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14 July 2020

Round-up of highlights from the week’s news

Don’t waste time looking for 5G’s killer app, says Ekholm

Don’t waste time looking for a 5G killer app, was the message from Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm, talking to the 2020 GTI Summit (held online). While he believes the next three years will be “critical in determining the 5G landscape”, he added: “By the time we identify the killer app, it will actually be too late.” He gave the example that operators and vendors spent a lot of time and money looking for 4G’s killer app, but “were not able to envisage a world where a ride-hailing app would be the normal way of ordering transportation”.

“Early adopters of 4G in China actually came to dominate the world of the app economy because the app economy leveraged the platform of innovation that 4G provided, and we believe 5G will be the same thing,” Ekholm said. “The killer app will be clear once the infrastructure has been built out. Then entrepreneurs and innovators will come with new applications on top of the 5G platform, and that will create multiples of value compared to the infrastructure itself.”

UK government and Bharti take 45% each in OneWeb

As reported last week, the UK government has taken an interest in rescuing bankrupt satellite venture OneWeb, even though the company’s satellites are ill-suited for the UK’s primary objective, to create its own alternative to positioning systems such as GPS and the European Union’s Galileo, as a result of Brexit. Despite the criticisms, the government has indeed emerged as part of a consortium, which also includes Bharti Global of India, which has won the bid for London-based OneWeb. The UK and Bharti will each invest $500m to gain 45% apiece of the satellite operator. The transaction, subject to approval by the US Bankruptcy Court and other authorities, is likely to close by the fourth quarter of 2020. Bharti’s MNO subsidiary, Airtel, will use OneWeb services to extend Internet connectivity in parts of south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Dish Network buys 800 MHz spectrum from T-Mobile

As part of Dish Network’s $1.4bn deal to buy T-Mobile USA’s Boost brand and prepaid customer base – which was finally activated last week – the new MNO will also purchase 13.5 MHz of spectrum in the 800 MHz band from TMO, for $3.6bn. Based on the terms of the companies’ agreement, Dish said it would potentially purchase the spectrum during 2023, and that T-Mobile might continue to use a portion of the spectrum until 2025. Dish has now become the USA’s second largest MVNO with the acquisition of Boost’s 9m users, and will soon start building out its own 5G network in a variety of spectrum bands, with Mavenir, Altiostar and Fujitsu named as its first vendors.