Marketing what’s next? – A preview & quick guide to the MWC 2014

MWC2014We are just a few weeks away from the biggest mobile event in the telecom’s industry, the Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona, Spain, an event that typically measures the technologies and trends we will see during the rest of the year in the telecommunications’ world. What a better way of starting this year’s posts on The Madrid Telecom’s Blog, than providing a quick summary of the things you should know about the event and some predictions on the topics to discuss.

The show evolution

The “Mobile World Congress” (MWC) is a well-known show hosted by the GSM Association (GSMA) since 1995, originally done in Madrid in fact but moved to Cannes on 1996. On 2008, the GSMA moved the show to Barcelona, and hosted it there since then… and up to at least 2018 as the GSMA selected Barcelona on 2011 as the “GSMA Mobile World Capital”. Some might challenge the real purpose of the event, but a show that started as a way to purely encouraging technology evolution during the hype of the GSM technology, rapidly became a monster source of marketing and business for the rest of the industry. Some analysts estimates the GSMA represented an impact of around 3.5 million euros in earnings to the city of Barcelona during 2013, and no company in the technology or telecommunication spaces can afford not being present in the MWC show each year if wants to be known in the market.

The MWC2014 in numbers

The Mobile World Congress 2014 will take place from February 24th to 27th, once again in the Fira Gran Via in Barcelona, Spain. The huge exhibition space has been slightly increased to 98000 m2 from the 94000 m2 of last year. Again there will be a total of 8 halls, from which 5 will be used as exhibition areas (halls 1, 5, 6, 7, 8). Huawei was the vendor with the biggest space last year, having a total of 240000 m2 and 8 pavilions used, and we can expect similar sizes this year. Ericsson will also have a huge space allocated. The full exhibitors map can be seen (here).

According to the GSMA a total of 1595 different exhibitors are registered until today, while MWC2013 had a total of nearly 1700. More than 72000 visitors are expected this year, having 72534 as the total record assistance seen during last year’s show. More than 200 countries are expected to be represented, keeping in mind last year’s attendees geographical split was: 67% from Europe, 15% from North America, 13% from Asia Pacific, 5% from the Middle East, 3% from Latin America, and 2% from Africa.

The agenda of conferences fully covers the four days, including 7 keynote conferences. The show is expected to have more than 60 conferences and seminars in total, with more than 10000 attendees. The MWC2014 will be having more than 3000 media and analysts covering the event.

MWC2014_1

There are 4 types of tickets or passes for the show, visitor-silver-gold-platinum, ranging from 750 to 5000 euros depending on the access levels and options. The average price of a room in the hotels in Barcelona during the event is around 400 euros, while the regular price uses to be around 100. More than 25000 hotel rooms are booked in advance for the show with an expected occupation of more than 95% during that week. There will be around 50 restaurants in total across the exhibition spaces. The show will be open for visitors from 09:00 to 19:00.

Conferences Program

If you are lucky enough to have a pass to the conferences, the full schedule can be found (here). The keynote conferences include sessions from Alcatel-Lucent, América Móvil, Bitcoin, Cisco, EMC, Jasper Wireless, Millicom, SK, Telenor, Tele2, and WhatsApp, among many others.

Personally, I would specially highlight the following sessions thinking on what 2014 could bring to the industry:

  • Keynote 1: Industry Perspective: Mobile Operator Strategies (Feb 24th 09:15-10:45)
  • Creating the Next Access Networks (Feb 24th 14:00-15:30)
  • Building the Future Network (Feb 24th 16:00-17:30)
  • Keynote 3: The Connected Lifestyle: Transforming Industries (Feb 25th 09:15-10:45)
  • Smart Cities: Smarter Living (Feb 25th 14:00-15:30)
  • Driving New Revenues & Relationships for Operators & Brands (Feb 25th 16:00-17:30)
  • The Future of: Smart Buildings (Feb 25th 16:00-17:30)
  • Keynote 5: Up Close & Personal: The Power of Big Data (Feb 26th 09:15-10:45)
  • The Future of Voice (Feb 26th 14:00-15:30)
  • Complementing Coverage with Small Cells & Wi-Fi (Feb 26th 14:00-15:30)
  • Spotlight on Business Models for M2M Services (Feb 26th 16:00-17:30)
  • Optimising User Experience with Intelligent Network Assets (Feb 26th 16:00-17:30)
  • Keynote 7: Innovation Unleashed (Feb 27th 09:30-11:00)
  • Exploring Successful M2M Applications in Adjacent Industries (Feb 27th 11:30-13:00)
  • Rise of the Machines: Enabling the Evolution from M2M to an Internet of Things Future (Feb 27th 14:30-16:00)
  • Redefining Reality with Screens, Storage & Wearables
  • ·(Feb 27th 14:30-16:00)
  • Developing the Ecosystem for Mobile Identity Services (Feb 27th 14:30-16:00)

The key Trends and Topics

Every year the event gets bigger and massive, having representation from all the possible areas in the industry. However, we can always identify a few topics and trends as the most commented, or the ones creating the most interest or hype. These give an idea of what the year will bring for the telecommunications.

We can expect the following topics within the most popular during this MWC2014:

1. New wave of smartphones and gadgets, now including wearables: There are unofficial rumours of new smartphones being presented as the new Samsung Galaxy S5, or Sony Xperia Z1 Compact & Z2, among others. The wearables will be everywhere, possibly including a Samsung Galaxy Gear 2, and new features of the Google Glass for developers and designers. This topic will have a lot to say during the show and the rest of the year.

2. Smart Cities: The industry is making an effort to encourage the concept of the Smart Cities. There will be a space for the GSMA Connected City which aims to show the business benefits of the connected life.

3. Spectrum efficiency and automatic networks optimization techniques: We will continue to see many solutions targeting techniques for automation of the networks optimization and organization, now in both the access and core networks. The spectrum efficiency will be also discussed in detail as the vendors and standardization organizations are already starting to plan the next generation of mobile wireless communications.

4. LTE-A & VoLTE: Most of the operators in the world having LTE will continue evolving towards LTE Advanced and/or implementing Voice over LTE. Having the lessons learned from Asia and their successful deployments, we can now see the leader CSPs making plans for the next step in the evolution.

5. NFV , SDN, and the Cloud: The biggest hype in the industry during 2013 will continue growing during 2014. In the show we will hear a lot about virtualization, as almost every vendor will claim to support it in some level for catching up with the evolution wave. We should follow the demonstrations the NFV leading vendors and consultants, as this is the only way to have a taste of reality.

6. Everything connected, M2M and IoT: The Internet of Everything, as the industry is calling the Machine-to-Machine and Internet of Things these days, will be a key topic during the MWC2014 and the rest of the year. There are important evolutions in terms of hardware size and cost reduction for the devices, as well as connectivity and “cloudification” of the software and data from these. We will see a lot of different approaches and fun gadgets for the connected industry, connected car, and the connected homes.

7. Indoor coverage, small cells, WiFi: The next step in the wireless evolution, after the LTE is well established as the leading outdoor access technology, is covering the gap for the indoor access. Interesting solutions will aim to cover the gap with a combination of WiFi, small cells, and optimization techniques. Keep a close eye on the big players and their solutions for this space.

8. Big Data & Predictive Analytics: Once again, Big Data is the common topic among the business and network intelligence experts. We can expect more mature and sophisticated solutions for prediction of network performances and business behaviours. We can also expect highly advanced analytics solutions based on big data globally collected.

9. Consolidation of core networks and services: As most of the operators are taking the consolidation path, installing solutions from the big players for unifying all of the access technologies in a convergent core network and services, we will see more maturity in these solutions for providing easier transitions and additional features to the mix.

Companies to follow

What to see and who to meet during the event, totally depends on your area and your strategy for this year. However, I would highlight the following as the most interesting in my view:

– The big players Google (through its associates), Ericsson, Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent, NSN, Samsung, Sony, Telefonica, Vodafone, etc. are always a must see

– The ones covering the most evolved systems and products AT&T, EE, Oracle, Juniper, Cisco, LG, HTC, Ixia, Spirent, etc. are also interesting to check out

– The smart start-ups Jolla, Spark, Lifx, Stick n find, Smart Things, Cyan, Connectem, Affirmed, Metaswitch, members of the CloudNFV, and a BIG etc….

MWC2014_2

Your list will of course depend on your specific interests. The important is having a clear plan, as the four days typically pass too fast for all the information and space available and you are not just collecting “goodies” in such an expensive show. Also, do not miss the chance to explore Barcelona outside the Fira, as you will find better food, nice people, and a very interesting city.

A. Rodriguez

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Is Monetizing OTT Content a new flavour of the same old?

Monetizing_OTTToday Korea Telecom stated they would be using Ericsson’s Mobile Cloud Accelerator (MCA), an announcement that can be read in multiple sources including Azi Ronen’s Broadband Traffic Management Blog (here). In this way and following the tradition of KT for highly innovative technologies adoption, now encouraged by the huge LTE growth in that country, they are the first operator using the MCA solution that promises to achieve a better Quality of Experience (QoE) by the combination of caching platforms and the access network’s traffic prioritization. What I find most interesting about the MCA is of course the technical details around that combination of caching and prioritization, but even more importantly how Ericsson is marketing (and selling it) as a mean for monetizing OTT content. Let us try to describe the particularities around this in the next lines.

Content Caching

There are many Content Delivery/Distribution Network (CDN) solutions and providers in the market having huge data centres for storing the content providers’ popular information, and delivering it with high availability and a high performance thanks to distributed networks and techniques like smart load balancing. In example, an Over-The-Top (OTT) provider like Netflix could store the most popular Warner Brothers’ movies in CDN based data centres for allowing this content caching, being delivered directly from highly efficient data centres to the subscribers requesting these using AT&T or Telefonica networks and resulting on a faster service, and the resultant higher QoE. Ericsson pre-integrates one of the most popular platforms for CDN from Akamai Technologies, Inc. in the MCA solution.

Traffic Prioritization

The traffic prioritization in the other hand is a Policy Management and Enforcement (PCRF/PCEF) technique, typically used by the operators in the core network nodes for ensuring the premium content (for premium subscribers) have the maximum available bandwidth in the network, while the less valuable content is delivered on the remaining bandwidth or “best-effort”. Different priorities are typically set in the PCRF platforms and enforced in the PCEF elements (e.g. DPI’s or the actual traffic gateways like GGSN or P-GW) according to the services defined by the operators. The prioritization can be based on the subscribers’ profiles (e.g. subscribers paying more for having a better priority in the bandwidth allocation), or in the actual traffic (e.g. prioritization based on an order of protocols or applications in the traffic), or in a combination of both, being the latest the most typical scenario. The result is a secured QoE for the premium traffic and/or subscribers at all times, while the rest of the subscribers could get a variable QoE depending on the time of the day, network capacity, and any congestion condition on peak times.

Multiple other techniques exists for improving the QoE in the operators’ networks, and ensuring an optimal management of the increasing OTT traffic, including the Video Optimization. Today Light Reading published an interesting piece about the evolution of this topic (here).

Monetizing OTT services

Monetizing the OTT services has been the obsession of most operators in the modern networks, due to the fact some of these providers are making highly successful business using the operators’ networks as a free transport for providing the content and services to the end-users. Applications like Whatsapp or Skype can be used by the subscribers for communication in text, voice, and video, without having to pay a premium to the operators for those in most cases. Portals like Netflix provide video on demand in the same way. It is difficult to charge and control this traffic separately in the operator premises even with the most advanced Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) systems and Policy Management nodes, and the operators are losing revenue in their own services with these OTT’s. The approach of Ericsson with the MCA offers another monetization objective instead, allowing the operators selling the prioritization to the actual content providers as a mean to ensure a high QoE when the subscriber is loading their contents. As it was commented in my previous article “Three short stories on today’s Mobile Networks Performance” a research by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Akamai Technologies shows the users start abandoning videos if these do not load within 2 seconds, and rate gets higher with higher latencies. The situation is the same with web pages, and an infographic from Strangeloopnetworks can be found below. According to Ericsson’s math during the MCA presentations a single second improved in the loading times of a popular content in Amazon or Netflix could represent a billion dollars gain at the end of the year, so here is your business case now.

Solutions like the MCA represents an interesting try to improve the OTT services monetization in the operators’ networks. The driver for adopting such solutions in the market is clearly the combination of improved QoE for the most popular content, and the additional revenue source from the content providers’ deals with the operator. We will have to wait and see if this is a successful approach… we could be asking KT soon.

A. Rodriguez

Things you should know about the future 5G networks

The GSA published some updates on October 17th 2013 announcing 222 commercial LTE networks have been deployed in the world on 83 different countries (here), demonstrating the wide acceptance of the 4G, but also showing the highly heterogeneous spectrum combinations for its deployment (here). The TD-LTE and the LTE Advanced technologies are also being deployed as methods for ensuring higher connection speeds and improved spectrum usage. The most advanced operators, vendors, and standardization organizations are working in parallel on the future networks, looking to set the rules for the technologies that represents the next step in the communications evolution, and looking to ensure the business opportunities for these. That evolution of the networks is the so-called 5G.

5G

The following summarizes some information you might want to know about the 5G today:

  • Some of the main vendors like Ericsson and Huawei are pushing for making 5G a reality

A report from Fierce Wireless (here) suggests, “5G is not yet real in any sense of the word because it’s not a standard yet. It is, however a marketing term being tossed around by various vendors and operators”. Ericsson, Huawei, and other main vendors are pushing for the standardization of the 5G via the Mobile and wireless communications Enablers for the Twenty-twenty (METSIS), organism that has been granted with a big investment from the European Commission as part of the huge bet Europe is doing for catching up in the next generation communication technologies (here).

  •  The 5G definition has already been started by at least 6 different organizations, so far

According to a presentation shown this month from Mike Wright, Executive Director Networks & Access Technologies at Telstra (here), a 5G standardization or definition effort has been started by the following different organizations: European Mobile and wireless communications Enablers for the Twenty-twenty Information Society (METIS), Intel led American initiative, China led IMT2020, Spectrum initiatives in ITU, UK Ofcom regulator, aiming for 2018, and Japanese 2020 vision and ad-hoc initiative.

This shows the potential opportunity seen in the next generation, but also the typical big hype created on a competition for leading the way towards the next evolution of the networks.

  • The 5G arrival could be around 2020

A report from ABI research, via the Laptop Magazine (here), suggests the standardization organizations (e.g. 3GPP, among others) are still to define the technologies required for certifying the phones for 5G in the future. As these processes take considerable time, the estimated date for seeing the 5G deployments is expected to be around the year 2020.

  • The 5G formula could be: Spectrum + Spectral efficiency + Spatial Efficiency = Increased capacity

Marcus Weldon, CTO for the Wireline Networks Product Division at Alcatel-Lucent, presented last week his vision of the “ultra-broadband” networks during the Broadband World Forum 2013 held in Amsterdam (here). According to his view, the formula for getting the highly demanding capacity required by the next generation networks is a combination of three factors.

ALU

The classical investment in macro technologies and spectrum allocation, which could double the capacity. The physical spectrum efficiency increase by improving the signal to noise ratio, interference reduction, superposing signals, etc. which could also double the capacity. And the spatial efficiency with small cells deployments, with interference reduction between cells, which could increase the capacity in a factor of ten, or more.

  • The future networks are a combination of macro and small cells technologies

As commented in my previous post “The top 10 fast facts you should know about LTE today“. A whitepaper published by Ericsson and supported by the GSA commented, “…the 5G system will not be a single technology but rather a combination of integrated RATs, including evolved versions of LTE and HSPA, as well as specialized RATs for specific use cases, which will jointly fulfil the requirements of the future…”

  • The toolkit for the next generation networks include several innovations

Mike Wright, Executive Director Networks & Access Technologies at Telstra, commented on the possible techniques and innovations that might come with the 5G for solving challenges foreseen like the 10 billion connected devices to attend, 1000x traffic growth, the limited spectrum resources, and the diversity of services required. This toolkit might include spectral efficiency with massive MIMO, spectral aggregation, or interference cancellation. Optimization of radio with small cells, self-optimising networks, mesh networking, dynamic spectrum and flexible duplexing, or cognitive radio. Traffic optimisation with QoS and policy tools, end-to-end optimisation, or improved codecs. Architecture optimisation with Network Functions Virtualisation and elasticity, Software Defined Networks, smart caching, or embedded network intelligence. And others like extended battery, identity enablers, location enhancements, etc.

  • Flexibility is key for the 5G networks

Vish Nandlall, Ericsson’s CTO and Senior Vice President of Strategy, recently spoke at the GigaOm Mobilize conference, via PCWorld (here). “5G should be flexible enough that carriers can reprogram and reconfigure their networks to accommodate different applications. Those will actually get different slices of the network with different technologies, including modulation schemes and levels of capacity”. Increasing the network efficiencies should also keep reducing the cost of the service, he commented.

  • The next generation will represent a balance between efficient investment and highly performing networks

During the Futurecom 2013 convention held last week in Rio de Janeiro, Alcatel-Lucent CEO Michel Combes commented, via European Communications (here). “Throughout the world operators and service providers are pro-actively seeking technologies to help them balance the need for capacity and delivering high quality services with protecting their own balance sheets”. He also highlighted the investment ALU will be doing for IP networks and ultra-broadband technologies in the future. “This is a strategic decision to become a technology vendor for the marketplace of tomorrow, a market populated by customers who themselves are moving to more efficient and more profitable business models, adopting new technologies like cloud, SDN and NFV in the process”.

  • 5G is also about the best QoE on a transparent manner

According to Tod Sizer, Head of Wireless Research at Bell Labs, during the Mobile World Congress, via Pipeline (here). “Of course there will be substantial speed increases. However, weaving different access technologies together in a fluid fashion and creating smart gateways that choose the -best- connectivity for a given situation, not to mention in a transparent manner, will be the DNA that gives life to 5G”.

A. Rodriguez

Understanding NFV in 6 videos

NFV1

If the adage says a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video should worth a million. In today’s post I offer you a quick way to fully understanding Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), Software Defined Networking (SDN), and some of its related trends through six short videos, ranging from the very basics of virtualization and cloud concepts, to the deepness of today’s architecture proposed for the NFV installations.

What “the heck” are virtualization and cloud about?

A short and self-explanatory video from John Qualls, President and CEO of Bluelock, covering the very basics of data centres transition towards virtualized models.

What is the difference between NFV and SDN?

This great summary from Prayson Pate, Chief Technologist at Overture Networks, highlights the differences and similarities between NFV and SDN, and how are these complemented in the telecoms industry.

Let us talk about the architecture

Now the basics are established we can see the overall architecture. Look at these diagrams from HP and Intel where they show the main components involved.

HP SDN architecture

Intel SDN NFV

So, wait a minute, what is that thing they call OpenFlow?

The following video from Jimmy Ray Purser, Technical host for Cisco TechWise and BizWise TV, explains OpenFlow in a quick and straight way.

What about OpenStack?

This piece from Rackspace, featuring Niki Acosta & Scott Sanchez, makes a great summary about OpenStack, its origin, and its situation in the industry.

Now, what are the challenges faced and some real cases for the carriers?

Now that the concepts are clear and defined, we can study a couple of real use cases scenarios in the carriers’ network and its architecture, as well as methods for addressing the challenges faced in the NFV evolution. In the following video Tom Nolle, Chief Architect for CloudNFV, presents Charlie Ashton VP Marketing and US Business Development at 6Wind, and Martin Taylor CTO at Metaswitch Networks, covering some use cases like the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and the Session Border Controllers (SBC) based on NFV.

Wrapping up, where are the vendors and the operators at with NFV?

The following pitch features Barry Hill, VP Sales & Marketing from Connectem Inc., at the IBM Smart Camp 2013 hosted in Silicon Valley. It covers a summary of the market opportunity for NFV, their specific solution for the operators EPC, and a brief check on the carriers’ status with it.

Although the ETSI ISG group for NFV definition will most likely publish the standards for it in one year from now, it is already a reality, and all the vendors and operators are working on it in some way or another. No matter if you are just starting to explore this trend, or mastering it already, I hope these videos gave you something about it you did not know before.

A. Rodriguez