Telefónica will use IBM’s blockchain to manage international calls

Telefónica has signed a partnership with IBM to use its blockchain technology for the management of international call traffic.

Using the IBM Blockchain Platform, Telefónica hopes it will improve the traceability of international call data including things such as origin, destination, and duration.

Gonzalo Martín-Villa, Chief Innovation Officer of Telefónica, says:

"This project is one of our first initiatives to secure real benefits from the adoption of blockchain in our core business.

We believe that the new paradigm of process decentralisation that blockchain facilitates perfectly fits with the telecommunications industry and can help us to significantly improve the way we have been traditionally solving the integrations between partners.

Blockchain will allow operators to generate a new layer of confidence in the Internet, based not on the players that generate the data and the transactions, but on the data itself."

IBM’s partnership with the world’s seventh largest telecoms company is a huge vote of confidence in blockchain technology, and its own platform.

The platform will also be used to build a network of peers consisting of operators, service providers, vendors, and other parties.

Ignacio Martín Santos, MD for Telefónica Integrated Account at IBM, comments:

“In a world that is increasingly focused on data, customer experience, trust and digital ecosystems, blockchain can help communications service providers to streamline internal processes or, as in the project we are working with Telefónica, to increase trust among the different partners in the communications ecosystem, avoiding the need for call data reconciliation and thus achieving high potential benefits like reduced risk, time-saving, and cost removal.”

IBM has been a huge backer of blockchain technology. The company is partnered with Stellar, a company aiming to ‘develop the world’s new financial system’.

If that goal sounds familiar, it’s because it’s similar to Ripple – which this week overtook Ethereum as the world’s second largest cryptocurrency. One founder, Jed McCaleb, left to co-found Stellar to pursue a more decentralised, non-profit vision.

IBM said it’s worked on projects with Ripple, but ultimately decided to partner with Stellar as it shares their vision. According to Lumenauts, IBM picked Stellar for five reasons: 1) its non-profit status, 2) scalability, 3) team, 4) token ownership transparency, and 5) ability to support any asset type.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person? Find out more at the Blockchain Expo World Series with events in London, Europe, and North America.

New Business Model for Multi-Service 5G Transport Networks

GSMA forecasts that, by 2025, the number of global 5G connections will reach 1.1 billion, with one third of the world’s population connected to 5G networks. As the 5G industry matures, 5G will enable the connectivity and digitalization of everything. As a result, the operator market will also extend from individuals and homes to industries, an area that will integrate further with ICT.

5G Will Bring About Deeper Connections, Extending the Operators’ Value Chain and Forming a New Business Model

The future operator network is oriented towards 5G, supporting new services such as enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (URLLC), and massive machine-type communications (mMTC). This meets the requirements of different services in terms of bandwidth, latency, and intelligence, allowing 5G networks to develop more and connect everyone with everything. The B2C domain is set to evolve from mere video towards making our personal lives digital. The B2H domain will further develop digital entertainment and smart homes through fixed wireless access (FWA), and the B2B domain will gradually penetrate to the key vertical industries. Of these, B2H FWA will be the first to put 5G into commercial use. While the B2C domain allows for quick monetization, it also poses the biggest challenge to operators, and the business model may need to change, especially in terms of brand, service model, and charging metrics. B2B industry applications will become a key territory for operators’ mid- and long-term success, as business restructuring and innovation in vertical industries takes center stage.

To support a wide range of new 5G services, service diversification is required on the same network. Differentiation and balance are vital, especially in terms of mobility, number of connections, E2E latency, reliability, mobile data volume, service deployment time, and energy efficiency. As the pipe and information highway for 5G networks, transport networks needs to be intelligent to meet the special requirements of 5G services. The challenges of high bandwidth, low latency, complex connections, time synchronization, fragmentation, and intelligent O&M faced by 5G transport networks require smooth evolution, quick adaption to make intelligence and cloudification a reality. In general, as 5G services and value chains evolve, traditional operators are gradually building a converged and multi-layered business model with connections as the basis. The concept of multi-layered monetization takes shape in terms of connectivity (connections, mobile edge computing, and slicing), platforms (IaaS and data platforms, such as IoV and video surveillance), integration (one-stop industry integration), and operations (E2E operations services, such as unmanned aerial vehicles and VR). From the perspective of the relationship between solution and device providers and operators, the network construction of 5G transport networks will change inevitably as the operators’ business concepts change.

Multi-Service 5G Scenarios Help Develop Transport Networks and Make Cooperation More Flexible

When it comes to more flexible evolution of transport networks, instead of through pure network hardware-based construction, functions can now be added and expanded through software DevOps. In traffic-driven scenarios, the capacities of transport networks used to be expanded based on pipes only. To adapt to operators’ future multi-layered and converged business models, the evolution of transport networks needs to be more flexible. To be able to connect seamlessly with operators from the aspects of new requirements respond, new scenarios adaption, and joint innovation, a software-centric operations mode must be built to implement operations in DevOps mode.

In terms of how transport networks handle service-oriented procurement, in new 5G service scenarios, the industry applications are evolving. Operators need to conduct trial and error tests and joint innovation to find the most cost-efficient methods and make profits fast. To be able to respond quickly to uncertain requirements, procurement has to shift from one-off transactions to service-based purchases. In order to adapt to this change, transport networks, as smart pipes, need to optimize and innovate this mode of procurement in terms of traffic model, scenario classification, and value sharing. Traditional one-stop purchases may end up being replaced by installments and dispersed purchases, depending on models and service capabilities, including traffic models, scenarios, value packages, Subscription and Support (SnS), and Right to Use (RTU).
When transitioning to a multi-layered and converged business model, operators need to match various services in accordance with connection, platform, integration, and operations modes. Therefore, the transaction and charging modes also change a lot. Operators need to provide end users with periodic leases or subscription services to support the operations-oriented business model. The means of cooperation between transport networks suppliers and operators will change accordingly. In B2B2C mode, periodic leases and subscription services may be implemented synchronously. This requires operators and their partners to build a comprehensive and long-term strategic partnership and requires operators to recognize the value of their partners’ long-term services.

A New Business Model Is Required

The business model for multi-service bearing needs to adapt slowly to be compatible with 5G application scenarios and the extension of operators’ value chains. Essentially, a new multi-layered business model needs to be built.

New Business Model for Multi-Service 5G Transport Networks

Business models emphasize the fact that customer value, resource capability, and profit model have to match. Unlike traditional transport networks, multi-service 5G transport networks are changing profoundly in terms of customer selection, value proposition, internal and external resources, cost, and profitability. In terms of the representation of the business model, multi-service 5G transport networks will evolve in terms of transaction mode, delivery content, and delivery mode.

• Evolution of value proposition, profit model, and transaction model
For networks to be cloud-based, intelligent, and elastic, multi-service transport networks have to make network features and scenario classifications both software-based and perceivable, thereby decoupling software and hardware. To make users aware of the value of network slicing, multi-service bearing, low latency, and intelligence, transport networks may have to sell resources and capabilities. For example, with the Internet of Vehicles, the value proposition of intelligence, low latency, and high reliability is packaged into a network slice, and an independent profit structure is designed in the value proposition.

Transaction modes are also becoming more diversified. RTU, permanent license and SnS, subscription, and SaaS modes can be implemented between device providers and operators to share benefits, costs, and risks. Furthermore, new B2B2C models can be developed to allow everyone to benefit from opportunities in the 5G industry.

RTU is an authorization mode used to sell hardware capabilities in installments, such as capacities, ports, and frequencies. Operators can purchase ports and capacities on demand to reduce initial investment and achieve the goal of environmental protection.

The license/SnS and subscription modes convert operators’ OPEX into smooth annual expenses. They can enjoy software upgrades and upgrade services provided by vendors in a timely manner. This reduces network risks, improves service quality, and resolves routine problems with network operations and maintenance.

• Extending delivery modes and content to more specialized fields

5G features require that transport networks be in place before 5G can be deployed commercially. 5G also requires the presence of multi-service bearing, scenario-specific application, elasticity, and separate purchasing. On transport networks, operators will be able to carry multiple services, including wireless services, B2B private lines, and fixed network services. Scenario-specific slicing support can also be implemented. The bearer channel must be elastic enough to implement on-demand resource allocation for performance, latency, and reliability. Delivery content can also be corrected quickly based on the annual fee mode, and new features and requirements can be imported. Service modes and delivery content will extend to more comprehensive and specialized service fields to integrate with operators’ platforms, data, and industry integration, as well as provide more accurate management, control, and data analysis services. To provide specialized services, transport networks need to be simple and more intelligent. This requires a core brain engine that is driven by business intent. The engine can match changes in the delivery content and mode based on transport networks. The engine, together with business intent and network infrastructure, forms a closed-loop system, or in other words, an Intent-Driven Network. The engine must be equipped with management, control, and analysis capabilities. Specifically, the engine must be programmable, model-driven, and capable of implementation control, open APIs, cloud-based architecture, data analysis, and AI.

The continuous evolution of various elements of the new business model can facilitate operators’ investment. Moreover, through joint service innovation with operators, transport networks providers can achieve rapid service deployment in the 5G market.

Prospects of the New Business Model

The multi-service bearing business model will continue to evolve alongside operators’ multi-layered and converged business model, revitalizing the innovation and implementation of new 5G services. The 5G industry will also continue to develop, as will its business requirements, and industry application scenarios will emerge and mature. Meanwhile, service innovation in the 5G field will diversify, new metrics for value measurement will emerge, and multi-party stakeholders will gradually form.
In this context, multi-service transport networks will become flexible, converging to achieve cloud-and-network synergy. The new business model will provision features as services and eventually become the foundation of 5G in the future.

ZTE 4MIX Distributed Cloud Solution Builds 5G-Ready Cloud Infrastructure

Cloudified reconstruction of telecommunications networks is already the consensus of global operators. Virtualization technology brings many advantages such as cost reduction, flexible scale-in/out. However, with the advent of 5G, new challenges and problems are constantly emerging.

5G has three major application scenarios: enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), focusing on 4K/8K HD video, VR/AR and other high-bandwidth services, requiring a transmission rate 10 times faster than 4G; High Reliability and Low Latency Communications (uRLLC), focusing on high-reliability and low-latency services such as self-driving car and telemedicine, requiring a delay as low as 1 millisecond; massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC), focusing on smart city, smart home and other massive connection services, requiring to support accessing 1 million devices per square Kilometers, 10 times that of 4G.

Therefore, 5G networks need to have higher performance and more powerful management capabilities, and also need to be flexible and intelligent to meet a wide variety of application scenarios.

At present, the early NFV network infrastructure cloud solutions have bottlenecks in many aspects, and need to be further reformed in terms of deployment architecture, network performance, and operation and maintenance (O&M) convenience.

Distributed Deployment

5G completely realized control and user plane separation (CUPS), driving the network evolving to a distributed deployment architecture. On the one hand, flexible and high-performance edge nodes are built at the edge of the network to get close to end users: through the local offloading of high-bandwidth services such as 4K/8K and AR/VR, the occupation of the core network and backbone transmission network is reduced, and the utilization rate of bandwidth resources is effectively increased. The high-speed processing capability is moved to the edge, effectively supporting services requiring ultra-low latency such as self-driving car and telemedicine; in addition, edge nodes need to be flexible and scalable to meet diversified 5G application scenarios.

On the other hand, a network-wide intensive central node is constructed: providing a resource pool shared across regions, effectively improving resource utilization; achieving efficient centralized management of massive nodes, and coping with the rapid development of network scale; at the same time, the central node also supports to build an capability exposure platform to provide digital services, to help operators achieve value innovation.

Therefore, a distributed deployment architecture with features such as flexibility, high performance, and high efficiency will be the main development trend of telecom cloud network.

Hardware Acceleration

Early telecom network cloudification solutions turn traditional network infrastructure based on dedicated hardware into the unified resource pool based on common X86 servers, breaking down resource silos and achieving flexible resource scale-in/out. However, with the advent of 5G, facing the challenges from the performance requirement for ultra-low latency and exponential growth of service scale, common servers lose competitive edge in performance and cost.

Hence, hardware acceleration technology is tightly concerned by the industry. Current mainstream hardware acceleration technologies include: offloading the data switch function of virtual switches in the telecom cloud platform to the FPGA SmartNIC, to improve forwarding performance; introducing the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) into the unified cloud resource pool as a kind of high-performance computing resource, to make full use of GPU’s excellent processing capabilities to improve the computing capability of the telecom cloud platform, so as to provide better support for HD video, AR/VR and more services; using ARM processor virtualization and other technologies.

The new-generation telecom network cloudification solution should converge these hardware acceleration technologies to comprehensively improve forwarding performance and computing performance.

AI-Based Intelligent O&M

5G drives network functions (NF) moving to edge nodes close to end users. This trend leads to the dramatic growth of edge nodes by ten times even hundred times, and the O&M workload gets doubled accordingly. Besides, after the cloudified reconstruction of network structure, though layered decoupling significantly reduces hardware costs, more complicity is brought to O&M work. Therefore, telecom operators are looking for more efficient O&M approaches.

To this end, the deep application of AI technology becomes the key driven force for constructing automated, intelligent O&M. The AI technology is capable of analyzing multidimensional complicated problems across layers and domains, and brings higher processing efficiency to multiple aspects of O&M through rapid root cause analysis (RCA), real-time dynamic resource adjustment, capacity predication and analysis, and gradually fully automated O&M mode, to release manpower continuously and reduce OPEX effectively.

Container + Virtual Machine

5G NFs will be based on components and microservices. With advantages of less resource occupation and easy migration, container is considered as the resource carrier more fitting to 5G microservice architecture.

However, container technology is not mature enough in the telecom field, as it has weaknesses in orchestration capability, security and other aspects. Moreover, most of present cloudification projects use VM solutions which have developed and evolved in long-term practices and have many advantages. Thus, the two technologies are both important to 5G, and the industry is exploring how to make selection and balance between them.

To address such challenges, ZTE promotes the 5G-Ready 4MIX distributed cloud infrastructure solution. It is based on the distributed architecture with“Core Cloud + Edge Cloud + Access Cloud”, and integrated with HCI, container, hardware acceleration, AI and other advanced technologies, to build the 5G-Ready cloud infrastructure featuring green, energy-saving, flexible adaption, performance acceleration, intelligence, and high efficiency.

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Figure 1: ZTE 5G-Ready 4MIX Distributed Cloud Infrastructure Solution

Features of 4MIX distributed cloud solution:

MIX Deployment Modes: for different DC scale requirements, providing matched deployment solutions rapidly and accurately, such as automated large-scale deployment for center cloud, and green lightweight deployment for edge cloud.

MIX Resource pools: combining two mainstream open source cloud platforms, OpenStack and Kubernetes, to build the integrated resource pool, to carry out unified management and orchestration of VM, bare metal, and container sources, and flexibly allocate resource according to demands of upper layer applications.

MIX Hardware: combining X86 servers and acceleration hardware such as FPGA organically, and carrying out unified management through the same cloud platform, to significantly reduce hardware investment and guarantee high performance of the network, so as to bring the most cost-effective solution.

MIX O&M Modes: by virtue of remote control, AI and other technologies, building the end-to-end closed-loop automatic O&M for the entire distribute cloud, to bring the efficient O&M mode with unmanned remote site + centralized control at the center.

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Figure 2: Features of 5G-Ready 4MIX Distributed Cloud Infrastructure Solution

The 4MIX distributed cloud solution provides 5G scenarios with precise deployment solutions to flexibly match diversified demands, to achieve the best match of user experience and cost control, to give a big push to the construction of 5G-Ready cloud infrastructure. This solution won the “Best New Cloud Infrastructure” at the SDN NFV World Congress 2018, fully recognized by industrial authorities.

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Figure 3: Best New Cloud Infrastructure at the SDN NFV World Congress 2018

As the world’s leading provider of integrated communication solutions, ZTE is committed to building 5G core technology capabilities, actively applying in practices, and has been cooperating with many of the world’s leading operators. ZTE will continue to increase investment in research and development, promote the development of advanced technologies, and accelerate the commercial pace of 5G in the future.

‘Best effort’ should be considered as critical for the telco of tomorrow

Many in the industry shudder at the concept of ‘best effort’, but this should change in future when latency can be billed as a business case.

The concept of ‘best effort’ is perceived in different ways partly reliant on whether you consider the glass to be half-full or half-empty. Those of a pessimistic nature will hear the term ‘best effort’ and decide those sitting on the other side of the table are unreliable. The more positive side of the population will consider their partner as a person who will try their utmost to provide the best possible service.

This conflict is unavoidable as it is embedded in the personality of the individual, but according to Crystal Web Founder Paul Hjul (pictured) embracing the concept of ‘best effort’ is critical for success in tomorrow’s digital economy.

Crystal Web is much more of a South African challenger ISP than anything else, having only launched commercial services in 2014. It bills itself as a business which operates differently and Hjul certainly lives up to that reputation in his public appearances and thoughts on the industry. With Crystal Web being free from many of legacy restraints which plague traditional telcos, and Hjul’s differentiating mindset, the company is free to operate in a unique manner. This is partly where Hjul’s thoughts on ‘best effort’ are derived from.

To validate the best effort approach, telcos have to appreciate there are two ways to deliver connectivity in the future. There is the commoditized delivery of the internet, and value added services with enhanced connectivity. One has a dumb pipe, while the other has a smart one which can be glorified with the network slicing euphoria. This is where ‘best effort’ should be applied, and is built on the demand for latency.

Many telcos want to avoid the dumb pipe, but why should they? A dumb pipe can effectively deliver on data demands for the vast majority of consumer cases, many of which are not reliant on latency. If it takes an extra five seconds for a WhatsApp message to be delivered, or an extra two seconds for a website to load, it’s not the end of the world. These are scenarios which can be tolerated, and the business case for the dumb pipe and ‘best effort’ can be realised. Building this dumb pipe and effectively utilizing the internet for this segment is perfectly acceptable, and allows telcos to concentrate on other aspects of the business.

The smart pipe is where money can be made. Telcos can work with enterprise organizations who cannot use the public internet for a variety of reasons, or on consumer usecases which require low latency, through the smart pipe to ensure enhanced connectivity. This is where latency plays a factor, but for every nine which is added onto the reliability and resiliency, more money will have to be charged. The usecases here are relatively obvious, autonomous cars for instance or transmission of sensitive data, but each have additional demands on latency, security and reliability.

According to Hjul, there is nothing wrong with a dumb pipe, as long as it is built smartly, but the business case for tomorrow’s telcos has to be established through separating the various usecases. Dumb is only as dumb as the business case which underpins it.

Germany frees up the whole of C-Band for 5G and the GSMA approves, sort of

The German government has decided to make the entire 3.4-3.8 GHz band available for 5G use, which is a good idea.

For 5G to do its thing, it needs big chunks of continuous spectrum to ‘fatten the pipe’. Piecemeal auctions of 3.4-3.8 GHz spectrum (otherwise known as C-Band) such as we had in the UK earlier this year, are not as useful as offering up the whole lot in one go. The eventual outcome may end up being the same, but the whole process is a lot more complicated.

This decision has been met with approval by the mobile industry trade association, the GSMA. “The C-Band is the most vital frequency band for 5G,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. “Germany is demonstrating 5G leadership in the timely release of this vital spectrum, but risks undercutting its 5G future with unnecessary obligations. Spectrum is a limited resource and it must be used and managed as efficiently as possible to ensure a 5G future that will benefit all.”

Among the GSMA’s regulatory gripes are proposed coverage obligations for 3.6 GHz spectrum, which it says disregard the laws of physics. Since the time of Isaac Newton this had been frowned on by polite society and the GSMA has chosen to use this emotive concept to point out what short range these high frequencies have.

They do seem to have a point here. 5G is all about capacity and surely coverage obligations can be left to earlier generations in the short term and 5G over lower frequencies in the long term. As characterized by the GSMA this stipulation seems to be gratuitous, counter-productive and a classic example of regulation for the hell of it.

Other than that there are some inevitable whinges about roaming obligations and high reserve prices for the auction. In the latter case we have sympathy for the GSMA position as any attempt by the German government to push up the price of spectrum is a blatant cash grab and an indirect tax on mobile subscribers.