In today's EMEA regional roundup: Huawei's founder bigs up the UK; Three goes cloud-native; Nokia adds transport muscle; Ericsson touts licensing deal with OPPO; Inwit boosts sales; and more.
Huawei Technologies founder Ren Zhengfei has told the BBC he will increase investments in the UK if the US continues to view it as a company that cannot be trusted. The Chinese equipment vendor is considered a national security threat by US authorities, which are also pursuing criminal charges against Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's CFO (and also Ren's daughter), who stands accused of covering up links to business deals in Iran. US authorities are now exerting pressure on European countries to exclude Huawei from equipment markets, but the UK's National Cyber Security Centre is believed to have decided that any risks posed by the deployment of Huawei technology can be managed. However, a full government review due in March or April will make a final ruling on whether service providers can use Huawei's technology. Huawei is known to supply radio access networks to BT and Three UK, although BT has been stripping Huawei's products out of its mobile core, a sensitive part of the network that includes important IT systems. In his BBC interview, Ren also said the US campaign might force Huawei to scale back its activities in some parts of the world. He described his daughter's arrest as a "politically motivated" act and repeated his earlier denials that Huawei or the Chinese government uses spyware to snoop on other countries. (See Eurobites: UK Set to Approve Deployment of Huawei's 5G Gear and Will Trump Fan the Flames as Huawei Is Burned at the Stake?)
Three UK has finished connecting its mobile sites to a new cloud-native core network developed by Finnish equipment vendor Nokia and is now testing the new system, it revealed in a statement published today. The overhaul of the company's mobile network, in preparation for a launch of 5G services, has meant increasing the number of data centers across the country from three to 21 and is intended to boost capacity and reduce latency (the signaling delay that occurs on data networks). Three said all those data centers are now live and on a fiber loop and that the trial of services enabled by the new core network would initially involve employees before being extended to customers later in the year. The company, which operates the smallest of the UK's four mobile networks, has built a 5G radio access network with Huawei, having previously used Nokia and Samsung as 3G and 4G suppliers. Dave Dyson, the operator's CEO, sees a big opportunity to enter the market for residential broadband services with a 5G product. (See Three UK to Go Big on 5G for Home Broadband.)
Nokia has beefed up its range of transport technologies for supporting 5G connectivity in advance of this year's Mobile World Congress. Based on software-defined network architecture, the line-up of microwave, optical and IP broadband technologies includes a proof-of-concept Broadband Anyhaul 25G Passive Optical Network (PON) that could enable fronthaul connections of 25 Gbit/s over existing fiber, noted the Finnish vendor in its press release. The products include an update to the "Wavence" microwave portfolio that takes advantage of carrier aggregation to boost performance to as much as 20 Gbit/s. There is also a new router intended for edge cloud deployments and a a new WDM fronthaul product, which supports 4G Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI)/Open Base Station Architecture Initiative (OBSAI) and 5G eCPRI data, that, says Nokia, will provide wavelengths at 10Gbit/s and 25Gbit/s speeds.
Sticking with Nokia, the Finnish vendor also revealed details of a tie-up with CommScope on passive-active antenna technology, which should help telecom operators to improve tower space usage and increase cell site capacity, said the two vendors in a joint statement. Under the tie-up, they are working on products that will take advantage of massive MIMO -- a 5G antenna technology that boosts performance -- as well as high performance antennas for existing radio technologies.
Ericsson has signed a global patent licensing agreement with OPPO, a Chinese consumer electronics company, covering the 2G, 3G and 4G patent portfolios across both organizations. Under the deal, OPPO will make payments to Ericsson based on a "substantial part" of its annual sales, said Ericsson in a statement about the deal. The two players have also agreed to cooperate on several projects relating to 5G, including device testing and customer engagements. During an event in London this week, Arun Bansal, the head of Ericsson's business in Europe and Latin America, said Ericsson today has around 49,000 patents, claiming this is "by far the highest" in the mobile industry. (See Ericsson: We Have the Clout for a Huawei Swap-Out.)
Vodafone said its latest IoT Barometer showed that more than a third of businesses are now using Internet of Things services, that 70% of adopters have moved beyond the pilot stage and that 95% are already seeing the benefits of their investments. The report surveyed a total of 1,758 businesses worldwide, said the mobile operator, which now claims to support 80.9 million IoT connections.
Red Bee Media, Ericsson's UK-based media subsidiary, flagged the opening of a new R&D facility in London that will house a private cloud platform for remote testing and provide a "meeting and collaboration space" for engineers and solution architects. The company said it was planning to invest in other "connected" facilities across the world and that it would open facilities in Sweden and the Netherlands later this year. "We used to have engineers dedicated to each customer or project, but with the migration of all our customers onto a shared software-based technology stack, we need to organize in a very different way," said Alex Dubiez, the head of playout solutions at Red Bee.
Inwit, the towers business owned by Telecom Italia, said revenues were up 6.1% last year, to €378.5 million ($427 million), with net profit rising 11.1%, to €140.8 million ($159 million). In a statement, the company said it had increased the average number of customers per site to 1.9 and was pursuing a plan to decommission sites and renegotiate leases. It also attributed growth to an acceleration in the backhauling process for all company sites and investment in "microcells" at busy places, such as airports and shopping malls.