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13 September 2021

Round-up of highlights from the week’s news

By Wireless Watch Staff

Intel to invest €80bn in European foundries and target automotive sector

As anticipated, Intel plans to invest heavily in European chip plants as it looks to build up its foundry business to challenge global leader TSMC, taking advantage of intense demand from the automotive sector, in particular, as semiconductor shortages and pandemic-driven supply chain disruptions bite.

CEO Pat Gelsinger has made the creation of a large-scale foundry business a key element of his growth strategy but he said he is not interested in “investing backwards” to support old designs, even to address short term opportunities from current shortages. Instead, Intel will spend up to €80bn on European fabs over the next 10 years and focus on the most advanced nodes, that underpin the highest value chips in expanding markets such as 5G and AI.

According to  Gelsinger, in 1990 Europe was responsible for 44% of worldwide semiconductor production, but it is now responsible for 9% and still declining. “It’s something that is urgently critical to every aspect of a digital future, all of it running on semiconductors,” he told the Munich Automotive Show. “[Europe is] on the verge of losing control of one of the most important technologies for the economy, for the national security of Europe as well. And Covid has shown that a globally balanced supply chain is absolutely critical.”

The automotive share of total semiconductor purchases will grow to 11% by 2030, he said, and so Intel will commit manufacturing capacity at a factory in Ireland to automotive chips.

Nigeria sets 5G policy

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, will soon release spectrum to its regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), for issue to MNOs that meet the required conditions. The 5G policy was approved at the weekly council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday.

“The National Policy has been developed over a period of two years, due to the need for extensive stakeholder engagement and the need to ensure adequate public awareness and sensitization,” read a government statement.

“The stakeholder engagement was thorough and multi-sectoral. It also took into account the report of the three-month 5G trials that commenced on the 25th of November 2019. The report critically reviewed and studied the health and security implications of deploying 5G in Nigeria.”

Australia invites applications for low-band 5G auction

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has opened up the process for applications in the upcoming auction of 5G spectrum in the 850/900 MHz band.

The government agency noted that low-band spectrum forms the backbone of 5G connectivity in Australia, operating over longer distances, alongside millimeter wave for capacity hotspots in some cases, underpinning both mobile services and fixed wireless Internet.

The application period runs from September 1 to September 21 with the auction scheduled to start in late November or early December 2021. ACMA plans to auction 70 MHz of paired spectrum in the 850/900 MHz band across the whole country.

In April 2021, five operators secured spectrum in the ACMA’s last spectrum auction in the 26 GHz band.

Orange and Siemens collaborate on Industrial IoT in France

Orange Business Services, the French telco’s global enterprise division, is teaming up with German industrial group Siemens on Industrial IoT. This will focus on technologies and services around private 5G networks, cloud and edge computing, data analytics and cybersecurity, targeting the French manufacturing sector.

“The partnership offers end-to-end support ranging from consulting to integration through analysis,” said the two companies. The duo will take a “proactive approach”, they said, to provide companies of all sizes with “joint and innovative solutions for the digitization of factories”. Dedicated field support will be available to manufacturing companies in France from a combination of the two businesses.

Initial cybersecurity solutions will test the resistance of industrial systems to cyberattacks by verifying the “permeability” between IT/OT (operational technology) environments.

AT&T seeks FCC clarity over limits on midband spectrum holdings

AT&T has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to set rules governing how much midband spectrum a 5G service provider can hold, “…to ensure that every provider has a fair and efficient opportunity to acquire the midband spectrum it needs” to deliver 5G.

AT&T called midband spectrum a “uniquely indispensable asset in any 5G provider’s spectrum portfolio” and noted that the FCC already has rules, known as spectrum screens, limiting how much high- and low-band spectrum carriers can hold.

“Like the separate screens already established for high- and low-band spectrum, we believe that such a tool would assist the Commission in identifying spectrum aggregations that may cause competitive harm by allowing a licensee to hold so much midband spectrum in a given market that it becomes impossible for others to compete effectively,” wrote Joan Marsh, AT&T’s EVP of federal regulatory relations. The screen referred to here is a filter alerting the FCC to more detailed consideration.

Ericsson to shut one of its Chinese R&D centers

Ericsson is shutting down one of its five R&D centers in China, and will divest its facility in Nanjing by November. About 630 employees at the center have received a proposal to move to TietoEVRY, a Finnish software provider that has offices in China, according to local media reports, although it is not clear whether Ericsson will also shutter its 5G factory in Nanjing.

“We are continuously committed to our customers and partners in Mainland China and remain committed to 5G development for this market and globally. Mainland China has always been and remains a very important market for us,” Ericsson said.

The Swedish firm has warned of likely loss of market share in China’s huge 5G roll-outs, especially following Sweden’s decision to bar Huawei equipment from its own national networks, a move that Ericsson argued against.