This year’s TM Forum Live! invoked the theme of digital business transformation and a digital ecosystem for telecommunications. As my colleague, Steve Hateley, wrote recently, leading voices in the industry took time at the event to share their views on the key opportunities and challenges available to operators who embrace creative thinking in an era of digital disruption.
Without a doubt, two of the biggest opportunities of this ongoing and dramatic transformation involve the Internet of Things (IoT) and Network Function Virtualisation (NFV). Several speakers, dedicated streams, catalyst projects, key notes and exhibitions offered proof points to demonstrate that not only is this transformation on its way – in many cases, it’s already happening around us. Here are three major NFV and IoT takeaways from the show.
An Impending Surge in NFV Deployments
Comptel has discussed at great length about the transformative impact of NFV deployments on telecommunications. As we wrote in our book, Operation Nexterday, operators who don’t adopt NFV to speed their service delivery and achieve greater agility and scalability could soon see their competitors pass them by.
It would appear many more are starting to realize this, and thus, prioritise NFV deployments in the immediate future. According to one survey that was conducted by Heavy Reading and presented at TM Forum Live!, 23 percent of operators expect to implement NFV commercially within their networks within the next year, while 44 percent expect to do so within the next two years.
In a presentation, Appledore Research Group estimated that as many as 250 ongoing NFV trials are occurring around the world, which includes multiple proofs of concept within a single operator’s network and around 25 early “live” NFV deployments. These deployments are already revealing benefits: Virtual E-CPE (customer premises equipment) rollouts, for example, lead to ten-fold improvements in OPEX savings, while Virtual RAN (radio access networks) rollouts offer a smaller footprint and reduced energy consumption. The Heavy Reading study, which surveyed mobile operators specifically, highlighted many benefits to NFV, with respondents saying it helped achieve scalability in their IMS core and offered value in the policy and charging control function and their evolved packet core.
The IoT Inflection Point
Similarly, there was much discussion around the IoT “inflection point” – as in, the point at which IoT implementations and projects begin to trend upward.
For example, Volvo CIO Klas Bendrik discussed how the car group is addressing consumers’ desire to stay connected at all times by developing interfaces that allow drivers to identify safety hazards, time-saving routes and fuel-saving driving behaviours. The company intends to test 100 self-driving automobiles on Swedish public roads in 2017, which will be the first opportunity members of the public will have to ride along in an autonomous car in normal traffic.
Elsewhere, BT Group Director of Research and Technology Chris Bilton discussed an IoT project in Milton Keynes, England, in which BT Group was able to support the development of a citywide parking optimisation initiative that could be the first step of a full “smart city” project. The global market for Smart Cities is expected to be valued at $400 billion by 2020. The Milton Keynes project will be underpinned by a “Smart Data Hub” that will collect anonymous city data about factors such as energy, water and transportation, to let the partners and developers to address city challenges and innovate on new developments and solutions.
Urban planning, energy management, health care – these are all areas in which IoT is already making a difference, and naturally, operators are getting involved. As we discussed in Operation Nexterday, Telefónica uses machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity to enable IoT services in the Tesla Model S in Europe, and separately manages a smart energy meter project that comprises 53 million devices across Great Britain. The company also relies on sensors to offer fleet management solutions to ensure trucks stay on course, meet delivery objectives and manage fuel efficiently. Tomorrow’s fleets of trucks could, then, look quite futuristic, covered in sensors that support various measurements and actions. These systems rely on M2M technology that is already within operators’ grasp and ready to be leveraged.
Partnerships Key to Accelerating IoT Innovation
The IoT opportunity is huge. Cisco estimates the industry could be valued at $19 trillion by 2024. If IoT disruption is already upon us, how do we accelerate its growth?
One key will be the establishment of new partnerships to unlock an open playing field for faster innovation. Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière, executive vice president of innovation, marketing and technologies at Orange, explained in TMForum Live! the need for telcos to build a partner ecosystem that extends beyond the usual suspects. Today telcos, she explained, are partnering with companies who they do not normally talk to and who are not like them. Examples include automobile manufacturers, pharmaceutical providers and IoT developers. On top of that, open APIs and platforms will allow developers to innovate faster, bringing new IoT solutions to market at a rapid pace.
Comptel has often advocated for the benefit of non-intuitive telco partnerships, specifically agreements between mobile operators and over-the-top (OTT) content providers to deliver new content-driven mobile data packages. Similarly, such out-of-the-box thinking could enable savvy operators to identify new service opportunities in IoT.
Want to learn more about the ongoing telco digital transformation? Contact Comptel Marketing (firstname.lastname@example.org) to find out when our Beyond the Event Horizon roadshow is coming to your city.
And join us in November for Nexterday North, our can’t-miss antiseminar where we will take a non-traditional, bold look by leveraging the concept of Thinking Ahead (looking at other industries to examine our collective blindspot), Thinking Again (re-examining industry learnings to challenge the status quo) and Thinking Beyond (learning from emerging startups who are disrupting the digital world).