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Chinese officials declare intention to become network superpower, tout glorious 5G rollout that’s smaller than local carriers’ claims • The Register

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China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology had a busy Monday as it declared the country’s intention to be both a manufacturing and a network superpower, and claimed progress towards the latter goal is illustrated with some seemingly odd statistics.

Liu Liehong, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, told reporters that China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, enacted in 2015, delivered a great leap forward in networking capabilities.

The minister claimed the Middle Kingdom has already “built the world’s largest information and communication network.” Under the last plan, Liehong stated that China’s fibre-optic broadband users increased from 56 per cent of connections to 94 per cent since 2015, while gigabit capable passive optical networks now cover more than 120 million households. The minister said the digital gap between rural and urban areas is significantly reduced, by an unspecified amount.

4G base stations in China account for more than half of the global total, he claimed, while the combined reach of 4G and optical fiber means 99 per cent of China’s administrative villages are connected to the ‘net.

As for 5G, Leihong said 792,000 5G base stations have opened and the country boasts 260 million 5G mobile terminal connections.

The minister’s 5G numbers are smaller than those reported late last month by three of China’s big telcos. China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom said they added more than 300 million 5G subscriptions in 2020 (compared to Leihong’s figure of 260 million in total) and more than a million new 5G-enabled base transceiver stations (Leihong offered a figure of 792,000).

More claims abound. End-to-end user experience speed of fixed broadband and mobile networks reached 51.2Mbps and 22.8Mbps respectively, a seven-fold increase compared to 2015, it’s claimed.

When compared to an unnamed international speed testing agency, Liehong said China’s fixed broadband ranked 18th among 176 countries and regions and the mobile speed ranked 4th among 139 countries and regions.

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Leihong also trumpeted falling connectivity prices in the Middle Kingdom, claiming that in the second half of 2020 average mobile network traffic tariffs dropped by more than 10 per cent, thanks to 5G. He also quoted Global Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) data reporting that average monthly expenditure of mobile communication in China is less than US$6, compared to a global average of US$11.36.

Earlier that day, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued the declaration positioning China toward a role as a dual networking and manufacturing power. Xiao Yaqing, Minister and Secretary of the Party Leadership Group and Minister said in the document that under the 14th five-year plan China “strives to write a new chapter in the construction of a manufacturing and network power.”

Yaqing justified the claim to rise in power by pointing to China’s 30 per cent of global manufacturing share and calling the country’s optical fiber and 4G networks as “the world’s largest.” Yaqing said China continues to keep ahead in global tech by building on toward 5G commercialization. ®

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Power Capital takes majority interest in Terra Solar’s portfolio

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Terra Solar, a NovaUCD start-up founded in 2016, is giving up its sites in Wexford and Cork to Power Capital to develop solar farms.

Dublin-based company Power Capital Renewable Energy (PCRE) has announced plans to acquire majority interest in Terra Solar’s 400MW portfolio.

This will bring the company’s total solar assets to 840MW and boost its presence in the Irish solar power space.

A start-up that sprung out of NovaUCD, the University College Dublin accelerator, Terra Solar was founded by David Fewer and André Fernon in 2016. State-owned ESB was one of Terra Solar’s early investors, putting up €2.5m for a stake in the company.

Paris-based VC firm Omnes Capital will back the development of the solar sites over the next few years, which require around €200m to build out. Irish and international lenders will also back the development.

Power Capital director Peter Duff said that his company’s aim of becoming Ireland’s leading independent power producer has come a step closer with the deal.

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“Both Terra Solar and PCRE share common values and ambitions to help Ireland meet its 2030 targets and we are excited that Terra Solar chose us as a partner to bring these sites through construction,” he said.

The solar farm sites, located in Wexford and Cork, are a culmination of more than four years of engagement with local landowners, communities and planners, said Fewer.

“We will be retaining an equity stake in the developments and will be working intensively with all stakeholders over the coming few years to ensure that these sites are successfully constructed while equally continuing to grow our remaining development pipeline of 600MW.”

Justin Brown, co-founder of Power Capital, said that the company is currently in talks with other industry bodies about “increasing our foothold in the sector and we expect to see renewable energy being the dominant generator of electricity across Ireland within the next decade”.

Construction on the solar farms is set to begin in 2022 and the project is expected to be completed in the next five years.

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2021 iPhone photography awards – in pictures | Technology

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The 14th annual iPhone photography awards offer glimpses of beauty, hope and the endurance of the human spirit. Out of thousands of submissions, photojournalist Istvan Kerekes of Hungary was named the grand prize winner for his image Transylvanian Shepherds. In it, two rugged shepherds traverse an equally rugged industrial landscape, bearing a pair of lambs in their arms.

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With Alphabet’s legendary commitment to products, we can’t wait to see what its robotics biz Intrinsic achieves • The Register

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Alphabet today launched its latest tech startup, Intrinsic, which aims to build commercial software that will power industrial robots.

Intrinsic will focus on developing software control tools for industrial robots used in manufacturing, we’re told. Its pitch is that the days of humans having to manually program and adjust a robot’s every move are over, and that mechanical bots should be more autonomous and smart, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and leaps in training techniques.

This could make robots easier to direct – give them a task, and they’ll figure out the specifics – and more efficient – the AI can work out the best way to achieve its goal.

“Over the last few years, our team has been exploring how to give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they’re completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications,” said CEO Wendy Tan White.

“Working in collaboration with teams across Alphabet, and with our partners in real-world manufacturing settings, we’ve been testing software that uses techniques like automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation, and force control.”

Tan White – a British entrepreneur and investor who was made an MBE by the Queen in 2016 for her services to the tech industry – will leave her role as vice president of X, Alphabet’s moonshot R&D lab, to concentrate on Intrinsic.

She earlier co-founded and was CEO of website-building biz Moonfruit, and helped multiple early-stage companies get up and running as a general partner at Entrepreneur First, a tech accelerator. She is also a board trustee of the UK’s Alan Turing Institute, and member of Blighty’s Digital Economic Council.

“I loved the role I played in creating platforms that inspired the imagination and entrepreneurship of people all over the world, and I’ve recently stepped into a similar opportunity: I’m delighted to share that I’m now leading Intrinsic, a new Alphabet company,” she said.

The new outfit is another venture to emerge from Google-parent Alphabet’s X labs, along with Waymo, the self-driving car startup; and Verily, a biotech biz. ®

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