Samsung acquires network analytics startup Zhilabs to help its transition to 5G

Samsung Electronics is betting that acquiring Zhilabs, a real-time networks analytics startup based in Barcelona, will ease its transition from 4G to 5G technologies. Financial details of the deal, which was announced today, have not been disclosed. Zhilabs will be fully owned by Samsung, but it will continue to operate independently under its own management. […]

Samsung Electronics is betting that acquiring Zhilabs, a real-time networks analytics startup based in Barcelona, will ease its transition from 4G to 5G technologies. Financial details of the deal, which was announced today, have not been disclosed. Zhilabs will be fully owned by Samsung, but it will continue to operate independently under its own management.

The acquisition of Zhilabs is part of Samsung’s initiative, announced in August, to invest 25 trillion won (about $22 billion) in businesses working on AI, 5G, components for self-driving vehicles, and biopharmaceutical technologies.

In a statement, Youngky Kim, Samsung Electronic’s president and head of networks business, said “5G will enable unprecedented services attributed to the generation of exponential data traffic, for which automated and intelligent network analytics tools are vital. The acquisition of Zhilabs will help Samsung meet these demands to assure each subscriber receives the best possible service.”

Founded in 2008, Zhilabs’ products are used by customers including Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Vodafone, and Telefonica to analyze and test network performance in real-time. Because its solutions allow service issues to be automatically detected and fixed, Zhilabs’ AI-based automation will help Samsung launch new services related to the industrial Internet of Things and smart cars.

U.S. lawmakers warn Canada to keep Huawei out of its 5G plans

In a letter addressed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio make a very public case that Canada should leave Chinese tech and telecom giant Huawei out of its plans to build a next-generation mobile network. “While Canada has strong telecommunication security safeguards in place, we have serious concerns that […]

In a letter addressed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio make a very public case that Canada should leave Chinese tech and telecom giant Huawei out of its plans to build a next-generation mobile network.

“While Canada has strong telecommunication security safeguards in place, we have serious concerns that such safeguards are inadequate given what the United States and other allies know about Huawei,” the letter states. The senators warn Canada to “reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of Canada’s 5G development, introduction, and maintenance.”

The outcry comes after the head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security dismissed security concerns regarding Huawei in comments last month. The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security is Canada’s designated federal agency tasked with cybersecurity.

Next generation 5G networks already pose a number of unique security challenges. Lawmakers caution that by allowing companies linked to the Chinese government to build 5G infrastructure, the U.S. and its close allies (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.) would be inviting the fox to guard the henhouse.

As part of the Defense Authorization Act, passed in August, the U.S. government signed off on a law that forbids domestic agencies from using services or hardware made by Huawei and ZTE. A week later, Australia moved to block Huawei and ZTE from its own 5G buildout.

Due to the open nature of intelligence sharing between the U.S. and its closest allies, the Canadian government would be able to obtain knowledge of any specific threats that substantiate the U.S. posture toward the Chinese company. “We urge your government to seek additional information from the U.S. intelligence community,” the letter implores.

Ajit Pai’s 5G plans make it harder for small ISPs to deploy broadband

FCC plans to tilt a spectrum auction toward T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon.

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking at a press conference on October 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images | Mark Wilson )

The Federal Communications Commission is changing the rules for an upcoming spectrum auction in a way that will make it harder for small carriers to buy spectrum for deploying broadband.

The change—requested by T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon—will help the big carriers deploy nationwide 5G networks, according to Chairman Ajit Pai's proposal. But the change will also make it harder for small companies to buy spectrum that could be used to fill broadband gaps in rural areas.

In 2015, the Obama-era FCC set aside spectrum between 3550MHz and 3700MHz for a new Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) and ruled that 10MHz licenses would be auctioned off in individual Census tracts, which are small areas containing between 1,200 and 8,000 people each. Selling spectrum licenses in such small areas was meant to give small companies a shot at buying spectrum and deploying wireless broadband in underserved areas.

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Hate your Comcast broadband? Verizon might sell you 5G home Internet

Verizon targets cities dominated by cable, citing customer demand for competition.

Enlarge (credit: Verizon)

Verizon's launch of 5G home Internet targeted four cities dominated by either Comcast or Charter, and Verizon says it will continue to bring the service to densely populated areas dominated by cable companies.

The launch cities that got Verizon 5G home Internet this week were Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. Comcast is the main cable provider in Houston, Indianapolis, and Sacramento, while Charter leads the way in Los Angeles and covers part of Indianapolis, according to ISP tracker BroadbandNow.

That's no coincidence. Verizon Chief Technology Architect Ed Chan told Ars that Verizon is focusing on using the $70-per-month wireless home Internet service to compete against dominant cable companies.

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Verizon Launches “World’s First” 5G Network In Select Regions

Presumably keen to find a way to charge customers more money, carriers are keen to get 5G rollouts underway, and Verizon has announced that it has today turned on the “world’s first” 5G network. [ Continue reading this over at RedmondPie.com ]

Presumably keen to find a way to charge customers more money, carriers are keen to get 5G rollouts underway, and Verizon has announced that it has today turned on the "world's first" 5G network.


[ Continue reading this over at RedmondPie.com ]

FCC cracks the whip on 5G deployment against protests of local governments

The FCC is pushing for speedy deployment of 5G networks nationwide with an order adopted today that streamlines what it perceives as a patchwork of obstacles, needless costs, and contradictory regulations at the state level. But local governments say the federal agency is taking things too far.

The FCC is pushing for speedy deployment of 5G networks nationwide with an order adopted today that streamlines what it perceives as a patchwork of obstacles, needless costs, and contradictory regulations at the state level. But local governments say the federal agency is taking things too far.

5G networks will consist of thousands of wireless installations, smaller and more numerous than cell towers. This means that wireless companies can’t use existing facilities, for all of it at least, and will have to apply for access to lots of new buildings, utility poles, and so on. It’s a lot of red tape, which of course impedes deployment.

To address this, the agency this morning voted 3 to 1 along party lines to adopt the order (PDF) entitled “Accelerating Wireline Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment.” What it essentially does is exert FCC authority over state wireless regulators and subject them to a set of new rules superseding their own.

First the order aims to literally speed up deployment by standardizing new, shorter “shot clocks” for local governments to respond to applications. They’ll have 90 days for new locations and 60 days for existing ones — consistent with many existing municipal timeframes but now to be enforced as a wider standard. This could be good, as the longer time limits were designed for consideration of larger, more expensive equipment.

On the other hand, some cities argue, it’s just not enough time — especially considering the increased volume they’ll be expected to process.

Cathy Murillo, Mayor of Santa Barbara, writes in a submitted comment:

The proposed ‘shot clocks’ would unfairly and unreasonably reduce the time needed for proper application review in regard to safety, aesthetics, and other considerations. By cutting short the necessary review period, the proposals effectively shift oversight authority from the community and our elected officials to for-profit corporations for wireless equipment installations that can have significant health, safety, and aesthetic impacts when those companies have little, if any, interest to respect these concerns.

Next, and even less popular, is the FCC’s take on fees for applications and right-of-way paperwork. These fees currently vary widely, because as you might guess it is far more complicated and expensive — often by an order of magnitude or more — to approve and process an application for (not to mention install and maintain) an antenna on 5th Avenue in Manhattan than it is in outer Queens. These are, to a certain extent anyway, natural cost differences.

The order limits these fees to “a reasonable approximation of their costs for processing,” which the FCC estimated at about $500 for one application for up to five installations or facilities, $100 for additional facilities, and $270 per facility per year all inclusive.

For some places, to be sure, that may be perfectly reasonable. But as Catherine Pugh, Mayor of Baltimore, put it in a letter to the FCC protesting the proposed rules, it sure isn’t for her city.

An annual fee of $270 per attachment, as established in the above document, is unconscionable when the facility may yeild profits, in some cases, many times that much in a given month. The public has invested and installed these assets [i.e. utility poles and other public infrastructure], not the industry. The industry does not own these assets; the public does. Under these circumstances, it is entirely reasonable that the public should be able to charge what it believes to be a fair price.

There’s no doubt that excessive fees can curtail deployment and it would be praiseworthy of the FCC to tackle that. But the governments they are hemming in don’t seem to appreciate being told what is reasonable and what isn’t.

“It comes down to this: three unelected officials on this dais are telling state and local leaders all across the country what they can and cannot do in their own backyards,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement presented at the vote. “This is extraordinary federal overreach.”

New York City’s commissioner of information technology told Bloomberg that his office is “shocked” by the order, calling it “an unnecessary and unauthorized gift to the telecommunications industry and its lobbyists.”

The new rules may undermine deployment deals that already exist or are under development. After all, if you were a wireless company, would you still commit to paying $2,000 per facility when the feds just gave you a coupon for 80 percent off? And if you were a city looking at a budget shortfall of millions because of this, wouldn’t you look for a way around it?

Chairman Ajit Pai argued in a statement that “When you raise the cost of deploying wireless infrastructure, it is those who live in areas where the investment case is the most marginal—rural areas or lower-income urban areas—who are most at risk of losing out.”

But the basic market economics of this don’t seem to work out. Big cities cost more and are more profitable; rural areas cost less and are less profitable. Under the new rules, big cities and rural areas will cost the same, but the former will be even more profitable. Where would you focus your investments?

The FCC also unwisely attempts to take on the aesthetic considerations of installations. Cities have their own requirements for wireless infrastructure, such as how it’s painted, where it can be located, what size it can be when in this or that location. But the FCC seems (as it does so often these days) to want to accommodate the needs of wireless providers rather than the public.

Wireless companies complain that the rules are overly restrictive or subjective, and differ too greatly from one place to another. Municipalities contend that the restrictions are justified and, at any rate, their prerogative to design and enforce.

“Given these differing perspectives and the significant impact of aesthetic requirements on the ability to deploy infrastructure and provide service, we provide guidance on whether and in what circumstances aesthetic requirements violate the [Communications] Act,” the FCC’s order reads. In other words, wireless industry gripes about having to paint their antennas or not hang giant microwave arrays in parks are being federally codified.

“We conclude that aesthetics requirements are not preempted if they are (1) reasonable, (2) no more burdensome than those applied to other types of infrastructure deployments, and (3) published in advance,” the order continues. Does that sound kind of vague to you? Whether an city’s aesthetic requirement is “reasonable” is hardly the jurisdiction of a communications regulator.

For instance, Hudson, Ohio city manager Jane Howington writes in a comment on the order that the city has 40-foot limits on pole heights, to which the industry has already agreed, but which would be increased to 50 under the revisions proposed in the rule. Why should a federal authority be involved in something so clearly under local jurisdiction and expertise?

This isn’t just an annoyance. As with the net neutrality ruling, legal threats from states can present serious delays and costs.

“Every major state and municipal organization has expressed concern about how Washington is seeking to assert national control over local infrastructure choices and stripping local elected officials and the citizens they represent of a voice in the process,” said Rosenworcel. “I do not believe the law permits Washington to run roughshod over state and local authority like this and I worry the litigation that follows will only slow our 5G future.”

She also points out that the predicted cost savings of $2 billion — by telecoms, not the public — may be theorized to spur further wireless deployment, but there is no requirement for companies to use it for that, and in fact no company has said it will.

In other words, there’s every reason to believe that this order will sow discord among state and federal regulators, letting wireless companies save money and sticking cities with the bill. There’s certainly a need to harmonize regulations and incentivize wireless investment (especially outside city centers), but this doesn’t appear to be the way to go about it.

Ajit Pai slams cities and towns as FCC erases $2 billion in local fees

FCC orders cities and towns to slash permit fees for 5G equipment.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Jeffrey Coolidge)

The Federal Communications Commission today finalized an order that will prevent city and town governments from charging wireless carriers about $2 billion dollars' worth of fees related to deployment of wireless equipment such as small cells.

The decision has angered both large and small municipalities, as we reported last week.

The FCC's Republican majority says that limiting local fees will cause carriers to build 5G networks in rural and sparsely populated areas where it would otherwise be financially unfeasible. But the order doesn't require carriers to deploy any more broadband than they otherwise would have, and carriers already promised nationwide 5G networks before the FCC made its proposal.

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Verizon 5G home Internet: $70/month, 300Mbps to 1Gbps speeds, no data caps

Coming next month to Houston, Indianapolis, LA, and Sacramento; more cities later.

A Verizon logo at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Enlarge / A Verizon logo at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Verizon Wireless will start offering a 5G-based wireless home Internet service next month in parts of four US cities, with service coming to other cities at an as-yet-unspecified date.

"Typical" download speeds will be around 300Mbps, and the max speed of nearly 1Gbps will be available "depending on location," Verizon said. The speeds are fast enough to rival Verizon's fiber-to-the-home service, and the carrier has previously claimed that its 5G network will have "single-millisecond latencies."

Verizon 5G Home will be available in parts of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento beginning on October 1, and customers can sign up starting on Thursday morning, Verizon announced yesterday.

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Apple’s 5G iPhone conundrum

Wednesday is Apple’s big product release day, where analysts expect the company to release the next edition of the iPhone. While the usual upgrades to the screen, CPU, and storage are expected as always, one major lingering question is how the company is going to handle 5G, the next-generation telecommunications standard. The conventional wisdom among […]

Wednesday is Apple’s big product release day, where analysts expect the company to release the next edition of the iPhone. While the usual upgrades to the screen, CPU, and storage are expected as always, one major lingering question is how the company is going to handle 5G, the next-generation telecommunications standard.

The conventional wisdom among analysts is that Apple will ignore 5G in 2018 and 2019 just as it took extra time to rollout 3G and 4G chipsets in its phones. A typical example of this analysis comes from Chris Smith at BGR, who says that “We already saw what Apple did when 4G LTE came out. The company waited for carriers actually to offer decent coverage before launching the first 4G iPhone. That was the iPhone 5, by the way, which launched more than a year after the first Android-based LTE phones came out.”

I’m not nearly as convinced. There are many reasons for Apple to ignore the tech this year, which I will get to in a moment, but one major factor could drive an earlier discussion of 5G than expected: Apple’s growth markets, particularly in China.

China is becoming one of Apple’s most important markets for its smartphones, and particularly for its flagship iPhone X. It’s greater China revenue in the third quarter of this year was $9.6 billion, and its operating income from the region was just shy of Europe’s. More importantly, greater China is just slightly behind the Americas as the fastest-growing region for Apple’s sales.

That makes 5G a particularly challenging issue for the company. China has made 5G leadership a critical pillar of its industrial strategy, and many analysts believe the country will set the pace for 5G rollouts globally. Furthermore, Chinese consumers are deeply interested in buying premium products and experiences, and adoption for 5G is expected to be strong and rapid.

With the technical specifications around the 5G standard complete, companies are racing to build the chipsets and deploy the infrastructure necessary to enable this new standard in smartphones and other devices. Early networks are expected to be deployed in 2019, and chipset maker Qualcomm has publicly unveiled more than a dozen handset manufacturers who are partnering with it on 5G. For instance, Vivo, a Chinese smartphone manufacturer, announced today that it was developing its first “pre-commercial 5G smartphones” for launch next year.

The speed and timing of the 5G rollout is awkward for Apple, which has traditionally timed its iPhone events for September. It almost certainly will make no announcements this week, but its next iPhone launch would likely be September 2019 — giving Chinese handset manufacturers with early 5G devices nearly exclusive access to the local market for the first three quarters of next year.

Apple would find itself falling behind its competitors in a fast-moving and critical growth market. While the company has built a brand in the country with devoted fans, its place in the market is not nearly as secure as in the U.S., particularly as the trade war between the two nations reaches a fevered pitch.

There’s no doubt that the challenges for Apple to include the technology are immense. First is the patent licensing cost, which Jeremy Horwitz at VentureBeat put at roughly $21 per device, up from around $9 for 4G. Second, the leading American company in 5G is believed to be Qualcomm, which Apple has been fighting in a long-running patent war, to the point that the company has been actively trying to remove Qualcomm equipment from its phones. Apple’s name was notably absent from Qualcomm’s 5G partner list.

While some early chip designs are available, they are hardly ready for primetime, and certainly not for a flagship phone like the iPhone X. Nor do I expect that Apple will imply on Wednesday that the company will support 5G in future releases and dampen enthusiasm for its newly-released devices. No one wants to be told that next year’s devices are going to be better than one released just minutes ago.

Instead, I expect Apple will use smoke signals to clearly demonstrate that it intends to remain at the cutting edge of 5G deployment. That could include joining certain industry trade groups, testing the technology in a more public fashion, and potentially releasing a roadmap next year, say at its Worldwide Developers Conference, which is traditionally held in June and thus earlier in the year than its September iPhone events.

What would be concerning though is if we get to the end of 2018 and into 2019 with nary a peep from the company about its plans for the technology. Given its commitment to China, as well as its leading position within the smartphone market, the company has to engage on the technologies around 5G in a public manner in order to prevent a loss in its competitive position.

Ultimately, much will depend on China Mobile and other telcos in China as well as around the world on how fast they can deploy 5G infrastructure (sadly, it looks increasingly like the U.S. faces a bumpy road in that direction). Beyond gold iPhone rumors, 5G may well be the first time that China drives the company’s product roadmaps, and it should be wary of finding itself on the defensive.

Bay Area city blocks 5G deployments over cancer concerns

The Bay Area may be the center of the global technology industry, but that hasn’t stopped one wealthy enclave from protecting itself from the future. The city council of Mill Valley, a small town located just a few miles north of San Francisco, voted unanimously late last week to effectively block deployments of small-cell 5G […]

The Bay Area may be the center of the global technology industry, but that hasn’t stopped one wealthy enclave from protecting itself from the future.

The city council of Mill Valley, a small town located just a few miles north of San Francisco, voted unanimously late last week to effectively block deployments of small-cell 5G wireless towers in the city’s residential areas.

Through an urgency ordinance, which allows the city council to immediately enact regulations that affect the health and safety of the community, the restrictions and prohibitions will be put into force immediately for all future applications to site 5G telecommunications equipment in the city. Applications for commercial districts are permitted under the passed ordinance.

The ordinance was driven by community concerns over the health effects of 5G wireless antennas. According to the city, it received 145 pieces of correspondence from citizens voicing opposition to the technology, compared to just five letters in support of it — a ratio of 29 to 1. While that may not sound like much, the city’s population is roughly 14,000, indicating that about 1% of the population had voiced an opinion on the matter.

Blocks on 5G deployments are nothing new for Marin County, where other cities including San Anselmo and Ross have passed similar ordinances designed to thwart 5G expansion efforts over health concerns.

These restrictions on small cell site deployments could complicate 5G’s upcoming nationwide rollout. While 5G standards have yet to be standardized, one model that has broad traction in the telecommunications industry is to use so-called “small cell” antennas to increase bandwidth and connection quality while reducing infrastructure and power costs. Smaller antennas are easier to install and will be loss obtrusive, reducing the concerns of urban preservationists to unsightly tower masts that have long plagued the deployment of 4G antennas in communities across the United States.

Perhaps most importantly, these small cells emit less radiation, since they are not designed to provide as wide of coverage as traditional cell sites. The telecom industry has long vociferously denied a link between antennas and health outcomes, although California’s Department of Public Health has issued warnings about potential health effects of personal cell phone antennas. Reduced radiation emissions from 5G antennas compared to 4G antennas would presumably further reduce any health effects of this technology.

Restrictions like Mill Valley’s will make it nearly impossible to deploy 5G in a timely manner. As one industry representative told me in an interview a few months ago, “It takes 18 months to get the permit to deploy, and 2 hours to install.” Multiplied by the hundreds of sites required to cover a reasonably-sized urban neighborhood, and the 5G rollout goes beyond daunting to well-near impossible.

While health concerns have bubbled in various municipalities, those concerns are not shared globally. China, through companies like Huawei, is investing billions of dollars to design and build 5G infrastructure, in hopes of stealing the industry crown from the United States, which is the market leader in 4G technologies.

Those competitive concerns have increasingly been a priority at the FCC, where chairman Ajit Pai and his fellow Republican commissioners have pushed hard to overcome local concerns around health and historical preservation. The commission voted earlier this year on new siting rules that would accelerate 5G adoption.

Mill Valley’s ordinance is designed to frustrate those efforts, while remaining within the letter of federal law, which preempts local ordinances. Mill Valley’s mayor has said that the city will look to create a final ordinance over the next year.