40% of the world’s population on 5G by 2025, says GSMA

GSMA’s Director General spoke at Huawei’s MBBF 2018 event, talking up the prospect and promises of 5G and artificial intelligence

Mats Granryd, the Director General of the telecom trade organisation GSMA made a keynote speech themed on “intelligent connectivity” at Huawei’s MBB 2018 event at London’s ExCel today. Granryd put spotlight on 5G and AI as the key enablers to what the telecom industry has to offer in the years to come.

In addition to predicting that 70% of the world’s population, or roughly 6 billion people will be on mobile internet, GSMA forecast 40% of the world population will be on 5G networks. When it comes to AI, on top of improving individual experience (e.g. Personal Assistants) and serving new industry needs (e.g. network slicing), Granryd highlighted what the combined AI capabilities can do for society. The GSMA’s “Big Data for Social Good” initiative has launched in seven countries around the world. Mobile operators in those markets have worked with local partners to enable air pollution warning, malaria spreading prediction, and natural disaster preparedness, using big data and machine learning and prediction capabilities.

Guiqing Liu, EVP of China Telecom, the world’s largest integrated operators in the world by subscriber number, then took the stage to share what China Telecom saw as the biggest opportunity for telecom operators to undertake the digital transformation, especially with the ascendency of industry markets. Liu included four key capabilities the industry in particular the operators need to master to succeed in the transformation. They are: end-to-end slicing to cater to different user and industry needs; FMC edge computing to deliver seamless experience; 5G+Cloud based network and services to provide flexible and special customisation; and 5G+AI to both optimise service delivery and network management.

Liu also outlined the key challenges the industry is facing before 5G can become a real commercial success. He conceded that use cases now are still very much focused on eMBB, and the industry has not thought through how to change business models in the new era, including how to bill customers for the new use cases. On network challenges, in addition to the CAPEX and OPEX and skill gap, Liu also pointed the indoor coverage weakness intrinsic of the high frequency bands most 5G networks will be built on.

Alibaba Cloud opened two data centres in London

The e-commerce giant Alibaba is challenging Amazon and Microsoft in cloud service by adding London to its global data centre map.

If anything can indicate that the world is still confident in the UK as a business hub, amidst all the confusions over deal or no deal of Brexit, new investment from Alibaba can certainly do. The cloud service division of the e-commerce giant, Alibaba Cloud, announced on Monday that it is opening two data centres in London.

“Our decision on the location is driven by the rapidly growing customer demand in the U.K. The United Kingdom is one of the fastest growing European markets for Alibaba Cloud,” said an Alibaba spokesperson. “We are also working with many global and local partners to make sure we are offering best-in-class technologies, services and consulting to customers.”

Among the services the data centres will provide include a so-called “elastic computing”, which is a dynamic system to manage traffic spikes in the network, as well as deliver application services and big data analytics. Alibaba Cloud’s UK clients come from sectors like retail, finance, media, education, research, and logistics, and include public companies like the software maker SDL and the B2B media and event company Ascential.

Cloud service has become a key battlefield for the webscale companies and are clearly delivering results for the market leaders. Over 60% of Amazon’s operating income was from AWS, its cloud service division, in the first half of 2018, while Azure has been the most stellar performer among all Microsoft products.

Meanwhile cloud services have also attracted unwelcome following. According to a report by PwC, “Red Apollo”, a hacking group based in China, launched a series of sustained cyber-attacks last year, specifically targeting cloud service providers. The logic goes that, if they could break the defence of a major cloud service, they would be able to spread spying tools and malware to all the companies on these outsourcing services.

London joins Frankfurt to form Alibaba Cloud’s network in Europe. By the time the new data centres are up and running the company will have 52 data centres sites in 19 regions for its cloud service.

Only one in four businesses are ready for digital era – Vodafone

Despite dawn breaking on the digital economy, Vodafone claims only 24% of businesses globally could reasonably call themselves cyber ready, but those who are should prepare themselves for a cash boost.

Releasing its Cyber Ready Barometer, a report to measure how firms are progressing towards the digital era, Vodafone states the average score for UK businesses in terms of cyber readiness is 46/100, with only 34% of businesses achieving ‘Advanced’ status. Those who are classed as ‘Cyber Ready’ scored 4.3/5 for reported stakeholder trust (customers, employees and regulators) while 47% reported annual revenue increasing by at least 5% in the last 12 months.

“From our perspective the biggest takeaway from the research was how few business are truly cyber ready and how many were not doing the basic controls,” said Vodafone Enterprise Cyber Security Lead Maureen Kaplan. “The need to protect organizations is absolutely critical but only one in four are actually proactive. That is worrying from a societal view point.”

One of the reasons for this could be a disconnect between the IT department and the employees within the business. While the IT department is searching for new ways to make the business digital ready, Kaplan worries whether right steps are being made and even if the department has a complete understanding of the business.

A good example of this is the growing mobility trend in the UK. On average, the IT department believes 43% of staff use their own device for work, while 63% of employees stated they do so. A significant proportion of those using smartphones or personal computers for work purposes could be deemed a threat to the organization.

With the UK government targeting digital as a means to ensure the economy remains competitive in the post-Brexit era, these statistics should be quite a worry. That said, perhaps a bigger concern is the security aspect of the piece.

Cyber ready isn’t simply a case of being capable of achieving new revenues, securing data, both customer and business, is just as critical. Aside from the impact this can have on relationships with customers, the financial penalties for not meeting the required standards are starting to ramp up very quickly. Interestingly enough, those who have been the victim of a data breach are generally deemed more cyber ready than those who haven’t.

That said, looking at the business case, Kaplan suggests the idea of being cyber ready and secure can be used as a differentiator. 34% of consumers said they are increasingly aware of security threats being discussed in the media, 70% consider themselves to be at risk of a cyber-attack or online threat, while 63% have stopped using at least one online service due to security concerns. 43% don’t trust the security of companies they still use.

When it comes to consumer adoption of the digital economy the trends do seem to be increasing despite these security concerns. The average consumer currently now uses nine different connected devices at home and eleven different online services, ranging from online banking to gaming and fitness trackers. Concern is highest about the security of mobiles devices (83%) and computers (82%), but newer devices like voice assistants (60%) and smart home controls (53%) are also a cause for concern. Financial data is naturally the biggest worry, though only 51% expressed concern about using social media and only 45% online dating services. These are less obvious threats, though personal information taken from these services can be used to build profiles on users to navigate around security protocols (security questions for example) or create fake accounts for authentication.

In terms of the business opportunity, 59% of the research’s respondents suggest they would be prepared to pay a premium for higher levels of security on the products and services which they use. This claim suggests there is a business case and revenues to be won through a greater focus on security, though only 29% of businesses see there are significant financial benefits from having higher levels of security. With 71% of businesses not recognising the opportunity, and 59% of consumers prepared to pay a premium for peace of mind, there is certainly money to be made through security.

While much of the world looks at security as a box ticking exercise, simply remaining compliant and avoiding hefty fines, that is not the message Vodafone; being secure can be a way to make money as well.

Nokia ties the knot with Tencent for 5G R&D

Nokia has entered into a partnership with China’s internet giant Tencent to undertake 5G related R&D for webscale companies.

An MOU was signed in MWC Asia in Shanghai between the two companies to set up a full-fledged 5G lab in Shenzhen, China, where Tencent’s headquarters are. WeChat, the crown jewel of Tencent’s plethora of apps and services, is more a platform at the centre of an ecosystem than a standalone app. It has more than 1 billion monthly active users who make payments, hail car rides, order takeaway foods, among other things, as well as messaging, sharing pictures and videos, and networking that WeChat started out to do.

As Tencent further diversifies itself to other industries, including its recent entry into connected cars and autonomous driving, 5G’s promised capabilities, in particular edge-computing to vast reduce latency will be critical. By entering into a partnership with Nokia, which is strong in R&D, Tencent has a chance to influence how the 5G technologies can be applied to certain use cases. No wonder then the focus of the lab will be on selected verticals that Tencent has special interest in, with transportation, energy, entertainment, etc. being highlighted.

It is also a smart move by Nokia, who desperately needs to find new growth opportunities than selling more network gears to telecom operators, in particular when operators in Europe, Nokia’s traditional markets, are more cautious in rushing into 5G than their counterparts in North America and Asia.

As Nokia told Telecoms.com’s Jamie Davies, interest in 5G in Asia is more on the ways to scalability. This is an ideal case to test scalability. While it is an internet giant in every sense, Tencent is highly concentrated in China. For Nokia this would be a controlled experiment and would be valuable when it knocks on the doors of other local heavyweights like Alibaba, as well the truly global webscale companies like Google and Facebook.

MWC Shanghai: Co-creation and collaboration becoming the new buzz of 5G

Buzzwords are nothing new to the telecoms and tech space, but 2018 is starting to see the rise of a few more; co-creation and collaboration

In most cases, vendors and telcos use tech-orientated buzzwords to dazzle, amaze and confuse customers, but this is a new type of euphoria. Its softer, less tangible and more acute. Co-creation and collaboration are necessary aspects of developing the digital economy, but purely by the flexible nature of the concepts, the buzz-bending, hype-escalating PR ‘gurus’ of the industry are going to have some fun here.

The definition and application of the two words are relatively simple on the surface. 5G can potentially take telcos beyond the realms of connectivity utility, providing an opportunity to become more of a consultative service provider. Instead of selling SIMs, telcos will be able to evolve offerings to be more than connectivity for enterprise customers. This means solutions which can proactively improve the efficiency of business operations.

Think of intelligent factories, smart cities or autonomous vehicles. In these examples, connectivity can be used to enhance the business, instead of just making it work. But before this dream of new revenues can be realised, the business needs to be transformed and new solutions need to be imagined.

This is where co-creation and collaboration comes into play. Telcos cannot simply knock on the door of a customer with a 5G offering and say ‘here you go, have come capacity, bandwidth and latency’, a solution specific to the industry, or the individual business, has to be created. It is a different type of business model.

One company which is taking this approach is NTT Docomo. Speaking during MWC Shanghai, CEO of Docomo Beijing Labs, Lan Chen told us the team now has more than 1400 industry partners, with plans to continue to grow. Chen said each of the partners were working with the Docomo research team to create products specific to industry, whether it would be AI-driven taxi solutions which predict demand or virtual assistants which are contextually aware. These partners range from technologists in enterprise organizations, to the internet giants like Baidu, as well as academic researchers. The point is they have experience in building services and products specific to the verticals.

Docomo is defining this research as co-creation, and there are already examples of services in the real world. Chen said there are several taxi companies working in Japan and China to hone the predictive demand service, and while it is not perfect, progress is certainly being made.

Elsewhere on the agenda, Intel had the chance to beat its chest and declare how collaborative it is. Robert Topple, GM of the 5G Advanced Technologies group, pointed to the work the team is doing with operators around the world to discover the future benefits of 5G.

“Important thing about 5g is the need to focus on scale not speed,” said Topple. “When you architect, it’s important that you build the foundation for bigger ideas in the future.

“Need to be software defined, virtualised wherever they are, but also built for the use cases of tomorrow. 5g is not about today.”

Looking at the R&D work, in Sydney the team is working with Telstra and Ericsson to use 5G to support eSports. This is something which is very unique; gamers can become content creators inside the game as opposed to linear content platforms of the past. This impacts the way in which you build 5G for gaming. In Japan there is work with Docomo applying mobility concepts into vehicles. The need here is to make sure an effective handoff between base stations and radio heads occurs, while also maintaining the experience. With autonomous vehicle the environment will change from a cockpit to passenger experience, which Topple highlighted changes the way which we need to think about connectivity and engagement.

Other projects included drones in China for maintenance of the Great Wall of China, an initiative with AT&T in the US for create wireless networks to support 4K video content and smart mining projects in Estonia with Telia. Each of these examples build the case for collaboration.

A final example is a conversation with Jane Rygaard, Head of 5G Marketing at Nokia. Rygaard pointed to the development of 5G networks and Bristol is Open as a great of example of where collaboration can work brilliantly. In Bristol, the initiative has evolved into a mish-mash of university academics, the local authorities and private industry all collaborating with the aim of making 5G accessible and successful for the digital economy. It accounts for different perspectives, ultimately making connectivity more useful.

Bristol is fast becoming one of the most technologically advanced cities in Europe, but it pales in comparison to some of the Asia metro areas. Bristol has a population of roughly 450k, which allows for some interesting PoCs, but China has 120 cities with a population of more than one million people. The scale, should collaboration be done effectively, offers great opportunity to apply variables on PoCs and collect mountains of data to hone models and services.

Collaboration and co-creation might seem like a simple idea, but the foundations of the telco business need to be sturdy and thorough. Such practices need a new structure and external contributions to be a success, something which is starting to catch on in Europe now. That said, the Asian telcos are miles ahead.

Walking around the exhibition floor, the industrial use cases were clear. Almost every stand had elements of enterprise emblazoned on the temporary walls and stacked high in the marketing literature. Asia has been thinking about this evolution for some time, adapting business models, moulding the ecosystem and liaising with external partners to create a more fluid and innovative environment. Industrial applications, the solutions and the communication strategies to engage customers are much more mature.

Collaboration and co-creation might seem like fluffy buzzwords which can fuel the lofty ambitions of creative PR powerhouses, but there is substance to the claim. Those who genuinely embrace the fundamental changes to business which collaboration demands will find themselves in an attractive position to reap the rewards of the enterprise connectivity game. Those who simply use the buzz to empower the marketing department will soon be found out.

Apple and Accenture announce alluring alliance

Apple and Accenture have jumped into bed with each other to create a new digital agency which will help customers design business solutions for iOS.

It’s a relatively simple idea; the digital economy is growing and people want to make money off it, but they don’t know how. In theory, when you take experts from one of the largest business consultancies in the world, and put them together with Apple employees, they should be able to make your idea more compatible with the iPhone or iPad.

Accenture will create dedicated iOS practices within Accenture Digital Studios, its consultancy unit to capitalize on the digital transformation craze, at several locations around the world offering expertise which the customer may not already have access to. These skills include visual and experience designers, programmers, data architects and scientists, and hardware and software designers.

This is not a complex idea. Accenture knows enterprise IT systems, Apple knows about the iPhone and iPad. Bring them together and they can optimize your apps and business processes for the devices.

It might also be worth noting that this is not a particularly new idea from the Apple team. Similar partnerships, focusing on optimizing business for iOS, are currently in place with the likes of Cisco, Deloitte, IBM and SAP.

“Starting 10 years ago with iPhone, and then with iPad, Apple has been transforming how work gets done, yet we believe that businesses have only just begun to scratch the surface of what they can do with our products,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.

“Both Apple and Accenture are leaders in building incredible user experiences and together we can continue to truly modernise how businesses work through amazing solutions that take advantage of the incredible capabilities of Apple’s technologies.”

“Based on our experience in developing mobile apps, we believe that iOS is the superior mobile platform for businesses and are excited to be partnering with Apple,” said Pierre Nanterme, Accenture CEO. “By combining Accenture’s vast digital capabilities and industry expertise with Apple’s market leadership in creating products that delight customers, we are in a perfect position to help our clients transform the way they work.”

The new proposition will be an attractive one for those who want to tap into the fortunes being held by iLifers. But perhaps there is something more here, maybe this is the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend in its most real form.

In years gone, a basic Android operated device, or perhaps even a Blackberry were the options for staff on the go. Now with so many individuals choosing their own devices, and many of them being dedicated iPilgrims, there is of course a need to optimize any apps, processes or functions for the iOS platform as well. After all, if you want your staff to work while on holiday or the toilet, you have to give them the right tools to be able to do so.