Edge Roundup: June 29th — July 5th 2020

Raffi Elliott

Raffi Elliott

US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is behind a new (& scary) anti-encryption bill — Foreign Policy contends that 5G conspiracy theorists are causing real-world harm — The FCC just officially designated both Huawei and ZTE as ‘national security threats’US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is behind a new (& scary) anti-encryption bill — Foreign Policy contends that 5G conspiracy theorists are causing real-world harm — The FCC just officially designated both Huawei and ZTE as ‘national security threats’

Welcome back to this week’s edition of Edge Roundup, the only place (well, if you ignore all the others) to find a curated record of all the goings-on in the world of edge computing and telecommunications in general.

This week’s roundup is all about connectivity, and how 5G networks are getting us there. So lets break it down:

5G:

Every week, I report that 5G networks are gaining ground at a steady pace. This week is no different, but to make things more interesting, we’ve witnessed several record-breaking achievements in the industry over the last several days.

Vodafone is showcasing a so-called “standalone” 5G network in Coventry University, and hopes this will help unleash the technology’s full potential. Until now, commercial 5G network deployments have had to leverage existing 4G infrastructure, and have been used mainly to deliver faster speeds and a more reliable connection for customers. Vodafone’s team has already successfully carried out a 5G end-to-end data call using the newly built standalone 5G network on the university’s campus.

“Edge computing, for one, is likely to get a boost from standalone 5G as new equipment brings computing power closer to the user, reducing latency and speeding up applications.” — Daphne Leprince-Ringuet, ZD Net

This new 'standalone' 5G network leaves 4G behind | ZDNet

This new 'standalone' 5G network leaves 4G behind | ZDNet

But back in the US, T-Mobile revealed last week that they’ve performed another successful 5G feat. The telco apparently conducted a test which achieved the world’s farthest 5G connection. Still, last week’s news doesn’t necessarily mean that every 5G signal that T-Mobile rolls out from this point forward will reach 60 miles, but it is an impressive feat that shows that T-Mo continues to work on ways to push its 5G signal over long distances to keep people connected.

“This week’s news doesn’t necessarily mean that every 5G signal that T-Mobile rolls out from this point forward will reach 60 miles, but it is an impressive feat that shows that T-Mo continues to work on ways to push its 5G signal over long distances to keep people connected.”–– Alex Wagner, TMoNews

T-Mobile also takes home points in terms of availability, blowing past its US-based competition. T-Mobile’s 5G availability was much better than any other carrier with 5G users able to actually use a 5G connection 22.5% of the time. Coming in last, Verizon 5G users were able to use the new connection less than 0.5% of the time. But still, that Verizon so far has been rolling out mmWave 5G while AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint have been using mostly low and mid-spectrum band 5G. What that means is Verizon 5G is much faster at the moment but the range and availability are really limited. Conversely, T-Mobile and AT&T’s 5G average speeds on the low and mid-band frequencies are more similar to good 4G connections but have better range and availability. Leading by a big margin for average 5G speed is Verizon

“The important thing to keep in mind is that Verizon so far has been rolling out mmWave 5G while AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint have been using mostly low and mid-spectrum band 5G. What that means is Verizon 5G is much faster at the moment but the range and availability are really limited. Conversely, T-Mobile and AT&T’s 5G average speeds on the low and mid-band frequencies are more similar to good 4G connections but have better range and availability.” ––Michael Potuck, 9 to 5 Mac

Dish Network announced two major vendor agreements on its path to becoming the nation’s fourth national facilities-based carrier: Fujitsu for a “large purchase” but undisclosed number of radio units (RUs) and a multi-year agreement with Altiostar for a cloud-native Open vRAN software solution. Dish said it will use Fujitsu’s Low Band Tri-Band RU and Mid Band Dual-Band RU across the company’s spectrum portfolio. Japan-based Fujitsu also will provide support through its integrated supply chain to deliver radio and antenna integration.

“While legacy U.S. operators are moving to standalone (SA) 5G architecture versus their non-standalone (NSA) 5G networks, Dish contends that by using open architecture to build its first standalone 5G network, it’s able to work with the best vendors across the supply chain to serve multiple segments, including consumers, enterprises and emerging 5G vertical markets.” ––Monica Alleven, Fierce Wireless

Dish selects Fujitsu, Altiostar for 5G radios, Open vRAN

Dish selects Fujitsu, Altiostar for 5G radios, Open vRAN

Ericsson isn’t doing all that bad either. According to Ericsson’s official website, the company currently has 95 5G commercial contracts. As of now, Ericsson has a publicizable 5G commercial contract with 54 operator customers. In addition, it provides equipment for 40 already operational 5G commercial networks in 23 countries.

“We’re proud to say that communication service providers all around the world have chosen to deploy 5G using our leading network technology. Our list of commercial agreements and contracts with unique operators is growing rapidly.”––Ericsson

But of course, none of these amazing achievements in technological progress will matter if anti 5G conspiracy theorists continue to spread their imagined threats. Attacks on cell phone towers are merely the latest evidence that virtual disinformation is leading to actual violence. According to the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO) and the GSMA, the global association of mobile network operators, between January and early June this year there had been 87 arson attacks in the U.K., 30 arson attacks in the Netherlands, harassment of Dutch telecoms engineers, threats to industry and government representatives in Sweden and the Netherlands, three arson attacks in Ireland, two in Sweden, and further attacks in France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, and Cyprus.

If current trends continue, only the affluent and the ambitious will still subscribe to established publications with rigorous editorial standards. And while public-service radio and television enjoy high approval ratings, their audiences are declining.

“With disinformation now directly harming business and everyday life, countering it is becoming not just a luxury but an imperative. To be sure, democracy is far more important than 5G. But because 5G is tangible, tackling the disinformation spread around it offers an opportunity not just to prevent further arson sprees but also to start tackling the rapidly spreading virus of disinformation in wealthy democracies with widespread internet access.” ––Elisabeth Braw, Foreign Policy

Edge Computing:

As communication service providers (CSPs) figure out their optimum edge computing strategies, a global operator-led initiative supported by the GSMA has emerged as one of the key options for telcos. The Telco Edge Cloud (TEC) Platform initiative was launched in late February by nine major operators with the support of the GSMA, and was due to feature prominently during this year’s MWC event in Barcelona, one of the many industry events to fall foul of the Covid-19 pandemic. Just how difficult it is to predict where the telco edge market is heading was shown by the recent retirement by Ericsson of its Edge Gravity initiative, which had hoped to deliver a single, unified, international edge-oriented platform for content delivery. Ericsson launched Edge Gravity in early 2018 but, after little more than two years, decided to close the internal startup.

Operators rally around Telco Edge Cloud Platform initiative

Operators rally around Telco Edge Cloud Platform initiative

Telcos, ISPs & Cable:

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are each telling the FCC to ignore a call from Charter Communications to change rules for the C-band in order to protect users in the 3.5 GHz CBRS band. Charter isn’t the only one. To be clear, CTIA said (PDF) the commission should dismiss or deny all six petitions for reconsideration that have been filed in the C-band proceeding from various parties, saying they raised issues already addressed or lack merit. After some fits and starts in various forms, the 3.7 GHz C-band auction is expected to commence as scheduled on December 8. That will provide up to 280 megahertz of valuable mid-band spectrum that will not be subject to the types of sharing rules that exist at 3.5 GHz. However, it won’t be available until incumbent satellite players are moved to the upper part of the C-band.

“It suggests that C-band licensees ‘could’ have the incentive to resist cooperation. But carriers’ experience is just the opposite — they have a demonstrated history of cooperation to ensure that all licensees can maximize the use of their assigned spectrum . . . there is no reason to believe that C-band licensees will not voluntarily support synchronization when asked because doing so will also protect them from harmful interference” — T-Mobile address to the FCC

Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile gang up against Charter C-band petition

Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile gang up against Charter C-band petition

Dish now owns Boost Mobile, bringing Dish — after years of speculation — into the consumer wireless market where it can start to compete with Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Boost was previously part of Sprint, which is now owned by T-Mobile. T-Mobile was required to sell Boost in order to get federal approval for its acquisition of Sprint, which closed in April.

As part of the agreement, Dish is paying $1.4 billion for Boost and other Sprint prepaid assets. Dish also secured access to T-Mobile’s network for seven years, allowing its subscribers to use T-Mobile’s network while Dish builds out its own 5G service.

“Approval of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger was heavily predicated on the idea that Dish would fill the gap left by Sprint and become a new fourth nationwide carrier. That’s a lot easier said than done, but as of today, the very first steps are complete. Dish says it’s still looking for vendors to handle the construction of its own network.” ––Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge

Dish now owns Boost Mobile, following sale from T-Mobile

Dish now owns Boost Mobile, following sale from T-Mobile

Jeff Moore is Principal of Wave 7 Research, a wireless research firm that covers U.S. postpaid, prepaid and smartphone competition. He argues that as Sprint is absorbed into T-Mobile, leaving the U.S. with — for now — three national carriers, it makes sense to examine the growth and prospects of the cable companies’ foray into wireless. In most markets, a cable company now is effectively a fourth postpaid competitor. One implication of the cable companies’ success in wireless is that the more subscribers they get, the more logical are the economics of owning a network. Dish Network has the spectrum it needs and has stated that it will build a nationwide network, so it wouldn’t be surprising if one or more cable companies did not at least analyze an investment in Dish Network or an outright purchase of it.

“In recent decades, analysts have watched the cable companies move toward wireless, then move away from it, and then move back to it. Cox is taking a look at getting back into wireless. It reminds me of the Eagles’ “Hotel California.” When it comes to wireless, cable companies can check out anytime they like, but they can never leave.” ––Jeff Moore, Fierce Wireless

Industry Voices — Moore: There’s more to cable MVNO growth than meets the eye

Industry Voices — Moore: There’s more to cable MVNO growth than meets the eye

Cambium Networks recently announced new Wi-Fi 6 products alongside 60 GHz-supported solutions coming this summer that are meant to deliver multi-gigabit last mile connectivity at a lower cost of ownership. Cambium is fortifying its wireless products by introducing a new multi-gigabit wireless fabric, according to Bhatnagar, which in some ways can deliver fiber-like speeds more affordably, specifically at the edge.

“We see innovative approaches blending next generation backhaul-to-fronthaul technologies like Wi-Fi 6 and 60GHz Wi-Fi as key to enabling a new era of connected experiences even in the most challenging conditions.” -Rahul Patel, senior VP and General Manager of Connectivity,Qualcomm Technologies

Cambium embraces 60 GHz, Wi-Fi 6 for multi-gigabit connectivity

Cambium embraces 60 GHz, Wi-Fi 6 for multi-gigabit connectivity

IoT, Autonomous Driving & Drones:

Remember Google Glass? Well Google does, and now they appear to be getting into the game again, with the acquisition of North, the computer interfacing company based out of Canada’s answer to Silicon Valley: Kitchener-Waterloo. The computing giant announced the acquisition last week. Google says the startup’s technology will be added to their “ broader efforts to build helpful devices and services.” The North team will be integrated into Google’s Waterloo campus.

“North’s technical expertise will help as we continue to invest in our hardware efforts and ambient computing future. They’ll join the Google team based in Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada — North’s hometown and an area with impressive tech talent. We’re excited to welcome our new colleagues, and committed to the growing global tech community of Kitchener-Waterloo.” –– Rick Osterloh, Senior VP, Devices & Services, Google

Our focus on helpful devices: Google acquires North

Our focus on helpful devices: Google acquires North

In this cortege of tech giant announcements we have for this week, Facebook is next. And they’re also developing––*surprise*––glasses. In this case, holographic optics for thin and lightweight virtual reality. The design is demonstrated in a proof-of-concept research device that uses only thin, flat films as optics to achieve a display thickness of less than 9 mm while supporting a field of view comparable to today’s consumer VR products. The work demonstrates the promise of better visual performance, as well: Laser illumination is used to deliver a much wider gamut of colors to VR displays, and progress is made toward scaling resolution to the limit of human vision.

“While it points toward the future development of lightweight, comfortable, and high-performance AR/VR technology, at present our work is purely research. In our technical paper, we identify the current limitations of our proposed display architecture and discuss future areas of research that will make the approach more practical.” ––Facebook Research

Refraction AI, a company developing semi-autonomous delivery robots, began handling select customers’ orders from Ann Arbor, Michigan’s Produce Station last week. This marks the startup’s first foray into grocery delivery after the launch of its restaurant delivery service. The move comes as Refraction reports a 3–4 times uptick in pandemic-related demand. Rollouts of various drone configurations in recent weeks seem to be encouraged in part by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“REV-1’s perception system comprises 12 cameras, in addition to redundant radar and ultrasound sensors — a package the company claims costs a fraction of the lidar sensors used in rival rovers. The robot can navigate in inclement weather, including rain and snow, and it’s not dependent on high-definition maps for navigation.”–– Venture Beat

Streaming & Gaming:

As video game companies increasingly shift to the cloud, data centers have taken on outsized importance.

Over the past two years, it seems every major gaming and tech company has launched a cloud gaming service: Microsoft’s Project xCloud, Sony’s PlayStation Now, Google’s Stadia, Nvidia’s GeForce Now, Tencent’s Start. Facebook and Amazon are reportedly sniffing around too. For a monthly fee — $10 to $35 — users can play a library of video games on demand, streamed to their phone, television, console, computer, or tablet. Cloud gaming is software as a service. That service is two-pronged: a library of video games the cloud service provider has negotiated with game publishers, and a way to stream those games over the internet. Yet cloud-gaming-capable data centers can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build. It’s never guaranteed that an ahead-of-the-curve technology will catch on the way its creators pitch it. But for cloud gaming, a head start on building out infrastructure seems worth the gamble.

“Any company that does not own and operate their own cloud has to pay margins to someone else to get access to cloud infrastructure. . . they’re just going to be structurally disadvantaged against a company like Microsoft that has deep, deep investment, history, and assets across content, community and cloud.”––Kareem Choudhry, corporate vice president of cloud gaming,Microsoft

An Infrastructure Arms Race Is Fueling the Future of Gaming

An Infrastructure Arms Race Is Fueling the Future of Gaming

Security & Privacy:

Well, it finally happened: the FCC just officially designated both Huawei and ZTE as ‘national security threats’. In our newest installment of #HuaweiGate, lets find out why:

“Both [Huawei and ZTE] have close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and China’s military apparatus, and both companies are broadly subject to Chinese law obligating them to cooperate with the country’s intelligence services. . . we cannot and will not allow the Chinese Communist Party to exploit network vulnerabilities and compromise our critical communications infrastructure.” — Ajit Pai, FCC Chairman

China's Huawei and ZTE officially designated 'national security threats' by the FCC

China's Huawei and ZTE officially designated 'national security threats' by the FCC

According to some recent intel, The US government is continuing to tighten restrictions on China; this time by insisting on intel suspending shipments to Inspur, the world’s #3 server vendor overall, and the largest supplier of servers in China.

“While most of the attention has been focused on the U.S. government’s restrictions on Huawei, Inspur is a much more important company in the server market. Inspur is certainly not a household name, but according to IDC, the company ranked #3 in total global server shipments during 2019, and was, by far, the the #1 supplier of both A.I. and traditional servers in China, both of which represent key revenue generators for Intel in the world’s fastest-growing market.” — Arjun Kharpal, CNBC

U.S. Forces Intel to Pause Shipments to Leading Server Maker

U.S. Forces Intel to Pause Shipments to Leading Server Maker

But hey, if you’re worried about the Chinese hacking you, you’ve got bigger things to worry about closer to home. On Tuesday, June 23, Senators Graham (R-SC), Cotton (R-AR), and Blackburn (R-TN) introduced a bill that is a full-frontal nuclear assault on encryption in the United States. You can find the bill text here. It’s been formally introduced as Senate bill 4051. The bill’s wording is unambiguous: providers, across the spectrum of devices and information services, must design in the ability to decrypt data and provide it in intelligible form. That applies to providers that have more than a million U.S. users. Moreover, the timing of the new bill, and the insistence on pushing forward with EARN IT, feels particularly ill-suited to a moment when America is fed up with the current state of policing.

“The bill is an actual, overt, make-no-mistake, crystal-clear ban on providers from offering end-to-end encryption in online services, from offering encrypted devices that cannot be unlocked for law enforcement, and indeed from offering any encryption that does not build in a means of decrypting data for law enforcement . . . yes, it’s really bad.” — Riana Pfefferkorn, Associate Director of Surveillance and Cybersecurity, Stanford Center for Internet and Society

https://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/blog/2020/06/there%E2%80%99s-now-even-worse-anti-encryption-bill-earn-it-doesn%E2%80%99t-make-earn-it-bill-ok

Meanwhile, As workers adjust to doing their jobs from home during the coronavirus, Cisco is seeing a boost from customers turning to its tools for video conferencing and security. At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cisco customers turned to the company to increase their cybersecurity as more turned to remote work.

“[Video conferencing software] is no longer about casual conversations over video and casual meetings . . . this is about our customers discussing their valuable intellectual property on these platforms. We have to ensure we have privacy and security.” Chuck Robbins, CEO, Cisco

Cisco CEO: We saw a coronavirus 'splurge' in spending as customers started working from home

Cisco CEO: We saw a coronavirus 'splurge' in spending as customers started working from home

Other stuff:

Unlike much of rural England, Clapham boasts one of the best internet connections in the country — and the locals built it themselves: Broadband for the Rural North, known as “B4RN” (pronounced “barn”). B4RN started planning to roll out its fibre-to-the-home network in Clapham in 2014, and by the end of 2018, around 180 homes out of 300 in the village had been hooked up with an affordable full gigabit-per-second symmetrical connection. B4RN was born of necessity. To date, traditional profit-making telecommunications companies have struggled to reach rural communities. Building resilient, fibre-fed networks in rural areas is challenging and expensive for any telecom operator. In recognition of this fact, the UK government has committed £5 billion to rolling out rural fibre networks.

“Lockdown has highlighted the importance of the internet. But paradoxically, B4RN’s model for success has more to do with the power of human connections that have long been integral to geographically isolated rural communities. Modern times and trends have eroded many facets of rural life, as local institutions like village halls and shops have buckled under the economic pressures of ever-increasing centralisation of services in metropolitan areas — or online. Young people have fled the countryside for educational and economic opportunities in cities. In this context, B4RN offers a new local venue for community-building — a social space forged in and of the digital age.” ––Kira Allmann, Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Oxford

The remote British village that built one of the fastest internet networks in the UK

The remote British village that built one of the fastest internet networks in the UK

Well that’s all we have for this week. Next week, we might be trying a new format. Let’s see. But if you do notice something different, be sure to tweet back at us to let us know what you think.

And as always, wash your hands.