AlcaLu pushes NFV to the IP router edge

Alcatel-Lucent announced at its annual Technology Symposium that the firm’s entire suite of IP edge router software will be able to run on standard COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) servers, although the timeline for full commercial availability is still a bit hazy (see roadmap below).

“We’re giving operators the freedom of either running our software code, with all the routing, on dedicated hardware, or porting that code – where it makes sense – on standard x86 servers,” says Phil Tilley, Alcatel-Lucent’s marketing director of cloud strategy and solutions.

Alcatel-Lucent’s operator pitch is that dedicated edge router hardware will still be needed to support high-capacity demand from large enterprises, while the more flexible VSR (virtualized service router) can meet the needs of smaller businesses. The supplier has no intention of cannibalizing dedicated edge router hardware that supports heavy data-plane processing. Continue reading

UK shoppers to get zapped

Peter Keenan hails the upcoming arrival of Zapp as the biggest change in UK payments since the introduction of the Switch card in the mid-1980s. Mr Keenan is hardly neutral – he’s the Zapp chief executive after all – but the service he enthuses about may indeed rank alongside Switch (which ushered in the debit card revolution) as one of the major retail breakthroughs in recent decades.

Unlike other mobile payment services that have struggled to take off, Zapp has managed to get a number of big-name retailers on board. Two of the UK’s biggest grocers – Asda and Sainsbury’s – were unveiled as Zapp partners last month, as were other well-known brands, including House of Fraser, Thomas Cook and Shop Direct. They join a slew of other outlets that have committed to accepting payments from smartphones carrying the Zapp app, which is slated to go live next year. Mr Keenan says it’s the largest coalition of retailer support for a new payment method ever announced in the UK. Continue reading

Europe’s operators invest through the pain barrier

They may rail against an unfriendly investment environment, but Europe’s network operators keep digging deeper to pay for the likes of 4G and superfast broadband. A recent report from the European Commission said EU telecoms revenue declined in 2013 yet investment grew.

Even arch-critics of Europe’s regulators – Cesar Alierta and Vittorio Colao, the respective chief executives of Telefonica and Vodafone Group – have sanctioned enormous increases in network spending. Continue reading

Who’s afraid of free mobile data?

Mark Zuckerberg, in his MWC 2014 keynote, said he wanted to prove the business model of free mobile internet access in emerging markets. Yet a growing number of operators seem already persuaded that giving away mobile data can reap financial rewards in the long run. The Facebook CEO may well be pushing against an open door.

Avea, the third-largest mobile operator in Turkey, announced only last month it would give away a free week of internet access to 100,000 subscribers, but it’s hardly the first to hand out freebies.

DiGi (Malaysia), Globe (Philippines), Idea Cellular (India), Mobilink (Pakistan), RCom (India), Tigo (Paraguay) and VimpelCom (in Russia and developing markets) are among those that have either zero-rated certain applications, given away ‘full’ internet access for limited periods, or charged nominal sums for special promotions. Continue reading

VoLTE farce? No, not really

A recent spate of VoLTE launches has put the technology under the spotlight, but its lengthy absence on any meaningful scale – with the possible exception of South Korea – may seem troubling to some industry watchers.

When the original LTE specifications were drawn up, the circuit-switched (CS) domain used in 2G and 3G was dispensed with in favour of an all-IP environment. All well and good, but no provision was made as to how voice and texting – still the two mainstays of a mobile operator’s business – would be delivered over a spanking new all-IP data network.

Circuit-switched fallback (CSFB) is a possible ‘interim’ solution that WCDMA operators can deploy, but it’s hardly ideal. Lengthier call set-up times of around 1-2 seconds probably won’t upset high-spending LTE customers, but call-set up times may be longer if there’s no 3G signal and the call is then directed onto 2G. The 4G voice experience, in such scenarios, is worse than 3G. Continue reading

The WebRTC conundrum

There were no mobile network operator CEOs or CFOs, as far as I’m aware, attending the two-day WebRTC Global Summit in London earlier this month. And if any did turn up, none gave a presentation or was part of a discussion panel.

Operator representation came mainly from the ranks of technology experts. Alongside suppliers and so-called ‘OTT’ players, it was they who talked about WebRTC potential and what impact it might have on the telecoms industry.

Top telco management, had they attended, may well have shuffled uncomfortably in their seats. Continue reading

Small cells, small thinking?

Many mobile operators are just not “getting it” when it comes to small cells. At least that’s the view of Simon Brown (pictured, below), CEO of small cell evangelist ip.access. He reckons operators need to “wake up” to the business case opportunity.

Speaking last week to a small group of journalists in London, Brown argued that operators tend to be too hung up on coverage and capacity. They wrap a complex set of engineering processes around small cell provisioning in much the same way as if they were rolling out a regular macro network. That unnecessarily drives up cost and lengthens deployment times. Continue reading

Connection problems

The mobile industry will pass a momentous milestone by the end of 2014. According to projections from GSMA Intelligence, the number of mobile connections will exceed the number of people on the planet.

But it won’t be a time for governments and regulators – particularly in developing markets – to pat themselves on the back for a job well done. Continue reading

M&A may look tempting, but dangers lurk

First published on Mobile World Live, 4 November 2013

More M&A involving mobile operators looks on the cards. According to Ernst & Young’s recently-published H1 2013 report on the M&A sector, 35 per cent of company executives surveyed – from all industry sectors, not just telecoms – said they were likely to pursue acquisitions. That compares with just 25 per cent who thought the same a year ago.

The consulting firm further found that 65 per cent of executives expected the global economy to improve over the coming year, up from a miserly 22 per cent a year ago. Growing confidence in the economic outlook should make boardrooms less reticent about taking the M&A plunge.

Softening M&A attitudes will auger well for some mobile operators. It’s often said M&A is one of the few areas of human activity where it pays to be victim. Deep-pocketed predators (or at least ones that can get their hands on plenty of debt financing) invariably boost the share price of their intended target when word gets out. Continue reading

EU roaming: a race to the bottom?

First published on Mobile World Live, 4 October 2013

Getting rid of EU premium roaming charges sounds great for the consumer, but is it good for the mobile industry? European travellers, bruised by ‘bill shock’, are unlikely to care about that. If they can pay the same rates abroad as they do at home, what is there not to like?

There’s an argument, though, that the EU digital chief’s roaming proposals will slow down investment in the region’s mobile networks – the very thing Kroes wants to avoid. Continue reading