March 5, 2012

MWC 2012 Network Tech: Edge Power, Super WiFi, Van Jacobson

It’s been Mobile World Congress again. To tide you over until we’ve finished the traditional period of fasting, sleeping, and using no technology invented more recently than the sundial, we’ve put together a mini-series of blog posts about major trends we noticed. This one covers what’s happening in networks and infrastructure: Edge Power; Super WiFi; and Telco 2.0’s Top Network Tech moment - a Living Legend on QoS vs. QoE.

(NB For further Telco 2.0 research on future broadband strategies see ‘The value of “Smart Pipes” to mobile network operators’, and our broadband research stream.)

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July 28, 2011

Take the Telco 2.0 survey on the value of ‘smart pipes’

We are publishing a report on the value of operators being ‘smart’ in early September. It is being produced 100% independently and kindly sponsored by Tellabs. It will be freely available.

As part of the research process, we are conducting a short survey. Click here to participate

The survey covers:

  1. The definition of a smart network and smart services strategy

  2. The value (or otherwise) of being ‘smart’ for an operator

  3. The challenges involved in becoming smart

The survey takes only 15 minutes to complete and, better still, all participants will automatically be sent the report. The link again.

It closes on the 5th August - so hurry!

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December 14, 2010

Strategy 2.0: Vodafone’s ‘Happy Pipe’ Vs NTT’s ‘Two-Sided’ Approach in APAC.

Presentations by NTT Research and Vodafone’s division containing its African, Indian, and Asia-Pacific operations revealed very different market strategies. Here’s a quick preview - we’ll be looking at these in more depth in the strategy report ‘The Roadmap to New Telco 2.0 Business Models’, plus a more detailed Analyst Note on these two case studies, and at our US, EMEA and APAC Brainstorms in H1 2011.

At the recent FT World Telecoms event, Naohide Nagatsu, general manager of NTT Research in Europe, presented on their plans for transition to an all-IP NGN. They intend to switch off the PSTN relatively quickly, which is hardly surprising as 68% of Japanese subscribers are on either FTTH or DOCSIS 3 cable and 96% of mobile subscribers are on one 3G technology or other (there being a choice of NTT DoCoMo’s Japanese-flavour 3G, Softbank’s UMTS, or KDDI Mobile’s CDMA-2000).


NTT is currently making an actual majority of its revenues - 58% - from its ISP and IT solutions businesses, the ones BT terms its New Wave operations. They expect that voice will be down to 25% of revenues in two years’ time - a little behind the schedule Telco 2.0 delegates expected way back in 2006, but not by much.

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September 30, 2010

BSG: Technical Perspectives on Net Neutrality

Broadband economics, traffic management and “Net neutrality 2.0” are big themes at the upcoming Telco 2.0 events in Los Angeles on 27-28 October and London on 9-10 November. We’re delighted to be able to share new analysis and use cases from the Telco 2.0 team, Bain & Co, Ericsson and Analysys Mason at the events, as well as hear from the Group CTO of Deutsche Telekom, the Chairman of Project Canvas, and others.

Our in-going point of view is described in our submission to Ofcom here. As additional context please see below a detailed write up of the recent Net Neutrality conference in London organised by the Broadband Stakeholder Group detailing the experiences of the BBC, 3UK, Ericsson, Cisco, and including valuable data on network costs.

One of the things that struck us about the shindig was that in fact, net neutrality and its opposite weren’t really top of the agenda.

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June 29, 2010

Survey: What do you need from your SDP?

A survey on SDP, developer communities, and app stores: What do you expect and need from your SDP suppliers? What do developers need from an SDP?

From the earliest days of Telco 2.0 we’ve been concerned by the importance of the Service Delivery Platform layer in the network - in the future, it might be where the economic activity is. Without our concern that the industry was drifting towards a monolithic, control-minded, IMS-based solution without a clear business model, we might not have started the company. Now, Moriana, in co-operation with Telco 2.0, is conducting an industry wide survey.

It is aimed at operators, service providers and communication service providers (CSPs). The objective is to gather information from CSPs about their wants, needs and intentions in relation to Service Delivery Platforms, app stores, developers, and their SDP suppliers.

Your input is important. The results of the survey will have an impact on the industry and help determine the strategic direction of SDP, applications and services in the telecom industry.

If you’re a developer, there’s a special version of the survey here.

What you get in return

  • Your input and influence on the future of SDP in the telecom industry
  • A free summary of the results
  • Plus the chance to win a netbook
All results will be presented TOTALLY ANONYMOUSLY.

The survey is here and closes July 7th, 2010. The special developer version is here and also closes on the 7th.

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June 12, 2009

Technical Architecture 2.0 - Good Start, but Significant Gaps

Below is a summary analysis of the Technical Architecture 2.0 session at the May 2009 Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm.

The premise we explored was this:

The implementation of new ‘Two-Sided’ Telecoms Business Models has major consequences on telco network architecture. Perhaps most importantly, data from separate internal silos needs to be aggregated and synthesised to provide valuable information on a real-time basis. Key process interfaces that enable new services must be made available to external parties securely and on-demand. Network and IT functions must start collaborating and function as a single entity. Operators need to migrate to a workable architecture quickly and efficiently; vendors have to support this direction with relevant new product offerings and strategies.

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May 1, 2009

TM Forum’s ‘Blueprint’ Initiative

As most readers know, we’re working increasingly closely with the TMForum and, in an effort to get strategy and IT people talking more closely with each other, we’ve co-located next week’s Telco 2.0 exec brainstorm with their big Management World event. (Check out the new ‘distance participation packages’ if you aren’t coming but want the input/output of the brainstorm). Below is an intro to TMForum’s new ‘Blueprint’ initiative, which we believe is a major step forward in helping realise the dream of the ‘two-sided’ telecoms business model:

TM Forum’s Solution Frameworks (NGOSS) has been a very widely adopted set of standards and best practices that have helped many businesses successfully transform their business and operations.

But to take it to the next level required in today’s extremely competitive landscape, we’ve developed the Blueprint Initiative, which essentially takes our Solutions Framework - and its key elements the Application Framework (TAM), Business Process Framework (eTOM) and Information Framework (SID) - and brings it to the next stage of evolution by finding commonalities among the core frameworks.

The Blueprint Initiative’s goal is to find these synergies and bring them together in an effort to help companies create a Service-Oriented Enterprise (SOE), the goal of which is to create an extremely nimble, agile and modular organization that can very quickly adapt itself to new business models, new technologies and new partnering agreements.

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April 23, 2009

Enabling Telco 2.0 Transactions ~ a pragmatic approach

As a follow up to Openet’s last guest post on integrated billing and policy management as a key enabler of ‘Telco 2.0’ business models, Joe Hogan, their CTO and Founder, provides below an elegant articulation of the need for operators to exert much more intelligent real-time control over networks, subscribers and services. (Joe will be will be discussing the practicalities of monetising partner-based transactions at the 6th Telco 2.0 exec brainstorm in two weeks’ time in Nice):

As a regular reader of Telco 2.0 research and analysis and participant at the ‘exec brainstorms’, I am always struck by the central premise of Telco 2.0 and how it contrasts with my own experience in the OSS/BSS trenches. The Telco 2.0 model is essentially built on two inter-related points, that an operator’s networks is intelligent (i.e. subscriber and service aware) and broadband will continue to be ubiquitous and cheap.

However, operators have struggled with subscriber and session awareness for their IP-based networks. For operators to add value to the traffic going over their networks, this capability is a prerequisite for third-party subsidization of access and usage for end-users.

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February 23, 2009

Rich Communications Suite: Really Considered Significantly Obsolete

It was a curious Mobile World Congress last week; half Telco 2.0 triumph, with things like the OneAPI project, O2 Litmus, and a truly impressive focus on developer communities, and half a harking back to the days when IMS was the solution, whatever the problem might be.

Take the GSMA’s ‘Rich Communications Suite’ (RCS). We’ve discussed the imperatives for voice telephony recently here. So, we’re at a loss as to the relevance of RCS to the market, as one of our analysts vociferously describes below.

But we’d value an open discussion with readers who support the initiative. Do read the analysis in the rest of this article, and tell us what you think via the ‘comments’ function on this blog…

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October 21, 2008

Guest Post: Next Generation BSS - agile ‘order-to-cash’ systems

Barbara Schmiedinger, Head of Residential Product Marketing at Telekom Austria, will be talking at the Telco 2.0 event on 4-5 Nov about how their quad play product offerings are using a sophisticated BSS platform from Infonova to help them in a very competitive market.

Infonova’s ‘order-to-cash’ platform has been specifically designed to support ‘Telco 2.0’ business models: whitelabeling, rich wholesale products, and innovative partner models. We particularly like the fact that the wholesale angle seems to have been baked in from the start, rather than bolted on as an afterthought.

At the same time, Infonova’s platform helps to optimise existing business models and allows flexible interchange between ‘legacy’ and ‘next gen’…all at remarkably low cost levels.

We asked Andrew Thomson, Director, Infonova Solutions to elaborate on the market opportunity for agile systems like this:

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October 14, 2008

Subscriber Data Management - Review of Nokia Siemens Networks User Conference

Buying Apertio earlier this year has put Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) right at the forefront of the Subscriber Data Management (SDM) movement. This is an increasingly interesting topic, since customer data is the bedrock of future two-sided business models. We were asked to provide some Telco 2.0 context to stimulate their User Conference a few weeks ago and facilitate a debate. The event focused on exploiting NSN’s OneNDS product, created by Apertio. This is such an important part of NSN’s overall market proposition that their CEO came in person to the event.

Telco 2.0 Keynote

For the content of our own opening keynote presentation, click here. With respect to subscriber data, there is one specific take-away worth noting. We don’t see the opportunity being the direct exploitation of that data by selling or sharing it. There are common business processes that every consumer-facing organisation undertakes. Telcos can remove friction from these processes, and will be rewarded for the improved process outcomes. The customer data is the raw material, not the good for sale.

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September 17, 2008

Telco 2.0 Interview: Steve Zimba, Microsoft

Continuing our series of interviews with major industry thinkers, Steve Zimba is Microsoft’s Managing Director, Global Telecoms Business. We interviewed Steve about their ‘Telco 2.0’ strategy. This integrates their PC, IPTV and mobile offerings with a combined software and services offering, supported by telecoms-specific capabilities and a third party ecosystem.

Steve Zimba

Microsoft is a particularly interesting company to us because they are in a unique position. They bridge the consumer and enterprise markets, which places them well to create technologies and operational businesses for two-sided markets. Their Internet competitors are consumer-centric, and don’t have channels into the enterprise. Rivals such as IBM don’t have the consumer brand or media properties to run experiments on the scale Microsoft can. Furthermore, Microsoft is active across all of the B2B value-added service areas we believe will drive future telco growth: identity, advertising & marketing services, e-commerce, order fulfilment, content delivery, billing & payments, and customer care/CRM. The difficult challenge is whether Microsoft can make the whole more than sum of its software conglomerate parts.

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August 4, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 4th August 2008

In Today’s Issue: Moto splits again, makes actual money; CDMA - the edge of darkness; Nortel loses customer, 15% off shares, gains WiMAX obsession, 13% back on shares; most pointless network tech announcement?; the LTE voice problem; FCC KOs TCP RST DPI; good news shock at FT, NTT; Indian WiMAX speccy shocker; IKEA is a mobile operator; BT shareholders panic; free N810s

We’ve been following the crisis at Motorola for some time. The latest reorganisation is here. As well as selling off the failing handset division, they’re now planning to split up the rump of the firm into several chunks. The set-top box and related business goes in one, the cellular business in another, and the WiMAX operation in yet a third. (Motorola’s declared tech strategy assumes that WLAN, UMTS, and WiMAX are the default radio network technologies, and these roughly map on to this structure.)

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July 16, 2008

Verizon’s P4P initiative: will it support the value chain effectively?

The Telco 2.0 research team is undertaking some detailed business modelling around ‘Rich Media Distribution’ over the summer. We’ll also be debating this with industry leaders on 4-5 November at our next event in London. More on both of these anon. In the meantime, here’s some analysis of Verizon’s P4P next generation file swapping initiative:

We’re not sure how it happened, but Verizon appears to be turning into one of the most interesting telcos around. For a start, there’s the fibre - but then again, even AT&T has an FTTH roll-out of sorts going on. Then there’s ODI, their developer platform initiative. The whizzy portal-like Dashboard application Verizon Wireless is putting on its LG Chocolates has a publicly available API so people can do evil things to it. But perhaps the most significant change at Verizon is P4P, an attempt to reconcile the huge RBOC with the world of peer-to-peer applications, using a technology developed at Yale University as Haiyong Xie’s PhD research project.

We’ll start by noting that a lot of people read “P2P” and think copyright. Of course, the means by which you distribute something don’t determine its content, and certainly not its intellectual property status, so this is a red herring. Anyway, we’ll recognise this and move on - we’re interested in the telecoms aspects, not the record industry.

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June 16, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 16th June 2008

In Today’s Issue: Mobile spam horror looms; Gyahoo will eat your ad business anyway; Nokia starts its own ad platform; open-source unicomms for prison warders shames telco engineers; roaming in Africa; Reding on the rampage again; Swedish military intervention; MTN-Reliance sporked by brothers’ brawl; Clearwire’s world domination plan; Nortel ducks for LTE; Sprint-powered jukebox; the end of WAP; Carphone in trouble; AT&T caps hogs; BT fibre - not all it’s cracked up to be; when number portability works too well

Computerworld asks - are we on the edge of a mobile advertising disaster comparable to the spam phenomenon? A close reading of the story would suggest that their definition of a disaster might be quite close to a mobile advertiser’s definition of success - however, Telco 2.0 would point out that in telco terms, advertising alone is just not that big a deal and operators need to look to facilitating a far wider set of interactions between users and enterprises.

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June 4, 2008

Use Case: Optimising Rolls-Royce’s ‘Product-Service’ business

This is a ‘Use Case’ taken from our 2-Sided Business Models report, which is out now (10% discount to readers of this blog). We have chosen Rolls-Royce as an example of both the type of target business model (mixing services with products) and a specific B2B VAS (Value Added Service) opportunity - field service - for telcos to sell into.

A major trend of the times is the blurring of the distinction between service industries and manufacturing, creating product-service systems — in our own technology field, we can already see plenty of examples. Is IBM a manufacturer or a service provider? Ever since its early 90s crisis, it’s put a lot of effort into its services businesses (consulting, systems integration, hosted/managed service operations), but not only does it still make computers, it carries out fundamental R&D on topics like semiconductors, lasers, batteries and magnetic materials — even more hardware than the chip makers.

Similarly, everyone would agree that Ericsson manufactures telecoms equipment, but one-third of its profits come from Ericsson Professional Services. On the other hand, Google would seem to be a quintessential services company, but it actually makes its own servers. Further, some functions that are typical of tech manufacturers - R&D, design and engineering - are found in companies that outsource all their manufacturing, but whose output is still recognisably a physical product, like ARM Holdings.

But this trend is even more pronounced outside the IT/telecoms world. Many, many companies turned to integrating their products with services as a way of fighting commoditisation over the last 30 years - and it’s often cited as a way of making industry more sustainable (pdf). We’ve picked one example which offers insights into where telcos might take their business.

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May 26, 2008

Profiting from gigawatts, not gigabytes

Reading about novel energy trading company EnerNOC, what sticks out is just how big the opportunity is for ‘Telco 2.0’ operators and business models. Remember, your job as a _personalised logistics services provider for valuable data_ is to help get the right information to the right place at the right time, securely, swiftly and cheaply. And rather than trying to squeeze an extra millicent of termination fees from the regulator, why not solve some problem in the world of energy instead?

One of the biggest barriers to making use of the huge quantities of energy the sun provides for free every day is reliability. The sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow. So, in most places, the most plentiful (and cheapest) forms of renewable energy are subject to a discount. They are not, as the electrical engineers say, despatchable. This is a serious problem, because electricity cannot be stored easily. Even without the added complexity of variable wind power, the grid has to match supply and demand in real time, all the time, whilst observing some very intricate technical constraints (pdf).

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March 31, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 31st March 2008

In Today’s Issue: Motorola gossip: the demerger cometh; cablecos’ Comcast-Clearwire concert party; HOWTO deploy fibre in NZ?; here’s an answer from San Francisco; Symbian OS platform security is hacked; free WLAN in BA lounges; 3UK is profitable, pigs fly; another MVNO casualty; Virgin Mobile India “not an MVNO”; Miss Bimbo; $20 a month on ringtones; Cuba Movil!; Chinese 3G; really fast stuff; 3G iPhones; another startup-without-money.

Inside gossip at Motorola; someone claims to have been the Richard Kinder figure of their crisis and accuses Ed Zander of working their past CMO to death, and also playing too much golf. Which of these sins is more serious is left as an exercise for the reader. It was also this week that saw Moto finally take our repeated advice. They got rid of the handsets operation, thus leaving it “floating downwards to find its own level”, in the immortal words of Sir Norman Fowler describing the collapse of Sterling.

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March 25, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 25th March 2008

In Today’s Issue: 37% of Ultra-Mobile PCs to get WiMAX; Virtual PBXs could eat your business customers; low-cost telepresence like low-cost spaceflight, i.e. not very; MSFT buys callcentreco; Don Price on managed services; topology aware P2P; variable speed limits for the Net; price war rages; i-mode fails in Europe; huge telcos win huge telco auction; epic Aussie brawl over WiMAX; Sprint’s new core network - platform perfection or IMS infection?; Vodafone & MTN; French FTTH; Deutsche Telekom disaster; sickening “human skin” phones.

37% of ultra-mobile devices to fit WiMAX. So says Intel — but then again, how big will the market for ultra-mobile PCs really be? Time will tell…

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March 19, 2008

Interview: TM Forum’s Chairman, Keith Willetts

As described in an article in November the work of the TM Forum is becoming more and more important to the development of new telecoms business models.

It’s been trying to simplify the interactions between telcos for years by standardising their OSS-BSS interfaces; if the Telco 2.0 vision comes to pass, what with all those third-party innovators, payments going upstream and downstream, and user data flowing through dozens of APIs, we’re really going to need answers to a whole world of questions around OSS-BSS, roaming, interconnection, and settlement. After all, arbitrarily large numbers of small services (either on their own or as part of bigger organisations) will be busy interacting with telco networks, and the complex of telco, third party developer and customers will be interacting with other telcos, other systems, and other businesses; we’d better have these things nailed down.


As a prelude to their important Management World event on 18-22 May in Nice, we spoke to Keith Willetts, their Chairman (and one of the nicest men in telecoms), about convergence, trends in OSS/BSS and data mining - critical issues, as was re-iterated at the CMO Forum at the Mobile World Congress:

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March 4, 2008

The Telecoms Transaction Platform: Seven Key Questions

Telco 2.0 is all about new business models telcos need in order to survive the crashing price of their staple product, voice. We reckon that addressing entirely different markets and needs — in particular the two-sided business model — is the answer. But sometimes it’s hard to explain this; so we came up with a new framework for it. So we’re going to try to work out what, precisely, goes into one of these “platforms” we keep talking about, how much of it there is, and eventually, how much it will cost.

To start, remember there are two things that go to make up this model: 1.) the ability for partners to re-package distribution assets (broadband networks, voice networks, etc.) independent of the telco’s own retail efforts, via rich new wholesale products; and 2.) B2B value-added services you build on top that use telco network and customer data assets to support largely non-telco business processes. In this article we’re just talking about the great big transaction platform that support the latter of these.

We assume the underlying infrastructure gets “Openreached” (for the access loops) or “Level(3)’d” (for the backbone). In other words, physical access ultimately becomes part of a multi-utility company, based off a model more like that for estate management, with 30+ year investment horizons and stable annunity rents. The core belongs to specialist wholesalers who thrive on volume. Also let’s assume telcos remain weak at feature-based product development (which seems fair). So, what is left? Quite a lot. But surely it’s now useless shorn of being an end-user services innovator? Absolutely not.

The remaining telco assets are capable of answering seven very important questions:

  1. Who are you? We’re talking authentication and identity here, based on the verified billing records in the BSS and OSS, plus security assets such as the SIM.
  2. Where are you? Mobile operators especially have a huge resource of information about location.
  3. How are you? We already see some rich presence-and-availability services, though driven by a desperate bid to compete with Web 2.0 apps. Some instant messaging addicts (think of it as “digital chocolate”) spend a surprising amount of time updating avatars and mood messages to reflect their emotional state, not just doing one-to-one messaging. Capture these behaviours and you will create major opportunities in anything that involves changes of status. Presence is to time as cell-site location and GPS are to space — we just need to figure out the business model still.
  4. Do you have credit? All the data by-products of billing; telcos can make your application aware of money. The Internet can route packets, but not payments.
  5. How can we reach you? Operators not only can reach you via their own communications services, but often can associate together multiple addresses or identifiers.
  6. Who do you know? No-one has more social graph data than a telco. Users have invested their most previous assets — time and money — in creating this data. It’s very valuable.
  7. Any questions? However good the processes, there are always problems that have to be dealt with by a human being. Telcos have massive call-centre capability, and are used to providing support to both enterprises and consumers.

Does anyone really doubt that there’s money in those capabilities if they can be packaged and promoted appropriately?

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March 3, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 3rd March 2008

In Today’s Issue: Mobile apps RIP? And are mobile RIAs the killer? Control your private plane with a Nokia N810; or develop for IMS. It’s your choice. NEC pushes “It’s not IMS”. Sprint = Telco USSR? British ISPs; how not to do it. Comcast: much the same. iPhones; hacked again. Hackers deploy platform strategy. menace rises. Big changes ahead at Telecom Italia. Nokia GPS-tags photos. Virgin Mobile in India. EU “worse than communism”. And cancerogenic BTS doesn’t exist after all.

Have downloadable mobile applications died the death, to be replaced by a Web-based future? Former Palm and Apple exec Michael Mace thinks so; Carlo Longino agrees. The argument is that the diversity of possible platforms, the difficulty telcos (especially) and vendors have relating to the developer world, and the restrictive terms of business they apply, have rendered it just too difficult for a real developer ecosystem to emerge. Meanwhile, the surge in things like Microsoft Silverlight, Adobe AIR, and JavaFX means that the richness of applications that run in a browser is beginning to challenge what you can achieve reasonably quickly in a native application. This is a significant change in the balance of power between the Web 2.0 players and telcos, since you don’t need a special (telco-issued) digital certificate or pre-installation for web applications.

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February 18, 2008

Telco 2.0’s Private Mobile World Congress

So everyone else has done their 3GSM…sorry…Mobile World Congress round-up posts; what did Telco 2.0 think was cool? As you’ll no doubt guess, it wasn’t the shiny gadgets that got us; even at MWC, the anti-shiny goggles all Telco 2.0 team members get issued still block them out. It was a very serious conference this year; we think it may have been the first to get serious about the kinds of communication and enterprise-focused activities that will eventually make serious money for carriers. We broke them down by themes…

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February 11, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 11th February 2008

Telco 2.0 comes to you from the Mobile World Congress … sorry … 3GSM this week; not only were we covering the news but we were part of it, but that’s another story.

A big theme in the news this week was mobile Linux; Orange joined the LiMo Foundation, the outfit Motorola ginned up to boost open-source operating systems on shiny gadgets. Azingo, an Indian software house that markets a LiMo-compliant Linux distribution and developer kit, was showing off some of the unexpected capabilities of the technology.

Specifically, using a Broadcom reference gadget running their system, they were successfully using Nokia S60 widgets on a device that was neither a Nokia nor a Symbian S60 platform; we’re not sure if this is fantastic or scary. Which one depends whether you work in the S60 or Maemo Linux groups at Nokia, presumably.

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February 4, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 4th February 2008

[Ed - reader promotion: If you’re thinking of coming or sending a delegation to the next Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm - 16-17 April, London - there’s a 20% discount if you book before 12th Feb. Details here]

This Week: Winners and losers from the cable cut crisis; Deutsche Telekom loses 2 megasubscribers, copies BT’s homework; AT&T EDGE outage; Sprint relaunches iDEN to battle $31bn writeoff; Dunstone darks DunBlog; Vodafone in data price cut, number porting case; Moto considers handset sale; MS vs Yahoo; Android phones are coming; Nokia-Trolltech analysis; IMS pony still yet to be located; 2.5 million SMS news subs in India.

It was the week the network died, what with no less than four major submarine cables getting backhoed (or rather, anchored). Some thought terrorists were assailing the world’s communications infrastructure; others that the giant squid were getting restless down there. Others thought it was the prelude to a US air-raid on Iran; Todd Underwood and his team at Renesys, though, had the data; Iran wasn’t even in the top 10 countries for outages as a percentage of BGP prefixes. As the operators of FLAG & Co scoured the world for cableships, divers and the like, their competitors who still had capacity in the area (like SMW-3, SAFE et al) were circling like vultures.

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January 31, 2008

Platform businesses: Competing with Big Tech

When you’re lost in the cycle of product development, marketing and customer support it’s sometimes hard to see the big picture of the forces reshaping the structure of the telecoms industry. In particular, telcos are in an unfolding position of co-opetition with what you might call ‘Big Tech’ — the IT technology, commerce and services giants. These increasingly overlap with telco functions. Many of these companies have platform business models. These create value for end users as well as upstream suppliers, and extracting revenue from joining the two sides together. Think Google, Amazon, Sun Microsystems or Companies like IBM specialise in construction and servicing of platforms, even if they don’t always feel the need to own them.

We strongly believe that telcos need to form a platform around their own unique assets. But what drives the economics of platforms, how should the telco platform be positioned against those IT platforms, and what lessons can telcos learn from them?

Mass-produced IT processes for a mass-production world

It’s often been suggested that various so-called network industries exhibit increasing returns to scale; whether or not you accept Metcalfe’s law, it’s empirically obvious that the Internet years’ most significant companies have been ones that made their first priority to build scale and volume. For all the above examples, their businesses are all centred on very large IT platforms and their economic models often involve selling at very low prices, or even giving services away, in order to pull in more volume.

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January 16, 2008

Ribbit! The amphibian of telco voice platforms

We’ve been putting together a directory of all “2.0”-type players for our forthcoming Consumer Voice & Messaging 2.0 Report. One newcomer, Ribbit, is offering an early foretaste of what the future environment for developing voice and messaging services might look like.

Ribbit reckons it’s “Silicon Valley’s First Phone Company”. Silly us, we thought that was AT&T. So what is it? The actual product is a VoIP softswitch, available either as a standalone installation or a hosted service, which offers an unprecedentedly extensive collection of APIs for developers to work into their sizzling lashups. Then, there’s a Flash toolkit intended to let the front-end developers design interesting user interfaces to the system’s voice functions, whether on desktops, laptops, or mobile devices. All very Telco 2.0, really.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Ribbit is that one of the existing applications for it integrates it into, the hugely successful web-based sales/CRM system; you can’t get more platform-based, enterprise-focused, or two-sided than that. We’re sure there’s huge scope for creativity and user-driven innovation here; but there are some issues that worry us.

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January 7, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 7th January 2008

BT strikes in the set-top box market; they’re the first to ship Xbox360 consoles as IPTV endpoints. And there’s more; BT Vision gets an “on-screen magazine” based on the same single platform. We’ve often said that the fixed-line world doesn’t get user equipment, and that this creates interesting opportunities; BT has just leapt right on it. See our case study on Iliad’s Freebox in the Broadband Business Models report.

PS: we’re trying out a new format for Ring! Ring!…

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November 12, 2007

Ring! Ring! Monday ‘Hot News’, 12th November

In this edition of Telco 2.0’s ‘Hot News’ : Viviane Reding wants the power; The iPhone fails to explode in Europe; Who needs Google Android when we’ve got LiMo?; TD-SCDMA gadgets, at last; T-Mobile Shadow under test; 900MHz 3G is here; Sprint and Clearwire fall out; Helio burns yet more cash; BT buys Sonus kit; COLT buys an IMS. Plus, ‘Telco 2.0 Recommends…’: the best from last week’s blogosphere.

Digital Politics and Regulation

Reding wants the power…the power to unbundle all Europe.

Telco 2.0 Comment: Proposed; a single regulator for everything that’s European and telecoms, with you-know-who in charge. It’s a fearful vision if you’re Telco 1.0, and pretty scary if you’re Telco 2.0, come to think of it. Expect much more structural separation if this happens.

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October 30, 2007

Guest Post: IPTV - Gateway to New Business Models?

Alcatel-Lucent is one of the major sponsors of the Telco 2.0 Future Broadband Business Models study, and was a Platinum sponsor of the Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm, two weeks ago in London. We asked Martine Lapierre, Vice President Marketing Programs, and one of our panelists at the event, to sum up the potential of IPTV to support new business models, rather than just emulating existing broadcast services.

One of the important insights to come from the Telco 2.0 Future Broadband Business Models survey, and a recurring theme of the Brainstorm event, was the need to give more consideration to end users as a critical telecom asset, and not just as a profit centre. Survey respondents certainly believe broadband service providers should focus on revenue opportunities from partners who want to reach and do business with this customer asset.

We believe that broadband service providers can keep their customers brand-loyal by packaging third party services in a way which addresses end user demands for convenience and simplicity. They can attract upstream revenue by providing meaningful customer intelligence to these third parties (advertisers, government organizations, content providers), who can in turn make their marketing targeted and relevant to end users.

One of the strategies operators are employing to realize this vision is the deployment of IPTV services to households around the world.

Why? IPTV services give broadband service providers the following:

  1. A touch point within the customers’ home network — strengthening the broadband service provider’s relationship with that all-important customer asset.
  2. Ownership and management of a back-end channel capable of providing very rich customer behaviour and intelligence, which can be monetized.
  3. The ability to broker engagement between a number of 3rd parties and consumers through the most-watched screen in the household today.
  4. An anchor to evolve towards more sophisticated ad insertion, ad-sponsored distribution, and other models of content distribution.

The survey — sponsored in part by Alcatel-Lucent — will finally close at midnight tonight GMT. Last chance to complete it if you want a free copy of the summary results!

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October 17, 2007

Red Hat@Telco 2.0; Re-Engineering Telco Infrastructure

Telco 2.0 Comment: We’re delighted to have the people from Red Hat’s telco business at Telco 2.0. Ivelin Ivanov, their director of product development, agreed to do a guest post for us about telcos and their JBoss Java-based comms platform; it’s like a really tiny SDP that fits into products like IP-PBXs. In fact, when Ivelin demonstrated it, it turned out it was running on his laptop. If that isn’t cool, I don’t know what is.
Who would think a few years ago that the telco industry would ever reach a pace of innovation comparable to the web world? Well, it happened. Most still wouldn’t agree, but maybe pointing out a few facts will help.

Earlier this year the web thought leaders launched amazing new online tools for web mashups - Yahoo Pipes, Microsoft Popfly and Google Mashup Editor. They took over the web developers community by storm and changed the way applications are written and deployed. A new computing environment emerged.

A series of posts followed in the telco blogosphere, proposing interesting ideas for telco mashups. Some good examples came up during the O’Reilly Emerging Telephony Conference (ETel).

It was magical for me to find out that a tier one carrier was tuned in and listening to all the cool talk in town. Not only listening but also acting on it. Last week I was presented with early access account to an online service exposing telco services in a way easily consumable by mashups. Hopefully the service will reach general availability shortly and I will be able to post more about my experience with it while creating converged online services.

While there is a lot being said about creating mashups, it is less clear how one can create services that can be converged via mashups. Recently Telco 2.0 wrote about evolving telco platforms. The article argued that while Level 1 and 2 platforms are feasible and will evolve, Level 3 platforms have no future.

We would like to challenge the latter statement. L3 platforms are proven to work well in the enterprise middleware market and are starting to take off in the telco middleware space as well. At least open source L3 platforms are.

Yesterday, on the Telco 2.0 Product and Partnership Innovation track, I demonstrated a DVD Online Store service, which will show convergence of several middleware technologies - web, SOA, process management, and call control running on an integrated Level 3 service delivery platform.

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October 8, 2007

Ring! Ring! Monday News Analysis, 8th October

As a preview to the Telco 2.0 event next week in London, here are some relevant news items from the last week to help stimulate the furious debate among the participating cognoscenti:

Ever wanted to physically wave a game controller round your head? Now you can, thanks to Nokia researcher Paul Coulson.

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October 4, 2007

Evolving Internet ‘Platforms’ - Lessons for Telcos?

Says über-geek Marc Andreessen (Co-Founder of Netscape, and ex-CTO of AOL):
“One of the hottest of hot topics these days is the topic of Internet platforms, or platforms on the Internet. Web services APIs (application programming interfaces), web services protocols like REST and SOAP, the new Facebook platform, Amazon’s web services efforts including EC2 and S3, lots of new startups talking platform (including my own company, Ning)… well, “platform” is turning into a central theme of our industry and one that a lot of people want to think about and talk about.

Indeed. Andreessen is certainly right to say that there is a lot of confusion about it, too - we mentioned this in our post on jNetX. In an attempt to clarify this, he defines a platform as any system capable of modification by the user; we broadly agree with this. What we find more interesting is his three-way typology of platforms, and the importance he attaches to them.

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September 27, 2007

How Practical is your SDP?

Members of the Telco 2.0 team went on a trip to the Italian Lakes this week, where we were stimulating and facilitating an impressively organised conference for Service Delivery Platform experts jNetX and a gaggle of telco people from most parts of Europe. We used a basic version of our interactive Mindshare approach to elicit audience feedback on the issues raised.

Some people there had a funny reaction to our use of the word “platform”, central as it is to the Telco 2.0 vision - isn’t a platform really an operating system? Or something used when drilling for oil? They’re right, of course; a Telco 2.0 platform is a sort of operating system, just as or Amazon’s IT infrastructure can be seen as a sort of single huge computer. But it became increasingly clear that this cuts both ways; you need the right platform in the second sense to do a platform in the first sense right.

Where did it all go wrong, Telco 2.0?

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September 14, 2007

21C Global Summit: A Weird Consensus…

Telco 2.0 was supporting the 21C Global Summit at Blenheim Palace this week. And what did we find?

Well, it’s increasingly clear that our ideas have traction. Everyone who so much as touched on telco business models, or the infrastructure that underlies them, agreed on key points; points that could have been taken from the last few months of this blog or the main texts of Telco 2.0. The challenge now is to fully internalise what these mean within telco organisations and create some action plans to do something about it. This requires stronger leadership - a recurring theme of the event.

For example, Andy Zimmermann of Accenture’s Technology Strategy practice opened the conference pipes on Wednesday morning by explaining the importance of some Ps; portals, partners, and platforms were all there. Another was “plexes”, which rather than being another word for your navel was used to refer to big IT infrastructure. Again, that’s certainly a theme you’d meet in your daily Telco 2.0. Further, Zimmermann cited content-delivery networking, secure control of sensitive data, and payments as crucial functions telcos need to develop.

Not just that, but the means he recommended had a notable Telco 2.0 feel; specifically, telcos needed to work on their service-delivery platforms, which don’t need to be IMS. (See Martin’s post for more on this…)

He wasn’t the only one, either; Ross Fowler, Cisco’s VP in Europe, drew everyone’s attention to the curious way the functions of content providers are converging with those the GSM/UMTS standards world think are the core functions of a telco. For example, they require high-level applications such as video editing and collaboration, policy/authentication functions to control how their output is released - and the indispensable networking infrastructure to haul bits. Ross, by the way, will be going into more detail about this at the Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm on the 17th of October.

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September 5, 2007

Making Structural Separation Work: Interview with Steve Robertson, CEO, Openreach

Readers of Telco 2.0 are probably well aware that we like the British model of structural separation, where the local loop is controlled by a specially-created company with a duty to provide nondiscriminatory access to all-comers, a lot. This approach helps to mitigate risk across the BT Group and, theoretically at least, liberates the individual units (Retail, Wholesale, Access) to be more innovative and responsive to customer needs (levelling the playing field a little with internet players like Google). (More on the benefits of this here).

Naturally, we jumped at the chance to interview the good people at Openreach, the BT access division. Especially in the light of rumours that BT might be considering a KPN-like deployment of fibre to the street cabinets; which would make the Local Loop Unbundling model Openreach was formed to defend partly obsolete.

Our interview with Steve Robertson, CEO of Openreach, (who will also be a stimulus speaker at the Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm in October) is below the fold…

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August 21, 2007

Variable Speed Limits for the Internet

A key feature of Telco 2.0 analysis is our effort to understand the limits of the end-to-end principle; how stupid can a stupid network be without being, well, stupid? Networks have to be intelligent in some ways; routing, for example, requires a lot of intelligence although restricted quite tightly to one task.

So we were very interested by a recent NANOG thread regarding improvements in how the Internet deals with major congestion on backbone links. Famously, the Internet is meant to route around damage, but this only works when there is enough route diversity to absorb the diverted traffic. In a major outage, for example the one that followed an earthquake in the Luzon Strait earlier this year, the problem is often that too many people are trying to fit through the remaining links at once.

This is where the fundamental principles of internetworking bite you in the behind; most Internet protocols work on the principle that, if one attempt to do something fails, you try again. TCP achieves reliable delivery by resending packets that are not acknowledged within their time-to-live, until a timeout. The problem is that if there is a major problem, very large numbers of users’ applications will all try to resend; generating a packet storm and creating even more congestion.

So wouldn’t it be nice if you could tell everyone to slow down?


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August 20, 2007

Ring! Ring! Monday News: 20th August, 2007

These weekly news roundups are a new Telco 2.0 service; they are meant to focus attention on news items that might not be Telco 2.0-related at first sight, or big enough to warrant a whole post to themselves, but do contain real insight. They are grouped under the categories used in the rest of Telco 2.0.

Digital Youth

When Search Attacks: Participants in a fancy ID-business social network were horrified when a bot used to auto-populate their profiles libelled leading sci-fi author John Scalzi. He’d repeatedly written about disgraced congressman Mark Foley and used the word “paedophile”; guess what the bot decided to put in his “description” field?

Telco 2.0 Comment: Remember, automatic robots and highly personal information are a dangerous mix. If the AOL security breach was farce, this is tragedy, especially as Spock includes a function for users to vote on each other’s reputations.

T-Mobile Tees Up 3G: First 3G device for T-Mobile USA leaked…but the real news is that even without UMTS, data usage ex-SMS is booming.

Telco 2.0 Comment: T-Mobile is better known for its open-slather Web’n’Walk tariff in Europe, but how to explain its US data boom? Our theory is that its historic price leadership, going back to the days of Voicestream, captured a demographic that’s now adopting new gadgets and services rapidly. Note that AT&T just got FCC approval for the US’s first HSUPA data card - 2Mbits/s uplink, 7.2 down.

Digital Cities

Wi-Fi…Why? Cali-utopian geeks’ dream of free Wi-Fi everywhere doesn’t work. Maybe they could have a crack at the space elevator instead?

Telco 2.0 Comment: There’s a reason why mobile operators have lots of radio engineers, you know. And billing departments.

Paranoia in the palm of your hand: New Sprint service lets you browse sex offenders’ register from your phone; so you can find a sex offender in a hurry? No, of course, it’s for your peace of mind..

Telco 2.0 Comment: “Checking for local offenders is free…after normal data charges” It’s one way to get those metered bits moving. In Telco 2.0 terms, this is somewhere between Digital Home and Digital Town. Notably, some other carriers offer various security-related services; MTN in South Africa streams your home CCTV camera feeds to your 3G device and texts you if the alarm goes off. At least you can do something about that other than “move house” or “collect angry mob”.

Digital Politics and Regulation

AT&T spotted wielding censor’s scissors! Astonishingly, David “Stupid Network” Isenberg isn’t at all pleased that AT&T’s web music portal censored Pearl Jam being rude about President Bush. Perhaps it says more about AT&T that they’re hoping to make a profit streaming Pearl Jam over the web? Isenberg, again unsurprisingly, thinks this is an argument for network neutrality.

Telco 2.0 Comment: So that’s what they wanted all that IMS gear for! More seriously, as John Waclawsky said, monitoring is the first step to control.

ESPN’s efforts to have fewer customers are a roaring success; the cable-TV sports channel may give up on a scheme to restrict access to its website to customers of ISPs who pay it for the privilege.

Telco 2.0 Comment: The idea was that viewers who couldn’t get to see the videos would complain to their ISP; it could have perhaps been predicted that they would complain to ESPN’s website about not being able to see content on their website. Further, the economics of this are a little strange; there is no pot of gold in the customer ISP world for content providers to get their hands on, quite the opposite with margins tanking all over the world.

Too many zeros; Telekom Malaysia bills subscriber 17 times the GDP of the United States. Sorry, that should be “bills deceased ex-subscriber”…

Telco 2.0 Comment: When you do something often enough, even 99.999% sometimes isn’t enough.

Digital Product Innovation

3UK to offer cheap mobile data; 1GB/month=£10, 7GB/month=£25.

Telco 2.0 Comment: In the future, data transfer will be cheap. Cheaper and cheaper. How will 3 make money from this?

Nokia does identity and social networking: sadly, they call it Mosh. In other awful branding news, will Sprint-Nextel call its WiMAX service XOHM?

Telco 2.0 Comment: I, ah, hope you know what you’re doing with that ad budget.. Seriously, there’s so much interest in SNS these days it’s no surprise Nokia is interested, if only as a research project into user interfaces. It probably helps if your users can pronounce the service..Oh God, they’re actually going to do it…

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August 17, 2007

404 Skype Not Found

Centralised architectures can always cause trouble. Not that this is a point in distributed systems’ favour, necessarily; look what just happened to Skype, which has suffered a whole day’s outage.

We at Telco 2.0, as you may know, are actually a group intellect, structured rather like the brain of a large cephalopod. Rather than one single brain, there is a node for each tentacle, the whole being interconnected by the highest-bandwidth nerve fibres known in nature. Unlike the squid, the Telco 2.0 team uses Skype quite heavily in order to maintain coherence among its multiple cerebellums (cerebella?), so we may be forgiven for feeling a little sporky. We’ve been debased to using Google Talk for much of the day.

Telco 2.0 in its natural habitat
Telco 2.0 in its natural habitat

So all day, access to Skype has been to all intents and purposes impossible, starting around 1000 hours GMT. The pathology takes the following form; on start-up, the Skype client successfully registers on the network (often with considerable delay), but rapidly logs-off again, and struggles to reconnect. During the brief intervals of successful operation, the number of logged-in users is very low; between 100,000 and 320,000 according to our own observations.

What was up? Surely the nature of a peer-to-peer network means that there is no single point of failure? Well, everyone speculated, so why not us too?

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August 15, 2007

IT Giants: Commoditise This!

Not so long ago, Indian IT services company Wipro joined the IMS Forum and announced that from now on, it would offer a range of IMS development services. There’s a whitepaper of theirs here on IMS, but this paragraph from the EE Times story interested us more..
With the evolution of the IMS technology, Wipro has matured its IMS offerings towards becoming an integral part of the converged digital media delivery ecosystem,” said Nagamani Murthy, Wipro VP, mobile and consumer electronics group.
Clearly, Wipro sees IMS as just another data transport system; “he’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty means of transporting information goods.” Of course, as far as developing applications for IMS client devices goes, this is precisely what IMS was meant to do (at least, one of the vast number of things it was meant to do) - open up applications development to a bigger community outside telco R&D groups. Traditional telcos might even be cheered by this as evidence that rather than letting just anyone develop applications, they are being developed by big companies on contract to other big companies.

But who would imagine it would stop there? At Wipro, they have a constant risk of a namespace collision with another IMS; Infrastructure Management Services. This is the line of business where they install, commission, and manage private networks, including (according to their website) high-capacity switching systems. And IMS is nothing if it’s not a high-capacity switching system. OK, so network outsourcing is not that new an idea, but the shift to IP-based networks means there’s something much more disruptive out there..

scientists prepare to experiment on a helpless telco

Scientists prepare to experiment on a helpless telco

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August 10, 2007

Why are there no mobile CDNs?

If you’ve been with us so far, you probably know that Telco 2.0 likes content-delivery networking (CDNing) a lot. So much so we invited an executive vice president from market leaders Akamai Networks to the next Telco 2.0 executive brainstorm this October. Even though a couple of CDN operators - Akamai and Limelight - recently had a bad day on the stock market, we’re still confident of this judgement. After all, when Wall Street is annoyed because your profits were only up 55 per cent, it’s probably their problem rather than yours.

A CDN, to recap, is a way of delivering bandwidth-heavy content (usually video) over the Internet efficiently. Standard methods have the downside that the same material has to be transferred out of the provider’s network, over the backbone, and into the user’s ISP network at least once for each user; peering and transit costs are incurred at each stage. Further, the load on the provider’s servers is a problem. In a CDN, Web servers are placed at strategic points inside customer ISPs and filled with content. Requests are then redirected to the CDN box, so each item only has to be transferred outside the ISP once.

It has the major advantage that everyone’s happy; you’re happy because the load on your own servers is relieved, and your stuff is delivered faster than the competition, your ISP is happy because their peers aren’t yelling any more, and the downstream ISP is happy because the weight of traffic has been moved inside their own system, where (depending on their business model) it’s either cheaper or effectively free. And none of this involves reducing other people’s quality of service or doing any other evil. It’s elegant engineering, and good economics.

The reason, deeper down, why CDNing works is that it understands where the bottlenecks are; the critical paths, the limiting factors, the maximum cuts. In this case, the bottleneck is the network edge, because it’s where the economic activity occurs. The Internet’s economic model is that interconnection is what creates value, realised either by barter (peering) or in cash (transit).

So why are there no CDNs in mobile networking?

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August 1, 2007

40Gbits Granny and the Future of Telecoms

The news that Sigrid Löthberg, Peter Löthberg’s 75-year old grandmother, has the world’s fastest Internet connection has now passed through the Web’s digestive tract. All the oohing and aahing is complete. It’s certainly very cool that she has 40Gbits/s connectivity and a CRS-1 router in her garden shed, but it is only a demonstration project.

However, it does tell us quite a lot about how Cisco thinks the future will be. And there will not be a CRS-1 in every pot any time soon. The fibre, well, that’s a different story. Sweden, like some other countries, has a number of projects that aim at the creation of shared, open-access fibre infrastructure. It’s a question of getting the institutions and economics right; aggregating enough customers to spread the capex while guaranteeing open access to preserve competition. And that, by the way, is what the Digital Town strand of Telco 2.0 is all about, and the focus of the Digital Cities summit on the 18th of October: find out more here.

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July 30, 2007

Google anchors its carrier off the coast of Telcoland

So what’s up with Google and the 700MHz spectrum? Well, Google has “pre-bid”-that is, declared its interest in bidding-for a large block of radio spectrum in the US’s 700MHz ex-TV band. (See here.) The big friendly search engine (or menacing, Orwellian data monster, depending on point of view) doesn’t just want the spectrum for itself; it wants it to be sublicensed for public access.

Traditionally, the economic value of radio spectrum has been largely an economic rent, originating from the fact that licenses grant a monopoly of its use. No cash changes hands when the various unlicensed bands, such as the 2.4GHz swamp beloved of Wi-Fi users worldwide, are used; even though, of course, its use creates value for the user, this isn’t accounted for.

So why would anyone want nonexclusive spectrum? Isn’t it a contradiction in terms? And what does Google plan to do with it? Google, after all, is a model Telco 2.0 company, designed around the
horizontalisation of the industry (NB: in the plenary session of the Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm in October we’ll be talking about ‘coopetition’ strategies based on some new analysis by our senior stimulus presenters).


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July 19, 2007

By Grand Central Station SunRocket declared Chapter 11

The US’s second-biggest VoIP carrier, SunRocket, is bankrupt. You wouldn’t have been very surprised, had you read this article on Telco2.0, or even this one from back in 2003.

Not so long ago, Google bought a small company called GrandCentral Technologies that provided a hosted SIP gateway - permitting its customers to route multiple PSTN/PLMN or carrier VoIP numbers, or SIP names, to a single inbox they can access from any Internet connection. What connects these two facts?

First up, companies like SunRocket and Vonage originally succeeded because they confiscated some of the traditional telcos’ economic rents. An economic rent is defined as a return which is entirely due to scarcity; you don’t do anything to get it. In the past, bandwidth was scarce and difficult, and bound tightly to the telco’s infrastructure of identification, billing, and authorisation. With the plummeting cost of moving bits over IP, the proportion of a telco’s profits which are attributable to artificial scarcity has greatly increased - as Li Mo, chief network architect at ZTE USA put it, “the network is so much simpler when you take out the charging mechanisms.”

With the arrival of IP, it became possible to separate addressing, identification, authorisation, and payment from any one particular network. Instead, you can now assemble functions horizontally across different companies. VoIP carriers do their own number allocation and billing, and use other people’s networks for access (but usually their own in the backbone, whether real or virtual). It’s what we call Voice & Messaging 2.0.

Using really cheap transport, and being willing to accept lower margins, providers of what we might call “bog-standard VoIP” were able to capture some of those rents. But the same principle applies to them, in so far as their business model depends on the difference between the price they charge an average customer per bit and the price they pay to their transit providers, less the cost of customer care. Somebody could always come along and undercut them, and they did; traditional carriers entering a price war with deep pockets, new VoIP providers, and software-based VoIP operations like Skype or Gizmo - who don’t carry their own bits and whose product is often free.

These companies rely for their money (where they actually make money, that is) on the sort of alternative value propositions you’ll find at Telco 2.0 - and especially in our Data Transport Systems project - on a regular basis - presence/availability control, integration with other applications, and premium interconnection with older systems. So what does this have to do with GrandCentral?

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March 26, 2007

New SDP Architecture needed for ‘The Long Tail’

Aepona have some strong and interesting views on SDP architecture. We asked Michael Crossey, who’s a stimulus presenter at our Technology Insiders’ SDP/IMS workshop at the Telco 2.0 event this Thursday to explain the impact of ‘The Long Tail’ on SDP architectures. He says:

“Those of you who are regular readers of Telco 2.0 blogs, and followers of developments in the world of Web 2.0 in general, will no doubt be familiar with the concept of the “Long Tail”. For those who aren’t, the Long Tail is a term used to describe certain business and economic models in which the accumulative sales value of niche or specialist products exceeds that of the most popular products. This effect tends to be associated with Internet-based business such as Amazon and iTunes, where the costs of inventory storage and distribution are low relative to traditional businesses.

For such business models, research has shown that consumers place much higher value on the availability of niche products that appeal to their specific interests, than on the pricing of those products. Increasingly, this concept is being applied to content such as video, particularly as telecommunications operators consider how they can differentiate emerging IPTV services against the current offerings from established mass-market broadcasters. Some of these operators are looking to leverage the Long Tail effect by offering a broad range of specialised IPTV content to their subscriber base, taking advantage of an IP-based storage, transport and distribution infrastructure that allows them to achieve this cost-effectively.

So what has all of this got to do with Service Delivery Platform architectures?

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February 27, 2007

IMS - Getting NGN Architecture Aligned with the Commercial Future

Below is an update on the Technology Insiders track at the up coming Telco 2.0 Industry Brainstorm. It includes a list of the latest expert speakers.

Back in December we outlined our thoughts (here) on the imperatives around IMS and SDP in the context of NGN architectures. This was on the back of our IMS Services brainstorm in October and worries that IMS was still being over-hyped by certain vendors (expressed here).

Since then, we’ve been analysing the NGMN (Next Gen Mobile Networks) initiative (described here) - speaking closely with their leaders - and looking at how this links to the ‘commercial context’ for operators, as expressed at 3GSM (here) and as part of our new ‘Telco 2.0 Business Model Map’ which we’ll be unveiling on this blog next week, and debating in-depth at the Industry Brainstorm end of March.

An introduction to the Technology Insiders track is here and to the interactive format (for those new to it) here.

But, in terms of speakers I’m delighted to annouce the following experts who will be stimulating the brainstorm. The session is very focused, looking at practical opportunities to more tightly align technical strategy with new ‘telco 2.0’ commercial realities and trends :

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January 22, 2007

Mobile NGN - a Real Telco 2.0 Opportunity?

I managed over the weekend to plough through the sixty pages of “Next-Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN): Beyond HSPA and EVDO”, the latest white paper of, an initiative by the CTO’s of China Mobile, KPN Mobile, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile International and Vodafone Group. It provides a technical requirements framework to vendors for the next iteration of mobile networks. (This feat did require the assistance of a large box of chocolate-coated gingerbread biscuits for moral support, though.)

[NB: We’ll be debating the white paper’s contents with one of it’s main authors, Hossein Moiin from T-Mobile, at the Telco 2.0 Industry Brainstorm in March - Ed.]

To be clear, what’s defined is just a technology toolkit. Different carriers may deploy it in different ways with varying business models and services. Until we see the business models, jubilation or damnation is premature. Nonetheless, this is an extremely important document. The “walled gardens” of 3G are starting to look like weed patches, and this is a rare chance to define a truly new Telco 2.0 approach that takes the best of the Internet and traditional telecoms models.

I’m quite pleased by the sense and clarity of the document. It avoids wild flights of fancy about sophisticated combinatorial services, and focuses on practical implementation concerns of mobile broadband. It rightly sees the mobile ecosystem as a co-evolution of devices, access and services. This offers a valid and viable parallel/alternative path to the fragmented and sometimes chaotic Internet approach. It’s clear about what generic classes of service are to be offered, and what tradeoffs are likely to be acceptable. The document also outlines a very much evolutionary approach: business-as-usual, only faster and cheaper.

And therein lie the big questions:
* Does it go far enough in addressing the forces tugging apart network access, services and devices?
* Does it react to the counter-forces that would push them back together in order to address deep architectural issues of IP and the Internet (such as weak security and low efficiency)?

Our answer based on our reading is “maybe, if deployed right” — but you need to be a bit of a Kremlinologist to read between the lines and think about what’s left unsaid.

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Re-thinking QoS: Paris Metro Pricing

We’ve been reviewing some documentation from network operators recently. A recurring theme is the need for “end-to-end QoS (Quality of Service) guarantees”. We’re not convinced this is such a compelling business requirement any more. Business is about creating or capturing a scarce resource or capability and charging for access to it. We’d urge those involved in commercial functions at operators to question the QoS orthodoxy and what the network engineers are commissioning. What in your business is really creating value that users are willing to outbid each other to access?

Is the user willing to pay for more than best-effort delivery?

One way of looking at IMS is that it is a system for assigning finite network capacity to users based on the technical and economic needs of their applications. Since those applications have radically different throughput, jitter, latency and resilience needs, the claim is that only through active management of the network operator can they be made to co-exist peacefully. Thus for a decade and more the more traditional telecom outlook has been that “quality will win out” over Internet competition. Meanwhile, Internet absolutists reject any possibility that anything other that best-effort non-discriminatory packet delivery is needed. The existence and popularity of Skype should give the former pause for thought; the latter should be concerned about the conspicuous success of services like SMS, which vertically integrate identity, payment, access and application service.

We’d like to point to a “third way” that offers a better solution than either. The particular example we will discuss is Paris Metro Pricing. It brings into question the fundamental objectives of IMS as an industry-wide platform beyond PSTN replacement.

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Telco 2.0 Strategy Report Out Now: Telco Strategy in the Cloud

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