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General

Dell’Oro: RAN market is ‘still a disaster’

The Radio Access Network (RAN) market is “still struggling,” according to the latest report from telecom analysts Dell’Oro Group. 

The first quarter of 2024 saw exceptionally weak results, with a decline of 15-30% in the overall global RAN market—the steepest decline since Dell’Oro started covering this market in 2000, according to Stefan Pongratz, Dell’Oro VP and analyst. Dell’Oro measures the sector by both revenue and units sold, but “the focus is on revenue,” Pongratz said.

Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, ZTE and Samsung are the top five RAN suppliers, based on worldwide revenues. The vendors’ positions remained stable but “there have been shifts in vendor shares,” Dell’Oro said in an email. “Huawei’s 4QT revenue share improved relative to 2023, while Nokia lost ground over the same period.”

So, we can look forward to dour first-quarter results from our Nordic friends at Nokia and Ericsson, following disappointing fourth-quarter results. 

Ericsson said that it would cut 1,200 Swedish staff in March 2024. This follows planned cuts of 8,500 people worldwide.

The company signed a $14 billion RAN deal with AT&T in December 2023, replacing Nokia gear in the field. Ericsson has said this deal will help bolster its RAN results from the second half of 2024.

Eventually, Ericsson will start supplying open RAN equipment to AT&T as part of this deal. AT&T has said that its open RAN plan is for 70% of its wireless network traffic to move across open-capable platforms by late 2026. 

Struggling Nokia has already reorganized and sold some of its smaller business units, and there have been rumors of a larger sell-off for the company.

RAN revenues declined sharply in the first quarter of 2024 in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific, Dell’Oro said in a statement. The Middle East and Africa are growing, Latin America is stable.

Dell’Oro said that growth projections have been revised slightly downward. Global RAN is now projected to decline 5-8% in 2024.

General

Kagan: Ready or not wireless has begun it’s 5G, AI, FWA evolution

Wireless executives need to prepare for the next growth wave

Over the past fifty-years, wireless has been a leading growth industry. That being said, at any specific point in time, different areas of wireless are hot, as other parts cool down. So, let’s take a closer look at what areas will be hot over the next few years, and how executives need to prepare to stay with the changing growth curve.

·      We will take a look at what wireless networks and resellers, smartphone and tablet makers and network builders will be focused on. 

·      We will take a look at what new technologies will transform and lead in the wireless industry in new directions.

·      We will take a look at how to solve real problems in wireless.

Companies need to do certain things today for them to be leaders tomorrow. To punch their way through the noise and chaos of the industry and be seen.

These are some of the top areas we really need to be focused on. In fact, think of the wireless growth curve like a wave, rising and falling, time after time. 

Wireless has begun next growth wave with AI, 5G-A, FWA and satellite

As the industry continues to move forward, at each point there are different areas of growth and focus which heated up, as past growth areas cooled down. That means there are often different leaders at different times in it’s evolution. 

Things change. What was hot yesterday, is no longer hot today. Today, new technologies and new strategies need to be employed in order for companies to continue to win. And companies need to know years in advance, so they can head in the right direction.

Wireless has already begun its next major growth phase. This time it will be bigger and impact not only wireless, but every other industry as well.

This time in involves 5G-A, AI, FWA, satellite and more. 

As an example, growth companies like Uber and Lyft could not even exist until 4G in the wireless world. And just as wireless has transformed the taxi and limousine industry, with 5G and 6G, every other sector is next in line.

Presentation to Samsung executives on AI, 5G, wireless and what’s next

That means for companies who are on the correct path, the future looks very bright.

Over more than three decades, I have shared my thoughts of our changing industry with wireless execs and leadership, investors, customers and the media. 

In fact, recently I gave a presentation to Samsung senior executives on this topic. To help them prepare for what’s coming next. 

You see, they need to see what is coming years before we get there. That being said, don’t you?

Something interesting. I have also been advising non-wireless companies who are using this technology to transform their industry. Their goal results in ending up as winners in their changing spaces. 

Companies need to be seen and heard in noisy industry

One thing I stress at every briefing is the importance to be seen and heard in a noisy marketplace. Especially in a very competitive space full of new technology. To punch your way onto the radar of during a very noisy and chaotic time.

You must successfully focus on public relations, advertising and marketing. 

The reason is simple. Either you own your space, or a competitor will. Today, there are serious changes in play which every player needs to be aware of and prepare for. 

Which growth category are you in; 5G, AI, FWA, satellite and wireless

As the wireless industry continues to change moving forward to 5G, 6G, AI and beyond, you must choose which level you want to compete in. 

What I am saying is there are three levels to consider; early adopters, fast followers and those who struggle to understand what their next move should be. 

So, which are you?

It is important to recognize that 5G is very different compared to the past. Not only do 5G, 6G and AI represent the next wave of growth for wireless… but pulling the camera back, we can see how it also involves other companies in other industries.

Nvidia is a powerhouse in AI chips and technology

Nvidia and in fact many other suppliers are very important to the AI industry. 

I am always asked for a description of today’s AI marketplace. Easy question with a longer and more complex answer.

The truth is the world of AI will continue to grow and change as we go forward. It will look different going forward. 

While that’s a question which is impossible to know the answer to, companies still need to choose their direction wisely.

As the marketplace continues to grow with new technology, growth can be more instense than ever before. Of course, the risk and challenges are greater as well.

There will be many competitors in this space. The challenge for Nvidia is to keep the leadership position in the AI space.

Can TM solve the wireless spectrum shortage?

There are problems we need to fix as well. The IEEE Communications Society said on January 2, 2024: “Transpositional Modulation or TM permits a single carrier wave to simultaneously transmit two or more signals, unlike other modulation methods. It does this without destroying the integrity of the individual bit streams.”

Companies like TM Technologies are working with the US military on this powerful new idea. This same kind of technology should be considered and tested by every wireless network, large and small. Could this be a solution to the wireless spectrum shortage? 

Solving ongoing challenges like with limited spectrum is of utmost importance.

Early adopters and fast followers lead in wireless race

We are seeing exciting new activity in other industries because of wireless and new technology. Early adopters in other industries are jumping in early trying to change their industry. Every competitor wants a competitive advantage.

First, early adopters are transforming their industry trying to either become or remain in a leadership position. These companies can and often do change the direction of their industry. They also take the risks and get the arrows. 

Second, fast followers are also industry leaders, but they are more cautious. They let early adopters take the arrows and plow the roads, then they move in. 

Third, are the companies who either wait too long, or who do not know what next step to take. These are the companies who either already struggle or may begin to do so moving forward.

AI, FWA, 5G wireless internet, 5G-A, private wireless and more

Because of AI, FWA, 5G-A, wireless internet, private wireless and more, the industry is growing more rapidly and in new directions.

Expect this to continue and in fact to accelerate. 

New areas like private wireless, or FWA, which stands for Fixed Wireless Access. This is the technology which lets wireless carriers offer broadband services to homes and offices wirelessly. 

In fact, FWA is giving traditional cable television companies real competition with broadband. Companies like Comcast Xfinity, Charter Spectrum, Altice, Cox and others. Keep your eyes on this. 

Still, another new area is 5G-A or 5G-Advanced. This expands the speed and immediacy of 5G.

Satellite broadband, AI and wireless resellers are on growth curve

What else can we expect to see more of in wireless?

AI is rapidly moving into wireless and telecom. This will play an increasingly important role for networks, resellers, smartphone and tablet makers, network builders and more. 

Plus, for other companies which will use wireless to connect everyone to everything.

Because of AI, there is an enormous change wave sweeping across every industry, including wireless. You either ride this growth wave and stay with it, or you will be left behind.

Satellite broadband is another new sector. There are so many satellite companies entering the space and impacting the wireless industry. Companies like SpaceX, Starlink, Globalstar, HughesNet and more. Some of these providers are newer and faster growing compared to others. 

So, who are the wireless leaders today and going forward?

Expect these new areas and many other new ones to continue to be the focus of industry growth. That being said, expect rough spots which will keep the waters churning.

Another important question to be focused on is this. Who are the leaders in these different sectors today, and who will be the leaders tomorrow? 

Some companies are often smaller, but with big ideas, but not enough capital. Larger companies need this breakthrough thinking and ideas.

This means wireless and telecom will remain a growth industry but will be unstable with ups and downs going forward. This is not new. This is the wireless industry.

Companies should stay with the ever-changing wireless growth curve

Expect more changes and new technology to continue to fuel this explosive growth in wireless.

The good news is wireless has always been and will always be a strong industry. The challenge is there are different sectors in the industry and different technologies which lead at different times.

Things change. Just like the iPhone and Android changed the wireless industry nearly twenty years ago, new technology like we have been discussing is doing the same thing today. 

That’s why you need to stay on top of industry changes and trends and stay with the hot areas of the ever-changing wireless growth curve.

General

Op-Ed: The 5G revolution is just getting started

The communications industry is changing at a dizzying pace, so who best to ask for insights into where things are headed, and when?

You could ask a VC, I suppose, but they only get things right 5% of the time. You might ask a service provider instead, but they’ll just start going on about ARPU (which is something to do with money, apparently – not the name of the Kwik-E-Mart owner in The Simpsons). Or you could ask an industry analyst, but they’d only try to sell you a report containing the information they just got from the vendors.   

No, if you really want to know what’s coming down the pike, you need to talk directly to someone tasked with anticipating technology change and turning it into viable business solutions for the largest companies in the world.  

In other words, you need to talk to the CTO at Ericsson: Erik Ekudden.

Ekudden and his division of Ericsson navigate that tricky territory between customer expectation and technology reality, making sure that Ericsson isn’t caught out by important technology developments, while also developing solution sets that will help its customers save and make money in the long term. That requires diplomacy as much as R&D, especially when the things customers think they want (“cloud stuff,” “robots,” “infinite bandwidth,” “some of that sweet, sweet social media revenue”) may not actually be what they need in order to build survivable businesses in the here and now, and beyond.

Balancing 5G expectations

Standalone 5G (5G SA) is the key example of a technology where Ericsson has had to balance the expectation/reality equation with customers. That job is ongoing, but it is also the key that assures Ericsson’s long-term success.

When the newest G standard became available, telcos (especially in the U.S.) assumed it would work the same magic as 4G, allowing them to make more money by charging consumers for faster throughput (and selling lots of cell phones). But using 5G as a bandwidth booster is like using a banana as a socket wrench: messy, and a waste of a perfectly good banana.

In fact, those service providers had made the fatal mistake of not reading the owner’s manual. It turned out that 5G wasn’t the technology service providers thought it was — it was better.

5G encompasses 104 separate sub-standards, thousands of documents and millions and millions of complicated, hard to understand words. Fun factoid: working in shifts it would take a team of humans two months to read the full documentation. But it would be worth it, because hiding in plain site within the geek coda is a treasure trove of new capabilities (cloud compatibility, network slicing, etc.) designed to enable new types of services, generating new types of revenue in new markets (vertical industries, autonomous driving, smart everything — and, in the U.S., state-sanctioned killbots, but I digress.)

If you’re an Ericsson standards wallah, and you’ve been hanging out for the last decade with your colleagues at Nokia, Huawei, Marvel, Qualcomm, Intel, et al., developing those specs you know this; it’s literally “the point.” And it must be maddening to see your telco customers getting their first 5G rollouts so wrong — let alone having to listen to them complain about how they’re a bit disappointed in 5G, actually.

And now for the good news

This is where the good news kicks in because, despite this hiccup, the 5G revolution is only just getting started, and it is an irresistible force, and eventually it will achieve a level of ubiquity and strategic importance that dwarfs the impact of previous G standards.

There are two reasons for that: first, money. If they are to survive, service providers have no choice other than to explore and eventually embrace the new business opportunities locked within 5G. (It’s just taking them longer than it should have done, because … well, you know … service providers.) Ericsson is laser-focused on helping CSPs do this, via two strategies: the Open Programmable Cloud Ecosystem (OPCE), and the Ericsson Open API initiative.

The second is 5G’s cloud-native design, which equips it, uniquely, to serve as the shim allowing service providers to meld essential new 21st century virtual technologies like cloud infrastructure, artificial intelligence (AI), and autonomous automation onto their pre-existing 20th century telecom infrastructure (antennae, switches and routers, racks, bits of cable).

Cloud-native 5G is the bridge between old and new, and this essential role guarantees that 5G will be a ubiquitous component of world infrastructure for the next decade.

As one of the “big three” 5G vendors (along with Huawei and Nokia), Ericsson stands to be a beneficiary of extraordinary demand for 5G solutions to support the ubiquitous deployment of the technology on a global scale.

That’s one reason to feel positive about Ericsson’s long-term fortunes. The other is the integrated strategy that Ekudden and his team have developed to support its customers in taking what is, unquestionably, the hardest transition that the comms industry has yet seen. It manages the neat trick of being aspirational while still rooted in the pragmatism that telecom is famed for — and for an industry on the cusp of an unbelievable level of disruptive change, this is exactly what is required.   

I talked to Ekudden about 5G, of course. But we also covered 6G (no rush on this one, he told me); the move from best effort to tailored performance; AI, in its embedded and generative forms; autonomous networks; the advent of open network infrastructure as a path to new communications service provider (CSP) revenue streams; and the coming epic transformation of enterprise and public sector infrastructure (a transformation that will eventually change the fabric of global society in unprecedented ways).

Read the full transcript of my interview with Ekudden below.


Steve Saunders: Erik, hi, I’d like to start with a really big question if I may. There’s so much change in our industry at the moment, what with cloud, and AI, and automation, and orchestration and all of that coming together. It’s a huge challenge for everybody. How are you shepherding Ericsson forward to be able to support the transition to the “new new”?

Erik Ekudden: I think you’re right. This is a big change for us but also for our customers, because the changes that you mentioned are profound, both on the technology and architecture side, but equally on the business model and operational side.

Our approach is to continue to be early in new technology. We are very committed to continuing to invest heavily in R&D, both on the product side as well as research into long-term technology solutions.

This puts us ahead but also gives us a chance to work with leading customers who help define the blueprint that others can adopt and benefit from.

But it’s also very much about working with partners in the ecosystem, and standardization still plays a huge role in that by aligning the industry so that it can still scale.

Saunders: You mentioned the business model. You are giving service providers new ways to make money via the Ericsson Open API initiative. How is that being received by the service providers and are you confident that they will be able to transition to new ways of making money?

Ekudden: Around openness, yes. And I have seen you highlight its importance in your own analysis, Steve. There is clearly an opportunity to make networks more available, programmable, open.The Open API Initiative is based on using technology from Vonage as a way to open up the network to developers and provide an aggregation layer that really makes developers empowered by network capabilities, no matter where their applications show up in the world… that is a big change, I believe.

And the interest is very much there, and you see the first commercial cases appearing from operators in Japan, and Europe; from AT&T, Verizon, AWS and others. The operators can see what they need to make the networks available in a granular, dynamic way. And it’s not always about getting the highest performance; it’s about tailored performance… 

Saunders: About what now? Tailored performance? 

Ekudden: Yes. Or, sometimes we call it differentiated performance. The mobile broadband subscription that a consumer has for their smartphone is good enough for many, many things in their daily life. But for connected homes, and residential access, and fixed wireless access, you need to be able to deliver guarantees in terms of the bandwidth and latency for those applications. 

And this is of course also true for businesses, enterprises, and verticals like smart manufacturing and public safety… they all make very big demands of the network. So you need to tailor the network to deliver what’s required on a dynamic basis when and where it’s needed. So networks are not just best effort, they are …

Saunders:  … Not just faster, smarter?

Ekudden: Yes. And this goes beyond bandwidth. If you add advanced positioning, if you add security and authentication services, if you add resilience — these are all capabilities that come at a premium. And service providers need to offer premium service.

Saunders: This move away from best effort is very interesting to me as it relates to what’s happening globally with big public infrastructure projects and government policy. 

In the U.S. and the U.K., the governments are still really fixated on delivering broadband speeds to their electorate. Bread and circuses and bandwidth. So, they are still very much in that best effort mindset.

But elsewhere in the world, governments have started to embrace the idea that by adding a layer of smart cloud — with AI, automation, robotics — to physical infrastructure, everything changes. There are some extraordinary examples of that emerging all over the world now.  Is this an important trend for you?

Ekudden: I think your smart cloud term captures this. We see countries where the governments have the foresight to build out digital infrastructure to support specific sectors. There is a lot of benefit for the public in doing this with remote education, for example, or remote health. It’s happening in Singapore, Taiwan, maybe to some extent parts of Eastern Europe, and in the US with public safety. I’m also very encouraged by what we see in India now with the big success their identity authentication and payment systems, which all runs on 5G.

Saunders: 5G, yes. It seems to play an important part in all of this.

Ekudden: It does. If you have national 5G standalone [availability] it gives you the platform you need to create these differentiated services. The virtual 5G network can sit on top of the same physical 5G infrastructure and now you’re creating efficiency gains, network slicing become a tool, and network APIs becomes a dynamic way to engage with the network and ultimately pay for the service that that you need.

As 5G networks go nationwide it really makes sense to combine the digital infrastructure plans of a country with whatever applications they want to drive over that.

Saunders: How long do we get to enjoy all of the benefits of 5G before we have to start thinking about 6G? I was at an event recently where senior execs from BT and Telefonica both said they didn’t want 6G to get here for a long time because they need to monetize their investment in 5G, and they think there’s a huge opportunity there.

Ekudden: Actually, I share their perspective. Ericsson has been around for a while and one thing we have learned to respect is the need for technology innovation to happen continuously, but 6G is still in the early research stage for us.

There’s really no rush, Steve, because we are sitting on a fantastic technology in 5G, and we are just starting to open the door to the opportunities that exist beyond consumer and best effort services.

Over the coming years, we will be really focused on this open 5G evolution, and this is a cloud-native journey that takes us both into the core and out to the RAN, and increasingly is powered by evermore powerful AI.

Of course, eventually we will get to 6G. We’re talking about 100 times higher performance so that uplift will address the need for high performance to help solve bottlenecks, and it will also serve some really advanced new use cases, like Gen AI at the network edge, or satellite integration, or distributed MIMO. And eventually, it will blur the boundary between physical and digital worlds.   

Saunders: You mentioned AI. Do you think there is a danger that it is being over-hyped at the moment, and that it will suffer the same backlash that we’ve seen other buzzy technologies go through before we find out what they’re really good for?  

Ekudden: When technology matures, it rarely happens in a linear way. At some point it becomes the topic to focus on at industry events, and part of a broader discussion in society, and expectations can get a bit silly.  

On the other hand, we have to consider the results that what we call embedded AI has already delivered in network operations in terms of energy efficiency and performance in both the advanced radio antenna systems, but also in the core and the cloud. Those gains are truly important, and we would not be able to get to those without inbuilt AI.

Of course, what we’re also all talking about now is generative AI, and for that we’ve showed examples of how to improve the interaction between the network and network engineer, using a telecom specific vocabulary. I think this is the first step in something that will have a profound impact on the daily life of people working in telecom and enterprise.

So AI has multiple roles to play in the network.

One is to create a better performing network using embedded AI. Another is explainable AI, helping an engineer find the root cause of a problem, explaining the rationale behind a recommended fix, and then taking that learning and applying it to running and preventing outages in other networks as well.

The foundational technologies are similar, but the use cases and implementation are somewhat different. That’s why we have launched a number of products in this space, and also are showing a path towards fully cognitive networks where you have full transparency about what’s happening today, but also the intelligence to know how you could improve it in the future.

Saunders: I wonder at what these cognitive networks will operate in a way that is fully autonomous, without human oversight. Service providers have told me they are uncomfortable with the idea that there won’t be a human being having the last word on network decisions but given the scale and speed and complexity of today’s networks, and the potential of AI to help automate them, that seems absurd to me.

Ekudden: We are certainly moving towards fully autonomous networks. Some of the leading operators have the ambition to [implement] Level 4 autonomy by 2025. We think that’s broadly feasible, but not all functions will be automated overnight. There needs to be great confidence in this automation, and it takes time to build the trust that it actually does what it’s intended to do and that when you need to you can certainly override the system. 

So full autonomy will happen at different layers, with closed loop at the service level, and at the highest level of business intent and interactions with the users. That’s where we are going and it will move fast, to your point, and with the proper controls it will give very, very significant gains.

Saunders: Erik, we still call it the communications industry, but what we’re talking about today isn’t really about communications anymore, is it? For me, what you’re building now is the global infrastructure of everything, a digital world where technology is integral to supporting and enabling all of life on the planet. Surely this is the biggest transition that we’ve ever been through as an industry.

Ekudden: I think so.  When we first started to talk about this a few years ago, it may have felt a little bit futuristic. But now we are seeing governments, countries, industries following this blueprint and moving in this direction. It’s super exciting.

I hope that others around the world look at the first movers and take note and use them as a a blueprint that they could also adopt, or that they could build on if they want to move even further or faster.

General

Smart ports in Europe – five key private 4G/5G deployments

Smart ports are just about the easiest place to put a private 5G network right now – at this point in the development of 5G technology, when outdoor coverage and mobility are its key benefits. This is because shipping terminals feature large outdoor spaces with moving machinery and vehicles, which might be automated, plus a whole bunch of data that might be used to optimise traffic systems and respond to weather systems. 

In truth, without much research, we could have come up with a list at least twice as long for this little exercise. As it is, a research note from SNS Telecom & IT has prompted us just to pull-out and round-out its list of high-profile private 5G projects in ports, and other venues, from all around the world; we took its single European entry as a starting point, and had a quick search of the RCR Wireless archives to make it into a clean five-point European summary. 

As reference, in case you are interested, SNS Telecom & IT has trawled the web already, and listed a long list of global references, as follows: “Hutchison Ports, PSA International, APM Terminals (Maersk), COSCO Shipping Ports, CMPort (China Merchants Port Holdings), SIPG (Shanghai International Port Group), Ningbo-Zhoushan Port Group, Tianjin Port Group, Zhuhai Port Group, Shandong Port Group, EUROGATE, VPA (Virginia Port Authority), Barcelona Port Authority, Port of Tyne and ABP (Associated British Ports).” 

Many appear below, and elsewhere on the RCR Wireless website. In the meantime, here is a quick rundown of five important European 4G/5G port projects. American and Asia entries may yet follow.

1 | Port of Tyne, UK

The Port of Tyne has deployed a private 4G/5G network across its southern cargo terminal and industrial site in South Shields in the northeast of England. The project has been managed by UK operator BT, which has provided localised tranches of its licensed b7 (2.6 GHz) and n77 (3.7 GHz) spectrum for the exclusive management of 4G (LTE) and 5G applications, respectively, by the port authority and clients. Network vendor Ericsson has supplied dual private 4G/5G core and radio (RAN) networks. The setup is billed as the UK’s “first site-wide private network deployment… for smart port applications”.

2 | East-West Gate Terminal, Hungary

A brand new 85-hectare container terminal, opened in 2022 near Hungary’s border with Ukraine, the intermodal East-West Gate (EWG) shipping terminal was built to load trucks and trailers carrying Ukrainian agricultural goods, particularly, from railway rolling stock onto container ships, to go around the world. The whole project cost HUF40 billion ($95 million); Chinese vendor Huawei stood-up a private 5G network for it. Analyst house SNS Telecom & IT writes: “The terminal’s private 5G network has increased productivity from 23-25 containers per hour to 32-35 per hour and reduced the facility’s personnel-related operating expenses by 40 percent while eliminating the possibility of crane operator injury due to remote-controlled operation with a latency of less than 20 milliseconds.”

3 | Port of Barcelona, Spain

A five-year smart-port project, started last year (2023), which will see Spanish operator Orange bolster its public 5G radio infrastructure around the port of Barcelona in order to develop a “virtual” private 5G network to advance connectivity, mobility, and safety at the site, including for remote worker tools, automating machinery, and emergency comms. The carrier has said the total investment in the project will be €3.6 million ($4.04 million) over its period. Orange has also talked about enabling large volumes of IoT sensors. Ericsson and Nokia, plus Oracle Communications, have all been engaged, apparently.

4 | Port of HaminaKotka, Finland

Part of an early rush of Finnish activity with private 5G in the ports sector; industrial networking specialist Edzcom, now part of Boldyn Networks, deployed private 5G networks at shipping terminals in Mussalo and Hietanen in Kotka for Steveco, Finland’s largest port operator. Italy-based Athonet, since acquired by HPE, provided the core network. The two sites in Kotka, on Finland’s southern coast, share the same core network but run separate RAN infrastructure. Nokia is understood to have provided the RAN elements. The Finnish vendor collaborated with Edzcom on a private LTE setup at neighbouring Hamina (which forms part of the larger Hamina-Kotka port, with Mussalo and Hietanen), along with Steveco. Edzcom has also worked with Nokia at the Port of Kokkola and the Port of Oulu in Finland, as well as with port machinery maker Kalmar and mining operator Sandvik. Collectively, these are the models for cellular-enabled port operations.

5 | Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands

Dutch industrial tech provider Koning & Hartman and Irish private-network provider Druid Software have built a private LTE network at the port of Rotterdam, using spectrum licensed by the Dutch regulator for local usage. It is being used for multiple applications, including worker comms, industrial automation, and IoT monitoring. Rotterdam wants autonomous ships by 2025-2030. To achieve this, it has planted sensors across its 42-kilometre port area, with the objective to create a digital twin of the site’s set-up and operations to mirror, track, and pre-pilot everything from shipping movements and infrastructure to weather and water depth. IBM and Cisco are also involved.

General

5G eclipsed by LEO, LTE networks at Gogo

Gogo, which sells Internet services to airplane passengers, initially hoped to begin offering 5G in 2021. Now the company is warning that the launch might not happen until 2025.

Officials from Gogo, an in-flight Internet provider, said the company may have to delay its 5G launch – again.

The latest delay may push Gogo’s 5G network launch into 2025, which would represent a four-year delay from the company’s initial goal of offering 5G services at the end of 2021.

Likely as a result of the delay, Gogo officials have started downplaying the importance of 5G. The company is also working to launch global satellite-based Internet services via Eutelsat’s OneWeb low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite network in a program Gogo calls “Galileo.” The LEO offering is scheduled to be available in the fourth quarter of 2024.

“I think we’ve always felt that Galileo was probably the bigger opportunity in the end,” Oakleigh Thorne, Gogo’s CEO, said during the company’s recent quarterly conference call in response to a question about Gogo’s ongoing 5G delays.

But alas, Thorne said 5G is still important to Gogo.

“There’s just a lot of medium-size jets … that only fly in North America that [are], you know, frankly, a little more cost-conscious than other flyers. And they’re not all that excited about putting on a more expensive satellite system, so for them, 5G is going to be important,” he explained.

Gogo has said its 5G project – which will cover much of the airspace of the US – will eventually cost around $100 million and will boost customers’ speeds by a factor of 5 to 25. The company ultimately plans to offer both 5G and LEO satellite connections to its customers in North America and internationally.

More testing

Gogo officials said the company’s latest 5G chip was scheduled to go into fabrication this month, but a bug was identified that will require a “minor” hardware redesign. As a result, the new design must now be tested before it can be sent into fabrication.

Due to this latest hiccup, Gogo now expects its 5G launch to be delayed “a few months” past its launch goal of the fourth quarter of 2024. The company said it will provide a more firm launch timeline this summer. 

Gogo officials said the company has started flight testing its 5G service using an field programmable gate array (FPGA) simulation of its 5G chip.

Company officials declined to name the vendors involved in its latest 5G delay. But Gogo executives have previously said that Airspan is the company’s 5G radio vendor, and Airspan is using chips from GCT, which is based in San Jose. Samsung is fabricating the GCT chips.

A quiet move to 4G LTE

Gogo operates an air-to-ground (ATG) wireless network spanning roughly 250 cell towers across the US and Canada. The network has been primarily running on the 3G standard (CDMA, specifically), a technology that’s more than a decade old.

Prior to disclosing its 5G plans in 2019, Gogo had intended to upgrade its 3G network to 4G LTE technology. Indeed, it had already installed 4G equipment on at least ten towers.

But Gogo had to cancel that 4G upgrade project because it was using equipment from China’s ZTE. US government officials believe such equipment can be used for Chinese spying, though officials from ZTE continue to reject those claims.

Regardless, the FCC’s “rip and replace” program is designed to finance the removal of Chinese equipment from US networks, and Gogo has so far received about $132 million through the program. It’s now using that money to upgrade some of its customers to a faster 4G LTE service.

“We anticipate this subset of customers will see improved performance because of this network transition, which is expected to occur in early 2026,” according to Gogo’s latest annual filing with the SEC.

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