Speedy removal of Huawei equipment would cost UK, telcos say – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Britain’s rebound from COVID-19 could be harmed if the government demands a speedy removal of telecoms equipment made by China’s Huawei from mobile networks, Vodafone and BT warned on Thursday.
The world’s second-biggest operator, Vodafone, said it would cost “single figure billions” of pounds to remove the equipment.
BT has put the cost of complying with an existing requirement to lower Huawei usage at 500 million pounds (A$905 million).
“I am concerned that an ultra aggressive imposition of a change in policy could hamper our economic recover in the UK,” Vodafone UK’s head of technology Andrea Dona told British lawmakers.
Vodafone and BT need a minimum of five years and ideally seven to avoid major disruption to Britain’s emerging superfast networks, their technology bosses told the lawmakers.
Britain in January capped Huawei’s role in its 5G networks at 35 percent and barred it from the most sensitive parts of the system.
The United States alleges that the Chinese government could use Huawei’s equipment for espionage, which Huawei denies.
The British government has said new US sanctions on chip technology could damage Huawei’s ability to supply crucial networking equipment.
As a result it is revisiting its policy on Huawei, with ministers indicating that a total ban is likely.
BT is already trialing switching some network sites from Huawei to other vendors, its chief technology officer Howard Watson said.
Huawei’s UK chiefs told the lawmakers it was too soon to quantify the long-term impact of the sanctions and no hasty decision should be made.
Britain wants to encourage new entrants into the market, reducing reliance on Huawei, which only has Ericsson and Nokia as major rivals in Europe.
Samsung, which provides some gear to Hutchison’s Three UK, said it could “definitely” supply a new 5G network, and was in active commercial talks with European operators.
“The one thing that is a challenge for Samsung entering the UK or European market is more related to a request for single RAN technology,” Samsung Executive Vice-president Woojune Kim said, referring to the Radio Access Network which links the core network and devices.
He also said there had been “brutal” competition and some of the contract prices “did not make sense”.

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Australia’s anti-encryption laws need judicial oversight: INSLM – Security – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

A review of encryption-busting laws rushed through parliament at the end of 2018 says unilateral powers given to authorities to approve notices should be stripped and handed to a judicial authority instead.
The Independent Tempemail Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) report into the Assistance and Access Act comes in at 316 pages [pdf], and backs a long-running demand from industry for judicial oversight.
INSLM’s recommendations concern powers to grant a technical assistance notice (TAN) or technical capability notice (TCN) – essentially compulsory orders – against a designated communications provider or DCP.
A TAN is used when the provider already has technical means to provide access to law enforcement, whereas a TCP is used where the means does not exist and has to be custom-built.
The INSLM report finds the law “is or is likely to be necessary”, but requires changes in order to be considered proportionate and protective of people’s (and companies’) rights.
It recommends to “remove the power from agency heads to issue TANs and from the Attorney-General to approve TCNs”, and to “vest those issuing and approval powers in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) in a way which will preserve and protect both classified and commercial in-confidence material and allow independent rulings on technical questions.”
It also recommends setting up a “new statutory office – the Investigatory Powers Commissioner (IPC)”, to be overseen by a retired judge who “will assist in approving the issue of TANs and TCNs.”
Based on the most recent set of usage figures, TANs and TCNs are little-used; instead, authorities rely on technical assistance requests (TARs), which seek “voluntary” assistance.
Critics of TARs see them as coercive instruments, pushing for cooperation under the threat of more intrusive, compulsory orders.
However, the INSLM review has recommended no changes to the operation of TARs, barring the use of a “prescribed form” of request.
The review accepted the premise that increased encryption posed problems to enforcement agencies tasked with protecting Australia’s national security interests.
“To counter what is called ‘going dark’ by reason of encryption, agencies must adapt their techniques, and laws must be updated,” the review states.
“I am satisfied from the evidence I have received from intelligence, police and integrity agencies that encryption of content and, to a lesser extent, metadata has made their essential tasks significantly more difficult, and in some instances impossible. 
“I accept the necessity of a legislative response to ‘going dark’.”
However, the review notes that “any legislative response to threats must be adapted, and proportionate, to the risk of them occurring.”
In particular, it “rejects the notion that there is a binary choice that must be made between the effectiveness of agencies’ surveillance powers in the digital age on the one hand and the security of the internet on the other.” 
“Rather, I conclude that what is necessary is a law which allows agencies to meet technological challenges, such as those caused by encryption, but in a proportionate way and with proper rights protection,” the review states.
For this reason, the INSLM proposes additional safeguards be added, including judicial review and the clarification of vague language in the laws that could lead to an overreach occurring.
This would mean proper definitions for what constituted a systemic weakness or vulnerability – long-disputed terminology that impacts the extent to which a security feature could be compromised or broken.
The review said the lack of judicial oversight raised “real question(s) … of independence and the appearance of it.”
“A proper appreciation of the impact of an intrusive TOLA power depends upon the issuer being independent of the agency concerned and, importantly, having technical knowledge,” the review said.
“The powers under TOLA cannot be exercised, let alone their impact understood, in the absence of independent technical expertise.”
The INSLM review was done at the request of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, and will be used by the committee as a key input into its own review of the laws.
More to come

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Telstra to have Australian agents answer all inbound calls from 2022 – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Telstra is set to permanently change the way it provides customer service post-COVID, with an aim to route all inbound voice calls through Australian call centres by sometime in 2022.
The telco – like most others – lost capacity in its offshore centres in India and the Philippines when COVID-related lockdowns in those countries took effect.
For Telstra, it had to suspend some of the activity handled offshore, and bring on at least 1000 new agents in Australia to cover the shortfall.
It has also tried to route more customer service inquiries through its digital channels and apps.
CEO Andy Penn told a Trans Tasman Business Circle event Thursday that operations in India and the Philippines are “still not fully recovered”.
But more importantly for Telstra, and for its offshore operations, it now expects some of the changes made during COVID to become permanent, instead of being a stopgap while waiting for capacity to recover.
“Whilst we have managed to move large amounts of this work online, and to Australia, we are very conscious of the impact that it’s had and is still having on some of our customers as they tried to contact us over a voice call,” Penn said.
“In fact, some of you in the audience today may have also been affected, and I therefore wanted to apologise for the delays and thank everybody for your patience. 
“For us though there is no doubt, therefore, that this is the right time for us to continue and again think differently about our customer service in the future. 
“Of the things that we have implemented on a temporary basis to help us through this time, which of those can we make permanent?”
Penn said that while Telstra would continue to invest in its digital channels, it still needed to maintain inbound calling capacity “for customers who want to call us for more complex support, and also for those Australians who are not as comfortable using digital tools”.
“What it will also mean is that over time, we will need a smaller call centre workforce for our consumer and small business customers,” he said.
“In fact, our aspiration is that by the end of our T22 [transformation] program, all inbound calls from these customers will be answered in Australia.
“Then, what will happen is that this, in turn, will enable our teams in the Philippines and India to continue to support our digital experiences.”
He added: “The majority of our interactions will occur digitally and we will be able to continue to use our capabilities in places like the Philippines and India to do that.”
A Telstra spokesperson confirmed the intent of Penn’s commentary and the proposed timeline of sometime in FY22.

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Alphabet’s Loon launches balloon internet service in Kenya – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Alphabet began offering the world’s first commercial high-speed internet using balloons to villagers in remote regions of Kenya’s Rift Valley on Wednesday.
The service is run by Loon, a unit of Google’s parent Alphabet, and Telkom Kenya, the East African nation’s third largest telecoms operator.
“Kenya is the first country… to have base stations high up in the sky. Now we will be able to cover the whole country in a very short span of time,” said Information Minister Joe Mucheru after launching the service.
The technology has been used before, but not commercially.
US telecom operators used balloons to connect more than 250,000 people in Puerto Rico after a 2017 hurricane.
The project aims to provide affordable fourth generation (4G) internet to under-covered or uncovered rural communities. It has been more than a decade in the making.
“We are effectively building the next layer of the mobile network around the world. We look like a cell tower 20 km in the sky,” said Alastair Westgarth, Loon’s chief executive.
The floating base stations have a much wider coverage, about a hundred times the area of a traditional cell phone tower, Westgarth said.
The large, translucent balloons are fitted with a solar panel and battery, and float in the upper atmosphere, high above planes and weather.
They are launched from facilities in California and Puerto Rico and controlled via computers in Loon’s flight station in Silicon Valley, using helium and pressure to steer.
They also have software equipped with artificial intelligence to navigate flight paths without much human intervention.
During the launch of the service in the vast, semi-arid county of Baringo in the heart of the Rift Valley, Mucheru placed a video call to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“Now you will be able to sell your products on the internet. I want to see online sales of honey,” a beaming Kenyatta told residents via the call, referring to the region’s renowned beekeeping.
Locals used to travel more than 60 km (40 miles) to the nearest towns for an internet connection.
Now, Dorcas Kipkeroi said she wants to sell her jars of honey to expatriate Kenyans longing for a taste of home.
“It will help me reach Kenyans who live abroad because communication has been difficult,” she said.
Westgarth said Loon, which has a deal to roll out the service with Vodacom in Mozambique, has seen increased interest from operators and governments after the coronavirus crisis forced people to rely on the internet more heavily.
“It has really accelerated existing discussions,” he said.
Details of the commercial agreement between Loon and Telkom Kenya have not been made public.

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Vocus fibre cable cut in South Australia – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Vocus technicians are working to repair a broken fibre cable in South Australia that appears to be causing east-west connectivity problems for some internet users.
The telco confirmed it was investigating a possible break between Adelaide and Long Plains in the early hours of Thursday, and said it had begun excavation works at the site by around 7am.
“Please be advised that Vocus tech would start splicing once the excavation is complete,” it said, adding that the ETR [estimated time of recovery] is around “8-10 hours after excavation.”
“Services will come back on line progressively as they are repaired,” it said.
“We appreciate your patience throughout the restoration works.”
The break is suspected as being behind internet problems experienced by some users, including Aussie Broadband NBN users in Western Australia.
“A third party fibre cable has been cut that is impacting national East Coast / West Coast capacity,” Aussie Broadband said in a status advisory.
“Customers may experience slower than normal performance during this time.”
Whirlpool forum posts tied the Vocus cut to the internet connectivity issues. Aussie Broadband representatives said they were attempting to route around the break.

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NBN Co to cut 800 staff by end of 2020 – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

NBN Co is set to cut around 800 staff by the end of the year as part of a broader post-rollout restructure of the company.
CEO Stephen Rue said that the company would slim down the size of its direct workforce from around 6300 employees to “around 5500 people by the end of this calendar year.”
“As we have approached the final stages of the initial build, we have talked about changing the size and shape of the organisation and we are now preparing for the next phase of the company’s evolution,” Rue said.
Rue said NBN Co had paused the majority of internal restructuring activities over the past six months, in part to stay resourced enough to meet “data and operational demands brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.”
But it will now move ahead with a substantial internal restructure that takes effect from August 3.
Under the restructure, residential and business sales and marketing functions will come together under a single executive, Brad Whitcomb.
This effectively reverts to the way the function was structured prior to June 2017, and will mean NBN Co’s current chief customer officer for business, Paul Tyler, will leave the company next month.
NBN Co will also set up a new ‘Networks, Engineering and Security’ business unit that will “further integrate technology, architecture, engineering and network functions”.
That unit will be led by John Parkin as chief engineering officer.
NBN Co said it will also create an integrated operations group in the form of Network Planning and Deployment (NPD), led by Kathrine Dyer as chief operations officer.
“NBN Co’s Operations unit will integrate both customer-led and network demand driven requests, through a single demand forecast and service area to streamline supply, order, design and planning processes,” it said, adding that “NBN Co’s contact centre environment will be integrated for further simplification.”
Additionally, NBN Co’s strategy and transformation function led by Will Irving “will be expanded to include the company’s legal, data and analytics functions”, and will be renamed ‘Strategic Services’. 
Justin Forsell, NBN Co’s chief legal counsel and security, will exit the company later this year.
NBN Co’s finance, service and analytics business unit will be retitled ‘Finance’, led by CFO Philip Knox.
Chief information officer Debbie Taylor will continue to lead Systems Engineering and Operations, while Sally Kincaid will continue as chief people and culture officer, and Felicity Ross will continue as chief corporate affairs officer, the company said.

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NBN Co’s final build push includes 25k premises that fell through the cracks – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

NBN Co has revealed 25,000 premises in smaller new housing developments remain unconnected to the NBN after June 30 due to an apparent mix-up in the implementation of government policy.
The network builder provided an update earlier this week on the status of 109,000 premises whose connections were deemed too complex to be completed as part of the main “volume” build.
Cryptically, NBN Co said the 109,000 included “an additional 25,000 premises in new development sites”, without elaborating.
iTnews can now reveal that these are premises that Telstra deployed telecommunications infrastructure for in its role as an infrastructure provider of last resort (or IPOLR) under the government’s telecommunications in new developments (TIND) policy.
IPOLR obligations are shared between NBN Co and Telstra; Telstra’s responsibilities were for developments of less than 100 lots in areas where NBN Co had no established presence, and for new developments situated outside the NBN fixed-line footprint.
Telstra’s IPOLR obligations only covered “the provision of a standard telephone service, not broadband/internet”, both NBN Co and Telstra state [pdf] in documentation.
But at least 25,000 premises that received telephony services from Telstra under IPOLR were then skipped over for broadband when NBN Co came by.
“We were made aware of new development premises that have been built by Telstra, during the NBN rollout,” an NBN Co spokesperson told iTnews.
“These premises were not originally identified by NBN Co due to an overlap in the IPOLR obligations. 
“Working with Telstra we have recently identified the location IDs for these outstanding premises that it had connected and have commenced the detailed design and construction work to make them ready to connect to the NBN.”
It’s still not clear how the “overlap” occurred and how premises given only a standard telephone service were then missed when NBN Co came into those areas.
An NBN Co spokesperson did not respond to further questions.
A Telstra spokesperson was also contacted for comment.
However, NBN Co is known to have encountered issues with bad mapping data over the years, which at one time led it to significantly overestimate the number of premises it needed to connect up.
Telecommunications in greenfields estates also has a long history of being regulatorily complex, which is unlikely to have helped.
Given that the missed premises most likely received only a standard telephony service, they may not have even copper lines in place; for years, Telstra has supplied some new areas a service that runs off NextG, meaning it did not need to deploy new copper.
It’s not clear what technology the remaining 25,000 premises have; NBN Co acknowledged it was likely to encounter a mix of existing infrastructure that it would need to work with.

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Optus looks to spend $1.5m on transportable 4G small cells – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Optus is set to invest $1.5 million in a fleet of transportable small cells that are lighter and easier to deploy in disaster zones than the telco’s current fleet of satellite cells on trailers or SatCats.
The telco revealed the planned investment in its latest sustainability report [pdf], saying that the small cells could help it provide “a more effective response to natural disasters and emergencies.” 
“Our disaster management fleet utilises SatCats (a satellite cell on a trailer that uses satellite transmissions for coverage in a limited range, without the need for infrastructure),” it said.
“During calendar 2019, our operations team explored the use of rapid deployment mobile solutions for disaster management and as a result, our current fleet of four SatCats may be complemented by an additional investment of $1.5 million on small cells. 
“Small cells are lighter, easier to transport, provide instant access to the 4G platform and are cheaper than SatCats. 
“This investment will strengthen our disaster response capabilities by rapidly deploying mobile coverage solutions to affected zones.”
Optus showed a side-by-side image of a SatCat and transportable small cell; the latter is considerably less bulky.

Optus said in a separate submission to a federal bushfire inquiry that it deployed its existing SatCats in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia during the most recent summer bushfire crisis.
Automation drive continues
The sustainability report provides additional information on Optus’ three-year adoption of intelligent automation technologies.
It – for the first time – properly describes the function of a bot called TARA that was developed during a recent hackathon process.
“The Talent Acquisition team aimed to use automation to help them and their leaders recruit talent more effectively,” Optus said.
“TARA (Talent Acquisition Robot Assistant) will scan thousands of resumes for keywords and phrases to allow categorisation, allowing the team to deal with people more than paperwork.”
Optus also said its iAutomate centre of excellence, IT and robotic process automation (RPA) teams across its consumer, Optus wholesale and networks divisions had “set up a new Robotics Operation Centre (ROC)”.
The ROC would be used to centally “monitor, govern, operate and support our digital workforce of more than 150 RPA bots, ensuring our automation practice is sustainable, adheres to regulation and policies, and meets our evolving needs.”

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Optus, Telstra to build 21 new mobile towers in regional NSW – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Telstra and Optus will build 21 new mobile phone towers in southern NSW using a $50 million fund established by the state government to improve internet connectivity in under-served regions
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro on Monday said the towers would deliver “faster and more reliable wireless broadband internet” in the state’s South East region.
Almost half the 11 areas set to benefit from the new towers fall within Barilaro’s electorate, including Bungendore, Carwoola, Michelago and Royalla, while a number of others sit just outside.
The towers will be delivered in partnership with Optus and Telstra, though the wireless broadband service will be delivered by rural communications carrier Yless4U.
Yless4U is a private company that claims to specialise in providing rural broadband services in South Eastern NSW.
The telco also provides consulting services to governments in the “design, business case development and deployment of regional/rural and remote telecommunications infrastructure”.
The towers – the majority of which will be delivered by Optus – will be funded out of the government’s $50 million ‘connecting country communities fund’.
The fund was announced in October 2017 to bankroll the creation or expansion of small telcos in regional and rural areas.
“This funding will contribute to a significant improvement in internet connectivity speeds that will reach more than double current speeds by September 2021, and further improve by May 2025,” Barilaro said on Monday. 
“This will improve safety, boost opportunities for businesses, increase community access to services, connect family and friends, and ensure younger residents can access the online educational resources they need.”
The government also provided an additional $400 million in the lead up to last year’s election to fund the creation of additional mobile blackspot towards a separate ‘regional digital connectivity package’.
Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said the funding, which is being delivered by both the recently introduced Department of Regional NSW and the NSW Telco Authority, would help strengthen communities.
“This funding will enhance existing assets including towers, land, fibre and backhaul as well as building new infrastructure to enable communities to be better connected,” he said, adding that reliable internet was more important than ever.
The full list of areas set to benefit from the new towers are:

Bungendore 
Carwoola
Collector 
Googong 
Gundaroo 
Gunning 
Michelago
Murrumbateman
Royalla
Tarago
Wallaroo

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NBN Co will have 22,000 premises still awaiting infrastructure after this year – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

NBN Co is now forecasting it will only have around 21,800 brownfields premises unable to connect to its network post-2020.
The company today provided more detail about the estimated 100,000 premises that it deemed too difficult to complete the build for by the end of June this year.
The number is now closer to 109,000, but NBN Co is now forecasting build completion for “approximately 80 percent of these premises” by the end of 2020.
The 109,000 comprises three tranches of work.
The largest portion of premises – about 67,000 – fit the existing description of “complex builds in difficult to access locations, heritage and culturally significant sites.”
NBN Co said it is making headway on these and “has successfully connected many of these premises”.
The next largest slice of the 109,000 is 25,000 premises that NBN Co said had now been incorporated “in new development sites”.
It’s unclear exactly what this means – iTnews was seeking clarification at the time of publication – however it appears that these may be premises on urban fringes that will now be connected to infrastructure deployed at a nearby new housing estate.
What this means for access technology and timeline isn’t clear.
For the final 17,000 premises, NBN Co said it will now “redesign and construct alternative technology solutions” for them.
NBN Co said these premises “were previously designated to receive fixed wireless services. These premises will now be redesigned and connected to the NBN primarily by FTTC technology.”
The premises will almost certainly be better off in the fixed-line footprint. However, they were likely in the wireless footprint for cost reasons, and so it is unclear how moving them to FTTC will impact the economics of that part of the build.
In early June, the company shifted around 42,000 premises designated to receive fixed wireless into its fixed-line and satellite footprints instead after being unable to secure land or support to build new towers.
It’s not immediately clear if some of those 42,000 premises are part of the 109,000. Clarification was being sought at the time of publication.

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