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Main article: Deutsche telekom

<< Back Forward >>
Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 27

Loon and SoftBank’s HAPSMobile team with Airbus, China Telecom and more on stratospheric cell networks

15:55 | 21 February

A new industry alliance led by Alphabet’s Loon high-altitude balloon technology company and SoftBank’s HAPSMobile stratospheric glider subsidiary aims to work together on standards and tech related to deploying network connectivity using high-altitude delivery mechanisms.

This extends the existing partnership between HAPSMobile and Loon, which began with a strategic alliance between the two announced last April, and which recently resulted in Loon adapting the network hardware it uses on its stratospheric balloons to work with the HAPSMobile stratospheric long-winged drone. Now, they two are welcoming more members, including AeroVironment, Airbus Defence and Space, Bharti Airtel, China Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Intelsat, Nokia, HAPSMobile parent SoftBank and Telefonica.

The new HAPS Alliance, as it’s being called (HAPS just stands for ‘High Altitude Platform Station’) will be working together to promote use of the technology, as well as work with regulators in the markets where they operate on enabling its use. They’ll work towards developing a set of common industry standards for network interoperability, and also figure how to essentially carve up the or stake out the stratosphere so that participating industry players can work together without stepping on each other’s toes.

This new combined group is no slouch: It includes some of the most powerful network operators in the world, as well as key network infrastructure players and aerospace companies. Which could mean big things for stratospheric networks, which have the advantages of being closer to Earth than satellite-based internet offerings, but also avoid the disadvantages of ground-based cell towers like having to deal with difficult terrain or more limited range.

Is this the first step towards a future where our connected devices rely on high-flying, autonomous cell towers for connectivity? It’s too early to say how ubiquitous this will get, but this new group of heavyweights definitely lends more credence to the idea.

 


0

Flip raises $4M to pounce on the growing sector of employee messaging

15:46 | 13 February

By now we’re all familiar with text messaging groups for multi-person co-ordination. I’ve lost count of how many WhatsApp, Telegram and Facebook messenger groups I’m on! Other apps like Threema have started to be used in a business context and startups like Staffbase have decided to become full-blown ‘workforce messaging’ platforms. The thinking now amongst investors is that messaging is about to explode in all sorts of verticals and that it’s a rich seam to mine.

In that vein, Flip, a Stuttgart, Germany-based employee messenger app, has now raised €3.6M ($4M) from LEA Partners and Cavalry Ventures, together with Plug and Play Ventures and Business Angels such as Jürgen Hambrecht (Chairman of the Supervisory Board BASF), Prof. Dr. Kurt Lauk (Chairman of the Supervisory Board Magna International), Florian Buzin (Founder Starface) and Andreas Burike (HR Business Angel). The capital raised will be invested primarily in the expansion of the team and the development of further markets.

Founded in 2018, the start-up offers companies a platform that connects and informs employees across all levels in a legally compliant manner.

That last part is important. The application is based on a GDPR-compliant data and employee protection concept, which was validated jointly with experts and works councils of several DAX companies. It also integrates with many existing corporate IT infrastructures.

The startup has now secured customers including Porsche, Bauhaus, Edeka, Junge IG Metall and Wüstenrot & Württembergische. Parts of the Sparkasse and Volksbank are also among the customer base. It also counts Deutsche Telekom as a partner.

Flip founder and CEO, Benedikt Ilg, said in a statement: “Flip is the easiest solution for internal communication in companies of all sizes.”

Bernhard Janke from LEA Partners said: “As a young company, Flip has been able to attract prestigious clients. The lean solution can be integrated into existing IT systems and existing communication processes, even in large organizations. With the financing round, we want to further expand the team and product and thus support the founders in their vision of making digital workforce engagement accessible to all companies.”

Claude Ritter of Cavalry Ventures said: “We are convinced that Flip is setting new standards in this still young market with its safe, lightweight and extremely powerful product”.

 


0

MoEngage lands $25M for its mobile-first customer engagement platform

12:30 | 11 February

MoEngage, a San Francisco and Bangalore-based startup that helps firms better understand their customers and improve their engagement, has raised $25 million in a new financing round as it looks to grow its network in Asian markets.

The new financing round, Series C, was led by Eight Roads Ventures . F-Prime Capital, Matrix Partners India, and Ventureast also participated in the round. The six-year-old startup, which is an Alchemist alum, has raised about $40 million to date.

MoEngage offers a product that allows clients to get deeper insight about the way their customers — or users — are engaging with their apps and websites. “We can, for instance, tell at what time a customer is using the app,” said Raviteja Dodda, founder and chief executive of MoEngage, in an interview with TechCrunch.

These insights, all displayed on one dashboard, could be very useful for firms to retain their existing customers or find optimized ways to attempt to sell more to them.

“Based on your understanding about the customer, you can send them personalized notifications. Say you’re using a ride-hailing app. The firm would now know how often you use their app and at what time you tend to avail their service. Based on these learnings, they can offer you deals or reminders that could help them improve their conversion rate,” he said.

MoEngage today works with a number of major firms in North America, Europe, and Asia. Some of its clients include Deutsche Telekom, CIMB Bank, Travelodge, Samsung, McAfee, Vodafone, retail chain Future Retail, ride-hailing service Ola, budget-hotel operator OYO, grocery delivery startup Bigbasket, and music streaming service Gaana.

In total, Dodda said his startup has amassed “hundreds of clients” in over 35 countries and is serving more than 400 million active users for them each day.

“MoEngage, with its differentiated offering, scalable platform and a customer-first approach, will play an important role in enabling us to deliver contextual and relevant communications to our customers and drive higher customer lifetime value,” said Arun Srinivas, chief operating officer at Indian ride-hailing startup Ola, in a statement.

MoEngage, which competes with a handful of startups including India-based Clevertap, will infuse the fresh capital to find more customers in Asia, and scale its product operations in the U.S. and Europe, said Dodda.

“What differentiates MoEngage from other engagement platforms is the combination of their ever-evolving AI-enabled customer journey capabilities, industry-best channel reachability and top-notch customer support. We are thrilled to partner with Raviteja and his team as they look to expand globally,” said Shweta Bhatia, Partner at Eight Roads Ventures.

 


0

HTC’s new CEO discusses the phonemaker’s future

01:00 | 5 October

On September 17, HTC announced that cofounder Cher Wang would be stepping down as CEO. In her place, Yves Maitre stepped into the role of Chief Executive, after more than a decade at French telecom giant, Orange.

It’s a tough job at an even tougher time. The move comes on the tail of five consecutive quarterly losses and major layoffs, including a quarter of the company’s staff, which were let go in July of last year.

It’s a far fall for a company that comprised roughly 11 percent of global smartphone sales, some eight years ago. These days, HTC is routinely relegated to the “other” column when these figures are published.

All of this is not to say that the company doesn’t have some interesting irons in the fire. With Vive, HTC has demonstrated its ability to offer a cutting edge VR platform, while Exodus has tapped into an interest in exploring the use of blockchain technologies for mobile devices.

Of course, neither of these examples show any sign of displacing HTC’s once-booming mobile device sales. And this January’s $1.1 billion sale of a significant portion of its hardware division to Google has left many wondering whether it has much gas left in the mobile tank.

With Wang initially scheduled to appear on stage at Disrupt this week, the company ultimately opted to have Maitre sit in on the panel instead. In preparation for the conversation, we sat down with the executive to discuss his new role and future of the struggling Taiwanese hardware company.

5G, XR and the future of the HTC brand


0

Jobpal pockets $2.7M for its enterprise recruitment chatbot

09:00 | 1 October

Berlin-based recruitment chatbot startup Jobpal has closed a €2.5 million (~$2.7M) seed round of funding from InReach Ventures and Acadian Ventures.

The company, which was founded back in 2016, has built a cross-platform chatbot to automate candidate support and increase efficiency around hiring by applying machine learning and natural language processing for what it dubs “talent interaction”.

The target customers are large enterprises with Jobpal offering the product as a managed service.

For these employers the pitch is increased efficiency by being able to rapidly respond to and engage potential job applicants whenever they’re reaching out for more info via an always-on channel (i.e. the chatbot) which is primed to respond to common questions.

Candidates can also apply for vacancies via the Jobpal chatbot by answering a series of questions in the familiar messaging thread format. Jobpal says its chatbot can also be used to screen applicants’ CVs and recommend the most promising candidates.

It takes care of the logistical legwork of scheduling interview appointments — leaving HR departments with more time to spend on more meaningful portions of the recruitment process.

Co-founder and CEO Luc Dudler tells TechCrunch it has more than 30 enterprise clients at this stage, generating “thousands of conversations” per day. Customers he name checks include the likes of Airbus, Deutsche Telekom and McDonald’s.

The software works on popular messaging platforms including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and SMS, and is available in 15+ languages — though Jobpal confirms the German market remains its largest so far.

“The sheer volume of interest and number of questions enterprises receive from prospective talent is often difficult to deal with, which results in a suboptimal experience and frustrated candidates. Conversational interfaces and Natural Language Processing enable us to deliver a candidate-centric experience and increase the efficiency of the recruiting function,” says Dudler, arguing that the recruitment landscape has become “candidate first” — putting the onus on enterprises to get the “candidate experience” right.

“This technology allows employers to engage with candidates when they want and on the platforms they use, such as WhatsApp. This gives control to the candidates, meaning they can get answers in a matter of seconds, instead of days or weeks. For Internal HR teams, they can spend time more time finding the best talent, as jobpal automates tedious and time-consuming tasks, allowing recruitment teams to focus on more value-add tasks.”

“We focus mainly on communication and engagement, and our customers only do in-house recruitment. We don’t work with agencies,” he adds.

Jobpal points to increased engagement from use of its chatbot — claiming companies are seeing more queries from jobseekers than they used to receive emails, as well as arguing the “low-friction” approach is accessible and convenient and leads to increased conversion rates.

With any automated process there could be a risk of biased and unequitable outcomes — depending on the criteria the chatbot is using to sift candidates. Although Jobpal says it’s not using algorithms to take recruitment decisions, so the biggest bias risk looks to be in the hands of the employers setting the criteria.

Misinterpretation of candidates’ queries based on the technology failing to understand what’s being asked could potentially lead to responses that disproportionately disadvantage certain applicants. Though Jobpal says queries that are too complex are routed to a human to deal with.

“We get a lot of queries about the application process/deadline/evaluation, qualifications needed, supporting documents, working hours, growth options and salary that Jobpal is designed to deal with,” says Dudler, of Jobpal candidate users. “Our chatbots don’t answer questions that are too personal, too obscure or anything non-recruitment related such as customer service queries.”

“Jobpal stores the query data but it’s de-associated from the candidate data. This data is used to train AI models which supports general communication as well as company-specific chatbots. We don’t mine or sell candidate profiles, and we don’t do algorithmic decision making in the recruitment process,” he adds.

The software integrates with a number of enterprise Human Capital Management suites at this point, including SAP SuccessFactors, Workday, Oracle (formerly Taleo), Avature and Smartrecruiters.

The seed round follows what Dudler couches as “a huge increase in demand” — with the team spying an opportunity for further growth.

“We’ll be investing in product development and tripling our headcount in the next 12 months. Specifically, we are looking to recruit a VP of marketing,” he tells us.

Chatbots still strike many consumers as robotic — and even irritating — but the technology has nonetheless been flourishing in the customer support and recruitment space for several years now. Business areas where there’s no shortage of repetitive tasks for automating. And where being able to offer some level of service 24/7 is a major plus.

On the hiring front, the power imbalance between employer and job applicant might even make interfacing with a bot more appealing for a candidate than the pressure of talking to an actual human who already works at the target employer.

For certain types of jobs employee churn can also be incredibly high — making hiring essentially a neverending task. Again, chatbots are a natural fit in such a scenario; being scalable, they take the strain out of repeat and formulaic conversations — with the promise of a smooth pipeline of candidate conversions.

Given all that there’s now no shortage of recruitment chatbots touting automated support for HR departments. At the same time there’s unlikely to ever be a one-size fits all approach to the hiring problem. It’s a multifaceted, multi-dimensional challenge on account of the spectrum of work that exists and jobs to be filled, and indeed the human variety of jobseekers.

This is why there are so many different ‘flavors’ and ‘styles’ of chatbots offering to assist, some with algorithmic matching, and/or targeting different types of employers and/or jobs/industry (or indeed jobseekers; passive vs active) — others just super basic tools (such as the Jobo bot which alerts jobseekers to vacancies matching criteria they’ve specified).

Some more sophisticated chatbot examples include MeetFrank (passive job matching); Mya (for recruiting agencies and massive enterprises, including for shift filling); Vahan (low skilled, blue-collar job-matching for high attrition delivery jobs); and AllyO (conversational AI for “end-to-end HR management”).

While a few recruitment chatbots that are closer to what Jobpal is offering include the likes of IdealBrazen and Xor, to name three.

With so much chatbot competition pledging to ‘streamline recruitment’ by applying automation to the hiring task, employers might be forgiven for thinking they have a fresh choice headache on their hands.

But for startups applying AI technology to ‘fix recruitment’ by making talk cheap (and structured), the patchwork of players and approaches still in play suggests there’s ongoing opportunity to grab a slice of a truly massive market. 

 


0

Huawei says it shipped 59M smartphones in Q1 as revenue jumped 39% to $27B

12:42 | 22 April

Fresh from an $8.8 billion profit last year, much-maligned Chinese tech giant Huawei is touting yet more growth. The firm said today that revenue in the first quarter of 2019 grew 39 percent year-on-year to reach $26.78 billion, or 179.7 billion CNY.

The company claims it is owned by its employees — although a recent academic paper challenged that. While it isn’t listed publicly, it declares quarterly and yearly business figures, the latter of which is audited by KPMG.

For Q1, Huawei didn’t reveal a net profit but it said that its net profit margin was eight percent which is “slightly higher” than the same time in the previous year. During the quarter, Huawei said it shipped 59 million smartphones while it added that, as of the end of March, it had signed 40 commercial 5G contracts and shipped over 70,000 base stations to support 5G networks worldwide.

That’s about all it is saying about its top end figures. You can refer back to those 2018 numbers to get an idea of where the company is headed, in short: further into the consumer device space.

Huawei’s annual revenue increased by 19.5 percent year-on-year to 721 billion CNY, or $107.4 billion, in 2018 as smartphones and other devices became its largest source of income.

Huawei said revenue from the consumer business rose by 45 percent to reach 349 billion CNY ($52 billion), while sales from its carrier business dropped 1.3 percent to 294 billion CNY, or $43.8 billion. Enterprise services accounted for the remaining 74.4 billion CNY.

Huawei’s end of year financials show its consumer devices business is now its main money-maker

That consumer push isn’t a huge surprise given the hostility to Huawei’s traditional networking and carrier business from the U.S. and other Western governments.

Still, the Chinese company has fought back against a ban on its equipment in the U.S. through a lawsuit arguing that federal agencies and contractors have violated due process and acted in a way that is unconstitutional. Still, the U.S. concern around national security has been fortified by a recent U.K. government report claimed there are “significant technical issues” around adopting its telecom network kit.

The report, prepared for the National Security Advisor of the U.K. by the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) Oversight Board, said it has “not yet seen anything to give it confidence in Huawei’s capacity to successfully complete the elements of its transformation programme that it has proposed as a means of addressing these underlying defects.”

 


0

T-Mobile officially unveils its home TV service, TVision Home

18:56 | 10 April

T-Mobile today officially unveiled its forthcoming home TV service, which will now be known as TVision Home. The service is the rebranding of Layer3 TV, a company T-Mobile acquired in 2017 to launch what it said would be a “disruptive new TV service” the following year. That launch, of course, had been delayed. Now it has an arrival date: April 14th, 2019.

According to T-Mobile’s new TVision Home website, the service will first be available in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, L.A., NYC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington D.C. metro, and Longmont, CO – areas Layer3 had been serving.

The service starts at $100 per month for over 150 channels, minus a $9.99/month discount for T-Mobile customers which will initially be offered to everyone. The channel lineup includes local broadcast stations, regional sports, and other traditional pay TV channels.

The TVision website says the full service has over 275 total channels available.

In addition, TVision Home includes a 400-hour HD DVR (with support for recording multiple programs simultaneously), voice control via either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, access to Nest security cameras,  a range of 4K content, and over 35,000 on-demand movies and shows.

Users will be able to set up profiles, personalize their home screen, and access their own DVR recordings separate from other household members.

Social media content will also be available through the TV, including your Facebook photos and videos and your Twitter feed.

The service itself also includes streaming apps like Pandora, iHeartRadio, XUMO, CuriosityStream, Toon Goggles, and HSN, with plans to add Netflix, YouTube, YouTube Kids, and Amazon Prime Video.

Unlike cable TV which requires running wires in other rooms of the house, TVision will instead offer “Lite Boxes” that connect to the main set-top box over Wi-Fi for $10/month each.

 

What’s missing, however, is the promised “disruption.”

Even T-Mobile’s own press release says the average cable bill today is $107.30 per month. With a service that starts at $90 per month and then charges for additional TVs and premium channels on top of that, it’s not doing much better – even if it removes the hidden fees like activation or early termination fees. (T-Mobile will also help pay off your satellite TV contract up to $500 if you want to switch over without dealing termination fees.)

However, T-Mobile does promise that its prices won’t increase over time – which is something even the modern-day internet TV providers like Sling TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, and others can’t say, as they’ve all rolled out prices increases in the past year.

But those internet TV services still offer a better deal beyond lower prices – they also let you watch through their app wherever you are, not just inside the home. T-Mobile’s service, meanwhile, will include a companion app for iOS and Android for in-home streaming only. When traveling, you’ll have to use the various channels’ standalone apps to access TV content, after authentication.

That means it’s more like a traditional pay TV provider, as users will be directed to apps – like ABC, HBO Go, NBC, ESPN, Starz, or HGTV, for example – when they want to watch TV on the go.

TVision Home today works over a broadband connection, but is designed for the soon-to-come 5G future where TV can be delivered over a wireless service – like, say, the one offered by the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint.

The company touts the promise of the merger, if approved, saying the combined entity would have the power to bring high-speed broadband via 5G to over half of U.S. households by 2024.

“TVision Home is about so much more than home TV… it’s TV built for the 5G era,” said Mike Sievert, COO and President of T-Mobile, in a statement. “With New T-Mobile, we’ll bring real choice, competition, better service, lower prices and faster speeds…right into your living room. And – speaking of speed – while the Cableopoly innovates at the pace of the cable companies, we’ll innovate at the pace of the internet to give customers more value and more freedom more quickly.”

 

 

 


0

5G phones are here but there’s no rush to upgrade

21:00 | 2 March

This year’s Mobile World Congress — the CES for Android device makers — was awash with 5G handsets.

The world’s No.1 smartphone seller by marketshare, Samsung, got out ahead with a standalone launch event in San Francisco, showing off two 5G devices, just before fast-following Android rivals popped out their own 5G phones at launch events across Barcelona this week.

We’ve rounded up all these 5G handset launches here. Prices range from an eye-popping $2,600 for Huawei’s foldable phabet-to-tablet Mate X — and an equally eye-watering $1,980 for Samsung’s Galaxy Fold; another 5G handset that bends — to a rather more reasonable $680 for Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 3 5G, albeit the device is otherwise mid-tier. Other prices for 5G phones announced this week remain tbc.

Android OEMs are clearly hoping the hype around next-gen mobile networks can work a little marketing magic and kick-start stalled smartphone growth. Especially with reports suggesting Apple won’t launch a 5G iPhone until at least next year. So 5G is a space Android OEMs alone get to own for a while.

Chipmaker Qualcomm, which is embroiled in a bitter patent battle with Apple, was also on stage in Barcelona to support Xiaomi’s 5G phone launch — loudly claiming the next-gen tech is coming fast and will enhance “everything”.

“We like to work with companies like Xiaomi to take risks,” lavished Qualcomm’s president Cristiano Amon upon his hosts, using 5G uptake to jibe at Apple by implication. “When we look at the opportunity ahead of us for 5G we see an opportunity to create winners.”

Despite the heavy hype, Xiaomi’s on stage demo — which it claimed was the first live 5G video call outside China — seemed oddly staged and was not exactly lacking in latency.

“Real 5G — not fake 5G!” finished Donovan Sung, the Chinese OEM’s director of product management. As a 5G sales pitch it was all very underwhelming. Much more ‘so what’ than ‘must have’.

Whether 5G marketing hype alone will convince consumers it’s past time to upgrade seems highly unlikely.

Phones sell on features rather than connectivity per se, and — whatever Qualcomm claims — 5G is being soft-launched into the market by cash-constrained carriers whose boom times lie behind them, i.e. before over-the-top players had gobbled their messaging revenues and monopolized consumer eyeballs.

All of which makes 5G an incremental consumer upgrade proposition in the near to medium term.

Use-cases for the next-gen network tech, which is touted as able to support speeds up to 100x faster than LTE and deliver latency of just a few milliseconds (as well as connecting many more devices per cell site), are also still being formulated, let alone apps and services created to leverage 5G.

But selling a network upgrade to consumers by claiming the killer apps are going to be amazing but you just can’t show them any yet is as tough as trying to make theatre out of a marginally less janky video call.

“5G could potentially help [spark smartphone growth] in a couple of years as price points lower, and availability expands, but even that might not see growth rates similar to the transition to 3G and 4G,” suggests Carolina Milanesi, principal analyst at Creative Strategies, writing in a blog post discussing Samsung’s strategy with its latest device launches.

“This is not because 5G is not important, but because it is incremental when it comes to phones and it will be other devices that will deliver on experiences, we did not even think were possible. Consumers might end up, therefore, sharing their budget more than they did during the rise of smartphones.”

The ‘problem’ for 5G — if we can call it that — is that 4G/LTE networks are capably delivering all the stuff consumers love right now: Games, apps and video. Which means that for the vast majority of consumers there’s simply no reason to rush to shell out for a ‘5G-ready’ handset. Not if 5G is all the innovation it’s got going for it.

LG V50 ThinQ 5G with a dual screen accessory for gaming

Use cases such as better AR/VR are also a tough sell given how weak consumer demand has generally been on those fronts (with the odd branded exception).

The barebones reality is that commercial 5G networks are as rare as hen’s teeth right now, outside a few limited geographical locations in the U.S. and Asia. And 5G will remain a very patchy patchwork for the foreseeable future.

Indeed, it may take a very long time indeed to achieve nationwide coverage in many countries, if 5G even ends up stretching right to all those edges. (Alternative technologies do also exist which could help fill in gaps where the ROI just isn’t there for 5G.)

So again consumers buying phones with the puffed up idea of being able to tap into 5G right here, right now (Qualcomm claimed 2019 is going to be “the year of 5G!”) will find themselves limited to just a handful of urban locations around the world.

Analysts are clear that 5G rollouts, while coming, are going to be measured and targeted as carriers approach what’s touted as a multi-industry-transforming wireless technology cautiously, with an eye on their capex and while simultaneously trying to figure out how best to restructure their businesses to engage with all the partners they’ll need to forge business relations with, across industries, in order to successfully sell 5G’s transformative potential to all sorts of enterprises — and lock onto “the sweep spot where 5G makes sense”.

Enterprise rollouts therefore look likely to be prioritized over consumer 5G — as was the case for 5G launches in South Korea at the back end of last year.

“4G was a lot more driven by the consumer side and there was an understanding that you were going for national coverage that was never really a question and you were delivering on the data promise that 3G never really delivered… so there was a gap of technology that needed to be filled. With 5G it’s much less clear,” says Gartner’s Sylvain Fabre, discussing the tech’s hype and the reality with TechCrunch ahead of MWC.

“4G’s very good, you have multiple networks that are Gbps or more and that’s continuing to increase on the downlink with multiple carrier aggregation… and other densification schemes. So 5G doesn’t… have as gap as big to fill. It’s great but again it’s applicability of where it’s uniquely positioned is kind of like a very narrow niche at the moment.”

“It’s such a step change that the real power of 5G is actually in creating new business models using network slicing — allocation of particular aspects of the network to a particular use-case,” Forrester analyst Dan Bieler also tells us. “All of this requires some rethinking of what connectivity means for an enterprise customer or for the consumer.

“And telco sales people, the telco go-to-market approach is not based on selling use-cases, mostly — it’s selling technologies. So this is a significant shift for the average telco distribution channel to go through. And I would believe this will hold back a lot of the 5G ambitions for the medium term.”

To be clear, carriers are now actively kicking the tyres of 5G, after years of lead-in hype, and grappling with technical challenges around how best to upgrade their existing networks to add in and build out 5G.

Many are running pilots and testing what works and what doesn’t, such as where to place antennas to get the most reliable signal and so on. And a few have put a toe in the water with commercial launches (globally there are 23 networks with “some form of live 5G in their commercial networks” at this point, according to Fabre.)

But at the same time 5G network standards are yet to be fully finalized so the core technology is not 100% fully baked. And with it being early days “there’s still a long way to go before we have a real significant impact of 5G type of services”, as Bieler puts it. 

There’s also spectrum availability to factor in and the cost of acquiring the necessary spectrum. As well as the time required to clear and prepare it for commercial use. (On spectrum, government policy is critical to making things happen quickly (or not). So that’s yet another factor moderating how quickly 5G networks can be built out.)

And despite some wishful thinking industry noises at MWC this week — calling for governments to ‘support digitization at scale’ by handing out spectrum for free (uhhhh, yeah right) — that’s really just whistling into the wind.

Rolling out 5G networks is undoubtedly going to be very expensive, at a time when carriers’ businesses are already faced with rising costs (from increasing data consumption) and subdued revenue growth forecasts.

“The world now works on data” and telcos are “at core of this change”, as one carrier CEO — Singtel’s Chua Sock Koong — put it in an MWC keynote in which she delved into the opportunities and challenges for operators “as we go from traditional connectivity to a new age of intelligent connectivity”.

Chua argued it will be difficult for carriers to compete “on the basis of connectivity alone” — suggesting operators will have to pivot their businesses to build out standalone business offerings selling all sorts of b2b services to support the digital transformations of other industries as part of the 5G promise — and that’s clearly going to suck up a lot of their time and mind for the foreseeable future.

In Europe alone estimates for the cost of rolling out 5G range between €300BN and €500BN (~$340BN-$570BN), according to Bieler. Figures that underline why 5G is going to grow slowly, and networks be built out thoughtfully; in the b2b space this means essentially on a case-by-case basis.

Simply put carriers must make the economics stack up. Which means no “huge enormous gambles with 5G”. And omnipresent ROI pressure pushing them to try to eke out a premium.

“A lot of the network equipment vendors have turned down the hype quite a bit,” Bieler continues. “If you compare this to the hype around 3G many years ago or 4G a couple of years ago 5G definitely comes across as a soft launch. Sort of an evolutionary type of technology. I have not come across a network equipment vendors these days who will say there will be a complete change in everything by 2020.”

On the consumer pricing front, carriers have also only just started to grapple with 5G business models. One early example is TC parent Verizon’s 5G home service — which positions the next-gen wireless tech as an alternative to fixed line broadband with discounts if you opt for a wireless smartphone data plan as well as 5G broadband.

From the consumer point of view, the carrier 5G business model conundrum boils down to: What is my carrier going to charge me for 5G? And early adopters of any technology tend to get stung on that front.

Although, in mobile, price premiums rarely stick around for long as carriers inexorably find they must ditch premiums to unlock scale — via consumer-friendly ‘all you can eat’ price plans.

Still, in the short term, carriers look likely to experiment with 5G pricing and bundles — basically seeing what they can make early adopters pay. But it’s still far from clear that people will pay a premium for better connectivity alone. And that again necessitates caution. 

5G bundled with exclusive content might be one way carriers try to extract a premium from consumers. But without huge and/or compelling branded content inventory that risks being a too niche proposition too. And the more carriers split their 5G offers the more consumers might feel they don’t need to bother, and end up sticking with 4G for longer.

It’ll also clearly take time for a 5G ‘killer app’ to emerge in the consumer space. And such an app would likely need to still be able to fallback on 4G, again to ensure scale. So the 5G experience will really need to be compellingly different in order for the tech to sell itself.

On the handset side, 5G chipset hardware is also still in its first wave. At MWC this week Qualcomm announced a next-gen 5G modem, stepping up from last year’s Snapdragon 855 chipset — which it heavily touted as architected for 5G (though it doesn’t natively support 5G).

If you’re intending to buy and hold on to a 5G handset for a few years there’s thus a risk of early adopter burn at the chipset level — i.e. if you end up with a device with a suckier battery life vs later iterations of 5G hardware where more performance kinks have been ironed out.

Intel has warned its 5G modems won’t be in phones until next year — so, again, that suggests no 5G iPhones before 2020. And Apple is of course a great bellwether for mainstream consumer tech; the company only jumps in when it believes a technology is ready for prime time, rarely sooner. And if Cupertino feels 5G can wait, that’s going to be equally true for most consumers.

Zooming out, the specter of network security (and potential regulation) now looms very large indeed where 5G is concerned, thanks to East-West trade tensions injecting a strange new world of geopolitical uncertainty into an industry that’s never really had to grapple with this kind of business risk before.

Chinese kit maker Huawei’s rotating chairman, Guo Ping, used the opportunity of an MWC keynote to defend the company and its 5G solutions against U.S. claims its network tech could be repurposed by the Chinese state as a high tech conduit to spy on the West — literally telling delegates: “We don’t do bad things” and appealing to them to plainly to: “Please choose Huawei!”

Huawei rotating resident, Guo Ping, defends the security of its network kit on stage at MWC 2019

When established technology vendors are having to use a high profile industry conference to plead for trust it’s strange and uncertain times indeed.

In Europe it’s possible carriers’ 5G network kit choices could soon be regulated as a result of security concerns attached to Chinese suppliers. The European Commission suggested as much this week, saying in another MWC keynote that it’s preparing to step in try to prevent security concerns at the EU Member State level from fragmenting 5G rollouts across the bloc.

In an on stage Q&A Orange’s chairman and CEO, Stéphane Richard, couched the risk of destabilization of the 5G global supply chain as a “big concern”, adding: “It’s the first time we have such an important risk in our industry.”

Geopolitical security is thus another issue carriers are having to factor in as they make decisions about how quickly to make the leap to 5G. And holding off on upgrades, while regulators and other standards bodies try to figure out a trusted way forward, might seem the more sensible thing to do — potentially stalling 5G upgrades in the meanwhile.

Given all the uncertainties there’s certainly no reason for consumers to rush in.

Smartphone upgrade cycles have slowed globally for a reason. Mobile hardware is mature because it’s serving consumers very well. Handsets are both powerful and capable enough to last for years.

And while there’s no doubt 5G will change things radically in future, including for consumers — enabling many more devices to be connected and feeding back data, with the potential to deliver on the (much hyped but also still pretty nascent) ‘smart home’ concept — the early 5G sales pitch for consumers essentially boils down to more of the same.

“Over the next ten years 4G will phase out. The question is how fast that happens in the meantime and again I think that will happen slower than in early times because [with 5G] you don’t come into a vacuum, you don’t fill a big gap,” suggests Gartner’s Fabre. “4G’s great, it’s getting better, wi’fi’s getting better… The story of let’s build a big national network to do 5G at scale [for all] that’s just not happening.”

“I think we’ll start very, very simple,” he adds of the 5G consumer proposition. “Things like caching data or simply doing more broadband faster. So more of the same.

“It’ll be great though. But you’ll still be watching Netflix and maybe there’ll be a couple of apps that come up… Maybe some more interactive collaboration or what have you. But we know these things are being used today by enterprises and consumers and they’ll continue to be used.”

So — in sum — the 5G mantra for the sensible consumer is really ‘wait and see’.

 


0

Verizon and T-Mobile call out AT&T over fake 5G labels

18:56 | 8 January

AT&T recently started a shady marketing tactic that labeled its 4G network as a 5G network. Now, rivals Verizon and T-Mobile are not having any of it.

In an open letter, in which AT&T is not named directly, Verizon says in part “the potential to over-hype and under-deliver on the 5G promise is a temptation that the wireless industry must resist.” TechCrunch agrees. The advantages of 5G networks are profound. The next generation of wireless networks will bring more than just increased speeds and AT&T’s current campaign of calling a 4G network a 5G network clouds the water.

T-Mobile is more direct in its criticism of AT&T. Because that’s how T-Mobile rolls. Watch.

didn’t realize it was this easy, brb updating pic.twitter.com/dCmnd6lspH

— T-Mobile (@TMobile)

This isn’t the first time AT&T has employed this mislabeling campaign. The wireless carrier did something similar prior to launching its LTE network and it was shady then and it’s shady now.

Disclosure: TechCrunch is a Verizon Media company.

 


0

Europe’s most popular ride-hailing service is launching e-scooters

01:39 | 30 October

Mytaxi, the Daimler-owned Uber competitor, announced today it would launch an electric scooter pilot in Southern Europe later this year, with a full international roll-out planned for 2019.

Daimler initially took a 15 percent stake in Hamburg-based mytaxi in 2012, adding the company to its portfolio of ridesharing businesses that also includes Chauffeur PrivéCareem, Flinc, car2go and Hailo, which merged with mytaxi in 2016.

The company has yet to unveil its scooters’ brand name, but says it will use the Segway ES4 Sharing Scooter.

“The E-scooter market is highly dynamic and the interest from users is booming in a lot of international cities,” mytaxi chief executive officer Eckart Diepenhorst said in a statement. “We see a significant growth potential for mytaxi here and a perfect complement to our existing taxi business as E-scooters are mostly used for short tours of around one to two kilometers. Although ride lengths strongly vary between taxi and scooter business, we think about potential combinations of both areas.”

Mytaxi was founded in 2009 and says it has since transported 10 million passengers via 100,000 registered drivers. Before Daimler acquired the remaining stake in the startup in 2014, mytaxi had raised some $13 million from Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners, T-Venture, Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners, car2go and others.

Lime and Bird, a pair of well-funded e-scooter startups, have emerged as the front-runners of the already over-crowded e-scooter market. Still, it seems all ride-hailing and bike-sharing businesses are going to try their hand at scooters.

Taxify, another European Uber competitor, is one of the most recent companies to announce plans to release scooters in Europe.

 


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