Huawei Global Mobile Broadband Forum 2017: From Connected Cows to 5G Core Network (R)evolution

David Snow – Principal Analyst, IP Services Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • This year’s Huawei Global Mobile Broadband Forum included a strong focus on 5G core network evolution.
  • Unlike discrete access technology evolution, the 5G core network must evolve smoothly into a radically new form (and so must carrier organizations).

This year’s Huawei Mobile Broadband Forum (MBBF 2017) was held in London and boasted a record attendance of 1,400. Nevertheless, that particular number (of people) was completely eclipsed by the ‘number clouds’ appearing on massive screens behind Huawei’s CEO, Ken Hu, as he delivered his opening pitch. Driven by the increasing number of machines which will be connected to the 5G network in the coming years, cows – connected cows; one billion of them – were his first 5G use-case illustration. Continue reading “Huawei Global Mobile Broadband Forum 2017: From Connected Cows to 5G Core Network (R)evolution”

AT&T and Verizon Send Shot Across the Bow of TowerCos with Tillman Alliance

John Byrne – Service Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • AT&T and Verizon announced a joint venture with Tillman Infrastructure under which Tillman will build hundreds of cell towers across the country. Both AT&T and Verizon will lease and co-anchor towers built under the agreement.
  • The deal is likely designed to pressure ‘big three’ tower companies Crown Castle, American Tower and SBA Communications to negotiate more favorable terms, but it is not clear Tillman has the clout to have much of an impact on operators’ bargaining positions.

AT&T and Verizon announced a joint venture with Tillman Infrastructure on November 13th under which Tillman will build hundreds of cell towers across the country. Both AT&T and Verizon will lease and co-anchor towers built under the agreement. The operators indicate that the deal enables them to build towers exactly where they are needed; in practice, the Tillman deal provides AT&T and Verizon with an alternative to leasing space from tower companies such as Crown Castle, American Tower and SBA Communications. Continue reading “AT&T and Verizon Send Shot Across the Bow of TowerCos with Tillman Alliance”

What’s Wrong with AT&T’s Silicon Valley Edge Computing Test Zone?

Peter Jarich
Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • AT&T announced that it is building an “Edge Computing Test Zone” in Palo Alto, Calif to support developers and other AT&T partners in rolling out a diverse set of edge applications.
  • Given AT&T’s support for edge computing, the move isn’t surprising. However, it does raise questions about the set of use cases highlighted, and a specific call-out to wireless networks as well as the lack of any reference to network slicing are disappointing.

As a member of ETSI’s Multi-Access Edge Computing group (MEC) and a prime driver of the ONF’s CORD (central office re-architected as a data center) specifications, AT&T’s interest in edge computing is no secret. Combined with a penchant for announcing its networking innovations and achievements, the carrier’s announcement of an Edge Computing Test Zone should have surprised nobody.

In very real terms, then, there’s nothing wrong with AT&T’s forthcoming “Test Zone” in Palo Alto, California. It aligns with AT&T’s interests and makes sense for any carrier planning to integrate edge computing into its network architecture in the future. It’s a good idea; getting developers engaged is critical for ensuring that they will be ready to support AT&T’s network evolution plans with compelling applications. But it also falls short in a number of fundamental ways. Continue reading “What’s Wrong with AT&T’s Silicon Valley Edge Computing Test Zone?”

Open Source MANO Projects – What Did We Learn From the SDN NFV World Congress 2017?

David Snow – Principal Analyst, IP Services Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

• This year’s SDN NFV World Congress was marked by the two major open source MANO projects firing salvos at each other.

• At the end of the day, operators will choose what ‘works on the ground’, and that will be sourced from vendors and systems integrators, not open source groups.

This year’s “fifth anniversary of NFV” SDN NFV World Congress in The Hague, Netherlands prompted many appraisals of industry progress. One of the most fundamental developments during this period has been the inexorable rise of open source software. This has been particularly surprising in the NFV Management and Network Orchestration (MANO) space, generating a vast amount of activity and subsequent consolidation that has now distilled into two major open source projects vying for leadership: Open Source MANO (OSM) and the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP). With an OSM Workshop on the Monday and an ONAP Mini-Summit on the Thursday, the two projects comprehensively “bookended” the Congress. Operators and vendors sometimes referenced one or other (or both) during the intervening days, so there could be no doubt as to their importance to the industry.

Continue reading “Open Source MANO Projects – What Did We Learn From the SDN NFV World Congress 2017?”

Small Cells: What the Small Cell Forum’s New Board Tells Us About the Market

Peter Jarich
Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

• This week, the Small Cell Forum announced a set of new members as well as a newly elected Board.

• A shifting Board composition focused on service providers vs. vendors is a good sign, particularly the presence of tower and in-building deployment specialists; ultimately, they’re the companies who will be deploying small cells – or not.

When the Small Cell Forum announced new members and a newly elected Board, the news could easily have been ignored or seen as nothing more than “business as usual.” After all, a new Board is elected every year, and considering the various parts of the network that small cells touch, it’s only natural for a wide array of companies to be involved in the Forum’s activities.

But looking to the composition of the new Board tells an important story.

Broadly, the companies on the Board can be divided into three groups:

• Vendors that develop small cells and supporting network gear.

• Supporters – like Qualcomm and Node-H – that provide software and silicon components powering small cell technologies and services.

• Service providers delivering wireless services out to consumers and enterprises as well as those in the deployment services and siting business.

And, when looking at the composition of the 2016 vs. 2017 Board, a handful of encouraging facts emerge.

Better Balance. With 60% of the Small Cell Forum board composed of vendors last year, it was clearly over-weighted. You could argue that this is only logical since small cell vendors have the best understanding of the technologies at play and have the greatest exposure to diverse customer demands. Circa 2017, however, a more balanced set of board members promises to help in capturing a more diverse set of market views and requirements in guiding the work of the Forum.

Balance Where it Matters. Where the composition of the board shifted dramatically is on the service provider front. Small cell vendors will have their own agendas, but service providers will always be closer to market demands and the ways in which small cells will get deployed.

The SPs that Matter. The definition of “service provider” here extends beyond carriers who deliver services out to consumer or enterprise end-users. The category also includes companies who deploy small cells for carriers – and they constitute 50% of the service providers on the Forum’s Board. Why is that important? Small cell technology is still evolving, but is fairly mature; the technology isn’t a check on market growth. But deployment dynamics – the time, cost and effort to get small cells deployed – could be. Whether indoors or out, they factor into the small cell RoI. To be sure, SPs like AT&T, Reliance Jio and Softbank understand those dynamics. But, if carrier-neutral deployments are seen as important to moving the market forward, a different set of services providers need to be included. Service providers like American Tower, Crown Castle and Extenet.

It would be naïve to think that an evolution of the Small Cell Forum’s Board would lead to massive new market growth. But, if the Forum’s leadership is meant to reflect the state of the industry and include the companies who understand its issues, the evolution of the Board is a good sign, highlighting shifts in the industry and signaling that the Forum is responding.

CBRS: How Much Does Priority Access Matter?

Peter Jarich
Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • Ongoing questions around CBRS priority access license (PAL) terms suggest that licenses won’t likely be available until a year from now.
  • Without priority access, CBRS will still roll out; many use cases don’t require it. However, the sooner PAL terms are decided on and licenses auctioned, the better it will be for driving the industry forward.

Combining insatiable spectrum demands, an interest in targeting enterprises with wireless technology (from vendors and services providers), and imminent commercialization, there was little doubt that CBRS would be a hot topic at the GSMA’s inaugural Mobile World Congress Americas event. Continue reading “CBRS: How Much Does Priority Access Matter?”

“Use Case Based Marketing:” Passive Aggressive (Yet Defensive) Competitive Messaging?

Peter Jarich
Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:                 

  • The concept of marketing new technologies or solutions around use cases seems like a logical way to link deployment to real world carrier requirements and opportunities.
  • Use case marketing is also a not-so-subtle way to suggest that competitor messaging is based on hype more than reality, in the process flagging areas where a vendor potentially sees itself at a perceived competitive disadvantage it needs to counter.

Last week, Nokia held an analyst summit dedicated to its Fixed Broadband business.  One of the most anticipated topics was the discussion around software-defined access.  Beyond the fact that software-defined anything is buzzworthy,  going quiet on a hot, new (or new-ish) technology is a recipe for ceding mind share and giving customers a reason to listen to your rivals. Continue reading ““Use Case Based Marketing:” Passive Aggressive (Yet Defensive) Competitive Messaging?”