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War in Ukraine continues to rattle telecom industry

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has begun to affect a large and growing number of companies in the global telecom industry. Here are some of the latest developments:

  • As reported by CNBC, Russian space agency Roscosmos has refused to launch more than 30 satellites for OneWeb. At issue are the UK's sanctions against Russia for its invasion. The UK partly helped to finance OneWeb's escape from bankruptcy; Russia is demanding that the UK sell its stake in OneWeb. OneWeb is one of a handful of companies hoping to build a global constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites for Internet services. As noted by Ars Technica, OneWeb currently operates 428 satellites and hopes to grow that number to 648, in part to launch commercial services later this year.
  • Russian regulators continue to work to impede some Internet services in Russia. For example, Reuters reported that Russian authorities are trying to block a Wikipedia article that discusses the death of Ukrainian civilians as well as the advance of Russian forces into the country.
  • iPhone vendor Apple has halted sales in Russia, a country of around 144 million people. "Last week, we stopped all exports into our sales channel in the country," the company told CNBC. "Apple Pay and other services have been limited. RT News and Sputnik News are no longer available for download from the App Store outside Russia. And we have disabled both traffic and live incidents in Apple Maps in Ukraine as a safety and precautionary measure for Ukrainian citizens." Apple is not alone. Telecom companies enacting similar actions include Nokia and Ericsson. Ford, Exxon, Volkswagen, Dell and Nike are among other companies that have also suspended operations or sales in Russia.

    Megafon is a mobile operator in Russia. (Source: Aleksey Zotov/Alamy Stock Photo)
    Megafon is a mobile operator in Russia.
    (Source: Aleksey Zotov/Alamy Stock Photo)

  • Research and consulting firm Strategy Analytics reported that its "best scenario" sees global smartphone shipments growing by just 1% year-over-year in 2022 due to the war. "The downturn will mainly come from the damped consumer spending in Russia, Ukraine and other related markets," the firm reported, without providing details on exactly how steep that downturn might be. Under its "worst scenario," Strategy Analytics warned that global smartphone sales would be "massively disrupted" if a worldwide energy crisis and global economic recession occurs.
  • Worries over expansive cyberwar are growing. In a recent blog post, Microsoft's Brad Smith wrote that the company recorded a rise in Russian cyberattacks against some Ukrainian targets in the early days of the invasion. "We remain especially concerned about recent cyberattacks on Ukrainian civilian digital targets, including the financial sector, agriculture sector, emergency response services, humanitarian aid efforts and energy sector organizations and enterprises," he wrote. Partly in response, the FCC announced it would look into the security and integrity of the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) protocol, which the agency said is central to the Internet's global routing system. And CNN reported that the FCC is investigating companies that might have ownership ties into Russia.
  • The financial analysts at New Street Research speculated that the US response to Russia's invasion could extend to the world's GPS services. "For example, the US government could cause firms that make GPS receivers (such as Garmin, Trimble, Qualcomm and Apple) to issue firmware 'upgrades' that block GLONASS signals when in Russia, maintaining existing GPS location services in the rest of the world but degraded in Russia," they wrote. GLONASS is a Russian-based satellite navigation system. "That would hurt Russian agricultural, industrial, and military operations," they added.
  • Finally, FierceElectronics reported some analysts are worrying that Russia's advances into Ukraine could encourage the Chinese government to invade Taiwan, where more than 20% of the world's semiconductors are manufactured. That could have profound implications for the global telecom marketplace.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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