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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...
Interesting - looks like RIM dodged a bullet in the UAE.
Here is the URL for this news: www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iMtJnqeRckjmlWVOoB1KWqtYmbLw?docId=CNG.aec298041bd87d0d6ae2ef88e13bcbcd.6a1
The threatened ban was narrowly averted and the ban in India looks as if it will avoid a ban after all. I wonder if RIM installed (r promised to) a Network Operations Centre in the UAE (which is what I saw a a possible way of appeasing the authorities) or if they have come up wit some other way to give the UAE authorities access to the encrypted traffic.
In the meantime, India has hinted (per my previous post) that they will be going after private VPN traffic in addition to the Blackberry traffic. We'll see where that ends up soon I guess.
Andrew_Larmour 0300000243 Tags:  telco telecom mobile_portal bharti andrew_larmour app_store airtel 4,884 Views
In just five months, Bharti Airtel's App store has had over 13 Million downloads. What a terrific example of a Telco App Store in action and (presumably) making money for the Telco. This article came across my screen this afternoon and given my previous posts about Bharti's App Store and carriers wanting to get into them (something I've seen all over Asia) to try and arrest some of the revenue bleeding to Apple (and to a lesser extent Google, Nokia and RIM) through single brand (phone) app stores.
http://www.telecompaper.com/news/printarticle.aspx?cid=742043 - Thursday 24 June 2010 | 03:29 AM CET, Telecompaper
The article is really brief, barely a footnote, but it does lay out some interesting facts:
Technorati Tags: app_store, bharti, airtel, telco, mobile_portal, andrew_larmour,
Airtel's App Central on a PC
I am sitting here in Singapore and reading today's Straits Times, keeping up with the affairs in the region and around the world where on page 3 (the most important page in a newspaper after the front page) is an article about the leaked/lost next generation iPhone that Gizmodo reportedly paid US$5000 dollars for (other online reports that I've read have suggested other amounts such as US$350. I'm not sure who is right). The article occupied almost half of page 3.. for the next gen iPhone... that seems excessive to me for a non-specialist publication, but I guess it is reflective of the general hype that exists around Apple products. The previous hype was around the next gen MacBooks with faster processors and prior to that the iPad. I've read articles suggesting that the iPad will revolutionise newspapers and home computing and telcos. I'm not so sure. While I think a lot of iPad will be sold worldwide (once it is released outside of the USA), but I also think a lot of those devices will get a lot of use through a honeymoon period and then sit idle until they are eventually disposed of. I am so sick of the hype around all these Apple products. There are some things that Apple do really well (UI and Design) and some they do really poorly (Business use support, locking in users). I respect them, but I do not like them.
It reminds me of a great parody that The Onion did a while ago:
Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard
Andrew_Larmour 0300000243 Tags:  google arpu larmour telecom nokia app_store iphone andrew nexus telco apple handango palm ovi pixi 8,715 Views
App Stores Background
I know lots of people are saying that Apple invented the Application Store (App Store) for their iPhone/iTouch range of devices, but they would be wrong. App stores have been around for years - I have been a customer of Handango since before I joined IBM's Pervasive Computing team and that team has been gone for over three years now. Handango are an Internet based app store that have supported multiple handheld PDA and phone platforms. Others that I've used in the past include Tucows, although Tucows is more than just mobile applications - they also cover Win32, Linux, Mac etc as well. The big things that Apple did differently from Handango and their Internet brethren was:
Of course, Apples' device competitors are trying to catch the same wave that Apple have been riding and deploy their own application store equivalents. We've seen efforts from Google, Nokia, Palm and Research In Motion (RIM - makers of the Blackberry) and interestingly, all have been somewhat successful. Successful at attracting developers which is key to then attracting users. Here are the their app stores:
Personally I am not a fan of Apple's restrictive market practices and much prefer the more open ecosystem that surrounds the Symbian and Windows mobile platforms. I have in the past written applications for Palm Garnet (nee PalmOS), Symbian and Windows Mobile for use within a corporate environment. Something that is not possible with Apples licensing policies and forcing developers to upload apps to the App Store so that Apple can approve them and then include them in the App Store catalogue. If I only want to write an application for my customer, I cannot deploy it directly to the customer's iPhones unless they have been jailbroken - the only alternative is for Apple to look at and approve the application then sign it. While the others also have the concept of signed and certified applications, you can install unsigned or un-certified applications on the other major platforms if you want (except for Android which appears to be going down a similar if less restrictive path to Apple).
Telcos and App Stores
In the past year as Telcos all around the world have watched Apple's App Store take off and seen their interaction with the iPhone subscribers being reduced to the supplier of the pipe to the Internet - way down from the high value position that most carriers aspire to in order to improve ARPU. I've seen requests form many Telcos in that time for Application Store or Widget Store capability. The telos - understandably - want to raise their profile in the eyes of the subscriber and their worth in the value proposition. I have seen request for proposal documents from telcos in China, Taiwan, Vietnam, USA and queries from telcos in Thailand, Philippines, Singapore, Japan and other countries. App/Widget Stores are certainly one of the topics of the moment for Telcos.
The key differentiators that a Telco has that separates it from Apple's App Store are:
In fact, IBM has won and has (partially at this stage) implemented an app store in Vietnam. Because of the Telecom environment in Vietnam, this App Store is not actually within a telco, but is instead an external company*. The app store was implement with a combination of WebSphere Portal (to provide the user interface) and WebSphere Commerce (to provide the catalog and sales part of the App Store and WebSphere Message Broker for Integration requirements. I was involved from the very initial stages of that project.
The company intends to launch a Mobile Commerce and Advertising Platform (MCAP), which is a multi-channel platform enabling its members to do small value electronic transactions (or m-commerce and e-commerce. Some of their use cases include
I don't often get involved in WebSphere Commerce projects (it tends to be a very specialized field) we do have a number of Telcos who are using WebSphere Commerce, not necessarily in App Stores, but based on the experience in Vietnam, it would not be a big leap to add that capability to their existing deployments.
The usage of WebSphere Portal provides a easy and extensible user interface primarily targeted at the PC, and with the addition of the Mobile Portal Accelerator (nee WebSphere Everyplace Mobile Portal Enable) to the existing Portal, that user interface can be extended to over 10,000 separate devices providing subscribers with an optimized experience for their device.
Where does this leave those Telcos who haven't made the leap to their own app store? In my opinion, they still have time to catch the wave, and certainly if they want to avoid the Apple effect and being reduces to a bit pipe provider, then they need to do something to add value in the eyes of the subscriber. Apple's model doesn't help them with that, but perhaps the other device specific app stores wont be so carrier unfriendly. I will see what I can find out on this issue and report back in another post.
Buy for now
* Once that customer has agreed to be a formal reference, I will share additional details in a future post.
If you want some background reading on App Stores, here are a couple of articles I would suggest:
AndrewLarmour 060000KEBS Tags:  architecture process csp bpm telco telecom microservice 1,707 Views
Across many industries, including the Telecommunications sector, there seems to be a strong movement towards a MicroServices Architecture and (somewhat) away from Service Oriented Architecture. I've seen this move in a CSP here in Australia. The TeleManagement Forum have a significant project that is trying to standardise the REST APIs that a CSP might publish.
The TMF state:
"TM Forum’s Open API program is a global initiative to enable end to end seamless connectivity, interoperability and portability across complex ecosystem based services. The program is creating an Open API suite which is a set of standard REST based APIs enabling rapid, repeatable, and flexible integration among operations and management systems, making it easier to create, build and operate complex innovative services.
I've been a part of a number of projects where these REST APIs have been exposed primarily to a CSPs trading partners - my very first Service Delivery Platform exposed APIs to external developers. Back then, it was Parlay X Web services (REST didn't really exist and certainly there to external developers.were no Telco standards in place for REST based interfaces) that exposed the functionality of network elements to 3rd party developers. With many of the APIs that the TMF have defined, they seem to be more focused on OSS/BSS functions instead. Now that the TMF have quite a number of Open APIs defined, there are some network focused APIs that are coming onto the list - for instance, a Location API would have typically be exposed using the ParlayX Web Services or ParlayREST REST interfaces to the network's Location Based Server (LBS). As a result, there does seem to be a small amount of crossover between the new TMF APIs and the older ParlayREST APIs.
Does this mean that the new TMF OpenAPIs are of no use? Not at all. There are certainly advantages to exposing functions that a CSP has to external developers and REST based OpenAPIs make the consumption of those functions easier than the ParlayX web services or Parlay CORBA services have been in the past. Ease of consumption is not to be underestimated. An API that is easy to include in an application and provides a real capability that would have been otherwise difficult to provide stands a much greater chance of wide usage.
Sure, there is a place for externalising the OSS/BSS functions of a CSP. Trading partners could place orders against a CSP, they could bill to a subscriber's post or pre-paid accounts, they could update the subscriber profile held by the CSP. All relevant use cases for externalising the TMF Open APIs.
The big question in my mind is will REST APIs be of use internally?
REST based APIs being easier to integrate internally will drive some value. But in CSPs that have significant investments in a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), I'm struggling to see the business value in abandoning that in favour of a MicroServices Architecture where there is no common integration tool, no common orchestration capability, rather lots and lots of point to point integrations through REST APIs.
For those of us that have been around a while, you will have seen point to point integrations and the headaches they cause - complex dependencies in mesh architectures make maintenance hard and expensive. Changing a (say) billing system that is integrated through multiple point to point connections is a nightmare - even if they have a standardised API describing those interfaces. The plane truth of the matter is that not all of those interfaces will be adequately described by the TMF's Open APIs, so custom specifications APIs will arise and make swapping out the billing system expensive. Additionally, not all of a CSPs internal systems will have TMF Open API compliant interfaces - many won't even support REST interfaces natively. Changing all of a CSP's systems to ensure they have a REST interface is a non-trivial task.
A Hybrid environment may be needed.
I'd suggest that a Hybrid approach is needed - existing Enterprise Service Busses may be able to interface with REST APIs - certainly IBM's Integration Bus and the (now superseded) WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus could connect to REST APIs just as easily as they could connect to Web Services, Files and other connectivity options. The protocol transformation capabilities of a ESB are able to provide REST APIs to systems that would have otherwise not supported such modern interfaces. Similarly, where a function is not provided by a single system, a traditional orchestration (BPM) capability can coordinate multiple systems to provide a single interface to that capability even if (behind the scenes) there are multiple end point systems involved in providing the functionality of that transaction/interface. The diagram below shows my thinking of what should be in place....
Andrew_Larmour 0300000243 3,979 Views
Here is the URL for this bookmark: www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-15071086?utm_source=twitterfeed
A link to this blog entry popped up in my LinkedIn feed today which in turn linked to a Developerworks article - Combine business process management and blockchain which steps you though a use case and allows you to build your own basic BPM & Blockchain demo. Complex processes could save and get data to/from Blockchain ensuring that every process in any organisation (within the same company and across company boundaries) are using the most up to date data.
I thought it would be appropriate to paste in a link given my previous post on Blockchain in Telcos. As I think about this topic more, I can see a few more use cases in Telecom. I'll explore them in subsequent posts, but for now, I think it's important that we be pragmatic about this. Re-engineering processes to make good use of blockchain is non-trivial and therefore will have a cost associated with it. Will the advantages in transparency and resilience be worth the cost of making the changes? Speaking about resilience, don't forget the damage that a failure can cause. British Airways IT system failure (which I believe is outsourced but I cannot be sure) was down for the better part of three days - failures like that have the potential to bring down a business. We don't know yet what will happen to BA in the long term, but you certainly don't want the same sort of failure happing ing to your business.