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NBN rival Fiber Corp to offer alternative CVC model

December 6, 2016

Newly launched NBN fibre competitor Fiber Corp will introduce a flexible wholesale pricing model when it ramps up its offerings in April next year. As well as aligning with NBN’s access/connectivity virtual circuit pricing model, it will offer its own AVC/CVC bundle that is designed to allow smaller RSPs to compete with larger carriers.

As exclusively reported in CommsDay, Fiber Corp has emerged as an alternative GPON fibre provider with ambitious plans to offer wholesale services it says will be significantly faster than the NBN. The company is backed by veteran food industry businessman and horse racing identity Nicholas Moraitis, who among other achievements owned Melbourne Cup winner Might and Power.

Fiber Corp CIO Joel Clarke told CommsDay that the company’s own AVC/CVC bundle would provide CVC capacity at a fixed cost per service depending on the desired amount of traffic class. It would also allow RSPs to connect to just one point of interconnect rather than many if they wished.

As a result, Clarke explained that a small ISP could order just one service for a fixed cost and still sell it at a profitable margin to compete with larger providers. And by also offering the NBN model, it would allow for future interconnect consistency across superfast wholesale access providers.

“The hybrid approach also allows for a growing ISP to move between the fixed costs of CVC per service to the current contention CVC model if this becomes more attractive at a point of critical subscriber mass,” Clarke said.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT MOVES: Fiber Corp MD Sam Scoutas said that the company has also started attracting interest from RSPs wanting to offer services as well as local councils looking to fast-track their broadband plans in the absence of NBN in their areas.

Fiber Corp is on the cusp of announcing a major retail carrier partnership on a na- tional basis, but it is in the area of local government services where Scoutas suggests a new potential market exists.

“Some councils are very forward thinking and are looking to drive investment. So we’re seeing a lot of demand for services beyond residential broadband and into connecting things such as security monitoring networks, traffic lights and doing things re- lated to smart cities. It can actually save ratepayers in the long term,” Scoutas said.

“The Internet of Things is an important technology for us going forward at it’s about being able to connect all of these different infrastructures and existing technologies,” he added. He said most of the council interest had been along the eastern seaboard of Australia, while its own model will concentrate on more densely populated regions.

Scoutas also batted away concerns that Fiber Corp might fall foul of legislation restricting alternative NBN infrastructure. He said the company was operating on a wholesale-only, open architecture model and would be capable of interconnecting with NBN and other superfast broadband providers from day one.

Fiber Corp will look to provide fibre services from April next year at speeds ranging from 200Mbps up to 10Gbps and has already signed up a significant number of build- ings and sites, according to Scoutas. It has also just inked a deal with US access vendor Calix, which will provide standards-based GPON and NG-PON2 gear for the new venture.

As well as offering fibre-based broadband, the company will look to provide smart home and building automation services to both residential customers and property developers. Its model will offer multiple building networks to be enabled via overlay on its own fiber optic backbone. Its services will include internet, voice, IP intercom, IP CCTV, access control and smart home automation.

Optus still negotiating for place on whole of gov’t telco panel

Telstra, Macquarie Telecom, Nextgen Networks, TPG, Verizon Australia and Sliced Tech have emerged as the first six successful tenderers on the Commonwealth’s whole- of-government telecoms services panel. Meanwhile, Optus is still in negotiations for a place on the panel.

First announced back in March this year by the federal Department of Finance, the new telco panel includes managed WAN, transport data links and internet connection services. It replaces three previously existing panels: the Internet-Based Network Con- nection Services panel, Telecommunications Management panel and Telecommunica- tions Invoice Reconciliation Services panel. The Department released its request for tender in May.

“Finance has entered into head agreements with an initial tranche of six successful tenderers. The head agreements are in place until 30 November 2020, with options to extend for up to three periods of up to 12 months each,” commented first assistant sec- retary for technology and procurement John Sheridan. “It is mandatory for non- corporate Commonwealth entities to procure managed WAN Services (terrestrial), transport data link services (terrestrial) and internet connection services from the pan- el. It is also optional for non-corporate Commonwealth entities to source Managed WAN Services (satellite) and transport data link services (satellite) through Finance, using the panel. Corporate Commonwealth entities and other government bodies can also use the panel arrangement if they choose to.”

“Finance has managed the execution of head agreements in tranches. Future panel- list announcements and information about the TSP will be released over coming weeks as appropriate.”

While Optus is conspicuously absent from the initial list, a spokesman told CommsDay that “Optus remains in negotiation with government regarding inclusion on the telecommunications services panel.”

Superloop tests first backbone net in Hong Kong, starts domestic submarine cable build

Pan-Asian fibre player Superloop has announced a brace of key milestones in Hong Kong: the installation and testing of its first 110km backbone fibre cable network in the region, and the start of construction of its TKO Express domestic submarine cable.

The first 110km backbone has 1,000 cores of fibre; installation and testing of the sec- ond ring cable, with another 1,000 cores, is currently 96% complete and on track for delivery in early 2017. A formal launch of the Superloop Hong Kong network is set for next Tuesday.

“The achievement of this milestone is an exciting step as Superloop prepares to launch its newest network in Asia Pacific,” said Superloop CEO Bevan Slattery. “The Hong Kong network, when combined with the existing Singapore and Australian net- works, uniquely positions Superloop as the only provider with significant metropolitan fibre infrastructure across these three major markets.”

Meanwhile, Superloop has cleared a site at Chai Wan for the drilling works needed to build the dedicating ducting that will be used to bring the TKO cable ashore. The 1,728 core double-armoured fibre cable itself has already been manufactured, and is on its way from Australia to Hong Kong. The TKO Express system is, again, expected to be complete early next year.

How Ericsson’s 5G mining initiative could be brought to bear in Australia

Ericsson master researcher and project manager Peter de Bruin has travelled to Austral- ia to address local mining sector representatives around the possibilities of 5G, drawing on the firm’s Pilot for Industrial Mobile Communications project with Swedish miner Boliden and Volvo, part of the 5G for Sweden initiative. And Gavin Yates – an independent consultant with 35 years’ experience in the mining industry. including as a SVP at BHP looking after technology – says Australia could draw on the Swedish example in deploying 5G in its own mines.

The basic advantages in deploying wireless networking in mines are improved safety and productivity – particularly through either automated or remotely controlled machinery and equipment, but also from enabling the use of regular handsets in mining environments both for workers and emergency personnel in the event of an accident. Of course, LTE can already facilitate many of these applications, but de Bruin told CommsDay that 5G would enhance them considerably.

“5G is faster and better in everything; it’s also about running many different services to different users, and protecting prioritised services at the same time you’re not starving out less prioritised services; everything has to work as one consistent view,” he said, noting that this concept of maintaining different levels of service for different applications on the same network corresponded with what Ericsson refers to as ‘network slicing’ in its 5G work.

“You can do a lot of that today with LTE… but there are some use cases where you need even lower latency than you have today,” he continued. “We’re looking at 1ms latency for some… in mining, we have examples where very low latency is [important] – for remote control, etc.” “And 5G would bring more capacity – [enabling] more machines simultaneously un- der remote control.”

One collaboration in the Swedish context involved not only Volvo as large equipment supplier and Ericsson as equipment vendor, but also local telco Teliasonera. And while other projects have not involved a carrier directly, de Bruin suggested there would always be a place for telcos in mining deployments. “Some machines will be travelling outside the mines… so you [also] need to have some sort of relation, in any case, with the general operators. You don’t want to build parallel infrastructure along roads, for instance.”

Yates, for his part, said that there would “absolutely” be a place for carriers to fit into a similar ecosystem in Australia. “If you’re a BHP or a Rio Tinto, you can probably manage to construct and operate your own network; but if you’re one of the many mid- tier or smaller mining companies, you’re going to have to rely on the expertise of [telco players],” he said.

And he added that Australia’s mining sector could take some learnings from the Swedish collaborations in general. “The Ericsson 5G stuff is very applicable to many applications in the Australian environment [and] there are some similar collaborations, but we’ve not built quite the ecosystem that Sweden has developed,” he said. “METS Ignited is a government-funded organisation… trying to do exactly this, bring technology companies, researchers, mining companies together… to try and emulate the sort of environment that Sweden’s been able to create.”

Yates suggested that similar projects in Australia would likely be “pulled” by the mining sector itself, with vendors such as Ericsson pushing the technology, and government helping things along. One important factor, however, will be establishing a coodinated ecosystem between the companies involved; both de Bruin and Yates highlighted the importance of creating de facto standards, to leverage the network effect and economies of scale across as large a portion of the sector as possible.

Chorus pushes up entry-level fibre speeds from 30Mbps to 50Mbps

Chorus has announced plans to upgrade all fibre broadband customers on an entry- level 30Mbps plan to 50Mbps at no extra charge. It said it was making the move to celebrate its fifth birthday as a standalone company.

Chorus will work with its broadband retailers to migrate around 85,000 customers as quickly as possible to the new plan speed. It said it expected the migration to be complete early in the New Year, after which the 50Mbps plan will then become Chorus’ entry level fibre plan.

Chorus said it will work with the retailers behind-the-scenes at the network layer to manage the transition. Existing fibre-compatible modems will support the new plan speeds.

Chorus CEO Mark Ratcliffe said that while many customers had seen great changes in broadband performance since the company was formed in 2011, some 400,000 connections could be on better broadband today.

“Five years ago it was hard to predict the impact fibre broadband would have on our connected lives at home and in work. While we knew fibre was set to be a game changer, at the time the entry level 30Mbps plan looked more than ample,” he commented.

“Today, New Zealand has the highest rate of growth in fibre uptake in the world and a voracious appetite for data. The changes brought on by how we now expect to lead our connected lives led Chorus in its decision to reset the baseline of what we should expect from our broadband,” Ratcliffe said.

Next-generation Iridium satellites to launch via SpaceX comeback

Global low-earth orbit satellite operator Iridium Communications has announced December 16 as the launch date for the first of its next-generation satellite constellation. Dubbed Iridium NEXT, the upgrade will eventually comprise 70 new satellites.

The launch is also expected to be the first for launch provider SpaceX following the explosion at its facility in September. The Iridium launch will be from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and deliver 10 of the NEXT satellites into low-earth orbit. The launch is contingent upon the FAA’s approval of SpaceX’s return to flight.

“We’re excited to launch the first batch of our new satellite constellation. We have remained confident in SpaceX’s ability as a launch partner throughout the Falcon 9 investigation,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch. “We are looking forward to the inaugural launch of Iridium NEXT, and what will begin a new chapter in our history.”

Iridium is the largest commercial satellite network of low-earth orbit satellites. The company has partnered with Thales Alenia Space for the manufacturing, assembly and testing of 81 Iridium NEXT satellites, at least 70 of which will be launched by SpaceX.

The service is expected to be commercially available in 2017 and is undergoing testing on Iridium’s existing network. 70 Iridium NEXT satellites are scheduled to be deployed by early 2018.

Global botnet attack spreads to the UK, Australian routers may be vulnerable

The attack that knocked nearly a million German internet users offline for hours has spread to the UK, while security experts say the attacks may expand further to vulnera- ble systems ranging far and wide – including some in Australia.

Following an attack on the routers of Deutsche Telekom subscribers, which failed to compromise the devices and turn them into slaves of a global botnet, the perpetrators have reportedly turned their attention to the UK where at least 110,000 internet users were affected.

According to the Guardian newspaper, subscribers on the networks of TalkTalk, Post Office and KCom were impacted by a similar attack to the one on DT. The attack tried to exploit a vulnerable maintenance port on the end-users’ broadband routers, shutting them down in the process and preventing them from connecting to services.

While all the UK ISPs said they had resolved the issues and got their customers back on line, both security and German government officials have acknowledged the event as a global coordinated attack by unknown perpetrators.

Security firm Flashpoint described the attack as a sophisticated effort that uses a modified version of the Mirai malware, which targets Internet of Things devices, to ex- ploit known vulnerability to gain control of routers. The new malware uses the TR-064 and TR-069 protocols over port 7547 – a remote management feature in modems and routers for consumer services, in its attempt to take over the devices

The scale and resources behind the attack signifies a likely “commercial operation,” Flashpoint noted.

“In this operation, the perpetrators have shown a high degree of skill… Not only were they able to operationalise this exploit… they have quickly modified the Mirai source code to serve this new purpose,” Flashpoint said in a comment on the event.

“Additionally, the command and control infrastructure associated with this opera- tion is significant, encompassing a number of domains and /24 ranges that were pur- chased for this purpose. Infrastructure of this scale is expensive.”

According to Flashpoint, there are millions of devices in the wild that are vulnerable to the attack. In addition to Germany and the UK, vulnerable devices are found in Bra- zil, Turkey, Iran, Chile, Ireland, Thailand, Australia, Argentina and Italy.

“Some estimates put the total number of devices with port 7547 open at around 41 million, and devices that allow non-ISPs access to provisioning networks number up to 5 million,” Flashpoint said. “If even a fraction of these vulnerable devices were compromised they would add considerable power to an existing botnet.”

Nokia goes live with official smartphone site

It’s definitely official: Nokia is back in the smartphone game. The company has quietly launched a website devoted to the launch of upcoming smartphones in 2017.

The company’s smartphone tagline reads: “Inspired by ambition, made for every- one” followed by “Elegant simplicity. Trusted reliability. Lasting quality.” The company ends with “we are busy working on Nokia smartphones running Android” and urges visitors to sign up for news updates.

The website and announcement are somewhat misleading because in reality, it is not Nokia that is developing the phones but HMD Global: a company founded by former Nokia employees that has licensed the Nokia brand and contracted with OEM partners Foxconn, which is actually developing the phones.

While Nokia is obviously throwing its weight and marketing budget behind the brand, it remains unclear which company is actually bringing the new smartphones to market. Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri has said in the past that Nokia intends to be very hands on with its smartphone partner, including tight controls of built quality and design to protect the legacy of the Nokia brand. He did not go as far as to say that the company would become an active seller of smartphones.

Telefonica pegs XGS-PON as key 5G technology

Telefonica said it has successfully tested out Nokia’s next generation fibre access tech- nology, XGS-PON, citing it as a key last mile platform to support future 5G networks.

The carrier was able to achieve symmetrical data speeds of up to 10Gbps in its labs with XGS-PON, a new passive optical networking technology that delivers 4x the up- stream bandwidth of XG-PON1 – which only delivers downlink speeds of 10Gbps and uplink bandwidth of 2.5Gbps.

While both XGS-PON and XG-PON1 support upgrades from Telefonica’s existing GPON infrastructure, the ability to support higher upload speeds makes XGS-PON much more suitable for mobile fronthaul and backhaul applications. As such, the tech- nology is especially suited for 5G, where it can be used for mobile backhaul as well as the aggregation of remote access node traffic. That’s according to Nokia, which has de- ployed XGS-PON equipment to 9 customers worldwide.

In addition to supporting Telefonica’s future 5G network, XGS-PON will also allow the carrier to quickly scale up its fibre broadband infrastructure to deliver full symmetrical high speed services.

“New services, competition and future symmetrical ultra-broadband access require enhanced fixed access technology,” said Telefonica fixed access director Francisco Javier Fabian. “We are sure that XGS-PON is the correct choice to fulfil demands for gigabit bandwidth and will support the higher symmetric bandwidth required to support 5G backhaul in the future.”

Emerson Network Power sold, rebrands as Vertiv with new CEO

Emerson Network Power has changed its name to Vertiv following the sale of the com- pany to investment firm Platinum Equity in a deal valued at US$4 billion. At the same time, the firm has named industry veteran Rob Johnson as its new CEO.

Vertiv will continue the firm’s former portfolio on “mission critical infrastructure technologies” for datacentres, communications networks and commercial and industri- al environments. As an independent company, the firm will focus on speed, technology innovation and growth, including expanding opportunities in cloud computing and mobile networking.

Johnson is no stranger to the industry, having founded uninterruptible power supply solutions provider Systems Enhancement Corp in the late 80s. He also served as CEO of datacentre infrastructure firm APC, a key Emerson Network Power competitor in the segment, when it was purchased by Schneider Electric for US$6.1 billion in 2007.

“It’s a fresh start for a business that already has so much going for it. I look forward to working with my new colleagues at Vertiv as we begin this transformational chapter in the company’s history,” Johnson said. “As an independent company, Vertiv will operate with great freedom to make business strategy and investment decisions, move more quickly like a startup, and focus on innovative solutions for our customers, including those in the growing cloud computing, mobile and IoT networks.”

WIPRO WINS THREE-YEAR MANAGED SERVICES DEAL WITH WOODSIDE

Global technology provider Wipro has won a three-year managed services and infra- structure deal with Australian oil and gas company Woodside. The Bangalore- headquartered Wipro will focus the services on sites in Perth and Karratha in Western Australia. Leveraging its ServiceNXT platform, the engagement includes delivering in- frastructure services to offshore maritime facilities and potential exploration sites. Wipro will also support Woodside with the digital transformation of its upstream operations.

ON THIS DAY 10 YEARS AGO: FROM THE COMMSDAY 2006 ARCHIVES

Communications minister Helen Coonan added her voice to calls for Telstra to ‘flick the switch’ on ADSL2+ and extend its availability to most of the country… NEC announced that it was shutting down the Australian NEC Business Solutions company after five years of operation… Siemens Communications reached the milestone of one million Speedstream modems delivered to customers in Australia.

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