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PNG sticks with Huawei for subsea cable: Report

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(Image: Huawei Marine)

Huawei will continue building out a submarine cable network interconnecting Papua New Guinea despite pressure from Australia, the United States, and Japan, according to a report by Reuters.

The report said PNG’s Public Enterprise and State Investment Minister William Duma told Reuters that the nation had “an existing agreement” with Huawei.

“It’s about honour and integrity; once you enter into a deal and an arrangement, you go with it,” Duma reportedly told Reuters, adding that Huawei has already completed around 60 percent of the project.

“It’s a bit patronising”, he reportedly added in relation to counter-offers allegedly being pushed by Australia, Japan, and the US.

Huawei Marine had in October 2016 announced that it would be helping PNG build out an 8Tbps, 5,457km national submarine broadband cable network alongside the government’s telco PNG DataCo across 14 main cities and population centres, along with a link to Jayapura, Indonesia.

Earlier this year, the Australian government had used AU$200 million in foreign aid to lock Huawei out of supplying a subsea cable connecting Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands with Australia.

Vocus was subsequently awarded the AU$137 million contract by the Australian government to construct the cable.

“Awarding the AU$136.6 million contract to delivery partner Vocus is a major milestone and signals the start of the physical installation of the Coral Sea Cable System,” former Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop said in June.

“Australia will deliver and majority-fund the cables, with financial co-contribution from both PNG and Solomon Islands.”

Vocus said the Coral Sea Cable System, which is expected to be complete by the end of next year, will use multi-terabit technology. It will now commence a “comprehensive program of survey, manufacture, and deployment activities”, the company added.

The telco is also set to build out a domestic submarine cable network in the Solomon Islands to link Auki in the Malaita Province, Noro in the Western Province, and Taro in the Choiseul Province with the Honiara landing point, which will be jointly funded by Australia and the Solomon Islands.

Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had in April confirmed the subsea cable would be built, saying that the federal government would provide the “majority” of the funding for the project, which will also land in Port Moresby.

During the week of political turmoil that saw Turnbull and Bishop step down from their roles, and Scott Morrison installed as Prime Minister of Australia, Huawei was then banned from participating in any 5G deployments across the nation due to supposed national security issues stemming from concerns of foreign government interference in critical communications infrastructure.

US President Donald Trump has also been cracking down on Chinese involvement in the American tech sphere, including through draft legislation barring the sale of national security-sensitive technology to China, and blocking government or contractors from buying telecommunications equipment and services from Huawei and ZTE.

Huawei in July told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that the US should not miss out on its world-leading technology, pointing out that its exclusion would drive up consumer costs.

United States Senators Marco Rubio and Mark Warner then reportedly told Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ban Huawei from taking part in its 5G networks.

Huawei in September denied similar reports that the Indian government had excluded it from taking part in joint 5G trials, saying it is currently proposing a set of solutions to support the government’s requirements for a nationwide 5G rollout.

South Korea’s largest carrier left Huawei off its list of 5G vendors, with SK Telecom announcing in September that it would be going with Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung.

Huawei is still actively participating in 5G across the United Kingdom and New Zealand, however.

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Mercedes-Benz unveils T-Class and EQT all-electric concept based on new Renault Kangoo

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We weren’t expecting Mercedes-Benz to unveil an MPV or small van, much less an all-electric microvan, but here it is. First off, the Mercedes EQT concept looks fantastic. It mends the styling attributes of a practical people carrier and a small luxury conveyance. Mercedes-Benz will debut two versions of the T-Class: Internal combustion (gasoline and diesel) and the EQT all-electric version.

“We are expanding our portfolio in the small van segment with the forthcoming T-Class,” said Marcus Breitschwerdt, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. “It will appeal to families and all those private customers, whatever their age, who enjoy leisure activities and need a lot of space and maximum variability without forgoing comfort and style.”

Let’s start with the Mercedes T-Class, the one arriving with a slew of gasoline and diesel engines in Europe. Based on the all-new, third-gen Renault Kangoo, the T-Class is riding on Renault’s CMF-B platform, capable of supporting internal combustion and all-electric powertrains.

Measuring 4,945 mm in length, 1,863 mm wide, and 1,866 mm high, the T-Class has seven seats, two sliding doors, and second-row seats that can accommodate up to three child seats. The concept is wearing premium white Nappa leather upholstery, but we’re expecting the production version to get wear-resistant nylon materials in lower-trim models.

Of course, MBUX infotainment will come standard, and Mercedes promises the dashboard and control layouts of the concept will make it to production. It will arrive with a slew of advanced safety features and driving aids like automatic emergency braking, lane assist, adaptive cruise control, trailer stability control, and crosswind assist, to name a few.

Meanwhile, the EQT all-electric version is a hardware clone of the Renault Kangoo E-Tech Electric model, and it’s the ninth member of Mercedes-Benz’s all-electric EQ family. The concept bears tasty exterior bits like a black panel grille with 3D star-effect lighting, futuristic LED taillights, and a full-width LED light bar in the rear. It also has 21-inch aero wheels wrapped in low-profile tires and a unique bottle-shaped panoramic glass roof.

Admittedly, the production EQT will be a toned-down version of the concept seen here. Then again, Mercedes-Benz claims the packaging, body style, and practical features will remain unchanged, and that’s good news. Powertrain options for the EQT remain unannounced, but we have an idea.

Most likely, the EQT will have a single electric motor pumping out 101 horsepower, drawing juice from a 45 kWh battery pack as the Renault Kangoo E-Tech Electric. The driving range is around 165 miles using the WLTP cycle.

The Mercedes-Benz T-Class and EQT will make their official debut later this year. Production is at Renault’s MCA factory in Maubeuge, France, where both the T-Class and EQT are built alongside the Renault Kangoo and Kangoo E-Tech Electric.

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Porsche makes a huge promise for its most important EV

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The Porsche Taycan showed the German sports car company was taking EVs seriously, but it’ll be the arrival of the new Macan EV which really tips the scales toward electrification. Porsche isn’t quite ready to unveil the all-electric Macan quite yet, but it’s already making some big promises about the EV version of its best-seller.

It’s fair to say the Macan has been a huge deal for Porsche. Though the automaker may be best known for its 911 sports car, available as a coupe, a convertible, and a Targa, it’s crossovers and SUVs which have padded the bottom line for some time now.

In Q1 2021, for example, Macan led Porsche sales in North America, closely followed by its bigger Cayenne sibling. Indeed, Porsche sold more examples of the Macan in those three quarters than it did 911 and 718 models combined. In short, if you’re going to make an all-electric version of your most popular nameplate, you need to get it absolutely right.

Porsche’s answer to that challenge is built on the Premium Platform Electric (PPE), an electric-only architecture the automaker co-developed with VW Group stablemate Audi. Indeed, the Macan EV will be the first Porsche product to use PPE. Focused on luxury performance electric vehicles – rather than mainstream EVs as VW Group’s MEB is focused on – there’s plenty of flexibility in how PPE can be configured.

For example, Porsche and Audi have already talked about the capability of rear-wheel drive single motor setups, and all-wheel drive dual motor versions. Body styles, too, can be configured in multiple ways, with up to a 100 kW battery pack nestled into the wheelbase. In the case of the Audi A6 e-tron – a barely-disguised nod to the upcoming luxury electric car the automaker has planned for a few years out – that means a sedan, but PPE can just as easily be adapted for crossovers, SUVs, and other designs. Audi, for example, will use the platform for its Q6 all-electric SUV that’s expected to be unveiled at the end of 2022.

The all-electric Porsche Macan, meanwhile, is being planned for 2023, the automaker says. It’ll use 800-volt architecture – like the Taycan and Taycan Cross Turismo – for faster charging times along with greater performance. Indeed, Porsche isn’t holding back on its speed commitment, promising “the all-electric Macan will be the sportiest model in its segment.”

For the moment, physical prototype Macan EV models are just headed out to the road. Porsche’s development so far has been virtual, using simulations to model the design of the crossover EV more effectively. That includes the aerodynamic work which is so important for electric vehicles, to cut drag and improve range.

In parallel, however, there’ll also be another conventionally-powered version of the Macan – using gas engines still – that will be on sale alongside the Macan EV.

“Demand for electric vehicles continues to rise, but the pace of change varies considerably across the world,” Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board at Porsche, explains. “That’s why we’re going to launch another conventionally powered evolution of the current Macan in the course of 2021.”

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Subaru Solterra electric SUV confirmed as brand’s first AWD EV

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Subaru has revealed details on its new, first all-electric model, and if you were worried there wouldn’t be enough EV SUVs around to choose between, the Subaru Solterra should settle those concerns. The new name is a combination of the Latin words for “Sun” and “Earth,” the automaker says, in a nod to its “commitment to deliver traditional SUV capabilities in an environmentally responsible package.”

That is, of course, pretty much what every automaker says about their new electric vehicle. What could make the Subaru Solterra special is the e-SUBARU Global Platform it debuts.

It’s the handiwork of a collaboration between Subaru and Toyota. Subaru contributed its experience with all-wheel drive, while Toyota brought the electrification part to the recipe. We should see the Solterra launch in 2022, across the US, Canada, China, Europe, and Japan.

The automaker is tight-lipped on just what to expect from e-SUBARU, though we do have some prior knowledge. On Toyota’s side, the architecture is known as e-TNGA, and it’s designed from the outset to be especially flexible. Toyota, for example, is talking about using it for front-, rear-, and all-wheel drive configurations.

Only a handful of dimensions are fixed: the length and width of the motors, for example, and the battery pack which is mounted under the cabin. Everywhere else – including front and rear overhangs, overall vehicle width, and wheelbase – there’s flexibility to adjust size, depending on the requirements of segment, cabin space, and room for cargo.

Toyota plans to tap that flexibility for a whole series of EVs, not just the C-segment SUVs that both it and Subaru have already confirmed are on the roadmap. For Subaru, so far only the Solterra has been announced. It also seems likely that – given the brand’s reputation for AWD – it’ll skip any front- or rear-wheel drive versions.

What isn’t uncertain is that Subaru is onboard with the idea that electrification is the future. Back in January 2020, the automaker predicted that by mid-2030 it would be building electric vehicles only.

Still to be confirmed about this first example of Subaru’s EV strategy are details like power and range, not to mention pricing. In the US, Subaru is still at the start of its federal tax credits for EVs, relatively speaking, given currently it only offers PHEVs not full-electric models in its range. That could help take some of the sting out of any price premium that the new electric platform might demand. We’ll know more as the Solterra gets closer to launch.

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