Management World 2012: Do What You Do Best

Posted: May 23rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Management World 2012: Do What You Do Best

Hello from Ireland, or as they say in Gaelic, Dia dhuit! Comptel is having a fantastic start to this year’s Management World 2012 – where the sun is shining and the Guinness is never in short supply. This year’s theme is “Rethinking Communications – Enabling Connected Life”, and the key undertones so far seem to be innovation, the customer experience and revenue monetisation.

The keynote speakers on day one of the conference touched on some interesting points to this end. In particular, TM Forum chairman Keith Willets began with the humbling statistic that there are now six billion people connected on the planet, who are cumulatively driving the speed-up of change – a “digital tornado,” he called it.

As this digital revolution occurs, so too comes fundamental changes to mobile architecture, and the big question is – can communications service providers (CSPs) adapt quickly enough and deliver the innovation levels that will be required to survive and prosper? Keith also talked about CSPs needing to continue to break down product silos with IP services and find ways to work with over-the-top (OTT) providers, as well as described this new digital economy as SAASification – with new exciting opportunities emerging for simplified service offerings in various verticals including healthcare, energy and M2M.

So how do you rise to the top of the digital world? Keith assured the audience – do what you do best, and forget the rest. Innovation will be huge, so instead of punishing failure, encourage risk-taking. Look to collaborate and partner with other telecoms software and CSPs to enable and maintain innovation.

And, analytics’ use for personalising products and tailoring services for customers will play a big part at the end. Ultimately, success will come from customer centricity and, in particular, real-time, individualised engagement – after all, Keith asserted, it’s now the customer that holds all of the power!

We’re looking forward to the rest of Management World 2012, and if you’re interested in speaking with us, then swing by the Comptel booth, #64!


Mobile World Congress: A Week in Reflection (Part I)

Posted: March 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Mobile World Congress: A Week in Reflection (Part I)

It was another sunny February at Mobile World Congress (MWC). Barcelona brought a welcome respite from the tail-end of a snowy winter across Finland and central Europe. The last time I was here was 2009 during my time at InfoVista. I then thought that fifty thousand attendees for an event was remarkable, but this year, more than 67,000 visitors from 205 countries were in attendance, including more than 50 percent of attendees holding C-level positions and 3,500+ CEOs. Although an astronomic figure, it was hardly surprising based on the advances made in technology in recent years. In fact, back then, the sceptics were out in force asking “Why would I need a tablet device from Apple when I have a PC or Mac and an iPhone?”. Looking at the current size of the tablet market, it’s clear that the discussions at MWC are noteworthy predictions of what we can expect to see in the market and at future shows.

A Refreshing New Look for Comptel

“Wow, you’ve changed! was the reaction of many of our customers, friends and analysts to the new face of Comptel that was revealed. The new brand with the tagline, “Making Data Beautiful”, that had been publicly announced only days before, took many by surprise but was the catalyst for fresh discussions around new products, solutions and positioning.

All the Big Players, Exuberance and Excess

The usual suspects packed into the exhibition; many of whom weren’t happy with one stand. These “big hitters” such as Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) and Cisco—builders of next-generation mobile infrastructures—had covered all bases by appearing with both commercial (marketing) and closed areas.

For the commercial appearances, Huawei certainly took the prize for the biggest exuberance as can be seen in the image, with a cascading liquid neon display. The Chinese giants certainly also took the Hateley prize for having spent the most on MWC, and this was clearly visible not only on the expo floor but also all around Barcelona!

One of the key business and thought leadership areas for NSN  was Machine-to-Machine (M2M). The company discussed an enterprise vertical-focused solution that leveraged a traditional managed service architecture, complete with infrastructure and processes, alongside a service enablement layer with a “smart” object focus. These “smart” objects obviously relate to the new generation of consumer and commercial devices containing SIM or other forms of IP communication to the network—either public or private. The operational and value chain associated with the entire M2M opportunity is still largely undefined and without standards; however, one thing is for sure: the important role that will be played by the application developer community and strategic eco-system partners that communications service providers (CSPs), network vendors and systems integrators (SIs) will need to form. NSN has clearly taken that into consideration for its ‘fully managed vertical end-to-end services’.

The Top Topics

So what were the top themes this year (that I noticed as an exhibitor)?

Theme Sponsor Observation
M2M GSMA, network and OSS vendors, device manufacturers, mobile operators Early technology adopters and innovators only at the moment. Earliest standardisation expected in 6-12 months. Value-chain is open for interpretation!
Cloud-based Services Network and OSS vendors, cloud and virtualisation vendors, data centre hosting companies Mobile operators adopting cloud-techniques for operational and cost-efficiency in the midst of severe data and content demand and growth. Bring your Own Device introducing IT security challenges and opportunities for virtual machine providers.
LightRadio Network vendors Alcatel-Lucent specifically leading the field with a conference-wide 4G deployment that its execs leveraged to great effect.
Policy Control & Charging OSS/BSS vendors Although disputed by Comptel’s 2010 announcement, identified as an important trend in the next 12 months.
Actionable Intelligence & Analytics Revenue assurance and OSS/BSS integrators and vendors, customer experience management-focused vendors, network vendors, other independent software vendors Most have “analytics” in their go-to-market pitch; however, as seen, it can be applied across the industry in different forms. Not a lot of “action” in the actionable intelligence!
Managed Services OSS/BSS integrators and vendors Aligning with mobile operator needs to outsource and reduce operational and development costs, so they can focus on their core businesses.
Application Development Android, Blackberry and a multitude of smaller developers The future is definitely in app development—the “trendy” and “place to be” community of the conference.
Consumer Electronics (Smartphones & Tablets) Samsung, Blackberry, Motorola, Nokia—the usual suspects Innovation around an existing theme (tablets). Geeks’ paradise but nothing earth-shattering. Galaxy Note was about the most significant.
Near-field Communication (NFC) and Cell-enabled Electronic Payment Operators, innovators and GSMA An attempt by mobile operators to “own” electronic payments using NFC in the handset tied to subscriber identity and profile. New operator-banking partnership opportunities but security regulation is a hot topic.

Do you agree with the hot topics I’ve identified? Leave a comment and let us know what stood out to you at Mobile World Congress. Also stay tuned for the second part of my reflections on the Barcelona event.


Around the World

Posted: February 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Around the World

Total Telecom…
Service Providers Must Think Creatively to Get Most Out of M2M
The automotive industry is one of the key drivers of M2M communications. This article explains that operators need to include additional services on top of M2M offerings in order for customers to get the most out of the technology.

Telefónica and Masternaut, for example, are using M2M communications to monitor driver behavior, such as braking and acceleration habits, for enterprises with large fleets of vehicles. On top of their service, they are offering an element that allows companies to rank their drivers and award a prize for the highest ranked depot within an organisation. By using the natural human instinct for competition, Telefónica and Masternaut are able to encourage safe driving.

Telefónica is not the only mobile operator looking closely at this space—many are interested in building an enablement framework that will allow them to reap the benefits of M2M technology.  Do you see M2M being a major telecom trend in 2012?


ChannelNewsAsia…
Telcos May Spend More to Boost Network Capacity
This week, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore introduced measures to boost the quality of 3G mobile services for subscribers. As of April 1, operators must ensure more than 99 percent coverage in outdoor areas and more than 85 percent coverage within buildings, with a less than one percent rate of dropped calls.

Due to these measures, Singapore telecom operators are focusing on improving their control of surging mobile data volumes, and are predicted to invest between $1.3 billion and $1.4 billion this year to boost their network capacity. This increase in capacity will be essential as the demand for faster data networks and LTE grows. The key for operators will be to guarantee a high quality of service in the wake of new regulations while also driving profits and preparing for the next phase of mobile broadband.

NPR…
How to Avoid ‘Bill Shock’ From Smartphone Use
For many Americans, using a cell phone while traveling abroad can result in ‘bill shock’ when they receive a stunningly large phone bill resulting from unanticipated roaming charges. To address this problem, the FCC will implement standards next spring requiring wireless carriers to provide timely and effective notice to consumers about expected roaming charges.

The new FCC regulations will present opportunities for CSPs to differentiate themselves on the customer experience front, by taking a closer look at improving billing services and personalised alert services. What do you think these new regulations will mean for the industry?


Around the World

Posted: January 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Around the World

Informa Telecoms and Media Blog…
12 Top OSS/BSS Trends for 2012
Analyst Peter Dykes highlights an exciting outlook for the OSS/BSS sector in 2012. He predicts that the growing requirement for more complex rating and billing functionality will open up opportunities for vendors, and says that improvements in this area are necessary for operators embracing LTE. For 2012, he also believes that in both mature and emerging markets, there will be a greater focus on areas such as customer experience, business intelligence and innovation in handling network congestion.

The predictions Comptel believe are particularly interesting include the rise in demand for OSS tailored to M2M services, which Steve Hateley recently wrote about, and the growth of policy-based online charging (OLC) as operators seek to offer more innovative services.  What 2012 prediction do you think is most surprising?

Telecomasia.net…
Five New Challenges for APAC Telecoms in 2012
Ovum analyst David Kennedy believes that tightening margins and streamlining business processes will be the main theme for the Asia-Pacific telecoms industry, as overall growth in the mobile market slows and competition for customers increases. David believes these five trends will drive the market forward in the region in 2012:

  • The push for cost optimisation and efficiency – this will grow in importance due to increasing competition and margin pressures.
  • The importance of customer service – operators will work to stay ahead of the competition with promotions, marketing, better network convergence/reliability, etc.
  • The future of smart devices and mobile app ecosystems – successful devices will need to integrate applications, content and services into the platform.
  • Network data management importance– as data surges, operators are being forced to alleviate network congestion and will roll out a combination of solutions including more LTE networks and Wi-Fi offloading.
  • Bundling for customer retention – more bundling is expected to emerge for mobile-only and second-tier operators.

Do you agree that these trends will define the APAC telecoms industry in 2012 and ensure continued profitability and improved efficiency?

Telecoms.com…
Mobile Network Predictions for 2012
In 2012, the mobile market will see two key trends emerge: technologies critical to maintaining a high user experience and initiatives providing additional profit growth opportunities while reducing costs.  In an effort to improve the customer experience and increase revenues, operators are looking to invest in network sharing and traffic optimisation.

Another major issue in 2012 will be coverage for LTE networks, most notably in markets where operators only have access to high frequency spectrum. LTE femtocells are predicted to boom in popularity, which will benefit residential, business and public hotspots.  However, deployment of LTE small cells for capacity improvements is not expected to be widespread in 2012.

Additionally, investing in traffic optimisation for video is a hot topic, with content providers, CDNs and other vendors, and mobile operators debating various ways to deliver mobile content efficiently. We’re looking forward to seeing mobile innovations in action at the upcoming London Olympics, where operators are expected to showcase the successes of their technologies.


The Next Stop, M2M: Biggest Trend of Our Time?

Posted: November 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events, Telecom Trends | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

During my recent attendance at Management World Americas, it became clear that the subject of machine-to-machine communications (M2M) had progressed from the innovative discussion stage into concepts and uses within real industry verticals.

I listened to an interesting session in which the presenters noted that M2M may well, in fact, be the biggest trend of our time; however, as it currently provides only one percent of mobile revenue, communications service provider (CSP) investment is being held back.

What the market seeks is a one-stop approach, or umbrella solution for connectivity and M2M applications—similar to the Ethernet-exchange or Cloud-broker principles currently being seen across the industry. Through this approach, there’s great potential for growth, particularly for value-added services, if CSPs can prioritize and exert discipline in M2M investments and resources.

Vendors focusing on specific vertical markets will be ideally placed to gain a seat at the table, as many verticals, such as utility, healthcare, manufacturing and retail, use some form of M2M. But as sure as death, tax and CAPEX reduction, CSPs are looking for a quick return on investment (ROI), and in order to improve time-to-market, they must first invest in the right enabling technology.

To truly succeed, they will need to build an enablement framework that includes a connectivity model, device templates, collection and data analysis—assuming that the 3G/4G network is either in place or under construction. Within this framework, a defined catalog of specific service descriptions, superior scalability and automation are all necessities, as is using collected data to make analytical assessments and provide proactive resolutions to problems. Some good examples include using smart-grid meter data for innovative pricing, or using automotive data to aid in preventative maintenance and warranty cost reduction—these, of course, are not even one percent of the potential uses of M2M technology.

A key concern related to the implementation of M2M is the massive IP scalability required for end-devices, and industry forums are already investigating how IPv6 will have a leading role to play. Another way to help address these concerns is through just-in-time device activation or dynamic SIM management, where retailers or equipment wholesalers can enable devices at the point-of-sale—bringing significant cost-efficiency. This approach could typically be welcomed in the impending introduction of new, SIM-enabled vehicles rolling off the production line.

Ultimately, initial reluctance of CSPs to make investments in M2M needs to be offset with assurances around operational efficiency and acceptable ROI dependent upon time-to-market. This coupled with an ability to automate, maintain cost control, billing models and OSS are key considerations CSPs must make in order to play in this opportunity-rich space.


Three Certainties in Life – Death, Tax and CSP Cost Reductions

Posted: November 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A trip to Orlando in November to experience the weather of an English summer had the added bonus of finding TM Forum’s Management World Americas in the wonderful Peabody Hotel and Conference Center.

Some clear positivity has been demonstrated in the telecoms IT industry over the last year. The “Cloud” has been gaining further momentum, machine-to-machine (M2M) is finding new innovative applications across enterprise verticals, and communications service providers (CSPs) are realising the value of eco-system-delivered services.

Amidst rapturous applause, Martin Creaner opened Management World Americas by acknowledging (for a change) that we all knew what challenges are facing CSPs and the market, and that vendors and OSS/BSS solution providers should be getting on with delivering innovation. He stressed that the event was all about putting competitive engagements to one side, collectively learning how peers are addressing challenges and how, by sharing ideas one or two times a year, everyone could really contribute to creating a better world—quite profound and worthy of a Nobel Prize, I think!

To summarise a relatively light-hearted introduction, Mr. Creaner recommended the following points of wisdom and focus for the coming year:

  • CSPs will be concentrating on growing new revenues to combat declining asset value, whilst maintaining customer experience to minimise subscriber churn.
  • New revenue streams will come from clever product bundling and marketing, service enhancements, such as location-based services, plus some early adopter M2M innovations (e-health etc.), which are great ideas but carry investment risk if they are not successful.
  • Over-the-top (OTT) players are here and will not be going away, so CSPs need to fight for their place in the value chain. Making a broader portfolio available in the broader market is key, such as offering diversified services within the cloud.
  • CSPs need to leverage their assets and operational experience to become cloud service brokers.
  • Death, tax and CSP CAPEX/OPEX reduction are the three certainties in life.

Recapping the SIMposium, Berlin, 28-29 June

Posted: July 8th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Recapping the SIMposium, Berlin, 28-29 June

Last week, I travelled to Berlin for SIMposium 2011, organised by SIMalliance in partnership with Informa Telecoms & Media. The conference was a great platform for hearing about new contactless technologies, discussing emerging business models and addressing market challenges and the opportunities of machine-to-machine (M2M) for specific enterprise verticals.

Over the course of the two days, it became clear that Near Field Communications (NFC), M2M and handling identity/security were the primary topics of conversation. For starters, NFC was displayed in many context-enabling solutions; these ranged from e-wallet services all the way to public transportation payment systems. Now that NFC pilots are showing promise on the commercial side, it seems that solution providers’ imaginations are flying high! It will certainly be interesting to see what else is rolled out in the coming months. However, the key to future NFC uptake and to these projects being successful will be to make the solution benefits clear to end-users without making things overly technical.

M2M was also on every operator’s lips at SIMposium. There was a clear consensus that M2M will happen in a major way. Most operators believe that the challenges of M2M are different from those on the consumer side, and to address these, there needs to be a dedicated organization, network infrastructure and offering. Furthermore, M2M customers are looking for global connectivity, which means partnering (and possibly unified roaming pricing) for operators.

The first industry to make M2M really happen might be automotive and transportation, with the legislation in Europe (eCall) and Brasil (Resolution 245) being main drivers for the deployment. M2M is clearly made for verticals that represent different niches, which naturally makes things more complex for operators. Standardisation will help somewhat, but as one operator said at the event, the market is not waiting for standardisation.

Soft SIMs versus SIM cards was another very hot topic during the two-day event. The general view at the conference seemed to be that soft SIMs will gain popularity, but the security provided by regular SIM cards is currently far better. Managing SIMs’ identities securely via over-the-air (OTA) is increasingly important, especially as embedded SIMs become more attractive, because OTA is the only way to handle them. It became clear at SIMposium that SIM-based identity is a key concern for operators, and that there always will be a compromise between security and usability, no matter what the solution is. (One interesting application of note was SIM-based authentication to log on to Wi-Fi networks; in essence, the Wi-Fi customer experience needs to be as seamless as the 3G customer experience.)

Although NFC, M2M and identity management/security were top of mind, it seemed that many SIMposium attendees debated removable versus embedded SIMs—but there are clear benefits for both. For removable SIMs, the ease of switching from one device to another is undeniable; however, embedded SIMs can be placed on devices more freely without relying on ports to access them.

The SIM partner ecosystem is visibly growing, as evident with representatives from card manufacturers, device management vendors and operators, among others, in attendance at last week’s event. Comptel is very excited about this area—feel free to share your thoughts or questions about the market or the conference with us in the comments section.