About this weblog

What you need to know: This weblog captures key data points about the global telecoms industry. I use it as an electronic notebook to support my work for Pringle Media.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Baidu Hails Improving Self Driving Economics

Baidu reported that its self-driving taxi service Apollo Go provided about 826,000 rides to the public in the first quarter of 2024, marking a 25% year-over-year increase. In the first quarter, the rides provided by fully driverless vehicles accounted for over 55% of total rides in Wuhan, which is up from 45% in the fourth quarter of 2023. "This figure continues to rise, exceeding 70% in April, with expectations of sustained rapid growth ahead and reaching 100% in the coming quarters," added Robin Li,  CEO of Baidu.

Baidu claimed that in Wuhan "Apollo Go is gradually becoming an integral part of the city's transportation network." In the past year, Apollo Go's fully driverless fleet in Wuhan has grown threefold, reaching about 300 vehicles today. It plans to increase that number to 1,000 vehicles by the end of 2024.

As it has won the trust of local government, Apollo Go has more than doubled its operational area in Wuhan from a quarter ago, and is now serving a population of over seven million in the city. Its vehicles started to operate 24/7 in Wuhan in early March.

To significantly reduce hardware depreciation costs, Baidu plans to deploy RT6, its sixth generation robotaxi, in its Wuhan Apollo Go operation this year. Adopting a battery swapping solution, the mass production price for RT6 excluding battery is below 30,000 US dollars, according to Baidu. "With the scaling of driverless operations and continuous improvement of cost structure, we believe Apollo Go will achieve operational unit economics breakeven in Wuhan in the near future," added Li.

Baidu is also making its autonomous driving solution, which is solely reliant on vision, available to other automakers.  "This allows us to make advanced autonomous driving attainable across a broad spectrum of passenger vehicles from high-end to economy models priced as low as 150,000 yuan, and it serves as another proof of our technology leadership," Li explained. Baidu said that its ASD technology can now effectively navigate complex, urban environments across more than 100 cities in China and it has plans to expand in to hundreds of cities in the coming months.  Source: Baidu earnings call



Wednesday, May 8, 2024

IDC Predicts Slowdown in Global Telecoms Market


Worldwide spending on telecom and pay TV services reached 1.5 trillion US dollars in 2023, an increase of 2.1% over 2022, according to International Data Corporation, which expects the market to grow by 1.4% in 2024. Source: IDC press release

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Autnomous Driving Start-Up Raises One Billion Dollars

Artificial intelligence start-up Wayve, which is working with various vehicle makers on autonomous driving, said it has raised 1.05 billion US dollars in a series C funding round led by SoftBank Group with contributions from new investor NVIDIA and existing investor Microsoft. The London-based company has now raised 1.3 billion dollars across three rounds. 

Wayve's immediate plans include launching its first product featuring L2+ ADAS (level 2 advanced driver assistance systems).  Its automated driving technology is built with "end-to-end deep learning" and doesn't require high-definition maps, potentially making it more cost-effective and scalable than rival solutions. The start-up believes the ADAS market will be worth more than 100 billion dollars even before full autonomy is reached.

Wayve claims its "technology excels where others have struggled: mastering driving in complex urban environments with camera-only navigation and adapting to cities unseen during training just like how you and I drive."

In a blog post, CEO Alex Kendall wrote: "Since our inception, we have held a core belief that end-to-end AI (see AV2.0 graphic below) will make autonomy possible. This has been a deeply contrarian approach against the rest of the market, and we are excited to see our progress and this funding as a massive endorsement of our vision." The AV1.0 graphic below shows Wayve's view of how other companies are developing autonomous vehicle technologies, although Kendall noted that Tesla has pivoted to end-to-end AI with v12 of its full self driving system.

Comparing "embodied AI" with generative AI, Kendall said that the data collected from vehicles' video, radar and LiDAR systems already amount to several times the petabytes of all the language data in the world. "Every year, millions of vehicles are built with the necessary sensing and compute for training and deploying embodied AI," he added. "These vehicles are already being driven today doing useful work, meaning that data collection can be achieved with low operational cost, unlike with other robotics applications. These vehicles are being operated around the world and experience open-set, unconstrained environments, rich with the long tail of edge cases." Source: Wayve blog post





Friday, May 3, 2024

AT&T Opens Up 5G Priority Lane

AT&T has launched a new product - called AT&T Turbo - which enables customers to pay to prioritise their data traffic (over that of non-Turbo customers) during busy times on the network. Costing seven US dollar a month, Turbo can be activated (and cancelled) at any time by AT&T customers with a 5G-capable smartphone.

However, AT&T cautions that the "performance, experience, and speed [are] not guaranteed and may be affected by other factors such as network congestion, coverage, your device, and third-party limitations." AT&T hasn't said how significant the performance boost provided by Turbo might be.  Source: AT&T web site

Apple Heralds Enterprise Demand for Vision Pro

With iPhone sales in decline, Apple tried to talk up the prospects of its spatial computing hardware - the Vision Pro. CEO Tim Cook said that "more than half of the Fortune 100 companies have already bought Apple Vision Pro units and are exploring innovative ways to use it to do things that weren't possible before, and this is just the beginning." He elaborated to say that the headset is being employed "for many different things in enterprise, and that varies from field service to training to healthcare related things like preparing a doctor for pre-op surgery or advanced imaging..... our focus is on -- is growing that ecosystem and getting more apps and more and more enterprises engaged. And the event that we had recently, I can't overstate the enthusiasm in the room. It was extraordinary. And so we're off to a good start, I think, with the enterprise." Source: Transcript of Apple earnings call

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Euro Telcos' Top Lines Under Pressure

 



Despite inflation, the revenues of the big five telcos in Europe has been flatlining for much of this decade. Even Deutsche Telekom, the out performer of the group, is no longer growing reported revenues. In 2023, its revenues from the US (DT's primary growth engine for the past 10 years) declined by 4%, partly due to exchange rate effects and partly because of a decline in device revenue.


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Amazon Flags "Unbelievable" Growth Opportunities

Amazon flagged that it plans to "meaningfully increase" capital investment in 2024, primarily to support growth in AWS, including generative AI. Amazon defines capital investment as a combination of capex plus equipment finance leases.  In 2023, overall capital investments were 48.4 billion US dollars. In the first quarter of 2024, Amazon invested 14 billion dollars, which CFO Brian Olsavsky said is likely to be the "low quarter for the year."

AWS increased revenue 16% year-on-year (excluding the impact from the leap year) in the first quarter to 25 billion dollars.  "I think there are really unbelievable growth opportunities in front of us," said Amazon CEO Andy Jassy. "85-plus percent of the global IT spend is on premises. And if you believe that equation is going to flip, which we do, it means we have a lot of growth in front of us, and that's before the generative AI opportunity, which I don't know if any of us have seen a possibility like this in technology in a really long time, for sure, since the cloud, perhaps since the Internet." 

Jassy contended that generative AI workloads are largely going to be built from scratch on the cloud. He said that AWS is already seeing a multibillion-dollar revenue run rate in AI, claiming that tens of thousands of companies are building large language models on top of Amazon Bedrock.  "Those models consume an incredible amount of data with a lot of tokens, and they're significant to actually go train.... and I expect an increasing amount of those to be built on AWS over time because our operational performance and security, as well as our chips, both what we offer from NVIDIA. But if you take Anthropic, as an example, they're training their future models on our custom silicon on Trainium."

As companies bring their large language models into production, AWS will "see significant run rates," Jassy noted. "You spend much more in inference than you do in training because you train only periodically, but you're spinning out predictions and inferences all the time. ... many companies, their models and these generative AI applications are going to have their most sensitive assets and data. And it's going to matter a lot to them what kind of security they get around those applications." Source: transcript of Amazon earnings call



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