new Connected America event.

30 June 2022
Construction Begins at Quantum Loophole’s Frederick Data Center Campus – Inside Towers 

28 June 2022
Verizon delivers faster connections to 64 Native American reservations in 13 states – LightReading 

27 June 2022
Clearwave Fiber Begins Buildout of Fiber Internet in Lansing, KS – PR Newswire 

24 June 2022
Broadband internet provider Conterra expanding, investing nearly $10M now, $12M later in Union County – WRAL TechWire 

Connectbase welcomes NYC’s Skywire Networks to Connected World platform – telecompaper 

22 June 2022
Highline Commences Next Phase of Fiber Internet Expansion in Lumberton, Texas – Telecompetitor 

20 June 2022
FPB wins $8 million in grants to fund broadband for unserved – The State Journal (Kentucky)

State of New York unveils broadband map – Inside Towers

18 June 2022
Hargray Fiber expands fiber Internet to Hinesville, GA – TelecomLead.com

17 June 2022
Biden aims to train more broadband workers to fend off labor crunch – Fierce Telecom

Washington County, Pa., Approves $3.2M for Internet Expansion – Government Technology

16 June 2022
Shentel Expanding its Glo Fiber High-Speed Network to Delaware – KLTV

Texas Broadband Plan Could Connect 2.8M Unserved Households – Government Technology

13 June 2022
Ohio State hosts first meeting for statewide broadband and 5G partnership – Ohio State News

11 June 2022
West Virginia Working To Avoid Past Broadband Mistakes – The Intelligencer

Connected America brings together the people and companies redefining the future of US connectivity and unites the leading stakeholders from the entire value chain. Join us in Dallas, 28-29 March 2023

Game set and match – connected strawberries

In a classic Wimbledon upset, Serena Williams has been knocked out by little know French contender Harmony Tan, but imagine an even bigger disaster. Imagine Wimbledon with no strawberries…

In a classic Wimbledon upset, Serena Williams has been knocked out by little know French contender Harmony Tan, but imagine an even bigger disaster. Imagine Wimbledon with no strawberries.

Fortunately that’s unlikely to be a concern thanks to Vodafone and IoT technology. They are working with Hugh Lowe Farms, the exclusive strawberry supplier to Wimbledon, to ensure the best quality crop of over 1.5 million strawberries all smothered with more than 10,000 litres of fresh cream.

Throughout the growing process, IoT technology has helped the growers make better decisions on how to protect against disease to give a better quality of strawberry, but probably of more interest to tennis fans is the IoT enabled tracker which locates each load on route to The All England Lawn Tennis Club and provides detailed feedback on temperature, collisions and vibrations in the packaging.

Nick Gliddon, Business Director, Vodafone UK said “We’re giving the Hugh Lowe Farms team invaluable new data-driven insights that make a real difference. This is a great example of how any industry can benefit from digital transformation.”

The only question remaining is whether the uninterrupted supply of strawberries continues as long as World No 1 Iga Swiatek’s unbeaten run as she clocked up a 36th consecutive win…

Gearing up to Monetise IoT Roaming

In addition, the ongoing expansion of the 5G ecosystem is further propelling IoT growth across all markets. With the total number of IoT connections worldwide expected to increase from 1.8 billion at the end of 2020 to 6.2 billion in 2030, according to an Analysys Mason report, the outlook for IoT is promising. 
Ensuring seamless roaming across networks is a crucial requirement for the IoT ecosystem to work efficiently. Kaleido Intelligence’s recent IoT Roaming: Market Strategies & Forecasts 2022 report forecasts 27% average annual growth in roaming IoT connections between 2021 and 2026, as demand skyrockets for sensing, monitoring and telemetry applications. 
& …

In addition, the ongoing expansion of the 5G ecosystem is further propelling IoT growth across all markets. With the total number of IoT connections worldwide expected to increase from 1.8 billion at the end of 2020 to 6.2 billion in 2030, according to an Analysys Mason report, the outlook for IoT is promising. 

Ensuring seamless roaming across networks is a crucial requirement for the IoT ecosystem to work efficiently. Kaleido Intelligence’s recent IoT Roaming: Market Strategies & Forecasts 2022 report forecasts 27% average annual growth in roaming IoT connections between 2021 and 2026, as demand skyrockets for sensing, monitoring and telemetry applications. 

A new business model to capitalize on new business opportunities

To support this expanding demand for IoT connectivity, China Mobile International (CMI) is investing heavily in strengthening its digital infrastructure. The networks upon which IoT connectivity depends have been evolving and getting more complex, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to IoT connectivity. For example, several technologies are being used for IoT, such as Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) and Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC), among others. 

To address the challenges associated with IoT roaming, CMI has developed a new business model: iConnect IoT Roaming. It includes updated roaming tariffs specifically for IoT usage on different technology networks, including 2G, 3G, 4G, NB-IoT and potentially even 5G. 

The traditional wholesale roaming model is built for human users, but IoT comes with some particular roaming requirements. Typically, IoT devices might have a very low usage compared with smartphones, for example. The new business model takes this into account to better manage IoT roaming for devices.

A key issue faced by service providers is that they lack tools to identify, measure and charge for IoT usage because they do not have an effective tracking mechanism for IoT roaming. CMI addresses this with several ways to detect IoT traffic, including TADIG code, IMSI and APN. 

In the long term, CMI is working on two parallel tracks, one for IoT roaming and the other for local SIM/eSIM that should enable IoT ecosystem growth worldwide. 

CMI is promoting this new business model to Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) as a more sustainable way for MNOs to monetise IoT roaming and generate a return on their investment in building the digital infrastructure. The model can also make it easier for MNOs to provide IoT connectivity to one another.

Customized and cost-effective IoT roaming solutions for various scenarios

CMI’s iConnect IoT allows it to provide cost-effective IoT roaming solutions that cater to different scenarios, including physical SIM, eSIM or IoT roaming in various networks from 3G to 4G to NB-IoT and even 5G. While the China SIM is for in-country usage, global SIM offers extensive worldwide coverage and caters to the need for deployment in different geographies. China SIM is especially geared to meet the demand from specific industries, like connected cars from the automotive sector.

A crucial advantage of CMI’s iConnect IoT roaming solution is that it can be deployed quickly. It also ensures low data usage. 

This facilitates several new use cases that will bring businesses new capabilities and operational efficiencies. For instance, it can be used for product testing in manufacturing units in China. Further, IoT roaming can be used for the trial of smart devices that detect temperature, power usage, or smoke and humidity, for example, before they are exported to other countries. 

The CMI network is an infrastructure-based IoT model suitable for Chinese companies expanding their operations internationally or for overseas enterprises starting a business in China. The service provider also offers bespoke solutions and can holistically evaluate a business and provide a customized and cost-effective IoT roaming solution that addresses its unique requirements. 

Build an open IoT ecosystem to drive innovation

CMI’s IoT Solution is built on an open and collaborative IoT ecosystem. The service provider has collaborated with 500 global operators on IoT connectivity to create an enviable global IoT network capability. 

Furthermore, it has established a win-win business model with IoT software and hardware suppliers to provide customers with best-quality solutions. 

CMI has also taken care to ensure that its comprehensive IoT solutions comply with related regulations in key markets worldwide, as well as China. By leveraging its vast and extensive digital infrastructure, huge customer base and market scale, CMI can provide cost-effective one-stop IoT solutions to global customers and unparalleled cross-border IoT capabilities.

CMI has already set new global benchmarks by building an IoT connectivity management platform. The platform advances the growth of the IoT ecosystem by addressing the key challenges faced by customers. As businesses adopt IoT use cases to accelerate digital transformation, they stand to benefit by using CMI’s IoT platform for IoT connectivity and its cost-effective Connectivity Management Platform, IoT Roaming and IoT solutions for effective management of their IoT operations. 

China welcomes fourth mobile operator to the world of 5G

Back in 2019, a group of Chinese cable broadcast and television operators, then known as China Broadcasting Network (CBN), won spectrum in the country’s national 5G spectrum auction, signalling their ambition to become the nation’s fourth fully-fledged nationwide mobile operator.
 
The government-backed company won 80 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum and 100 MHz of 4.9 GHz spectrum, both of which can be used to provide 5G services. 
 
Catching up with the likes of China Unicom…

Back in 2019, a group of Chinese cable broadcast and television operators, then known as China Broadcasting Network (CBN), won spectrum in the country’s national 5G spectrum auction, signalling their ambition to become the nation’s fourth fully-fledged nationwide mobile operator.

The government-backed company won 80 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum and 100 MHz of 4.9 GHz spectrum, both of which can be used to provide 5G services. 

Catching up with the likes of China Unicom, China Telecom, and China Mobile when it comes to 5G, however, will be no mean feat. 5G subscribers currently account for around a quarter of the trio’s existing subscriber base, totalling around 428 million people. As such, the greenfield mobile operator will need to scale up quickly if it is to prove competitive. 

Earlier this month, the China Broadcasting Network was rebranded as China Broadnet and at the same time announced it was taking pre-registration for 5G phone numbers. 

Today, China Broadnet has begun its 5G journey in earnest, announcing the launch of commercial services. 

For now, it seems that the operator has very little in the way of its own network infrastructure, being largely reliant on a network sharing agreement with China Mobile signed back in early 2021 to offer services to customers.

The 11-year network sharing deal was split into two phases; the first year-long phase, would see China Broadnet able to purchase wholesale access to China Mobile’s 2G, 4G and 5G networks for the duration of 2021, while the following 10-year phase will allow China Broadnet access China Mobile’s 700 MHz and 2.6 GHz networks, as well as committing them to the shared deployment of a large-scale deployment of a shared 700MHz network.

This network sharing agreement will allow China Broadnet to today offer 5G services to a huge proportion of Chinese consumers but luring them away from the more established providers will be difficult. Based on the company’s website, it seems that its mobile plans are slightly cheaper than comparative offers by China Mobile – for example, its cheapest 5G plan is 118 yuan ($17.60) for 40GB of data, while China Mobile charges roughly 10 yuan ($1.50) more for a similar plan ¬– but whether this will be enticing enough to secure a significant market share remains to be seen.

Nonetheless, Broadnet does have something of a unique selling point for customers in its broad array of media assets, with the operator hoping to become a converged mobile and media company, providing immersive and interactive broadcast and TV media services, including the use of augmented and virtual reality, which will be enabled by their 5G network.

In related news, earlier this month, China Broadnet announced that it had selected ZTE to provide the 5G core network for a location-based service (LBS) project, seemingly initially focussed on providing support for emergency services. ZTE will deploy their technology at one site in Beijing and another in Nanjing, with the result being that all of Broadnet’s 5G customers will be able to benefit from emergency location services, with further applications for the technology related to enterprise customers expected to be announced in the near future. 

Cisco joins exodus from Russia

When Russia illegally invaded Ukraine on the 24th of February earlier this year, international sanctions were swift and severe. Companies of all shapes and sizes quickly took measures to cease business.
Western telecoms equipment providers were no exception, with both Nokia and Ericsson initially pausing shipments to Russia before confirming their withdrawal from the market entirely…

When Russia illegally invaded Ukraine on the 24th of February earlier this year, international sanctions were swift and severe. Companies of all shapes and sizes quickly took measures to cease business.

Western telecoms equipment providers were no exception, with both Nokia and Ericsson initially pausing shipments to Russia before confirming their withdrawal from the market entirely.  

Now, Cisco, which first announced it had suspended operations back in March, has said it too will exit the market completely, not only in Russia but also in its similarly sanctioned ally Belarus. 

“We have now made the decision to begin an orderly wind-down of our business in Russia and Belarus. We are focused on ensuring impacted employees in Russia and Belarus are treated with respect and have our support through this transition. Cisco remains committed to using all its resources to help our employees, the institutions and people of Ukraine, and our customers and partners during this challenging time,” said the company in a statement on their website. 

Cisco is among a handful of major Western companies that continue to ramp up their efforts to leave Russia in recent weeks. Major sportswear company Nike, for example, has also announced its exit from the Russian market this week, with Microsoft having also announced major cuts this month.  

However, leaving the country in an orderly fashion could soon be problematic. Last month, the Russian government passed a law that would allow them to seize control of assets from foreign companies looking to leave the market since the start of the war. Companies that produce essential goods and services that are leaving Russia “without obvious economic reasons” and “based on anti-Russian sentiment in Europe and the United States”, could find themselves forcibly nationalised.

The mechanisms for how exactly this process might work are as yet unclear. 

For now, however, it seems that Russia will still have options when it comes to telecoms communications equipment. Despite the exodus of a number of major players, some Chinese equipment providers, like Huawei and ZTE, seemingly continue to quietly do business in the country, though likely at a reduced level in order not to draw the ire of international sanctions themselves, particularly from the US. 

With the conflict in Ukraine showing no signs of slowing, the loss of Cisco represents yet another blow for the future of Russia’s telecoms industry, potentially causing deep technological divisions that could take decades to heal.
 

Want to keep up to date with the latest developments in the world of telecoms? Subscribe to receive Total Telecom’s daily newsletter here

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Brits remain frosty about the benefits of 5G

Since the middle of 2019, the UK’s mobile operators have been racing to deploy 5G technology around the country, broadly proclaiming that the technology would revolutionise the consumer experience in a short few years.
But while the new technology has the potential to unlock many exciting new use cases, from virtual reality to industrial automation, particularly as 5G standalone networks begin to be rolled out in recent months, the reality for most consumers is that a 5G connection currently offers them little more than a minor speed boost…

Since the middle of 2019, the UK’s mobile operators have been racing to deploy 5G technology around the country, broadly proclaiming that the technology would revolutionise the consumer experience in a short few years.

But while the new technology has the potential to unlock many exciting new use cases, from virtual reality to industrial automation, particularly as 5G standalone networks begin to be rolled out in recent months, the reality for most consumers is that a 5G connection currently offers them little more than a minor speed boost. 

Perhaps this is why, at least in part, that a new study from YouGov, conducted via Global Profiles, shows Brits to be broadly disillusioned with the relatively new technology. 

The study, which explored attitudes towards 5G across 28 global markets, asked participants to respond to the statement ‘Having 5G benefits my life in many ways combined”, selecting ‘agree’, ‘disagree’, or ‘neither agree nor disagree’.

In the UK, 44% of respondents disagreed with the statement, while 36% were neutral, leaving just a fifth of participants to agree that 5G was beneficial. 

Of the 28 nations surveyed, this left the UK the third-least optimistic about 5G, with just Bulgaria (19% ‘agree’) and Austria (18% ‘agree’) even more pessimistic.

By contrast, Thailand was the most positive nation, with 74% of those surveyed saying that 5G would benefit their lives in many ways and just 15% saying that it would not. 

Taken together, 51% of all global respondents were positive about 5G, while 15% said they disagreed that it was having benefiting their lives. 

Thus, over two years since 5G began to be rolled out around the world, it seems that 5G still has something of an identity crisis in the public eye, with countries with more advanced 5G deployments not necessarily being more positive about the technology. 

Both Malaysia and India, for example, have yet to launch public 5G services, but the marketing surrounding the new technology in these countries is seemingly effective, with 68% and 51%, respectively, saying it would have a positive impact on their lives. Perhaps one could argue that they have yet to be disappointed. 

That said, some of the more advanced 5G nations on the list, like Saudi Arabia and China, were broadly positive about the technology (60% and 59% positive responses, respectively). 

In Switzerland, on the other hand, only 22% of respondents were positive about 5G, despite the fact that the country has some of the most comprehensive and advanced 5G deployments in Europe. In fact, 43% of Swiss respondents said that 5G would have a negative effect on their lives, perhaps an indicator of the troubles the country has faced when it comes to 5G protests and (largely unfounded) fears over 5G radiation exposure, both of which caused delays to the country’s network rollouts. 

In the coming years, however, 5G attitudes among consumers could begin to change due to the long-awaited rollout of standalone 5G architecture, which will allow for some of the more exciting use cases, like drones, virtual reality, and cloud gaming, to become reality. As these technologies themselves begin to mature and proliferate, 5G will finally have some major differentiating factors versus 4G, potentially giving it a higher profile in the public eye and even additional monetisation opportunities for telcos. 

Until these networks become a reality, however, it seems that telcos worldwide – but especially UK telcos – must content with a consumer audience not yet convinced of the benefits of 5G technology.

How can telcos change the public perception of 5G? Find out from the experts at this year’s live Connected Britain conference 

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Telesat applies to Ofcom for spectrum licence

When it comes to establishing a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications network, Canada-based satellite player Telesat has some catching up to do. 
Elon Musk’s Starlink constellation, the largest currently deployed, already has over 2,200 devices in orbit, while the UK government-backed OneWeb’s revival from bankruptcy in 2020 has seen it go on to launch nearly 400 devices…

When it comes to establishing a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications network, Canada-based satellite player Telesat has some catching up to do. 

Elon Musk’s Starlink constellation, the largest currently deployed, already has over 2,200 devices in orbit, while the UK government-backed OneWeb’s revival from bankruptcy in 2020 has seen it go on to launch nearly 400 devices, around two third of its planned global constellation. Even Amazon’s long-delayed Project Kuiper will begin launching prototypes later this year, as well as announcing its first launch contracts for some of its planned 3,276 satellites.

Telesat, meanwhile, currently has just one LEO satellite in orbit. Launched in January 2018, the satellite has since been part of numerous trials and demonstrations, proving the viability of a larger constellation dubbed Lightspeed. Ultimately, they aim for the constellation to comprise 298 satellites, with the devices beginning to be launched in full in the latter half of 2025.

Commercial services are not set to begin globally until the start of 2026.

The project has considerable backing from the Canadian government, which agreed to invest $1.15 billion in the company late last year. In total, the company has received around $4 billion in investment to help advance the deployment of Lightspeed. 

Now, it seems the company is already beginning the paperwork required to operate beyond the Canadian borders, applying for a spectrum licence in the UK from telecoms regulator Ofcom. 

The spectrum requested from Ofcom falls in the Ka-band (27.5 GHz to 30 GHz range), theoretically giving them the ability to deliver multigigabit-speed broadband services to enterprises, as well as supporting mobile backhaul, maritime and offshore platforms, aviation, and government organisations.

Ofcom is now considering the company’s application for an Earth Station Network Licence, which would allow them to connect user terminals directly to the orbiting constellation using the spectrum in question. The regulator is inviting comments by the wider ecosystem over the next month, with a decision expected on September 12 2022. 

Interestingly, this spectrum is remarkably close to that potentially used to provide mmWave 5G services, with Ofcom itself currently in the process of ironing out the details of its upcoming mmWave 5G spectrum auction. The auction will make spectrum in the 26 GHz band (24.25–27.5 GHz) and 40 GHz band (40.5–43.5 GHz) available to UK mobile operators, with the consultation period for the auction’s proposed rules ends next month. The auction itself is not expected to take place until 2024.

How will satellite broadband services reshape the connectivity landscape of the UK? Find out from the experts at this year’s live Connected Britain conference 

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