TeliaSonera inks IoT deal with ZTE; tests unknown 4.5G business cases with Huawei; pushes ahead with NFV for 5G support

26 Feb 2016

Sweden-based telecoms heavyweight TeliaSonera has signed a strategic agreement with Chinese technology provider ZTE to collaborate in the Internet of Things (IoT) market, with an initial focus on telematics solutions, RCRWireless reports. TeliaSonera – with operations focused on Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Spain – launched a monthly subscription cloud-based car telematics service (‘Sense’) in November 2015, including an in-vehicle hardware unit, SIM card and smartphone application, and further research and development in this area will be carried out via ZTE’s Welink subsidiary. ‘The combination of ZTE’s 4G technology and the innovative Telia Sense’s service will enable users to have full control of their car and a growing ecosystem of features,’ said Jacky Zhang, SVP at ZTE, adding: ‘Today, connected cars are only available to new and premium models, but with this offering basically all of our customers can enjoy the benefit of a connected car.’ Zhijun Wang, deputy GM for Welink, told RCRWireless that the agreement stipulates the development of new functionalities in the future, whilst adding that the company recently signed an agreement for the provisioning of new telematics solutions with a Chinese telco.

In other news emerging this week from Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, the CEO of TeliaSonera’s Norwegian division, Abraham Foss highlighted that the group is working with another Chinese tech giant, Huawei, to support future business use cases which have not even been defined yet, over a ‘4.5G’ network configuration deployed in December. Quoted by Mobile World Live, Foss declared: ‘We are on a journey like everyone else in the industry to find services different from traditional voice and now data and move away from being network centric in our thinking … We are heavily dependent on driving technology adoption, otherwise we won’t be able to compete globally.’ Foss said that if asked what the results of the 4.5G launch would be in two quarters: ‘I wouldn’t be able to answer. I don’t think you can make decisions based on that kind of incremental thinking. But if you don’t produce a good customer experience, we know what the financial results will be.’ The CEO recalled that when TeliaSonera pioneered 4G LTE in 2009 (simultaneously in Sweden and Norway), people questioned its usefulness since the device/application ecosystem was lacking – but the use cases soon emerged and now 82% of his company’s network traffic is based on 4G. ‘We got the exact same questions two months ago when we launched 4.5G,’ Foss added, referring to the Huawei-built four-spectrum-band system capable of peak downlink rates above 1Gbps. IoT represents enormous opportunities, he said, even if ‘we don’t know exactly what it will mean tomorrow or next month. But it’s going to be important going forward and we’re pushing a lot of activities to learn how to use these new technologies … what we do know is that it will absolutely be critical to develop high speed, high capacity, low latency networks.’

At MWC 2016, TeliaSonera also confirmed that network function virtualisation (NFV) architecture is key to its future 5G business case, rather than just new radio access technology. NFV will be essential to support a number of critical services that operators will deploy on their future 5G networks, stated Mats Svardh, TeliaSonera’s head of networks, quoted by Light Reading. Operators are looking to provide a broad range of services over 5G infrastructure, from low-latency connections for industrial sensors to multi-gigabit ones for virtual reality and video, and to cope with that complexity, TeliaSonera plans to make use of NFV technologies so that it can dynamically allocate resources to specific customer groups – a concept referred to as ‘network slicing’. Svardh told Light Reading that TeliaSonera is moving ahead with the rollout of NFV as it prepares for the launch of 5G services in the next few years, saying: ‘There are use cases that we can’t deliver on today that will be key in future … These can’t be delivered only by a new radio interface – 5G is a whole stack and has much to do with the platforms behind access.’ TeliaSonera has already introduced a number of virtual network functions, including IMS and vCPE, which have led to benefits for customers, according to Svardh. TeliaSonera is working with a number of suppliers on its NFV rollout, including Ericsson as well as ADVA Optical Networking (Frankfurt) and Nokia, with the executive adding that there are opportunities for smaller players to have a role in this multi-vendor environment.