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Dutch virtual mobile market drops to 7.5 mln Sims

24 Dec
The number of mobile customers with virtual brands in the Netherlands fell by 15 percent in the six months to September 2015, after KPN’s brand Hi exited the market. The remaining 7.5 million customers at virtual operators still accounted for around 37 percent of the total Dutch mobile market, according to Telecompaper’s latest Dutch Mobile Virtual Operators Market report. Of the total, around 3.3 million were customers at operator-owned virtual brands, such as hollandsnieuwe or Ben, while the independent MVNOs counted 4.2 million Sims, or about 20 percent of the total Dutch mobile market.With the exit of Hi, KPN’s other brand Telfort became the biggest VO in the Dutch market. In terms of number of customers, the next four places were taken by Lebara, Tele2, Lycamobile and Vodafone’s hollandsnieuwe. These top five brands together accounted for 60 percent of the total virtual mobile market, an increase compared to six months earlier due to growth at all the players except Telfort.

While Tele2 has launched its own mobile network, it still relies to a certain extent on its MVNO agreement to serve customers, so it is included in Telecompaper’s VO figures for Q3 2015. With the next Virtual Operators Market report in Q1 2016, Tele2 will be excluded, as it is expected to have completed its nationwide network roll-out by then.

The ‘no-frills’ segment, offering basic services at relatively low prices, remains the largest segment in the VO market, accounting for more than 40 percent of customers. It grew by 3 percent compared to Q1 2015. All of the players in this segment, except Telfort and Simyo, managed to increase their customer numbers in the latest period, with Simpel and Youfone gaining the most. The next largest segment, taking about a third of the total VO market, remains the ethnic/international players, with Lebara taking the lead. The fixed operators, the third-largest segment, are also expanding in the mobile market, mainly due to growth at Tele2 and Ziggo.

Telecompaper’s latest 2015-Q3 report on Dutch VOs show that the total number of active virtual brands increased to 87 at the end of September 2015. Compared to Q1 2015, the total includes eight new entrants and three exits, while we also added two previously unknown players, which have been active a while. The market remains quite crowded, and several, particularly business providers continue to launch new initiatives, including mobile services as an add-on to their existing services. The number of launches as a standalone mobile-only solution was limited to one, the family-focused MVNO OpenMobile in May 2015. Other entrants included business fixed fibre player Fieber and six other business service providers.

Telecompaper expects more new entrants in the VO market, but also several exits, particularly amongst the independent MVNOs that only offer basic mobile services and depend on mobile as their main source of income. They will need to differentiate themselves better, as offering just a ‘me-too’ service is not a sustainable strategy, according to the researchers. The intense competition in the telecom market and changing interests among consumers are also driving MVNOs to launch value-added and OTT services, in order to limit churn and boost revenues, as recently seen at Lebara.

Much of the success of MVNOs depends on their wholesale agreement for network access. With Tele2 becoming the fourth mobile network operator, Telecompaper expects new opportunities to emerge for VOs. Tele2 is expected to actively seek wholesale customers on its network, as it works to raise capacity utilisation and recoup some of its network investment and operating costs. This may present a new chance for virtual players looking to gain access to 4G data services.



The Future of Telecom and Digital Services: Predictions for 2016

16 Dec

Today, telecom companies are undergoing a transformation in order to adapt their business models in a way that better engages the modern digital consumer. In 2015 we saw a great deal of shake-up in the media landscape, including a number of mergers and acquisitions and a continued rise of alternative service offerings, all pointing to an uncertain future for the market.As we evaluate what the future holds, and service providers shift their focus toward the customer experience to better engage the next generation consumer, there are a few trends that I predict will drive telecom transformation in the new year:

Service providers will try to appeal to cord cutters with new subscriptions offerings, including “skinny bundles” 

While the majority (83 percent) of American still pay a monthly cable fee, there is a growing number of consumers who are looking for options outside the standard cable and mobile packages. These “cord cutters,” as they have been dubbed by the media, want greater variety and personalization when it comes to their subscription offerings. In 2016, service providers need to focus on offering unique and customizable skinny bundles. In comparison to traditional offerings, these slimmed-down bundles would need to offer an a-la-carte feel that is attractive to consumers today, especially millennial audiences. By offering this more personalized approach, service providers can not only attract subscribers, but also begin to better engage today’s viewing audiences by providing a more customized experience.

Implementation of new distribution models and a focus on the Quality of Experience will be critical to engaging digital consumers 

The Quality of Experience will be a crucial differentiator for digital service providers in 2016. With video traffic growing to make up 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic by 2019, creating a seamless and high quality experience across devices will be critical for service providers in the new year. Digital consumers want to have access to their favorite shows from anywhere and at anytime – so they can start watching their favorite show on their tablet from the road, and finish it from their couch when they get home. Furthermore, personalization is imperative not only in the bundle offering, but also in the viewing experience. By implementing customized recommendation engines that tell viewers what they should view next based on their history, or providing integration with social media to encourage active viewing and sharing, service providers can enhance the viewing experience to make it easy, seamless and “sticky.”

Providers will increasingly innovate around their portfolio of offerings, moving beyond television viewing to attract consumers in new ways 

As digital services continue to become a major focus for service providers, my third prediction is that we will increasingly see telecom providers dipping their toes into new, and potentially unexpected, pools. Being the network provider is a huge asset for cable companies – whether wired or wireless, it gives them an almost limitless market for innovation, not only around pricing, but on potential future bundles as well.

The future service provider has the opportunity to introduce a portfolio of offerings. By exploring creative pricing bundles when integrating services such as mobile or integrating aspects of the connected home, cable companies can take advantage of data networks to fuel future bundles.

In looking to 2016, telecom providers face a number of challenges in defining their future role. However, there is also a great deal of opportunity to engage digital consumers by focusing on personalization in subscription offerings, the quality of experience across devices and exploring new innovative offerings.


Telcos urged to innovate data tariffs to counter OTT threat

24 Nov

At LTE North America in Dallas this week, a panel featuring Wireless 2020, IBM, Allot Communications and US-based MVNO FreedomPop urged the service provider community to develop more flexible and tailored data bundles for customers.

During a discussion focused on future revenue generation opportunities, conversation moved towards the current landscape which is seeing telcos lose ground to over the top content providers. Ken Jackson from IBM Now Factory believes that moving to specific and tailored, content-based services is a feasible opportunity for operators to monetise services in new ways.

“Let’s look at the example of a service called NFL Now, a friend of mine can watch as much NFL as he wants, and doesn’t pay for the data he uses, he pays to watch football,” he said. “We have to return the value proposition to the customer, find out what it is they want to do, and offer it to them. Make everything customer centric, and orchestrate your business around what they need”

Haig Sarkissian from Wireless 2020 concurred with Jackson, and urged the service provider community to move away from basic all-you-can-eat data plans.

“5% of the heaviest users consume 40-50% of the network, and they pay the same as the majority,” he said. “That’s why unlimited data plans are unfair, because the majority are subsidising the data usage of the minority. Operators find that this is no longer scalable because if you eat more you have to invest more into capacity. I don’t see it changing any time in the future, unless there’s a fair way of using these “dumb pipe” plans. Is there hope for SP differentiation outside of these unlimited data plans?”

Allot Communications’ John Priest said service delivery is becoming far more personalised and tailored than in the past, suggesting operators should have a think about how they allow users to access the information and the content they want.

“I think we need things like VAS for the customer to make them feel in control of what they need. It’s not just the volume, it’s about the content they want and delivering that to them. Users want to know what they’re consuming, so the SP has to know what they’re consuming and how they’re consuming it, so that you can be more proactive in the customer care and guarantee a higher quality of service.”

“But here are a couple of examples of opportunities for SPs to generate revenue aside from traditional voice and data pricing models. Sponsored data solutions, for example, sees the user get free data if they’re going to certain sites, which is a partnership between the SP and the content provider. Similarly to music streaming services, SPs can strike up a partnership with advertisers.”

US MVNO FreedomPop’s Mauricio Sastre suggested there are opportunities for partnerships between carriers, app developers and content providers, help users consume new applications for reduced costs, or for free.

“In an effort to get their app out there, the app developers are considering paying for the data that their app consumes, so there can be a subsidised way for users to consume their application.”

Of course, when debating content services over service provider networks, we naturally reach the inevitable pain point of net neutrality, Wireless 2020’s Sarkissian rounded of the discussion on such a note.

“When do we get into the net neutrality debate, the big elephant in the room? Do you decide to charge more for content from Netflix, or NFL Now, or WebRTC services?” he said. “In my opinion, any resource that’s finite, and has the potential to be fully consumed, should be left alone from regulation. Otherwise you jeopardise the investment into, and the competition of, all of these services.”


U.S. seeks trials to test transition to digital phone networks

31 Jan


U.S. wireless providers like AT&T Inc andVerizon Communications Inc on Thursday received a nod from regulators to test a transition of the telephone industry away from traditional analog networks to digital ones.

The Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted in favor of trials, in which telecommunications companies would test switching telephone services from existing circuit-switchtechnology to an alternative Internet protocol-based one to see how the change may affect consumers.

The experiments approved by the FCC would not test the new technology – it is already being used – and would not determine law and policy regulating it, FCC staff said. The trials would seek to establish, among other things, how consumers welcome the change and how new technology performs in emergency situations, including in remote locations.

“What we’re doing here is a big deal. This is an important moment,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. “We today invite service providers to propose voluntary experiments for all-IP networks.”

The move in part grants the application by AT&T to conduct IP transition tests as companies that offer landline phone services seek to ultimately replace their old copper wires with newer technology like fiber or wireless.

“We cannot continue requiring service providers to invest in both old networks and new networks forever,” Commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican, said.

Some consumers, particularly in rural or hard-to-reach areas, have complained about poor connectivity of their IP-based services. Advocates have also expressed concerns about the impact of the transition on consumers with disabilities.

“I think we must be mindful of the impact this transition has on consumers — their needs, their expectations and their willingness to embrace network change,” said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat.

The trials will be voluntary, and regulators require that the experiments “cover areas with different population densities and demographics, different topologies, and/or different seasonal and meteorological conditions.” They also require that no consumers be left disconnected.


Evaluating ROI on Social Media for Telecom Service Providers

21 Nov

Which social media website to choose based on certain user specific criteria (Created using Gephi)

Which social media website should be chosen? What is the Return on Investment? (Picture Created using Gephi based on list of social media websites from wikipedia & calculating weighted mean)

Most telecom service providers use IT in key business processes like Marketing, Sales & Service. It would be worthwhile to integrate social media listening capabilities with the current systems so that the social media impact on the business can be measured. Below are a few metrics I could think of that can be used to understand if the social media strategy used is a successful one.

Customer Readiness for Social Media Influence – Marketing

Customer readiness to accept the influence of social media in their decisions to purchase products from the service providers can be understood with the following metrics. Based on the metrics given below, the social media campaign / channels can be decided upon.

  • During customer care / dealer / web portal interactions, are your customers ready to share their social media handles?

  • Which social media handle data are your customers more willing to give (like facebook, twitter, google+, linkedIn, etc.,) and our activity on the particular site.

  • What % of the entire customer base’s social media handles do you have?

  • What is the increase in the readiness of the customer to share their social media data?

  • How many customers interact with you on social media (like / favorite / comment / share)

 Branding – Marketing

Brand perception relies a lot on the products the service provider sells and hence it is important for the listening engine to understand what customers (prospective & current) think about:

  • the products released recently and the positives / negatives through sentiment analysis

  • the most popular products sold (according to the users)

  • the reasons associated with the segment-wise popularity of the product.

  • No. of times a product has been discussed on social media and its impact on sales.

  • Influence on branding by those who are not our customers or unidentified as customers.

 Campaign Management – Marketing / Sales

Nowadays we see a lot of campaigns being created exclusively for those on social media. It is important to keep track of

  • the number of campaigns that have been created based on the requests / interests identified through social media.

  • The number of campaigns created and the revenue out of these campaigns should give an idea of the returns on investment.

  • Map enterprise level data with the campaign data to understand the segment which likes the campaign.

  • How successful are the campaigns through Social Media? Revenue vs cost from these campaigns?

 Generating leads – Sales

While it is good to interact with customers and enhance brand awareness and influence, if the goal of the service provider is to actually find leads and convert them into business, the following are very important:

  • How many people have you converted into leads through Social Media?

  • the % of leads that could be contacted through Social media / outside of Social media.

  • How much % of these leads have been converted into actual customers by selling your products / subscriptions?

 Client specific goals & parameters – Service

The listening engine should take into consideration that each service provider / client base is unique and include the client specific goals into consideration before posting content across the social media. A few examples are given below:

  1. For example, if a telecom service provider wants to increase the usage of self-service portals thereby reducing the customer service requests through customer care channel, the company needs to devise logic to convert the goals to measurable ones & spread awareness through social media

  2. How much time can the service provider afford to spend on social media.

  3. If the customer base is multilingual, are their messages routed to the right support agents? Or is there an internal re-assignment?

Complaint Handling – Service

The number of issues / complaints identified gives a sense of the effectiveness of the listening engine. All identified issues / complaints could be saved as service requests / trouble tickets based on the nature of the issue. It is important to understand how many service requests raised are actually solved so that it can be compared to the traditional way of raising service requests. The Service Requests raised through the listening engine are initially not tagged to any of the accounts (remember “eventual consistency” in previous article?). The approximate account – subscription details to be tagged to this request is maintained in other fields and the customer care agent manually accepts or changes the account tagged. If the information cannot be tagged to any of the accounts, a personal message is sent to the user for the details and responded to their post on the same channel.

  • Number of service requests / trouble tickets have been identified through social media

  • % of service requests / trouble tickets solved

  • % of solved issues required a follow up customer care call VS how many were solved using information in social media itself

  • % of anonymous Service Requests that are later tagged to accounts & channels used as mentioned above

Churn reduction % – Service

Churn is the amount of customers moving from our network to other networks. Social media can help the service provider in understanding the ported out customers by listening to them on social media. The impact of social media on churn reduction can be found by looking at the following metrics:

  • The churn ratio among those people engaged on social media to people not engaged on social media. Higher the ratio, lower is the impact of social media influence on churn reduction

  • the number of Number Portability Requests due to social media. (This could happen due to competitors or due to influencers on social media who influence our customers to move out to another network)

  • Approx. number of customers where social media interactions were helpful to prevent churn beforehand

  • Positive / negative of feedback of customers who have ported our from a network on social media

 Competitor Analysis – Marketing

Most metrics defined here need to be monitored for our competitors as well. This gives a better perspective of the strengths and weaknesses of competitors, as perceived by the direct customers. As we monitor, we could scale up our strengths and also grow in areas considered popular by the end users. The perception & changing perception of our own strengths and weaknesses as perceived by people can be monitored on a regular basis and checked if we are moving in the right direction. The number of customers identified because we are monitoring our competitors can also be noted on a continuous basis.

One more important metric is the number of voices of those who popularize our competitors and their influence rate. These will help us understand the kind of people our customers listen to, in addition to us and our competitors.

Big Data is not about others success stories, but ours!



7 Nov
Using MPLS Protocols to distribute Network Virtualization Overlays across a Service Provider Cloud

Server Virtualization and the evolving network requirements has led to a recent rise in Network Virtualization Overlay (NVO) solutions. VLAN’s and MPLS is a current network virtualization method but has perceived shortfalls with scale and complexity, thus giving rise to new and innovative network virtualization (NV) technologies VXLAN and NVGRE.

Both VXLAN and NVGRE are layer 3, IP-based technologies that pre-pend an existing Layer 2 frame with a new IP header, providing layer 3 based tunneling capabilities of Layer 2 frames. Essentially, this means you can extend a Layer 2 domain across a Layer 3 boundary.

Scenario 1: Network Virtualization Overlay for Fully Virtualized Environments

In the diagram below, VM1, VM2, and VM3 are all part of the same Layer 2 VLAN, say VLAN 45, because the Layer 2 frames are encapsulated via the VXLAN (we would also use NVGRE, but we’ll focus solely on VXLAN) IP header.  Since VXLAN is a Layer 3 protocol, this effectively enables the Layer 2 domain to be distributed across the Layer 3 boundary.


The VTEP includes an important function, to consult it’s VM to VXLAN ID VTEP mapping table and inspect Layer 2 frames or Layer 3 packets and determine if a VXLAN header should be added or removed.  The VTEP does the encapsulation and de-encapsulation.  Notice also in the figure above, the VTEP function is housed in the Hypervisor for this scenario.

Scenario 2: Network Virtualization Overlay for Virtualized and Physical Environments

In this diagram, the scenario changes a bit. On the virtualized side, we still have the VTEP in the Hypervisor but on the right side, we have a physical server that’s been placed on its own unique subnet. The challenge comes when these two environments has a Layer 2 requirement to communicate via one another but are in different subnets in different parts of the network.  Here again, NVO’s and VXLAN can help.


The VTEP functionality, supporting the VM to VXLAN ID VTEP mapping table, can also be moved into the network switch. VLAN 45 can be associated with VM1 and VM2 in subnet A and also with the non-virtualized server in subnet C.  VXLAN provides the Layer 3 bridge between the physical and virtual environments. Note in the above diagram, the VTEP function can be in the switch.

Scenario 3: Network Virtualization Overlay across Service Provider networks

With the recent demand for new network virtualization strategies, another deployment model may include providing Network Virtualization across a Service Provider cloud.  For example, Layer 2 MPLS VPN’s or Layer 3 MPLS VRFs have been common service offerings for 10+ years so enterprises and customers are likely to continue to demand these service offerings, but now also using the perceived simpler and more scalable NVO technologies, including VXLAN and NVGRE.


In this environment, we have two network virtualization technologies that need to be aligned – VXLAN and MPLS. Please note that BGP and MPLS VPN’s are proven Service Provider Network Virtualization technologies, defined in RFCs 2547 and 4364.

The VXLAN VTEP identifies tunnel endpoints, provides the encapsulation and de-encapsulation of the VXLAN header, and provides the VM-to-VXLAN ID VTEP table mapping.

The MPLS PE router performs normal MPLS VPN functions, including using BGP for route distribution and VRF’s for unique routing tables and identified local attachments.  However, the local attachments here are the VXLAN IDs soa VRF associates with a specific VXLAN ID.  BGP is used to distribute the MPLS VRF labels among the MPLS PE routers while the MPLS P routers (MPLS Core) remain unchanged with MPLS label switching.

One interesting point is that VXLAN and NVGRE can support 16 million unique IDs due to the 24 bit wide header field.  The MPLS Label field is 20 bits wide, indicating there are approximately 1 million unique MPLS VPN ID’s.  This issue must be reconciled for any VXLAN to MPLS VPN mapping development.

Ultimately what is needed is an MPLS VPN to VXLAN mapping functionality that bridges the two Network Virtualization technology domains, aka L3VPN – VXLAN internetworking functionality.


A simple network

1 Feb
So i decided to play around with some Service Provider technologies and built myself a little test network with GNS3.

The design so far is really basic since i am just playing around with it.


The main network has 8 routers in it with routers 1,2,7 and 8 working as PE routers and 3,4,5 and 6 working as backbone. At the moment R9 and R10 are just simulating some client routers for a test.

Every router has its own loopback and for simplicity it is just based on the router number( for R1, for R2 and so on). As for the IS-IS configuration, atm i am only using a L2 network.

The configuration itself is not very hard, since basicly all you have to do is enable the process and give it a net address. Also since i am going to use this to mainly test some MPLS VPN features and some MPLS TE i set the metric style to wide. Here is an example from R1:

router isis 1
net 49.0001.0000.0000.0001.00
is-type level-2-only
metric-style wide
passive-interface Loopback100

Process enabled so i just needed to add this to the interface as well. By the way i am using normal ethernet interfaces because if i use a FE or GE interface i keep getting packet loss and malformed packets and apparently it is related to this version of Dynamips.

interface Ethernet2/0
ip address
ip router isis 1
duplex full
mpls ip

IS-IS is working correctly and we can see that the routing table is looking good
R1#sh ip route
Codes: L – local, C – connected, S – static, R – RIP, M – mobile, B – BGP
D – EIGRP, EX – EIGRP external, O – OSPF, IA – OSPF inter area
N1 – OSPF NSSA external type 1, N2 – OSPF NSSA external type 2
E1 – OSPF external type 1, E2 – OSPF external type 2
i – IS-IS, su – IS-IS summary, L1 – IS-IS level-1, L2 – IS-IS level-2
ia – IS-IS inter area, * – candidate default, U – per-user static route
o – ODR, P – periodic downloaded static route, + – replicated route

Gateway of last resort is not set is subnetted, 1 subnets
C is directly connected, Loopback100 is subnetted, 1 subnets
i L2 [115/20] via, Ethernet2/0 is subnetted, 1 subnets
i L2 [115/10] via, Ethernet2/0 is subnetted, 1 subnets
i L2 [115/20] via, Ethernet2/0 is subnetted, 1 subnets
i L2 [115/20] via, Ethernet2/0 is subnetted, 1 subnets
i L2 [115/30] via, Ethernet2/0 is subnetted, 1 subnets
i L2 [115/40] via, Ethernet2/0 is subnetted, 1 subnets
i L2 [115/40] via, Ethernet2/0 is variably subnetted, 9 subnets, 2 masks
C is directly connected, Ethernet2/0
L is directly connected, Ethernet2/0
i L2 [115/20] via, Ethernet2/0
i L2 [115/20] via, Ethernet2/0
i L2 [115/20] via, Ethernet2/0
i L2 [115/30] via, Ethernet2/0
i L2 [115/30] via, Ethernet2/0
i L2 [115/40] via, Ethernet2/0
i L2 [115/40] via, Ethernet2/0

So lets try to reach the other side of the network

Type escape sequence to abort.
Sending 5, 100-byte ICMP Echos to, timeout is 2 seconds:
Success rate is 100 percent (5/5), round-trip min/avg/max = 72/103/144 ms

And we have connectivity. But since we have mpls ip enabled on the interfaces are we really using mpls?

R1#sh mpls ldp bin
lib entry:, rev 2
local binding: label: imp-null
remote binding: lsr:, label: 16
remote binding: lsr:, label: 23
lib entry:, rev 8
local binding: label: 17
remote binding: lsr:, label: 17
remote binding: lsr:, label: 24
lib entry:, rev 6
local binding: label: 16
remote binding: lsr:, label: imp-null
remote binding: lsr:, label: 22
lib entry:, rev 16
local binding: label: 21
remote binding: lsr:, label: 18
remote binding: lsr:, label: 20
lib entry:, rev 20
local binding: label: 23
remote binding: lsr:, label: 20
remote binding: lsr:, label: 21
lib entry:, rev 24
local binding: label: 25
remote binding: lsr:, label: 22
remote binding: lsr:, label: 16
lib entry:, rev 30
local binding: label: 28
remote binding: lsr:, label: 25
remote binding: lsr:, label: imp-null
lib entry:, rev 32
local binding: label: 29
remote binding: lsr:, label: 26
remote binding: lsr:, label: 29
lib entry:, rev 4
local binding: label: imp-null
remote binding: lsr:, label: imp-null
remote binding: lsr:, label: 27
lib entry:, rev 10
local binding: label: 18
remote binding: lsr:, label: imp-null
remote binding: lsr:, label: 28
lib entry:, rev 12
local binding: label: 19
remote binding: lsr:, label: imp-null
remote binding: lsr:, label: 25
lib entry:, rev 14
local binding: label: 20
remote binding: lsr:, label: imp-null
remote binding: lsr:, label: 26
lib entry:, rev 18
local binding: label: 22
remote binding: lsr:, label: 19
remote binding: lsr:, label: 18
lib entry:, rev 22
local binding: label: 24
remote binding: lsr:, label: 21
remote binding: lsr:, label: 19
lib entry:, rev 26
local binding: label: 26
remote binding: lsr:, label: 23
remote binding: lsr:, label: imp-null
lib entry:, rev 28
local binding: label: 27
remote binding: lsr:, label: 24
remote binding: lsr:, label: 17

Well we have lables so it should be working….

R1# trace

Type escape sequence to abort.
Tracing the route to

1 [MPLS: Label 26 Exp 0] 72 msec 128 msec 100 msec
2 [MPLS: Label 28 Exp 0] 104 msec 100 msec 76 msec
3 [MPLS: Label 25 Exp 0] 64 msec 40 msec 104 msec
4 92 msec * 104 msec

This was just to build  little test network. From here i will be working with some BGP and a few VRFs.


The Internet Monopoly

13 Nov

Add your thoughts here… (optional)

Where and how to Invest in Telecom Growth

5 Nov

Investors who have had their hard earned money invested in telecom have had a rough few years.  What once was a lucrative growth story has turned into a high-risk adventure that for some reason still has people calling the remaining skeletons value plays.  Alcatel-Lucent?….No thanks.  Ericsson?…..Ugh.  Nokia Siemens?….I don’t think so.   Motorola?….right.  Nortel, Marconi?….don’t exist anymore.  Cisco?….what have you done for me lately?

A boatload of factors has contributed to the demise of these former high flyers.   Lack of focus by management trying to be everything to everyone everywhere, macro-economic issues causing drastic reduction of Communications Service Providers (CSPs) CAPEX budgets, fierce competition by the entry of Huawei and ZTE driving prices and margins down, using what many suspect are unfair practices and government support.  Valid reasons, but not the complete story.  There is an often overlooked issue that I think should be the biggest concern:

Although they will never publicly admit to it, the CSPs simply do not consider the networks as a differentiator anymore.  And it so happens that despite all the other solutions and services that Alcatel-Lucent, Ercisson, Nokia Siemens, and even Huawei and ZTE have to offer, networks remain their core business.  Unfortunately for them, CSPs’ networks are now considered by their owners to be commoditized pipes that do not contain the intelligence that is required to create a competitive advantage.   That is the real reason why margins are so compressed.  CSPs are just not prepared to pay the premiums they once did.

The problem is that the above-mentioned corporations are, despite all the reorganizations, still built as if their network equipment solutions sell at premium pricing.  They don’t anymore.  In reality, network infrastructure solutions have become a commodity business.  I am staying away until I see them really re-invent themselves, and that is going to take years.

So what else is there if you are a growth investor and look for telecom opportunities?  You can have a look at some of the smaller vendors such as Infinera.  Lots of promise for a long time, but will they ever deliver against that promise?  Maybe worth a small bet?….maybe.

ATT, Verizon?  You have to look elsewhere for growth, unless they decide to seriously expand internationally, which would be out of character and unlikely to be in their best interest.

If you want to find growth in telecom, you have to look at Latin America and China.  I prefer Latin America as there is less of an issue with government involvement and quite frankly, Latin American telecom is doing much better,  A good indicator is troubled Alcatel-Lucent Q3 earnings report in which they highlighted the one bright spot: double-digit revenue growth in the Caribbean and Latin America.  Why is that?

Most countries in Latin America only have about 30% high-speed internet penetration rate mostly limited to urban areas.  This penetration rate is not due to lack of demand, but rather due to incumbent operators, so far, not seeing the business case in expanding their networks to the non-urban population

Something is changing though.  Improvements and expansions in high-speed internet infrastructure are directly related to economic progress.  Governments realize that these investments are necessary to continue to advance their development.  As a result, across the region they are now heavily promoting and investing in national broadband and fiber network deployments so that their people can access the internet.

Due to this lack of investment, in many Latin American countries, the telecom sector is heavily fragmented.  It is very common to see incumbent operators focusing on the densely populated urban areas and neglecting the rest of the country.  You will find within, but especially outside of, the big cities, tens or hundreds of small local cable operators. For example, Ecuador has over 200 and Paraguay more than a 100 cable TV operators.  But what these local operators offer are video services, not high speed internet.  So these cable TV operators have thousands of customers, existing revenue, they truly understand their local markets and they know they can sell broadband services into the majority of their customer base, if they have the budget.   This is similar to the environment that existed 20 years ago right here in the USA.

Here in the USA, twenty or so years ago, ComCast built a powerhouse by consolidating regional players under one umbrella.  I think that is exactly what will happen over the next decade in many of the Latin American countries.

Two companies seem to be well positioned for this wave of consolidation:

1.  America Movil (NYSE: AMX)

This is the Mexican telecom top dog in Latin America.  Owned by the world’s richest man – Carlos Slim, who also sits on the United Nations broadband commission that is pushing the agenda of enabling 60% of the population of all third world countries access to high speed internet at pricing less than 5% of GDP per capita.  AMX Operates in 18 markets across Latin America and the Caribbean where in most cases they have the #1 or the #2 market share. They are expanding their reach worldwide by acquiring larger positions in European operators such as KPN (The Netherlands) and Telekom Austria.

More importantly, with the increased push by countries to execute on their national broadband plans combined with the existing fragmentation in many of the markets AMX operates in, they are ideally positioned to lead the next inevitable wave of consolidation.  AMX has the financial power to instigate the consolidation.  And if governments are prepared to subsidize some of the investment to realize their national broadband plans AMX can create a profitable business case.  Combined with an accelerated growth of the region’s middle class who will have more money to spend on both basic and more sophisticated telecom services, AMX is poised for growth over the next 10 years.

2. Liberty Global (Nasdaq: LBTY)

Another company that may even be more likely to jump in the middle of the Latin American consolidation wave is Liberty Global, one of the leading international cable operators in the world with their headquarters in Colorado.  I really like LBTY.  They are opportunistic, patient, and decisive.  Always looking for expansions.  11 of their 13 operations are in Europe, with the remaining two in Puerto Rico and Chile.   They expanded in Europe by taking advantage of their own industry consolidation wave.  LBTY has been there before.  They know how to do this, which is an advantage they have over AMX, as AMX’s background is a legacy of being the incumbent, not the challenger.

With the ongoing crisis in Europe, I think their investment dollars will for the majority be redirected from Europe to Latin America.  They have had a few years of familiarizing themselves with doing business in the region, a necessary step that is often overlooked by many North American and European companies aiming to do business in Latin America.   The acquisition of VTR, the leading operator in Chile, in my opinion will prove to be a great launching pad to expand their presence in the region.  I cannot see them buying into just two operations in a high growth region without the intention to replicate their successful European business model.

Source: By Hans el Fasid – November 4, 2012 | Hans is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network — entries represent the personal opinions of our bloggers and are not formally edited. I do not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this entry.

5g Wireless Architecture

9 Oct

This document represents personal views on 5G network architecture, especially for wireless service providers. Document has 3 segments, Brief history of wireless telecommunication, 4G network architecture, Network Infrastructure sharing and 5G network architecture.

We are living in era of convergence. Convergence is merging of technologies, domain and discrete IT systems. Basic of convergence lies in Digitization. The digitization of everything is creating a more natural communications experience. Boundaries separating various technologies, engineering practices, functions etc. are dissolving. So tomorrow, our car, our mobile phone, our home security system, our office, all the systems that surround us, will communicate with each other automatically to fill our environment with our preferences and our need to feel connected anywhere, anytime and with anyone, across the world. This is called Ubiquitous Computing paradigm.

Wireless technologies are going to take taking new dimension in our lives. The wireless broadband will soon become readily available to everybody while, being at home, driving the car, sitting in the park, and even on a pleasure boat in the middle of a lake. And because of this, our need to have information at anytime and to be connected at all places, all the time, will be satisfied. The world of universal, uninterrupted access to information, entertainment and communication will open new dimension to our lives and change our life style significantly.

This article is presenting vision of 5G network architecture, explaining concept of Ubiquitous computing, Super Core and Evolution of managed services.

Brief history of telecom
Moores Law Moore’s law
The way that “Moore’s Law” is usually cited is: “the number of transistors that can be fit onto a square inch of silicon doubles every 12 months.” Moore’s law describes a long-term trend in the history of computing hardware but it also prove true for wireless technologies. From 1G (First Generation) to 4G (4th Generation), wireless bit rate has increased from 2.4 Kbps to 100 Mpbs.

Brief description of Wireless Generations:

The first generation, 1G wireless mobile communication systems, was introduced in the early 1980s and completed in the early 1990s. 1G was analog and supported the first generation of analog cell phones with the speeds up to 2.4kbps. The prominent ones among 1G system were advanced mobile phone system (AMPS), Nordic mobile telephone (NMT), and total access communication system (TACS).
The second generation, 2G system, fielded in the late 1980s and finished in the late 1990s, was planned mainly for voice transmission with digital signal and the speeds up to 64kbps. GSM and CDMA IS 95 were prominent technologies.
2.5G is used to describe 2G-systems that have implemented a packet switched domain in addition to the circuit switched domain. 2.5 G can provide data rate, up to 144 kbps. GPRS, EDGE and CDMA 2000 were 2.5 technologies.
The third generation, 3G wireless system, was developed in the late 1990s and might be well-done in the late 2000s. 3G is not only provided the transmission speeds from 125kbps to 2Mbps, but also included many services, such as global roaming, superior voice quality and data always add-on. UMTS, CDMA Evdo, HSPA are 3G technologies.
The fourth generation (4G) is a conceptual framework and a discussion point to address future needs of a high speed wireless network that can transmit multimedia and data to and interface with wire-line backbone network perfectly just raised in 2002. The speeds of 4G can theoretically be promised up to 1Gbps. LTE is considered as 4G technology.

4G architecture
4G is being developed to accommodate the QoS and rate requirements set by forthcoming applications like wireless broadband access, Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), video chat, mobile TV, HDTV content, Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB), minimal services like voice and data, and other services that utilize bandwidth. The definition of 4G is to provide adequate RF coverage, more bits/Hz and to interconnect all wireless heterogonous networks to provide seamless, consistent telecom experience to user.

Evolved Packet Core Evolved Packet Core (EPC)
Evolved Packet Core is the IP-based core network defined by 3GPP (Telecom standard) for use by LTE and other access technologies. The goal of EPC is to provide simplified all-IP core network architecture to efficiently give access to various services such as the ones provided in IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem). EPC consists essentially of a Mobility Management Entity(MME) and access agnostic Gateways for routing of user datagram. EPC will be a completely new architecture for wireless operators, one that that emulates the IP world of data communications rather than the voice-centric world of wireless. EPC is based on flat IP. network theory.

Flat IP architecure
Premise of 4G, is resting on all IP architecture.
Mobile networks have been designed up to this point — for circuit-switched voice. Wireless networks were designed in a hierarchal fashion to aggregate, authenticate, manage and direct calls. A BSC aggregates calls from multiple base stations, allocates radio channels, enables handoffs between base stations and passes on calls to an even more centralized mobile switching center. Flat IP Architecure As packet data networks emerged, they were overlaid on the existing voice-centric architecture, using the BSC for the same mobility management functions and adding the SGSN and GGSN in the case of GSM/UMTS and a PDSN in the case of CDMA to route and manage data sessions, as well as to connect to the Internet or appropriate IP network. As data traffic is increasing rapidly, this voice centric architecture has become cumbersome and harder to manage with too many network entities.

Flat network architecture removes that voice-centric hierarchy from the network. Instead of overlaying a packet data core on the voice network, separate and much-simplified data architecture can be implemented that removes the multiple elements from the network chain. BSC functions are divided between Base station and media gateway router. Base station will communicate directly via 3GDT (3G direct tunnel) with media gateway over WAN ( Carrier Ethernet, MW, DWDM etc). Some of the functions of BSC/RNC such as Radio resource management, Radio Bearer Control, and Dynamic allocations of resources will be handled by base stations, while functions such as Distribution of paging messages, Security will be function by mobility manager, located in Gateway router.

This approach has clearly visible advantages. It will save significant amount of Capex and Opex as, service provider will have fewer hopes and fewer network entities. By reducing the number of hops on the network, data travels faster between end points, greatly reducing the network latency to help support real-time applications such as voice over IP (VoIP), gaming and videoconferencing.

The flat IP architectures have emerged with WiMAX, and future LTE networks will be flat by definition.

Network infrastucture sharing
Network Sharing Sharing of telecom infrastructure among telecom service providers is becoming the requirement of business in the telecom industry where competitors are becoming partners in sharing their infrastructure (mainly base stations) order to lower their increasing investments.Cell site (base stations) sharing helps in reducing the cost significantly. Some operators were able to bring down the cost of network operations by around 40 percent in the last one year by such sharing arrangements. In addition, the operators save on precious time in terms of locating buildings, negotiating prices and then setting-up their site.
There can be active or passive infra sharing between two network operators.

Passive Infra sharing
The passive elements are defined as the physical network components that do not necessarily have to be owned or managed by each operator. Instead, these components can be shared among several operators. The provider of the infrastructure can either be one of the operators or a separate entity set up to build and operate it, such as a tower company. The passive infrastructure in a mobile network is composed mainly of:
Passive Infra Sharing

Electrical or fiber optic cables.
Masts and Towers.
Physical space on the ground, towers, roof tops.
Shelter and support cabinets, electrical power supply, air conditioning, alarm systems and other equipment.

A collection of passive network equipment in one structure for mobile telecommunications is generally called a “site.” Therefore, when one or more operators agree to put their equipment on (or in) the same site, it is called “site-sharing” or “collocation”. Passive Infra sharing is most popular in recent times.

Active infra sharing
In addition to sharing passive infrastructure, operators may also share active elements of their wireless networks. The “active elements” of a wireless network are those that can be managed by operators, such as antennas, antenna systems, transmission systems and channel elements. Operators may share those elements and keep using different parts of the spectrum assigned to them. Although active infrastructure sharing is more complex, it is technically possible. Network operators have to redesign/modify their network elements (Base stations, antennas,) for active sharing.

Overview of managed services
Managed Services typically include establishing, operating and managing day-to-day operations of a telecom operator’s network, services and business support systems. The term also covers the case where a provider takes responsibility for providing the required network capacity to an operator, when and where needed, as well as hosting of content, applications and enablers. Other business support areas, such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), provisioning and billing, are generally handled by operators in-house. The Managed Services market within the telecom industry is in a high-growth phase and is characterized by agreements, which vary in scope, between Managed Services providers and a broad range of telecom operators: greenfielders, incumbents and lower-tier operators.

Telecom-equipment vendors are showing an increasing interest in Managed Services as a way to benefit from their existing competence and take on new roles in the value chain, covering activities such as network build, including planning and design, field operations, Network Operation Center (NOC) operations, application and service development, and billing. In recent years, operator awareness of Managed Services has increased significantly.

Operators that have decided to use Managed Services have mainly been driven by the following opportunities.

Under increasing financial pressure due to increasing competition, operators can improve their financial results by outsourcing functions to a partner that can provide higher efficiency and economies of scale than an individual operator can achieve.
With an increasing degree of complexity, operators can reduce their need to build network and services-related competence and leave this to Managed Services providers that are experts in managing this complexity (potentially resulting in higher quality).

They can dedicate more of their efforts to revenue-generating activities, such as customer acquisition. The above drivers of the Managed Services market will also apply in coming years. The growing number of Managed Services agreements has, and will over time, create a virtual circle resulting in increasing Managed Services provider competence, leading to even greater efficiency gains and economies of scale. This, in turn, will make Managed Services even more attractive to all types of operators, throughout the world, and most will enter into some kind of Managed Services agreement, in part or in full, to stay competitive in their market.

As technologies converge, outsourcing of an operator’s business support systems, network and services to the same Managed Services provider can be expected to maximize the end-to-end benefits to the operator in a Managed Services engagement.

In the near future, therefore, there is a strong likelihood that the shift in responsibility for roles in the value chain enabled by Managed Services combined with increasing complexity of technology, will result in a win/win scenario for both telecom operators and Managed Services providers. The key to success will be adopting an end-to-end view of managing networks, services and business support systems, with the end-user in mind.

5G architecture
Up to 4G, the wireless evaluation is following path of Moore’s law. The newer generations were identified by increased bit rate. ( 2G ( 9.6 Kpbs) to 4G ( 1Gbps)). There is belief that, 5G will be generation will defy the Moore law and it will be phase of integration of network technologies, rather expansion or evaluation of new wireless standard. As discussed 4G network should fulfill the promise of providing adequate RF coverage and capacity for high volume data applications and acceptable latency for voice applications.

Beyond 4G, there will no need for new access technology as 4G technology (as promised) will convert each mobile connection into Broadband connection. Thus telecom operators will invest in developing new Applications rather then developing newer wireless standards. New network applications will be developed to integrate various engineering practices as mechanical, health care, Chemical, Banking etc. to provide seamless, continual and versatile mobile experience to user.

Telecom operators will be moving to customer centric approach then technological approach as they are currently using.

Ubiquitous Computing
5G would be about “ubiquitous computing”, that is, having the ability to access the applications we want from any platform, anywhere, any time. To create such an environment, one needs to integrate various applications, emerging from various engineering practices. Human life will be surrounded by intelligent sensors, which will bring radical change to human life’s daily approaches of doing things, as:

Your intelligent car will send SMS to your cell phone, if someone tries to open the door, while you are away from your car.
Your home security camera is attached to secured internet. So that you can view your sitting room on your laptop/mobile phone screen, by accessing secured website.
You will have single bill for all telecom services, regardless of application or network operator.
You are receiving regular MMS from your hospital about your medication need and next doctor appointment.

Key challenges

Integration of various standards: Each engineering practice has their own standard (F.eks Telecom has 3GPP, 3GPP2, ITU, IETF, etc). To integrate these various standards, requires systematic and time consuming approach.

Common Platform: There is no common architecture for interconnecting various engineering practices. One common governing body is required, which creates a common platform for all engineering practices to regularize the interconnectivity issues as well as knowledge sharing.

Super core concept
Existing telecom networks are fashioned in hierarchical way, where subscriber traffic is aggregated at aggregation point(BSC/RNC) and then routed to gateways. (As shown in figure).Flat IP architecture will lessen burden on aggregation point and traffic will directly move from Base station to Media gateways. When transition from legacy (TDM, ATM) platforms to IP will be concluded (Flat Network concept, described in previous section) a common ALL IP platform will be emerged. Vision of Super Core is based on IP platform. All network operators ( GSM,CDMA, Wimax, Wireline) can be connected to one Super core with massive capacity. This is realization of single network infrastructure. The concept of super core will eliminate all interconnecting charges and complexities, which is right now network operator is facing. It will also reduce number of network entities in end to end connection, thus reducing latency considerably.

Super Core Concept

Key challenges

High redundancy requirement: Under Super core concept, all network operators will be moving to single core infrastructure, high redundancy and security among core network entities is required. A failure of single node will impact huge number of subscribers across various network operators.

Transparency among network operators, regarding Subscriber data, churn management, etc.

Government regulatory framework for Super core.

Flatter IP concept
At regular interval, semiconductor manufacturers advance to a new generation with smaller feature sizes. This allows them to incorporate more functions into a given area of silicon and, hence, more features or new capabilities into electronic devices like cell phones. As advancement semi-conductor industry, 22nM CMOS will be reality and this will increase the processing capacity of digital devices significantly. Increased processing capacity will be allow Mobile devices (cellphones, PDAs, etc) to do more tasks (instructions per minute) then before. This will lead to even the Flatter IP network. As Flat IP has shifted some of the BSC/RNC’s radio resource functions to Base station, Flatter IP will shift some of the RR functions, to Mobile devices from Base station. Finally your cell phone will not be just access device but, it will also perform some of the Radio Resource Management functions.

Evolution of network infra sharing
As described in previous section, network operators, worldwide are opting for infrastructure sharing. Currently trend is for passive infra sharing as Active infra sharing has certain limitation. But at invention and deployment of Cognitive Radios (Software based radios) and multi-port Base station, will promote active infra sharing at Antenna, Base station and spectrum level at access Ran. So, network operators, offering different access technologies such LTE & Wimax, can have single high capacity base station and antenna.

Currently service provider is spending 60% of total expenditure on Capex This arrangement will have significant amount of Capex saving as currently service provider is spending 60% of total expenditure on Capex.

Evolution of managed services
As previous session has described, network operators are shifting network related activities to managed service vendor. Concept of Super Core complements this trend as all network operators will end up having one massive super core, which will be managed by one or many vendors under managed service contract, bound by SLA (Service level agreements). Thus, during 5G, may be Today’s mobile network operators could become service retailers and due to single infrastructure, today’s MNO (Mobile network operators) s will effectively be MVNOs (Mobile Virtual network operators).

As data traffic has tremendous growth potential, under 4G existing voice centric telecom hierarchies will be moving flat IP architecture where, base stations will be directly connected to media gateways. 5G will offer even more flatter architecture by using advanced semi conductor technologies as 22mN CMOS. 5G will promote concept of Super Core, where all the network operators will be connected one single core and have one single infrastructure, regardless of their access technologies. 5G will bring evaluation of active infra sharing and managed services and eventually all existing network operators will be MVNOs (Mobile virtual network operators ).

The article is written by Vadan Mehta, – About Author – Vadan Mehta is having 12 years of experience in wireless telecommunication. He is PMI certified PMP and Cisco certified IPTD. Currently, he is working as telecom consultant for Tata consultancy services (TCS).

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