This Week In Tech And Telco: Drones And Tunnels

It wouldn’t be Christmas without chaos, would it? And that’s exactly what Gatwick passengers have felt over the past day. Although it obviously can’t go without a mention, what else has been going on over the past week in tech and telco?

Enjoy our last round-up before Christmas. Let’s hope no huge mergers happen over the holidays and we’ll see you back here in the new year!

Drone closes Gatwick airport

Flights from Gatwick Airport were brought to a halt on Thursday after a drone was spotted flying around its grounds.

Major operators British Airways (BA), EasyJet, Norwegian Air Shuttle were all affected.

As a result, thousands of passengers were stranded, unable to make their way to Ski resorts or simply get home.

The grounding did not only affect Gatwick, but planes on route to the airport were redirected to destinations and those yet to take off could not make the trip. Tens of thousands more are expected to feel repercussions as flights begin again.

The drone disappeared and reappeared several times throughout the day. Its operator has still not been found but Gatwick chief operating officer reassured the public that 700 flights will depart today.


AT&T launch their 5G network

AT&T’s 5G mobile network is set to go live, making it the first US operator to offer 5G mobile services and the second to launch the technology generally.

Mobile devices supporting 5G aren’t set to launch until next year, but the provider will offer services via hotspots in different cities.

AT&T said it would initially offer the service to businesses in areas where it is launching 5G, inviting them to try out the new technology, before rolling out a wider commercial offering in Spring.

The next-gen network will launch today in parts of the following 12 cities: Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, N.C., San Antonio and Waco, Texas.In the first half of 2019, it will add mobile 5G deployments in parts of seven additional cities: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, California.

Musk unveils The Boring Co’s first tunnel under LA

The first prototype of Elon Musk’s most recent project, to build an underground multi-level high-speed tunnel network, has been unveiled.

The underground tunnel in Los Angeles is designed to transport cars at high speed around the city. It is currently only a mile long, with a modified Tesla reaching 49 mph, but the goal is to extend exponentially and reach 150mph to ease traffic congestion. The tunnel has been built by Mr Musk's Boring Company, which boasts state-of-the-art engineering techniques.

Cars will be taken underground via what is essentially a lift where they will join the network.

The existing tunnel runs beneath the municipality of Hawthorne, where the Boring Company and SpaceX are both based.


Liquid Telecom to invest US$400mn in Egyptian network infrastructure and data centres

Liquid Telecom, a Pan-African telecoms group, is investing eight billion Egyptian Pounds (US$400million) in Egypt over the next three years.

This is part of a major partnership with Telecom Egypt which includes network infrastructure and data centers. The investment was made during a signing ceremony between the two companies at the Africa 2018 Forum. [Interested in the Africa marketing? See our takings from AfricaCom 2018]

Telecom Egypt will use the network to connect Egyptian businesses to the rest of Africa, whilst also partnering with Liquid Telecom to build data centers across Egypt.

Liquid Telecom plans to invest an additional $350m (€305.5m) in broadband and financial inclusion initiatives, as well as high capacity data centers. These will be similar to some of the best-in-class data centers in South Africa.

SoftBank ‘replacing Huawei 4G equipment’ with Ericsson or Nokia

The Japanese government has stopped telling telco operators not to use Huawei or ZTE equipment, but SoftBank will replace Huawei kit in its network with alternatives from Ericsson or Nokia.

The government already expressed concerns about cybersecurity and espionage in equipment it buys – a statement believed to mean it won’t buy Chinese gear for its own use.

Reuters has reported that Yoshihide Suga, a spokesman for the Japanese government, has said that policy won’t be imposed on private companies. He did not name Huawei or ZTE, but it was clear that he was referring to the two rival companies.

However the Nikkei Asian Review is reporting that SoftBank is to replace Huawei kit used in its 4G network with alternatives from the Swedish and Finnish companies. The agency reported that “the hardware will be replaced over the next few years”, and the policy is expected to extend to SoftBank’s 5G procurement strategy. One reason for the move could be that SoftBank – headed by Masayoshi Son - is the majority shareholder in US operator Sprint, which has a large mobile network and provides enterprise and wholesale services.

SoftBank has agreed a merger with Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile US and the two are seeking regulatory approval from US authorities. SoftBank will want to be seen to be removing Huawei kit from its network as a concession to US politicians.

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