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Orange, Nokia seek 5G boost with API agreement

Nokia and Orange claimed software developers would reap benefits in terms of access to the operator’s 5G network as they unveiled an expanded API collaboration intended to boost programmability and revenue opportunities from the infrastructure.

The companies are making Nokia’s Network as a Code platform available to developers seeking to create apps compatible with Orange’s 5G network, adding to the operator’s work in providing commercial APIs through its own portal.

Nokia stated the companies will provide developers with access to SDKs, network API documentation, a coding sandbox to simulate and test use cases, and so-called code “snippets” for use in new applications.

The companies are jointly hosting a hackathon at the VivaTech event running this week in Paris, which “will provide a forum for developers to build new, innovative use cases and applications”.

Nokia’s platform employs technical standards from “industry initiatives such as the GSMA Open Gateway initiative and the Linux Foundation CAMARA”.

Orange CTO Laurent Leboucher said the latest collaboration with Nokia “enables compelling business use cases to consume our network assets in ways that were not really feasible years ago”.

He added the current level of “collaboration among operators, system integrators, developers and partners is a step change” which puts Orange in a better position to “tap the cloud-native capabilities” of its 5G network.


Private 5G key to safeguard critical operations, sensitive data

Boldyn noted that private 5G network needs to prevent unauthorized users/devices to limit the risk of any data leakage

Private 5G networks offer significant security advantages over public networks for industrial applications, Janne Isosaari, senior director of operations for private networks Europe at Boldyn Networks said, adding that industrial facilities can deploy reliable private 5G networks that safeguard their critical operations and sensitive data.

“Private networks are deployed for exclusive use by an enterprise or campus, allowing only authorized users and devices to connect to the network. For private networks, data is encrypted and stored locally with limited access. It prevents leakage of data. The privacy/security is assured via private APNs,” said Isosaari.

“Jamming, the inevitable disruption of wireless signals, remains a potential threat. However, the closed nature of private networks, working on a dedicated spectrum, makes them less susceptible compared to other wireless network solutions,” the executive added.

The Boldyn executive also explained that industrial interconnectedness, driven by Industry 4.0 technology advancements, requires a constant and reliable network connection to minimize downtime from lagging. “To achieve this, securing this complex environment requires a team of experts who not only understand cybersecurity concerns but can also maintain optimal network performance. The network needs to prevent unauthorized users/devices to limit the risk of any data leakage.”

Commenting about the strategies that companies should adopt in order to enhance the security of private 5G networks in industrial environments, Isosaari said that while private 5G networks offer inherent security advantages due to their dedicated nature, it’s crucial to go beyond that and implement additional security measures following ISO27001 recommendations. “Treating private 4G/5G networks just like any other enterprise network is another key point. This means applying the same security protocols and access controls used for other network systems. This consistency simplifies security management and reduces the risk of introducing vulnerabilities,” the executive said.

Isosaari went on to say that the growth in IoT devices creates a complex security challenge for enterprises, as many IoT devices often lack robust security features, making them easy targets for attackers. “Moreover, patching vulnerabilities across all these devices can be a slow and heavy-labor process. IoT device ecosystem requires careful management to ensure end-to-end security,” Isosaari added.

The executive highlighted that private networks can significantly mitigate these threats as they allow for a central system to manage and authorize all devices, ensuring only those approved can access the network and its controls. “Additionally, private networks enable secure communication by encrypting all data flowing between devices, protecting sensitive information from unauthorized users/devices.”

When asked about the differences in the security implications in a scenario where the private network is on-prem core and RAN versos on-prem RAN, public core, the executive stated that on-prem core and RAN provide more control over data privacy and also usage statistics. “Since both core and RAN are within the infrastructure, the customers will have more control over user data and how it’s handled. This allows stricter access control and encryption policies,” the executive said.

“While on-prem core offers more control over data privacy, it’s not the only factor. Security implications depend on the overall network design and security practices,” he added.


Dell’Oro gloomy on core network trends

Dell’Oro Group marked a continued slump across the 5G mobile core network market due to economic challenges, as revenue dropped 10 per cent year-on-year in Q1 to just over $1 billion.

Research director Dave Bolan stated the “four-quarter rolling average has developed an ominous downward trend for three quarters as economic headwinds tighten their grip on the market, moving into negative territory in year-over-year growth rate”.

“This suggests that the downward trajectory will last at least one more quarter after the market high in Q1 2023 falls out of the four-quarter rolling average.”

In addition, the 5G MCN market slowed for five quarters in a row.

“Inflation has impacted the ability of some mobile network operators to raise capital and it has also impacted subscribers when it comes to upgrading their phones to 5G,” Bolan wrote. 

“Many MNOs have lowered their capex plans and announced that they have fewer-than-expected 5G subscribers on their networks”, limiting their growth plans, Bolan stated.

“As a result, we are lowering our expectations for 2024 from a positive growth rate to a negative one.”

Based on the four-quarter rolling average, the Caribbean and Latin America, EMEA and North American regions are trending into negative territory for growth rates.

Asia Pacific, including China, is trending positive.

Bolan told Mobile World Live the top vendor rankings for manufacturing revenue are Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia and ZTE.

By end-Q1, 51 mobile operators had deployed commercial standalone 5G networks, with two launching in the quarter.


Scottish demonstration uses drone-mounted 5G basestation for search and rescue

A demonstration in Scotland showed how a drone-mounted pop-up 5G basestation can be used to transmit video footage during search-and-rescue operations.

5G may not have brought on the plethora of new use cases operators hoped for, but it has opened some new applications, including those that serve a higher purpose. Quite literally, in the case of a demonstration that took place this week in Scotland, where a pop-up 5G network was put on a drone for use in search-and-rescue missions.

The solution, which was funded by the Tay Cities Region Deal, relies on JET Connectivity’s pop-up 5G basestation that can be put on a drone to create a self-deploying 5G network, also described as a moving bubble of connectivity.

One or more drones can be deployed to search across a wide area, with the 5G network making it possible to stream video and infrared footage to a controller. The basestation can also be deployed remotely on the ground to provide fixed coverage.

This solution may save time and money compared to conventional search-and-rescue techniques, which require a helicopter to be deployed or rely on teams hiking to the area. These approaches are either too expensive or time-consuming for an emergency situation.

The demo

The project has been funded by the Scottish government through the Tay Cities Region Deal. Also involved were drone firm DTLX and the Edinburgh Drone Company.

In prepared comments, Kirsty Scott, senior business engagement manager at The Scotland 5G Centre said: “The Centre is excited to contribute technically to support this project, and also arrange access to our 5G test bed.”

The demonstration took place near Tarfside in Angus and concluded a research and development pathfinder project conducted under the Tay Cities Region Deal. Another demonstration of the technology will follow in June. It will focus on using the pop-up network offshore with a beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone for remote surveying, inspections and maintenance, in order to increase the safety of offshore workers.

The project is not the first to use 5G for search and rescue. Last year, Virgin Media O2 partnered with Warwickshire Search and Rescue, which specializes in searching for vulnerable missing persons in the English county, to place a 5G basestation on a drone to aid operations. The solution relied on low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites for connectivity.

Telenor, meanwhile, demonstrated the use of a standalone private network on wheels to provide first responders with better situational awareness using AI-processed video from 5G-powered drones in 2022.


Regulators brand spectrum sharing key to 6G

LIVE FROM 6G GLOBAL SUMMIT, LONDON: Authorities covering markets across the globe outlined their expectations and challenges in deploying the next generation of mobile network technology, with the ability to share spectrum with incumbent services cited as a key requirement.

In a series of sessions featuring regulatory bodies from the US, UK, Japan, India, Bahrain and the European Union, levels of ambition varied for 6G, though the technology being a network of networks incorporating space-based technology and needing to be environmentally sound were a constant theme.

Among the more tempered assessments of the shape of the 6G era, representatives from the UK and US cited a requirement to share spectrum bands with existing services.

David Willis, group director, spectrum, at UK regulator Ofcom, said “we’re already seeing a greater diversity in demand for spectrum”, highlighting a requirement for “sharing by design” moving forward.

He added frequencies earmarked for 6G “are already used by some incumbent services, including defence that cannot be moved. It’s clear we cannot expect these bands to be fully cleared and exclusively [or almost exclusively] licensed as has happened in previous Gs”.

The requirement for sharing spectrum with critical services was also raised by Charles Cooper, associate administrator at US authority NTIA’s office of spectrum management.

“Spectrum fuels national security, aviation, climate monitoring, scientific use and radio astronomy, demanding a balanced approach”, he said, adding the US is also supporting commercialisation of open radio architecture to this end.

This included “work on software defined radio spectrum sensing technology that protects incumbent users, such as government operations, while promoting safe and efficient use of shared spectrum”.  

Levels of expectation for 6G varied across the regulators, though all were broadly positive on its potential, especially for non-consumer applications and each talked-up their nation’s progresses.

Chair of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Anil Kumar outlined his hopes for the transformation of economies and delivering universal service in a sustainable way, with plans for India to be at the forefront of this era.

Learning from 5G
On a more cautionary note, Yoko Nakata, deputy director of the Global Strategy Division of Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, said although her country was working on strategies for the next generation, the full value of 5G was yet to be realised.

“We haven’t found the killer app unique to 5G yet and we are hoping to find one with the rollout of the standalone system.”

“But we believe there will be no 6G without the success of 5G so it’s really important that we find some applications accepted by everyone in society”.

The requirement to build on previous generations, be realistic and ensure 6G is an evolutionary technology was raised by Philip Marnick, general director of Telecommunications Regulatory Authority for the Kingdom of Bahrain.

He noted a need for a change of mindset from previous generations, for example: “We need to ask ourselves, do we need a new air interface, if we do, when do we need it?”  

European Union body BEREC’s vice chair Konstantinos Masselos stated the argument for the necessity of 5G to improve broadband speeds was questionable, with this even less likely to be the case for 6G.

“In my opinion 6G will not be about speed, it will be about services and we will see a change from speed-focused networks to service-focused networks,” he added, citing applications requiring “real time” guaranteed performance, for example autonomous driving or smart city applications.

With the commercial launch of 6G still more than half a decade away, these debates are sure to continue over the coming years, though the number of nations represented at this relatively early stage shows there is a global push to ensure they are at the forefront of the coming era.

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