As I see it, Telcos (particularly in counties that I deal with) are in a perfect position to transform their subscriber's enthusiasm for social networking into real business benefits
Combining traditional Calling Circle Applications (aka Family & Friends, or VPNs as the Telcos would call them) with online (PC or Mobile) communities to share information. These could be short-lived around:
21st Birthday Party
Or they could be longer term communities such as :
Service Clubs (Lions, Apex, Rotary etc)
These are just some that come to mind off the top of my head. I am picturing discounted call and text rates for community members as well as discounted data rates for mobile access to the web community including blogs, activities, profiles, discussions etc. Think about these sort of integrated scenarios for Telcos:
Sending SMS messages to blog subscribers every time that blogger posts a new blog
Emails or SMS message to a community - based on either their profile or their current location.
Microblogging aggregation - the subscriber sends a SMS to a shortcode, which then updates all the other microblogging services that subscriber uses (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Freindster etc)
Write blog posts on your mobile phone either via a MMS message (including images, video or audio), the phone web interface, an email interface or (for shorter entries) SMS messages.
Bloggers could recieve SMS messages whenever someone comments on their posts
.... the list goes on...
In these days where churn is a significant issue for most Telcos -
especially in countries where mobile number portability (MNP) has been
introduced, anything a telco can do to make themselves more sticky for
their subscribers is a good thing. Also add to that the
potential additional revenue from additional data and messaging usage and we have a proposition that lot of telcos would be interested in. I wouldn't see this as having a major effect on ARPU, but every little bit helps.
I can picture a wide range of services that telcos could combine with their Social networking offerings that would draw out additional revenue from their subscribers. While there are plenty of Internet based companies offering blogging, file sharing, profiles, microblogging etc, none of them have the established relationship that a Telco has with it's subscriber base. Additional, very few of them have a local presence outside of their home country. Telcos are localised in nature - either through government heritage, Government regulation, Language or social reasons - Telcos need to take advantage of that fact. OK, their in country competitors have the same advantage, but in this race, the real competitors are the Internet providers. Obviously, a Telco that can move on this territory before their local competition will have a significant advantage in the marketplace.
My gut tells me that within each country, we are just waiting for the first Telco to offer these sort of converged services before all the others in that marketplace decide that they need to as well - the Domino effect.
Speaking about the Domino effect, I am struck by the irony of the naming of that principle and what is happening in the Vietnam telco market right now. The US Government coined the term the Domino effect to justify entering the Vietnam War in support of South Vietnam (to prevent the fall of the rest of South East Asia to communism), yet in the Telecom industry in Vietnam, we are seeing a Domino effect with respect to Service Delivery Platforms right now - one telco goes down the SDP path, so now they are all going down the SDP path...
Now that I have rambled onto the subject of SDPs, a telco could offer Social Networking services without having a SDP in place, but in order to offer true integration between the Social Networking offering and the traditional telco services, a SDP will be required unless they want to go down the custom code path and I think we all know where that ends up - Spaghetti Junction!
As I alluded to in my earlier post (Telcos capitalising on Social Networking tools), Telcos can use Social Networking tools to their advantage in a number of ways. I also mentioned the Idea Factory for Telecom - an adaptation of the basic Idea Factory offering now owned by Software Group Services for Lotus. This offering was originally put together by the High Performance On Demand Services (HiPODS) team and had no less than six servers minimally required for the offering. That is because the Idea Factory (or Innovation Factory as it was previously known but renamed due to trademark issues) was originally offered well before Lotus Connections was released. These days, small to medium implementations can be done with Lotus Connections, IBM Mashup Center and a number of templates and add-ons (widgets) for Connections. A Proof of Concept could potentially be done with a single server. Larger Idea Factory implementations - particularly where Telcos are hosting the service for their enterprise customers and MNVOs would also require a WebSphere Portal Instance as well.
Probably the best explanation I can give to you of the Idea Factory is for you to watch the recorded demonstration I have available below
- in fact I have quite a number of variations of the same demo customised for different Telcos - the demo below the most recent which was recorded before Connections 2.5 was released and so was done with beta version of Connections - see if you can spot the fault in the video! I tried to cover it up as much as possible because I needed to show this video to customers, but it's in there and you will see it if you know what you are looking for....
For online access to the latest Idea Factory (V2) recorded demo - just launch it below... Also note that this is a lower resolution version for online use. I also have a larger version that I used for offline demos, it is 24Mb in size so I will share that with anyone that requests it rather than make it generally available.
Way back in 2007, there was a good whitepaper about the Idea Factory - I have uploaded it to Collaboration_to_innovation-leveraging_web20.pdf. This document is now quite out of date with respect to the technology used to deploy the Idea Factory (then called the Innovation Factory) - these days, we would use Lotus Connections 2.5 as the base platform and add widgets for the polling/surveys requirement and set up activities templates to manage the ideation process, then use IBM Mashup Center rather than QED Wiki which was a IBM Research developed Mashup Environment (check youhtube.com - there are lots of QEDWiki demos available).
The Idea Factory for Telecom fosters collaboration by incorporating a self-service portal for consistent user experience and integration.
Aside from this limitation, the concepts expressed in the whitepaper and the usage of the Idea Factory remains relevant. I guess one point that this whitepaper makes it that IBM has been in this Web 2.0 game for a while now - longer than we have had Generally Available product to support the concepts.
If we look at the above diagram, Lotus Connections will take care of most of the Collaborative Services and the Portal (UI) requirements while IBM Mashup Center takes care of the Services Cluster and the Services Catalog (called the Widget Catalog in the Mashup Center).
I was going to use this post to talk about the Idea Factory for Telecom, but I noticed this press release this morning about SK Telecom (South Korea) use of Cloud computing and I though I would share what have seen with Cloud computing in Telcos. The press release follows:
ARMONK, N.Y. - 16 Dec 2009: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it has successfully built Korea's first cloud computing environment for a private sector company, SK Telecom, the largest telecommunications company in Korea with over 24 million customers. The cloud environment provides developers with the necessary software and hardware to develop applications that will allow SK Telecom to offer up to 20 new services to their customers by the end of 2009, such as sports news feeds and a photo service.
I can't claim to have been closely involved with this deal at SK Telecom, but we have spoken to other Telcos in ASEAN about using Cloud Computing in a similar way. Where telcos have a developer ecosystem, Cloud could be deployed in a private could environment for their developers to deploy their test applications within that private cloud. We proposed using the WebSphere Cloudburst appliance to allow developers to self manage and deploy the virtual servers for their applications. The diagram below illustrates what I am talking about:
I guess this could be where I tie in the Idea Factory for Telecom after all. The Idea Factory would be used to support the whole developer ecosystem, while the Cloudburst appliance would be used to support the advanced developers who want to be able to deploy their Java applications within the cloud.
In my view, this is a somewhat obvious use for Cloud within a Telco and SK Telecom's deployment of Cloud in this manner is proof of that point. The somewhat less obvious use of Cloud within a Telcos is the use of Cloud infrastructure for their core SDP and OSS/BSS infrastructure. I could not imagine a Telco being willing to deploy such core systems in a public cloud, but there is a possibility of deploying it in a private cloud. The team at Bharti Airtel are working to move the SDP infrastructure there to a Cloud environment - giving them the flexibility to rapidly scale up and down to suite different changing market forces. The other BIG thing that moving to a cloud will change is where the SDP components are deployed. Once the SDP components such as WebSphere Process Server, Telecom Web Services Server, WebSphere Services Registry and Repository and the other components are in a private cloud, it becomes very easy to move to a hosted private cloud or even a public cloud. If we think for a moment about the SDP running in a hosted cloud environment, then it is not a huge leap to host another Telco's SDP in the same hosted cloud. Now we have a hosted environment in which potentially many telcos have their Service Delivery Platform running.
This diagram illustrates the various SDP deployment options including the Cloud options. What is happening at Bharti is a move from a traditional OutSourcing model to a private cloud, then on to potentially a single client hosted private cloud and then eventually to a multi client cloud option. See that I need below. What do you think? Can you think of any other cloud scenarios in a telco?
PostScript Taking into account the comments from the internal version of this blog, I have modified the developer ecosystem a bit - using IBM Cloudburst instead of WebSphere Cloudburst would certainly give a Telco a much greater developer platform choice. I've left the view above because that is what we proposed to the ASEAN telco, but in retrospect, the IBM Cloudburst option would have better suited their needs - although IBM Cloudburst has a significant price premium associated with it that WebSphere Cloudburst does not. That said, in a cloud environment (customer hosted private, IBM hosted private, multi or single tenanted) for a Service Delivery platform, using IBM Cloudburst would seem to be to be the right way to go.
OK, Internally, a Telco is like any other big company when it comes to collaboration among it's staff. Social Networking tools help employees to make contacts, learn and share more, find information more rapidly and maintain social networks beyond the physical boundaries of their own work location. If you're curious about what I am talking about, I recommend you have a look at the great videos on YouTube from Jean Francois Chenier (An IBMer). I have embedded the first of the series below:
It's pretty easy to see how within any large company, social networking software such as Lotus Connections makes sense provided you have enough people who actually use it - it seems to me to be something like groups calendaring - it is dependent on a significant proportion of the user population using the tool to make it effective.
The way I see it, it is only a small step beyond the internal deployment of social networking tools to extend to a Telco's trading partners. That might include vendors, resellers (of Telco products - I was initially thinking retail, but that could include MNVOs), enterprise customers and others. Situations where employees of the Telco and employees of external companies need to work together and share information and collaborate - share idea, files, information - generally collaborate would seem to be a valid deployment of social networking tools.
IBM already has an offering that uses social networking tools to build communities around the Ideation (Idea generation and growth) process, a kind of virtual brainstorming combined with idea and through sharing. The intent of the offering is to make it easier for companies to find and help to evolve idea for the next product to take to market. In a Telco, this might be idea such applications like "Meet-on-click"** that a telco could take to market. That offering is called the 'Idea Factory' and is not actually unique to the Telecom industry. Kraft foods use the Idea Factory to come up with new ideas for product packaging. When deployed in a Telco, we often combine the Idea Factory with IBM Mashup Center (recently V2.0 of Mashup Center was released by the way) - an offering I usually call the "Idea Factory for Telecom". The Mashup Center is used as a rapid prototyping environment for the ideas that are evolving within the Idea Factory. In my view, this is a great way to build an active and dynamic developer community for the Telco.
China Telecom have demonstrated how effective the Idea Factory can be in a Telco environment - with a year on year improvement of 900% in a competition to find new applications (3 to 27 new products). Their Idea Factory deployment predated IBM Mashup Center, so they didn't get the benefit of a rapid prototyping tool which I believe could increase the quality of the new product ideas even further.
While I am a big fan of the Idea Factory, I see that as just a starting point for social networking tools hosted by a Telco that extend beyond just their developer community and into their (much) larger subscriber base. Think about building many local communities based around schools, churches, scout troops, national holidays, religious events, local football teams, mothers groups... anything really. The community would have access to a shared virtual community on the web accessible from a PC or (more importantly for many developing nations) from a mobile phone, they would have microblogging, blogs, files sharing, discussion forums, profiles contacts AND be tied into more traditional Telco services such as calling circles. The Telco could provide discounted call and text rate between community members. Sound good? I think so. For the Telco I see a number of benifets:
Decreased likelihood to churn - increased 'stickiness'
Stronger loyalty to the Telco brand
Increased revenue due to increase in call and text volumes and increased mobile data usage once a reasonable proportion of the community is using the tools
An additional weapon against the Internet based competitors (such as Facebook, Skype, MySpace etc)
Telcos in my opinion have a significant advantage over the Internet companies when it comes to offerings like this. They have:
An existing relationship (post or pre paid) customer
More local footprint via people on the ground and reseller/franchisees
Existing monetary arrangements with the customers
Greater trust by customers (typically)
Telcos could easily become the local aggregation point for social networking within that community - for instance with a Facebook connection, subscribers could update their Facebook wall without the need to launch Facebook. Microblogging entries could automatically update status in Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and sent a tweet out on twitter.
I think this is going to be big - web based social networking giants like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn have proved how popular web based social networking can be - add the local context to it and I think you have a winner for Telcos in many markets.
Now that I have started this thought, I think the next few posts could well be along similar vein - looking at the Idea Factory for Telecom, Telco focused Developer Ecosystems, User generated content and Public focused and Telco integrated social networking capabilities....
Here endith my thought (for now)
* I am a shareholder of Telstra ** Meet-on-click is an application I often demonstrate which I can build from scratch in about three minutes using the Mashup Center and some widgets that consume TWSS Web Services. It enables a group of friends to see what is on in the area, where the rest of the group are and send a SMS to the friends inviting them to go out or set up a multi-way conference call so that the group can discuss the suggested venue.
I know this isn't strictly related to my normal Industries, but it is applicable for any DW member, so I thought it was valuable enough to share and might even prove useful in dealing with IBMers. For a number of years now, my email signature has included a link for non-IBMers to contact me via Sametime. That link is connects to https://www.ibm.com/collaboration/instantmessaging
This doesn't seem to be well known among IBMers, but I have spoken with a number of partners, exIBMers and my wife via this facility in the past. All they need is a ibm.com account and anyone can sign up for one of those. If you have ever downloaded anything from ibm.com in the past, or signed up to Developerworks then they will already have one (which is the case for most partners and IBMers)The Sametime client that the ibm.com site launches is the (old) Sametime Connect 3.1 Java client. It looks like this:
NB. In the buddylist - alarmour @ au.ibm.com is my internal Sametime community id (which is the same as my email address) and alarmour @ optusnet.com.au is my ibm.com id.
Despite it's age and now being superseded by Sametime 6.5, Sametime 7, Sametime 7.5 and Sametime 8, it still works! As an example, check out the short conversation I had with my other personality!
In my normal Sametime client, my external id comes in as alarmour @ optusnet.com.au.ibm.ext (my ibm.com id prepended to "ibm.ext") - I can add this external id to my buddylist so that I can see when my external self is logged on. In fact, I can add the external community to my standard sametime setup and log in from there as well. If you know the name of the IBMer that you want to add to your buddylist, but don't know their email address, you can get that from the ibm.com web site through this employee search facility.
I am not sure what is going on with the status of my ibm.com id not showing up as online (on the screen dump above) - I do see when my wife is logged on and some others that regularly log in too (although they are using a more modern client rather than the old 3.1 java client). After a while, it did correct itself through.
What I did for my wife was to download the free trail version of the Sametime client (from DW!), then use the config information from the jave client so that Samtime started automatically when her PC starts - thaqt way, she can chat with me regardless of the Sametime client I am using to connect to messaging.ibm.com (I often use the mobile client which does not support multiple communities). Such a setup also means that she does not need to go to ibm.com in a browser to chat with me - the client is just sitting minimised in the systray on her PC.
Hopefully, this post will spread the word a bit more....
Update: The version of the Sametime Web Client has been updated and the launch URL has changed - I have corrected it above and added a new screen capture of the new client:
Would you like to be able to create bookmarks, blog posts and activity entries with a simple button in your browser? It's easy and works in Firefox and Internet Explorer (possibly others, but I have not tested them). Al you need to do is to create a new bookmark in your bookmarks bar.
Create a new bookmark and paste in the following in the "Location" field of the bookmark:
Wow! Optus in Australia are blocking their own Android subscribers from buying apps from Google's App Store - only permitting subscribers to buy apps from Optus's own app store. Imagine the uproar if they did the same thing for the Apple iPhone and Apple's app store!
In response to the presentation I built (and blogged about - see Telecom Systems Evolution) a number of IBMers asked for costings for each phase. While that would be possible at the early stages where you don't have to take into account scaling, later in the phases, that really does become impossible. For instance lets say phase 4 was US$1m for Telecom New Zealand (with about 2 million subscribers and a heavy post paid mix of subscribers) and compare that with Bharti-Aitel in India with 120 million subscribers and a heavy pre-paid mix. Because of the variations in telcos around the world, there is no way any pricing that was added to the presentation would be in any way applicable - that is something that has to happen on a per telco basis.
That said, we are working on a "starting point" or "lite' implementation and wrapping some costs around that - we think this would be a good starting point for many SDP projects - kind of a standard phase 1. The architecture would be built with expansion in mind even though at phase 1, the components would not be excessively sized. So far, we have a near final Bill of Materials and a number of diagrams. I thought I would share those diagrams with you here. We still need to document all the assumptions and limitations that this "SDP Lite" phase 1 architecture would entail.
I would appreciate feedback on these diagrams, so please comment.
The IBM Telco specialists should recognise this - it is the Service Provider Delivery Environment Version (SPDE) 3 - IBM's industry framework for Telecoms. I included it here for reference and comparison with the follow diagram that illustrates the areas of impact that SDP lite will have on SPDE 3.0.
Now, see the areas of impact that SDP Lite has on SPDE 3.0 - the Orange shades indicate areas of impact. Iif we map the IBM products in the Bill of Materials over the top of that, we get...
That's it with the logical views of SDP Lite. The next one is a marketecture diagram to help explain the key principles and functions of SDP lite. I am only showing the production environment in this diagram, but you could also have a separate environment that is a duplicate of this that could be dedicated to both test and ISVs.
For those that want to understand the Deployment units and their basic layout, I have a deployment unit diagram
Finally, an illustration to show how the SDP Lite infrastructure could support a developer ecosystem - the shaded components could be added in subsequent phases - for now, it is all about secure exposure of web services and REST interfaces to a developer ecosystem that is using conventional Integrated Development Environments (IDE). Note also that the hosting servers for the developer applications are out of scope and could be hosted anywhere on the Internet. . Keep in mind that this is supposed to provide a starting point - or initial deployment. Infrastructure that could grow, but could be used immediately for smaller trials. With that in mind, in estimating the performance, this is what we get:
This SDP Lite infrastructure would allow a telco to begin offering a range of new services and products as well as form the basis for a larger and more functionally rich topology later on. Some of the use cases that come to mind immediately include:
Service exposure to 3rd party ISVs - Web Services and/or REST. This represents a new revenue opportunity for many telcos.
Build composite applications that consume and combine existing services to automate processes like retailer commissions
Marketing campaigns based around bundled products. For instance: top up your prepaid mobile broadband and get unlimited text messages for 24 hours on your mobile - Globe Telecom in the Philippines are doing this exactly - check out the following Globe TV commercial:
Begin to build a developer ecosystem around the exposed services
Build composite applications that consume and combine existing services to offer new products to subscribers such as
Family Finder - Allow parents to see where their kids are and where they have been
Meet on Click - Friends can see where each other is, what is on locally and send invitations to catch up via SMS, MMS or PushWAP
Emergency notifications - Notify everyone in a specified geographical area of some danger
Location based marketing - Send SMS/MMS/PushWAP messages to subscribers who have oped in when they get within 500m of a retail outlet.
lots of others.....
50% CPU Maximum
JS12 Blades (one for TWSS Access Gateway, One for TWSS Service Platform)
SMSM via SMPP
PushWAP via SMPP
MMS via MM7
LBS via MLP
Parlay via CORBA
Presence via SIP
IMS/VoIP via SIP
Expected max transaction rates
100 TPS* for SendSMS via SMPP
10 TPS* for SendMMS via MM7
Other transactions could be added into the mix, but would lower the SMS or MMS transaction rate.
50% CPU Maximum
80% Shortlived transactions
20% Long Lived transactions
Expected max transaction rate
20 TPS* of the above transaction split
50% CPU Maximum
JS12 Blades (one for WebSeal, One for TAM Policy Manager)
Expected max transaction rate
DB2 Enterprise Edition
50% CPU Maximum
Minimum of 12 Disks in RAID 1+0 Array
So, assuming that both internal and external users/systems were using the system concurrently, we could support up to 40TPS from external developers (limited by TAMeb) which if we assume they are using 90% TWSS services and 10% composite services will mean that internal systems would have 74TPS of TWSS services and 16TPS of WPS services available if the developers are consuming 50% of the TAM CPU.
for Internal Use
(32.7 TPS of SendSMS + 3.2TPS of SendMMS)
(67.3 TPS of Send SMS + 6.8 TPS of SendMMS)
(3.2 shortlived + 0.8 longlived TPS)
(12.8 TPS shortlived + 3.2 longlived TPS)
These are really rough numbers and I would like to add some more assumptions around then. Of course, if your Telco won't have a developer programme, then 100% of the transactions would be available for internal consumption.
What do you think? Are we on the right track for your Telco customer? Would you like to see some changes?