CXTech Week 6 2022 News and Analysis

The purpose of this CXTech Week 6 2022 newsletter is to highlight, with commentary, some of the news stories in CXTech this week. What is CXTech?  The C stands for Connectivity, Communications, Collaboration, Conversation, Customer; X for Experience because that’s what matters; and Tech because the focus is enablers.

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Covered this week:

  • Subspace in IEEE Spectrum
  • Tim Panton on “The Future of WebRTC”
  • Chris Lewis on the importance of Accessibility in Design
  • Dolby.io Acquires Cosmo
  • Twilio beats expectations
  • Malaysia to finalise wholesale 5G rollout by end-February
  • US payTV penetration on course to dip below 50%
  • Vodafone’s plans to hire 7000 more software engineers
  • Another Statement of the Bleeding Obvious: Wireless Charging Sucks
  • And Another Statement of the Bleeding Obvious: Time to Stop the Gs
  • People, Gossip, and Frivolous Stuff

Subspace in IEEE Spectrum

This week I was catching up on my reading, a stack of IEEE Spectrum magazines from 2021. It’s nice to have the old-school experience of flicking through a magazine. When reading online I review the index and head straight to the articles of interest. While with paper, I flick through the pages, a quote or diagram in an article I’d discounted draws me in, often because it challenges an assumption I’d made on the topic.

And that brings me to yesterday, I was flicking through November’s IEEE Spectrum and saw “SUBSPACE REBUILT THE INTERNET FOR REAL-TIME APPLICATIONS” by Bayan Towfiq. It’s nice to see programmable communications in the IEEE Spectrum. The article describes Subspace’s internet weather maps and real-time rerouting. It’s an excellent review of why the internet is the way it is, how CDNs and video traffic swamp the internet (video is 82% of internet traffic, source Cisco’s VNI Report), and the lack of support for real-time communication.

Tim Panton on “The Future of WebRTC”

This is Tim’s FOSDEM 2022 presentation. You can see the video here (he’s got a new hairstyle!), and the slides here.

A year ago he gave a talk at FOSDEM 2021 about how WebRTC got to be the way it is. We reviewed it in CXTech Week 8 2021. It’s an excellent summary of why WebRTC makes many experienced web developers go WTF!

This year he talked about how he sees the future of WebRTC and how it intersects with web3. The summary is that webRTC will move to the edge where it’s strengths lie. And WebTransport will take over the mass Video Conference space.

Web3 has been part of TADSummit since 2015 when I met David Dias who was exploring WebRTC and Web3 back then. Here’s a session from TADSummit 2016: Project reTHINK: Decentralised Communications session that includes David (Protocol Labs), Matthew Hodgson (Matrix.org), and of course Project reTHINK, which sadly is no longer active. Though like many open source projects rests in GitHub.

Web3 is not a well-defined destination, rather a collection of protocols and technologies; that when examined in retrospect given their broad and disruptive adoption makes you realize Web3 has happened. Web3 is not hyped up like the metaverse, which is simply a way for evil corporations like Facebook to continue making money off people’s privacy and gullibility. Thought some technologies in Web3 like Blockchain and NFTs are massively hyped and this distracts from Web3 development, rather on getting rich quick.

The role of edge, that is devices, not telco edge, will most definitely grow. The camera use cases are particularly strong. The importance of devices for running capabilities like AI is a focus of W3C. Though vastly underused processing capacity exists in devices, the variability of its availability does currently create limitations to its broader adoptions. It’s not yet reliably there, except in use cases like WebRTC cameras.

Tim’s final point that WebRTC will underly Web3, is most definitely the case. Tim makes a great case for it. Well done!

Chris Lewis on the importance of Accessibility in Design

This week I had a fun, as always, conversation with Chris Lewis on accessibility. Its importance in service / app design, and how to get in into TADHack Global 2022.

Back in December I had an interesting conversation with Manisha Amin, CEO of The Centre for Inclusive Design, as part of a discussion on W3C Accessibility.

Both these discussions struck a chord on how much we need to do for accessibility online. I’m as guilty as anyone with not using adequate alt text with images. Even hero images need an explanation.

In Chris’s article there’s a great quote, “Designing for the edges gives you the centre for free”:

The main lesson learned from the research and continued interaction with the industry and the community of PWDs (People With Disabilities) is to be absolutely sure to build accessibility into the design and revision process from scratch. Employing PWDs in all areas of the business will enrich the culture of your organisation as well as bring that knowledge into the way you build an experience for everyone.

Chris Lewis, article, “ANOTHER EDGE FOR YOU TO THINK ABOUT: PWD AND OMNICHANNEL LESSONS FOR THE MAINSTREAM”

We’re examining how best to make accessibility a focus in TADHack, if you have any ideas let me know. It already is to some extent included, check out this excellent hack Colloquia11y by team Similarly Geeky, comprising Lily Madar and Steven Goodwin. Its an accessible conferencing solution (using TTS and STT). It makes the conference available to all by allowing some users to interact via text message (both to “hear” the chat, and respond) while others get the audio experience.

Dolby.io Acquires Cosmo

From what I understand Dolby.io has acquired Cosmo a holding company, owning Millicast and Medooze (the WebRTC SFU) IP for scalability. The Cosmo media server is quite good.

It’s an acqui-hire of some excellent people. And moves Dolby.io more solidly into WebRTC, after its acquisition of Voxeet in 2019, and its launch of Dolby.io in 2020, reviewed in CXTech Week 20 2020.

The acquisition shows we’re still in the craftsman stage of WebRTC development. Though both Tim’s presentation on the future of WebRTC and industrial scale competitors to Millicast like Subspace, show that is now beginning to change.

Twilio beats expectations

Twilio Q4 revenue was $842.7 million, which climbed 54% year over year. Analysts’ consensus estimates were calling for revenue of $771.3 million.

The results were boosted by Twilio’s recent acquisitions of Segment and Zipwhip, which increased sales by $57.4 million and $31.8 million, respectively. Excluding those segments, the company produced organic growth of 34% year over year, or 39% excluding uneven political traffic, which spikes in U.S. presidential election years.

Underlying the growth, its good old customer communications using the smartphone, as businesses and governments bring workflows there. I’ve finally stopped receiving COVID booster availability SMS now my COVID records where corrected with the booster I received back in Nov.

Investors also got excited that Twilio expects the company to move to profitability, generating both operating income and adjusted profits sometime in 2023. This has been a grumble of some financial analysts in the past. But also shows the segment is reaching maturity.

Malaysia to finalise wholesale 5G rollout by end-February

I wrote about keeping an eye on Malaysia last year, with the 5G GOMSPV (Government of Malaysia Special Purpose Vehicle). The Malaysian government’s plan to own the fifth generation (5G) spectrum and build the country’s only 5G network instead of leaving it to the telecommunications operators. One of the drivers is avoiding the replication of cell towers.

As with anything political there are delays (valid ones given flooding and COVID), and a certain amount of creating failure conditions. It’s unlikely Digital National Bhd (DNB) can cover 90% of the population with just 10,000 towers by 2022. Timelines will need to be revised, and deals need to be struck with the telcos. Let’s see, interesting ideas like 5G GOMSPV, sometimes are killed before they have a chance to enable experimentation which can lead to innovation.

US payTV penetration on course to dip below 50%

Pay TV penetration over the past decade has dropped from 91% in 2010 to 60% in 2021, and estimated to be 50% by 2026. With revenues similarly dropping from a peak of $100B in 2014 to $50B in 2027. Cable has dropped from 64.5M (2010) to 41M (2027), satellite from 33M to 14M, and IPTV from 7M to 4.4M. It does seem asymptotic, though I thought we’d end up closer to 40%.

Table showing USA:Pay TV subscribers across Satellite, IPTV and Cable. Text in article summarizes the main data points of the table.

Vodafone’s plans to hire 7000 more software engineers

Under ambitious plans announced a few weeks ago, Vodafone aims to grow its team of software engineers from about 9,000 in late 2021 to around 16,000 by 2025 (Vodafone had 96,500 employees in total at the end of March 2021, down from 111,700 in 2015).

If all goes well, they will write the code that gives Vodafone independence from Big Tech and the muscle to create new services.

The aim is great, own your product, its roadmap, and the customer experience. BUT, back to my organizational trinity: people, process, and technology. The fact telcos could not build their own cloud, and retain people with cloud expertise, will be equally true for software skills.

Here Gamma’s acquisition of Mission Labs is perhaps a better route than simply hiring. A team with the necessary skills and development culture, that can be kept at arm’s length from the legacy operations culture. I’m always reminded of the borg when it comes to corporate culture.

Picture of Jean Luc Picard as The Borg. With the text, "Resistance if Futile, you will be assimilated." Uses to highlight how corporate cultures dominate.

Another Statement of the Bleeding Obvious: Wireless Charging Sucks

Wireless charging sucks because: it’s not wireless, its inefficient, it ages your battery, and it’s more expensive. I remember an Apple Accolite proudly showing me their first wireless charger. All the reasons I thought it was crap were confirmed, I did bite my tongue on that occasion.

I have several 5 year old 2m USB-C cable so I can hold the device while it charges, at my desk, couch, and night stand. My Apple Accolite friend is on their 8th or 9th wireless charger, paying about 10 times what I’ve spent to charge their devices poorly.

And Another Statement of the Bleeding Obvious: Time to Stop the Gs

Geoff Hollingworth worked for Ericsson, he knows the game that’s being played. I made similar points in last week’s newsletter on the Lessons from 5G, I also include a quote from that newsletter as well from Geoff’s Linkedin post.

“Every ten years or so, the global telecom industry yanks the tarp off a new “generation” of mobile technology. Marketing machines go into overdrive, evangelists start cooing about the benefits to society, cash-starved governments raise billions by taxing air and a wave of network investment sweeps the planet like a massive nuclear blast. By the time it is all over, the world’s operators are a bit worse off, and their executives have the look of combat veterans returning from a bloody war…”

Geoff’s Linkedin post

5G private networks will follow the same path as private 4G, they have a role, but its niche as cellular coverage costs 4 times WiFi coverage (which every business must have), and DAS is 7 to 8 times the cost per square foot of WiFi. The world will be different when 6G arrives, but it’s unclear to me how the O-RAN vision will be fulfilled by the telco industry. Perhaps Google, Microsoft or Amazon will build vast country-wide neutral host networks? James Body’s MONEH vision finally realized in the 2030s 🙂

From CXTech Week 5 2022

People, Gossip, and Frivolous Stuff

Warren Prasad is now Director – Solutions Delivery at Boku. Recently bought by Twilio.

Guido Arnone is now CTO at Comune di Milano.

Steve Christian is now HubSpot Implementation Specialist at Vonazon.

Sjoerd “Stuart” Kegel is now Manager Product Deployment and Global Product Strategy at Dun & Bradstreet.

Ryan Disraeli is now President at Inspectiv, Vulnerability Management Platform. Previously CEO of Telesign, which is going IPO through a SPAC.

Michael S is now Leader Cloud Security CER at Check Point Software Technologies Ltd.

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