Looking at the Good & Bad News in Q3 2017 Telecom Vendor Financial Results

John Byrne – Service Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • Revenue was down year-to-year for Ericsson, Nokia, Cisco and even ZTE, which had carried positive growth for H1 2017. But, vendors are generally doing a good job driving out costs in order to increase profitability.
  •  On their face, Ericsson’s Q3 2017 results reflected a company facing multiple challenges and a lengthy road to recovery. However, there were signs of light indicating that the fundamental business may return to solid footing once painful restructuring initiatives are completed.

The Bad News: Revenues Down

With the results now in for Q3 2017, it’s clear it was a rough quarter for many vendors. Results were perhaps most striking for ZTE (consolidated results shown), which experienced a nearly 8% decline compared to the prior year quarter. ZTE’s results were a distinct reversal from the first half of 2017, in which the company grew revenue 13% year-to-year. Continue reading “Looking at the Good & Bad News in Q3 2017 Telecom Vendor Financial Results”

How to Make the Case for 5G? Techno-Economic Modeling of Course!

John Byrne
John Byrne – Service Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

• The economics of 5G are different than previous radio technology upgrades; CSPs need to be convinced of the business case(s) supporting 5G deployments.

• A multitude of supporting hardware, software and services vendors understand this imperative; Nokia’s Bell Labs-infused “techno-economic modeling” is one of the more forward-leaning approaches in driving 5G investment..

Network technology vendors all seem to reach the same conclusions at the same time.

In the case of 5G, every vendor in the space has figured out – seemingly simultaneously – that 5G is different from earlier iterations. In the case of 3G, CSPs were eager to deploy the technology in order to address rapidly increasing demand for mobile data, fueled in turn by the first iPhone in 2007 and a host of other touchscreen smartphones that made it very easy to access Internet services. This in turn led to some high-profile network degradations as CSPs struggled to keep pace with demand. Similarly, 4G addressed the need by operators to keep pace with video traffic, both in downlink throughput required to stream video but also in the uplink throughput required for everyone to send videos, e.g., from the Super Bowl, where traffic leaving the stadium now exceeds download traffic by a wide margin. 4G also was crucial to improve the latency surrounding both data and video traffic. As a result, market forces drove LTE deployment far more quickly than originally expected, even for reluctant European operators with significant budget constraints.

But 5G is different. Technology vendors have spent the last few years hyping the coming of 5G as a transformative event for the industry. Meanwhile, CSPs, most of which are seeing flat or declining revenue and shrinking margins, face an environment where, frankly, continued evolution of the LTE standard (think 4.5G, 4.9G, 4.99G?) will continue to improve performance on bread-and-butter requirements like throughput and latency. Which begs the question: Why 5G?

Nokia is attempting to answer the “Why 5G” question with 5G “techno-economic modeling” to showcase the benefits of 5G deployment. Taken at the generic level, Nokia is offering key benefits for 5G that previous technologies can’t provide, for example:

• 24x improvement in capacity compared to 4.5G networks

• 50%-75% reduction in network operational cost compared to 4.5G and even 4.9G networks

• 99.999% network reliability, enabling SLAs that far exceed any previous technologies

For all vendors in the 5G space, providing the big picture behind 5G – essentially making the case that 5G performance and efficiency is improved by orders of magnitude over 4G/LTE – is an important step on the way to 5G. And the claims by Nokia are compelling for sure. However, ultimately they do not identify the benefits from specific 5G use cases. To address this, Nokia has introduced specific benefits of investing in 5G, initially honing in on three use case scenarios:

• Connected events – Enabling 360-degree, immersive virtual reality experiences in connected stadiums

• Connected industries – Creating the factory of the future (Factory 4.0)

• Connected cities – supporting multiple connected devices in ultra-high density areas where 4G/LTE will not provide the necessary scale; Bell Labs modeling indicates 5G reduces signaling load and related costs by 65% compared to LTE

Of course, the fact that Nokia (and other vendors) need to work so hard to make the case for “Why 5G” points out the different marketplace dynamics compared to previous technology iterations. However, with that challenge acknowledged, the next step is to take the guesswork out of 5G business planning by combining an understanding of emerging 5G technology with a deep understanding of CSP operating environments and business models.

With that in mind, the next step for Nokia, and for its competitors, will be to provide dozens more use case models that can support the 5G investment case. Specifically, modeling around network slicing will be crucial. That’s easier said than done, but is crucial: getting operators to buy into the numbers will be the key to getting them to stop kicking the tires on 5G and start investing more aggressively.

Continue reading “How to Make the Case for 5G? Techno-Economic Modeling of Course!”

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.

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

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

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

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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. Continue reading “IoT @ MWC17: What the IT Vendors/Systems Integrators Were Up To”

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. Continue reading “IoT @ MWC17: What the Incumbent Telecom Vendors Were Up To”

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.)

Continue reading “Nokia Shuffle Intensifies Focus on Mobile and Services, but Managerial Changes Are Ill Timed”