BERLIN: Germany launches its auction Tuesday for the construction of an ultra-fast 5G mobile network as a transatlantic dispute rages over security concerns surrounding giant Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei.
The United States has threatened to end intelligence sharing with Berlin if it does not exclude hardware made by Huawei from the infrastructure, arguing that Chinese equipment could help Beijing spy on Western companies and governments.
Attempting to play down the row on Monday, Jochen Homann, chairman of the German Federal Network Agency (BNA), said: “No matter whether a supplier comes from Sweden or China, companies must meet certification requirements and security checks.”
‘5G’ — ‘fifth generation’ — is the latest, high-speed generation of cellular mobile communications and Berlin will require winning bidders to offer 5G service to at least 98 percent of German households, motorways and rail lines.
Germany, Europe’s biggest economy whose wireless networks rank 46th in the world for download speeds, wants to close the sizeable digital gap by making the shift to the ultra-fast 5G system.
The BNA starts the auction in Mainz at 0900 GMT on Tuesday and the process will allocate 41 different frequency blocks.
Four operators are in the running, among them Germany’s three main mobile network providers — Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica Germany (O2) — plus United Internet (1&1), a German company specialising in internet services.
Chinese firm Huawei is not one of the bidders but provides the four German companies with essential hardware — such as antennas and routers.
The US has accused Beijing of using Huawei’s 5G network gear as a Trojan horse, forcing operators to transmit data to the regime, but Washington has not provided evidence to support their suspicions.
Huawei has strenuously denied allegations its equipment could be used for espionage.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday lashed out at what he called “abnormal, immoral” attacks on Huawei and demanded a “fair and just competition environment” for Chinese firms.
US-led attempts to encourage other nations to ban Huawei equipment from their telecoms infrastructure suffered a setback when Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government decided against imposing company specific-restrictions on the 5G auction.
Samsung to inspect Galaxy Fold phones after reviewer complaints
SEOUL: Samsung announced Thursday it will inspect units of its highly anticipated folding smartphone after some reviewers reported screen damage.
A handful of US-based reporters were given the flagship Galaxy Fold phones, priced at $1,980, ahead of the model’s official release next week, and they reported screen issues within days of using the devices.
“The screen on my Galaxy Fold review unit is completely broken and unusable just two days in,” Bloomberg’s Mark Gunman tweeted.
And Dieter Bohn of The Verge said: “Something happened to my Galaxy Fold screen and caused a bulge… It’s broken.”
Samsung spent nearly eight years developing the Galaxy Fold, which is part of the South Korean tech giant’s strategy to propel growth with groundbreaking gadgets.
“We will thoroughly inspect these units in person to determine the cause of the matter,” Samsung said in a statement after reports of the screen damage emerged.
The firm suggested some reviewers encountered screen failures because a section of the display was removed.
“The main display on the Galaxy Fold features a top protective layer, which is part of the display structure designed to protect the screen from unintended scratches,” it said.
“Removing the protective layer or adding adhesives to the main display may cause damage. We will ensure this information is clearly delivered to our customers.”
Some of the reviewers, including Bloomberg’s Gunman, had removed this layer.
CNBC’s Steve Kovach said he had not, but still faced major problems with the device.
Samsung is the world’s biggest smartphone maker, and earlier this month launched the 5G version of its top-end Galaxy S10 device.
But despite the recent announcements about its new high-end devices, Samsung has warned of a more than 60 percent plunge in first-quarter operating profit in the face of weakening markets.
The firm is also no stranger to device issues.
Its reputation suffered a major blow after a damaging worldwide recall of its Galaxy Note 7 devices over exploding batteries in 2016, which cost the firm billions of dollars and shattered its global brand image.
Samsung has said it will release the Galaxy Fold as scheduled on April 26.
Ericsson, Swisscom launch Europe’s first large scale 5G network
STOCKHOLM: Telecom equipment manufacturer Ericsson said Wednesday it had launched the first European large scale commercial 5G network together with Swiss operator Swisscom, as Ericsson posted a first quarter profit boosted by sales in North America.
The Swedish supplier of network equipment said in a statement that the 5G network, launched in 54 cities in Switzerland, had been switched on just after midnight on April 17, after Swisscom secured a license to operate a 5G network in the country.
Ericsson made the announcement as it reported a first quarter net profit of 2.4 billion kronor ($260 million, 230 million euros), compared to a net loss of 725 million kronor in the corresponding quarter a year ago.
Net sales grew to 48.9 billion kronor, up from 43.4 billion in Q1 of 2018.
Chief executive Borje Ekholm said growth had primarily been driven by sales in North America.
“To date we have publicly announced commercial 5G deals with 18 named operator customers, which, at the moment, is more than any other vendor,” Ekholm said in a statement.
Ekholm also said that as 5G technology was being rolled out, the company would continue to incur costs for field trials and they were expecting large-scale deployments of 5G to begin in parts of Asia by the end of 2019.
“Combined, this will gradually impact short-term margins but strengthen our position in the long term,” he said.
Shares in Ericsson traded up more than three percent on the Stockholm stock exchange following the release of the earnings report, hitting a four-year high in early trading on Wednesday.
Ericsson, one of Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s main rivals in the 5G market, said earlier this year it hadn’t felt any effects from US pressure on countries to ban Huawei’s equipment amid fears that it could compromise the security of the mobile phone networks.
Intel withdraws from 5G smartphone modem business
SAN FRANCISCO: US electronics giant Intel said Tuesday it was withdrawing from the 5G smartphone modem business, hours after Apple and American microchip manufacturer Qualcomm announced they had clinched an agreement to end a battle over royalty payments.
The modems that connect smartphones to telecommunications networks were at the heart of the battle between Apple and Qualcomm.
Intel said it will “complete an assessment of the opportunities for 4G and 5G modems in PCs, internet of things devices and other data-centric devices,” while pursuing investment opportunities in its 5G network infrastructure business.
“5G continues to be a strategic priority across Intel, and our team has developed a valuable portfolio of wireless products and intellectual property,” CEO Bob Swan said in a statement.
“We are assessing our options to realize the value we have created, including the opportunities in a wide variety of data-centric platforms and devices in a 5G world.”
The company said it would meet commitments to customers for its existing 4G smartphone modem product line, though it has no plans to launch 5G smartphone modem products, including those previously set to premiere in 2020.
Currently under deployment, ultra-fast 5G wireless networks require terminals equipped with 5G models and specific network infrastructure.
Apple, which had fought a multi-front brawl with Qualcomm for two years, had turned to Intel before reaching the agreement with Qualcomm.