Nvidia takes 5G to the edge with help from Ericsson and Red Hat

Graphics chip maker Nvidia has unveiled its EGX Edge Supercomputing Platform that is designed to boost 5G, IoT and AI processing at the edge of the network

Nvidia has long been the market leader in GPUs (graphics processing units), which has enabled it to get a strong position in supercomputing, where the parallel processing qualities of GPUs come in especially handy. This EGX initiative seems to be Nvidia’s attempt to translate that position from datacentres to the edge computing.

“We’ve entered a new era, where billions of always-on IoT sensors will be connected by 5G and processed by AI,” said Jensen Huang, Nvidia CEO. “Its foundation requires a new class of highly secure, networked computers operated with ease from far away. We’ve created the Nvidia EGX Edge Supercomputing Platform for this world, where computing moves beyond personal and beyond the cloud to operate at planetary scale.”

There seems to be a fair bit of support for this new platform, with a bunch of companies and even a couple of US cities saying they’re already involved. “Samsung has been an early adopter of both GPU computing and AI from the beginning,” said Charlie Bae, EVP of foundry sales and marketing at Samsung Electronics. “NVIDIA’s EGX platform helps us to extend these manufacturing and design applications smoothly onto our factory floors.”

“At Walmart, we’re using AI to define the future of retail and re-think how technology can further enhance how we operate our stores,” said Mike Hanrahan, CEO of Walmart Intelligent Retail Lab. “With NVIDIA’s EGX edge computing platform, Walmart’s Intelligent Retail Lab is able to bring real-time AI compute to our store, automate processes and free up our associates to create a better and more convenient shopping experience for our customers.”

On the mobile side Ericsson is getting involved to build virtualized 5G RANs on EGX. As you would expect the reason is all about being able to introduce new functions and services more easily and flexibly. More specifically Ericsson hopes the platform will make virtualizing the complete RAN solution cheaper and easier.

“5G is set to turbocharge the intelligent edge revolution,” said Huang. “Fusing 5G, supercomputing, and AI has enabled us to create a revolutionary communications platform supporting, someday, trillions of always-on, AI-enabled smart devices. Combining our world-leading capabilities, Nvidia and Ericsson are helping to invent this exciting future.”

On the software side a key partner for all this virtualized 5G fun will be Red Hat, which is getting its OpenShift Kubernetes container platform involved. It will combine with Nvidia’s own Aerial software developer kit to help operators to make the kind of software-defined RAN tech that can run on EGX.

“The industry is ramping 5G and the ‘smart everything’ revolution is beginning,” said Huang. “Billions of sensors and devices will be sprinkled all over the world enabling new applications and services. We’re working with Red Hat to build a cloud-native, massively scalable, high-performance GPU computing infrastructure for this new 5G world. Powered by the Nvidia EGX Edge Supercomputing Platform, a new wave of applications will emerge, just as with the smartphone revolution.”

Things seemed to have gone a bit quiet on the virtualization front, with NFV, SDN, etc having apparently entered the trough of disillusionment. Nvidia is a substantial cloud player these days, however, and judging by the level of support this new initiative has, EGX could a key factor in moving the telecoms cloud onto the slope of enlightenment.

T-Mobile and Sprint convince Colorado to cross the picket line

The coalition of lawyers fighting against the $26 billion T-Mobile US and Sprint merger has gotten a little bit weaker with Colorado dropping out of the resistance movement.

After the Attorney General for Mississippi secured concessions from the duo, the same has been achieved by Phil Weiser, the Colorado Attorney General. It might be the long-way around, but it does appear T-Mobile US and Sprint are turning some heads with individual, state-level deals.

“The State of Colorado joined a multistate lawsuit to block the T-Mobile-Sprint merger because of concerns about how the merger would affect Coloradans,” said Chief Deputy Attorney General Natalie Hanlon Leh.

“The agreements we are announcing today address those concerns by guaranteeing jobs in Colorado, a state-wide buildout of a fast 5G network that will especially benefit rural communities, and low-cost mobile plans.”

The guarantees are somewhat ambitious. New T-Mobile, how the merged entity is currently being referred to, has promised to deliver 5G with minimum download speeds of 100 Mbps to 68% of the state’s population within three years, and within six years, this coverage will have to increase to 92% of the population.

On the rural side, 60% of Colorado’s rural population will have to have access to 5G download speeds of 100 Mbps within three years of the completion of the transaction, increasing to 74% within six years.

New T-Mobile will also offer new tariffs at lower prices. Should the company fail to meet these commitments it will face $80 million in penalties.

In meeting these concessions, New T-Mobile might face some challenges. Colorado is the eighth largest state in the US at 269,837 km² (the UK is 242,495 km²), with some pretty mountainous landscapes. That said, the population does seem to help these coverage commitments.

Colorado has a population of roughly 5.6 million people, of which 4.89 million live in urban locations. The state has 196 towns and 73 cities, with the five biggest accounting for roughly 1.6 million people (23% of total). Should New T-Mobile cover the ten largest cities with 5G within three years, it would have achieved roughly 38% population coverage, more than half of the commitment made to the State.

With Colorado being a highly urbanised population, only 13% are described as living in rural environment according to Rural Health Info, the equation does not look quite as daunting. Another element to consider is the spectrum assets which will be owned by New T-Mobile.

Although it has been toying with the high-speed mmWave spectrum bands, New T-Mobile will have the benefits of the 600 MHz spectrum offering greater range for meeting the concessions. This will not deliver the eye watering speed which has been promised in perfect scenarios for 5G, though it will aid the demands of network densification. During a trial in January, T-Mobile US claimed a 5G call over 600 MHz could reach 1000 square miles from a single cell site.

Interestingly enough, the merger will also offer access to valuable mid-band spectrum which Sprint has been boasting about for years. Sprint is currently hording licences for the valuable 2.5 GHz band, very similar to the mid-band spectrum airwaves which are being championed in Europe because of the more palatable compromise between speed and coverage. Combining these assets with the mmWave trials puts New T-Mobile in a pretty attractive position.

Alongside the conditions placed on New T-Mobile, Dish will also face its own demands following the completion of the $5 billion acquisition of Sprint’s prepaid brand to maintain competition levels across the country. Dish will have to maintain the HQ in Colorado for at least seven years, hire an additional 2,000 people to work on the wireless business and Colorado will have to be one of the first 10 states Dish launches 5G in. Failure to meet these conditions will result in $20 million in fines.

The win in Colorado is a significant one for New T-Mobile and adds to the momentum gained in Mississippi. In this southern state, New T-Mobile will have to deploy a 5G networ with at least 62% of the population experiencing download speeds of at least 100 Mbps. These numbers increase to 88% within six years of the completion of the merger, though 88% of the rural population will also have to be upgraded to 5G by this time also.

Although this is not the end of the lawsuit led by the New York Attorney General, Letitia James to block the merger on competition grounds, it adds a dent to momentum.

The prospect of tackling James and a herd of 16 Attorney Generals might have seemed like a daunting one, but the divide and conquer strategy seems to be working well here. If the T-Mobile US and Sprint lawyers can convince a few more into ditching the lawsuit, the threat looks significantly lessened.

While there are some states where applying the same conditions as have been negotiated in Colorado and Mississippi would be incredibly difficult, the lawyers don’t have to worry about them. Chipping away at the states where 5G deployment might be a simpler task would certainly lessen the threat being posed by the coalition. There only needs to be another three or four convinced to cross the picket-line and the support for the merger starts to look much more substantial.

Creating customer values with AI

5G represents a paradigm shift not only in the deployment, management, and operation of networks, but also the services that can be delivered and the experiences customers can have. For 5G networks to deliver value for the operators, through both improved efficiency and top line growth, artificial intelligence (AI) has important roles to play.

All these should start with operators having full visibility of what is going on in their systems, including data of the networks, of the services running on the networks, as well as of the customers.

Data and analysis into networks cover three dimensions: quality, value, and development.

Specifically, the data gathered by the software should report the network quality down to cell level, for example which cells are generating the highest values, and what the next step network development should focus on.

Such data can then be used in multiple ways to deliver value for the operators. Actionable insights, developed through analysing the comprehensive data, can support precise network planning and value-based network construction. This is particularly meaningful when operators roll out 5G networks, when there is little historical reference. The AI tool should be able to provide precise planning solutions based on the existing 4G networks to make full use of the existing network and environment information to achieve an exact match between 5G network planning and user requirements.

When it comes to network construction, the network expansion plan should be developed by the AI tool with intelligent network prediction, scenario-based site selection and site value sorting. The output should be an agile expansion construction solution that can deliver material improvement of efficiency over the conventional, manual planning mode and flexibly support the phased network deployment.

The AI-devised intelligence will also play a key role in improving operational efficiency, especially by accurately dispatching work orders. This is because the tools, using big data and AI network analytics, will predict faults, and dispatch on-site inspections more accurately. The machine-learning mechanism means that the field data from the inspections can be compared with the prediction, therefore continuously improving the accuracy of the tool.

Another area that AI can help improve efficiency is in testing and optimisation. Drive tests, the conventional way of testing the cell parameters, can be largely replaced by virtual drive tests, which evaluates network performance more comprehensively, and the need for drive tests is minimised.

Without manual intervention, the coverage and capacity are optimised automatically using data analytics, and the power and antenna feeder are adjusted and optimised automatically. The automation will considerably shorten the optimisation time.

Service insight refers to real-time accurate analytics and insight of both voice and data services running on the system.

Most networks have legacies from 2G to LTE, and more and more are adding 5G on top. The AI tools to generate service insights need to report instantly the status of voice services on 2G and 3G networks, as well as Voice overs LTE (VoLTE), the infrastructure of which will also support 5G voice. Meanwhile, the tools should also report the status of services running over the data networks, from entertainment to industry applications, and diagnose the root cause of any failures or sub-optimal performances. The intelligence generated will be used to improve services, and to prevent the same failures from happening again.

Another critical area to apply the intelligence is to support new services. For example, when 5G is first launched, the focus is on eMBB services, including HD video streaming or VR gaming. The AI-powered tool should provide real-time video perception analysis, early deterioration warning, problem location, as well as fast service recovery.

Service intelligence will play a more critical role when telecom operators enter other vertical industries when 5G networks enable the more advanced services. These may include autonomous manufacturing, remote healthcare, IoT like autonomous vehicles and smart city, next generation retail, energy, logistics, transport, and many more. For example, for different industrial requirements in the smart factory, different slice services are selected to realize the intelligent analysis and optimisation service. Such services will generate higher return but will also come with higher demand. In turn, if the system fails to guarantee service stability or to address faults fast enough, the cost to telecom operators will be higher.

User insight should be focused on user experience.

By analysing the user experience on existing networks including their personalised requirements, the tools should be able to generate intelligence that will not only increase loyalty of current users but also attract new users, such as building the intelligent perception system of each user and each service to accurately evaluate and guarantee user perception.

More importantly, the AI-powered tool should be able to develop user profiles around defined attributes (e.g. high value customers, or data heavy users, or users of special apps). These detailed user profiles can guide personalised smart marketing. For example, the tool should help identify potential high value customers and offer customised services.

ZTE has launched the ideal tools to address these challenges.

The AI Insight, Value Operation (AIVO) solution, based on ZTE’s VMAX big data platform, has lived up to its missions for customers. The solution has been developed using ZTE’s evaluation capabilities of over 10,000 different services, as well as the repertoire of over 9,000 user profile attributes across 16 industries. It realises the full-process support of network planning, construction, maintenance, optimization and operation.

In real life, the AIVO solution has demonstrated the efficiency improvement in system deployment, management, and operation. The one-click automatic output for network planning can improve the efficiency by at least 60% compared with the conventional planning mode. The solution can also reduce the drive test time by more than 50% and the work order dispatches by 45%, as well as improving the site visit efficiency by more than 25%.

When used for problem locating, AIVO has reached 80% accuracy rate and has reduced the location time to within 30 minutes. As for the marketing support, it realizes the personalized precision marketing implemented by building user profile system, locking target users and pushing marketing information. The benefit of marketing support is reflected in the 40-fold increase in the customers’ subscription conversion rate.

In addition to the powerful data gathering and analytics capability, AIVO solution is also able to present the data and analytics in the most intuitive visualised way, from network traffic to customer complaints and everything in between, so that immediate actions can be taken when needed.

We are, therefore, confident that the AIVO solution is an ideal answer to telecom operators’ challenges when they embark on 5G commercialisation, both for efficiency improvement and for generating new revenue and profit through strong customer engagement.

Trump’s blocking techniques finally start to trouble Huawei

President Donald Trump has seemingly been on a mission to cripple the prospects of Huawei and it seems one of the haymakers have finally landed.

If the quest to undermine the carrier business group through influencing allied nations towards bans is failing, the entry onto the Entity List to supper plans in the consumer unit seems to now be causing the desired level of discomfort. Speaking to the Financial Times this weekend, a Huawei executive confirmed the absence of Google’s Android and the various services is proving troublesome.

“After the entity list, we were able to figure out some of the alternative solutions,” said Joy Tan, VP of public affairs at Huawei’s US business. “The most challenging part is Google-managed services. We can continue to use the Android platform, since it is open-source, but we cannot use the services that help apps run on it.”

This was always going to be a challenge to circumnavigate, though it certainly took some time to bed in. Whether it is because Android is arguably the best operating system on the market, Google services are widely utilised or there is a strong feeling of trust towards Google, replicating or replacing these elements on the smartphones was a big ask.

Officials in the White House might have been frustrated, as despite efforts to tarnish the reputation of the Chinese firm, sales continued to grow. For the first nine months of the year, Huawei sales grew 24% year-on-year, an increase from the last earnings statement, which suggested growth was 23% year-on-year for the first two quarters. However, this revelation will spur on some confidence in the Trump vendetta.

Google has proven to be the stumbling point for Huawei. Much to the horror of US suppliers, the firm has largely managed to replace US components in its supply chain, it has even started producing 5G base stations completely void of US parts, though the smartphone business has bore the brunt of the damage.

In launching its own operating system, which is based on the Android open-source code, the building blocks of an OS are there, but many would have suspected it was little more than a pale imitation. Firstly, Huawei would have to bridge the trust question which lurks at the back of the mind of many Western customers, and secondly, it would have to prove it could match the standards of Android. Let’s not forget, Android currently accounts for roughly 76% market share in the OS segment.

This is the toughest part of the equation. Huawei has pushed huge amounts of cash towards creating a developer ecosystem, but the number of applications simply are not going to be able to meet what Android offers. Secondly, time is not a friend here. Tan highlighted the Google Maps product is difficult to replicate, but unfortunately there is no quick-fix here.

The Google Maps product is market leading because of years of investment, billions of man-hours of tweaking and a colossal amount of data which has been fed into the machine to improve accuracy and performance. There is no substitute for time here and it is one of the reasons few can dream of competing with Google in this segment.

Unfortunately for Huawei, this is a monumental blow to the attractiveness and performance of its smartphone devices. Android and the Google services are trusted by billions around the world and, in some cases, are the best on the market. We’ve already seen what happens when some smartphone OEMs attempt to produce their own OS; it very rarely works out for the better.

This is not the end for Huawei as a business, or as a smartphone manufacturer. It still has a domestic market which boasts roughly a sixth of the world’s population and China’s influence on the global stage should hold strong in some markets. But in the Western markets, the very ones which have underpinned success for the smartphone business, which has in turn fuelled growth across Huawei during the last few years, it does not look good.

Singtel to push forward with 5G cloud gaming trial

In partnership with Razer and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Singtel is testing the readiness of its network to capitalise on the fast-growing cloud gaming segment.

As a concept, cloud gaming is attracting a lot of attention in the industry and is attempting to wrestle the crown of go-to 5G usecase away from robotic surgery. Now it seems the Singapore consortium is getting in on the act with its own trials.

“While this is not the roll out of a commercial cloud gaming service, this opportunity is the first step for Singapore to spearhead 5G projects,” said Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan.

“5G is a literal game-changer when it comes to cloud gaming,” said Mr Yuen Kuan Moon, CEO, Consumer Singapore at Singtel. “Latency and bandwidth are crucial to internet streaming and 5G will deliver next-generation connectivity that will support immersive gaming, even on mobile devices.”

The trial itself will focus on the demands of cloud gaming as a usecase on a 5G network, as well as the design and engineering of low latency hardware for cloud gaming. More specifically on the hardware side, ultra-fast responsiveness, portability and seamless device-to-device sync to cloud servers will be the focus of investigations.

With mobile devices commanding growth revenues in the gaming industry, the cloud gaming usecase is charging-up the priority list for telcos. This is perhaps particularly prevalent in the APAC markets, where mobile gaming has gained more traction than the Western markets, though it should not be forgotten this is very applicable for consoles also.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign for the cloud gaming segment is the aggressive moves being made by the internet giants to gain supremacy in the space. Amazon, Microsoft and Google are all fighting for attention in the early days, though it is worth bearing in mind more niche players such as Nvidia and HTC are also making moves.

This is maybe one of the most encouraging signs for telcos. Usually, there is very much a ‘built it and they will come’ attitude for network investment, though with cloud gaming services already being created and marketed, the demand from service providers is awaiting the creation of networks.

Dutch regulator hints at 5G network sharing plan

The Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has proposed plans to create a network infrastructure sharing framework to counteract any potential for a digital divide.

With the plans intended to be released before the next spectrum auction in 2020, the regulator is putting in the groundwork ahead of time to theoretically ease the investment burdens of 5G network infrastructure in the rural environments. Telcos generally don’t like to be told how to spend their money, but the ACM is taking appropriate, proactive steps to prevent the digital divide which tends to emerge when telcos are left to their own devices.

“We regularly receive questions about what is and what is not allowed with regard to infrastructure sharing,” said Henk Don, an ACM board member.

“Working together in this can bring many benefits to telecom companies, but this should not be at the expense of mutual competition. With the guidelines we want to offer clarity to the parties on the mobile market and thereby contribute to a smooth rollout of 5G.”

Although the 5G rollout in the Netherlands is progressing at a much slower rate than other countries in the bloc, the pondering approach is allowing bureaucrats to create the necessary regulatory and legislative landscape ahead of time. Other nations, the UK for example, seem to be taking a ‘build now, regulate later’ approach, which runs the risk of creating the digital divide as telcos chase profits and an overbuild situation in the highly urbanised areas. As with anything in life, it is much easier to plan to tackle a problem as opposed to fixing after it has emerged.

As part of the ‘slow and steady’ approach to network deployment, coverage obligations will be placed on any future spectrum auctions. 98% of the Netherlands geographic area will have to be covered by a certain time, though more details will emerge over the coming months as the auctions close in. 98% might sound like a ludicrous objective, though the network sharing framework should aid this.

These are just very top-line ideas which are being presented by the ACM here, though more details will be offered over the short-term. Ahead of 2020, plans are being ironed out for spectrum auctions for the 700 MHz, 1400 MHz and 2100 MHz 5G bands, while the valuable 3.5 GHz 5G auction should take place at the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022. The ACM has suggested the proposals will be in place to ahead of next year’s auction.

Network sharing frameworks are not exactly uncommon throughout the telco world, though many regulators err on the side of caution in the pursuit of competition. The UK is considering such plans also, though these would only be in the regions which are seen as the most difficult to justify commercially. Generally, these not-spots have almost no coverage nowadays, usually home to an incredibly low population density or no-one at all.

This might not be the most rapid of rollout plans, but the ‘first’ tag does not necessarily mean much, or it might not end up meaning much. Laying the necessary regulatory framework ahead of plans, instead of playing catch-up like some nations, might just be a more considered approach. That said, the Dutch Government will not want to fall too far behind.

Nokia gets some Telia love with 5G mall win

Swedish operator group Telia showed it’s not entirely monogamous with Ericsson by picking Nokia to run its new 5G network in the new Mall of Tripla in Helsinki.

While a single shopping centre might not seem like the biggest deal win, it will serve as a case study into all the capacity goodness promised by 5G. Using both Nokia base stations and small cell gear, shoppers at the mall will presumably be able to download the entire internet in one nanosecond and all the other good things promised by 5G enhanced mobile broadband.

“We are seeing increased demand for better connectivity at shopping centers, stadiums and large events, which is why the 5G network rollout at the Mall of Tripla is a milestone for both Nokia and Telia,” said Ari Kynäslahti, Head of Mobile Networks Product Management at Nokia.

I am particularly proud of the way our 5G AirScale Indoor Radio small cells have been able to be discretely installed inside the mall for excellent, seamless indoor coverage. The retail industry has the potential to be one of the big beneficiaries of 5G and we are excited to see how consumers and businesses benefit from this 5G network at the largest shopping center in the Nordics.”

Of course all that lovely bandwidth isn’t just about downloading movies, etc. There is an expectation that retail will be able to use both augmented and virtual reality to enhance the shopping experience in some way. On top of this being a handy case study for Nokia, it will be pleased to be reminded there is still room in Telia’s heart for it after being snubbed in Norway.

Ericsson scores 5G RAN and core deal with LG U+

South Korea’s third MNO will be leaning heavily on Swedish kit vendor for its nascent 5G network, having chosen it for both the RAN and the core.

The new news seems to concern specifically LG U+’s non-standalone 5G using the 3.5 GHz frequency band, for which Ericsson will supply at least some of the RAN kit. Ericsson is only announcing itself a ‘a’ supplier, rather than ‘the’ supplier, so we can assume there are others. It seems the 5G core gig was already known, but Ericsson decided to mention it again anyway.

“We are delighted to have Ericsson as a trusted 5G Core and 5G RAN vendor,” said Daehee Kim, Vice President, Network Strategy at LG U+. “Ericsson’s end-to-end 5G technology leadership is key to ramping-up our nationwide 5G ambitions in Korea. Ericsson will help us to deliver the very best enhanced mobile broadband experiences for our subscribers, as well as opening up innovation and job creation opportunities through the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 and digitalized society.”

“We’re working in close partnership with LG U+ to strengthen its 5G network in Korea,” said Hakan Cervell, Head of Ericsson Korea. “We look forward to building the partnership to help LG U+ meet its 5G needs as its subscriber base grows across enhanced mobile broadband, IoT, and Industry 4.0. We’re also delighted to now be working with all three communication providers in Korea to use our 5G abilities to keep the country at the forefront of 5G innovation and benefits.”

Huawei seems to be largely frozen out of South Korea, but Samsung is presumably a stronger networking competitor there than anywhere else in the world, so this is still a decent deal win. We don’t know how much of LG U+’s 5G network will be covered by Ericsson, but North East Asia is a key market so it will take whatever’s going.

Customer service in the 5G era

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Simon Osborne, Head of Nokia Software Portfolio, offers some insight into customer service best practice as we move into the 5G era.

When reflecting on the word “service,” it can clearly be defined as the act of serving. But who exactly are communication service providers (CSPs) serving?

In the telecom industry, traditional service development has either been driven by what the network can do or what competitors are doing. This service tactic doesn’t always have a lot to do with the customer, and is ultimately a reactionary approach to innovation. The old define-and-push approach no longer works, and service providers everywhere know this has to change if they want to stay relevant.

Today, the vital approach needed is a demand-and-pull model that embraces the new ways people and companies consume services and content, rooted in the best possible experience. It requires reimagining the entire process to be based on “experience outcomes” and it has a direct impact on service provider operations.

Opening up the ecosystem to integrate the business

In order to embrace a demand-and-pull model, service providers must understand their business in totality, rather than simply the infrastructure elements behind individual customer touchpoints. The service is not just about what they provide or how they provide it or troubleshoot it when there are issues. It’s about all of those things combined.

CSPs who get this right by leveraging their customer insights will have the power to drive a different experience — and different outcomes.

The good news is that they don’t have to do it alone. In the 5G era, networks can be transformed into a platform that providers and their partners can utilize together to create services that meet customer needs, whether it be online gaming packages with the network built in or industrial automation services. The sky’s the limit.

Prioritizing the User Experience Above Everything

The ways people use their devices and data today aren’t yet reflected in the structure of the service provider industry. I think about the times I’ve tried to use online banking or a rideshare app while traveling, only to be hit with a roaming charge. As a user, I don’t care whose network I’m on – I just want to use my apps.

Imagine a scenario in which my provider offered me a premium to use my apps anywhere, rather than penalizing me for trying to use my device. I’d feel more taken care of – and I’d likely take the offer. For service providers, this is about seizing the moment in order to monetize it while also fostering relationships.

It is vital to begin viewing the network as a fluid platform for services that support those kinds of relationships with end customers. In order to make that happen, traditional processes need to be re-centered around the customer’s need so that all the handoffs within the network are geared toward meeting that need.

Designing service-centric operations

It takes more than putting a digital veneer on existing processes in order to shift to an outcomes-driven demand-and-pull model. Traditional CSPs have to become digital service providers. It’s a mindset that alters everything from service delivery to the innovation journey and requires being much more service-centric by getting past the idea that operations are simply the network operations center.

5G is changing the network and the customer journey — profoundly, and operations will need to change, too. We must break down the silos and move to a closed-loop approach that’s driven by business outcomes – not by simply what the network can do. It is vital that better balance be found between supply and demand based on intelligent, on-demand processes that support the management of digital services from end to end over a software-based network.

These kinds of services will be more complex than the ones offered today, without a doubt. However, this outcome-driven approach to service is vital for the 5G future by putting the focus on serving, above all else, the customer.

 

simon osborne nokiaAs the Head of Portfolio Strategy, Simon is responsible for the direction of the Nokia Software Portfolio. While the industry embraces all aspects of digitalization, Simon works with CSPs to solve these challenges by ensuring they have new software tools, approaches and architectures to be successful. During 25+ years in the OSS/BSS industry he has held senior positions in professional services, consulting, product engineering, product management and product strategy.

Uber is much more than a taxi firm

To most people, Uber is just a cheap and convenient way to get home after a few drinks, but the scope of the business is extraordinary.

While the inclusion of Uber at a broadband conference might have raised a few eyebrows, the overview given by Global Head of Connectivity Rahul Vijay demonstrated the creativity, innovation and stubborn drive which has ensured Silicon Valley and its residents are some of the most influential in the world.

First and foremost, no-one should consider Uber as a taxi company anymore, at least not in the traditional sense. The taxi’s might still account for the majority of annual revenues, but the team is expanding into so many different areas it is difficult to sum up the business in a single sentence.

Aside from the taxi business we all know and love, Uber has a commercial business working with the travel teams at large corporations, the food delivery business unit is solidly position in a fast-growing segment, the team also work with insurance companies to make sure patients make it to their hospital appointments and it is also making promising moves into the freight world. In markets in south east Asia, the team has launched a 2G-compatible app and is also applying the same business model to mopeds and scooters. In Croatia, Uber has launched a boat taxi service.

These are the ideas which are up-and-running or currently being live trialled, though the R&D unit is also playing around with some interesting ideas. Autonomous vehicles, flying taxis and drone delivery initiatives are just some of the blue-thinking projects. This is a company where a lot is going on.

The interesting aspect of the autonomous vehicles is not just the technology but the supporting connectivity landscape.

“Without mobility there is no Uber,” Vijay said at Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam.

Some have suggested that Uber will never be profitable until autonomous vehicles are commonplace through the fleet, though it doesn’t seem to be the technology which is worrying Vijay; connectivity is too expensive today.

The test vehicles which are currently purring around the highways of North America transmit as much as 2 TB of data a day. This is not only a monstrous amount of information to store and analyse, but the economics of taking this data from the car to the data centres is not there. Vijay said it is still by far and away cheaper to transmit this data through optical cables than over the air, which is not practical. Until 5G arrives, and is scaled throughout the transportation infrastructure, autonomous vehicles are not a commercially viable concept for Uber.

This also opens the door up to another very useful revenue stream for Uber. With more than 110 million users around the world, 200 new trips are started every second. These vehicles are travelling through cities, countryside’s and down highways. The amount of information on mobile signal strength or the performance of mobile handoff between cell sites is boggling. These are only two areas, but Vijay suggested there could be hordes of valuable information which could be collected by the vehicles as they fulfil the core primary business objective.

For telcos, regulators, governments or cloud companies, this insight could be incredibly valuable. It could inform investment strategies or encourage policy changes. If data is the new oil, Uber is sitting on a very significant reserve.

As it stands, the company brings in a lot of money, but the prospect of profits are questionable. In the three months ending June 30, Uber revenues attributable to bookings stood at $15.756 billion. The loss from these operations was $5.485 billion. The transportation game operates on very fine margins. Share price has declined by 28% since this earnings call, though there is hope on the horizon.

If Uber can gain traction in the new markets it is pushing aggressively into there will be increased revenues, though in monetizing assets which it creates organically, the data collected from taxi trips, there could be some interesting developments.