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12 October 2020

Round-up of highlights from the week’s news

By Wireless Watch Staff

BT and Toshiba deploy unhackable quantum-encrypted fiber

The promise of quantum cryptography has been exploited in the field for the first time in the UK through deployment of a six kilometer length of quantum-encrypted fiber optic cable by BT and Toshiba. This is being used for sharing encryption ‘keys’ between industrial locations using a stream of single photons, the smallest units of light, or of electromagnetic energy in general. This uses QKD (Quantum Key Distribution), which allows two parties to transmit a randomly generated secret key between them such that any attempt by a third party to eavesdrop on the route would be detected. The idea then is not to prevent eavesdropping occurring but to be sure that if it happens the keys are never used to encrypt subsequent payload data. Instead randomly generated secret keys are repeatedly exchanged until one gets through without eavesdropping or tampering.

The new fiber network, funded by UK innovation agency Innovate UK, runs between two centers in Bristol, UK. One is the National Composites Centre (NCC), a composite research and development facility, and the other the Centre for Modelling and Simulation (CFMS), a not-for-profit research organization that pioneers new digital engineering capabilities.


Ikea backs Zigbee in Europe

The Zigbee Alliance has recruited Sweden’s Ikea of flat-pack furniture fame to lead a new special interest group to promote the short range wireless protocol in the European market. The group will also lead the work programme for the Alliance’s Connected Home over IP project, to develop and promote the adoption of a royalty-free connectivity standard to increase compatibility among smart home products.

The aim here is to make security a “fundamental design tenet”, and in the process restore the fortunes of Zigbee, which has been losing ground to other wireless protocols. The group will also report to the Alliance about development of Zigbee standards globally, as well as keeping abreast of EU regulations.

Ulf Axelsson, IoT architect at Ikea, who chairs the new Europe group, commented: “I am looking forward to collaborating on new levels with fellow alliance companies from an EU perspective, and fostering more regular interaction between our members that are interested and invested in the European residential or commercial IoT markets.”

Orange lands LPWAN contract with SHV Energy in Netherlands

SHV Energy of the Netherlands is deploying smart meters and telemetry on its gas tanks in Europe and the US, communicating via LPWAN services from Orange. This will combine the cellular LTE-M and NB-IoT protocols for asset management, supply chain security, and also truck routing to reduce fuel consumption. Data is analyzed to ensure tanks are never empty, and alerts are generated if a tank registers any malfunction or leak.

SHV Energy supplies off-grid energy such as liquified petroleum gas and liquified natural gas under the brands Calor Gas, Gaspol, Liquigas, Pinnacle, Primagas, and Primagaz. It is also involved in biofuels and renewable energy.

South Korea 5G subs soar 10% in September to 8.65m

South Korea continued to register rampant 5G subscriber growth rising by 10.2% to 8.65m over the month of August, according to its Ministry of Science and ICT. This represents an acceleration and fastest monthly gain since exactly a year earlier, driven by operators SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus, which all launched commercial 5G services in April 2019.

This latest growth spurt was probably associated with release of Samsung’ flagship 5G-capable Galaxy Note 20. With further growth in prospect for this reason, the country is ahead of target to pass the 10m 5G subscriber mark by the end of the year, more likely reaching it sometime this month of October. SK Telecom remains well in front with 3.98m 5G subscribers at the end of August, followed by KT on 2.63m and LG Uplus at 2.04m.

Bharti Airtel plays it safe in open RAN, for now

India’s Bharti Airtel demonstrated what is likely to be a common pattern among established MNOs in the next few years. It has been loud in support for open RAN architectures and has started to work on trials with various suppliers, but its recently awarded contract for Single RAN in nine telecom circles went to Nokia, and now it has announced a RAN expansion and upgrade deal with Ericsson. In a second iteration, and as it moves towards 5G, Airtel says it is keen to diversify its supply chain, but initially, it is likely to deploy new architectures for secondary networks, such as those for industries, and wait for the platforms and vendor landscape to stabilize and mature.

Huawei forms 5G highway alliance with Russia

Not all markets are turning against Huawei. Outside the US sphere of influence, the current trade and 5G wars between China and the USA may even encourage partnerships with the Chinese giant. Russian state-owned infrastructure company Avtodor has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Huawei to develop connected roads technology, potentially including the deployment of ‘optical communication lines’ alongside highways, as a backbone for a network of autonomous vehicles.

Last year, Huawei announced plans to invest more than $10m in its Russian operations, including spending $7.8m to promote 5G in the country and train 10,000 specialists by 2025. Huawei was a partner in launching Russia’s first 5G test zone in Moscow and is currently contracted with several operators to roll out 5G.