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Jio’s 4G availability ‘hugely impressive’: OpenSignal

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(Image: OpenSignal)

OpenSignal has published a report on Indian mobile telecommunications, with Reliance Jio winning on 4G availability and latency while Airtel clocked the fastest download speeds and Vodafone’s Idea was the fastest for uploads.

For its Indian Mobile Network Experience Report: November 2018 [PDF], the network coverage mapping company recorded 10.5 billion measurements across 1.8 million unique devices between June 1 and August, 29, 2018.

Calling Jio “remarkable” and “hugely impressive” with its rapid rate of customer growth, OpenSignal said it scored 96.7 percent on 4G availability, trailed by more than 20 percentage points by Airtel, on 73.99 percent; Idea, on 73.17 percent; and Vodafone, on 72.59 percent.

“The operator has managed to achieve availability scores of over 95 percent in all of India’s regions, despite huge variations in topography, and in the face of massive increases in subscribers and data consumption,” OpenSignal said.

“4G Availability scores of over 95 percent are very rare, particularly remarkable in a relatively new LTE market like India … Jio has recently secured infrastructure assets from now-defunct rival RCOM, while it is now turning its attention to the fixed-line sector, meaning we expect to see no let-up in the Jio success story.”

Jio also won across latency, with an average of 72.2 milliseconds. Vodafone followed, on 80.42ms; Airtel on 86.53ms; Idea on 88.78ms; and BSNL on 114.48ms.

Jio additionally tied first with Airtel and Vodafone on the new category of “video experience”, which analyses how customers experience video streaming including load time, stalling rates, and picture quality.

However, Airtel remained the winner across download speeds, providing an average of 7.53Mbps on average for its customers — 9.96Mbps on its 4G network and 2.53Mbps on 3G.

“The operator continues to raise the stakes through extensive network investment, recently unveiling some wide-ranging expansion plans in Karnataka, the Uttar Pradesh East and West telecoms regions, and Rajasthan, as well as deploying Massive MIMO mobile technology in urban Kolkata,” OpenSignal said.

“Competition in India’s mobile market remains at fever pitch, and Airtel seems determined to remain a serious contender.”

It was followed on download speeds by Jio, on 5.47Mbps; Vodafone, on 5.2Mbps; Idea, on 4.92Mbps; and BSNL, on 2.7Mbps.

Across upload speeds, however, Idea was the fastest with speeds of 2.88Mbps. It was followed by Vodafone, on 2.31Mbps; Airtel, on 1.9Mbps; Jio, on 1.58Mbps; and BSNL, on 0.78Mbps — although OpenSignal noted that BSNL has been approved by the regulator to deploy a nationwide LTE network across its holdings in the 2100MHz spectrum band.

“The Indian mobile competitive landscape is set for further upheaval with the merger of Idea and Vodafone,” OpenSignal added.

“The merged Vodafone Idea will be India’s largest operator in terms of subscriber share, and the company’s combined customer bases, and network and infrastructure assets, will undoubtedly make it a force to be reckoned with.”

Despite this, OpenSignal said it is predicting the Indian telco price war to end soon, saying there are questions over whether Jio’s aggressive price offerings are sustainable.

“With a major 5G spectrum auction expected within the next couple of years, India’s mobile operators face some tough decisions about where to focus their investment … India has already seen a savage round of mergers and exits in the past few years, and competition does not appear to be subsiding,” OpenSignal said.

“Quite simply put, something has to give. And Jio is signalling the beginning of the end with its move away from unsustainable free offerings towards tiered paid data models that are more familiar in the rest of the mobile world.

“This will hopefully take some of the pressure off operator margins, and as fierce competition and subscriber growth begins to plateau as the market matures, India’s operators will have more breathing space to focus on other ways to differentiate, such as bundling and service quality, as opposed to a race to the bottom on price.”

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Biden EV plan “the largest mobilization of public investment” since WW2

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The US government plans to replace its fleet of vehicles with electric alternatives, part of a huge public investment in equipment that President Biden says will be the largest since World War II. The goal was announced today, as Biden discussed the Buy American Executive Order and strategies to strengthen American manufacturing and create jobs in the US.

“The federal government also owns an enormous fleet of vehicles,” Biden said during the press conference, “which we’re going to replace with clean electric vehicles made right here in America, creating millions of jobs, a million autoworker jobs, and clean energy, and vehicles that are net-zero emissions. And together this will be the largest mobilization of public investment in procurement, infrastructure, and R&D since World War II.”

Certainly, there’s no shortage of vehicles being used across the government’s various departments. Each year, those departments are required to submit records on owned, leased, and commercially leased vehicles in their fleets. For 2019, civilian agencies owned more than 158,000 vehicles, while military agencies owned more than 62,000 vehicles.

The biggest fleet, however, is used by the US Postal Service. In the 2019 figures, it reported owning more than 224,000 vehicles. Tallied across all the agencies, there’s more than 445,000 owned vehicles on the books, and more than 200,000 leased in some form, with total costs of around $4.4 billion.

Typically, domestic vehicles already far outweigh the use of foreign passenger vehicles and trucks in use by the US government. Indeed, of the roughly 645,000 strong fleet in 2019, only around 6-percent were foreign-made. However, should even a small percentage be replaced with electrified vehicles, that could represent a huge shift in emissions.

The current reporting does not break down the vehicles by drivetrain type – beyond a separate category for low-speed electric vehicles (LSEV) – so it’s unclear how many might already be battery-electric or hybrids.

Still, it’s only in recent years that there have been viable options for replacing mainstream vehicles with zero-emission alternatives, and even then some categories are still awaiting production EVs. Ford and Chevrolet are both preparing electric pickup trucks, as is Tesla, and several American automakers are working on electric SUVs and sedans.

Startups like Rivian and Canoo are developing both passenger cars and SUVs and electric delivery vehicles, while Ford has an e-Transit in the pipeline, an all-electric version of its best-selling van. Earlier this month, GM announced a new brand, BrightDrop, to focus on electric logistics.

“The dollars the federal government spends on goods and services are a powerful tool to support American workers and manufacturers,” the White House said today. “Contracting alone accounts for nearly $600 billion in federal spending. Federal law requires government agencies to give preferences to American firms, however, these preferences have not always been implemented consistently or effectively.”

Full details of today’s executive order are yet to be published in the Federal Register by the government.

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Arcimoto is planning a tilting electric three-wheeler and it sounds epic

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Get ready for the electric vehicle market to lean over, with Arcimoto announcing it’s acquired a tilting trike specialist to use the tech in future EV three-wheelers. Based in Oregon, Arcimoto currently offers all-electric vehicles for public and business use, with its FUV – or “Fun Utility Vehicle” – available to preorder from around $18k.

Today’s deal sees Arcimoto snap up Tilting Motor Works, which offers a leaning kit for motorcycles. Its TRiO system can adapt existing bikes, promising to keep their natural lean but adding stability with a second front wheel. It’s currently offered for Harley-Davidson, Honda, and Indian models, priced at $14k plus installation.

Now, TRiO will be used for future Arcimoto trikes. The system will allow the EVs to lean into corners for more engaging driving dynamics, as well as lock upright when at a stop. The extra front wheel aids in traction too, Tilting Motor Works says, as well as improving braking; the company will continue to offer its kits for traditional motorcycles as well.

Arcimoto’s current FUV supports two occupants, sitting one behind the other. It has a 75 mph top speed from dual electric motors, and a range of 102 miles of urban driving; the doors are detachable, and rather than a steering wheel inside there are handlebars with heated grips. Currently, the company is taking preorders in Florida and on the west coast of the US.

It’s not the only vehicle Arcimoto has in mind, however. Late in 2020, the company showed off its latest prototype, a three-wheeler it called the ROADSTER. Roofless, and with a chopped-down windshield, it promises a more traditional take on the electric trike segment.

Electric drive and three wheels is arguably where some of the most interesting experiments are taking place in mobility right now. Last month, for example, we took the ElectraMeccanica Solo EV out for a spin, a single-seat electric trike that aims to reboot commuting. Based on the fact that almost 90-percent of Americans typically drive alone, it trades cabin space and seating for much cheaper running costs.

What it doesn’t do, however, is tilt. For an example of that, you have to look to something like Toyota’s i-ROAD, a distinctive electric three-wheeler that could lean into corners according to how aggressively you steered. Offered in select locations in Japan, and part of Toyota’s aggressive electrification push for the next few years, the i-ROAD was never officially offered in the US.

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Lotus teases sports car future as Elise, Exige and Evora face the axe

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Lotus is preparing a huge shake-up, with the iconic British sports car company confirming it’s axing three of its most memorable models to pave way for an all-new line-up. 2021 will be the end of the line for the Evora, Exige, and Elise, Lotus said today, dropping a new teaser about just what is intended to take their place.

We’ve already seen one element of that plan, in the shape of the beastly Evija hypercar. Announced in mid-2019, it promised to tap electrification for its potency, something Lotus demonstrated in action at its public debut in October last year.

Not everyone will be able to afford – or even find a spot on the waiting list for – a $2m+ EV behemoth. For that audience, Lotus has confirmed a new series sports car range, with the Lotus Type 131 expected to go into prototype production later this year.

It’ll be built at the automaker’s Hethel, Norfolk facility in the UK, which will undergo a $127m+ investment and see around 250 more engineers and manufacturing recruits added to the payroll. Helping foot the bill are shareholders Geely and Etika, which took ownership of Lotus in September 2017.

You can’t accuse Lotus of not making the most of its outgoing range. The first-generation Elise made its debut all the way back in 1995, a new model for Lotus but epitomizing its ethos of reducing weight in the name of increasing engagement. Though never the most powerful sport car, it nonetheless carved out a lingering reputation across several generations for its purity behind the wheel.

The Exige, meanwhile, arrived in 2000. A coupe to the Elise’s convertible, it built on the platform with race-focused technology to maximize performance. Come 2008, the Evora gave Lotus an entrant for the super-sports sector, tempering some of the automaker’s notorious focus on paring back creature comforts with a more luxurious, GT-minded approach.

The Type 131 range – part of what Lotus is calling its Vision80 strategy – will include at least three new models, replacing the Elise, Exige, and Evora. “Our renowned team of engineers, designers and technicians who are working on the new cars are acutely aware of the legacy from the Elise, Exige and Evora,” Matt Windle, executive director of engineering at the automaker, says. “Indeed, many were around when Elise was being developed.”

Earlier in 2020, rumors suggested Lotus could reboot the classic Esprit name for a new model. The new Esprit, it was hinted, could use a hybrid V6 powertrain, combining gas and electric power, though unlike James Bond’s car it would be unlikely to turn into a submarine.

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