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A week in telecoms: FWA expansion, network slicing, and Turkcell's renewable investment

Anne Morris
25 Aug 2023
A week in telecoms: FWA expansion, network slicing, and Turkcell's renewable investment

A week in telecoms: FWA expansion, network slicing, and Turkcell's renewable investment

Welcome to the Inform weekly news round-up, where we take a look at a selection of recent CSP news and how it impacts the wider industry.

FWA expansion in US and India

Fixed wireless access (FWA) has long been cited as an early use case for 5G networks, with CSPs offering it as a wireline replacement broadband service to customers in a number of countries.

In the United States and India, two new services are being rolled out to compete with existing offerings.

In India, Reliance Jio looks set to launch Jio AirFiber imminently at a 20% discount to market rates. The Economic Times reported that Jio has started consumer trials across cities where it has completed the deployment of 5G. The paper also noted that Jio’s FWA device will use carrier aggregation technology for 700MHz, 3.3GHz, and 26GHz spectrum.

Bharti Airtel was the first to launch 5G FWA in the Indian market, although only initially in Delhi and Mumbai. The operator said a pan-India rollout of the Airtel Xstream AirFiber service is “planned soon.”

In the United States, AT&T is slowly expanding its presence in an FWA market that is currently dominated by T-Mobile US and Verizon. The operator is now offering the AT&T Internet Air service in 16 more markets, with a focus on ease of installation.

AT&T’s more targeted approach with Internet Air contrasts with the much more aggressive use of FWA by its rivals to serve residential and business customers.

A recent report from Leichtman Research Group highlighted that T-Mobile and Verizon added about 890,000 FWA subscribers in the second quarter of 2023, compared to 815,000 net adds in Q2 2022.

Vodafone UK and Ericsson flag network slicing success

A growing number of telcos are progressing through the swathe of complexity involved in implementing network slicing and rolling out trials.

In one recent development, Vodafone UK and Ericsson completed a live network trial at Coventry University that they said successfully demonstrated the positive impact an optimized 5G standalone (SA) network slice could have on enhancing the mobile cloud gaming experience for consumers.

According to Vodafone, the trial participants were able to experience more consistent gaming connectivity with a 270% increase in download and upload performance, a 25% decrease in latency and 57% less jitter, as well as smoother graphics rendering.

Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer at Vodafone UK, said the trial “provided a slice of connectivity, customized specifically for gaming, to provide a full fiber like experience over the airwaves. This is the value of network slicing – a more personalized connectivity service to make digital more in-tune with each customer.”

The operator further noted that the trial “demonstrates the importance of 5G SA and network slicing to deliver new 5G use cases and experiences, beyond what would be possible on a legacy network.”

According to Ericsson’s network slicing report, is it estimated that 25-30% of the potential 5G use cases will need slicing as an enabler. Separate research from Ericsson and consultancy firm Arthur D. Little also shows that CSPs globally have an addressable revenue opportunity of approximately $200 billion when it comes to network slicing.

Telenor hires Google Cloud executive in AI push

Norwegian operator Telenor appointed Google Cloud’s Amol Phadke as its new Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to strengthen its AI activities.

At Google Cloud, Phadke was the Global General Manager for the telecoms industry. He has over two decades of telecoms experience, with previous stints at BT, Alcatel-Lucent and Accenture.

Telenor CEO Sigve Brekke told Reuters he wanted Telenor “to use AI in all of our operations to make operations more efficient, develop new products, increase energy efficiency.”

Phadke said Telenor would use AI to make business operations more efficient, for example to predict traffic demand and allocate more bandwidth to areas with more users, and to improve interactions with customers.

In 2021, Telenor and Google Cloud formed a partnership to digitalize the telco’s global operations and explore ways to jointly offer services to customers.

Telenor recently highlighted how it is implementing a “Model Factory” to improve network automation and customer experience. Here, Telenor has been working with analytics and AI specialist SAS for a number of years, including on a strategy to change how it promotes, guides and sells its mobile services.

5G rollouts continue in Europe

Operators are diligently continuing to expand 5G network coverage as they seek to exploit the capabilities of this next-generation mobile technology.

Vodafone Germany, for example, said its 5G network now covers 90% of the population or 74 million people. The operator noted that just a year ago, its network covered only 66% of households, illustrating the progress that has been made. Now, a total of 14,200 locations and 43,000 antennas are equipped with 5G.

What’s more, 5G standalone (SA) technology has been activated in over 4,300 sites with around 13,000 antennas. This means that over 37 million people, or 45% of Germany’s population, can now use Vodafone’s so-called 5G+ network.

Meanwhile, Deutsche Telekom said its 5G network covers 95.3% of the German population while O2 Germany has achieved around 90% coverage.

In other markets, Orange Slovakia passed its target of 50% 5G population coverage by the end of 2023. The operator currently reaches 51.4% of the population in 254 cities and towns, according to Zive.sk, up from 40% at the end of June and 25% at the start of the year.

The news site noted that Slovak Telekom now has 45% 5G coverage, while 4ka has not yet revealed coverage figures

Turkcell invests in renewables

Telcos around the world are implementing measures to reduce carbon emissions in order to meet Scope 1, 2 and 3 targets and more, as recently illustrated by Orange Group.

This week, Turkcell stepped up its environmental efforts with the announcement that it plans to invest $240 million in renewable energy sources. The operator intends to bring online solar energy power plants with a total installed capacity of 300 MW in the next three years.

Turkcell aims to meet 65% of electricity it consumes from renewables in 2026. By 2030, its goal is to provide 100% of its energy consumption from renewable energy sources.

The operator also pointed to solar energy projects it developed for data centers and offices, the acquisition of the Karadağ Wind Power Plant with 18 MW installed capacity in 2021, and the integration of solar panels into around 735 base stations to date.

General Manager Murat Erkan noted that Turkcell recently signed a new “green loan” agreement with the Bank of China for €30 million. It has previously taken out similar loans with BNP Paribas and ING Bank.