MWC16: “Open” for Business

Peter Jarich
Peter Jarich

Summary Bullets:

• From 5G and IoT, to virtualization and digital transformation, Mobile World Congress 2016 telegraphed plenty of technology trends which will shape the rest of the year.

• New “open” initiatives involving operators and vendors incorporated many of these technologies. More importantly, they point to a drive by operators to exert more control over network technologies.

With Mobile World Congress 2016 behind us, you’ll soon start seeing event recaps, recounting the key trends and events that shaped the show. Our own round-ups will start appearing any minute now.

When they do, you’ll see plenty of discussion around technology and solution development. You’ll read about product launches and new vendor wins. And, in many of these spaces, you also had the formation of “open” partnerships aimed at moving telecom networking and solution development forward. From IoT and NFV orchestration, to telecom infrastructure development and 5G system testing, the partnerships announced or expanded this year were varied in their focus. And, while these sorts of efforts are not a new phenomenon, the sheer number we saw form this year – along with the ambitious nature of some – points to a theme worth exploring. Consider the following:

5G Open Trial Specification Alliance: initiative including SK Telecom, Verizon and KT planning to, “develop an aligned 5G trial specification” that would form a foundation for gauging the results of 5G tests around the world.

FIWARE Foundation: extension – by ATOS, Engineering, Orange, and Telefonica – of the FIWARE Core Industry group beyond Smart Cities to new use cases including Smart Industry and Agriculture. A platform for integrating diverse IoT standards, FIWARE is positioned as, “an open innovation-driven ecosystem” focused on driving the creation of new digital products and services.

Telecom Infrastructure Project (TIP): Facebook-driven, engineering-focused initiative hoping to “re-imagine” the way in which telecom networking kit is developed, with other members including Intel, Nokia, SK Telecom and Deutsche Telecom. Following the model of the Open Compute Project, TIP will start by focusing on three areas of the network: access, backhaul, and core/management.

Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF): extension of the Open Interconnect Consortium to include key members of the AllSeen Alliance in an effort to unify IoT standards in support of interoperability and seamless device connectivity.

Open Source MANO (OSM): created under the auspices of ETSI, community of 23 service providers focused on delivering an open-source NFV MANO stack with a scope including resource and service orchestration.

Despite addressing a wide array of technologies, is there a trend to be discerned across these new groups? Is there a deeper message or goal at their foundation?

The easy answer is that these are all about moving the market faster. Whether by honing standards development or trying to drive interoperability, there’s a clear interest in cutting through barriers to technology adoption and service creation. Ultimately, however, you could argue that most technology and network-focused initiatives are aimed at driving market development. So, there’s really nothing new in that.

Perhaps more important here is the role of service providers. The presence of network operators in most of these groups (OCF excepted) is telling. It points to an interest in exerting more control over network infrastructure development. Put another way, it points to a frustration in how some spaces – like MANO – are moving forward in a fragmented and slow way. So, why the movement now? In part, you can chalk it up to that growing frustration. In part, as we often hear, service providers are under intense pressure to keep network costs under control, with the ability to leverage IT technologies supporting these effort. At the same time, success with driving NFV forward has likely given service providers confidence that they can actually exert pressure on network solution development more than in the past. And as larger operators tend to dominate a lot of the early conversations around new technology development – as yourself which voices you hear most around NFV – these efforts could be seen as a way for smaller service providers to get a “voice” in the process.

Will these efforts be successful? It’s too early to tell. Regardless, vendors have a real incentive to participate, not only to ensure that they’re developing the types of solutions that service providers want, but also to help shape carrier thinking vis a vis R&D realities and specific technology agendas.

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