Sunday, 24 September 2017

So...what's new?

By Mary Lennighan, Total Telecom
Friday 18 August 17

Stasis in certain areas of the telecoms industry, but important developments in the U.S., China and elsewhere, plus some interesting commentary on the fortunes of the world's biggest equipment makers.

After a year in the wilderness, I returned to the telecoms industry this week, brimming with excitement at the thought of all the fascinating developments I must surely have missed during my absence. Imagine my surprise, then, when the first story I see plastered across the vast majority of the U.K.'s news outlets is that BT plans to scrap half of its 40,000 phone boxes over the next five years…

After a year in the wilderness, I returned to the telecoms industry this week, brimming with excitement at the thought of all the fascinating developments I must surely have missed during my absence.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the first story I see plastered across the vast majority of the U.K.'s news outlets is that BT plans to scrap half of its 40,000 phone boxes over the next five years.

OK then. Once I had ascertained that this is indeed August 2017 and not sometime in the '90s, I got to thinking: has much really changed at all over the past 12 months?

Early indications suggested not. One of the last pieces I wrote for Total Telecom this time last year looked at Oi's bankruptcy filing and its intention to file a restructuring plan with creditors. Fast forward to now and uncertainty still prevails around that debt restructuring. The Brazilian telco held its most recent meeting with regulator Anatel on Tuesday.

Similarly, I reported on Greece's plans to re-allocate 1800-MHz spectrum this week, only to realise that I wrote a very similar story just over a year ago.

And I soon noted that a number of long-running stories are still, well, running.

To list but a few: Vivendi's influence at Telecom Italia remains contentious; America Movil is still battling against heavy-handed regulation in Mexico (although it won an important victory this week); and India's telcos are still working on consolidation as they seek to fend off the threat from Reliance Jio Infocomm, but are dragging their heels when it comes to actually getting the deals done.

Reading last week's report that Sprint and T-Mobile US are back in merger talks also made me pause to check the date. The pair last made a serious bid to join forces in 2014, if memory serves, but were derailed by regulatory opposition. It seems that story could be coming back around.

Meanwhile, one industry watcher gave me a steer on what's happening in the vendor community. "Ericsson's f*cked, Nokia's not quite right, and Huawei's taking over the world." Interesting times ahead, methinks.

And speaking of looking forward, when I spoke to industry colleagues and peers this week about the past year's happenings and current hot topics I learned that "everyone's talking about 5G...but we're not totally clear on what it is yet." Nothing new there then.

However, it would be remiss of me to suggest that nothing is moving on. In the past few days alone T-Mobile US launched LTE at 600 MHz, using the spectrum it acquired in this year's incentive auction; China Unicom unveiled a list of new, high-profile investors, including Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent; and Verizon detailed plans to roll out an LTE-based public safety network analogous to AT&T's FirstNet project.

So it seems change is happening. You just have to know where to look.

And with that, we had probably better call it a day. I have a lot of catching up to do, including tackling an email inbox that is well into zettabyte territory. But hey, what else is new?!

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