By Abby Proch, former editor
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced its $1.9 billion program to help some telecoms “rip and replace” equipment supplied by blacklisted Chinese firms would begin accepting applications on Oct. 29, according to Reuters. The offer applies to carriers with 10 million or fewer customers (increased from the previous threshold of 2 million or fewer). Included in those infrastructure takedowns are products made by Huawei and ZTE, as well as Hytera Communications, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, and Zhejiang Dahua. In July, Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the equipment posed a “serious risk” of being “manipulated, disrupted or controlled by foreign actors.” Applications will be accepted through Jan. 14, 2022.
In military news, Verizon is expanding its 5G portfolio with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and outfitting seven Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) installations with its ultra-wideband network services, according to a Verizon press release. The deployment, which adds to the telecom’s commitment to provide 5G services to 10 Air Force bases, will include C-band radios.
In spectrum auction news, Brazil has scheduled its first 5G spectrum auction for Nov. 4. According to U.S. News and World Report, the auction is expected to raise $1.9 billion based on minimum bid requirements. According to BNAmericas, about 3.7GHz of spectrum is being offered on the 700MHz, 2.3GHz, 3.5GHz, and 26GHz bands. Winners of the auction must invest roughly $7.43 million in 5G infrastructure and promise to provide high-speed internet to schools and build infrastructure along roadways. Brazilian regulator Anatel initially delayed the decision to schedule the auction after members asked for more time for analysis.
Regulators in India are reconsidering minimum bid prices for the country’s 2022 auction after more than 60 percent of spectrum from auctions in 2016 and March 2021 went unsold, according to an MSN report. According to the report, in 2018, a telecom interested in the 3300-3600 MHz band would have had to pay $6.6 billion (Rs 49,200 crore) for 100 MHz, which is roughly what it takes to offer nationwide 5G services.
Critics say the high base prices stem from earlier 3G auctions in which seven telecoms vied for a piece of the spectrum. Now that there are just three players at the table — Bharti Airtel, Jio, and Vodafone Idea — the competition isn’t as steep. Under reconsideration are prices for spectrum in the 3300-3600 MHz band and premium 4G band 700 MHz, as well as previously unsold spectrum in the 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, and 2300 MHz bands. One addition to the auction is about 70 MHz of spectrum in the 24.25 GHz to 28.5 GHz band.
In testing news, DISH requested special permission from the FCC to test equipment on two 600 MHz band spectrum lots currently held by Bluewater Wireless, according to a Sept. 8 letter to the FCC. Bluewater has already given DISH the go-ahead, and now the wireless provider is waiting for federal approval. DISH says it needs the space to test equipment for its new Open RAN 5G broadband network because its own network has insufficient bandwidth for carrier aggregation (CA). DISH says the testing also requires non-contiguous spectrum blocks.
Nokia successfully completed a trial run of its 5G services in a Columbian gold mine, according to Developing Telecoms. The telecom and AngloGold Ashanti deployed mission-critical tests in the company’s Jerico gold mine, testing the remote operation of vehicles, machinery, and systems, as well as inspections and monitoring with drones and cameras. According to the report, the underground network features ultra-wideband connectivity with speeds over 1 Gbps and offers ultra-low latency. The report also notes that 86% of mining companies plan to invest in wireless infrastructure (mostly 5G) in the next 18 months, according to an International Data Corporation (IDC) 2021 Worldwide Mining Decision Maker Survey.
In rollout news, Xplornet rolled out Canada’s first rural 5G standalone network with the help of Ericsson, according to a company press release. Using Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), the network begins in New Brunswick and will continue into other rural communities in the coming months. Xplornet says it plans to cover more than 250 communities through the end of 2022.
Finally, IBM recently announced two deals in Europe to set up an Open RAN testbed and provide software and services to support a cloud-native 5G core network platform, according to Telecoms.com. IBM and Airspan are linking up to showcase long-distance control over 5G edge computing between two centers in Munich, Germany, and Nice, France. According to the report, the testbed will conduct end-to-end operability testing with private 5G standalone and will open its campus to partners and customers wanting to collaborate on emerging technologies.
Across Europe, IBM will also support communication provider Telefonica’s UNICA Next with its IBM Cloud Pak for Automation to offer “extreme automation, zero-touch provisioning, and closed loop operation capabilities,” according to a Telefonica press release.