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Bharti Airtel acquires Tikona to boost 4G spectrum position

India is in the grip of a wave of mobile operator consolidation, as MNOs race to fend off the challenge from newcomer Reliance Jio, and to build the scale to achieve viable economics in their tough market. Following Vodafone’s announcement of plans to merge with Idea Cellular, current market leader Bharti Airtel has unveiled a deal of its own, albeit it a far smaller one. It will acquire Tikona Digital Networks’ 4G business, including its broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum and 350 sites in five of India’s 22 telecoms operating circles. Tikona currently has 20 MHz of spectrum in the 2.3 GHz band in the circles of Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh (east and west), Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. Airtel said it…

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Battery life central to Android O, now in developer preview

Google has rolled out a developer preview of the next Android release, simply codenamed ‘O’ (which has set off a flurry of speculation about which dessert it will reference when it is fully launched). The company said Android O pays particular attention to battery life and improved notifications. Dave Burke, VP of engineering, said Android O puts additional automatic limits on what apps can do in the background in three main areas – implicit broadcasts, background services, and location updates. “These changes will make it easier to create apps that have a minimal impact on a user’s device and battery,” he said. “Background limits represent a significant change in Android, so we want every developer to get familiar with them.”…

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Adobe and Microsoft create common model for their AI-driven assistants

Adobe announced a deal with Microsoft last week, to combine the firms’  respective, and very different, AI-driven digital assistants. While Microsoft’s Cortana is in the running in this increasingly strategic  product category, up against Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant  and Apple Siri, Adobe’s Sensei is less well known. But now it will be able to harness information from the Microsoft Cloud, while adding functionality to Cortana. Launched last fall, Sensei is a set of AI-powered intelligent services targeted at creatives, Adobe’s traditional market. They are front-ended by a voice-activated virtual assistant which makes suggestions and recommendations for users of Adobe’s Creative Cloud apps and services, such as Photoshop and Premiere. Now, Adobe and Microsoft will share core libraries to develop standard…

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MTS: “No business case” for 5G

While the 5G enthusiasts often hit the headlines with visions of AI-driven robots and virtual reality, many operators remain sceptical of the new business models 5G will drive, at least in the short term. Vasyl Latsanych, CMO at Russia’s largest telco, MTS, echoed the sentiments we hear from many of our MNO research contacts – that 5G, for now, remains a series of what-ifs, with no clear answers. Latsanych told the an investor conference in London: “There is no finalized technology, no network equipment available, no frequency allocation in any of our countries, and it is not in our plans for 2017 or 2018. There are no terminals – and they don’t seem to be coming – and there is…

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Altice acquires Teads to expand model with online and mobile video ads

Altice, the France-based telecoms giant, has been expanding geographically, most recently with acquisitions in the US and Portugal. Now it is expanding its service reach too, following in the footsteps of other broadband and mobile operators which are adding content and media to their portfolios, to find new ways to monetize their networks. Altice announced last week that it is to pay $322m to acquire Teads, the rapidly growing digital video advertising firm that has wowed the online and mobile publishing world. Teads offers publishers a way to cash in on the video advertising revenue boom, without needing to create video content to run the ads against. Teads claims to have an audience of more than 1.2bn unique visitors, including…

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LoRa holds up nicely against NB-IoT, but where are the operator revenues?

There was a hint of schadenfreude among mobile operators last week when it emerged that Vodafone, probably the loudest exponent of the NB-IoT low power LTE standard, had missed some of its deployment deadlines for the technology, and now risks being overtaken by Deutsche Telekom in the important market of Germany. More serious than MNO build-out races, however, is the question of why Vodafone’s progress has been slower than expected – and more broadly, how many MNOs will actually manage to find a profitable business case for IoT networks. The operator’s own comments suggest it may not be seeing sufficient demand for low power wide area network (LPWAN) services such as wireless smart metering or smart city applications, to justify…

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Facebook TIP’s latest target for disruption and huge scale is fiber transport

Facebook’s Telecom Infra Project (TIP) is just one aspect of a general, if slow, process of disintegration in the traditional mobile network equipment market. But it is certainly the most impactful, thanks to the high profile and deep funds of its initiator, which aims to remake this closed market in the image of the webscale sector; and the growing support of operators. There are other open source hardware and, of course, software projects in the mobile network world, other attempts to commoditize base stations and make them as easy to deploy as WiFi routers. But TIP is the one to which mobile operators are moving, however reluctantly – because they know they will just be swapping the lock-in of Ericsson,…

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Samsung throws Bixby into mix, Amazon’s Alexa comes to Android

Samsung has confirmed the launch of its Bixby AI-powered digital assistant, ahead of its launch at the end of this month. Also this week, Amazon’s Alexa has made it to its first smartphone, the Huawei Mate 9 – however, its dual-app user experience is likely to prevent this being the Echo-style hit Amazon needs to assert itself in the mobile world at last. Bixby stems from Viv Labs, a company that Samsung bought back in October, for an undisclosed price. Viv was led by Dag Kittlaus, a co-creator of Apple’s Siri who apparently founded Viv out of frustration with Apple’s limited ambition for Siri. Currently, it supports eight languages – well ahead of Google Assistant’s support for only German and…

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ARM hurls DynamIQ multicore design at AI and automotive

ARM has unveiled a serious upgrade to its multicore processor IP family, with the launch of DynamIQ, a new way of combining up to eight cores in flexible ways, according to the needs of a particular application. Pitching it at artificial intelligence and automotive developers, ARM is claiming a monumental shift in multicore micro-architectures, going well beyond its current core-combining approach, big.Little. Although many licensees use big.Little to balance power consumption and performance by combining different types of core, some architectural licensees, like Qualcomm, have devised their own approaches and claimed ARM’s is too limited. The Softbank-owned company will hope to silence such criticisms and incorporate DynamIQ in a large proportion of the 100bn chips it hopes to enable in…

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Huawei’s butterfly site for rural coverage:

To provide mobile services cost-effectively to rural areas requires innovations in hardware form factor, not just software and services. Small cells in backpacks, self-backhauling clusters, satellite cells all address the wide variety of deployment scenarios in remote and rural areas. One of Huawei’s portfolio of solutions is the butterfly site, which has achieved its first commercial deployment this year in Bangladesh. Huawei said the results of the Bangladesh roll-out showed that extending a macro network using butterfly sites reduced the total cost of ownership by about 30% compared to traditional three-sector sites. The butterfly site has two sectors and is designed to be power efficient, and to simplify network construction with a compact, streamlined approach. Using high-gain antennas with a…

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The business case for remote connectivity is finally made, but MNO may lose out

Densification is a key trend in current operator thinking, but there are other scenarios where small cells, in increasingly diverse form factors, will be even more important and potentially disruptive. These scenarios include remote and temporary coverage, which have traditionally been addressed by specialist providers, if at all. Emerging small cell solutions could make a business case for universal coverage at last, but it may not be the MNOs which benefit. One of the biggest challenges for mobile network operators has always been to make a business case for ubiquitous coverage. Extending base station coverage and, worse, backhaul to sparsely populated areas, or those which are very hard to reach such as mines and oil rigs, is expensive and the…

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Ericsson continues its push to reform 5G and IoT patent licensing

Ericsson has set out a simple approach to 5G patent licensing, in a bid to avoid the litigation and high prices which have dogged the 4G era. The Swedish company, despite its stated aim of increasing its revenues from its significant store of IPR, is publicly setting out a 5G licensing price list, capping royalties at $5 per phone at the high end, down to $2.50 for cheaper models. This is certainly not the first attempt to place a ceiling on patent royalties, and it may well be just the latest in a string of failed bids to shake up the system of charging for mobile IPR. In the early days of LTE, there were high hopes that the new…

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Network capex has bottomed out, but cost efficiency remains MNOs’ key driver

The past two years have been very difficult ones for major telecoms equipment vendors, with an almost global squeeze on operator capex.  In some regions, such as the US, capex is expected to rise in 2017, though forecasts by IHS Markit, and other analyst firms, suggest that global telecoms spending will not get back to 2014 levels (about $353m across fixed and mobile) until 2020, or even then. So while 5G, and fiber upgrades and expansions, will inject some new cash into the value chain, the telcos will remain heavily focused on cost efficiency amid falling ARPUs and uncertain 5G revenue models. Technologies which use capacity more efficiently, and therefore reduce the need to upgrade and expand networks, will dominate…

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Cloud and media out, but no radical ideas in Ericsson CEO’s strategy plan

When he took the helm at Ericsson in October, many were concerned that Börje Ekholm was too conservative a choice for a company which badly needs new blood and new directions. The five-month wait for his strategic plan to be revealed has not calmed those fears, and now it has been unveiled, there are few signs of the radical thinking which Ericsson badly needs to regain its former glories. Ekholm shook up his management team and redoubled the focus on managed and professional services, and on the Internet of Things (IoT). However, he backed away from some of the other markets which his predecessor, Hans Vestberg, had identified as key growth areas, to help offset slowing sales and falling margins…

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Rethink IoT News ATW 152

M&A, Strategies, Alliances Murata’s Peregrine Semiconductor is acquiring Arctic Sand, an MIT spin-off that designs low-power DC-DC power conversion semiconductors. Fleet Complete has acquired BigRoad, an automotive hours-of-service and compliance provider, to integrate BigRoad’s tech into its fleet management and telematics platform.   Laws, Regulation, and Lawsuits The FAA’s jurisdiction is still a confused mess, after the ‘Drone Slayer’ court case has seen the shotgun win-out again, in Kentucky. No compensation has been awarded for the dead drone, whose owner was arguing that only the FAA could legally control airspace. Forecasts, Surveys. Reports, and Blue Sky Thinking The 5G Network Infrastructure market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 70%, hitting $28bn in annual spending by 2025, according to…

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ZTE jumps into LoRa and NB-IoT at CeBIT

Chinese network infrastructure vendor ZTE has revealed its IoT network game plan this week, with an array of announcements at the CeBIT tradeshow in Hanover – hoping to catch customer attention as the hype surrounding IoT networks grows. The announcements focused on NB-IoT and LoRaWAN. An NB IoT solutions launch is by no means a surprise, as nearly all mobile network infrastructure vendors have been making noises on this front for the past 6 months. ZTE committing to launch LoRa supported network infrastructure, on the other hand, is perhaps more surprising. Major network infrastructure vendors have, in general, shown less interest in unlicensed LPWAN technologies like LoRa. The likes of Orange and Bouygues in France, and SK Telecom in Korea,…

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Huawei X Labs trundles on, with emphasis on wireless Industrie 4.0

At Mobile World Congress this year, Huawei unveiled a demonstration with Kuka Robotics, as part of its X Labs R&D project, which was using a 5G-based system to coordinate two robotic arms playing an electronic drum kit. The demo followed a memorandum of understanding that the pair signed at the CeBIT 2016 show, to advance the kinds of low-latency wireless technology needed for Industrie 4.0 applications. The pair said that the MWC demo was a milestone, verifying that cellular-based real time control in smart manufacturing is achievable, with the live demonstration achieving latencies as low as one millisecond, with one microsecond clock synchronization, and 99.999% reliability. Those kinds of figures are going to be essential for industrial applications, as the…

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IBM nets AT&T’s 30m devices in AI and ML Watson platform deal

AT&T and IBM have teamed up on an IoT analytics system to provide AT&T’s industrial customers with AI and machine-learning (ML) technologies – from which companies can apparently make immediate and crucial decisions, using the IBM Cloud and AT&T IoT analytics capabilities. IBM is renowned for bombarding the wires with announcements, but this week’s news could hold extra merit, considering that AT&T claims to have more than 30m connected devices on its network today – a number the operator says is growing rapidly. An integration deal between the two was first outlined last year and the joint capabilities are now available to customers in the pilot phase as of this week. It isn’t just IBM dominating the AI headlines, as…

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Oracle and SAP stalk utilities, smell blood in the water for new IoT growth

The CeBIT tradeshow has provided the backdrop for Oracle and SAP to make inroads into energy utility markets, with Oracle announcing a new device management cloud platform, and SAP gaining a tactical partner via a deal with Huawei, which sees the Chinese telco infrastructure provider launch a new smart metering offering with a pre-integrated SAP for Utilities stack. As energy grid operators digitize their infrastructure, they need IT systems to support these new deployments or retrofits, as well as new platforms to support the new installations of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), to collect and process all those smart meter readings. For the likes of SAP and Oracle, these are huge opportunities for lucrative long-term contracts. Oracle took the smart grid…

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ARM hurls DynamIQ multi-core design at AI and automotive

Japanese chip designer ARM has unveiled a serious upgrade to its multi-core processor designs, with the launch of DynamIQ, a new way of combining up to 8 processor cores to best suit an application. Pitching it at AI and automotive developers, the new system is set to comprise a big chunk of the next 100bn chips that ARM is hoping to ship. Calling it a monumental shift in multi-core microarchitecture, ARM’s DynamIQ is essentially an evolution of its big.Little designs, which allowed a multi-core chip to be built with combinations of powerful and low-power cores, to better manage power consumption – with the big cores only spooling up when heavy-lifting was needed, and the low-power cores managing the ongoing activity.…

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