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Network innovation is springing out all over

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March was a busy month for new partnerships, pilots and deployments pushing the boundaries of networks, from Gigabit Ethernet and NaaS, to instant new ways of boosting mobile coverage and direct-to-device, writes Contributing Editor Annie Turner.

e& UAE has joined the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) to participate in the standardisation of carrier-grade Ethernet as Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) revenues increase. This follows the operator beginning trials of 800Gbps Ethernet in March with Huawei.

The operator said it intends to deploy 800GE networks for commercial services to accommodate the growth in network traffic and the network’s architectural needs.

e& is preparing for the 5G Advanced era by prioritising bearer networks to act as a backbone and to build out IP infrastructure in fixed and wireless access networks.

The operator wants to combine 800 GE ports with network automation and slicing to gain a bearer network with “ultra” bandwidth, intelligence and low latency.

e& UAE and Huawei intend to complete their 800GE router trial this year using the Chinese equipment vendor’s NetEngine8000X platform and 19.2T line processing unit. They will also jointly explore ways to exploit the technology.

e& UAE becomes Yahsat’s first telco partner

woman holding phoneElsewhere, e& UAE and the Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat) signed an MoU. Under its terms, the operator will be the first telecom partner in the satellite operator’s direct-to-device initiative, launched in March.

The services will use Yahsat’s geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) satellites including T2, T3 and T4. The latter two are scheduled for launch this year. GEOsats have higher latency than low Earth orbit (LEO) constellations but are suitable for less delay-sensitive traffic.

The partners plan to offer phone calls and messaging this year followed by SMS and IoT capabilities on smartphones in 2025.

In the second phase, called Project BlueStar, the companies plan to enable full direct-to-device connectivity through a “scalable and sustainable satellite network.”

Yahsat is expected to merge with Bayanat later this year to form an entity worth an estimated $4.1 billion.

 

TOTEM takes on tunnelsBeautiful young woman travelling in a train of Parisian underground and using her mobile phone. Eiffel tower is behind the window

Orange’s towerco TOTEM has started to deploy 5G in the tunnels of Line 15 South which will involve 1,000 network elements. It is one of Paris’ four new automated train lines that are part of the city’s ambitious Grand Paris Express transportation project.

TOTEM’s 5G deployment will cover 33km of tunnels and 16 stations. It is due for completion by the end of 2025 and will be the first 5G-connected Grand Paris Express line within the city’s metro system. The 5G infrastructure will be available on a wholesale basis to all mobile service providers.

Smart poles to boost 4G/5G

Virgin Media O2 in the UK has piloted a new way of improving and expanding mobile services. It combined its fixed network infrastructure with new smart poles which are much smaller than conventional mobile phone masts.

Front view of small cellsThe smart poles are powered by Virgin Media’s fibre network which can transmit power from on-street cabinets along the fibre cables. The street cabinets themselves are connected to the national electricity grid.

Small cell technology is installed at the top of the pole. As they do not require planning permission, the poles can be installed in less than a day to boost coverage in busy areas, according to the operator. Also, the fibre infrastructure provides instant backhaul.

Virgin Media O2 has about 25,000 street cabinets across the UK which could potentially power smart poles, helping meet demand for mobile sites in urban areas “for years to come”.

AI driving need for more DCs

Market analyst DC Byte reported that Europe, the Middle East and Africa’s data centre capacity grew from 4.6GW in 2018 to 8.8GW in 2023. Even so, the growth lags that in the Asia-Pacific region and the Americas.

blue UTP cordAccording to DC Byte’s 2024 Global Data Centre Index, the reason EMEA growth is slower is due to problems with power supply and the high cost and scarcity of suitable land. Tighter regulations also play a part.

Consequently, demand has outstripped supply in Europe for several years which has increased the cost of colocation. The situation is likely to worsen as AI gobbles up ever more capacity.

Faced with these challenges, the analyst house has identified a new trend. Network operators and hyperscalers are expanding beyond the established clusters and into places where adequate land and electricity are available to run AI models and applications.

Despite Europe’s limiting factors, the biggest, established markets – Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam, Paris and Dublin or FLAP-D ­– added an average of 450MW of Live Supply each. Secondary markets like Belgium, Denmark, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UAE each gained at least 100MW of Live Supply between 2018 and last year.

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Contributed by Sam Keys-Toyer, Head of Business and Portfolio Development, Managed Services Networks, Ericsson. The... Read more