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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AT&T, ECOMP and the Increasingly Difficult Pace of Virtualization

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • Last week, AT&T leveraged its Shape event in San Francisco to unveil 5G launch plans, new virtualization goals for 2017, and herald the handover of ECOMP to the Linux Foundation.
  • While not immediately obvious, open-sourcing ECOMP and meeting its virtualization goals (75% of network functions by 2020) are intimately linked because, every year, virtualizing additional functions will only become harder and harder – and AT&T will need all the support it can find.

Last week, AT&T held its co-called Shape event in San Francisco.  On the agenda: progress with its AirGig solution, initial commercial 5G markets for this year and 2017 virtualization goals, and success in moving continued development of its ECOMP platform to the Linux Foundation.  Coming out of the event, an article from SDxCentral called out that these last two items were intrinsically linked – open sourcing ECOMP is critical to helping AT&T execute on its long-term virtualization goals. Read more of this post

Cisco, THX Introduce New Video Quality Optimization Solutions to Ensure Enhanced End-User Experiences

Erik Keith - Principal Analyst, Fixed Access Infrastructure

Erik Keith – Principal Analyst, Fixed Access Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • Cisco debuted its Infinite Video Platform (IVP) Labs at CES 2017, confirming the trend of top-tier systems vendors in developing comprehensive video quality measurement solutions.
  • THX has teamed with Conviva to deliver an audio and video streaming quality certification program, with the goal of establishing a “universal standard for quality in the streaming world that consumers can trust,” but the prospects for industry-wide acceptance remain uncertain.

With the USD 400 billion global pay-TV/video market as a revenue foundation, and an increasing percentage of pay-TV/video content being delivered in a non-linear fashion, video quality optimization is becoming an increasingly critical issue for both operators and their system vendor suppliers. Optimizing end-user satisfaction – or, more accurately, quality of experience (QoE) and therefore ongoing revenue potential – is the prime directive. 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

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: NB-IoT

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • NB-IoT is often invoked in discussions of next-generation wireless network evolutions as part of “paving the way to 5G.”
  • While there is no way to interpret NB-IoT as a 5G technology, it provides a “bridge” to the massive IoT capabilities that 5G promise, giving operators insight into IoT opportunities and tool to address many of them.

Our blog post from late October highlighted a fundamental MEC dynamic: while MEC is fundamental to 5G, it’s not strictly a 5G concept.  It can be deployed well before 5G becomes a commercial reality.

This same dynamic is at play with NB-IoT.  It’s here today, but expected to be critical to 5G in the future.

An evolution of LTE, nobody considers NB-IoT a 5G technology.  And yet that doesn’t stop NB-IoT from getting routinely called out as part of the “race” to 5G or “paving the way” to 5G.  At the same time, the move to accelerate NB-IoT commercialization started in 2015 with demos from Ericsson, Nokia and Intel at MWC this year.  Just last month, then, we saw Vodafone announce plans for commercial NB-IoT networks in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain to be launched in Q1 2017.  Not to be bested, T-Mobile Netherlands almost simultaneously revealed that they would have NB-IoT up and running in major cities before October came to an end. Read more of this post