Welcome to Connectivity World Congress…?

Posted on March 5, 2015

Someone visiting this show for the first time, with no preconceived ideas, might well find themselves wondering why it’s still called “Mobile World Congress”. Such a variety of industries, applications and activities are on display here in Barcelona that the overarching theme is open to interpretation. MWC has had several identity changes as it has evolved over the years. Back in the 90’s it was known as GSM World Congress, reflecting a strict technology alignment. With the arrival of UMTS it became 3GSM World Congress in 2001. And six years later, as mobile operators worldwide signalled their intent to converge on a single cellular standard for 4G, it was given the name we still use. These changes follow a narrative of expansion and inclusivity. UMTS brought with it brand new operators with no 2G legacy, hence the subtle but important addition of that ‘3’. The end of a far more significant industry era was reflected in the next change, as the sometimes bitterly opposed GSM and CDMA camps laid down their arms on the common ground of LTE. With each new technology came more options and more operators. In 2015 it feels like the time is right for another change….

Connectivity First: Think Like a Smartphone User

Posted on March 2, 2015

Smartphone users just want to get connected. The mobile operator community needs to think more like its customers and think about connectivity first, and technology second.

Introducing Connectivity First

Posted on February 25, 2015

It has long been said in the mobile industry that end users want service, not technology. But because smartphone connectivity has always been delivered by the cellular network, the separation of service and technology has never really been tested. In 2014, with the arrival of Wi-Fi First, which demonstrated an alternative service model, things began to change. In 2015, as cable operators and internet giants are realizing the benefits they might be able to bring to their core businesses with a wireless connectivity offering, the change is accelerating. These new players don’t see connectivity as restricted to the cellular network, they see it as deliverable across a range of networks; cellular, domestic Wi-Fi, commercial Wi-Fi and amenity Wi-Fi. This model of service provision, rather than being Wi-Fi First, or Mobile First, is Connectivity First. It is a recognition that no single technology in isolation can deliver the optimum connectivity experience to the end user. I believe it is a direct response to the entrenched thinking that technology is more important than service. The reality is that the emergence of a Wi-Fi First movement committed to disruption was actively facilitated by the mobile operator community’s tentative approach to Wi-Fi. By thinking…

New Wireless Service Offers Could be Real Head-Turners

Posted on January 27, 2015

The Wall Street Journal published a story this week promising that the wireless industry business model is about to be turned on its head. The story built on the WSJ’s breaking coverage of an anticipated US MVNO launch by Google, which is expected to incorporate Wi-Fi into the connectivity mix, with the news that US cable TV and broadband provider Cablevision will shortly debut a Wi-Fi only smartphone service, Freewheel, priced at $9.95/month. Exciting, disruptive stuff. To date much of the disruption in the provision of wireless access has been driven by small companies; which is what you’d expect. And, again unsurprisingly, it’s easy enough for the big boys to dismiss these companies as trivial at worst, and plucky (if misguided) upstarts at best. You can’t say the same for the likes of Google and Cablevision. These are organizations with the kind of clout that can be neither dismissed nor ignored. Their brands, their customer relationships, their reach, their complementary service suites… Traditional operators should be worried. But, hang on a minute: What do these guys know about providing wireless service? Google and Cablevision haven’t spent years building expertise in wireless service provision, investing in spectrum, deploying, operating and optimizing complex…

Wi-Fi calling: Completing the picture

Posted on September 30, 2014

Although it’s true that Wi-Fi calling from mobile operators has been around for a while, it’s been a niche offering. Of course there have been all the over-the-top services, like Skype, but we’ve seen very few fully transparent operator integrations which allow you to use your phone number. All the hyperbole and revolutionary claims that we’ve seen in the wake of the T-Mobile and Apple announcements aside, I think that iOS8 could be the event that pushes us past the tipping point, just by driving more carriers to embrace it so that users just get it without having to make an effort. Kudos to T-Mo for believing in it and being able to position it as a disruption. What’s fascinating about Wi-Fi calling going mainstream is that voice is actually the final frontier to Wi-Fi’s complete domination of our “phone experience.” On the data side all the services we embrace on our devices work fine over both cellular and Wi-Fi. In iOS, iMessage made it transparent to use data for texting too. In fact, Wi-Fi represents over 80% of data by volume and 90% of data by time. But voice remained this disconnected (no pun intended) world where you had…

Can Carriers Adopt Agile Practices?

Posted on June 16, 2014

Recently I attended the Telecommunications Industry Association Network of the Future Conference in Dallas. The conference was well attended and featured a combination of informative keynotes and a series of lively panel discussions. I participated as a panelist for the 5G Networks track Carrier Aggregation Across Licensed and Unlicensed Spectrum. (I wrote about this in my last blog.) Over the next few months I plan to blog about some of the conference’s themes But for this post, I want to focus on the conference’s front-and-center issue: the adoption and growth of Software Defined Networks (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV). SDN allows network topologies to be defined via software. Think of it as using “digital wires” to interconnect the network. SDN enables the decoupling of the system that makes decisions about where traffic is sent, called the “control plane”, from the underlying systems that forward traffic to the destination, called the “data plane.” The key benefit here is that ease in changing network topology. The first network area to really benefit from SDN is called the vGI-LAN. That’s the IP network between the packet gateway and the public Internet. It’s also the natural starting place for this type of network…