IoT @ MWC17: What the LPWAN Players Were Up To

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:                 

  • Where IoT factored into a broad set of vendor messaging at Mobile World Congress 2017, there were diverse messages coming out of various camps: silicon vendors, LPWAN network providers, incumbent telecom vendors, specialist telecom and IT players.
  • LPWAN network providers came to MWC ready to talk up their progress with building out network coverage, their ecosystems and use cases. Some, however, failed to make their presence known at all.

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

Affirmed Sends a Signal: The Enterprise Will Feature Prominently in MWC17 Messaging (Hopefully Alongside Partners)

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • In an effort to expand beyond their traditional customer bases, service providers and the vendors selling into them have talked up the opportunity presented by diverse digital industries (vertical markets).
  • In announcing an upgrade to its virtualized IoT platform, Affirmed acknowledged the trend by partnering with Tech Mahindra in order to tap its “enterprise domain expertise.” Other vendors (and carriers) will doubtless follow suit at Mobile World Congress. To do the messaging right, they’ll need to involve partners.

Earlier this week, Affirmed Networks announced an upgrade to its IoT platform offer, including support for NB-IoT. Perhaps more importantly, the announcement called out work with Tech Mahindra to tap its enterprise domain expertise in supporting IoT rollouts.

Why would this be ‘more important’? Beyond consumer use cases, IoT is inherently about supporting specific enterprise applications – applications requiring intimate domain expertise. But, this is about more than just IoT. In an effort to expand their addressable markets, telecom vendors and carriers have been talking up their plans to target the enterprise. This messaging has been so loud and consistent that we’ve called it out as something we hope to concrete examples of at Mobile World Congress this year [see page 6]. And, to some extent, we’ve seen lots of enterprise-focused announcements within a telco context in the run-up to MWC. Read more of this post

2G Shutdowns, Multivendor NFV: The Glacial Pace of Telecom Change vs. Future Aspirations

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • Last week, AT&T highlighted how it had shut down its 2G network on January 1st. On the same day, Ericsson announced it had worked with Cisco to address Vodafone Hutchison Australia’s SDN and NFV needs.
  • While not formally linked, both events showcase how slowly telecom service providers change the way they think about and run their networks – with implications for IoT and 5G plans.

Last Monday was a holiday in the U.S. The good folks at AT&T, Cisco and Ericsson, however, weren’t taking it easy. They had news to announce.

AT&T – with a blog post from Chief Strategy Officer John Donovan – started off the week by talking up the shutdown of its 2G network at the start of the year, positioning it as a part of their 5G network evolution. Ericsson and Cisco had their own milestone: following the signature of a “global business and technology partnership” back in November 2015, the two network infrastructure heavyweights were eager to announce a joint win at Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA), supplying SDN and NFV solutions including data center assets, SDN controllers, service and network orchestration products, and VNFs. While the two had already won other joint deals, the win at VHA was heralded as “the first major collaboration between Ericsson and Cisco on Telecom Cloud infrastructure.” Read more of this post

RAN Vendors Targeting Enterprises Aren’t Waiting for 5G

Ed Gubbins - Senior Analyst, Mobile Access Infrastructure

Ed Gubbins – Senior Analyst, Mobile Access Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • The lull between 4G and 5G operator spending motivates RAN vendors to penetrate enterprises before 5G, aided by new RAN technologies relevant to enterprises.
  • In penetrating enterprises, even RAN vendors with enterprise businesses face challenging organizational changes and market hurdles.

When RAN vendors talk about 5G, much of the discussion tends to involve targeting enterprise verticals and the Internet of Things (IoT). Take Ericsson, for example, demonstrating unmanned construction vehicles and remote surgery concepts. But, like many elements of their 5G discussions, RAN vendors aren’t waiting for 5G to target enterprises. Read more of this post

2016: What Was Most Important in the Service Provider Network (or, at Least, Most Read About)

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • By looking to our top-read analyses of 2016, we can paint a picture of what was top-of-mind for telecom network players – operators and vendors – over the past 12 months.
  • Key themes included SDN and NFV, IoT, and the rivalry between Nokia and Ericsson. This also implies other important themes were getting less attention than they probably should.

While it’s common for the start of a new year to be accompanied by predictions for telecom and technology markets, it’s just as important to look back at the year that just passed. Why? While predictions are speculative, highlights from the past 12 months point to very real trends and themes. What’s more, most good predictions recognize that the themes and trends of 2017 will be built from (evolutions of) the themes and trends of 2016. Read more of this post

Building 5G: Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:                 

  • Where technologies like mobile edge computing (MEC) or network slicing are needed to deliver on 5G promises, data analytics is a space that looks to benefit from 5G’s ability to support data collection and distributed processing.
  • At the same time, as 5G brings new complexity to network rollout and operations, data analytics and automation will be critical for simply getting 5G up and running.

In taking a look at MEC, NB-IoT and network slicing, our last three posts on 5G ecosystem components focused on network technologies and innovations required to make 5G a reality.  It isn’t the case, however, that supporting 5G network builds and benefitting from 5G are mutually exclusive – consider the role of data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).

To position “big data” as a broad topic is something of an understatement.  Telcos tend to look at it from analytics on user data (improving service offers), network data (improving network operations) and the massive amounts of sensor-based and other IoT data likely to run over their networks.  From a multi-industry perspective, there are myriad data sources to be collected and analyzed in support of myriad benefits. Before starting on the role of analytics in 5G, then, it’s worth framing the conversation with a description of analytics. intel-bda

Getting to the point where we can use these capabilities  will, of course, require no shortage of human intervention in terms of prioritizing investment and innovation.

And how does this all link to 5G?

  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband. Rather than just delivering massive bandwidth, Enhanced Mobile Broadband is about delivering enhanced experiences.  Data analytics come into play for identifying the bandwidth required to deliver that experience, based on application or user profiles.
  • Massive IoT. A fundamental difference between IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) use cases is the role of data; where M2M is about connecting and transactions between things, IoT is about connectivity in the name of control and/or capturing  data in order to analyze things and take action.  Here, 5G’s ability to support massive connectivity across diverse devices – backed by the distributed compute architectures – creates the ability to gain insights from data in real-time.
  • Critical Communications. Critical use cases will generate data.  More importantly, the requirements on when and where that analysis takes place will be constrained by bandwidth, and processing power, not to mention available network resources.  Whether thanks to slicing-based traffic prioritization, MEC-based local analytics or the latency improvements promised by a new 5G air interface, 5G lays a foundation for supporting critical analytics. It makes possible the real-time and automated intelligence that can seamlessly travel from the cloud to a plethora of end points.

Putting this into context, think back to this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show.  You might not have expected Intel’s CEO to show up, but he did, noting, “if you have rich data, your car will be able to deal with complex route situations. If not, the car will stop.”  Or, more succinctly, “data is the new oil.”  This explains some of Intel’s recent moves (including the Nervana acquisition and platform launch).  The same trend can be seen in a number of industries linked to 5G use cases, from public safety and precision agriculture, to smart cities-based efficiencies and prescriptive healthcare services  tailoring based on user data.

In an effort to support these use cases, the role of data analytics is elevated with 5G.  While 4G was often positioned as a “data” network, this was only within the context of circuit switched connectivity giving way to IP connectivity, even for applications like voice.  5G, on the other hand, is positioned as an intelligent network that supports data and analytics use cases, helping it reach out to drive new industries in a way that wasn’t possible previously.

Ultimately, however, there is a dual role for data analytics within the context of 5G; along with supporting new business opportunities, analytics will also be key to getting 5G networks rolled out and operational.  Between multiple layers of virtual functions, virtual and physical RAN assets, and distributed computing nodes, 5G networks will be fundamentally complex beasts.  Add in diverse 5G RAN considerations – densification-driven RAN node proliferation, mmWave spectrum usage, unlicensed spectrum usage, shared spectrum usage – and the complexity of 5G networks cannot be overstated.  Network data, then, will be key for managing this complexity in the name of network rollout and operations.  Think where to deploy capacity.  Think how to balance capacity and coverage.  Think how and when and where to scale specific network functions, or application microservices.  Think network utilization information supporting AI-driven proactive care.

In a simple network with limited capabilities, data analytics is of marginal importance: the network can only carry so much data and there’s not that much network data to collect or act on.  5G networks look to be anything but limited or simple, making analytics key to delivering on the 5G promise and making the full use of 5G resources.

Building 5G: Network Slicing

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Talking to a random sample of vendors at Mobile World Congress this past spring, it was tough to get a definitive sense of what the 5G mobile core would look like. There were plenty of ideas and visions, but the only clear point of agreement was that it was too early to know for sure. Well, that and the fact that the 5G mobile core would include mobile edge computing (MEC) and network slicing. Yep, everyone seemed to agree on that.

The fact that many definitions of network slicing include the term ‘network slice’ might seem tautological (or redundant in non-SAT speak). Chalk that up to the concept of a ‘slice’ being particularly apropos for describing dynamically created (sliced) virtual networks in support of specific service requirements. Think stitching together diverse network resources – virtual or physical; RAN, core, or transport; storage or compute – in order to deliver on the demands of network operator or third-party delivered services. Per a recent 5G Americas whitepaper, “Network slicing, in its simplest description, is the ability to tailor a set of functions to optimize use of the network for each mobile device. All of the functionality needed, but only the functionality needed, is assembled in a way that optimizes that device’s ability to find the correct network, access the network efficiently and securely, and be attached to the core network with the set of functionality needed by that device.” Read more of this post