Türk Telekom adds xApps, 5G massive MIMO to Open RAN trial

Open RAN vendor Parallel Wireless says it has expanded its collaboration on Open RAN initiatives with Türk Telekom to include its energy-saving xApps solution and AMD-based 5G massive MIMO solution in the operator’s trial cluster.

Türk Telekom has already integrated Parallel Wireless’s Open RAN 2G, 3G, 4G technology within its field trial infrastructure, with 5G technology currently under lab evaluation.

The expansion includes the addition of Parallel Wireless’s GreenRAN xApps, which are designed to help network operators optimise power consumption by adapting to fluctuating traffic demands. Parallel Wireless says the GreenRAN suite provides companies with power-saving applications as an additional layer, running on an O-RAN-compliant near real-time radio intelligence controller (RIC) platform.

This enables Türk Telekom to enhance network performance, coverage, and energy efficiency while maintaining network performance and end-user QoE, said Steve Papa, founder and CEO of Parallel Wireless.

“Layering our GreenRAN xApps technology on top of what’s currently deployed allows us to support Türk Telekom in their journey to test and implement innovative industry developments,” Papa said in a statement.

Türk Telekom is an early adopter of Open RAN technology. In 2022, it launched a multivendor Open RAN initiative with Parallel Wireless and Juniper Networks to put together a trial Open RAN solution for testing in Türk Telekom’s Innovation Centre, as well as field environments. Juniper supplied the RIC for that initiative, while Parallel Wireless provided the Open RAN software.

“As our network grows, we are always looking for new industry developments and the best technology to allow us to stay at the forefront of advancements, to ensure superior optimization and scalable operations, while enhancing the experience for our users,” said Türk Telekom CEO Ümit Önal. “This opportunity is a win for operators who can use Open RAN to optimize network coverage and power consumption.”


Vodafone shows off ‘pick and mix’ nature of Open RAN with NEC


The operator has upgraded one of its existing Open RAN masts in Devon with NEC equipment, demonstrating the benefits of interchangeable RAN components

Today, Vodafone has announced the deployment of NEC’s Massive MIMO technology to one of their live 5G Open RAN sites in Devon.

The deployment is notable for being one of the first examples of Open RAN components being swapped in a live commercial network deployment – a fact which Vodafone says exemplifies the flexibility of Open RAN.

“Massive MIMO is the cherry on top of any 5G installation,” said Vodafone UK Chief Network Officer, Andrea Dona. “It dramatically improves the efficiency of the site, and as a result, provides an enhanced mobile experience for our customers. This is an exciting development because it proves the benefits of OpenRAN. Here, we have replaced a component of a live mobile site with one from a different vendor, without operational complications, and it is running on software from Samsung. This is interchangeability and interoperability in action.”

While the components being swapped out for NEC kit are not specified, it seems likely to be Samsung equipment, given the South Korean vendor was announced as the company’s radio partner for the Open RAN deployment back in 2022. Vodafone also notes that the new NEC equipment is continuing to be run on Samsung software.

NEC has been one of Vodafone’s key partners on Open RAN since 2021, alongside the likes of Dell Technologies, Samsung, Wind River, Capgemini Engineering, and Keysight Technologies.

“We now have NEC Massive MIMO working in tandem with Samsung Networks radios, both of which are powered by Samsung management software. Underneath the hood, we have Dell Technologies servers with Intel chips, supported by the Wind River container-as-a-service software,” said Dona in a LinkedIn post.

Vodafone says it will use this new RAN configuration for the 2,500 Open RAN sites it aims to have deployed in th UK by 2027, primarily in Wales and the South West of England.

When the concept of Open RAN first hit the international stage around 2020, it came with the promise of a far more diverse vendor ecosystem, where interoperable RAN components from multiple providers could coexist happily within a single base station. Part of the motivation was to wean operators off their reliance on single RAN vendor giants – particularly Huawei –

Since then, however, this promise has gone largely unfulfilled. There have been relatively few commercial Open RAN deployments, and those that do exist are still typically reliant on a small number of players – far from the vibrant vendor tapestry vaunted at the start of the decade.

To further complicate matters, major vendors like Nokia and Ericsson are playing an increasingly significant role in the Open RAN ecosystem. Despite initially claiming that Open RAN could never contend with the capabilities of their single RAN solutions, both companies notably joined the O-RAN Alliance and have been gradually increasing their commitment to the concept of interoperability.

Indeed, we only need to look at AT&T’s decision to partner with Ericsson in a $14 billion Open RAN deal late last year to see that an Open RAN future for the telecoms industry need not necessarily mean a reduction in the network presence of the vendor giants.

The good news is, as proven by Vodafone’s announcement today, that this need not be the case forever. As Open RAN technology grows in popularly and maturity, component switching will become an even simpler process, potentially allowing operators greater opportunity to experiment with smaller vendors in live networks.

Whether this will be enough to persuade them to diversify significantly, however, remains to be seen.

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From humble beginnings: The amazing journey of Hormuud Telecom CEO Ahmed Mohamud Yusuf

TM One opens two labs to develop enterprise 5G digital services

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European Commission approves Orange–MásMóvil merger 


The merger, which was first announced in June 2022, is worth €18.6 billion 

After an in-depth investigation was opened into the potential transaction in April last year, the European Commission has approved the creation of a 50:50 joint venture (JV) between France’s Orange and Spain’s MásMóvil.  

The JV’s approval was conditional on Romania’s Digi (the largest MVNO in Spain) acquiring spectrum from MásMóvil in order to become a new fourth mobile operator. 

The initial investigation was concerned that the transaction would restrict market competition by creating the largest operator in Spain in terms of customers and reducing the number of players in the market from four to three. 

To combat these concerns, Digi, which also has operations in Portugal, Italy, and Belgium, finalised a spectrum transfer agreement with the two Spanish firms in December last year, worth €120 million. The spectrum acquired is set to be 2x10MHz in the 1,800MHz band, 2x10MHz in the 2.1GHz band, and 20MHz in the 3.5GHz band. As a result of this, Digi can take the place of a fourth MNO in the Spanish market, providing a solution to the market’s competition problem. 

Orange CEO Christel Heydemann has emphasised that the deal will allow increased scale, innovation, and investment in Spain as a result of the “stronger and more sustainable” unified player. 

“The commitments offered by the parties will enable Digi, the largest and fastest-growing mobile virtual network operator in Spain, to replicate the strong competitive pressure exerted by MásMóvil,” EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said in the announcement’s press release. 

“They will ensure that consumers in Spain continue to benefit from a competitive telecom market, in terms of prices, quality and 5G connectivity,” she continued. 

However, Kester Mann, Director of Consumer and Connectivity at CCS Insight, warned that the deal’s approval will mean the spotlight is turned towards Vodafone and Three in the UK.  

“Both parties will hope that the news represents a shift in position from the region’s regulators as they seek approval to combine,” he said in a LinkedIn post, but warned that the UK Competition and Markets Authority will not be won over easily. 

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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From humble beginnings: The amazing journey of Hormuud Telecom CEO Ahmed Mohamud Yusuf

COAI says TRAI’s tough EMF radiation rules hurt 5G rollouts

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has reportedly asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to relax its electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation rules to help lower the cost of 5G rollouts.

According to The Hindu Business Line, COAI has sent a letter to TRAI complaining that its standards for limiting radiation exposure levels are 10 times more stringent than global standards set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

This impacts the cost of rollouts because 5G uses higher frequency bands, which means 5G base stations need more power to transmit signals, which means higher EMF radiation levels, the letter said. Under TRAI’s EMF standards, 5G base stations would have to transmit at lower power. That means less coverage, which in turn means deploying more base stations to fill the gaps.

That, plus the very limited use cases for 5G (and therefore limited revenue streams), is making it hard for operators to recoup their 5G investments, which so far has totalled over INR1 trillion (US$12 billion), the letter said.

“It is important to note here that the current EMF exposure limits in India are significantly stricter (10 times) than the ICNIRP norms, and if not revised, will severely harm consumer experience and expectations from 5G in India,” the COAI letter said. “This will adversely deteriorate 5G leading to slower internet speed, lower network quality and inferior signal strength. In addition, this will also impact all potential aspects to enhance the wireless infrastructure and deployment of 5G, including spectral efficiency and network topology.”

The ICNIRP’s guidelines for 5G, issued in 2020, account for the fact that the higher frequencies for 5G do not 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.

At the time, ICNIRP said that while 5G generally complied with its original 1998 EMF guidelines, 5G is still an evolving technology. As such, the ICNIRP’s updated 2020 guidelines are set well below minimum safety levels to protect health, 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.”


Rakuten Mobile to launch Japanese satellite-to-mobile service with AST SpaceMobile 


The companies aim to launch the service commercially in 2026, but note that the specific timing remains “uncertain”  

Japanese mobile network operator Rakuten Mobile has announced that it is planning to launch a satellite-to-mobile service in collaboration with AST SpaceMobile in Japan. 

The companies envisage that the direct-to-mobile satellite services will be used for messaging initially, but ultimately being expanded to internet, voice, and video services using regular smartphones.  

Back in November 2022, Rakuten Mobile received preliminary approval from the Japanese authorities to test the service using AST SpaceMobile’s low Earth orbit (LEO) test satellite BlueWalker 3. 

The announcement notes that there is a growing need for such services in Japan because of the country’s high-risk of natural disasters and many hard-to-connect remote areas. For example, in January this year, the country’s Noto Peninsula earthquake cut off of recovery routes, causing delays to emergency responders that could have been mitigated with satellite connectivity. 

“Remote islands and mountainous regions present unique challenges that require innovative solutions, while the threat of natural disasters, coupled with the effects of climate change, has also heightened public awareness of the importance of mobile connectivity for daily life,” said Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO of Rakuten Group and Chairman of Rakuten Mobile. 

“We are proud to partner with AST SpaceMobile to bring their cutting-edge solutions to Japan by realizing satellite-to-mobile services, ensuring our customers would potentially enjoy mobile connectivity across Japan,” he continued. 

The launch is not the first time the two companies have worked together. After entering into a strategic partnership in March 2020, the two firms collaborated on the world’s first two-way voice call in April 2023 between Texas and Tokyo, using two standard smartphones. 

Direct-to-device satellite connectivity is an area of increasing interest for the global telecoms community, with SpaceX’s Starlink beginning to launch satellites equipped with the new technology at the start of this year.  

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

Also in the news:
VMO2 prepares to spin off fixed network business
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Verizon to trial private 5G networks at NHL stadiums

Kazakhtelecom to sell mobile unit MTS to Power International Holding

Keep up-to-date with all the latest news, articles, event and product updates posted on Developing Telecoms.
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VMO2 records £3.3bn loss as interest rates begin to bite


Inflation is driving up the cost of Virgin Media O2 (VMO2)’s loans, pushing it up to 5.2% from 4.7% a year ago

This week, VMO2 has announced a £3.3 billion loss in 2023, having incurred a goodwill impairment of £3.1 billion related to the increased cost of capital.

The mobile and fixed broadband network operator explained that the difficult macroeconomic environment has seen their £8 billion in debt become an even heavier burden over the last year, costing them hundreds of millions of pounds in additional interest.

“We recorded a non-cash goodwill impairment of £3.1 billion primarily related to an increase in the weighted average cost of capital and the impacts of the broader macroeconomic conditions in the UK on estimated future cash flows,” explained the company in a statement.

The rest of VMO2’s results were somewhat flat. While VMO2 noted that it had added 64,000 new broadband customers last year, as well as 47,000 new mobile customers, this has done little to help the company’s bottom line.

VMO2 recorded a consumer fixed revenue decline of 2.3% to £3.3 billion, which the company attributed to a tightening of purse strings by consumers due to the increased cost-of-living. Their B2B fixed revenue was down a similar amount (2.4%), dropping to £554 million.

Mobile revenues increased by 0.6% to £5.9 billion, with VMO2 attributing the slow growth to “low-margin handset revenue performance which weakened through the year”.

“We ended the year with stable revenues in line with our revised guidance at Q3, and achieved the low end of our mid-single-digit Transaction Adjusted EBITDA growth guidance through accelerated synergy execution which offset the impacts of consumer spend optimisation,” explained VMO2 CEO Lutz Schüler.

“Operationally, we invested another £2 billion in our networks and services, with 2023 being the fastest year of fibre rollout as our fibre footprint reached over 4 million premises. In aggregate, our fully gigabit serviceable footprint now reaches over half of all UK homes, and our 5G network covers half the UK population. We also continued trading momentum with mobile and fixed customer growth, supported by sustained customer-first initiatives like inclusive EU roaming and our O2 Priority loyalty scheme.”

“Looking ahead, the 2024 outlook will be impacted by incremental investment in key initiatives to drive future growth, including increased marketing across our rapidly expanding fixed footprint, new commercial initiatives and wider digital and IT efficiency programmes. We remain focused on delivering against our core strategy and these key investments will help us to lay down strong foundations for future success.”

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