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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

BT’s sporting chance

First published on Industry Briefing, Economist Intelligence Unit, 21 May

In recent years it seemed the only way BT could generate investor excitement was to show what a fine job it was doing at cutting costs. Otherwise, the picture looked bleak. Declining market shares in the UK fixed-line voice and broadband markets, an ailing Global Services division and a mountainous pension fund deficit all cast long and persistent shadows.

Things are changing. After spending lavishly on TV rights for English Premier League football and other sporting events, the UK incumbent is limbering up to launch three BT Sport channels this August. And in an attempt to wrong-foot satellite broadcaster BSkyB – its main opponent in the pay-TV and broadband markets – BT Sports TV will initially come free with BT broadband. Another BT body swerve is to undercut BSkyB subscriptions for pubs and clubs, and reduce the price of its high-speed fibre broadband service. (more…)

GSMA VoLTE, not RCS, will drive IMS

The IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) has often struggled to prove its worth to network operators. Despite suppliers’ efforts to extol the technology over the last ten years or so, IMS remains niche.

Sure, an IMS architecture offers the prospect of launching new services more quickly and cost-effectively than is possible with softswitches and TDM kit, but the technology’s business case merits – historically at least – have been far from convincing. Many network operators have generally taken the view it would be too risky to invest in a new architecture to enable additional services that may or may not be commercially successful.

And where IMS has been deployed, it’s the fixed-line players that have done most of the running. Standalone mobile operators, on the whole, have steered clear.

This looks set to change. To plug a gaping gap in the original LTE specification – the lack of a CS (circuit-switched) domain – GSMA recommends an IMS-based approach to VoLTE. (more…)

Quad-play appetites growing in Europe

First published on Mobile World Live, 1 April 2013

Think Europe and quad-play, then Spain and France might immediately spring to mind. In both countries, the bundling together of mobile and fixed-line services is going down a storm with customers.

Belgium, Portugal and the Netherlands may also figure in your thinking. In all five countries, says Bernstein Research, quad-play is a “mainstream offer”.

Look elsewhere in Europe, though, and quad-play is thin on the ground. Analysys Mason estimates fewer than 5 per cent of households in Germany, Italy and the UK have a bundled package of fixed and mobile services. (more…)

Radical network thinking at Cloud-Net Summit

A major telco planning to move mission-critical services to the cloud; a growing buzz around software-defined networking (SDN); business models of traditional network suppliers under threat. There was a lot to chew on at the recent Cloud-Net Summit in London organised by Layer123, and that was from attending one morning session only. Apparently, there were some pretty heated workshop discussions the day previously.

Of course, industry debate about how telcos can better manage and simplify their networks – and deliver a wide range of services in a more cost-effective and timely way – has been going on for years. But advances in cloud computing and storage capacity, plus signs that software-defined networking is ready to move beyond the university campus, is giving the discussion fresh impetus. It also focuses minds when an operator the size of Deutsche Telekom says it has radical plans to overhaul its network and head for the cloud. (more…)

Operators cry wolf over investment?

A report by the Financial Times says large telecom groups in Europe feel burdened by EU regulation. So much so, claim the region’s big guns, it is hampering network investment. There is a general feeling among them that current regulatory practices, because of their unpredictability and bias towards resellers, is doing a rather fine job of discouraging investment.

In particular, telcos want regulators to stop lowering prices on wholesale copper access. Constant price tinkering, they say, is making them think twice about investing in high-speed fibre-optic access. How can they have clear visibility of the broadband business case if regulators can butt in whenever they feel like it? (more…)