Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Sky Mobile: Winner of best MVNO

Sky Mobile is a UK MVNO which uses O2’s infrastructure. So wherever O2 has signal, so does Sky Mobile , which currently means 4G coverage for around 99% of the UK population indoors. Since their inception Sky Mobile continues to gain recognition for their innovative strategies and customer service.

Sky Mobile won MVNO of the year in 2018 and once more again this year. 

Some examples of the unique approach that Sky has been adopting with their mobile plans.

Firstly in January of last year it was announced they had saved customers over £20 million worth of data spend due to rolling over the previous month’s unused data.Sky Mobile Roll, it banks unused data for up to three years.

On average Sky Mobile customers were saved from spending on average £100 each topping up data, out of fear of running out before the allotted time.

Sky Mobile customers saved over 2.2 billion gigabytes of mobile data. That is equivalent to streaming over three million hours of TV and movies on a phone, streaming and listening to 440 million songs, or sending over 30 billion instant messages on WhatsApp.

 According to Sky Mobile commercial director Liz Wynn : 
“When we entered the smartphone market we wanted to tackle the issue of unused data and customers paying too much for their allowance. Over 20 million people in the UK were regularly buying more data than they needed to avoid going over their data allowance, and accepted this as the norm. We created Sky Mobile and Roll to challenge this status quo. One year on we can see its working, with our customers already saving £20 million worth of data.”
In addition to this Sky Mobile were recognized for the choice and flexibility of its mobile phone deals, allowing customers to cut costs for things they don't need. Those not needing to make calls or texts from your mobile can save £10 per month by removing them from their plan. If they have no intention of upgrading their phone for a couple of years then they can opt for a Swap 24 tariff for the best prices.

Most recently  Sky Mobile announced a new version of its Watch offer, giving customers unlimited streaming on any Sky app, such as Sky Go, Sky Kids, Sky Sports and Sky Cinema, without using a single MB of their data allowance.

With Watch, Sky customers can stream everything from movies and TV shows to unmissable sports matches live through the Sky apps anywhere in the UK and the EU , without using any data. The new feature builds on the existing Watch offering, where you can download shows to your mobile to watch offline with Sky Go Extra, however this is the first time that you’ll be able to stream wherever you are, on-the-go, without using your data allowance.

Sophia Ahmad, Director of Sky Mobile states: 

 “We launched Sky Mobile to connect our customers to more of what they love. Streaming films and TV shows on-the-go is now one of the most popular ways to pass time while travelling or commuting – and our new Watch offer makes it easier for our customers to stay up to date with the unmissable must-watch television, from Game of Thrones to F1 races, that we know our customers love.”
Sky Mobile also allows customers to use as much of their data as they want for tethering, using their mobile data to get other devices online.

Some criticisms of Sky Mobile have also been made, for example it feels mostly built for Sky TV customers, giving them a huge saving on calls and texts if they subscribe to both.

However, it’s worth considering even if people get their entertainment elsewhere, being able to roll over an unlimited amount of data is a big selling point that few networks can match. 

Being able to change your plan every month also makes Sky Mobile very flexible, however a lack of plans, fairly low data limits and no inclusive roaming beyond Europe holds it back, as does being on O2, as that network currently can’t match the speed of rivals.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

SK Telecom & Samsung performs 5G EN-DC tests, achieve 2.65 Gbps

South Korean MNO SK Telecom and Samsung Electronics has announced that they have successfully completed the network device interoperability test applying Dual Connectivity technology using both 4G and 5G networks provided by Samsung’s Networks Business, a.k.a. ‘E-UTRAN New Radio Dual Connectivity (EN-DC)’ based on the 3GPP Release-15 5G New Radio (NR) standard.

Before proceeding further, if you are not aware of different 5G Network Architecture Options (including EN-DC), you may want to check out our tutorial on 3G4G page here.

According to the Samsung press release:

During the test, both companies have successfully achieved 2.65Gbps in data speeds on the 5G smartphone, combining both 1.5Gbps in 5G using 3.5GHz frequency (100MHz bandwidth) with 1.15Gbps in LTE using 1.8GHz, 2.1GHz, and 2.6GHz frequencies (65MHz bandwidth) all of which are for commercial use by SK Telecom.

The test, carried out at Samsung Electronics located in Suwon, Korea, used Samsung’s commercial 4G and 5G NR end-to-end networks solutions which have been provided to the operator’s current service. In addition, companies used Samsung’s virtual core (vCore) that supports simultaneous 4G and 5G as well as its Galaxy S10 5G, Samsung’s first 5G smartphone which was unveiled last month.

SK Telecom, in particular, will be able to boost the overall transmission data speed by 80% by leveraging the 4G and 5G dual connectivity. It will allow users who are staying in the 5G service coverage to download UHD videos of 2GB in just 6 seconds, and large video content such as 4K VR video of 10GB in less than 30 seconds.

The two companies demonstrated the delivery of multi-gigabit speeds for 5G device, with a focus on seamless user experiences. Wherever mobile service subscribers are without being limited to 4G or 5G service areas, they can expect seamless, consistent, and stable mobile services. In the early stages of 5G era, the combined capabilities of 4G and 5G networks are important forces for mobile carriers to maximize the characteristics of the 5G network – ultra-fast speed, low-latency, and massive-connectivity by leveraging widely deployed 4G network coverage.

The success of the demonstration by SK Telecom and Samsung signifies a blueprint of early 5G deployment, spotlighting a rapid, stable and effective path to 5G service using a dual 4G and 5G approach.

This success is part of an ongoing collaboration between SK Telecom and Samsung of many years. Pushing forward early 5G commercialization, the companies have succeeded in the world’s first 4G and 5G interworking back in 2017 and world’s first 5G Next-Generation Core (5G NC) trial in June 2018, which featured control and user planes separation and VNFs implementation based on 3GPP release 15 standard. These joint forces have led Samsung to become a major partner for SK Telecom to successfully launch 5G mobility commercial service in Korea, December 1st 2018.

Related posts:

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Current IMT Spectrum Allocation in Japan

The chart below shows the current spectrum allocation in Japan (source)

As can be seen, Softbank has the maximum spectrum, 250 MHz followed by NTT Docomo and KDDI with 240 MHz each. Newcomer Rakuten has 2x20 or 40 MHz abailable in Band 3 (1800 MHz).

New spectrum for 5G has not yet been auctioned but will happen this year. It was expected to be auctioned last year. Below slide shows the spectrum under consideration.

Related posts:

Monday, 11 March 2019

Current IMT Spectrum Allocation in South Korea

The slide below summarises the IMT spectrum allocation before 5G (source presentation)

On 1st Dec 2018, all three operators launched commercial 5G networks simultaneously. The plan was to have nationwide commercial 5G services available for everyone by March 2019 but this date has just been postponed. According to Mobile World Live:

The news outlet cited a number of setbacks as hindering SK Telecom, KT and LG UPlus’ target. Handset availability is presumed to be the main factor in the delay, but the government has also rejected proposed 5G pricing plans submitted by operators.

“Commercialisation of 5G is possible when various factors such as network, smartphones and service are ready”, the country’s Ministry of Science and ICT said in a statement.

While it did not commit to an alternative date for consumer service launch, the ministry said it is coordinating with SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus, along with device makers Samsung and LG Electronics on the matter, the news agency reported.

5G Spectrum has already been auctioned in South Korea with each operator winning 800 MHz in 28 GHz band (high throughput layer) and in C-band (capacity layer), LGU+ received 80 MHz in 3.4 GHz band, KT received 100 MHz in 3.5 GHz band while SK Telecom received 100 MHz in 3.6 GHz band.

All operators are ideally placed with regards to spectrum to role the best possible commercial 5G services there can be. We will just have to wait a bit longer but will happen in 2019 for sure.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Rakuten Japan: Transitioning from MVNO to MNO later in 2019

Rakuten is a Japanese giant with a turnover of over $139 billion last year. Along with all the other e-commerce and internet business, it is also an MVNO.

According to Smart Karma:

In the latest data, MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) have reached 7.0% market share of Japan’s main 3G and LTE (4G) services with over 12m subscribers. Government support remains robust for the MVNOs. Mr. Suga, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, has suggested that MVNOs, in all forms, should expand to 50% of the market in the future. 

As Rakuten prepares for its full MNO (mobile network operator) service launch later this year, the Rakuten MVNO services continues to execute well, taking market share and building a formidable foundation of subscribers. Rakuten is now Japan’s largest MVNO by customer numbers. We expect Rakuten will struggle to make a reasonable return on its MNO on a standalone basis, but it may strengthen the company’s overall ecosystem and create enough synergies to add positive value to the group.

Back in January, Rakuten Blog talked about building the world's first end-to-end cloud-native mobile network:

During Rakuten Technology Conference 2018 in Tokyo last October, Rakuten Mobile Network Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Tareq Amin explained for the first time the revolutionary approach that his team is taking to build Japan’s fourth major network.

Since 2014, consumers in Japan have enjoyed affordable mobile phone service through Rakuten Mobile. The service has grown to become Japan’s biggest MVNO (mobile virtual network operator), enjoying particular success attracting young people with its low fees and appealing loyalty point incentives. As an MVNO, however, Rakuten Mobile utilizes the infrastructure of other major network carriers to deliver its service – limiting its ability to launch technical innovation and provide new services to customers.

As the new mobile network will be required to provide coverage across the entire country, Rakuten has mobilized partners and its employee base to rapidly secure sites to build out the radio access network, as well as signing an agreement with KDDI Corporation to provide roaming services during its own infrastructure construction period. Nevertheless, there has been speculation about the ambitious schedule and budget Rakuten has proposed for rolling out its plans.

“How could you do this? It is not possible to build a network in only 12 months without a significant capex investment,” posed Amin during his presentation. “It is possible because we are deploying a very different architecture and leveraging Rakuten IT skills as a leading tech company.”

Rakuten has also been making headlines in Japan with its forays into 5G innovation, in partnership with firms such as Nokia, Altiostar, Cisco, Mavenir, Intel, Qualcomm, Quanta and NEC. According to Amin, deploying “true” 5G is an integral part of Rakuten’s mobile journey.

“What does 5G transformation for Rakuten really look like?” Amin asked the audience at the Conference. “If you look at any traditional operator, both inside and outside of Japan, it’s actually a very unnatural process to upgrade to 5G. They have to completely virtualize their infrastructure, they have to deploy new core architecture, they have to deploy new radio access. In Rakuten’s world, the entire core technology, including our Radio Access Network, is fully ready for 5G.”

The fact that Rakuten, unlike existing telecommunication companies, has no outdated and legacy infrastructure to maintain is a significant advantage. “We don’t have to worry about building and transforming our network from 3G or 4G to 5G. From day zero, Rakuten network is 5G ready.

At the same time, Amin doesn’t consider the 5G services that other telcos are launching to be “true” 5G. “If you truly want to offer functionalities and capabilities like network slicing into this new architecture, you must deploy standalone 5G core, which Rakuten is doing.”

This is a very bold vision but is supported by many different legacy and new vendors bringing lot of experience and innovation into the whole process. The following video from Cisco is showing how the experience and innovation is working together at Rauten

Telecom TV points out:

As if a brand new cloud-native 5G-ready network wasn’t sufficiently exciting on its own, there’s another key angle to the Rakuten story. What makes it different is that the company has a strong services and applications heritage (over 70 services to date, in use by over 100 million registered members). This is not a mobile network operator that will then create and launch applications – this is an established services and apps company that is launching a mobile network. It’s an important distinction, and one which could – if successful – lead to other similar new entrants and business models in the decade ahead.

The RAN will initially be 4G and Wi-Fi, with the addition of 5G planned for early 2020, subject to government licensing approval. As well as consumer mobile, Rakuten also plans to offer 5G FWA and NB-IoT.

The Mobile Network has a lot of insights on the Rakuten Network here and here.
  • The virtual radio access network for Rakuten’s brand new mobile network in Japan will be provided by Altiostar. The vRAN company, which has just taken a strategic investment from the operator, will provide all the virtual Central and Distributed units (vCUs, vDUs) within the RAN.
  • Nokia mentions its  role as “Turnkey” deployment partner. It says it will provide deployment and integration of the new radio network leveraging a ‘zero footprint’ site approach with remote radio heads connected to cloud RAN software on the edge cloud. That cloud RAN software, we know now, will be Altiostar’s. Nokia will be providing its AirScale RRHs as well as some vIMS functions and its AirGile core.
  • Nokia is supplying the remote radio units, bolting these on via a specially designed coupling to antennas from Korean antenna supplier KMW Communications.
  • Intel’s release confirmed the RAN-core software providers, stating, “The Rakuten network uses a virtualised radio access network running on Intel Xeon processor-based servers from Quanta, support radio access technology from Altiostar and core network software from Cisco, providing a network that is fully virtualised from RAN to core.”
  • Cisco is the cloud core and NFVi provider. The hardware, which comes in just four server variants, is all from Taiwanese provider Quanta Cloud Technology

Here is an official video from Rakuten on their mobile network strategy and details of launch plans

Finally, I caught up with my ex-colleague and a big supporter of 3G4G blogs, Rahul Atri at the Rakuten booth. I had to add his picture here 馃槈

Related reading on this topic:

Further Reading:

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Current IMT Spectrum Allocation in China

A nice slide summarising IMT spectrum allocation in China can be seen below.

Presentation Source

According to Mobile World Live back in December,

China’s government allocated 5G spectrum in the mid-band frequency range to the three state-owned mobile operators, preparing the way for large-scale network testing in 2019 and the launch of commercial 5G services in 2020, China Daily reported.

Both China Telecom and China Unicom received 100MHz in the 3.5MHz band (also known as the C-band), while market leader China Mobile obtained 260MHz of spectrum in the 2.6GHz and 4.8GHz bands, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology revealed.

Friday, 1 March 2019

China Unicom connects a remote village Duogai in Qinghai Province for #CaseForChange

The Qinghai Province of China is vast and daily life is defined by struggles like extreme isolation, widespread poverty and harsh climate. In the remote village Duogai, winters can last up to 8 months, and many young children at the local boarding school only see their parents twice a year.
Getting an area so inaccessible onto the digital map seems like an impossible task. In 2017, China Unicom rose to the challenge and, despite the countless problems caused by the punishing weather, successfully installed 17.5km of optical cable and constructed multiple base stations.

Xuemei Sun bravely accepts #CaseForChange’s mission to visit the school in Duogai and learn how life has changed for the teachers and students there and experiences first hand just how severe Qinghai’s climate can be. Video below.

More details here.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Switzerland 5G Spectrum Auctions Results

According to Mobile World Live:

Switzerland’s Federal Communications Commission (ComCom) awarded 5G radio frequencies to all three mobile operators – Swisscom, Sunrise and Salt – raising CHF380 million ($379 million).

The frequencies will be assigned for 15 years, which the regulator said provides the “operators long-term planning security to develop their networks.”


Dense Air, a small cell player which launched in 2018, pulled out of the Swiss auction. Reuters noted this “removes a potential rival for the three companies in the already crowded Swiss mobile market”.

Swisscom, which paid CHF196 million, said by the end of 2019 it expects to roll-out 5G to 60 towns and communities.

Sunrise and Salt did not have such concrete plans. The former said the frequencies gained will help it to “deliver a world-class 5G network in the future” and the latter that it will “improve its high-quality mobile network” with “next-generation speed, latency and capacity”.

According to a media release by Sunrise:

At the 5G frequency auction, Sunrise has acquired the strategically most important frequencies in the 3.5 GHz band, which perfectly fit its "5G for People" strategy.

With its existing and new frequencies, Sunrise will be able to secure its existing 96% 4G area coverage and deliver a world-class 5G network in the future. This will provide outstanding area coverage and, notably, give suburban and rural areas "optical fiber speed over the air".

Thanks to a clever bidding strategy, Sunrise was able to acquire the most important bands at a favorable price of 0.077 CHF per MHz/Pop. With the frequencies acquired in the middle frequency range and combined with the existing frequencies, Sunrise will be able to provide the area coverage and capacities needed in the long term. 

According to the chart on top (from Sunrise media release), you can see that all the three operators are well placed with a reasonable amount of coverage and capacity layer 5G spectrum. The 5G future looks good for Swiss.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Japan Mobile Subscribers and MNO Market Share

NTT Docomo Factbook lists the number of subscribers for each of the Japanese MNO as well as their market share. At the end of 2018, according to Telecommunications Carrier Association (TCA), the following was the market share:

NTT Docomo - 77.1 million subscribers (45.1% market share)
KDDI - 53.5 million subscribers (31.3% market share)
Softbank - 40.4 million subscribers (23.6% market share)

NTT Docomo provides a complete breakdown of it's mobile subscribers which is available here. The forecast is to have 78.1 million subscribers by Q3 2019.

KDDI au subscriptions info is available here. At the end of 2018, there were 54,262,800 subscribers

Softbank on the other hand, has 33 million mobile subscribers and 7 million broadband subscribers according to their web page. Their broadband service contains of Softbank Air which is high speed 4G wireless internet as well as Optic Fiber service. 

Friday, 8 February 2019

Bell Canada to Deliver ‘Tailored’ Advertisements Based on Customers Personal Info

Bell wants permission to gather and track customer data but Canadian privacy laws mean they first have to ask. A news article in CBC last month said:

Bell Canada began asking its customers in December for permission to track everything they do with their home and mobile phones, internet, television, apps or any other services they get through Bell or its affiliates.

In return, Bell says it will provide advertising and promotions that are more "tailored" to their needs and preferences.

If given permission, Bell will collect information about its customers' age, gender, billing addresses, and the specific tablet, television or other devices used to access Bell services.

It will also collect the "number of messages sent and received, voice minutes, user data consumption and type of connectivity when downloading or streaming."

Privacy and security concerns

"I mean, in a perfect world, they would give you discounts or they would give you points or things that consumers would more tangibly want, rather than just the elimination of a pain point — which is what they're offering right now," Toronto-based consultant Charlie Wilton, whose firm has advised Bell and Rogers in the past, says.

Teresa Scassa, who teaches law at the University of Ottawa and holds the Canada Research Chair in Information Law and Policy, says Bell has done a good job of explaining what it wants to do but there are also privacy and security concerns to consider.

At the macro level, Bell's data security could be breached by hackers. At the micro level, she adds, there's the potential for family friction if everybody starts getting ads based on one person's activities.

Ads for pornography, birth control or services for victims of abuse could trigger confrontations, for instance.

"Some families are open and sharing. Others are fraught with tension and violence," Scassa says.

Wilton says a company in Bell's position also runs the risk that customers will feel betrayed if their information is leaked or the advertising they receive is inappropriate.

Back in Oct. 2013, CBC reported another similar news item on Bell about Privacy commissioner to start investigating Bell's data collection as Canadian telecom giant was about to begin highly targeted advertising program in Nov. What Bell said back then:

"What's new is that we're giving Bell customers the option to receive internet advertising that's relevant to them rather than the random online advertising they're receiving now. The number of ads customers see won't increase and they can opt out anytime by visiting ads. We're giving customers advance notice before we start offering relevant advertising on Nov. 16."

iPhoneInCanada has more details on this topic.

The Relevant Ads Program was eventually phased out in 2015 after the Privacy Commissioner of Canada ruled the advertising violated Canadian law, as it automatically opted-in customers.

Now, Bell’s current version of this ad tracking program recently asked customers last month to gain more access to personal information for improved “tailored marketing.” This data would arise from a Bell’s customers wireless or landline, internet, television, or anything related to Bell apps and the company’s affiliates.

The Canadian Press reports a notice sent out last month by Bell explained, “Tailored marketing means Bell will be able to customize advertising based on participant account information and service usage patterns, similar to the ways that companies like Google and others have been doing for some time.”

Bell says it wants to gain data such as a customer’s age, billing address, gender and specific devices used to access Bell services, on top of the “number of messages sent and received, voice minutes, user data consumption and type of connectivity when downloading or streaming,” for the sake of delivering more targeted ads.

Both pictures above are from iPhoneInCanada. You can read more details about this story there.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

The potential that is Pakistan

Its been an eventful five years for Pakistan’s mobile industry. The South Asian country has seen a dramatic increase in mobile broadband penetration and the introduction of 3G/4G services has impacted the lives of millions. 

In December 2017, 3G/4G subscribers in Pakistan numbered 47 Million.  According to a recent report issued by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), at the end of December 2018, there were 62 million 3G/4G Subscribers in Pakistan with penetration rate of 29.55%. That is a very significant increase indeed.

However in a country so large and populous, their mobile broadband market is still considered to be at an early stage of development with penetration well below most other Asian countries. Strong growth is predicted over the next five years to 2023, driven by further adoption of 4G and eventually 5G services. The uptake of 3G/4G has been quite impressive that has given the government and the mobile operators the confidence to look forward to 5G.

Presently four mobile operators provide services to the country. Here are there most recent market shares/figures. 


Jazz (created by the merger of Mobilink and Warid) is the current market leader with the largest number of subscribers. In 2016/7 they merged with Warid and adopted Warid's 4G network and offer their 4G/LTE to all of their customers as a single brand. In 2017 they received an own license for 4G on 1800 MHz (band 3). Their tagline is “Dunya ko Bataa Do” (tell the world) and their partnering with travel vlogger Eva Zu Beck to showcase their coverage and the culture of Pakistan has been a popular advertising strategy. 

Norwegian owned Telenor is the third largest operator in the country. They cover more than 80% of Pakistan's population in urban and rural areas with a network of over 11,000 cell sites of which 80% are 3G and 70% are 4G enabled. 

4G/LTE was started in August 2016 in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Peshawar and Sawaton on 850 MHz (band 5) and has spread to other major towns. Telenor was the first network to enable VoLTE and officially launch 4.5G (LTE Advanced) in Pakistan. It has done so by aggregating two LTE bands, FDD-LTE Band 5 (850 MHz) and FDD-LTE Band 3 (1800 MHz), a portion of which has been re-farmed for LTE, it was previously used on the 2G (GPRS/EDGE) network. Telenor's new LTE-A network will initially be available in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Zong in Pakistan is owned by China Mobile Pakistan. It has a limited network on 3G in many towns but was the first to launch  4G/LTE on 1800 MHz (band 3) in the centers of 7 major cites in 2014. It presently has over 9 million 4G subscribers, more than any other network.  
According to Zong when it comes to 4G coverage, subscribers, internet speed and innovation, no other network can reach the heights of Pakistan’s No.1 data network. They more than 10,000 4G towers with plans in place to launch 5,000 more 4G sites in the next 3 years.

Ufone owned by Etisalat is the fourth operator in the country. It has 3G network coverage in over 9,000 locations and across all major highways of Pakistan. There is no 4G/LTE yet.
A recent Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) survey found Ufone takes 5.73 seconds to connect a call, the fastest among all networks in the country.

2018 was a great year for Pakistan’s Technology industry with substantial growth and development in IT Sector and for 3G/4G penetration. Supported by growing tech-savvy population, increasing businesses and rising internet penetration, Pakistan is destined to become one of the fastest growing economy by 2030 and has the potential to be one of the  leading digital economies. There is a lot of promise in the IT sector of Pakistan with young population turning to computers and other digital technologies creating a huge market for local and foreign investors.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Israel to auction 5G spectrum this year and launch 5G in 2020

According to ITU Measuring the Information Society Report 2017Israel has a vibrant and competitive mobile market. The privatization of incumbent operator Bezeq (now operating under the brand name Pelephone) started in 1991, followed by the opening of the mobile market to a second operator (Cellcom) in 1994. At the end of 2016, five mobile network operators and a number of MVNOs competed in the mobile market. These include MNOs Partner Communications, Hot Mobile, and Golan Telecom. The latter two entered the market in 2012 and are both owned by transnational French telecommunication groups. With their low-priced offers, they have been able to gain significant market shares and intensified competition between the operators. Mobile-broadband penetration is increasing, and above the European average. Operators continue to invest in 3G and LTE networks and 3G population coverage is almost complete.

A new mobile operator we4G was launched on April 10, 2018. According to TelegeographyIsrael has a new mobile network operator in the form of 018 Xfone, which has launched services under the ‘We4G’ brand. The network went live today (10 April), and reportedly leverages network sharing agreements with incumbent cellcos Cellcom and Golan Telecom. According to a previous report by local news site Globes, the newcomer will be using the ‘051’ prefix previously assigned to Pelephone. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, 018 Xfone is a subsidiary of Marathon Telecom, which is itself controlled by Israeli businessman Hezi Bezalel. In January 2015 the telco agreed to pay a total of ILS33 million for a 5MHz block of spectrum in the 1800MHz band, and went on to receive the frequencies in August that year.

According to a report by Reuters regarding 5G:

Israel’s telecoms regulator unveiled plans on Thursday to publish a tender for fifth generation (5G) mobile networks in the first half of 2019, at a time when fierce competition has slashed profitability at local operators.

The Communications Ministry expects the tender in April or May, with the hope frequencies can be allocated by the end of 2019 and 5G can be launched between 2020 and 2023, the ministry’s director-general, Netanel Cohen, said.

He estimated a 5G network - which would be an additional layer on existing 4G networks - would cost around 2 billion shekels ($529 million).

The cost, though, may be too steep for operators, which are struggling to remain profitable in a country with 8.9 million people and nine mobile providers.

He said only the six main mobile operators would be eligible to bid for 5G licences, leaving out the three virtual operators. Since there are only three networks in Israel - owned by Cellcom , Partner Communications and Bezeq unit Pelephone - companies will be encouraged to join forces and bid together.

Raz-Dror said operators would not be required to deploy 5G in all of the country but would have to move away from 3G and improve 4G networks.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

World's largest mobile networks by subscriber numbers - Jan 2019

Here is a list of top 10 mobile networks by subscribers. The list is very dynamic as some operators grow while others shrink. The best example of operator that has been growing rapidly, overtaking others is Reliance Jio.

1. China Mobile, China, 925 million [1]

2. Vodafone Group, UK, 536 million [6]
Note: Vodafone Idea, India has 422 million subscribers [2]

3. Bharti Airtel Group, India, 413 million [4]
Note: Airtel India has 329 million subscribers [3]

4. China Unicom, Hong Kong, 315 million [1]

5. China Telecom, China, 303 million [1]

6. Reliance Jio, India, 280 million [6]

7. Am茅rica M贸vil Group, Mexico, 279 million [5]

8. Telef贸nica Group, Spain, 272 million [7]

9. MTN Group, South Africa, 221 million [9]

10. Veon Group, Netherlands, 211 million [8]
10. Orange Group, France, 211 million [10]*

* = added later


Saturday, 19 January 2019

UK MNO Mobile Spectrum Holdings

Picture Source: Keith Dyer

In a recent consultation document on 'Award of the 700 MHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum bands' that the UK regulator Ofcom has published (link), there is a nice summary picture (pg. 62 or pg. no. 60) of all the current spectrum holding by the big 4 MNOs.

Looking at this, one can conclude that all the UK operators have spectrum to launch basic 5G services whenever they are ready.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Verizon offering $1 Million for Killer 5G Application

Source: Diana Goovaerts

At CES 2019, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg announced a US $1 million bounty for transformative 5G applications, as he touted the potential of next generation networks to drive change. According to Mobile World Live:

In a keynote address, Vestberg said the operator will launch a Built on 5G Challenge in the first half of this year, luring innovators with awards of up to $1 million in seed money and access to Verizon’s 5G labs to develop new use cases.

The announcement came as Vestberg talked up the potential of 5G, noting it will represent a “quantum leap compared to 4G” and power an “enormous transformation” in the way companies do business.

Specifically, the CEO pointed to eight key characteristics of the next generation technology he said will spur a new era of innovation, including: faster peak data rates; increased traffic volume; mobility; connected devices; energy efficiency; faster service deployment;

Official website of the challenge:

According to the website, The Built on 5G Challenge is a nationwide search for the biggest and brightest ideas that will bring the true power of 5G to life. The Challenge will launch in Spring 2019. Sign up for updates and be first to learn when it officially opens. The winning innovators will be awarded up to a total of $1 million, gain access to our 5G Labs and more.

Official Verizon video from CES and the launch of challenge below

To learn more about what 5G exactly means, visit the 5G videos section on 3G4G homepage here.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Thailand: Onward to 5G

Thailand has a highly developed mobile market and has experienced strong growth over the last six years driven by increasing numbers of 4G mobile subscribers.However, growth has slowed over the past few years due to the heightened level of maturity. Very slow growth is predicted over the next four years to 2023 with annual growth rates further easing. The market will be constrained from higher growth due to a saturated mobile subscriber market and strong local competition. 

There are 3 main Mobile Network Operators in Thailand, which hold about 97% market share.  In addition to the large 3, there are several smaller MVNO networks.


AIS has the largest 2G/3G network with a 50% customer share. It's part of the SingTel Corp. that also owns e.g. Optus in Australia and SingTel in Singapore. Surprisingly, AIS was the last major provider to start 4G/LTE in 2016 on the 1800 and 2100 MHz band, partly marketed as "4.5G" or LTE Advanced. It now covers 80% of the population in 2017.

The operator has 3G/DC-HSPA on 900 and 2100 MHz (and roaming on TOT 2100 MHz) and started in 2016 with 4G/LTE Advanced called "4.5G" on 1800 and 2100 MHz (bands 1 and 3).

AIS was ranked in second place on which operator has the best 3G and 4G speeds, availability and latency, with 89.22 percent availability by Open Signal.

The market leader has been granted approval by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission of Thailand to trial 5G on the 26GHz band. They were to conducting testing at the end of 2018. Market leader AIS will conduct the tests in partnership with Nokia. 

dtac is Thailand's 3rd largest network by the number of users. It's partly owned by Telenor group from Norway and is the network that owns the biggest wireless bandwidth in the country

They started 4G/LTE in 2014 on 2100 MHz (B1) in Bangkok only and has been expanded in 2015 to Phuket and Pattaya and another 40 cities nationwide: 4G coverage map. In 2015 4G/LTE was started in the metro Bangkok area mostly on the additional 1800 MHz (B3) frequency which is much more common internationally. In June, 2018 DTAC started offering 4G+ on the 2300 MHz frequency through a deal with Telecommunication of Thailand (ToT). This operator has still to apply to run 5G trials. 

TrueMove is Thailand's 2nd largest network and the most heavily advertised. TrueMove is part of the larger True Corp. conglomerates, owned by CP Group which is the biggest retailer owning all 7-Eleven and Tesco stores in Thailand.

They were the first provider in to bring 4G/LTE on the rare 2100 MHz to Thailand. Its 4G/LTE coverage is the best so far in the country according to Open Signal and comprises 80% rising to 96% by the end of 2016. In 2015 the much more usual 1800 MHz band was added for 4G/LTE as well as 850 and 900 MHz in 2016.

TrueMove will be undertaking 5G tests in partnership with Huawei. 

My is a MVNO operated by CAT Telecom Public Company Ltd., the state-owned company that runs Thailand’s international telecommunications infrastructure, including its international gateways, satellite, and submarine cable network connections. 

It's the 4th largest mobile network operator in Thailand and owns spectrum on the 850 Mhz frequency, rents it out to True Move. In return it can use 20% of the bandwidth for their own My by CAT operation.

My has only 3G/HSPA+ on 850 Mhz (= B5) without fall-back to 2G. As My uses the same 850 MHz network as True Move, their 3G coverage is the same. By 2014 it had a coverage of approximately 97% of population and consisted of around 14,000 BTS. But as there are way less users on CAT's 20% share as they have roughly a market share including MVNOs of 1-2% so far.

4G certainly changed people's lifestyles, but 5G is expected to have a bigger socioeconomic impact, transforming industries ranging from agriculture and manufacturing to healthcare and utilities. Regarding 5G: Thailand has to overcome some major obstacles in order to successfully transition to the next generation technology. For example the financial burden shouldered by telecom operators, including a combined cost of 270 billion baht for the previous 3G and 4G licences; how more spectrum bandwidth has to be allocated; and the telecom regulator's authority, as only an acting board now manages the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). 

The NBTC is encouraging all 5.2 million 2G subscribers to transfer to 3G and 4G systems. The telecom regulator is set to shut down the existing 2G network by October 2019 to give mobile operators more efficient network capacity this will help pave the way to 5G wireless broadband service by 2020. 

Because of 5G's improved speed, latency and connections, mobile operators must hold additional spectrum bandwidth of at least 100MHz (100x2) for upload and download for each service provider. Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the NBTC, said he is seriously concerned about "insufficient spectrum holding" by each operator, which would affect 5G ecosystem adoption. 

After the most recent spectrum auction, AIS holds the most spectrum bandwidth, with a combined 60x2MHz, followed by True Move at 55x2MHz and DTAC at 50x2MHz. The NBTC is on the verge of recalling unused or not fully used spectrum ranges from holders to auction them off to serve 5G.

Somkiat Tangkitvanich, president of the Thailand Development Research Institute, states there are three critical factors needed for the domestic telecom industry to ensure real public benefits in 5G adoption. 

The three factors are real liberalisation of the telecom industry, good regulations and a spectrum allocation roadmap. 

Liberalisation, would be allowing foreign stakeholders to hold more than a 50% stake in a company, will create healthier competition and eliminate chronic problems fostered by state-owned enterprises such as corruption and limited procurement transparency. While good policy design and regulations will help eliminate unfair competition among players and reduce high operating costs in some cases, according to Mr Somkiat.

However Mr Somkiat disagreed with the idea of providing assistance for AIS and True Move, the two winners of the 900MHz licence auction. He said they did not deserve state assistance because they bid up the prices by themselves. He also stated AIS and True Move operate mobile services with profit from operations and have the capability to pay the remaining sum of their 900MHz licences due in the next two years.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Telef贸nica's AI based assistant, Aura, is serving more than 1.5 million customers per month in Brazil

In an earlier post, I talked about Telef贸nica's launch of Aura at MWC 2018. Aura is an artificial intelligence-powered digital assistant that is designed to transform the way customers interact with Telef贸nica and manage their digital life with the company. They first release of Aura was made available in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.  Aura is available on customer devices via a mobile application and also via other third-party channels including Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

Anyone interested in details of Aura can check out the official page here.

In a recent news by Vivo (brand of Telef贸nica) Brazil, Aura is already serving more than 1.5 million customers per month. Accroding to the press release (translated via Google translate):

About to complete its first year of life, Aura, artificial intelligence of Vivo, already serves more than 1.5 million customers per month, responding in a personalized way on services, data consumption, account, recharge, among other questions of the subscribers. And since its launch in February 2018, Aura has already made approximately 20 million calls. 

The Aura retention rate is higher than 80%, that is, eight out of 10 customers are satisfied with the response given by Aura and do not need other information. Aura is available in different service channels, among them Facebook Messenger, My Vivo Mobile, Meu Vivo Fixo and Meu Vivo Empresas, and the Vivo site, among others.

Since the end of 2018, Aura also serves the call center - hourly, in a pilot project in a DDD of the State of S茫o Paulo. And, to further improve the quality of service provided by Aura, Vivo inaugurated its Bots Training Center last year. The new area looks at whether Aura correctly understands customer doubts and generates inputs to correct and train the bot, and assess whether Aura's response really clarifies the customer's question, thereby ensuring continuous improvement of the customer experience. users. 

There is also an official YouTube video demonstrating Aura but it doesn't say much. There is an unofficial one that demonstrates how Aura works.

Just a matter of time before majority of customer services are handled by bots and AI assistants.