Telefónica pulls its SOCs up with Nokia’s help

Operator group Telefónica is changing its UK Network Operations Center into a Service Operations Center to show how customer-centric it is.

That was the distilled message from a press launch in central London this morning, co-hosted by its vendor for this project – Nokia. Building a SOC will allow O2 UK to make customer-led, as opposed to engineering-led, decisions about its network, we were told by Brandan O’Reilly, the CTO of O2 UK.

Telefónica has apparently already got started on this process in some of its other markets, including Chile and Germany, but this is a first for the UK and also the first time Nokia has been the vendor. So this seems like a big deal for them – hence the press event.

Tim Smith, VP of Nokia Software Europe, explained its SOC platform aggregates and standardises the various network data feeds in order to be able to compare and optimise them. It’s all about being proactive rather than reactive when it comes to network management and AI seems to play a big part, as you might expect.

A lot of the questions from the grizzled telecoms hacks in attendance focused on what specific benefits a SOC offers over a NOC and how they might be measured. While reduced churn is an obvious way to track ‘customer delight’, as Smith put it, Telefonica has its own metric called NCX (Network Customer Experience), which is currently at 79 and O’Reilly hopes will jump by at least a couple of points as a result of this shift. Here are the canned quotes from the press release.

“Telefónica has always aimed to offer the best possible experience to our customers which a reactive network monitoring approach to operations could never guarantee,” said Juan Manuel Caro, director of network and IT operations at Telefónica. “With SOC we have already transformed this in three of our markets reaching the next level in automated customer experience management, granting us flexibility and adaptability that serves as a key differentiator. Nokia’s solutions and services will allow us to achieve this goal in a competitive market like the UK.”

“Telefónica is pioneering the transformation toward customer-centric operations with the deployment of Nokia eSOC,” said Bhaskar Gorti, president of Nokia Software. “Nokia is proud to support Telefónica’s digital transformations and SOC deployments across the globe and with the flexibility to adapt to existing ecosystems in local markets.”

This all seems like quite a lot of effort to go to just to labour the ‘customer-centric’ concept that has become endemic to the point of cliché in the business world. But to be fair to both companies they are at least announcing concrete measures being taken in pursuit of that aim and thus holding themselves publicly accountable for delivering it.

Ericsson calls BS on its full-stack BSS

Kit vendor Ericsson has started the year by writing down almost $700 million to account for the fact that its latest BSS efforts have turned out to be a non-starter.

Its Q4 numbers will feature costs of around SEK 6.1 billion related to the ‘reshaping’ of its BSS (Business Support System) business, half of which will be customer compensations and write-downs, and half of which will be restructuring charges. It looks like Ericsson has concluded this is the only way to get its struggling Digital Services division back on track.

“The company’s past BSS strategy included pursuing large transformation projects based on pre-integrated solutions, including development of a next generation BSS platform, the full-stack Revenue Manager,” said the announcement. “The strategy has not been successful and to date the full-stack Revenue Manager has not generated any revenues.

“The anticipated customer demand for a full-stack pre-integrated BSS solution has not materialized. Delays in product and feature development has also made the full-stack Revenue Manager less competitive. R&D resources in BSS have been focused on full-stack Revenue Manager, causing further delays in product releases of the established platform. In addition, certain complex transformation projects experienced delays and cost overruns.”

No revenues at all? Damn! You have to question the due diligence that ‘anticipated customer demand for a full-stack pre-integrated BSS solution,’ when none whatsoever materialised. Furthermore another SEK 1.5 billion will need to be accounted for over the course of this year, taking the total bill to around $860 billion. Ericsson does still see value in its established platform, Ericsson Digital BSS, which apparently has a decent installed base, so it’s not pulling out of BSS entirely.

A big part of Börje Ekholm’s strategy since he took over has been to dial back some of the over-reach that characterised the Vestberg era. “Ericsson is applying a selective approach to large transformation projects focusing on projects based on available products,” said the latest announcement, and it’s clear that Revenue Manager was just such a project. Ekholm deserves some credit for continuing to look facts in the face and take decisive action.

Samsung reckons its new smartphone UI is more intuitive than ever

The latest user interface for Samsung smartphones – One UI – tries to account for larger screens while avoiding excessive clutter.

“These days, our smartphones are so much more than phones,” opens the press release, apparently hoping to convey Samsung’s profound understanding of the current smartphone situation. All this extra functionality, we’re told, has caused many UIs to become cluttered. This is not a trap Samsung is about to fall into anytime soon.

“Samsung’s One UI is the company’s most simple and streamlined UI yet, built from the ground up to help users focus on what matters most,” effuses the release. “One UI’s intuitive design fosters convenient interactions, while its clean aesthetic minimizes clutter to make viewing your screen more comfortable.”

One fairly sensible innovation is to force most of the stuff you might need to interact with towards the bottom of the screen, where the average thumb has a better chance of reaching it. Now that smartphone screen sizes in excess of six inches have become commonplace, superhuman feats of manual yoga are often required to interact with them, which can be trying.

Somewhat less welcome is the apparent aim of presuming how much of a given app the user might want to see at a given moment. In order to do this “One UI keeps things simple, displaying only the functions and info the user needs to complete their task.” This seems pretty presumptuous and an example of a company overstepping the mark in its desperation to innovate and appear to be useful.

Xdadevelopers had a good play with One UI recently and concluded little more than grudging acceptance of its inevitability, given the evolution of the smartphone form factor. Custom UIs are a delicate balance as they present one of the few ways for an Android OEM to appear to innovate, but a bad one can drive users away. Samsung seems to have struck an OK balance here, without setting the world on fire.

Seven success factors for partnering in the age of open source

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Susan James, Senior Director of Telecommunications Strategy at Red Hat, explores the ideal balance of in-house and outsourced talent in order to make the most of open source opportunities.

The breadth of technology knowledge that service providers now require has increased exponentially, as the number of employees is stable or in decline in most service providers, and the pool of needed specialist digital talent hasn’t been able to keep pace.

With a more diverse and collaborative ecosystem than ever before, choices are available – but what’s the right balance of making the most of your own talent versus looking externally? Here are several considerations when deciding how, when, and with whom to partner.

  1. Focus on your core business

For most companies, success comes from the core business. You have to closely examine your business and ask what your core business can provide that no one else can.

It’s easy to look at other companies and be tempted to duplicate the way they do things as a template for your own business. However, you need to recognise what’s good about your business, and focus on maximizing those aspects with innovation, rather than trying to replicate what others are doing.

When you know your core business, you can make informed decisions on what to build yourself, where to use external people to solve a problem, and what areas need third party software to do the job.

  1. Diversify to STEAM ahead

With a growing shortfall of specialized digital skills, we need to encourage people to enter emerging technology from outside of the expected STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and maths). Hence the A for ‘arts’ in the emerging term STEAM. We must be open to diverse types of skills and perspectives coming into the industry; they can help us understand the diverse customer base we all have.

In a recent internal meeting, I did a quick straw poll of how many people were engineers – less than half had an engineering background. I myself have an economics degree and ended up as a software product manager. You don’t need an engineering degree to use software, and you don’t need one to understand how to build software. I encourage you to look at your business as a whole, and what different perspectives can bring, when developing software. This applies to hiring as well as team building and partnering.

  1. Choose thought leaders

You have your core strategy and your internal teams. What’s your criteria for choosing who to team up with inside and outside your organization? Thought leadership is a priority, surely. But what makes a thought leader?

I would argue that true thought leadership today is not just someone who can solve today’s technology problems; nor is it painting a technical vision of the future. It’s recognizing the need to shape your organization with the capabilities that enable you to seize unknown opportunities that lie ahead. Red Hat’s CEO Jim Whitehurst calls this ‘organizing for innovation’. He argues that in today’s dynamic environment, planning as we know it is dead. Instead, you must build the mindset and the mechanisms that enable you to move faster and change as needed.

  1. Seek shared philosophy

Ask yourself what kind of partners you want to be associated with, and how you want to be perceived in the market. Move forward with partners whose core values align with yours. For example, as the world moves increasingly towards open source, do you want to be perceived as a leader in upstream* innovation? Do you want to be an active contributor to open source communities and help influence new features that are developed for real world needs? Or, do you desire to be a leader in technology adoption for bringing new capabilities to market? Look for a partner that displays or complements what you want to see in your business.

*Upstream communities are the projects and people that participate in open source software development and are also known as innovation engines.

  1. Prioritize honesty

Some say the measure of a true friend is someone brave enough to tell you the truth, and this can apply in business as well. Some companies aren’t used to openness and honesty that brings – they are accustomed to being told what they want to hear by partners. So when they do hear the truth, it can come as a shock. They may see it as confrontational or they may look for a second meaning.

But being honest and upfront enables companies to grow together. It provides the opportunity to quickly identify threats and know what you’re dealing with, both good and bad. Working in open source communities makes it easier to be honest about deficiencies because everyone can see them. All code is fully exposed and everyone works on the same information and code base, which allows everyone to more easily unite around common causes and problems.

When evaluating potential partners, determine their participation in open source communities, and be clear about the importance of open, honest communication in all business dealings.

  1. Establish clear partner engagement models

A relationship with a partner can be multifaceted. Collaborating in open source development is a separate engagement from working with that same partner on the business side of things, and likely looks quite different.

Upstream communities are all about rapid iteration, creativity, and innovation. Going to market with a product must be about reliability, security, and making sure the product works in practice.

It’s possible for these two areas to overlap: business needs can influence communities in a certain direction, and upstream collaboration between partners can solidify a business relationship. Or, you might work harmoniously with a company upstream, yet go out and compete with each other fiercely on the sales side.

Therefore, be clear from the outset about your engagement models and what constitutes success in each area.  If you are not able to see a “win” for both parties, then long term success of the partnership is questionable.

  1. Understand open source

The proliferation of open source across industries is allowing new players to enter markets, and existing players to work more closely together. There are different ways to leverage open source technologies, and it’s important to understand how different uses impact your business.

Downloading open source software for free doesn’t mean that it doesn’t cost you anything. If you make customizations to that open source software, you need to be aware of what you’re taking on internally. Ensuring that the software is secure ongoing and understanding how to manage the lifecycle takes resources and competence.  Making changes that are not delivered upstream requires you to manage monitoring, maintenance, support, updates (including upstream changes), and the full software lifecycle yourself.

Choosing the supported software route (enterprise version of open source community software) requires you to pay a subscription fee to a software vendor, but it’s the vendor’s job to stabilize the software, certify it works with an ecosystem of other hardware and software, ensure it is safe to use over its lifetime, and provide guidance on the best way to integrate it with the existing environment for the desired results.

Different vendors differ in their level of open source community participation. Vendors that do not contribute all changes back to upstream projects become out of sync with the community version and can no longer take advantage of community innovation.

It’s also important to note that as software development in an area becomes less cutting-edge, people can be less likely to stick around. And unless you’re recognized as a leader in that particular area, it can be hard to attract people. Such might be the challenge for a communications service provider trying to recruit talent for working on containers and competing with companies recognized for container innovation.

This relates back to your core business – what would you rather have your people working on? Where can your internal innovation and differentiation bring you the most value?

Final word

This isn’t a ‘one and done’ process – it’s cyclical. You should continually evaluate your business objectives and results in the context of what’s happening around you, and adjust your approach as you go. Remember too that it’s ok to make mistakes – it’s the mistakes that help you learn for the future. A company that is strategic in the projects it gets involved in, and one that is not afraid to change and drop the projects that aren’t successful is going to be more agile and adaptable to change.

Be open to diverse skill sets, and be honest within your organization and with your partners about what’s working and what’s not. These are all long term strategies that will best position you for success.

 

SusanJamesSusan joined Red Hat in May, 2018, after 27 years at Ericsson, where she was head of Product Line NFV infrastructure. While at Ericsson, she worked in Enterprise, Wireline, Network and Cloud organizations. She worked extensively with the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), and was responsible for a number of the network functions in the Ericsson portfolio. A product management veteran, her career has focused on developing products to address technology transitions, and the establishment of new business areas.

China issues injunctions against most Apple iPhone models – that was quick

The week after the US arranged the arrest of a Huawei exec China has granted Qualcomm an injunction prohibiting the sales of most Apple smartphones in the country. Coincidence?

Qualcomm and Apple have been at war for months over what the former charges the latter to use its technology in its devices. Apple wants to pay less and Qualcomm would rather it didn’t. A proxy war has ensued in which various regulators suddenly got hold of a bunch of dirt on Qualcomm and Apple has found itself accused of playing fast and loose with intellectual property.

They have both landed telling blows but the most recent round went to Qualcomm, with the Fuzhou Intermediate People’s Court in China granting its request for two preliminary injunctions against four Chinese subsidiaries of Apple to stop them selling importing and selling the following iPhone models: 6S, 6S Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus and X. In other words all of them bar the most recent ones, which apparently don’t use the offending patents.

“We deeply value our relationships with customers, rarely resorting to the courts for assistance, but we also have an abiding belief in the need to protect intellectual property rights,” said Don Rosenberg, Qualcomm General Counsel. “Apple continues to benefit from our intellectual property while refusing to compensate us. These Court orders are further confirmation of the strength of Qualcomm’s vast patent portfolio.”

The patents themselves seem relatively trivial and concern the user interface rather than core Qualcomm stuff like modems. They ‘enable consumers to adjust and reformat the size and appearance of photographs, and to manage applications using a touch screen when viewing, navigating and dismissing applications on their phones.’

Patent disputes are rarely about the significance of patents themselves, which are usually used as pawns in a greater battle of wills. You do have to wonder, however, since Apple seems to be able to cope just fine without them and UI software is a core strength, why it didn’t just develop its own way of doing that stuff in-house.

Apple will, of course, appeal, and the WSJ was the lucky recipient of a generic quote from one of its spokespeople. “Qualcomm’s effort to ban our products is another desperate move by a company whose illegal practices are under investigation by regulators around the world,” it went.

What is not known is how much encouragement the Chinese state gave to the Fuzhou Intermediate People’s Court to find against one of the US’s greatest business champions. It was generally assumed that the arrest of Huawei’s CFO would result in repercussions and the timing of this decision is intriguing.

It’s especially ironic that Qualcomm has been used as a vector for the latest offensive in the great Sino-American trade war since it’s widely suspected that China blocked Qualcomm’s acquisition of NXP in retaliation for the US intervening on the proposed acquisition of Qualcomm by Broadcom. It could all just be a coincidence, of course, but anything involving the US and China seems likely to be at the very least tainted by politics.

Going under the hood of Qualcomm Snapdragon 855: plenty to like

More details of Qualcomm’s first 5G chipset have been released, bringing all-round improvements, and a 5G chipset for PCs was also announced.

On the first day of its annual Snapdragon Technology Summit, Qualcomm announced its 5G chipset for mobile devices, the Snapdragon 855, but released limited specs. On the following two days more details were disclosed. An SoC for 5G-connected PCs, the Snapdragon 8cx was also unveiled.

In addition to the X50 modem for 5G connectivity (on both mmWave and sub-6GHz frequencies) and X24 modem (to provide LTE connectivity), at the centre of the Snapdragon 855 is ARM’s new flagship Cortex A76 CPU, marketed by Qualcomm as Kryo 485. It contains 8 cores with the single core top performance at 2.84 GHz. Qualcomm claims the 855 is 45% faster than its predecessor 845, though it did not specify what exactly this refers to. More importantly for Qualcomm, the top speed is 9% faster than the Kirin 980 from HiSilicon (a Huawei subsidiary), another 7-nanometre implementation of the ARM Cortex A76.

Also included in the 855 is the new Adreno 640 GPU rendering graphics. Qualcomm has focused 855’s marketing messages on gaming performance, and the GPU is at the core to deliver it. Qualcomm claims the new GPU will enable true HDR gaming, as well as support the HDR10+ and Dolby Vision formats. Together with the display IP, the Adreno 640 GPU will support 120fps gaming as well as smooth 8K 360-degree video playback. Another feature highlighted is the support for Physically Based Rendering in graphics, which will help improve VR and AR experience, including more accurate lighting physics and material interactions, for example more life-like surface texture, or material-on-material audio interaction.

The key new feature on Snapdragon’s Hexagon 690 DSP is that it now includes a dedicated Machine Learning (ML) inferencing engine in the new “tensor accelerator”. The Hexagon 690 also doubles the number of HVX vector pipelines over its predecessors the Hexagon 680 and 685, to include four 1024b vector pipelines. The doubled computing power and the dedicated ML engine combined are expected to improve the Snapdragon 855’s AI capability by a big margin.

The integrated new Spectra 380 image signalling processor (ISP) will both improve the Snapdragon’s capability to deepen acceleration and to save power consumption when processing images. Qualcomm believes the new ISP will only consume a quarter of the power as its predecessor for image object classification, object segmentation, depth sensing (at 60 FPS), augmented reality body tracking, and image stabilisation.

On the OEM collaboration side, in addition to Samsung, on day 2 of the event we also saw Pete Lau, the CEO of Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus come to the stage to endorse the new 5G chipset and vow to be the “first to feature” the Snapdragon 855. Separately, the British mobile operator EE announced that it will range a OnePlus 5G smartphone in the first half of 2019.

On the same day, thousands of miles away, more Chinese smartphone OEMs including Xiaomi, OPPO, Vivo, and ZTE (in addition to OnePlus) also embraced the new Snapdragon chipset at the China Mobile Global Partner Conference in Guangzhou, southern China. China Mobile will also launch a customer premise equipment (CPE), likely a fixed wireless access modem, using the same platform.

Back in Hawaii, on day 3 of the Snapdragon Tech Summit, Qualcomm launched a new chipset for PC: the Snapdragon 8cx (“c” for computer, “x” for eXtreme). This is Qualcomm’s third iteration of chipset for PC, built on ARM v8.1 (a variant of Cortex A76). Similar to the Snapdragon 855, the 8cx also has the X24 integrated cellular modem with for LTE connectivity, and the X50 modem with 5G connectivity can be paired with it. The CPU also has eight cores, with a top speed of 2.75 GHz. The new Adreno 680 GPU is said to process graphics twice as fast as the GPU in the previous generation ARM for Windows chipset (Snapdragon 850) but 60% more efficient in power consumption.

Perhaps the most meaningful change is its memory architecture. The Snapdragon 8cx will have a 128-bit wide interface, enabling it to provide native support for much more software and applications, including Windows 10 Enterprise and Office 365, which clearly is a sales pitch to the corporate IT departments.

Unlike the OEM support garnered by Snapdragon 855, there was no public endorsement by PC makers yet. Lenovo did come to the stage but was only talking about its Yoga 2-in-1 notebooks that have used earlier generations of Snapdragon chipsets for Windows on ARM. On the other hand, Qualcomm does not position Snapdragon 8cx as a replacement for the 850 but rather as a higher end contemporary, with 850 mainly targeted at a niche consumer market.

In general, this year’s Snapdragon Tech Summit has delivered more step change with the new product launches. More concrete industry support was also on show, indicating that, depending on how fast and extensive 5G is to be rolled out, we may start seeing true 5G smartphones in the first half of next year. We may need to wait a bit longer before a reasonable line-up of always-on 5G connected PCs can hit the market.

Nokia has a great week by simply not screwing anything up

Christmas has come early for Finnish kit vendor Nokia, with its competitors bestowing it with presents of breath-taking generosity.

Huawei was the first to smash through the secret Santa threshold, at least indirectly, when BT confirmed that Huawei would not be considered to contribute to its 5G core infrastructure and that it’s also being removed from legacy cores. This marked the first time a UK operator had directly addressed the matter of Huawei and 5G kit and would appear to be part of the move against Huawei by the US and its allies.

But that was just a stocking filler compared to what the US had under the tree. In a gesture of unprecedented aggression and hostility the US persuaded Canada to arrest Huawei’s CFO and daughter of its founder, Meng Wanzhou, and wants to extradite her to the US in order to face as yet unspecified charges.

This move is unrelated to all the stuff around 5G security and concerns suspected violations of US sanctions against certain countries. This is what drove ZTE so close to extinction earlier this year and would appear to be as much a front in the trade and political war between the US and China as it is any specific point of order. It also marks a significant escalation since no ZTE execs were subjected to this kind of legal rough treatment, and to add insult to injury it looks like some ZTE documents are being used in evidence against Huawei.

Huawei’s misfortunes alone must have had Nokia execs reaching for the breakfast bucks fizz, but when it emerged that Ericsson was responsible for major outages at some of its MNO core network partners they presumably ordered a whole new shipment of champers. The fact that Huawei is desperate to divert attention onto the Ericsson thing too must have resulted in port and brandy being added to the celebratory mix. Nokia’s resulting hangover may have been slightly exacerbated by the apparently effective damage limitation done by Ericsson, but on balance it can reflect on a pretty catastrophic week for the competition.

Nokia has sent out a few press releases this week but whatever incremental achievements they claim pale into insignificance compared to the misfortunes of Huawei and Ericsson. In the run up to Christmas Nokia would be well advised to focus all its resources on simply not screwing anything up and letting its competitive environment take care of itself.

Xiaomi the difference: Chinese smart device maker vows to disrupt UK market

Xiaomi launched Mi 8 Pro, the first time it has unveiled new products outside of Greater China, a sign of its ambition to expand in more mature markets.

At a Hollywoodian event (as almost all smartphone launches are nowadays) in Barbican Centre on Thursday, Xiaomi became the latest Chinese smartphone maker to introduce their latest products in London, following recent launches by Huawei and OnePlus. The company unveiled Mi 8 Pro, an upgrade version of its Mi 8 model launched earlier in China.

After registering impressive growth in India and other markets in Asia, as well as consolidating its position in China, Xiaomi, like some other Chinese brands, is eyeing the mature markets for new growth. Western Europe is an attractive option as the market is not flooded with hundreds of smartphone brands as in India and China, and there is a sizeable open market that is easier for new brands to set a foot in instead of having to crack the carrier market as in the US.

“Today we witness a new chapter in Xiaomi’s global expansion journey, underpinned by our global ambitions. We are thrilled to make great strides by announcing our arrival in the UK,” said Wang Xiang, Senior Vice President of Xiaomi Corporation.” By bringing a range of our amazing products at honest pricing we want to offer more choices and let everyone in the UK enjoy a connected simple life through our innovative technology.”

The newly launched Mi 8Pro and its predecessor share exactly the same hardware and software, powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 CPU, 6.21” AMOLED display (yes, need to go to the second decimal digit), 8GB RAM and 128GB onboard memory,12MP+12MP AI dual camera on the back, and 20MP selfie camera, Dual 4G SIM, Dual frequency GPS (to minimise coverage dead zones, like near tall buildings), infra-red facial recognition (to unlock with facial ID in the dark).

On the software side, Xiaomi overlayed a light MIUI skin on top of the latest Android release, plus a couple of its own preloaded apps (browser, messaging, etc.). Presumably the main point is not how many people will use its apps but rather to gather usage data. The Xiaomi executives did stress the number of active MIUI users in the world and in Europe (its products are already being sold in Spain, Italy, and France). It has also preloaded a MS Office suite, one of the first offers Microsoft made to the Android ecosystem back in 2016.

Under the spotlight was its photography technologies including the so-called “4-in-1” super-pixel, that is combining 4 pixels into 1 to take in more light, therefore to capture more details even in low light environment. Also being boasted is the speed the phone focuses (using the so-called Double Pixel Auto Focus, DPAF, technology, demonstrated in a video as faster than both the iPhone XS and the Samsung S9+). Nowadays, no presentation of smartphone cameras is complete without talking AI, and Xiaomi is no exception. The main talking point here was on the analytics capability to separate foreground from background, making post-shot processing easier.

The only genuine upgrade the Mi 8 Pro offers over the Mi 8 looks to be the fingerprint reader. It is at the back of the phone on the Mi 8, but is upgraded to on-screen reader on the Mi 8 Pro.

All the bells and whistles aside, what Xiaomi most wanted is to stand out in two areas: design and price. It is clearly successful in one, maybe less so in the other. Xiaomi claimed to go down the minimalist route for its design, claiming that it was inspired by the exhibits at the Helsinki Design Museum. It even got the director of the museum to go on video to endorse an earlier product. But what it got to show its innovative design on the new product is a transparent back-cover where the upper part of the inside of the phone is visible. But to those of us old enough to remember the 1990s, this is more a retro than inno. Swatch’s Skeleton series, anyone?

Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro_Front resized Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro_back resized

But when it comes to pricing the strategy is much bolder and more likely to succeed. Xiaomi broke through in the device market in China in 2011 by offering smartphones with decent specs at a very affordable price. This strategy has carried them through ups and downs all the way to London. The Mi 8 Pro will be retailed at £499.99. This is vastly lower than other smartphones with comparable hardware specs. Xiaomi is clearly targeted at the so-called “affordable premium” segment.

On the distribution side, Xiaomi started in China exclusively using online distribution channels. There have been followers with mixed success, but at the same Xiaomi is also diversifying to brick-and-mortar retail outlets in markets like India, Malaysia. Xiaomi also aims at a mixed channel strategy in the UK, it opens its own online shopping channel, getting online and offline channel partners (Amazon, Currys, Carphone Warehouse, Argo, John Lewis, etc.) on board, as well as opening its own authorised retailer in southwest London on 18 November. It also tied a partnership with 3UK, though Xiaomi executives would not tell more details of the terms or the packages 3 plans to offer.

Also introduced to the UK market at the event are a smart wristband (Mi Band 3, main feature being its display larger than previous generations) and an electric scooter, to deliver the “ecosystem” story—the executive stressed Xiaomi is more than a smartphone company. On display in the experience area were also smart speakers, set-top boxes, smart kettle, and smart scale.

Our overall feeling is that, the Mi 8 Pro smartphone is decent but not fantastic. However the price point Xiaomi sets it on is disruptive. This strategy has worked for the company in China and other Asian and European market, taking them to commendable market positions and financial success. It may stand a chance.

Xiaomi event pic2

Culture is holding back operator adoption of open source

If open source is the holy grail for telcos, more than a few of them are getting lost trying to uncover the treasure; but why?

At a panel session featuring STC and Vodafone at Light Reading’s Software Defined Operations and the Autonomous Network event, the operational culture was suggested a significant roadblock, as well as the threat of ROI due to shortened lifecycles and disappearing support.

Starting with the culture side, this is a simple one to explain. The current workforce has not been configured to work with an open source mentality. This is a different way of working, a notable shift away from the status quo of proprietary technologies. Sometimes the process of incorporating open source is an arduous task, where it can be difficult to see the benefits.

When a vendor puts a working product in front of you, as well as a framework for long-term support, it can be tempting to remain in the clutches of the vendor and the dreading lock-in situation. You can almost guarantee the code has been hardened and is scalable. It makes the concept of change seem unappealing Human nature will largely maintain the status quo, even is the alternative might be healthier in the long-run.

The second scary aspect of open source is the idea of ROI. The sheer breadth and depth of open source groups can be overwhelming at times, though open source is only as strong as the on-going support. If code is written, supported for a couple of months and then discarded in favour of something a bit more trendy, telcos will be fearful of investment due to the ROI being difficult to realise.

Open source is a trend which is being embraced on the surface, but we suspect there are still some stubborn employees who are more charmed by the status quo than the advantage of change.

Telarix and Starhome Mach merge to offer global wholesale telecoms portfolio

A couple of companies involved in the areas of operator interconnectivity, roaming and general wholesale action have decided to merge.

The combination of Telarix and Starhome Mach inevitably claims to offer a full end-to-end set of wholesale solutions for operators, covering voice, SMS, clearing, settlement and fraud prevention. The new company has 450 customers in 130 countries. All this mucking about with telecoms plumbing also creates business opportunities in BSS, subscriber analytics and that sort of thing.

“CSPs must manage their complex partner ecosystem from negotiation to traffic management, to billing and settlement, while at the same time, providing differentiated services to consumers, businesses and IoT.,” said Telarix CEO Marco Limena. “This merger will enable the development of new  innovative solutions overcoming the complex challenges of today’s digital transformation era to drive desired business performance.”

“Our success in launching SaaS versions of our leading roaming and clearing platforms introduced a variety of other innovative solutions in real-time anti-fraud, Network Function Virtualization and the Internet of Things,” said Starhome Mach CEO, Itai Margalit. “Bringing our offerings together with Telarix’s solutions will bring new solutions to the market and we see a huge opportunity to accelerate company growth.”

“Telarix and Starhome Mach have been very successful in their respective markets,” said Steve Pusey, former Group CTO and Senior Board Advisor to Telarix. “The joining together of this expertise creates a unique opportunity to address the market demand for full spectrum solutions.”

While positioned as a merger this looks more like the acquisition of Starhome Mach by Telarix. Private equity is involved one both sides but only Vista Equity Partners, which is behand Telarix, will remain involved, it will be based in Telarix’s home of Vienna, Virginia, and Limena will be the CEO of the new company, with Margalit becoming President of the roaming silo. You can read further analysis of this move at Light Reading here.