Briefing: China to begin 6G research in 2020

In addition to terrestrial applications, 6G will also enable communication underwater. Original Link

Briefing: China to begin 6G research in 2020

In addition to terrestrial applications, 6G will also enable communication underwater. Original Link

Op-ed | Balancing terrestrial & satellite 5G needs for international spectrum harmonization

This op-ed originally appeared in the March 12, 2018 issue of SpaceNews magazine.

We are in an exciting time for telecommunications services. 5G, or fifth-generation wireless technology, is on the horizon and will begin being deployed by the end of the decade. The introduction of 5G services will bring users globally the ability to have true anytime, anywhere capabilities to support a myriad of user devices and applications never imagined. 5G will be a network of networks in the truest sense of the word. This network will be comprised of competing communications technologies, whether terrestrial mobile, satellite, fixed microwave, or even high altitude platforms, among others. Because of the anticipated high demand for capacity, each of these services will need access to adequate spectrum to operate. Each critical to the network performing as needed and to reach all users. However, since the required spectrum remains a scarce resource, we must find ways for the different operators to share spectrum where possible, understanding that in some cases, primary use of spectrum is required by one service.

In determining how spectrum is shared among the different services, it is important to understand how international harmonization plays into this determination. International harmonization occurs at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) at its World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRCs), which are held every three to four years. Through the ITU WRC process, spectrum allocations are made and regulations are coordinated on using that spectrum on a global and regional basis.

For some period of years, countries have sought identification of spectrum for international mobile telephony (IMT) services. While having no regulatory impact, such identifications provide guidance for use of the spectrum by terrestrial and satellite IMT services, as appropriate. The current WRC Agenda for the 2019 Conference has identified several bands under WRC 2018 Agenda Item 1.13 for possible identification for terrestrial IMT-2020 (also known as 5G). These bands include: 24.25-27.5 GHz, 37-40.5 GHz, 42.5-43.5 GHz, 45.5-47 GHz, 47.2-50.2 GHz, 50.4-52.6 GHz, 66-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz (Proposed IMT Bands). Other bands (31.8-33.4 GHz, 40.5-42.5 GHz and 47-47.2 GHz) are being considered for co-primary allocation to the mobile service and identification as well to the terrestrial component of IMT.

Any terrestrial identification for IMT would result in the use of these bands for mobile IMT-2020 services. This means that the deployments would likely be dense, with user terminals and base stations operating in the same band. Many of these deployments will be based on small cell topology. Although the Proposed IMT Bands are or may be allocated to the mobile service (MS), many of these bands are also shared on a co-primary basis with other services, including the fixed satellite service (FSS). While there are some regulatory provisions to enable sharing, both the FSS and MS plans for these bands were not developed at the time of the allocation. The current international regulations do not provide sufficient protections to enable sharing among the services (satellite or terrestrial) being planned for these bands.

As such, it is highly likely that use of these bands by one or the other service to support 5G may cause harmful interference into the other radio service(s) operating in the band. It makes sense then for the next WRC in 2019 (WRC-19) to adopt protections for either or both planned uses of these bands so the bands can be used on a non-harmful interference basis globally, or at least regionally. Such protections may also require dedicating certain bands to one primary use.

If such actions are not taken internationally, users will have to work on a country-by-country basis to obtain the protections they require for their use of the bands or face potential harmful interference. This is particularly concerning since many countries simply adopt the ITU Radio Regulations for their domestic rules. If there are no protections/regulations internationally, there could be chaos since domestic regulations may not be adopted. This means the spectrum will not be used as efficiently as possible, denying users of access to 5G services.

Despite this risk, some ITU participants are urging that the ITU at WRC-19 simply identify all of the Proposed IMT Bands for the terrestrial deployment of IMT on a global basis with the adoption of any regulations that would provide protections for additional uses of these same frequency bands. This approach would provide broad tuning ranges for terrestrial 5G. These advocates argue that countries that want to enable the use of these frequency bands for other uses could do this on a country by country basis or on a regional basis, preferably out of the WRC process. This would provide terrestrial operators and manufacturers, including chip set manufacturers, with the ability to capture economies of scale across the word.

However, this approach would result in the unavailability of some if not all of these bands for FSS, including for 5G services. FSS services are inherently global; unlike terrestrial services,they cannot easily account for national differences. First, communications satellites serve multiple countries. Accordingly, if spectrum use for FSS in the above 24 GHz bands is made on a country by country basis, it will require all bands to be supported on the satellite so that they have access to sufficient spectrum to support the capacity demands of users. However, unlike terrestrial base stations and user equipment, satellites have limits on weight that they can launch into space. Critical components, including antennas, feeds, cavity filters and wave guides are optimized for peak performance in specific frequency bands. Each additional frequency band that is added to a satellite adds weight, cost, and complexity. There is a technical limit on the size of a satellite that can be launched into space. Having to include all the bands will make the satellite too large to launch and too costly to build.

In addition, incorporating tunable range on board the satellite requires introduction of expensive technologies not yet proven for space operation. Further, this may result in a dramatic reduction in the lifespan of such satellites, and change the economics of commercial satellite communications in an unacceptable manner.

Further, the shape of satellite beams will not conform to the territory of each country, as it is limited by the antenna technology; antenna beam forming cannot achieve that level of precision, either from the vast distance of geosynchronous orbit or from a constantly moving non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) platform. When neighboring countries use, different bands, it will be extremely difficult to limit cross-border interference from the satellite system.

And of equal importance, the lack of certainty as to the availability of spectrum to operate will make it impossible for the business community to invest in such expensive projects as regional or global satellite networks.

This means that having different protections and operational limits in each country will make it operationally difficult, if not impossible, to provide a wide area coverage type of satellite solution which is critical to support 5G over satellites.

Adopting tuning ranges internationally for the frequency bands above 24 GHz, without adequate protections for satellite systems operating in these ranges on an international level, will effectively preclude the use of these bands by global or regional satellite systems. It is unclear that countries will adopt the necessary technical protections, since many nations rely on the ITU for their technical expertise. Further, the additional weight that would be required on a satellite, as well as technical and operational complexity of operating a satellite that has to adjust to differing bands and protection criteria on a country by country basis, is not realistic from either a technical or cost perspective. Satellites cannot physically localize their emissions (nor restrict where they can accept interference from) to areas defined to the precision of a national border. The smallest beam diameter in any currently-conceived commercial satellite system is on the order of 100 miles.

Every satellite beam will, in general, cross a country border. Every pair of adjacent countries must therefore agree on the satellite spectrum to be used or the satellite cannot be used in that border region at all in either country. The only logical solution is for all countries — globally, or at least on a regional basis — to agree at the upcoming WRC-19 on protections for satellite use in certain bands as well as prime use for user terminals. Failure to do so will mean that true 5G is not delivered to all the world’s population.

Jennifer Manner is the Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs at EchoStar Corp. and an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center. She is also the President-Elect of the US ITU Association, Chair of the Network Service Working Group of ESOA and a Board Member of the Satellite Industry Association.

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St. Helena looks to unlikely patron to pay its subsea cable bill: the satellite industry

St. Helena succeeded in its campaign to land the South Atlantic Express undersea cable nut now needs to land a satellite Earth station to defray maintenance costs.

This article originally appeared in the March, 12, 2018 issue of SpaceNews magazine.

Inhabitants of the tiny tropical island of St. Helena pay through the nose for internet service that mainlanders would have considered painfully slow during the pre-Netflix era.

The British-governed territory depends on the geostationary satellite Intelsat 23 to connect its 4,500 residents to the outside world. That satellite provides the island’s only internet and international telephone connection via a single 7.6-meter dish.

Kedell Worboys, St. Helena’s U.K. representative, and Nevin Mimica, commissioner for international cooperation and development, sign an agreement Feb. 23 in Brussels concerning the subsea cable project. Credit: St. Helena GovernmentKedell Worboys, St. Helena’s U.K. representative, and Nevin Mimica, commissioner for international cooperation and development, sign an agreement Feb. 23 in Brussels concerning the subsea cable project. Credit: St. Helena Government

Sure South Atlantic, the island’s monopoly telecommunications provider, sells data packages ranging from 750 megabytes a month at 1 megabit per second for $18 to a maximum 21 gigabytes per month at 2 megabits per second for $210. With average wages on the island being a meager $7,000 a year, the more expensive packages are out of reach for most of the island’s inhabitants.

Plus, the entire island shares a 50-megabits-per-second satellite link to the outside world. “That’s the real bottleneck,” said Christian von der Ropp, an independent telecommunications consultant who began campaigning in 2012 to bring high-speed communications to St. Helena. “It’s comparable to dial-up speeds. You can’t Skype reliably and a photo of three to four megabits would take ages to load.”

Von der Ropp is spearheading an initiative to bring St. Helena’s telecom infrastructure into the 21st century. The project involves satellites, but not in a way you might imagine.

Von der Ropp is working with St. Helena’s government on behalf of the nonprofit A Human Right, which works to bring internet and phone access to developing countries, to invite satellite and teleport operators to establish ground stations on the South Atlantic island as part of a plan to fund an extension of a subsea fiber-optic cable.

St. Helena officials say megaconstellations that lack inter-satellite links could use a gateway on the island to provide coverage across much of the South Atlantic Ocean. Credit: Connect St. HelenaSt. Helena officials say megaconstellations that lack inter-satellite links could use a gateway on the island to provide coverage across much of the South Atlantic Ocean. Credit: Connect St. Helena

Moving the cable

So far, the plan seems to working.

Last year, the island’s government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with South Atlantic Express International Ltd. to build a 50-kilometer offshoot of a planned subsea internet cable to be laid between South Africa and Brazil in 2019.

St. Helena, largely dependent on U.K. aid, expects to receive 21.5 million euros ($26.5 million) from the European Union by May to fund the extension. “We are in the final stages of obtaining European Development funding,” McGinnety said.

With that money, St. Helena will pay South Atlantic Express to alter the route of its main cable and extend a branch to the island.

The actual cable, however, is only about a quarter of the project’s overall cost. The most expensive piece is capacity. The smallest increment of bandwidth the island can buy is a 200 gigabits per second, far more than the islanders need, von der Ropp said.

That’s where ground stations come in. St. Helena needs ground station operators and firms planning megaconstellations to help cover the ongoing cost of bandwidth.

With funding from the European Development Fund, “we can build the cable and cover the operational cost for the first years but from then onward, we have a small funding gap which we need to close with the satellite operators leasing capacity,” von der Ropp said. “I’m very confident this will succeed. There’s even a small chance the island could make a small profit on the capacity leasing.”

Running it to ground

In all, 14 satellite and ground station companies have signed letters saying they would be interested in building ground sites on St. Helena if the fiber-optic cable goes through, von der Ropp said, but not all of them are ready to publicize their plans.

Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) could use ground stations on the island to improve service for small satellites launched from the International Space Station, said Katherine Monson, U.S. business development director for KSAT, a Norwegian company.

St. Helena relies on this C-band dish to connect to the internet via the Intelsat 23 satellite. Credit: St. Helena IndependentSt. Helena relies on this C-band dish to connect to the internet via the Intelsat 23 satellite. Credit: St. Helena Independent

Atlas Space Operations could support launch and early-on orbit operations of satellites sent into orbit from French Guiana, Florida’s Cape Canaveral or future European spaceports, said Sean McDaniel, founder and chief executive of Atlas Space Operations of Traverse City, Michigan.

Sky and Space Global, a British public company with plans to launch 200 nanosatellites to provide telecommunication services for equatorial regions, is interested in St. Helena for its proximity to the equator and the fact that the island falls under U.K. laws and regulations, said Meir Moalem, Sky and Space Global chief executive and managing director.

In addition, Spire Global, OneWeb and Laser Light Global have expressed interest in St. Helena, von der Ropp said.

“Laser Light intends to locate one of its planned 100 Ground Node Systems on St. Helena’s as early as 2019 in order to provide a variety of optical services to our international customers,” said Robert Brumley, president and chief executive of the Reston, Virginia, company with plans to send 12 optical communications satellites into medium Earth orbit. Laser Light’s node on St. Helena would serve as a recovery option for cable traffic disrupted as it travels between Latin America and Africa, he added.

Spire spokesman Nick Allain, Spire brand development director, would not confirm the report, saying the company “doesn’t comment on the location of future ground station sites.” OneWeb spokesperson Chris Torres also declined to comment. According to OneWeb’s Federal Communications Commission filings, the constellation will rely on a network of about 50 or more gateway earth station antennas located on the global fiber network to blanket the planet with high speed internet connectivity.

If all goes as planned, the Connect St. Helena campaign could bring high-speed internet to the residents of the remote island in 2020 and jobs even sooner. Workers building, operating and maintaining the new ground stations will boost the local economy, von der Ropp said.

“Looking at the overall picture, I think the economic benefits to the island will be substantial.”

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Connecting the Connected – Reference Architecture for the Telecommunications Industry

1.0 Introduction

Sending a message from one place to another (telecommunication) has been a revolution since its inception. It helped people to save lives, win wars, make peace, and many other things. After thousands of attempts, Alexander Graham Bell made it possible to send a message over a wire and that opened the door for the eventual over the air communication and finally we are in the age of satellite-based communication (thanks to Sir. Arthur C. Clarke) which made it possible to connect people in far corners of the world within a whisker.

Telecommunication (specifically mobile) technology has gone through several iterations (e.g. 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G) and the main focal point of that was to improve how information is exchanged across the network. Like any other technology, telecommunication has gone beyond the need for message exchanges to data communications to video conferencing to shopping, to financing and much more. You can absolutely do anything with the device (mobile phone) which was used to send messages in the past using your fingertips. The organizations who bring this technology to the end user are called the Mobile Network Operators (MNO). Even though they deal with these technical advancements continuously, their main focus point is their customer base which they refer to as subscribers. It is their responsibility to provide value to their subscribers on top of the telecommunication capability which they offer through technology. The main focus of this whitepaper is around how MNOs can collectively offer a better experience to their subscribers while increasing their profit margins using digital transformation.

2.0 Understanding the Stakeholders in the Telecommunication Ecosystem

Mobile Network Operator (MNO)s are the main players of the telecommunication game with respect to bringing telecommunication capability to the end users. They use the complex technological advancements and equipment and build networks which interconnects people in a given region (it can be a village, city, province, country or the entire world). Let’s identify the stakeholders who are engaged in the telecom ecosystem.

Figure 1: Telecommunication industry stakeholders.

A Mobile Network Operator (MNO) is the main stakeholder of providing telecommunication services to subscribers. It is responsible for purchasing the frequencies, setting up the infrastructure (signaling towers, base stations, switches, antennas, etc.), designing the network based on capacities, testing the signal strengths and finally marketing and selling the service to the end users.

Subscribers are the end users who are using the network which is built and maintained by the MNO and pay for the subscription.

Equipment manufacturers are vendors who do research on technological advancements and build the equipment (antennas, routers, switches, servers, etc.) which provides the infrastructure layer for message exchanges.

Internet Service Provider (ISP)s are organizations who maintain the connectivity between MNO maintained network and the public internet as well as other MNOs. Normally, they maintain the backbone of the mobile network.

Application developers did not used to be stakeholders of telecommunication ecosystem in the past. But with the invention of customizable mobile operating systems like Android and Apple iOS, application developers also play a major role in providing value-added services to the subscribers on top of basic telecommunication capabilities like voice and data.

Service providers are 3rd-party service providers like taxi services, e-channeling, payment services (banks), location-based services, and many other types of services, which are offered through either mobile network over signaling channels (SMS and USSD) or data network through the internet.

3.0 Understanding the Technology Landscape of the Telecommunication Ecosystem

In the telecommunication industry, technology plays a major role. It is essential to understand the technology landscape before coming up with any reference model. We can divide the telecommunication technology architecture into two main sections.

  1. Networking architecture (technology focused)
  2. Information Technology architecture (business focused)

3.1 Networking Architecture

This is the core of any telecommunication system which provides the connectivity of subscribers. It requires a special technical capability in the field of telecommunication engineering to design, build and maintain the network. It is out of the scope of this article to discuss the networking architecture. The following diagram is added for the sake of completeness.

Figure 2: Telecommunications network architecture[1].

3.2 Information Technology Architecture

In telecommunication industry, both network and subscribers are equally important to the MNO business. The idea of the information technology architecture is to define the systems and their interactions where subscriber related information resides. It can be billing, charging, value-added services, subscriber information, service subscriptions, etc. These type of information resides on different systems which are built in-house or bought from outside (COTS or SaaS applications). The interaction of these systems and how they are presented to the subscribers make the differentiation across multiple MNOs operating in the same region since most of these MNOs owned the same type of network and technological capabilities. Due to this fact, it is essential for an MNO to focus on this part of the architecture and innovate. A typical information technology architecture within an MNO is depicted in the below figure.

Figure 3: Telecommunications Information technology architecture (basic).

As depicted in the above figure, in a typical information technology (IT) system within a telecommunication operator (MNO), we can find the below systems:

  • Intelligent Network (IN) – This is the core of the IT architecture within the MNO. It has all the details about the subscribers and their usages. IN is connected with billing/charging systems, loyalty data systems, Call Data Record (CDR) systems and many other systems. It is responsible for charging the subscribers in proper and intelligent manner.

  • Customer Relationships Management (CRM) – This is the software component which keeps the information about customers and their subscriptions.

  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) – This component keeps the information about projects, equipment, accounting, business processes and other business-related items.

  • Loyalty Data – This system is responsible for keeping information about any loyalty system and marketing promotions and other marketing activities

  • Billing/Charging – This component is responsible for charging the customers based on their usage. Keeping various profiles based on usage patterns is defined and maintained here.

  • Subscriber Data – This component keeps the information about subscribers from the network architecture perspective. This includes information like Call Details Record (CDR), services offered to a subscriber, profiles bounded to subscribers, etc.

  • Web Applications – These are the internal and external applications which aggregate data from different systems mentioned above and provide a useful view.

  • Integration Bus – This is the central component which interconnects heterogeneous systems through various messaging formats and communication protocols.

  • Network Architecture – This is the network portion which is described in the previous section.

The above architecture is somewhat common amongst most of the telecommunication operators with more or less additional components. This architecture works perfectly fine and unless there are other operators doing innovative things around this architecture to add value to their subscriber base and expanding to your subscriber base.

4.0 Adding Value to Your Subscriber Base

Mobile telecommunication technology has grown to every corner of the earth. Whether you are a farmer living in a rural village in Uganda or an Eskimo living in Greenland or a Yankee living in New York, everyone is connected within a sub-second through this technology. The real potential of telecommunications lies on top of the standard voice, data, or messaging services. That is where innovation comes into the picture. This technology has enabled a platform which spans beyond any cultural or geographical boundaries. To grasp this vast potential, network architecture, as well as information technology architecture, needs to be upgraded. In order to upgrade the IT architecture within the telecom ecosystem to add value to their subscriber base, first, we need to identify the capabilities which are required:

  • Capability to expose subscriber information securely
  • Analyze usage patterns
  • Connect with 3rd party service providers
  • Attract application developers

These capabilities can be added to your IT system with the use of API management, data analytics, a partner onboarding portal, and a developer portal. The improved architecture of the IT system can be depicted as below:

Figure 4: Telecommunications Information Technology reference architecture (advanced).

In the above figure, there are a few additions on top of the basic IT architecture diagram depicted in Figure 3. Those additional components are

  • API management – This component is used to expose the subscriber information to external systems in a secure and controlled manner. In addition to that, it provides the capabilities to onboard partners, build portals for developers to write mobile applications.
  • Security – Once the subscriber information is exposed to third parties, it is essential that we could take the highest possible security measures to protect the data as well as the system.
  • Analytics – By analyzing the subscriber usage patterns and their interests, MNOs can offer more and more innovative and attractive services to the subscribers. The analytics component will do the real time as well as time series based analysis of subscriber data.
  • Payment Gateway – This component resides outside of MNO ecosystem and connects with the internal systems through integration bus to handle the payments which are done from/to 3rd party service providers. As an example, a subscriber can pay his mobile subscription charges through his bank account or he can buy a shoe using his mobile subscription credit.
  • Mobile applications – Once the Subscriber information is exposed through APIs, application developers can develop mobile applications alongside 3rd party service providers to offer innovative services.
  • Service Providers – This can be any type of service providers who get a chance to offer services to a whole new customer base (can be millions). Some examples are money transfer, e-channeling, home catering, and banking.

This architecture can expand the horizon of the MNO’s business capabilities into many other areas through APIs. The subscriber base can get benefits through the services which MNO offers through partnerships. One of the important thing with this technology is that you can provide services with a simple messaging based or USSD based application even when there is no internet connectivity. Another important aspect is that these services can be offered through localized applications so that users who have language barriers can benefit from this technology.

5.0 Realizing the Modern Information Technology Architecture

The next, most important step of modernizing the IT architecture within MNO is to identify the products which are available to cater these requirements. WSO2 offers products which are specially built for these requirements. The below figure showcases the products which are well suited for this architecture.

Figure 5: Telecommunications Information Technology reference architecture (WSO2 mapped).

The above figure depicts how the WSO2 products can be mapped to different components within the reference architecture for telecommunication IT system. As shown in the figure above, following WSO2 products can be used to realize the proposed reference architecture.

  • WSO2 API Manager – Exposes the internal subscriber information to external users through a set of managed APIs. These APIs can be secured using OAuth2 protocol. These APIs can be displayed in a developer portal so that application developers and 3rd party service providers can discover these APIs and build their own applications. In addition to that, these API requests can be controlled using policies and alerts can be set based on over usage.
  • WSO2 Identity Server – This provides the comprehensive security capabilities to the platform by acting as an authorization server for OAuth2 tokens as well as an enabler for SSO and Identity Federation. As an example, MNOs can allow users to log in to various applications using their social logins like Facebook and Google.
  • WSO2 Enterprise Integrator – Different systems like IN, ERP, CRM, and Loyalty have their own data formats as well as transport protocols and needs to be interconnected to provide valuable aggregated data formats to the external applications. This is the central hub which interconnects heterogeneous systems and allows API management layer to expose these systems and orchestrations as valuable APIs.
  • WSO2 Stream Processor – This is the component which analyzes the data going through above mentioned WSO2 products and provides insights on which APIs are heavily used, the latency of different services, available login sessions and many other metrics related to the products. In addition to those events coming from the network layer towards IN about usage details can also be monitored in real time and take decisions accordingly. As an example, if a particular subscriber is using data highly on a particular time frame regularly, the system can automatically send him a message offering a package which is customized for that time period and increase the revenue of the business.

6.0 Expanding the Value Addition Across Multiple Operators

MNOs have their own strength and weaknesses when it comes to the network capabilities and other service offerings to their subscribers. MNOs wants to expand their strong capabilities to subscribers within other networks while subscribers want to get the best possible service no matter who the operator is. This is one of the major reasons for the introduction of GSMA OneAPI. According to Wikipedia, it is defined as

OneAPI is a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) supported by the GSM Association that exposes network capabilities [clarify] over the Internet.”

In simple terms, it is a mechanism to expose set of capabilities within MNOs through a standard set of APIs so that everyone can build applications on top of those APIs and allows interoperability across different MNOs (like they do for roaming) for services which they offer. If we think about roaming capabilities, there should be an agreement between your local MNO and the visiting MNO so that you can use the same SIM card within that visiting country or region. With the OneAPI specification, this interoperability brings to the next level where users can use services and applications which are offered by visiting MNO.

With the reference architecture discussed in the previous sections, MNOs can easily adopt OneAPI standard without any changes or additions to their IT architecture or networking architecture. The only requirement is to implement the set of APIs defined by OneAPI specification using the API management layer and relevant system integrations through integration layer.

Figure 6: Telecommunications Information Technology reference architecture with GSMA OneAPI.

As depicted in the above figure, when all the MNOs implement the OneAPI standard and expose their network capabilities and subscriber information, 3rd party service providers, as well as application developers, can reap the benefits of a larger subscriber base. In fact, mobile operators can also sell their services to subscribers on other network operators. Subscribers will get services from multiple operators by having only one subscription. To mediate and govern these interactions, there needs to be a “OneAPI Gateway” which will eventually route the subscriber requests based on a set of defined rules and agreements across different operators. This gateway functionality can be done by a 3rd party provider (3PP) or one of the operators themselves. With this architecture, different operators can have their own internal implementations on how the systems are interconnected and so on, but they must expose a standard set of APIs.

This architecture can be expanded across boundaries and the entire world can be connected into a single network (similar to the internet) and a person with a mobile phone and a subscription to his local operator can access services across the world when he is traveling or staying in his own country. It is somewhat similar to you watching youtube from your home through the internet, you are using a mobile application which is used to channel a doctor in another country where your mother is living and make the appointment from the phone by paying from your mobile wallet !.

7.0 Summary

In summary, the technology which used to connect people needs to be connected in a more meaningful manner. With the telecommunication information system reference architecture introduced within this article discusses how to provide innovative services to your subscriber base and drive revenue to your business. By using GSMA OneAPI specification, it is possible to expand the business into other operators as well as other regions. Subscribers will also benefit from the global connectivity and service sharing across multiple operators.

8.0 References




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China’s virtual telcos will finally get the official green light, but it might already be too late

This year, China might finally issue the official operator licenses for “virtual telecom providers.” Three years back, the news would have made a splash throughout the whole internet industry, but now few seem to care.

At a 2017 year-end industry conference, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced (in Chinese) that all qualified private virtual telecoms will formally receive an official license to resell internet access in 2018. These virtual operators do not maintain a network infrastructure but rent wholesale services like roaming and text messages from China’s three dominant telcos—China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom.

When the MIIT started to pilot virtual telecoms in several Chinese cities back in 2013, the country was psyched about BAT and the likes taking down the big three telcos, who are notorious for their lousy service (China Unicom, China Telecom) and opaque billing (China Mobile). Three years in, the official licenses still haven’t arrived, and many of the 42 piloted virtual operators are struggling to survive.

Neither the delay nor the weak performance is surprising. All three entrenched telcos are state-run firms, which are, in turn, directed by the MIIT along with China’s National Development and Reform Commissions, a macroeconomic governance agency, and the Ministry of Finance. It is thus not in the best interest of policymakers to boost these virtual network operators—although the pilot project was, on paper, part of China’s reform to invite competition into the three-carrier oligopoly.

One unintended consequence of an ambivalent government attitude is the rampant abuse of virtual networks by scammers. China has required that all mobile phone users register with their real names, but regulation loopholes exist for virtual telecoms. Under the pressure to meet sales KPIs set by policymakers, virtual operators have loosened the registration process for new subscribers, many of whom turn out to be fraudsters.

As of today, virtual telecoms had attracted about 50 million subscribers and take up 3.5% of the total market, but it’s no secret to Chinese people that many of those mobile numbers, which start with “170” and “171”, are owned by scammers. The project is also losing steam among China’s tech titans, who are increasingly turning to partner with the old big three telcos instead. King Card (大王卡), a mobile internet plan released by Tencent with support from China Unicom, has attracted 50 million subscribers in just a year.

The tarnished reputation of “170” and “171” is likely to stay. Even if the market is officially open for real competition and receives stricter oversight, few Chinese users will likely switch to these virtual networks. For one, the price incentives of virtual operators are no longer enticing as the big three have significantly lowered their fees in recent years as well. The more agonizing part of switching networks is that users are unable to keep their original number, which has probably been tied to a myriad of personal assets from bank to WeChat accounts.

The good news is, China is also in talks to roll out the “transfer network, keep your number” (our translation of 携号转网) initiative, and the MIIT has set a hard deadline of 2020 (in Chinese) for implementation. Even if China’s tech companies can’t wrest network service away from the telco’s grasp, the government is ready to take aim at state-owned enterprises. In August, some of China’s largest tech companies—including the BAT trio—poured a total of $11.7 billion in China Unicom as part President Xi Jinping’s “mixed ownership reform” to freshen the bloated state sector with private capital. It took a long time for China’s telco market to get here, but market forces might finally have their say.

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Jack Ma on the Philippines’ internet speed: ‘It’s no good’

Jack Ma is the founder and chairman of Alibaba. Photo credit: Asia Society.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma is in Manila to receive an honorary degree and one of the first things he did, of course, was test the speed of the internet – said to be the slowest in the region.

“It’s no good,” he said this morning, drawing laughs from the audience at his acceptance speech.

Yet every problem is an opportunity, he stressed. “Opportunity exists in the areas where most people complain. If you can solve the complaint, you have a chance. When we started Alibaba, internet speed in China was terrible – much worse than here now.”

He urged the Philippines to “work together” to improve web speed and coverage, pointing out how the internet has become essential like electricity.

“We have to make sure everybody is connected. When you’re connected you can be mobile, and when you’re mobile you’re everywhere,” said the billionaire.

With rapid technological change, Ma said manufacturing will no longer be the main driver of growth as artificial intelligence and robots kill jobs. Instead, businesses that make full use of the internet will win. That’s because world internet users will grow to 6 billion in 10 years and most trade will happen online, he predicted.

“In the future, 80 percent of businesses and 80 percent of the business in your business will be online. We believe the world will be totally different.”

For emerging markets, Ma believes the internet is crucial in bringing inclusive services, for instance financial tools that allow the unbanked population to send and receive money.

The speech ties back to Alibaba’s expansion in Southeast Asia, where it has struck a series of fintech deals through unit Ant Financial. In the Philippines, Ant Financial snapped up a stake in telecoms operator Globe’s Mynt, which runs Gcash. Gcash – similar to Ma’s Alipay – allows people to add phone credit, pay bills, send money, make donations, and shop online.

“We believe a lot of unfairness will be broken because of technology,” said the Alibaba chairman.

While technology “means a lot,” he explained in the end, “it’s people who use technology that changes the world.”

He said the Philippines is poised to ride the wave of automation and AI because the “service industry will always be key and the Filipino people have the best heart of service.”

Ma was bestowed an honorary Doctor of Science in Technopreneurship degree by the Philippines’ De La Salle University. He flew to the country upon the invitation of a university student leader.

“I’m extremely humbled to get this honor. I never thought in my life that I would be able to achieve this,” he said.

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