Cellular IoT: Understanding the “Value” of NB-IoT or LTE-M Key to Operator Success?

John Byrne

John Byrne – Service Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

• NB-IoT and LTE-M deployments are proliferating. Proofs of concept abound, but neither technology appears to be generating significant momentum yet.

• Regardless of the technology, moving beyond connectivity is vital to mobile operator success in IoT.

In the past six months, cellular operators worldwide have been rapidly deploying narrowband (NB)-IoT and LTE-M. In June, the GSMA announced the success of its Mobile IoT Initiative, claiming nearly 75 operators deploying NB-IoT or Cat-M and 500 members in its Mobile IoT Innovators initiative designed to help operators add IoT value. The bulk of this focus has been on NB-IoT, which cellular operators are using to establish new use cases, including smart agriculture and a variety of smart cities applications involving lighting, parking meters, smart buildings and the like. For example, T-Mobile USA completed live NB-IoT smart city trials in July 2017 in advance of a planned national launch.

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AT&T Introduces “5G Evolution”: Is This the Moment When 5G Became a Marketing Term?

John Byrne

John Byrne – Service Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

• AT&T launched the first of what it calls “5G Evolution” upgrades slated for 20 major metros in the U.S. in 2017.

• As with the introduction of 4G/LTE, operators are likely to begin treating “5G” as more of a marketing tool than a specific set of performance specs.

The history of mobile network evolution used to be pretty clear. First there was analog (which, by the way, no one referred to as “1G”), which was the service customers had in the 1980s – simple voice over inefficient networks, but that was OK because most people couldn’t afford cellphones (which were at that time “carphones”). Read more of this post

IoT @ MWC17: What the IT Vendors/Systems Integrators Were Up To

S

John Byrne

John Byrne – Service Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

ummary Bullets:

• IT equipment vendors/software vendors/systems integrators largely focused on broader issues such as CSP cloud migration and digital transformation, with IoT woven in within those larger themes.

• IBM significantly broadened its IoT ecosystem but waited until its own InterConnect event later in March to announce Watson would power AT&T’s new IoT Analytics solution expanded. Meanwhile, Tata’s massive rollout of a LoRa-based network, supported by HPE’s Universal IoT platform, probably didn’t get the attention it deserved.

IoT is a big topic, dominating many discussions around the future of wireless networks and telecom service providers.

It wasn’t surprising, then, that it was a major topic of discussion at Mobile World Congress this year. Likewise, given the broad reach of IoT use cases and the broad set of players in the IoT ecosystem, it wasn’t surprising to see different parts of the market show up with their own stories. A look at the announcements from various segments of the market – silicon vendors, LPWAN network providers, incumbent telecom vendors, specialist telecom and IT players – helps to illustrate the stories they showed up to tell. Read more of this post

IoT @ MWC17: What the Incumbent Telecom Vendors Were Up To

John Byrne

John Byrne – Service Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

• Incumbent telecom vendors used MWC17 to crystallize their focus on a few key markets like smart city and smart manufacturing, and – for most – expand their IoT portfolios.

• There was a light focus on discussing new IoT technologies and their use cases. With NB-IoT and Cat-M1 buildouts just underway, IoT technology wars played a much less prominent role than at MWC16.

IoT is a big topic, dominating many discussions around the future of wireless networks and telecom service providers.

It wasn’t surprising, then, that it was a major topic of discussion at MWC this year. Likewise, given the broad reach of IoT use cases and the broad set of players in the IoT ecosystem, it wasn’t surprising to see different parts of the market show up with their own stories. A look at the announcements from various segments of the market – silicon vendors, LPWAN network providers, incumbent telecom vendors, specialist telecom and IT players – helps to illustrate the stories they showed up to tell.

The table below recaps announcements released by incumbent telecom vendors Cisco, Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, Samsung and ZTE at (or leading up to) MWC. Taking a look at their breadth, a number of clear themes emerge.

Network Equipment Vendors Going Direct. As network equipment vendors make their strategic investments in IoT, the focus for many is converging in key opportunities around smart cities, smart factories and smart utilities. The announcements at MWC17 clarified that in areas with “telecom-like” networking requirements, these vendors are moving forward directly and not through their traditional network operator customers. Ericsson in particular, which has spent the most time amongst its peers in pursuing vertical opportunities, showed success, announcing smart city deals with Istanbul and Dubai government authorities and several smart manufacturing-related deals. The willingness to cut operators out of the deal in key IoT vertical markets will only intensify as other vendors like Nokia and Huawei take an increasingly “platform”-oriented and services-led approach to vertical opportunities. Read more of this post

Nokia Shuffle Intensifies Focus on Mobile and Services, but Managerial Changes Are Ill Timed

John Byrne

John Byrne – Service Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • Nokia will divide up its Mobile Networks and Chief Innovation and Operating Officer units to align with the company’s ‘Rebalancing for Growth’ strategy unveiled in November 2016.
  • The moves create greater visibility for Nokia’s services unit, and should lead to improved operating efficiency and strategic investment, but significant management changes give the impression of disarray.

On March 17, Nokia announced changes in its organization and leadership team, to better execute the strategy unveiled by CEO Rajeev Suri at the company’s Capital Markets Day in November 2016:

  • Mobile Networks will be divided into two distinct organizations: Products & Solutions and Global Services. Marc Rouanne will assume control of the Products & Solutions unit, while current Mobile Networks President Samih Elhage will step down. Igor Leprince will continue to head up Global Services and will be added to Nokia’s Group Leadership Team (GLT), an indication of the growing importance of services.
  • Despite being placed within Mobile Networks, Global Services will house all managed network services and company-wide global service delivery. The Global Services unit will also be responsible for developing a common approach for processes and tools, managing a Services Committee to coordinate services development across different groups, with a common Customer Delivery Manager responsible for managing all services for a single customer.
  • Global Services will also continue to drive emerging strategic service areas such telco cloud, ‘x as a service’ (XaaS), prime integration and transformation consulting.
  • The former Chief Innovation and Operating Officer (CIOO) organization will be split into three: A traditional ‘operating’ unit will focus on internal operations, while responsibility for ‘innovation’ will revert to CTO Marcus Weldon and Chief Strategy Officer Kathrin Buvac. Monika Maurer, currently COO of the fixed business, will became company COO; both Maurer and Weldon will join the GLT. (Buvac is already a member.)

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Lofty 5G Manifesto Goals Overshadowed by Net Neutrality Concerns

John ByrneSummary Bullets:

• The good news: European operators and vendors are planning 5G in at least one city per EU country by 2020 and appear to be in lockstep in taking a pan-European, cross-border approach to deploying 5G.

• The bad news: Their Manifesto identified a host of regulatory issues and potential roadblocks to deployment. Ultimately, net neutrality concerns could hamper 5G investment.

An impressive roster of European operators (plus Nokia and Ericsson) issued the 5G Manifesto on July 7. The document reflects progress on the EU’s “5G Action Plan” designed to solidify Europe’s leadership in deploying 5G as standards harden in 2020. That in itself is significant, as the North American operators were the clear leaders in LTE deployment, and early pre-5G trial announcements largely focused on APAC, especially Korea. However, the manifesto also came with a laundry list of challenges and “asks” from the EU in order to avoid stifling 5G growth.

First the good news:

Strong Regional 5G Support: The 15 operators supporting 5G deployment include all of the big hitters, notably Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica and BT. Collectively the group plans to deploy at least one “smart city” leveraging 5G technology by 2020 in 28 countries. That’s a markedly different approach than European operators took in LTE deployment, which occurred at significantly different rates depending on operator and country.

Clarified Focus on the Most Important Verticals: European operators are focusing on specific use cases with the best chance of showcasing the ROI around investing in 5G. The verticals initially targeted include connected car, eHealth, transport/logistics, public safety, and utility/smart grid. The use cases being envisioned aren’t exactly groundbreaking – many of them are already seeing LTE or even 2G/3G deployment – but do reflect a degree of coherence among European operators.

Upcoming Opportunities to Showcase 5G: Early 5G trial announcements have centered around Asian venues such as the South Korean Olympics in 2018. To re-inject Europe into this discussion, operators and vendors have identified several major Euro events happening in the same timeframe that can serve as 5G trial opportunities; specifically, the Glasgow-Berlin European Soccer Championships in 2018 and the European Soccer Championship 2020. While not exactly at the “cachet” level as the FIFA World Cup or the Olympics, both events should provide an important opportunity to position Europe as a 5G hotbed.

So clearly the European operators are intent on prioritizing 5G – that’s good for the entire 5G ecosystem of handset, silicon, and network equipment vendors, not to mention European wireless customers. Unfortunately, the bulk of the document focused on what the industry needs to achieve its full 5G potential. And the list of “asks” was lengthy:

Bandwidth, Please: As always, bandwidth to keep pace with endlessly increasing usage patterns looms large. For Euro operators, this means harmonized licensing of 700MHz, 3.4-3.8GHz, as well as >24GHz bands for backhaul. The lack of clarity (and harmonization) on if/when spectrum might be made available, how it might be doled out, and how quickly existing bands can be repurposed for 5G, needs to be clarified. (Note – the FCC provided a good example of the kind of initiatives European operators are looking for, providing new rules July 14 that open up nearly 11 GHz of high-frequency spectrum for wireless broadband, including 3.85 GHz of licensed spectrum and 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum.)

Show Me the Money: In order to help make the vertical use cases work, Euro operators are looking for the EU to directly fund individual use cases ranging from €0.5 billion -$€1.0 billion. In addition, the Manifesto calls for a 5G venture fund to take equity stakes of more than €1 billion in European start-ups developing 5G technologies and applications. In theory, sovereign investment should embolden private equity investors to follow suit.

Regulatory Certainty: 5G Manifesto proponents, not surprisingly, want to be regulated as lightly as possible. In some areas, such as harmonized rules regarding establishing rights-of-way for the installation of passive facilities; supportive municipal site rental charges; and removing taxation of sites and antennas; the Manifesto is clearly well-aimed. In others (see next section) the manifesto walked into the middle of a maelstrom.

No Net Neutrality: The 5G Manifesto calls for an environment in which “all players in the digital value chain should operate on a level playing field” and warned that current net neutrality guidelines stifle investment. Then the threat: “Investments are therefore likely to be delayed unless regulators take a positive stance on innovation and stick to it.” Though the language was obscured in Alan Greenspan-esque cloudiness, the message is very clear – the lofty pan-European 2020 5G deployment plans may not materialize if operators aren’t able to sell differentiated service offerings with performance characteristics dictated by the specific use case.

In total, the 5G Manifesto provides some optimism; however, the challenges facing operators in eyeing widescale 5G deployment in Europe are significant. The bad news is that many of these challenges are unlikely to be resolved immediately, or perhaps at all: Requested investment from EU or its constituent countries may or may not materialize; spectrum may take longer to become available than operators hope; and more favorable rental and tax treatment may not be coming at all. But none of these are likely to be deal breakers. However, net neutrality raises a major obstacle to the ability of operators to offer network slices, which by definition enable different levels of service to be offered to different customers, and in turn directly challenges the notion of equal Internet treatment for all. And 5G-enabled network slicing is a key factor driving the ROI case for mobile operators. That means that, for all the promise that the 5G Manifesto holds for an aggressive pan-European 5G deployment, it is very much an open question whether operators are truly committed to the 28-city deployment plan unless the vexing net neutrality issue is resolved in their favor.