Broadband World Forum Summary

The Broadband World Forum is the main telecommunication industry’s event for broadband, drawing thousands of attendees from more than 100 operator companies and all the top broadband vendors.  Keynotes at the event came from industry leaders such as Hans Vestberg, CEO Ericsson, Jean-Phillip Vanot, SVP of Innovation and Marketing for Orange, and Mika Vehviläinen, COO of NSN.  The plenary sessions packed out and main theater at CNIT in Paris, and at the same time the exhibition floor was packed.

One of the highlights at the event for me was HomeCamera, who I reviewed on this weblog as a start-up to watch, won the InfoVision Award.  Its great to see innovative services being recognized by the IEC at the same level as the big names such as Huawei and NSN.  This was a key theme of the conference, across all the keynotes was the importance of enabling open innovation from third parties to maintain an operator’s relevance as a service provider to customers, not just a pipe provider.

Following this theme I ran a session “Stimulating Service Innovation through the Application Developer Community: Open Innovation“.  On the panel were:

  • Varun Arora, CEO HomeCamera;
  • Christophe Francois, VP Mobile Multimedia Products and Services, Orange Partner;
  • Sean O’Sullivan, CTO Dial2do;
  • James Steadman, Senior Director, Product Management Oracle; and
  • Ian Valentine, CEO, Miniweb.

The panel covered the ecosystem of operator, middleware and developers, so we could achieve an adequate breadth of views.   The panel is also a mix of voice 2.0, web 2.0 and TV 2.0 developers.  There is much to be gained by mobile and broadband operators looking at how the TV guys package their content, and for the TV guys to see the challenges operators face in creating development communities and application stores.  The session was purely discussion, no slideware.  An interactive session with the audience.  I only asked the opening question, the audience and the panel did the rest.

To set the scene I reviewed some of the challenges operators face given their decade long search to work with developers.  I reviewed the critical result of a developer survey I ran earlier this year were 50% of developers who had engaged with operators have given up, its described in the slides I gave at the Cable Labs conference.  Another example is Fonolo, at the 4GWE conference the CEO made a statement I hear too often; “We tried working with operators, it was too hard, we gave up and now go direct.”  BTW, Fonolo, is one of Time Magazine’s Top 50 websites, I reviewed Fonolo as a start-up to watch last year.  I tried (and failed) to help Fonolo get into operators; the general reaction from operators was “Cool, I love it.  But I’m not sure because….”  I was hoping for the reaction, “Cool, I love it.  Let’s get it in the App Store and see what customers think.”  Its not just processes, a cultural change is required in being open to innovation; rather than risk avoidance.

I opened with the question, “If you could have one wish to make working with an operator easier, what would that wish be?”  Some of the issues raised included:

  • Fair revenue share, with 70/30 being one limit, but operators taking increaing share for additional services such as marketing;
  • Speed: short time to get to market, Apple claims the fastest time from code for customer, Microsoft claims 10 days, Verizon Developer Community aims for 14 days;
  • Simplicity in the processes for getting in front of the customer.  Most operators hide their customers away from developers, leading to developer frustration.  An operator’s core value is delivering a large engaged audience to developers; and
  • Let customers decide, operators have proven poor in consumer service selection, let’s face it they’re mostly grey-haired or balding 40/50s males; its not an ideal demographic for ‘picking’ services.

From that, the discussion moved onto the challenges of:

  • Visibility, given Facebook’s >350k apps and iPhone’s >65k apps; what can operators do to help developers promote their apps;
  • Marketing, the importance of the operator to actively market applications;
  • Device fragmentation, a critical technology issue for operators to mitigate;
  • Value and relevance of customer info, such as phone activity, SMS history, in network / out network, etc; and
  • Similarities between TV and Mobile industries in the emerging app ecosystem with many insights on packaging provided by the TV industry from Ian Valentine of Miniweb.

In the time available we were only another to scratch the surface of the topic, we did not have a chance to cover:

  • Charging for APIs (Application Program Interface);
  • Charging for testing;
  • Enterprise stores;
  • Operator in competition with developers, as some operators plan to build their own apps/widgets;
  • Store within a store concept, e.g. an Orange store in Nokia Ovi store; and
  • Operator collaboration to avoid re-certification, e.g. say Telenor approves an app, why is that not good enough for other operators.

After the session the organizers came in and asked us to move onto the next sessions as the discussion was continuing long passed the end of the panel session.

In a later article I’ll review some of the sessions I attended in the Conference agenda which included more than 250 speakers in over 50 breakout sessions, keynote addresses, plenary panels, and workshops.  Sessions such as ‘Demystifying SaaS/ Cloud Computing: The Myths versus the Facts’ with presenters from Amazon,, Amdocs, BT, and IDC proved very interesting.