Last week, I was at the TeleManagement Forum's (TMF) Africa Summit event in Johannesburg, South Africa. The main reason for me attending was to finish of my TMF certifications (I am level 3 currently) in the process framework (eTOM) - if I have passed the exam, I will be Level 4 certified. It was a really tough exam (75% pass mark) so I don't know if I did enough to get over the line'.
Regardless, the event was well attended with 200-230 attendees for the two days of the conference. It was interesting to hear the presenter's thoughts on telco usage within Africa into the future. Many seemed to think that video would drive future traffic for telcos. I am not so sure. I n other markets around the world, video was also projected to drive 3G network adoption, yet this has not happened anywhere. Why do all these people think that Africa will be different?
I see similar usage patterns in parts of Asia, yet Video has not take off there. Skype carries many more voice only calls than video calls. Apple's Facetime video chat hasn't taken off like Apple predicted. 3G video calls makes a tiny proportion of all calls made. Personally, I think that voice (despite it's declining popularity relatively speaking in the developed world) will remain the key application, especially voice over LTE for the foreseeable future in Africa. I also think that social networking (be it Facebook, freindster, MySpace or some other African specific tool) will drive consumer data (LTE) traffic. Humans are social animals, and I think these sorts of social interactions will apply just as much in the African scenario as it has in others.
WAC Whacked: Telecom-Backed Alliance Merges Into GSMA, Assets Acquired By API Management Service Apigee | TechCrunch
"Apigee, the API management company that was most recently spotted powering that new “print to Walgreens” feature in half a dozen or so mobile applications, is now acquiring the technology assets of WAC, aka the Wholesale Applications Community. WAC, an alliance of global telecom companies, like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Deutsche Telecom, China Mobile, Orange, and others (and pegged by TechCrunch writer Jason Kincaid back in 2010 as “a disaster in the making“) was intent on building a platform that would allow mobile developers to build an application once, then run it on any carrier, OS or device. The group also developed network API technology, which is another key piece to today’s acquisition."
Follow the link to continue reading. techcrunch.com/2012/07/17/wac-whacked-telecom-backed-alliance-merges-into-gsma-assets-acquired-by-api-management-service-apigee/
I think this is a really interesting development. The Wholesale Application Community (WAC) was supposed to give Telcos a way of minimizing the revenue losses to the likes of Apple's App Store and Google Play. IBM's Telecom Solution Lab in France built a demonstration that was shown at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in 2011 demonstration how a Telco's own app store could incorporate applications from the WAC App store as well as other app stores within their own combined app store. I've demonstrated this a number of times around the world and the thing that always seemed odd to me is that applications in the WAC App Store could not be native applications (for Android, Blackberry, WinMob or Symbian) but rather, they could ONLY be HTML5 based apps. That was always going to limit the number of apps that would be in the WAC App store, but since the WAC was announced at WMC 2010, the number of apps in the store has never really taken off.
I'm not sure if this is effectively the end of the road for the WAC, or if it's just a stop on their journey. Certainly, the Telcos that I have dealt with that form the core WAC Telco members remain dedicated to the WAC. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens.
Yesterday, IBM launched the latest iteration of the Service Provider Delivery Environment (SPDE), a software framework for Telecom that has been around since 2000. Over the years, it has evolved with change sin market requirements and architecture maturity. The link below is for the launch:
The following enhancements are part of the new SPDE 4.0 Framework:
1. CSP Business Function Domains – a clear articulation of “communications service provider business domains” that describe the business functions that are common to any service provider across the world. These business domains offer us a simpler way to introduce the SPDE capabilities to a LOB audience, as well as to other client and partner constituents that are new to SPDE:
2. New Capabilities - In the areas of cloud, B2B commerce, enterprise marketing management, business analytics, and service delivery.
3. Introduction of the SPDE Enabled Business Projects - that deliver solutions to address common business and IT needs for the LOB (CIO/CTO/CMO) and represent repeatable solutions and patterns harvested from client engagements.
4. Improved alignment with Telemanagment Forum (TMF) Industry Standards - a clearly defined depiction of the areas of alignment to TMF Frameworx - key industry standards that underpin much of the communications industry investment.
5. Simplified Graphics and Messaging - to improve ease of adoption and consumability by a broader LOB audience.
Built on best practices and patterns from client engagements with CSPs around the world, IBM SPDE 4.0 is the blueprint that enables Smarter Communications by helping deliver value-added ser¬vices that launch smarter services, drive smarter operations and build smarter networks. IBM is leading a conversation in the marketplace about how our world is becoming smarter, and software is at the very heart of this change. IBM's Industry Frameworks play a critical role in our ability to deliver smarter planet solutions by pulling together deep industry expertise, technology and a dynamic infrastructure from across the company to provide clients with offerings targeted to their industry-specific needs.
Disclaimer. I have 'borrowed' some of the text from an IBM Marketing email about the new SPDE 4.0 framework - so not my words...
I am in Dublin at the moment for TeleManagement World 2011 which has changed locations from Nice, France last year. it looks to be a very interesting conference. I've already done two days of training and now, we're beginning the sessions. the keynote session has the Irish Minister for Communications, Mr Rabitte who is talking about the challenges that CSPs face all the world around. He is also talking about an innovation programme that the Irish Government have started called 'Examplar' which is part of their NGN Trial network. i'll see if I can get some more info over the next few days...
Steven Shurrock, the new CEO at O2 Ireland who has been in the role for just six months is very bullish about the opportunities in Ireland for data services. After Steven, we saw a host of Keynote speakers who have been focused on a number of themes, but many common presenters included:
I have recorded a number of keynote speakers as video, but for the time being, those files are very large. Once I have had a chance to transcode them to a smaller size, I'll add them to the blog as well - while not particularly technical, they're very intesting for a Telecom perspective.
Andrew_Larmour 0300000243 Tags:  rim uae india telecom larmour encryption blackberry telco andrew andrew_larmour banned 5,432 Visits
I know I have been lax in posting recently. I've had a lot of work on and I am sorry for not getting to the blog.
That said, over the past few weeks, I have been watching what seems to be a snowballing issue of governments spying on their citizens in the name of protection from terrorism. First cab off the rank was India a couple of years ago asking Research In Motion (RIM) for access to the data stream for Indian Blackberry users, then asking for the encryption keys. That went quiet until recently (1Jul10), the Indian Government again asked RIM for access to the Blackberry traffic and gave RIM 15 days to comply (See this post in Indian govt gives RIM, Skype 15 days notice, warns Google - Telecompaper). That has passed and the Indian government yesterday gave RIM a new deadline of 31Aug10 (See Indian govt gives 31 August deadline for BlackBerry solution - Telecompaper). In parallel, a number of other nations have asked their CSPs or RIM for access to the data sent via Blackberry devices.
First, was the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who will put a ban on Blackberry devices in place which will force the local Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to halt the service from 11Oct10. RIM are meeting with the UAE government, but who knows where that will lead with the Canadian government stepping in to defend it's Golden Hair Child - RIM. Following the UAE ban, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and more recently Indonesia have all said they will also consider a ban on RIM devices. As an interesting aside, I read an article a week ago (See UAE cellular carrier rolls out spyware as a 3G "update") that suggested that the UAE government sent all Etisalat Blackberry subscribers an email advising them to update their devices with a 'special update' - it turns out that the update was just a Trojan which in fact delivered a spyware application to the Blackberry devices to allow the government to monitor all the traffic! (wow!)
Much of the hubbub seems to be around the use of Blackberry Messenger, an Instant Messaging function similar to Lotus Sametime Mobile, but hosted by RIM themselves which allows all Blackberry users (even on different networks and telcos) to chat to each other via their devices.
I guess at this stage, it might be helpful to describe how RIM's service works. From a historical point of view, RIM were a pager company. Pagers need a Network Operations Centre (NOC) to act as a single point from which to send all the messages out to the pagers. That's where all the RIM contact centre staff sat and answered phones, typed messages into their internal systems and sent the messages out to the subscribers. RIM had the brilliant idea to make their pagers two way so that the person being paged could respond initially with just an acknowledgement that they had read the message, and then later with full text messages. That's the point at which the pagers gained QWERTY keyboards. From there, RIM made the leap in functionality to support emails as well as pager messages, after all, they had a full keyboard now, a well established NOC based delivery system and a return path via the NOC for messages sent from the device. The only thing that remained was a link into an enterprise email system. That's where the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) comes in. The BES sites inside the Enterprise network and connects to the Lotus Domino or MS Exchange servers and acts as a connection to the NOC in Canada (the home of RIM and the location of the RIm NOC). The connection from the device to the NOC is encrypted and from the NOC to the BES is encrypted. Because of that encryption, there is no way for a government such as India, UAE, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia or other to intercept the traffic over either of the links (to or from the NOC)
Last time I spoke to someone at RIM about this topology, they told me that RIM did not support putting the BES in the DMZ (where I would have put it) - since then, this situation may have changed.
Blackberry messenger traffic doesn't get to the BES, but instead it goes from the device up to the NOC and then back to the second Blackberry which means that non-enterprise subscribers also have access to the messenger service and this appears to be the crux of what the various governments are concerned about. Anybody, including a terrorist could buy a Blackberry phone and have access to the encrypted Blackberry messenger service without needing to connect up their device to a BES which explains why they don't seem to be chasing after the other VPN vendors (including IBM with Lotus Mobile Connect) to get access to the encrypted traffic between the device and the enterprise VPN server. Importantly, other VPN vendors typically don't have a NOC in the mix (apart from the USA based Good who have a very similar model to RIM). I guess the governments don't see the threat from the enterprise customers, but rather the individuals who buy Blackberry devices.
To illustrate how a VPN like Lotus Mobile Connect differs from the Blackberry topology above, have a look at the diagram below:
Lotus Mobile Connect topology
If we extend that thought a little more, a terrorist cell could set them selves up as a pseudo enterprise by deploying a traditional VPN solution in conjunction with an enterprise type instant messaging server and therefore avoid the ban on Blackberries. the VPN server and IM server could even be located in another country which would avoid the possibility of the government easily getting a court order to intercept traffic within the enterprise environment (on the other end of the VPN). It will be interesting to see if those governments try to extend the reach of their prying to this type of IM strategy...
Andrew_Larmour 0300000243 Tags:  new_zealand australia larmour andrew telecom telecom_nz nbn 1,628 Visits
Since I last posted about New Zealand's National Broadband project which seemed to me to be much more focused on the subscribers and the products they would have available to them (and the retailers that sold them) than the high speed backbone network. My impressions may have been tainted by the work I was doing with the Telecom New Zealand Undertaking In Progress (UIP) project that I was involved with - the rather public forced split of Telecom New Zealand's Retail, Wholesale and Network departments to ensure equivalency of input for all retail and wholesale partners for (only) broadband services.
My understanding of the situation has developed somewhat since then and we can see that the situation in New Zealand Government also involves a similar structure to what is happening in Australia with the Communications Alliance and the NBN Company. In New Zealand, the companies are a little different. Certainly, we have the NZ Government Ministry of Economic Development (MED) as one participant, then we have Crown Fibre Holdings (not much of a web site there!) -set up by the Government to manage the process of selecting the companies to build the National Broadband Network and manage the government's investment in the NBN. Together with the companies that are bidding for the deal Crown Fibre holdings will form Local Fibre Companies (LFC) which (combined) will match the government's contribution to the NBN. That will mean the total project will cost NZ$3 Billion** with the LFCs kicking in NZ$1.5B and the NZ government contributing NZ$1.5B. I dont have the full schedule, but from a couple of sources, I have compiled an overview of the progress to date:
What I find a bit interesting is that the government are only looking to cover 75% of the population by 2019. For a small country (compared to Australia at least), that seems to me to be a very low target to aim for. If we compare that with Australia's NBN project, their target is 90% coverage at greater than 100Mbps and 10% greater than 12Mbps (that's 100% coverage!) by 2017. Admittedly, the Australian project has about a year's head start, but it's also a MUCH bigger country with a population nearly five times larger. Lets have a quick look at the comparisons:
** One Billion is using the short scale definition = 109 = 1,000,000,000
What do I take from this quick comparison? Lets take a quick look at the numbers. Obviously, Australia is a much bigger country (28.4 times larger) and has a much larger population (5.2 time larger), so it is reasonable (in my opinion) that the cost per potential NBN customer should be higher for Australia (and it is at 2.2 times higher) but the thing that makes me ponder is the cost per square kilometre: New Zealand is nearly twice that of Australia. When the New Zealand target is only 70% of the population and thus enables them to avoid areas that are physically difficult to provide coverage to (I'm no NZ geologist, but I would imagine lots of the South Island's most mountainous areas would pose significant problems for cablers) I find myself wondering why the NZ network is going to be so expensive. I guess it could be a matter of scale - but I thought the biggest cost was actually laying the cables rather than the back end systems which every broadband network will need (routers, switches, administration and management systems). Maybe I am missing something - does anyone have any ideas?
edit: I've just found this quote in Wikipedia which (I think) is truely revealing when you consider New Zealand's 70% coverage target:
"New Zealand is a predominantly urban country, with 72% of the population living in 16 main urban areas and 53% living in the four largest cities of Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, and Hamilton"By only extending the NBN to those 16 main urban areas and nowhere else - they've achieved their target! You wouldn't want to live in country New Zealand and be dependent on a fast network!
Andrew_Larmour 0300000243 Tags:  smarter_telco cloud sdp telco smarter_home smarter_planet telecom 2,057 Visits
I was looking at where some of the traffic for this blog comes from this morning. Someone had used Google to search for "ibm sdp cloud" which I am glad to say yielded this blog as the third and forth results. Above Telco Talk in the results was a post from 2005 from fellow MyDeveloperworks blogger Bobby Woolf with his post What is in RAD 6.0 - which is interesting in that the post wasn't about Service Delivery Platforms and the term "SDP" is only mentioned in the comments on the post, yet it rated higher in Google's index than my posts which have been about cloud, SDPs or both! That's another conversation though...
The thing that really caught my attention was a new whitepaper form IBM on Smarter Homes. This has been an ongoing area of interest for me for a few years now. This new whitepaper "The IBM vision of a smarter home enabled by cloud technology" is interesting - it talks about some of the concepts that I have seen coming over the past few years, but it also introduces the concept of Cloud based services providers as the key enabler outside the home to enable smarter home to deliver on their lofty promises. In the introduction of the whitepaper, it states:
A common services delivery platform based on industry standards supports cooperative interconnection and creation of new services. Implementation inside the cloud delivers quick development of services at lower cost, with shorter time to market, facilitating rapid experimentation and improvement. The emergence of cloud computing, Web services and service-oriented architecture (SOA), together with new standards, is the key that will open up the field for the new smarter home services.
The dependence on external networks (from our homes) and external Communications Service Providers presents an opportunity for them to provide much more than just the pipe to the house. This is an area that some Telcos are trying to tap into already. Here in Australia, Telstra have recently introduced a home based smart device called the T-Hub which is intended to arrest some of the decline in homes installing or keeping land line phones (in Australia, more and more homes are buying a naked DSL or Hybrid Fibre Coax (HCF) service for Internet and using mobile phones for voice calls and not having a home phone service at all). I recently cancelled my Telstra Home Phone service, so I cannot buy one of the T-Hubs and apparently it won't work with my home phone service via my HCF connection. It is an intriguing idea though. I find myself wondering if Telstra's toe in the Smarter Home pond is too little too late. For years, in Telstra's Innovation Centres (one in Melbourne and one in Sydney) they had standing demonstrations of smarter home technology (I think the previous Telstra CEO, Sol Tujilllo closed them down). I even helped to install a Smarter Healthcare demo at the Sydney Telstra Innovation Centre a few years ago (more n that later) and their demos were every bit as good as the demos that IBM has at the Austin (Texas, USA) and LaGaude (France) Telecom Solutions Labs.
Further into the whitepaper, when talking about Cloud based Service Delivery Platforms (pp 10) there is a nice summary of why a Telco would consider a cloud deployment of their SDP:
An SDP in the cloud supports the expansion of the services scope by enabling new services in existing markets and by expanding existing services into new markets with minimum risk. By exposing standard service interfaces in the network, it enables third parties to integrate their services quickly, or to build new services based on the service components provided in the SDP. This creates the opportunity for new business models, for instance, for media distribution and advertising throughout multiple delivery scenarios.
I think this illustrates what all Telcos should be thinking about - the agility needed to compete in today's marketplace. Cloud is one way to enhance that agility but also adds elasticity - the ability to grow and shrink as the market demands grow and shrink. Sorry for rambling a bit there... some semi-random thoughts kept popping up when talking about Smarter homes and Telcos. Anyway, I would encourage you to have a read of the whitepaper for yourself. It's available at:
Disclaimer: I own a small number of shares in Telstra Corp.
Andrew_Larmour 0300000243 Tags:  telco telecom mobile_portal bharti andrew_larmour app_store airtel 1,927 Visits
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