Keys to the kingdom: how CSPs can unlock the value of their data

In today’s digital landscape, organisations are increasingly aware that they have huge volumes of data that could deliver value but is often sitting unused. This is particularly true in the context of Communication Service Providers (CSPs); global footprints, constant mergers and acquisitions, and day-to-day operations have led to unprecedented volumes of data, including structured (device, subscriber, network, transaction etc.), open (weather, geography, etc.), and unstructured data (call & messaging content, sensor data, buying behavior, etc.).

Unlocking this data promises huge benefits for CSPs, yet to date, many have struggled to do so. Now is the time to act. As telco business become increasingly commoditised, CSPs need to find new ways to generate revenues and create new services, and data could be the key differentiator that gives them the keys to the kingdom.

Big data opportunities

Managing the huge volumes of complex data is becoming a serious challenge for CSPs. Yet if they are able to leverage customer and network data, they will be able to make better-informed decisions and achieve market prominence through cross-industry offerings. Adopting a data monetisation approach not only helps CSPs get meaningful business insights, but can also help generate new revenue opportunities too, particularly:

  • Enhancing the customer experience and improving ARPU: Leveraging a data monetisation platform, CSPs can employ real-time analytics, providing dynamic customer data, including spend analysis, viewing patterns, personal preferences, geo-location analytics. This lets them understand and build cross sell/up sell opportunities and map customer journeys to provide customised, contextual and tailor-made offers to their customers, thus, improving customer experience as well as ARPU (average revenue per user).
  • Optimising CapEx and OpEx: Data monetisation can also help optimise capital and operational expenditures through efficient management of networks, improving network management, network planning, traffic prioritisation and predictive maintenance. Using this platform, service providers can analyse their network usage and available capacity and either optimise it and onboard either new customers or offer more products/services on the same network.
  • Improving topline revenue: Data can be integrated with cross-vertical industries through digital ecosystems, data aggregation, and third party platforms. Service providers hold a huge amount of customer data, including customer location, usage, devices choices and preferences. They can build a platform for other brands/industries to push services and offerings to their large customer-base.

Getting it right

If it were simple though, then everyone would do it. Big data projects have the ability to spiral out of control if not properly managed, resulting in ever-expanding resource consumption and costs. Therefore if CSPs are serious about capitalising on the data opportunity ahead they need to get control of their data:

  • Align your data strategy: To understand and realise the endless possibilities that data monetisation offers, it is crucial to have an organisational data strategy in place. Organisations need to understand what they want to achieve, how they want to go about it, and where the data is. They need to have their strategy, roadmap and governance structures effectively aligned in order to best use their data.
  • Build a data lake: CSPs need to aggregate their data from various sources (structured and unstructured) to build a suitable data lake, taking into consideration factors such as data integrity, quality, frequency, and correlation to obtain these insights. CSPs then need to expose the API layer to various stakeholders such as suppliers, partners, customers and employees and build innovative services on-top.
  • Monetise data: Working alongside partner channels, CSPs need to provide cross-vertical integration with third party platforms to align their product and services to their end customers.
  • Security: While a data monetisation platform provides numerous opportunities for CSPs to cross-integrate and monetise data, it also raises security/privacy concerns. As real-time customer data is very sensitive, integrating it with third party platforms has the potential to breach regulatory policy around privacy and data usage. Hence, CSPs need to make sure that any data monetisation platform they deploy doesn’t compromise local regulatory standards.

Data plays a critical role in digital transformation and it is now of central importance to the roles of today’s Chief Digital Officers, CMOs and CIOs, as they look to engage with customers more effectively, offer new products and services, while at the same time reduce CapEx/OpEx.

While a number of CSPs have already kicked-off data monetisation initiatives, moving forward more and more will see data monetisation plans as a core strategic initiative and we should expect this trend to gather significant pace in the near future. Those that don’t, could find themselves left out in the data winter.

Do you have any further advice on how CSPs can unlock the value of their data? Let us know in the comments.

ESA partners with space industry on ‘Satellite for 5G’

The ESA (European Space Agency) has joined forces with 16 space companies on a new ‘Satellite for 5G’ initiative.

Satellite for 5G aims to offer truly global high-speed coverage even in areas difficult to reach by cell towers such as up mountains and remote islands. To preserve bandwidth, cell towers will remain the first point of access for most but satellites could be used to reach the emergency services wherever you are on Earth.

“5G provides a major opportunity for our space industry, for space and satellites to become integral parts of the future generation of communications networks and services,” comments Magali Vaissiere, ESA Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications. “The joint statement demonstrates that our key industrial stakeholders are ready to join forces in response to this industrial ambition. ESA is going to define a framework supporting industrial action and further strengthening and coordinating institutional support in Europe and in particular with the EC.”

As part of the initiative, between 2018–20 and beyond the ESA and space industry partners will work together on:

  • 5G service trials, including satellite capabilities, with a focus on selected sectors targeted by 5G, so called ‘Verticals’, such as transport, media and entertainment, and public safety;

  • transversal activities in the areas of applications development, standardisation, resource management aspects, interoperability demonstration campaigns, and supporting technologies;

  • outreach activities.

The partners signed the agreement during the international Paris Air and Space Show and build upon existing initiatives of the European Commission on 5G. Further details remain sparse, but we expect we'll be hearing more about the project at the ‘Space and Satcom for 5G: European Transport and Connected Mobility’ conference on June 27th to 28th.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated with any relevant developments.

What are your thoughts about the Satellite for 5G initiative? Let us know in the comments.

Why operators need to up their game to avoid customer churn

Small and medium sized enterprises are less satisfied with their telecoms services than larger enterprises, according to new research from Analysys Mason.

The research, which polled 1600 enterprises, also found a clear link between operators beefing up their Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and reducing churn.

This ‘clear relationship’ between levels of satisfaction and enterprises leaving their provider may not be hugely surprising, yet according to the figures, operators can reduce ‘intended churn’ by 1.6 percentage points for every 10 point increase in NPS.

Interestingly, in countries where incumbent operators particularly rule the roost, such as Australia, Malaysia and the UAE, the highest rates of intended churn occur. The exception which proves the rule is France, where Orange “is a good example of how an incumbent is retaining its market share with a high quality of service,” as the analysts point out.

Another issue put together in the research is around traditional connectivity services. SMEs satisfied with their traditional services are twice as likely to purchase additional services from their operator, such as security. “Operators need to ensure that the basics, such as customer service and network quality, are of a high standard in order to effectively compete in the broader ICT market,” wrote Terry Van Staden, Analysys Mason research analyst.  

“Enterprise revenue is declining for many telecoms operators in high-income countries,” Van Staden added. “It is essential for operators to keep customers satisfied in order to help defend revenue. However, our survey reveals that enterprise customers are often dissatisfied with the service they receive and this is leading to churn.”

So which operators are getting it right? According to the SME and larger enterprise poll, AT&T and Verizon, Orange, and Optus, scored highest based on NPS. In separate research from Analysys Mason, AT&T, Etisalat, Singtel, Swisscom and Telefonica were praised for the extent of their digitalised customer experience, according to scoring criteria based on automation, personalisation, social media, unified omni-channel support, and more.

You can read the full blog on operators and customer dissatisfaction here.

Verizon pushes support for One Touch Make Ready fibre proposal

Verizon is outlining its support for ‘One Touch Make Ready’, a proposal which will enable quicker deployment of fiber by scotching red tape associated with pole attachment.

The proposal has already been trialled out in a handful of US metros with not all parties happy, to say the least; both Comcast and AT&T sued Metro Nashville when the law was passed late last year.

Current timeframes for processing pole attachment requests can take several months. A new ‘attacher’ has to contact a pole owner for permission to attach, with the time filled up by surveys and existing attachers literally ‘making the pole ready’ for the new attachment.

With the new proposal, new attachers would have pre-approved and licensed contractors to do the rearranging in one truck roll. However, as reported by Nashville Business Journal last year, AT&T and Comcast sued Metro Nashville on the basis that it ‘does not have the authority to regulate utility poles in the way the ordinance lays out’.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is looking for feedback on the deployment, a step which Verizon says it is ‘encouraged’ by. As can be seen on the Office of the Federal Register website, the FCC is allowing stakeholders to submit comments until July 17. Verizon also issued a filing with the FCC urging to ‘reform pole attachment policies to spur broadband deployment’.

“Verizon is in a unique position to weigh in on how these issues affect deployment,” Katharine Saunders, associate general counsel at Verizon wrote in a blog post. “We are one of the few broadband providers with experience both as a pole owner and as a wireline and wireless attacher to other people’s poles.

“As a nationwide wireless provider, we attach our equipment to poles owned by both Verizon and by other entities nationwide,” Saunders added. “With 4G densification and 5G – each of which relies on a dense network of small cell antennae – the pole attachment process becomes all the more important.

“As we roll out next generation wireless technology, we need practices and processes that will increase the speed and efficiency for getting new broadband facilities out in the field.”

If Verizon is looking to win through the new proposal, another player in the mix, as industry commentators have pointed out, is Google. In a letter addressed to the secretary of the FCC, Google Fiber said it was ‘pleased the Commission is taking up the issue of pole attachment timing’.

You can read the full Verizon blog here.

WannaCry cyber attack was ‘launched from North Korea’ to raise money

British and American security officials believe the WannaCry cyber attack which crippled the NHS was launched from North Korea in a bid to raise money for the secretive nation.

Cyber warfare is proving a growing concern with attacks linked to countries such as Russia and North Korea increasing in pace and effect. Earlier this week, it emerged Obama issued a ‘red phone’ warning to the Kremlin over allegations of Russian meddling in the US elections.

Analysts believe an operational error has made the transactions easy to track

A hack which targeted Sony Pictures was traced to North Korean hacking group ‘Lazarus’ after the attack locked employees out their computers and leaked personal information and unreleased films to the web.

Lazarus is expected to be the culprit behind the most recent cyber attack which spread the WannaCry ransomware using a Windows XP exploit known and hoarded by US intelligence’s National Security Agency (NSA) for use in their operations before it was leaked.

The ransomware spread globally but it was the UK’s health service that was impacted the most with some critical systems taken offline and many others disrupted causing serious delays and cancellations to appointments and surgeries.

WannaCry demanded a bounty of $300 per infected PC and threatened it would double to $600 if the ransom was not paid within three days. The hackers are expected to have raised $140,000 and the amount had to be paid in Bitcoin, which may have proven to be the hackers undoing.

It was the UK’s health service that was impacted the most with some critical systems taken offline

Analysts believe an operational error has made the transactions easy to track, including by law enforcement. Therefore, no online currency exchange will touch it. Jake Williams, Founder of Rendition Infosec, a cybersecurity firm, has likened it to “like knowingly taking tainted bills from a bank robbery”.

Britain's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) led the international investigation and made the conclusion about North Korea’s involvement in recent weeks. The NSA, meanwhile, has further narrowed it with “moderate confidence” to North Korea’s spy agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau.

Due to North Korea’s secrecy, the details surrounding leadership and who ordered the attack is unclear. Experts believe the attack was not expected to spread as fast as it did and therefore attract so much attention from the international community.

What are your thoughts about the WannaCry cyber attack revelations? Let us know in the comments.

Wi-Fi Alliance launches certification program for smart home developments

Wi-Fi Alliance has launched a certification program, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Home Design, which sets the guidelines to enable home builders provide an industry-approved network-installation plan.

The enterprise design practices enlisted in this program enable homes to have a consistent Wi-Fi coverage throughout the entire home and outdoor spaces like garages and patios. It also provides seamless integration with many smart-home devices such as Wi-Fi voice-activated wireless speakers, security cameras, door locks, light bulbs, thermostats, and appliances.

Wi-Fi Home Design was created keeping in mind the foresight that the future of connected homes requires and has taken into account contributions from companies spanning Wi-Fi infrastructure, mobile device, consumer electronics, smart home, and home building industries who extended their participation in Wi-Fi Alliance.

Lennar, one of the largest US homebuilders, is the first to offer new homes featuring Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Home Design and wireless entertainment powered by top consumer brands.

David J. Kaiserman, president of Lennar Ventures, said: "Wi-Fi Home Design sets an unmatched standard for residential Wi-Fi networks that assures homebuyers their new home will allow them to enjoy a truly connected lifestyle - with smart devices that enhance security and comfort, streaming entertainment or whatever the future holds."

Josh Redmore, lead architect for wireless at CableLabs, is expecting to bring enterprise-class, standardised Wi-Fi performance throughout the home for Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Home Design homeowners.

Leviton Manufacturing, manufacturer of state-of-the-art lighting controls, has extended its support towards the Wi-Fi Alliance certification program, while Miao Wang, standard and patent director at Haier, expressed the need of such a program to provide homeowners with exceptional user experience of a smart home setting a standard to benefit the entire industry. 

EE’s inflatable masts are powered by ‘pre-5G’ backhaul

We’ve already reported on EE’s plans to use inflatable masts for providing mobile coverage during events, blackouts, and emergencies, but now we have more details about what technology powers it.

EE’s helium balloon, the Helikite, packs miniature antennas which link to a ‘network in a box’ on the ground via 26GHz millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum. Similar frequencies will be part of 5G when the standard is finalised next year, but EE is claiming the use of pre-5G technology is a first in Europe.

This setup allows for a high capacity and low latency mobile network which is suited for the scenarios in which EE intends to deploy its portable mast and will enable applications like push-to-talk and provide real world speeds of 65Mbps.

“Looking ahead, I see innovations like this revolutionising the way people connect. We're developing the concept of 'coverage on demand',” says EE CEO Marc Allera. “What if an event organiser could request a temporary EE capacity increase in a rural area, or a climber going up Ben Nevis could order an EE aerial coverage solution to follow them as they climb?”

EE is tasked with providing the UK’s Emergency Services Network (ESN) by 2019 which must be reliable and fit for purpose. Some areas, particularly where hills and mountains are involved, are notoriously difficult to provide coverage and could hamper relief efforts in a disaster or emergency.

“Rural parts of the UK provide more challenges to mobile coverage than anywhere else, so we have to work harder there – developing these technologies will ultimately help our customers, even in the most hard to reach areas,” explains Allera.

Helikite, powered by 5G technology, could someday save lives in addition to helping people stay connected while enjoying the UK’s many festivals.

Are you impressed with EE’s inflatable masts? Let us know in the comments.

Cisco Visual Networking Index: How digital transformation is fuelled by disruptive innovations

What is disruptive innovation, and why does it matter to leaders in the C-suite? It's how the savvy non-conformist will target market opportunities. How does this happen, when established companies seem to have the advantage? Creative software developers can quickly apply new technologies and digital business models to capture untapped demand.

Moreover, the most disruptive new companies will eventually reshape entire industries, swiftly pushing aside the legacy incumbent players - it's a form of Digital Darwinism. The global networked economy will blossom, thanks to the pervasive Internet, while the adaptive entities will survive and prosper.

Over the next five years, global digital transformation will continue to have a significant impact on the demands and requirements of Internet Protocol (IP) networks, according to key findings from the latest Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI).

Over the forecast period, global IP traffic is expected to increase three-fold reaching an annual run rate of 3.3 zettabytes by 2021 - that's up from an annual run rate of 1.2 zettabytes in 2016.

Apps for next-generation Internet of Things

According to the Cisco assessment, machine-to-machine (M2M) connections that support Internet of Things (IoT) applications are calculated to be more than half of the total 27.1 billion devices and connections. They will account for five percent of global IP traffic by 2021.

IoT innovations in connected home, connected healthcare, smart cars or transportation and a host of other next-generation M2M services are driving this incremental growth - a 2.4-fold increase from 5.8 billion in 2016 to 13.7 billion by 2021.

With the rise of connected applications, the healthcare vertical will be the fastest growing industry segment (30 percent CAGR). The connected car and connected cities applications will have the second-fastest growth (29 percent CAGRs respectively).

Video content will flood the public internet

That said, video will continue to dominate IP traffic and overall Internet traffic growth -- representing 80 percent of all Internet traffic by 2021, that's up from 67 percent in 2016. Globally, there will be nearly 1.9 billion Internet video users (excluding mobile-only) by 2021, that's up from 1.4 billion in 2016.

The world will reach three trillion Internet video minutes per month by 2021. Emerging mediums, such as live Internet video, will increase 15-fold and reach 13 percent of Internet video traffic by 2021.

"As global digital transformation continues to impact billions of consumers and businesses, the network and security will be essential to support the future of the Internet," said Yvette Kanouff, SVP and GM of Service Provider Business at Cisco.

Global IP traffic is expected to reach 278 exabytes per month by 2021, that's up from 96 exabytes per month in 2016. Global IP traffic is expected to reach an annual run rate of 3.3 zettabytes by 2021.

Busy hour Internet traffic is increasing faster than average Internet traffic. Busy hour Internet traffic will grow 4.6-fold (35 percent CAGR) from 2016 to 2021, reaching 4.3 Pbps by 2021, compared to average Internet traffic that will grow 3.2-fold (26 percent CAGR) over the same period reaching 717 Tbps by 2021.

Regional IP traffic growth by 2021

  • Asia-Pacific: 107.7 exabytes/month, 26 percent CAGR, 3.2-fold growth
  • North America: 85 exabytes/month, 20 percent CAGR, 2.5-fold growth
  • Western Europe: 37.4 exabytes/month, 22 percent CAGR, 2.7-fold growth
  • Central Europe: 17.1 exabytes/month, 22 percent CAGR, 2.75-fold growth
  • Latin America: 12.9 exabytes/month, 21 percent CAGR, 2.6-fold growth
  • ME & Africa: 15.5 exabytes/month, 42 percent CAGR, 5.8-fold growth

Global business IP traffic highlights

Commercial IP traffic will grow at a CAGR of 21 percent from 2016 to 2021. Increased adoption of advanced video communications in the enterprise segment will cause business IP traffic to grow by a factor of 3 between 2016 and 2021.

Business Internet traffic will grow at a faster pace than IP wide area network (WAN). Furthermore, IP WAN will grow at a CAGR of 10 percent, compared with a CAGR of 20 percent for fixed business Internet and 41 percent for mobile business Internet.

Business IP traffic will grow fastest in North America. Business IP traffic in North America will grow at a CAGR of 23 percent -- that's a faster pace than the global average of 21 percent. In volume, Asia Pacific will have the largest amount of business IP traffic in 2021, at 17 EB per month. North America will be the second at 14 EB per month.

Note: the Cisco VNI Complete Forecast for 2016 to 2021 relies upon independent analyst forecasts and real-world network usage data. Upon this foundation are layered Cisco's own estimates for global IP traffic and service adoption. A detailed methodology description is included in the complete report.

The first certified Gfast products have been announced

The first six certified Gfast products have been announced by the Broadband Forum and UNH-IOL.

Gfast is exciting due to its use of existing copper wiring and potential to substantially increase speeds for consumers without the high infrastructure costs which generally accompanies major network upgrades. National broadband operator Openreach has now deployed Gfast to over 100,000 UK homes and businesses as part of a large-scale pilot in 20 locations.

“Interoperable standardized Gfast technology is key because it underpins an ability to deliver next generation ultrafast broadband at scale,” says Kevin Foster, BT’s GM for Architecture and Innovation. “Certification to the Broadband Forum’s Gfast requirements provides a known level of confidence and will reduce test time for both network operators and their communication provider customers.”

Each of the initial bits of Gfast networking kit were tested by the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) to ensure they conformed to the required standards and were cross-device and cross-silicon interoperable before receiving certification by the Broadband Forum.

The current products are manufactured by ARRIS, Calix, Huawei, Metanoia, Nokia and Technicolor, and based on chipsets from Broadcom, Metanoia, and Sckipio. More are expected to follow over the coming months.

“The certification represents an outstanding technical achievement with hundreds of rigorous tests of the stability, functionality, control, and performance of Gfast systems and thousands of hours of close technical collaboration over many months between the lab and all of the companies involved,” explains Lincoln Lavoie, UNH-IOL’s Senior Engineer. “The program’s certification of these products has played a significant role in understanding and improving the implementation of Gfast.”

A full commercial rollout of Gfast by Openreach is expected to begin later this year and reach approximately 10 million premises by 2020. The growing list of certified devices is available on the Forum's public site Gfast certification page.

Are you glad to see certified Gfast products hitting the market? Let us know in the comments.

SK Telecom announces commercialisation of LTE-A Pro technologies

SK Telecom has announced that it has successfully commercialised five-band Carrier Aggregation (CA) and 4X4 MIMO, which are key technologies of LTE-A Pro, the last stage of LTE evolution. It aims to enhance its data transmission speed and performance to represent an early application of 5G technologies that support Gbps-level data speeds and massive network capacity.

SK Telecom’s five-band CA LTE-A Pro service supports up to 700Mbps data rates, enabling users to download 2GB within 23 seconds. This service is currently available in 53 cities in Korea.

The company has also combined three-band/four-band CA and 4X4 MIMO to launch the 900Mbps LTE-A Pro service. This service is currently operational in main areas of six major cities namely Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Gwangju, Daejeon and Ulsan. It expects the latest premium smartphones to support LTE-A Pro services. It is also planning on combining the five-band CA LTE-A Pro service and 900Mbps LTE-A Pro services to aggressively expand to cover more than 50% of the Korean population by 2017 end. It is also working towards launching 1 Gbps LTE-A Pro service in H1/2018 by combining five-band CA or four-band CA with other key LTE-A Pro technologies like 4X4 MIMO.

SK Telecom's bandwidth resources as of February 2017: 10MHz bandwidth in the 800MHz band, 20MHz bandwidth in the 1.8GHz band, 10MHz bandwidth in the 2.1GHz band, 10MHz + 20 MHz bandwidths in the 2.6Ghz band.

As this publication reported at the start of this year, South Korean cellular carrier LG U+ has employed the services of Juniper Networks to carry out a routing deployment based around network functions virtualisation (NFV). Among the offerings were auto-recovery and auto-healing features that addressed major resiliency objectives for LG U+. Third-party hosted operating systems, hypervisors and orchestration tools were also supported with modular customisation.

The telecommunications market in South Korea has garnered $32.1 billion in service revenues, according to a recent study from Wise Guy Reports. The overall telecom service revenue is estimated to generate $32.9 in 2016 grow at a CAGR of 0.7% during 2016-2021, primarily driven by the growth in data segments, with mobile revenue accounting for 60.7% and contribution of mobile data to mobile services revenue reaching 79% of the total telecom revenue by 2021.