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Ice, ice, Baby

Just after last week’s edition of AWIW went to press it emerged that the mystery winner of the recent Norwegian spectrum auction was in fact the company behind the market’s specialist operator Ice.net, Access Industries. Ice.net has thus far focused on M2M as well as fixed wireless data solutions in the rural areas of Norway, preferring to leave the traditional operators to fight for the right to party in the towns and cities.

That looks likely to change now that Access Industries, in the guise of a market newcomer called Telco Data, is the proud owner of 2 x 10MHZ in the 800MHz band, 2 x 5MHz at 900MHz and 2 x 20MHz at 1800MHz. You’ll remember that Tele2 was left out in the cold following the sealed bid auction and must now look for ways to shore up its position in the market, given that it has to return its 900MHz allocation next year.

While we’re skidding around on the ice it’s worth mentioning the news that Pingu is finally able to make mobile phone calls thanks to Uruguayan incumbent Antel and Sweden’s Ericsson, which have installed special, extreme weather infrastructure at the Artigas Base research station in the Antarctic. The base is 1,000 miles away from the nearest point of South America, Ericsson said.

Also feeling the chill in Latin America is NII Holdings, which operates throughout the region as Nextel. The firm announced this week that it will be cutting 1,400 positions across its portfolio, as well as reducing its headquarters roster by a quarter as part of a recently announced restructuring process.

It also announced the completion of a deal to sell almost 2,000 network sites to American Tower Corporation, which follows a similar deal in Mexico, finalised last month.

Cutbacks were the order of the week at the Polish subsidiary of French incumbent Orange. Close on 3,000 staff will lose their jobs over the next two years at Telekomunikacja Polska, with Orange hoping that a good portion of these can take the form of voluntary redundancy.

On its home turf Orange announced a research project with Renault this week, which will see the two firms collaborate on use cases for LTE connectivity in vehicles. Virtual office, cloud gaming and in-car video conferencing are all being touted, as you’d expect. Renault already provides in car connectivity through its R-Link service, which provides drivers with an integrated, connected tablet device. It features nearly 100 apps, the car manufacturer said. Orange Business Services supplies the SIM M2M cards in R-Link cars.

In other M2M-flavoured news, Indonesian operator Telkomsel has joined an operator collaboration established in July last year and based on the Jasper Wireless M2M platform. Telkomsel joins founders KPN, NTT DoCoMo, Rogers, SingTel, Telefónica, Telstra and Vimpelcom – as well as more recent additions AT&T, América Móvil and Etisalat.

“Our economy is becoming increasingly global and connected,” said Alfian Manullang, general manager, business development at Telkomsel. “Enabling businesses in Indonesia to manage devices around the world from a single platform provides very exciting opportunities.  We’re seeing robust development and innovation in telecommunications technology and businesses are inspired by the M2M opportunity.”

Also eyeing the M2M opportunity this week is a company called Umbrellium, which has launched a service called Thingful that aims to do for the Internet of Things what Google did for the plain old internet. The firm wants to index all M2M sensors and then make them searchable for anyone looking to innovate with open data.

Thingful is an index of all the web-connected sensors that generate publicly available data. It’s presented as a map that users can browse to find sensors around the world, which includes things like energy, seismic, radiation and weather monitors but also includes data generated on sharks, icebergs, ships, healthy, and pretty much anything currently monitored by IP-connected sensors. The service also tries to facilitate innovation around open data by suggesting relevant sensors based on the geos and applications users define when they sign up, and lets users link their own sensors with the service to make them discoverable for others. Read more about it here.

The Informer would not want to be in Australia right now, given the way the England cricket team is playing, but it is to Australia that we must go for news of Bill Morrow. The former head of US WiMAX venture Clearwire – Morrow left Clearwire citing personal reasons in 2011 – has now left Vodafone Australia after less than two years as the firm’s CEO.

Morrow joined what was then Vodafone Hutchison Australia in March last year, hired as a turnaround specialist to improve the firm’s fortunes and this job can hardly be considered achieved. Vodafone Australia is still shedding customers at a fair old rate and, although company chairman Canning Fok has publicly complimented Morrow’s achievements, you’d have to be optimistic to the point of delusion to describe what’s going on as a turnaround.

Morrow clearly loves a challenge, as he’s off to head up Australia’s National Broadband Network, a project that has been beset with problems and was described by local newspaper The Australian this week as “a victim of politics and mismanagement like no other infrastructure project before it”.

In September this year the Australian Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull demanded the resignations of the entire NBN board. Morrow can hardly do much worse than his predecessors but can he do any better? We shall see.

Over in India, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio Infocomm have announced an infrastructure sharing agreement. The two will share their inter and intra city fibre networks, submarine cable networks, towers and internet broadband services. They added that they will also look for other opportunities to share assets in the future. The operators also hinted that they are looking to extend the agreement to roaming on 2G, 3G and 4G in the future.

“Sharing is caring” was also the mantra for Israeli operators Cellcom, Pelephone and Golan Telecom, which this week announced a 15-year agreement to construct and operate a shared LTE radio network. In addition, Cellcom and Pelephone have agreed to share the passive elements of cell sites for existing networks while the former has also granted Golan Telecom the right to use its 2G and 3G radio network.

Cellcom is Israel’s market leading operator with 3.1 million subscribers as of September 2013, according to Informa’s WCIS Plus. It is trailed by Partner Communications and Pelephone, with 2.9 million and 2.7 million subscribers respectively. MIRS Communications Israel is in fourth place with 323,000 subscribers

In early 2012, Golan Telecom became the fifth operator to enter the market and now claims 380,000 subscribers on its network. The operator had already signed a nationwide roaming agreement with Cellcom in order to supplement its coverage while it continues building its own network.

The three operators said they will even cooperate in obtaining spectrum assets for the LTE network, although each operator will be required to purchase and operate its own core network. The shared LTE network is to be constructed and operated by a separate, newly created entity that will be equally owned by Cellcom and Pelephone and overseen by a committee comprised of representatives from all three operators.

In other LTE news, US operator AT&T claimed to be the first of the market’s players to offer LTE roaming, having signed a deal with Rogers in neighbouring Canada. The Rogers LTE network currently has population coverage of 70 per cent, and the firm said it plans to roll out to 95 new Canadian markets over the next twelve months.

Alcatel Lucent this week announced two LTE supply deals in China, with China Telecom and China Mobile. The firm will supply almost 9,900 base stations for Telecom’s LTE-TDD and LTE-FDD in 12 Chinese provinces, while China Mobile is deploying the vendor’s small cells solution, ALU said.

In a similar technological and geographical neighbourhood, Singaporean incumbent SingTel has enhanced its network capacity by deploying a SON solution and small cell technology. The operator is rolling out the equipment in high traffic locations such as shopping malls, event and concert venues, as well as some commercial and residential buildings, it said.

The firm made some big promises: “We believe our customers will feel a real difference when the new enhancements are in place,” said Tay Yeow Lian, SingTel’s VP of mobile core engineering. “They will enjoy up to 20 per cent faster internet access in crowded places that are prone to network congestion. The chances of encountering a dropped call at these packed locations will also be reduced by as much as 40 per cent.”

Finally, next time you hear UK operators complaining about competitive or regulatory pressures on their revenues, bear in mind that the sector grew total revenues by £2bn to £607bn in 2012. The figures were released this week by regulator Ofcom, which noted that voice revenues for mobile increased by 3.1 per cent, mobile data revenues by 10.4 per cent and fixed broadband revenues by 5.2 per cent. Fixed voice revenues dropped by 8.9 per cent, though, as volumes sank by 15 per cent.

Take care

The Informer

Telecoms.com

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