VoLTE Is No Silver Bullet, But It Can Offer Monetisation Flexibility

Posted: December 15th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , | Comments Off on VoLTE Is No Silver Bullet, But It Can Offer Monetisation Flexibility

When we wrote about the state of the Voice over LTE (VoLTE) market little while ago, we discussed the obstacles that operators could face when deploying the emerging technology. Although the number of VoLTE projects is growing, it’s worth asking the question: just how disruptive will high-definition voice be as a revenue generator?monetizer

The answer? It’s hard to believe that VoLTE will be the killer app that significantly increases operator revenue.

That’s because, from the consumer perspective, it won’t seem like much has changed at all. They will still open the voice “app” on their phone to make a call. Yes, there will be a handful of new features, including the ability to switch from an audio call to a video call, and, of course, superior voice quality. But, these aren’t features consumers would necessarily want to pay extra for, and if operators charge the same for VoLTE as they do traditional calls, the revenue point is moot.

However, that doesn’t invalidate VoLTE’s value as a service differentiator. The key to unlocking new sources of revenue from VoLTE will be in adopting a flexible monetisation approach.

That will require operators to think beyond pre-configured VoLTE service packages. Operators might opt for these because it seems to be an easier way to try an emerging technology, but they put themselves at a disadvantage.

When the vendor controls everything about how VoLTE is configured, you can only sell the service the way the vendor has dictated. You aren’t able to customise the way you implement and monetise VoLTE based on local market factors. It can often take you longer to implement the technology in the first place or change your implementation based on new developments. Overall, this means operators are slower, less proactive and have a harder time meeting customers’ unique needs.

It also limits other benefits of a VoLTE deployment including efficiency in the network, the ability to reform the cellular spectrum and improved cost competitiveness. Those will all save operators money, but they don’t add up to dramatically improved revenue. It’s better if operators have the power to customise VoLTE implementation and monetisation.

Perhaps you want to bundle VoLTE and Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi) services together. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you want to give VoLTE away to enterprise customers free of charge, bundling it as part of a larger corporate offering. Or maybe you’ve thought of an entirely new way to monetise the new technology that no one else has considered.

Ultimately, it should be up to you, not your vendor, to find the right way forward. Configurability in service monetisation is a key factor in achieving business elasticity, a concept we’ve discussed recently. For operators to be elastic – which defines their ability to change, upgrade, improve and react quickly to dynamic market changes – they will need to ensure their VoLTE capabilities are free from the fixed limitations of traditional vendor engagements. Elasticity is a key capability that requires fast, tailored, highly responsive customer service.

VoLTE is not a silver bullet, but that doesn’t mean operators should leave money on the table. Opt for a vendor that will let you configure VoLTE the way you want, and then start thinking of creative new ways to monetise it.

If you missed it, read the first blog post in this series, where we evaluated VoLTE pros and cons. And keep an eye out for our next piece, where we’ll cover the future of VoLTE and where we think this emerging technology will fit in the broader world of digital and communications services. If you want to control your own destiny and deploy VoLTE features the way you want it, the MONETIZER™ is there for you.


Weighing the Pros & Cons of VoLTE

Posted: September 16th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Telecom Trends | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Weighing the Pros & Cons of VoLTE

There has been a lot of interest around Voice over LTE (VoLTE) lately, not to mention thorough analyses on the benefits of the technology and recorded rollout activities across the globe.

According to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), there are as many as 16 VoLTE launches in seven countries, as operators look to embrace HD voice. In a press release and as noted in FierceWirelessEurope, Alan Hadden, VP of research at the GSA, said: “Interest in VoLTE has surged, and [more than] twice as many operators are investing in VoLTE compared to a year ago. Many more launches will happen in 2015.”

Despite VoLTE’s success thus far and its growing number of deployments, uncertainties around the technology remain.

First, there is the required handset support for VoLTE. Based on studies done by tefficient, surprisingly few of the 4G handsets on the market are equipped for the technology since early implementations of VoLTE were based on partial standards or proprietary solutions. VoLTE works best for operators like those in Korea, Japan and the United States that have full control over handset distribution.

Second, VoLTE support in networks is still implementation-specific, meaning that calling from one network to another using VoLTE might not be possible—even in the same country. As an indication of the complexity, VoLTE roaming is only just starting to happen. KPN claimed the world’s first case as late as in October 2014.

For operators who haven’t had full control over handset distribution, the solution might currently have to be as harsh as making sure that customers joining them replace their handset—even if it’s 4G—with one that the operator knows has the right combination of hardware, firmware and software to function in their VoLTE network.

So while VoLTE is a relatively new, emerging technology—a richer multimedia voice and video call service based on IMS—the question is: is it a MUST for digital and communications service providers? They must thoughtfully consider this question because, if they are not going to take it onboard, they are about to lose their lucrative and long-lasting, but currently declining traditional voice revenue.

This was recently confirmed in The Guardian. As written in the article, Paul Lee, head of technology, media and telecommunications research at Deloitte, said that VoLTE—phone conversations carried over the data connection of a 4G network, which are of higher quality and can be switched from an audio call to a video call—are likely to supplant traditional phone calls over the next decade.

Another common concern and question is Voice over IP (VoIP) as VoLTE or VoIP in another means. Take VoIP services like Skype, Viber and WhatsApp. VoLTE goes beyond these in aspects like being able to handle radio networks’ handover and support emergency calls. The technology also promises superior voice quality. But are Generation Cloud customers willing to pay extra for this? It’s highly unlikely.

So, if VoLTE supplants traditional phone calls, will it significantly improve operators’ business by presenting a revenue boost for voice? Again, this is highly unlikely. Based on the VoLTE services on the market thus far, it seems that these voice calls are charged similarly to ordinary ones, where video comes on top in form of data charging.

Source: Cisco Blog

Here comes the interesting expansion of the voice business, which VoLTE indirectly enables: native Wi-Fi calling (or Voice over Wi-Fi or VoWiFi). Every cellular network—no matter how good it is—will have coverage issues indoors. In most cases, there’s Wi-Fi coverage to act as support.

With native Wi-Fi calling, mobile customers will seamlessly carry calls over existing Wi-Fi when there is no cellular coverage. Similarly to VoLTE, these calls are charged as any regular voice call, but here we are talking about a call that could not have happened without Wi-Fi. Consequently, it means additional voice revenue for the operator (or it could mean unlimited voice plans become more frequent). The same IMS handles both VoWiFi and VoLTE—with the latter technology being a pre-requisite for handover to happen between VoWiFi and cellular. (If you don’t have cellular indoor coverage, you obviously need to be able to move in and out of your house without dropping calls.)

With this in mind, we should stop looking at VoLTE in isolation and instead consider VoLTE in tandem with VoWiFi.

VoLTE also offers huge potential for cost-savings. When voice and other services are converged on LTE, and when customers have fully bought into them, digital and communications service providers are able to shut down their circuit-switched 2G and 3G networks. This will have a huge impact on operators’ profitability.

So do digital and communications service providers possess the knowledge and assets for what it takes to launch VoLTE successfully? We’ll discuss this in a coming blog post—please stay tuned.

Malla Poikela of Comptel co-wrote this blog post entry.


Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum: Evaluating Project Fi and Google’s Giant Plans for Wireless

Posted: June 10th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum: Evaluating Project Fi and Google’s Giant Plans for Wireless

In a video explaining the ideology behind its new wireless cellular service, Google describes Project Fi as an innovation in connectivity and communication. It’s an interesting experiment to be sure, but just how big of an impact can we expect Project Fi to have on telecommunications?

Google Project Fi

Google made headlines in the spring when it announced it was dipping its toes into the wireless waters with Project Fi, which will rely primarily on free Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide, supported by the Sprint and T-Mobile 4G cellular networks, to establish a continuous network. Project Fi is now back in the news due to reports of high initial demand. Google wrote in an email to hopeful subscribers that it will take until mid-summer for all of those who requested invites to receive full service access, adding that initial feedback has been “very positive.”

The service has earned hype for both its innovative use of technology – with Project Fi, your phone will automatically detect and switch to the best quality connection for your location, whether that’s 4G or Wi-Fi – as well its disruptive service terms. Project Fi is available without a contract, offers unlimited text and talk for $20 per month, plus $10 per GB of data, and includes a credit function that refunds subscribers the cost of any unused data at the end of the month. It’s interesting to note that much of the excitement of this announcement is around data and not voice services, which may underscore the idea that we’ve moved well past voice being the leading draw of cellular services.

There are a few reasons consumers are hopeful that Project Fi will turn the wireless industry on its head – the biggest one, of course, being Google’s reputation as an influential digital disruptor. Additionally, the announcement could not have been better timed, as many consumers are frustrated with the restrictive service offerings they receive from their current wireless operators and are eager for a more flexible and affordable alternative to knock the big players from their pedestals.

At the same time, evidence suggests that Google isn’t interested in a market takeover. The tech giant is known to experiment in the field of connectivity – see its Project Loon initiative and Titan acquisition, which rely on high-altitude balloons and lightweight solar-powered drones, respectfully, to expand LTE availability worldwide.

Additionally, in comments at this year’s Mobile World Congress, product head Sundar Pichai clarified that Google intends to help carriers push the boundaries of wireless, but not necessarily stand alone as a competitive operator at scale.

“Our goal is to drive a set of innovations we think should arrive, but do it a smaller scale, like Nexus devices, so people will see what we’re doing,” Pichai said.

So what can we realistically expect from Project Fi? The initiative represents a starting point in Google’s wireless experimentation. It would seem that the primary goal is to experiment with Wi-Fi-first networks. Could we soon see enough dispersion of Wi-Fi hotspots to make it possible for Google to run an entirely Wi-Fi powered phone service, free from reliance on cell network support and entirely independent to traditional mobile operators? The U.S. is certainly a great testing ground in that respect, as many other countries lack the Wi-Fi density needed to support Google’s experimentation.

Is it possible, too, that Project Fi might help Google prepare for the coming 5G revolution. Many in telecommunications believe that, in order to deliver dramatically more speed and capacity, 5G must be heterogeneous wireless networks built on unlicensed spectrums. Could Project Fi be Google’s attempt to learn what such a network might look like?

Though not completely unique – other operators offer Wi-Fi-first service supported by cellular networks – Google’s signal switching technology and data refunds differentiate the service enough to stand out. At the same time, the project’s early limitations – it’s exclusivity to the Nexus phone and the U.S. – suggests it won’t fully disrupt the mobile industry quite yet.

Instead, Project Fi offers a small platform for Google to experiment, adapt and learn from the technology and consumer behaviours. From there, the company will be able to evaluate whether early results are positive enough to proceed with some sort of larger-scale offering, or if it should leave mobile service to the mobile operators. Either way, Google’s innovative spirit and out-of-the-box approach offers a model for digital and communications services providers to adopt, and the initial excitement around Project Fi underscores Generation Cloud’s hunger for a real mobile revolution.

Download our book, Operation Nexterday, to learn the strategies and solutions that help mobile operators innovate their service offerings and intrigue Generation Cloud consumers.


Comptel Enters Strategic Partnership with Hitachi

Posted: October 5th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: News | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Comptel Enters Strategic Partnership with Hitachi

With the rapid uptick in mobile device use, continued data traffic growth and demand for innovative, high quality infotainment services, communications service providers (CSPs) need to build flexible network operations platforms that can help them keep up with changing customer preferences. At the same time, CSPs, supported by these platforms, must be able to scale network capacity up and down based on need and, hence, better manage costs incurred for running the services.

Packet Core is vital to CSPs in the data-centric world…and even more so is Evolved Packet Core (EPC), the 3GPP-specified architecture system that manages data connections in LTE networks (Wikipedia). Part of EPC, Policy and Charging Rules Function (PCRF) is a central system used to manage policy definitions within the network for users, services and devices.

Some time ago, these ‘rules’ were defined simply for managing bandwidth. They granted only certain bandwidth to a user’s session (say during web browsing or video streaming). The industry has since transitioned to develop more business-centric models, but CSPs need to continue to evaluate how to monetise all that data. Analysing that information is crucial for building more personalised experiences that win hearts, minds and wallets.

This is why Comptel and Hitachi have entered into a reselling partnership, as recently stated via a stock exchange press release. The companies will work together to help CSPs across the globe, with an initial focus on the Japanese and US markets, to help businesses adapt to increasingly competitive market dynamics.

CSPs around the world can now access Hitachi’s vEPC with a PCRF system that can help them create personalised offerings and ensure fast time-to-market. Meanwhile, CSPs can better manage their network resources and service quality—supporting a high customer experience and aiming to drive efficiency and operational flexibility improvements.

We are excited about this new collaboration, as it demonstrates the strength of our policy control and charging technology, as well as our domain expertise, and marks a possibility to enter into a new market, namely Japan. Comptel is pleased to be a part of accelerating Hitachi’s traffic management solution and vEPC offering, and we look forward to building a long, successful relationship with the company.


“Now I Understand What You Mean with Contextual Intelligence in Policy Control and Charging”

Posted: November 15th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Events, Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on “Now I Understand What You Mean with Contextual Intelligence in Policy Control and Charging”

Last week I attended the Broadband Traffic Management event in London, gave a speech on analytics-driven Policy Control and participated in a panel on Over the Top (OTT) and Communications Service Providers (CSPs): ‘What are the Obstacles for Two Sided Business Models?

The need for policy control is evident.  CSPs cannot keep on investing in the networks to the same extent they have been doing in the past. The costs are too heavy, and CSPs are actively looking for smarter and faster ways to monetize data.  The key topics of the conference mostly span around Wifi offload (lightly, but there), OTT (heavily, how to partner), video (heavily, how to control). Video is considered the main culprit in consuming all the bandwidth, and CSPs are very worried about the growth.

The main message of my speech was to fundamentally state that “rules-driven PCC is not going to lead to success” and “policy control needs to be augmented with real-time predictive analytics”. One of the use cases I presented was a so called “intelligent turbo boost” which brings the possibility to dynamically alter the bandwidth, price and duration based on congestion and subscribers’ propensity to pay – as opposed to  the standard “bandwidth boost of 1Mbit/s for 1 hour for 2 euros”.  The second use case example introduced “contextual video optimization” which means using subscribers’ propensity for deciding how much video is optimized for a specific session instead of using rules that are static and fixed. The difference in approach is that humans are hardly driven by static rules, and therefore building the environment on a way where fixed rules define how everything works is really counter-productive.

I received very good feedback after the presentation. Most discussions ended up in the conclusion that pools of rules are very hard to maintain, and they hardly ever meet the subscribers’ expectations. They are looking for a service provider that can offer a selection of personalized data packages which flexibly responds to their needs on-the-spot and within a particular context.  That is something we would like call contextually intelligent customer experience management.


Contextual Intelligence Gets Personal

Posted: September 21st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Events, Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Contextual Intelligence Gets Personal

Earlier this week , I was speaking at 16th Annual Nordics & Baltics Telecom Executive Forum in Copenhagen about Contextual Intelligence. A colleague of mine, Malla, did a great blog about it before the conference, but I thought of giving a bit of a different view of my day…

Context: Dad
Time: 08.00, UTC+2, Helsinki
Story: I woke up – and being a family dad taking care of the morning routines for my kids.- and having breakfast with them, all the while waiting for the nanny to arrive and for me to start my regular working day.

Context: Travel Organizer
Time: 08.15, Helsinki
Story: It was time for me to leave to the airport. I took my laptop bag, gave a hug to the kids. I checked my bags, airline tickets, USB sticks, passport and all other necessary stuff for the trip and ensured they were rather well packed to ensure smooth transit at the airport. I then jumped in to a taxi and waved my family bye-bye, knowing I’d return the same day.

Context: Business Traveller
Time: 08:40, Helsinki
Story: At the airport I had done the check-in’s the day before and moved rather quickly through all the necessary security procedures to be early at the gate. I noticed that I had a plenty of time and I chose to go through the story I was going to present one more time over a cup of coffee.

Context: Aircraft enthusiast/spotter
Time: 09:40, Helsinki
Story: When going to the plane by bus transfer I happened to think about the plane I was going to take:. a Bombardier CRJ 200, 1st trip for me on this type. The type turned out to be a rather familiar configuration among the CRJ types I’ve flown before and also similar to many other smaller regional jet configurations. Inside there is a 2+2 seater configuration and I had the aisle seat on row 10, mid-plane.

Context: Storyteller for conference
Time: 10.00, Helsinki
Story: I thought of the topic I was presenting and wondered about the angle to take. I had had many go’s at this, but I had a new idea based on my day. I felt pretty much like sitting on a bus on my way to a customer meeting in the ‘neighboring city’, especially when considering the price tag of the flight: a whopping 49€ (two-way) plus taxes. The fare is also split between the airline and airport, so not a lot. I made a comparison in my mind between how far I would get with about 40€ using long-haul busses or trains and this flight. The conclusion was that air travel is at least as cheap as or even cheaper than busses and trains, especially for comparable distance and speed. Right there and then I realized that I was ‘riding a bus to Copenhagen to give a speech’.

Context: Travel organizer trying to be in the right place at the right time
Time: 10.30, UTC+1, Copenhagen
Story: Knowing I had a customer meeting before the speech, I ‘fled from the airport rather quickly and luckily, the formalities are rather relaxed in Scandinavia, so rather soon after landing and taxing to the right stand, waiting for the bus to arrive, walking through the customs, entering a taxi after visiting an ATM to get local currency, I was on my way to the conference venue . Phew.

Context: Conference Guest
Time: 10.50, Copenhagen
Story: At the conference venue hotel, Radisson BLU Scandinavia Hotel, I announced myself to the conference organizer, material and update on my speech slot and also cleared the process of updating my slides for the speech with the organizer, just before I was to meet my customer contacts.

Context: Sales/Marketing person
Time: 11.00, Copenhagen
Story: I can’t give out many details, but I think the meeting went well with the customer representatives and I felt rather pleased having thought over the story that I walk through with them.

Context: Industry Expert giving speech to conference audience
Time: 12.00, Copenhagen
Story: My speech started on time. I gave my speech, not liking the fact I was the last speaker before lunch. That is a rather challenging position for a speaker as people may have their minds wandering to lunch, and utilized my own day, like I’m doing here, to add bit of flavor to the message. After the speech, I grabbed my gear, greeted our local team participateding in the conference and spent a few minutes with people talking about my speech and started my journey back home.

Context: Worried dad thinking can he make it back on time
Time: 12.35, Copenhagen
Story: Sitting on the backseat of the taxi, I prepared myself for as a quick run through the airport as possible. I knew I had to be on that plane if I was to relieve the nanny in time, as her employment contract pretty much is for 8 hours day. We arrived to the airport at 12:45.

Context: Just another business traveller
Time: 12.45, Copenhagen
Story: Although I was in a rush, the rest of the people seemed to be as well, so I did not get any special treatment at the airport and while I felt a strong urge to ‘run for it’, the flow of people and ‘the process’ took it’s time. I boarded ‘the bus home’ pretty much on-time, (by my calculation, I was the 3rd last person to enter), but they did not announce my name yet, nor any others.

Context: Aircraft enthusiast/spotter
Time: 13.25, Copenhagen
Story: ‘Just another A319’. I have been in so many to date, but the high-light was the comfy seat and the satisfaction, that it seemed just possible to be at home on time. And the day was pretty successful too.

Context: Businessman
Time: 13.40, Copenhagen
Story: While travelling back, I was checking out a couple of potential business trips and familiarized myself with a few key details I had to pay attention to still by the end of week. I had some coffee to help me keep focused and my mind on the key issues. Once again, this felt really similar to taking a bus and having my own ‘space’ with little interference from other people or the scenery outside. ‘The bus’ landed 10min early and I felt exhilarated to see the plane to tax to a gate nearby the exit area. Time of landing was 15.50.

Context: Mix of businessman and dad
Time: 16.10, UTC+2, Helsinki
Story: While taking the taxi home, I synchronized emails, sent a few text messages to my wife and nanny telling I would be on time, and made few business calls just to ensure things were moving in the right direction.

Context: Dad
Time: 16.30, Helsinki
Story: Coming home, I was immediately being greeted by my kids and a rather happy nanny, who updated me on how the day had gone. I joined my family for a walk with and then later for dinner together.

This very long story has a point. 1st of all, it is no longer a big adventure to ‘take the bus’ via air travel. In a similar fashion, the way we communicate is changing from ‘vanity and luxury’ to ‘common and everyday’, even more so by generations younger than mine for example. Prices in commodity markets are known to be tight, and hence it is vital to understand the contexts in which the individual people find themselves in a much deeper and rich fashion to be able to address the exact, detailed needs of these ‘smaller and smaller segments of people’ whose contexts change within day, like mine did on this rather unusual, but still, very interesting day.

Contextual intelligence for Telco is all about understanding the fine-grained segmentation of customer base, addressing the needs of the customer within the right context and at the right time and with an attractive interaction. This makes the Communications Service Providers more important and relevant to their customers, and at the same time, makes the CSP a much more relevant party to the so called ‘OTT players’ who I’d like to call partners or customers of CSP. After all, the OTT players , also yearn for accurate and detailed information on the people using the services. This information could potentially be provided by the CSP. How many contexts do you think you have in your life? How much each of them overlap with each other and would you have different needs as a user of communication services when finding yourself in those contexts? Would it be great to have these contexts understood appropriately at the right time with the right kind of service? I would LOVE that and we at Comptel are working hard to making it a reality. That’s why we at Comptel say “Comptel – Making Data Beautiful”.


Reflections on LTE Advanced – Part Two

Posted: May 2nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights, Telecom Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

In my last post, I touched on what LTE-A is and the benefits we can expect from it, including much more bandwidth. However, there is some room for improvement with this technology.

The Price Issue

First and foremost, there are cost issues related to the massive performance increase. For instance, if you have a mobile broadband bundle with a capacity of 2 GB, this could quickly be consumed in roughly 15-20 seconds. If you’re a heavy user today and spend about 30 GB a month, at maximum capacity, it would not last long in LTE-A. Depending on how the service is put to market, consumers could end up paying a fortune for its speed—hindering adoption and prolonging the transition to LTE-A.

So why will it be so pricey? There are a few fundamental reasons. First, the cell in LTE-A is smaller but much faster than those found in previous generations. So this means that we will have more cells (think of these as the roadside ‘towers’), but they will most likely be built into streetlight poles and other facilities in addition to physical towers. Here’s where the price comes into play—each cell has a cost. In addition, each of those cells needs to be connected to the core network somehow (typically microwave radio or optic cable), and with more cells comes more cables and more complex networks.

Also, each cell needs to transport more data as bandwidth grows. Thus, the infrastructure to support such bandwidth requires major investments by communications service providers (CSPs), including in new technologies like small cell devices for more specific locations. We can also expect more fibre rollouts, which will need to be connected to all kinds of routers, switches and repeaters in the telecom network. These will all need to be planned, installed and operated. While we assume that efficiency increases in hardware over time (smaller space and faster speed) and power consumption decreases, all this infrastructure will have a major impact when it comes to cost. In addition to the purchase and operations, the cost of labour for actually digging up the ground, laying the cables and filling the ground can really add up.

What about Vendors?

This means a lot of various things for software vendors like Comptel and others in the OSS/BSS and Service Provider IT (SPIT) field? We believe the infrastructure rollout will need to be as automated as possible to drive the need for an excellent fulfillment process, logical network connections and efficient resource management. This will, in turn, reduce wasted time and money. The increase in bandwidth will likely drive more customer offerings and drive the need for service orchestration and catalog-driven order management. The complexity of the service must be conveyed in a way that makes sense for customer segments using the network capacity, and various service bundles should be prepared and proposed.

One may, however, discover that there are so many different ways to bundle these services that they completely avoid it and allow customers to self-personalise their subscriptions in advance or just in time. CSPs will naturally want to charge and control this usage and the bandwidth that customers are getting, such as services without quota restrictions like music streaming with a fixed monthly fee. Perhaps they can consider time-, location- or service-specific profiles of policies that enable customers to enjoy the vast capacity at full speed.

With this in mind, we already enjoy a degree of granularity like watching a TV series at full capacity, while others view it at a lesser quality, all enabled by policy control and online charging systems. We’re also starting to see CSPs analysing and adapting their customer engagement through intelligent interactions like free services and campaign offers, better matching service profile configurations and other things that better suite personal preferences of usage. All of these services need to be activated, changed and deactivated in real time with a provisioning and activation engine that can scale to the vast speed and low latency.

Likewise, the usage data will be so diverse and vast in its volume that a next-generation mediation system with massive scalability is needed to enable managing the online feeds of data and transactions securely and to adapt the data from various sources and formats with all of the potential various destinations (and their formats). This layer we saw formed in the CDR/file world will also be very necessary in the new online/diameter world.

In summary, behind the acronym LTE-A, there is a promise of vast bandwidth, which no matter how you look at it, will surely benefit us, especially as many other innovations can then be applied to it. There are some hurdles to overcome, but just as many opportunities presented with the technology.

If you’re interested in talking about LTE-A a bit more, please leave a comment or come to our booth at the upcoming Management World 2012, taking place in Dublin in May, to chat with me about it.


Reflections on LTE Advanced – Part One

Posted: April 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights, Telecom Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

When following the hot industry trends, I found a lot of excitement around LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) and wanted to share my thoughts on this emerging technology.

So what is LTE-A?

Well, in the simplest of terms, it’s the latest advancement in radio technology that will put one Gigabits/s bandwidth (or 1000 megabits/s) to your mobile device of choice, whether it’s a laptop, dongle, tablet or smartphone (and eventually feature phone). Network rollouts will occur once the technology is proven in trials and compatible devices are available.

For comparison, you can get up to 100 megabits/s through LTE technology and up to 24 megabits/s with ADSL technology. The bandwidth that LTE-A enables is similar to the fastest speeds from Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) technology and about three times faster than that of cable. It is also approved by the International Telecommunications Union as the true 4G technology irrespective of what industry marketing and some communications service providers (CSPs) are saying about LTE and DC-HSPA. Globally, we are just deploying LTE infrastructure, and thus, LTE-A will have its first major deployments sometime in the future.

Some Perspective

While the maximum speed will most likely be very theoretical, at least in the beginning, the technology promises to provide all of the bandwidth we need without wiring everything together physically, allowing for true mobility. To put that bandwidth into perspective, one HD quality video stream can consume up to tens of megabits per second depending on the encoding/decoding technology used. This would then decide how much of the CPU and graphics chip on your device would be used and how much battery life they consume on decoding the video feed. The less bandwidth that is consumed (and hence tighter compression used in video encoding), the more work the CPU and graphics chip will have to do, and more battery will be consumed. In theory, you would not need much video compression with LTE-A, as there is plenty of capacity and hence less demand on battery, CPUs and other chip development needs. Think about several HD video channels being streamed to your device and having the ability to use other services in parallel. It would also enable higher upload speeds, so your multi-megapixel DSLR pictures could be streamed to your cloud storage or photostream of choice in near real time.

Is there really a need for this much bandwidth?

I’ve witnessed first-hand that once more bandwidth is available, it will get used. Remember the times of MS-DOS and the famous statement that 640 kB of memory is enough for everything? I’m feeling a bit old here, but seriously, we are masters of consuming 97% of our hard drives, for example, no matter what the capacity is—and the same applies to bandwidth. With recent advancements in HD displays in relatively small form factor (e.g. retina display in the new Apple iPad), it’s almost guaranteed we will consume available bandwidth. I’d think, however, that with such bandwidth, the need for large local storage on devices becomes less important, especially as cloud storage is becoming more affordable. Hence, we will see more video-enabled devices with minimal, built-in storage capacity.

LTE-A sounds promising, right? In my next post, I’ll discuss this technology further and highlight some areas where there’s room for improvement.


Summarising My Thoughts on Mobile World Congress

Posted: March 13th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Summarising My Thoughts on Mobile World Congress

I thought I would have been able to blog more during Mobile World Congress (MWC). How wrong I was though! In retrospect, I have to say I’m not at all disappointed about it, as MWC was a great event for Comptel. Ulla Koivukoski and others can say more about that. In this blog post, I’ve tried to focus more on the product side of things, but first wanted to say something about the way we looked.

The launch of our new brand was noticed by all who have known Comptel for a long time. It was great to hear the positive feedback as well as MWC attendees’ curiosity about the new brand. When I saw our new tagline, ‘Making Data Beautiful’, being noticed by one of my favourite technology news sites, it warmed my heart. The Register even gave us a special mention in its MWC coverage (any news is good news, or would you disagree?). To me, it’s very clear how we make data beautiful, but I welcome everybody to discuss it with us—we are happy to share our story with those interested.

At MWC, we also unveiled our focus on offering Customer Engagement solutions, where our product portfolio helps realise our ‘event-analysis-action’ vision. It seemed to be well understood and led to some very interesting discussions during the event. In addition, there was a natural interest towards Comptel Social Links and our future plans with that product, which we recently acquired from Xtract.

The future of policy control and online charging and the importance of integrating them (which we already did in 2010) still had a major buzz around it. This is not where the evolution of policy control will stop though—it’s actually quite the opposite, and we’re heavily working on new capabilities in this field. Some of those ideas were recently referred to by Alan Quayle in his MWC summary.

Comptel Dynamic SIM Management and our Wataniya Kuwait project garnered a lot of attention, too. Many discussions began on how self-care personalisation is a tool and way for communications service providers (CSPs) to enable loyalty, and how catalog-driven order management is essential for such self-care to be effective and cost-efficient. This is especially important when aggregating over-the-top (OTT) and other third-party offerings into the CSPs’ own offerings.

During the same week as MWC, Comptel was awarded with an IBM Beacon Award for the Best Communications Industry Solution. I think it’s a great honour from one of our most long-term strategic partners. It was given based on our mediation product, which is being used by about 20 of the 30 largest CSPs (by subscribers) and processes 20% of the world’s usage events. This was a figure that came as a surprise to many, but we have an extensive install base with multi-billion events being processed per day.

There lies a key question for CSPs. With data processing volumes expected to grow 10-100 times with LTE, according to various reports published, how scalable is your mediation system, and more importantly, how cost-efficient is it really to scale to these volumes? We expanded on the work we did with Heavy Reading on this topic during the event.

We also demonstrated some of the most recent product advances we’ve made, and proved that we are not just talking on a conceptual level but can demonstrate how our products actually work. One of these was the new release of our catalog-driven order management solution.

MWC for me is always a lot more than just meetings with partners and customers. It’s a way to see the people behind email addresses. The event brings a lot of people together, and you get to see former colleagues in their new roles and old friends long gone, and build on those relationships, which are very important, at least to me. This relationship building is also very crucial for CSPs to do with their customers; the deeper the relationships are, the more profoundly difficult it is to let go. But like every relationship, it needs to be actively cared and nurtured. And like we say at Comptel, that is beautiful.

For some reason, after a rather exhausting event filled with long days and a lot of meetings, I felt somewhat sad to be sitting in the airplane on my way home. Not that I didn’t want to go home, but I very much enjoyed MWC this year. If you had some great experiences, why not leave a small comment here?

For those that read my previous blog post about the failing cruise control on my car, the story had a happy ending. The maintenance shop fixed the problem, and I had first-class customer service during the re-visit.

I’m starting to move my sights to Management World 2012 in Dublin, where you can also meet us and find out more about Comptel. I don’t want to spoil the event by telling you what we’re going to show there, so be patient, we always have something new cooking. Let’s ‘co’-operate and ‘co’-create better customer engagement until then!


Preparing for Mobile World Congress 2012 with Great Anticipation

Posted: February 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Events, Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Preparing for Mobile World Congress 2012 with Great Anticipation

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a chance to blog, and a lot has happened in that time— you will see it when you visit us at Mobile World Congress (MWC) or online. Change wasn’t, however, the only reason for blogging.

While preparing for the event, I was reflecting on my past MWC experiences, and concluded that a lot is different, yet a lot is the same. What I mean is that we’re in the same place, Barcelona, in the same booth area, with many of the same companies and same people around us. But just like over the years we have evolved the frequency and way we travel around the world, our industry is undergoing a change, too.

Customers rightfully demand better value for money in terms of fairer treatment, better service and more interaction, and they are willing to spend more for premium treatment, like our recent study shows.

Just like me. I have recently had a few different customer engagement experiences and have decided to share one of them with you. It’s not specific to telecommunications but is an example in real-life customer experience nevertheless, and we all have these.

I have an ongoing issue with my car and its annual maintenance. Finland has quite a strict law on car maintenance, and for older cars, they are inspected annually for their condition. Well…I don’t drive an “old” car (over three years) but had the first inspection nonetheless. It didn’t go smoothly…

I had some pre-inspection maintenance carried out and got a green light from the shop. A truly very nice and helpful experience. I was also told that my issues with cruise control were now fixed. I then went to the inspection, and to my surprise, got two recommendations for corrections (with a notice of 10 days to fix them) for items that the maintenance report claimed were “checked and ok.” Not good.

Naturally, I called the maintenance shop, and have to say, I was given exemplary treatment. I was given the choice of my preference for the revisit time without any conditions, a free temporary car with no mileage limits and a very nice service manager who took as good care of me as he could in this case. The shop fixed the issues of the inspection and informed me when the car was ready via sms. It said that there were no charges, and explained what had happened, what they found out and what they did to fix the issues. The only problem is that the cruise control still doesn’t work.

I’m sure I will get great service once I’m able to return to the shop. I admit frustration that I need to visit it once more, but I know the staff acknowledged their error, will treat me well and will do their best to fix the problem. Not much more I can ask.

What is great about this experience is what makes a good treatment of a customer. The issue was not treated as the customer’s fault, plus keeping the customer informed and aware of what is being done, has been done and will be done in case the problem persists, is a great example of a real-time personalised treatment.

It would be great if the service was completed the right way the first time around, but technology can be complex and not very easy, so sometimes it just does not happen. Admitting failures, plus adapting to a customer’s schedule and needs, is a way to take care of a problem. Mistreatment, untimely communication or lack of engagement is a poor approach that can lead to further frustration and general customer dissatisfaction.

This is a level of engagement we all would like from our communications service providers (CSPs). With dropped calls, call scrambling, lack of bandwidth or network congestion, it would be great if the CSPs could immediately respond and inform that they have identified the issue and will do their utmost to give me, the customer, the best possible service at all the times. The good news is that the need to deliver a high-quality customer experience like this has been well acknowledged across the industry.

Like I said in the beginning, they require “change”, and Comptel is changing, too. We are passionate about helping CSPs engage with their customers in real time, and understand their customers’ personalised needs to interact at the right time with the right proposition in that specific condition. We hope to collaborate with CSPs to combine our knowledge to conquer the issues.

We have a lot to offer from self-care-driven, just-in-time activation of SIMs and services that enables service personalisation and dialogue-driven engagement with customers, to real-time, next-generation fulfillment and catalog-driven order management. Plus, Comptel can drive personalisation, quality of service (QoS) management and monetisation of data services with policy control and integrated charging, and support the explosion of transactions in the data-driven world with next-generation mediation. We also have recently added real-time predictive analytics to tie together our vision of ‘event-analysis-action’. It’s about making intelligent use of data to engage in a new way and to take actions towards improving the customer experience in real time. I think it’s beautiful.

I look forward to MWC 2012 and to meeting with as many new and old acquaintances as I can. Visit Comptel at Stand #1C06. Let’s ‘co’mmunicate!