Broadband World Forum 2010 Day 1, October 26th, CNIT La Defense, Paris, France

Day 1 of the Broadband World Forum started with Keynotes from Matt Bross (Huawei), Johan Bergendahl (Ericsson) and Oliver Baujard (Deutsche Telekom).

Matt’s session was entitled “Innovation @ the speed of life.”  Highlighting the problem operators have in focusing on phone numbers and addresses not people, and the issue of lack of customer trust in enabling operators to innovate.  Other themes highlighted included video being the killer application, emergence of ecosystems as important to telecoms, the growth of embedded broadband, 4G being a driver for improved service delivery, connecting the next 1B customers and green telecoms.  4G was positioned as the answer across these issues; which was at odds with the message at the start about focusing on the customer as it appeared to be focusing on 4G (LTE) technology, which I’ve discussed in this weblog as having a similar capability to HSPA+ and will be surpassed by IMT-Advanced in a few years anyway.

Johan’s session focused on the emergence of the networked society having the same impact as the emergence of the gasoline economy.  The opening video did the usual hype of showing lots of big internet service numbers.  The core message was for operators to remain relevant required a solution across buiness, operations and networks.  And Ericsson has a managed services solution to deliver on that.  He referred to operators being bit factories, but they are bit transporters; the content owners and applications and customers themselves are the bit factories. But as with Matt’s presentation did not actually explain how operators remain relevant to their customers.

Olivier Baujard, Group CTO, Deutsche Telekom provided the ‘dose of salts’ we needed.  Broadband build-out requires regulatory support as the investment in laying fiber is immense.  Customers consider separate fixed and mobile broadband as irrelevant its just broadband, and critically for an operator to remain relevant and MAINTAIN (not grow) its ARPU; it must constantly innovate and offer customers compelling bundles of services.  Its the services that matter as that’s what customers buy, internet access gets commoditized very quickly.  Olivier really set the tone, technology is now secondary to remaining relevant to customers, its the services that matter.

Before the SDP session I went to the “Connecting Home Services with the Cloud” session.  It was really focused on the connectivity technologies and the lack of clarity in the home network.  The home gateway has the same problem as the femto gateway, the value is slight for most customers so they simply will not pay.  I’ll write an article soon on the home network as we haven’t significantly moved on from the old ATM Forum Home Network days of the mid 90s.  And for anyone that uses DLNA between different vendor’s equipment in the home will be well experienced with the frequent “DLNA Error” messages. But more on that topic in a later article.

I ran the session Service Delivery Platform Evolution Revolution, Convolution, Amalgamation, Elimination or Virtualization?  Examining the impact the confluence of several critical technologies / developments have on the SDP such as: cloud computing / managed services; and open initiatives such as Joint Innovation Labs, GSMA’s OneAPI, OMTP’s BONDI, Open IPTV Forum, and OSGi (Open Services Gateway initiative).  Reviewing key trends in operators’ requirements and their competitive environment as web and telco converge. Present a view on the current and likely future evolution of the SDP: will it change, get more complex, will silos finally consolidate, or will it simply go away?

The first presentation was: Verizon’s SDP Experience given by Mark Hahn, Principal Member of Technical Staff, Verizon, USA.  Verizon is the leading converged operator with one of the largest IPTV deployments in the world of 3M subscribers in Q1 2010, and a mobile customer based of 93M customers. Their Service Delivery Ecosystem (SDE) is fundamental to Verizon’s vision of services available across all its networks. Verizon’s service vision results in customers considering their services as independent of a particular device and network: whether it be mobile, broadband or legacy networks. Services will be able to access common and shared infrastructure such as an identity management framework; finally removing multiple logons and conflicting security settings which plague most multi-platform services today.

Mark gave an excellent presentation, which is shown below that clearly explains the approach they’ve taken to exposing APIs and listening to developers in building their solution.  With significant details on the role of interceptors in their framework to ensure customer trust, which is becoming more critical as Google’s continued missteps in this area raise customer awareness.  The driver behind the project was the need to remain relevant to customers as their trusted service provider – not incremental ARPU.  The key learning, which is common to any IT project, is its not the technology (that’s easy) its the people and processes that are the most challenging; and that’s where such projects must focus.

The next presentation was: KPN’s SDP Experience given by Colin Pons, Senior Strategy & Business Analyst, KPN, Netherlands.  KPN vision is to provide services to any device on any network at anytime. Eventually, it moves to “Everything-is-a-Service” model. From a user perspective consistent, on-par (Apple setting the bar) UX is one of the most important buying (and usage) motivation. Customer satisfaction efforts demand co-operation/partnership with others in the value chain, among which are (independent) developers, VARs, users, verticals, etc. Hence, services will encompass assets and capabilities from many different sources. Critical for this paradigm is fulfillment(including activation, registration, log-on), assurance and billing.

Colin provided a frank review of an operator’s situation, frustrations with SDP deployments of the past, and the approach KPN is taking.  The fundamental issues is understand the customer’s heart by speeding up the rate of innovation to find the value that works for customers through working with third parties who are obsessed with the customer experience.  This was Colin’s last presentation with KPN, he’s moving to another employer, so it was nice to have Colin’s KPN ‘swan song’ in this session.

There then followed a panel discussion including:

  • Mark Hahn, Principal Member of Technical Staff, Verizon
  • Colin Pons, Senior Strategy & Business Analyst, KPN
  • Lucia Gradinariu, Chief Market Strategist, Consumer Software and Services, Huawei Software Company
  • Thomas Gronberg, Senior Product Manager, Oracle Communications Business Unit, Oracle

In the Q&A session some of the topics included:

  • What was the business model for exposing APIs:  the common approach was its about the customer and remaining relevant through improving their experience and satisfaction.  ARPU is not the issue.  It was great to see such strategic focus.  The specific business models enabled are very broad, from removing aggregators to enable content owners and operators to share more revenue, through to simple charging per dip for location.
  • Example services: included using location on credit card transactions, location for navigation and congestion, in-app/service payments, internet purchases, opening up messaging to enterprise business processes, etc.
  • Operators and App Stores:  The consensus view was they are generally complementary as apps that use APIs can be sold through any store, though with non-operator app stores increasingly moving into communication services operators do need to get serious about communication service discovery;
  • OneAPI: GSMA defined interface received broad support; and
  • Are OTT services using these APIs: Currently an area of much discussion and experimentation with a suggestion operators need to examine business models that ‘share the love’ and not ‘nickel and dime,’ i.e. more win:win focused than simple API charge based.

Overall the show has improved greatly from Informa taking over.  There was a significant buzz, with a realization that its about simple experimentation and focus on the customer, rather than sitting on a network and waiting for commoditization.  The gap between supplier messaging and operator focus was quite stark; with many suppliers showing beautiful visions with no specifics; while the operators focused on the specifics of trying to innovate and remain relevant to their customers as trusted service providers.

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