Loon bolsters connectivity credentials with advisory board signings

Alphabet’s latest X graduate Loon has added industry heavyweights to its advisory board as the business searches for commercial credibility in the world of connectivity.

As the ludicrous dream starts to become a reality, Loon has added three industry veterans to its ranks. Former McCaw Communications CEO Craig McCaw, Evernote CEO Ian Small and Verizon EVP Global Media & New Business Marni Walden will all be added to the roster, bringing with them years of experience and, perhaps more importantly, connections in the telco space.

“As Loon transitions to a commercial business and looks to partner with MNOs worldwide, we’re adding some serious expertise to our ranks with a new Advisory Board that brings together top wireless innovators with decades of experience in the industry,” Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth wrote in a blog post.

For those who have missed out on this blue-sky thinking idea, Loon is Alphabet’s latest attempt to branch into the connectivity segment. Previous efforts might have been a flop, just have a look at the success brought through Google Fiber, but this is something slightly different; its attempting to create a new segment rather than steal business from established players.

By floating these massive balloons 18-23km above the earth for periods of up to 100 days, the Loon team claims each balloon can create a connectivity cone with coverage to a ground area 80km in diameter. The balloons are fitted with a broad-coverage LTE base station and a high-speed directional link used to connect between balloons and back down to the internet infrastructure on the ground.

In an industry which has constantly struggled to bridge the digital divide due to the expense of deploying infrastructure, this is a genuinely innovative approach to providing connectivity. It helps lessen the financial pressures of delivering the internet, adding to the connectivity mix.

Back in November at AfricaCom, Westgarth gave some insight into the business on the main conference stage. At the time he announced the beginning of a commercial relationship with Telkom Kenya, as well as outlining the wider ambitions of the business. This is an idea which has big commercial potential, most of which will be in the developing markets. These are after all areas where ARPU is low and deployment is staggered. It would appear to be the perfect mix for Loon’s proposal to bring the internet to the masses.

These appointments however perhaps suggest Loon is not a firm satisfied with the developing markets alone. These are three US executives who have considerable experience in the domestic market. Of course, there will be connections in the international space with telcos in the developing nations, but perhaps Loon has spotted an opportunity in the US. These executives would certainly help pave the way for conversations across the homeland.

Of course, this is just a theory and the PR team have been, just as you would expect, pretty evasive when asked the question. However, the digital divide is certainly a challenge in the US. For those who are lucky enough to live in the cities, they’ll have no concept of connectivity challenges, but the vast expanses and challenging terrain of the US open up numerous, huge not-spots, despite what the telcos actually tell you.

Loon has been touted as an innovation for the developing markets but seeing as the US telcos are clueless as how to solve the domestic digital divide, why not. These executives will certainly know the right people in the right places.

Garmin has a go at reigniting smart watch enthusiasm

To date, it seems only the fitness brands can make the smart watch segment work for them, and while attention might have been diverted elsewhere recently, Garmin is having another crack.

Despite the fact revenues are increasing, shipments are increasing, and the usability of the devices are constantly improving, this segment has never really taken off. All positive steps forward have been small rather than industry shaking. Perhaps this was a product which was just ahead of its time, waiting for other technological advancements to catch up. One of these advancements is featuring prominently in the new Garmin launch.

“The vívoactive 3 Music with 4G LTE connectivity gives you everything you need from your phone – safety features, text messaging and the ability to download and listen to music – now on your watch, so customers can leave their phones behind with confidence,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin VP of Global Consumer Sales.

“Designed for customers who lead an active lifestyle, we’re excited to introduce these new safety and communication features to the Verizon-connected vívoactive 3 Music to give added peace of mind on the go, so leaving your phone at home can be a choice instead of a cause for panic.”

This new device, the vívoactive 3 Music, will be priced at $299.99 (the north-end of affordability for mass market) and will run on Verizon’s 4G network. The device will feature the same fitness and tracking capabilities as previous generations, as well as a contactless payment solution enabled by FitPay and the ability to download playlists from from third-party music services like Deezer and Spotify. Battery life is up to five days in smart watch mode or four hours when running the GPS.

While it has now been addressed, standalone connectivity was the first barrier to adoption for the smart watch segment. Why would you bother having a smart watch when you had to carry your phone around with you? It tells you the time, so does your phone. It plays music, so does your phone. It took phone calls and replied to messages, so does your phone. If the watch is tethered to your phone, what was the point in it?

In years gone, the fitness niche found success. Fitness tracking, both geographical and health monitoring, was an area of success allowing companies such as Garmin and Fitbit to make profits while others who focused on communications features or attempting to appeal to the fashion conscious struggled to make any notable progress. What Garmin and Fitbit did was not to compete with traditional watchmakers or smartphone manufacturers but create an additional segment. It might have been niche but has been growing steadily over the last couple of years, alongside the much slower (but increasingly more prominent) mass market acceptance of smart watches on the whole.

When you look at the smart watch segment, there certainly has been growth. IDC forecast the worldwide wearables market to ship 122.6 million units in 2018, up 6.2% from the 115.4 million units in 2017, and estimates growth in this segment to hit total shipment volumes of 190.4 million units by 2022. While this is progress, these are not revolutionary sales numbers or even growth which suggests the segment is about to take off.

Nowadays standalone connectivity is not a new thing, however Garmin has an established (and successful) brand in the smart watch segment, as well as a loyal customer base to push the new features onto. Whether this is enough of a pull to take smart watches to the next level remains to be seen, but if experience is anything to go by, the niche players will certainly help validate the smart watch in today’s society.

Vodafone searches the sewers for missing connectivity

Vodafone UK has announced a new initiative to embed small antennas below street level in a bid to meet data demands in the country’s busiest streets.

With today’s users demanding increased connectivity but refusing to allow MNOs to place more antennas due to aesthetics, an interesting conundrum has been created. One solution to this challenge is to place mobile equipment in street furniture such as manhole covers, lamp-posts and phone boxes.

“We are committed to providing customers with the best network possible by drawing on our strengths in innovation and strong UK heritage,” said Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery.

“It is great to be able to use yesterday’s infrastructure – from phone boxes to manhole covers – to deliver the services of tomorrow.  This is one of the ways we are extending our 4G services to areas other networks cannot reach and getting ready for 5G.”

One of the issues which UK MNOs face in comparison to other countries throughout Europe are the restrictions placed on new mobile sites. Planning permission can be scuppered thanks to quinoa-qwaffling locals who feel antennas would not be aesthetically pleasing, while maximum mast heights are notably smaller than other states. This means more have to be placed to compensate. Consumers are demanding the end of not spots but are not making it easy for the MNOs to help out.

This approach from Vodafone is certainly some outside (or below) the box thinking, while it also simplifies the process of installing new equipment. The antennas can be installed without any construction or street works, while the look of the street does not change. Vodafone have already installed two types of mobile-enabled manhole covers at its Newbury office which can carry calls and provide fast internet access over a 200-metre radius without consuming much power.

Another example is up in Edinburgh, where the team is fitting the roofs of traditional phone boxes with small 4G antennas. This also solves another issue when it comes to remote locations, as the phone boxes are already hooked up to the grid with connectivity infrastructure and power lines.

Although the stuffiness of locals and bureaucracy can make it difficult for MNOs to meet demands, it does encourage more creative thinking. Another excellent example of this is over at SSE.

Back in September, SSE signed an agreement with both Three and O2 to make use of the Thames Water waste water network to improve connectivity backhaul capabilities. In other words, cabling would be run through the sewers instead of having to dig trenches on the streets specifically.

Creatively making use of what is already there will be an increasingly important aspect of the connectivity mix, especially in cities like London, which have not been designed for the internet and where the locals are particularly irked by any minor disturbance to their lives. It’s a good idea, but we’ll leave the sewer exploration to someone else.

How to get your business VoIP-connected without stumbling and falling

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Nick Johnson, CEO of Evolving Networks, looks at some of the confusion over connectivity for VoIP and how to overcome it.

Monopolies are seldom evil conspiracies but we all know where they lead – consumers end up with little or no choice and higher costs. Irrespective of industry or product, the monopoly dictates the suppliers, products, services or solutions that suit them, rather than offering what fits the consumer’s precise requirements.

That makes it interesting when disruptors enter the same marketplace and cause everyone to reassess how things are done.

In the IT and telecoms sector, new arrivals are typically more agile, have much greater focus on innovation and are able to offer the market better alternatives, either in terms of cost or functionality, or both. The established providers suddenly realise the upstart presents a real challenge to their cosy monopoly.

The mis-selling of connectivity for VoIP is a good example of this phenomenon. Established enterprise carriers have been operating in a set way for several years, using the age-old principle of fear, uncertainty and doubt to convince organisations they can’t possibly have a VoIP infrastructure with anything less than a leased line. No, to do so is just is out of the question.

This hidebound view that VoIP will only work with a leased line was certainly valid a decade ago. Now, however, with the emergence of better technology, better connectivity, and the arrival of innovators in the market with proven solutions, the customer has a wealth of other options. Gaining ground fast is multi-path ethernet delivered via an uncontended, multi-VNO access network with seamless integration of software and monitoring. It makes VoIP work brilliantly and the pedlars of leased lines are, at the very least, mistaken, when they say it won’t.

This optimised capability is especially worth considering when there is an increased push for VoIP in light of BT’s commitment to stop selling ISDN lines and public switched telephone network (PSTN) circuits by 2020. The technology is set to be switched off altogether by 2025.

Nobody can doubt that in today’s business environment connectivity is critical; there’s simply no way around that. It is used to access applications and systems, unite staff and connect an increasingly mobile workforce. As a result, quality, speed and resilience are three non-negotiables.

VoIP’s main requirement is quality. When communicating via VoIP with colleagues, prospects and stakeholders, quality is critical which means no lags, jags or inconsistent connectivity. Not only is a leased line expensive, depending on location, it certainly won’t offer the resilience and quality needed.

So, can quality and reliability be achieved without resorting to paying for a leased line? Why can’t VoIP work on multi-path ethernet (aggregated) connections like FTTC?

The answer to that question is simple: it can. VoIP works perfectly well on multi-path connections. This is welcome news for businesses, because using multiple lines means that both the challenges of quality and resilience can be resolved. The technology of multi-path aggregated connectivity delivers real benefits to organisations of all sizes using VoIP. Aggregated lines can offer increased bandwidth and capacity, enhancing data throughput speeds and application performance, while providing built-in resilience.

The emergence of disruptive companies in the market, such as those offering SD-WAN services, has changed the state of play entirely. Not only are connections more resilient, but thanks to the application of a software layer to connectivity, they can offer additional services such as fault-finding, continuous monitoring, and prioritisation of traffic. These are vital capabilities for high-performing VoIP. Of course, not every vendor gets this right. They may, for example, lay software over the top of connectivity while possessing no means of managing that inevitable disconnect between software and infrastructure layers. As a result, it’s critical to choose the right vendor.

Is a leased line a bad idea? Apart from the cost and the lack of resilience, consider the following scenario: Your business is using VoIP, delivered and supported by a leased line. There is a fault on the line and all connectivity to your organisation fails. You have no email, no access to cloud-based applications and, even worse, no phones.

If, on the other hand, your business was making use of a multipath aggregated FTTC connection, you would never need to worry about resilience. Due to the nature of the multi-path connectivity, there are numerous connections being aggregated together from different platforms, presented as a single virtual connection. If one line from one provider fails, there is another one (or more) to pick up the slack and ensure connectivity is uninterrupted.

Stimulating a mind-shift from established assumptions is never easy, but it is necessary to push the industry forward. When we examine connectivity, it’s clearly no longer sufficient to do the same things we’ve been doing for the past ten years. The market has moved on, end-user and business requirements have become more demanding and new ways of tackling fast-emerging challenges are urgently required.

Telcos are still misleading consumer in broadband ads – FTTH Council

The FTTH Council Europe has written an open letter to various regulatory bodies bemoaning the care-free attitudes of telco marketers and PR ‘gurus’ when promoting their services.

This is of course not a new issue being raised by the FTTH Council, but it is a persistent one. The wider story is the telco’s ‘creative’ relationship with the truth in advertising, though the problem seems to be greater in the world of fibre connectivity.

“Misusing the word fibre in advertisements prevents the consumers from making an informed choice about the products which are available to them and risks hindering fibre take-up,” FTTH Council Europe President Ronan Kelly states.

“Where consumers know what they can choose from and understand the difference in performance between fibre and copper-based connections, they consciously choose fibre: the degree of satisfaction of FTTH end-users is substantially higher than recorded for any other Internet access technology in Sweden and 94% of non-FTTH users would consider subscribing to FTTH if it was made available in their area.”

Perhaps one of the biggest issues is the consumer does not need to care that much for the moment. As most broadband services are sold on speed, fibre is largely un-necessary. Your correspondent does not have a full-fibre broadband connection for the moment, and nothing comes to mind when thinking about poor or sub-standard performance. However, the issue is tomorrow’s world of connectivity.

Our digital lives are becoming more demanding of connectivity, and while there might not be many consumer services which explicitly need fibre-performance today, this will not be the case tomorrow. However, if telcos are using misleading advertising to sell copper-based services, the consumer will soon decide there is no material difference. Accusations will be thrown towards the telco when connectivity standards fail to meet the demands of tomorrow’s services, though it will only be the telcos fault for pitching the two products as more-or-less the same.

The other point which is worth making is that misleading advertising is wrong. No question about it. Unfortunately, the ‘creative’ relationship with transparency is a bad habit the telcos seem to be struggling to break free from.

Just as we have rid ourselves of the ‘up to’ metric, which was very little other than dishonest, claims of ‘fibre-like’ or ‘fibre speeds’ are still in the industry. The consumer is paying honest money to be informed, and there should not be a requirement to fact check the claims of telcos, or any other advertiser for that matter. We’re surprised this point even has to be made.

What is worth noting is the broad-brush here. There are of course honest telcos, while there are also regulators who are working hard to combat the misleading claims. The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) in the UK has re-worked the rules to ensure telcos can only claim genuine average speeds in advertising, though its research claims ‘fibre’ is not a top priority for consumers who viewed the term as a buzzword to describe speeds. Little has been done to stomp out the misleading use of ‘fibre’ therefore the telcos are free to compound the connectivity misunderstanding. It’s short-sighted, though this is not the first time we have said this about a public organization.

“Acting on misleading fibre advertising is in the interest of all European citizens and businesses but is also in the interest of Europe’s global digital competitiveness and sustainability,” said Kelly.

“Therefore we urge Member States, National Regulatory Authorities and BEREC to take action both individually and collectively to prevent misleading fibre advertising. This will contribute to unlocking the investment potential in fibre across Europe as well as to ensuring that consumers can make well informed choices based on genuine, transparent information.”

UK Gov reserves £6.8bn to realise 5G dream by 2027

The UK Government has released a report which outlines £600 billion investments in national infrastructure, including £6.8 billion to make 5G a reality by 2027 and nationwide full fibre coverage by 2033.

The National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline 2018 is much more than digital infrastructure, though it is nice to see a hefty chunk of change being directed towards tomorrow’s connectivity challenges. Over the next three years, the plan is to fund 11 digital infrastructure projects and programmes with a total value of £6.8 billion nationwide full fibre coverage by 2033 and 5G deployment to the majority of the country by 2027.

What is worth noting is not all of this cash will be coming from the public coffers. Of the total, it appears the government will be providing £700 million of new investment, while the rest will be sourced from private investment and public-private partnerships, or has already been allocated.

Some of the projects noted in the pipeline include Virgin Media’s Project Lightning (which won’t receive any public funding), BDUK’s rural full-fibre programme will receive £200 million across the three years, while £529 million will be directed towards 700 MHz Clearance Programme, which is expected to be completed by May 2020.

It might also be worth noting these are not new projects, and not all of them will be receiving additional funding. This report seems to be an effective summary of the major programmes and initiatives the government is involved in.

“We are committed to renewing our infrastructure to drive economic growth in all parts of the United Kingdom,” said the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick. “Over the course of this Parliament, investment in economic infrastructure will reach the highest sustained levels in over 40 years. And as the pace of technological change accelerates, we are stepping up our commitment to digital infrastructure, use of data to drive greater productivity and embrace new methods of construction.”

In terms of the programmes which have been identified, they are as follows:

  1. Virgin Media’s Project Lightning, a project to extend the firm’s fibre-rich network to approximately four million additional premises over the next five years. This project will receive £1.8 billion in funding over the three years, though none will come directly from public coffers
  2. The 700 MHz Clearance Programme, which aims to clear this important frequency band for mobile broadband and compensate current license holders for the loss of spectrum, will have £529 million, all of which will come from direct government investment
  3. BT’s FTTP and 4G expansion plans will receive $3 billion, all of which will come from private investment or public-private partnerships
  4. Various alt-nets, such as CityFibre or HyperOptic, will receive funds through private investment or public-private partnerships totalling £1.5 billion
  5. Mobile upgrade work has been highlighted, costing a total of $4 billion from 2017-2021, though the government will only be contributing £34 million
  6. BDUK’s superfast broadband programme will receive £337 million across the three years, though it is worth noting this is a longer-term programme which has been receiving funding since 2012
  7. The Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund, has already received £400 million, which will be matched by private bodies, to invest in new fibre networks over the next 4 years
  8. BDUK’s local broadband programme has been included but it will not receive any additional funds through the next three years
  9. As with above, BDUK’s rural programme will not receive any additional funds
  10. The 5G test beds and trials have also been included in the list, though it seems the £200 million already allocated is deemed sufficient
  11. CityFibre’s full fibre programme will receive £2.5 billion in funds, though this is through private investment or public-private partnerships, and this investment has already been accounted for in previous years

The report is essentially a report card to hand out to various stakeholders to give greater transparency into how the government is spending tax-payers cash. With the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review unveiled in July, and promising great things for this small island, it is nice to get a bit more clarity on how the grand connectivity ambitions are going to be realised.

Speak to the right people and Africa is about much more than just the digital divide

Yesteryear’s conversation in Africa was all about balancing the commercial realities of bridging the digital divide, but this year’s AfricaCom has showcased the bigger ambitions of South Africa.

Perhaps we haven’t been giving the right people the podium in the past, but the conversation in Africa has always been focused on the same thing. How do you deliver connectivity to the masses on a continent which has significantly lower ARPU than more developed regions? While this is still a priority, this year’s AfricaCom conference is demonstrating there are bigger ambitions than simply enhancing coverage.

Yesterday we heard MTN’s ambitions to create a more agile organization which operates in the OTT space and can be branded as a digital services beast, and this morning’s presentations had a smart city twist. It might seem odd that we’re discussing such advanced ideas when basic connectivity is an issue, but why not? If Africa is going to compete in the digital era these conversations need to happen now, and these individuals need to be given their time in the limelight. The smart city segment in South Africa is an excellent example.

Looking at Cape Town, Omeshnee Naidoo, the city’s Director of Information Systems, told the audience the city has a fibre spine 1000km long but the project is still at the starting gate. The infrastructure rollout is set to finish in 2021, while the team has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Google to provide public wifi. The next step is figuring out how the initiative can now incorporate the citizens.

Johannesburg is in a similar position. Lawrence Boya, the smart city Director, said the city also has a fibre spine 1000km long, and currently more than 1500 public wifi spots. The challenge now is optimising the infrastructure and making sure government services are making use of the assets not going down the private route. Boya also highlighted the team are trying to figure out how to take the concept of smart cities down to a personal level for the citizens.

In both of these examples, steady progress is being made and the idea of the smart city might not be that far away. More government help is needed, both from a policy side as Boya highlighted South Africa currently lacks the framework to make smart cities sustainable, but also collaboration. Naidoo suggested public sector across the board in South Africa is far too siloed. To be fair to some local governments however, data sets have been opened up to the general public, providing the fuel for these new ideas.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to be honest, but perhaps we are guilty of pigeon holing Africa. Too many people, and admittedly Telecoms.com does this too often, suggest the only challenges in Africa are focused on expanding the connectivity footprint. This is patronising and ignores the excellent work which is happening further up the stack. It’s not the case that these initiatives are difficult to find, but maybe we need to give them more airtime instead of taking the easy ‘Africa needs to improve connectivity’ angle.

Google’s Loon is actually starting to look like a genuine business

The idea of using balloons floating 20km above the earth to provide connectivity quite frankly sounds bat-sh*t, but Google’s Loon is actually starting to look like a feasible business.

Google is a company which certainly attracts criticism, but you cannot argue with the creativity which is nurtured. The company has a knack of taking an idea which no-one has much commercial faith in and running with it.

Take Google Maps as an excellent example. For years it was nothing more than a helpful tool for users, but now it is turning into a commercial success. And Loon might just be the next moonshot to make waves. Speaking at AfricaCom, Alastair Westgarth, CEO of Loon, gave some insight into progress being made at the business, but also some of the challenges faced when attempting to use balloons to deliver the internet to some of the worlds digital baron lands.

Loon started life as ‘Project Loon’, one of the freewheeling ideas to come out of the mysterious X labs at Google. The idea was initially conceived in 2012 as a means to connect the five billion people around the world who are still without the internet, and named so purely because of the audacity of the concept. Last year, with the team gathering pace, the ‘Project’ part of the name was dropped and the company spun out into its own separate company. Justification for the confidence came soon after, with the team signing its first commercial customer in Telecom Kenya.

“Something which we’re really excited to announce today is that we have all our necessary regulatory approval in Kenya for our operations,” said Westgarth.

“It took a long time, it took partnership with government, partnerships with regulators as well as the MNO you’re working with. As we went on that journey we’ve been working with Liquid Telecom, Nokia, working with Telecom Kenya to install ground stations to connect the balloons, and that process is almost complete. Also we’ve been making sure we have the interconnection between where the Telecom Kenya ground infrastructure is and where our ground infrastructure is, so when someone finally connects to a balloon the signal goes all the way through from our balloon to Telecom Kenya.”

What Westgarth pointed out is this is not a substitute for traditional infrastructure, but an opportunity to enhance coverage. With each balloon capable of delivering a 5000 square km cone of LTE connectivity, this is an opportunity for those countries who deal with hostile environments to deliver the internet and bridge the digital divide in areas where traditional infrastructure is a no go. Westgarth pointed out around 50-60% of the world’s land mass is yet to receive the connectivity euphoria.

With the technology and concept validated, the challenge now is to make Loon a viable business.

“As much as we want to do good things in the world, we also want to be a profitable business,” said Westgarth.

The technology has more than proved its value after launches in Peru following an earthquake which decimated Telefonica’s network, as well as Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. These were ventures which justified the six years of struggles attempting to keep a balloon the size of a tennis court in the air for more than a month, while also keeping it juiced up and automating the steering.

This was a challenge which took ages according to Westgarth, as engineers had to learn how to read wind forecasts, before applying that to the balloons logistics, and then automating the process. It turns out getting a balloon to stay in the same place is a tricky task, as is getting it up in the air in the first place. The engineers had to design a completely custom launch system which, again, has been automated. Then you have to figure out how to monitor the health of the asset, as well as bring it down safely, in the right place and collect all the equipment.

The issue now is on the commercial side. The team are talking to various operators around the world, with particular enthusiasm from Africa and South America, though business is being massaged as the team search for the right balance between CAPEX and OPEX investments from the operators. Right now the balloons operate on an as-a-Service model, though you have to remember this is still early days, a business which is very much taking the first steps of its journey.

The focus will continue to be on Telecom Kenya for the moment, it is important to nail the first project or the business will never be a success, though Westgarth hopes to have more customers in 2019. Africa is seemingly the best opportunity for Loon, though having done most of the testing in South America, there is interest from the operators, while certain Asian markets fit the bill as well.

The balloons are now up there, and staying up, the boring commercial side has to be figured out now. However, this is just another example of how Google’s bold and adventurous attitude can reap rewards; it’s not an accident Google is one of the most influential companies on earth. And now even 20km above it…

TIP offers start-ups a new way into the telco business

With internet traffic continuing to accelerate and innovation starting to stagnate, new ideas are needed to stimulate the telco industry. For the Telecom Infra Project team, start-ups could be the answer.

There have of course been numerous examples of start-ups disrupting an industry or creating an entirely new segment. Think of WhatsApp impact on the world of messaging or Netflix on content delivery, though navigating the waters of the telco industry can be a rough ride for start-ups. Few achieve the recognition their ideas deserve, possibly to the detriment of the industry.

“If the big players would buy them [start-ups] at a time when there is a product and they acquire them not to kill the product it would be okay,” said Axel Clauberg, VP of IP End to End & Infrastructure Cloud at Deutsche Telekom and Chairman of the Board at TIP. “We saw a couple of positive examples where it happened in the past, however many good ideas just don’t make it to that stage because when people start running a company and want to get funding by approaching a venture capitalist, suggesting their market is telco, the answer is no, sorry.”

“We were routinely being approached by start-ups who had really innovative ideas, but they were running out of money really quickly,” said Aaron Bernstein, Director, Connectivity Ecosystem Programs at Facebook and a TIP Board Member. “It was impossible for them to get the attention of VCs, and it really comes down to how do they go from zero to dollars as quickly as possible. That is what led to the creation of the TIP Ecosystem Accelerator Centre programme. How do we connect VCs who are interested in infrastructure with start-ups and operators who can create the idea of coaching to get them from zero to dollars much quicker.”

The TIP Ecosystem Acceleration Centre (TEAC) programme is an initiative which looks to creative the wrongs of telco life and bring new innovation into the fray. Several of the world’s largest Telecom Service Providers are hosting TEACs in the UK (BT), Paris (Orange), Seoul (SK Telecom) and Germany (DT), with the aim of creating breakthrough technologies that reimagine telecom infrastructure. TIP is an initiative which is all about doing something different to stimulate innovation, and accessing untapped ideas in the start-ups is certainly one way to go about.

Whether it is the procurement cycle, the cut-throat nature of acquisition or simply running out of funds, gaining traction in the telco world is an incredibly difficult task for start-ups. Perhaps this is the reason the industry moves at such a sluggish pace compared to the internet players of Silicon Valley who embrace the concept of start-ups, but for a healthier ecosystem, all ideas need to be taken into account.

For the moment, the TEACs are small scale, but every idea has to start somewhere. Start-ups could be the saving grace the telco world needs to stimulate innovation and recapture lost revenues, but the ecosystem has to change to embrace them.