Providing a National Broadband Network within a country is seen by many governments as a way to help their population and country compete with other countries. I have been involved in three NBN projects; Australia, Singapore and New Zealand. I don't claim to be an expert in all three projects (which are ongoing) but I though I would share some observations and comparisons between the three projects.
Where Australia and Singapore have both opted to build a new network with (potentially) new companies running it, New Zealand has taken a different path. The Kiwis have decided to split the incumbent (and formerly monopoly) Telecom New Zealand into three semi-separated 'companies' Retail, Wholesale and Chorus (the network), but only for the 'regulated products' which for the New Zealand government is 'broadband'. They all
still report to a single TNZ CEO. I have not seen any direction in terms of Fibre to the Home or Fibre to the Node, just defined the product as 'broadband'. The really strange thing with this split is that the three business units will continue to operate as they did in the past for other non-regulated products such as voice.
As an aside, the Kiwi government not regulating voice seems an odd decision to me - especially when you compare it to countries like Australia and the USA where the government has mandated that the Telcos provide equivalent voice services to the entire population. Sure, New Zealand is a much smaller country, but it is not without it's own geographic challenges in providing services to all kiwis, yet
A key part of the separation is that these three business units are obliged to provide the same level of service to external companies as they provide to Telecom and it's other business units. For example if Vodafone wants to sell a Telecom Wholesale product, then Telecom Wholesale MUST treat Vodafone identically to the way they treat Telecom Retail. Likewise Chorus must do the same for it's customers which would include ISPs as well as potentially other local Telcos (Vodafone, Telstra Clear and 2Degrees). This equivalency of input seems to me to be an attempt to get to a similar place to Singapore (more on that later). Telecom NZ have already spent tens of million of NZ$ to this point and they don't have a lot to show for it yet. It seems to me like the Government is trying to get to a NBN state of play by using Telecom's current network and perhaps adding to that as needed. For the kiwi population, that's not anything flash like fibre to the home, but more like Fibre to the node and then have a DSL last mile connection. That will obviously limit the sorts of services that could be delivered over that network. When other countries are talking about speeds in excess of 100Mbps to the home, New Zealand will be limited to DSL speeds until the network is extended to a full FTTH deployment (not planned at the moment as far as I am aware)
Singapore, rather than split up an existing telco (like Singtel or Starhub) have gone to tender for the three layers - Network, Wholesale and Retail. The government (Singapore Ltd) has decided that should only be one network and run by one company (Nucleus Connect - providing Fibre to the Home), that there would be a maximum of three wholesale companies and as many retail companies as the market will support. A big difference to New Zealand is that the Singapore government wants the wholesalers to offer a range of value added services - that they refer to as 'sit forward' services to engage the population rather than 'sit back' services that do not engage the population base. Retail companies would be free to pick and choose wholesale products for different wholesalers to provide differentiation of services.
Singapore, New Zealand and Australia are vastly different countries - Singapore is only 700km2 in size, Australia is a continent in it's own right and new Zealand is at the smaller end of in between. This is naturally going to have a dramatic effect on each Government's approach to a NBN. Singapore's highly structured approach is typical of the way Singapore does things. Australia's approach is less controlled - due to the nature of the political environment in Australia rather than it's size and New Zealand's approach seems somewhat half-hearted by comparison. I am not sure why the NZ government has not elected to build a new network independent of Telecom NZ's current network.
In Australia on the other hand, the government have set up
the Communications Alliance to manage the NBN and subcontract to the likes of
Telstra, Optus and others. The interesting thing with that approach (other than the false start that has already cost the Australian Taxpayers AU$30 million) and the thing that sets it apart from Singapore is that the approach doesn't seem to have any focus on the value added services (unlike Singapore's approach) - it's all about the network, even the wholesaler plan for Australia is talking about layer 2 protocols (See The Communications Alliance Wiki. All of the documents I have seen from Communications Alliance are all about the network - all very low level stuff.
Of course, these three countries are not the only countries that are going through a NBN project. For example the Philippines had a shot at one a few years ago - the bid was won by ZTE, but then a huge scandal caused the project to be abandoned. It came back a while later as the Government Broadband Network (GBN) but that doesn't really help the average Filipino. It's interesting to see how these projects develop around the world...
A colleague of mine at IBM, Anthony Behan has just had an article published in BillingOSS magazine. I'll admit that I have never heard of the magazine before, but this particular issue has quite a few articles about Cloud computing in a Telco environment. I don't agree with all of the content in e-zine, it is still an interesting read none the less. Check out the full issue at http://www.billingoss.com/101 and Anthony's article on pp48.
The image is a screen capture of Anthony's article from the billingoss.com web site.
Last week, Bharti Airtel launched their new App Store - upping the competitive stakes in India. As I mentioned in my post - App Stores, Are they right for Telcos? Telcos are looking to add value beyond just providing the transport. Time will tell how successful they are, but I think it could be worth watching. Bharti have a huge subscriber base, India has one of the lowest ARPU values in the world, so I guess they see it as a vital step to raise the ARPU above their competitors.
New Delhi, February 09, 2010 :Bharti Airtel, Asia’s leading integrated telecom service provider, today announced the launch of India’s first mobile applications store - Airtel App Central. Now, Airtel mobile customers can transform their basic phone into a Smart Phone by accessing over 1250 Apps across 25 categories for their business, games, books, social networking and other needs. Offering an easy single click purchase – with no credit card required – the cost is automatically added to the customer’s mobile bill or deducted from the available talk-time. Starting as low as Rs. 5, Airtel App Central will offer local and regional Apps for customers across the length and breadth of the country.
If you would like to read the complete press release, check it out at: Bharti Airtel launches Indias first mobile app store
PS. I know I was going to write about NBN projects this week, but time tends to get away from me when I am traveling. Sorry - still to come...
Andrew_Larmour 0300000243 Tags:  telco nbn andrew larmour spde telecom sdp 1 Comment 2,706 Visits
I had hoped to write an inciteful post this week about the National Broadband Network projects and contrasting the way that the three I have been involved in are dealing with them. In Australia (where I live) there has been a LOT of bad media coverage for the NBN project - the first attempt at which wasted AU$30 million of taxpayers money. Australia, New Zealand and Singapore are all tackling what is essentially the same problem in vastly different ways. Of course there are really good reasons for those differences, and I wanted to explain those as well... but, on my first week back from leave, things have gone nuts - this week, I've had four separate Service Delivery Platform RFI/RFPs plus some ongoing work with Globe, and other partners in Japan and New Zealand. The time I had hoped to set aside for the post just hasn't happened.
All I can say is that I am sorry and I hope to get that to you early next week while I am in Singapore and Bangkok. If you would like to see some other Telcom topics discussed, please fell free to comment and I will try and get to them...
Next week, I will be running a Telco training class for our System Integrator business partners in Bangkok - teaching, demonstrating and helping them to come to grips with IBM's software offerings in the Telecom industry - it should be good, I am looking forward to it..
Image credits: Photo from Stock.XCHNG
Andrew_Larmour 0300000243 Tags:  rfp telco larmour rfi sdp proposals telecom andrew asean 3,956 Visits
On the Wednesday of the week before last (the week before my leave) at about 1am my time, I got an urgent request for a RFI response to be presented back to the customer at Friday noon (GMT+8 - 3pm for me - 2.5 business days for the locals in that timezone). This RFI was asking lots of hypothetical questions about what this particular telco might do with their Service Delivery Platform (SDP). It had plenty of requirements like "Email service" or "App Store Service" and so on. These 'use cases' made up 25% of the overall score, but did not have any more detail than I have quoted here. Two to four words for each use case. Crazy! If I am responding to this, such loose scope means I can interpret the use cases any way that I want. It also means that to meet all the use cases (14 in all) ranging from 'Instance Messaging Presence Service (IMPS)' to 'Media Content and Management Service' to 'Next-Generation Network Convergence innovative services' the proposal and the system would have to be a monster with lots of components. The real problem with such vague requirements is that vendors will answer the way they think the customer wants them to, rather than the customer telling them what they want to see in the response. The result will be six or eight different responses that vary so much that they cannot be compared which is the whole point of running the RFI process - to compare vendors and ultimately select one to grant the project to.
On top of the poor quality of the RFI itself, the lack of time to respond creates great difficulties for the people responding. 'So what, I don't care, it's there job' you might expect them to say and to an extent you are correct, but think about it like this: A short timeframe to respond means that the vendor has to find whoever they can internally to respond - they don't have time to find the best person. A short timeframe means that the customer is more likely to get a cookie cutter solution (one that the vendor has done before) rather than a solution that is designed to meet their actual needs. A short timeframe means that the vendor may not have enough time to do a proper risk assessment and quality assurance on the proposal - both of which will increase the cost quoted on the proposal.
All of these factors should be of interest to the Telco that is asking for the proposal because they all have a direct effect on the quality and price of the project and ultimately the success of the project.
I know this problem is not unique to the Telecom industry, but of all the industries I have worked with in my IT career, the Telcos seem to do it more often. I could go on and on quoting examples of ultra short lead times to write proposals - sometimes as little as 24 hours (to answer 600 questions in that case), but all it would do is get me riled up thinking about them.
The whole subject reminds me of what my boss in a photolab (long before my IT career began) would say "Quality, Speed, Price: Pick two". Think about it - it rings true doesn't it?