CXTech Week 18 2022 News and Analysis

The purpose of this CXTech Week 18 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:

  • Goodbye BT as a Consumer Brand?
  • MobiledgeX acquired by Google
  • Forbes: What Is CPaaS?
  • Scaling WebRTC Applications
  • Additional 14M for Federated Wireless – CBRS
  • Sipfront secures six-figure angel funding for its launch
  • Twilio’s Wild Ride
  • Cloopen – I did warn
  • People, Gossip, and Frivolous Stuff

Goodbye BT as a Consumer Brand?

Every telco has its own culture. Often heavily influenced by the local culture and history of the organization. My model of BT is a group of British managers sat about a table or on a video conference, many with engineering degrees, discussing a decision, deferring making the decision until the deadline is upon them, and still managing to find a way to make the decision a deferral.

The announcement on “From today, we’re starting the preparations to make the EE brand our flagship brand for Consumer customers focusing on convergence and future services.” OK, so the decision is to start preparations, but so what?

The problem is customers do not care about your internal processes. They care about decisions that affect them. For example, “the BT brand for our consumer customers will change to EE by the end of 2022. This will remove those annoying multiple logins, and simplify using all our services.” It’s clear, no faff.

If the intent is to test out the brand transfer, then test it with your customers and employees. See what they say, and make a decision. Don’t do a “Boaty McBoatface” public survey, just talk one on one with your customers and employees, they’ll happily share their opinions. The customers will likely be more focused on the benefits to them, while the transition will be more wrenching for some employees.

Bottom line: only make an announcement when you have a clear plan and deadlines, no wishy-washy intents.

MobiledgeX acquired by Google

I’ve been circumspect on mobile edge computing beyond internal telco use cases since it became a thing. Edge compute is well-established and available from most cloud providers, it works and its easy. Its like your old data center in performance, just run by Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.

The 5G low latency use cases used to justify mobile edge compute are niche, and private 5G can make more sense for enterprise applications that need low latency mobility. Consumer low latency is fine with the fixed edge compute from your favorite cloud provider.

I assume there was a reset in 2020 with MobiledgeX when most telcos did not bite and COVID hit. So the team shrank to an old-guard. There is an argument that no one can predict the future and we have to try. Which I fully support. But there are many ways mobile edge compute could have been hacked together. For example, back in 2019 Tim Panton gave an excellent presentation on an idea about “Edge IoT and 5G” at TADSummit, see below. Simply hack something by contracting Tim, see if it works, build an MVP, and if end customers bite, then build a business. Like most start-ups.

Telco innovation often fails because ideas are made fashionable based on belief rather than facts. Tens of millions get spent when a hack has not even proven end customers will bite. Telcos spend $$$$ to add the fashionable idea to their networks, only to shrug their shoulders and go, “what’s the use case?” Build it and they will come is a fallacy. Internet access and chat existed before telcos started doing it. Telcos took an existing business and made it ubiquitous: dial-up then broadband; and SMS.

Google’s interest in MobiledgeX is selling any cloud solution Telcos will buy. So if telcos want mobile edge compute, they have a solution. Along with the rest of their cloud compute for telco. The addressable market for mobile edge compute beyond a telco’s internal use cases doesn’t matter, it’s now a feature to differentiate or close a telco cloud sale. On making MobiledgeX open source, it’s worth a try, but Google does tend to tightly control such projects. And mobile networks are not known for being open, so let’s see.

Bottom line: telco innovation needs to follow the proven start-up model. Hack, test, seed, MVP, test with end customers paying $$, first round. Tens of millions should not be spent and for the industry to still be asking, “what’s the use case?”

Forbes: What Is CPaaS?

You know an acronym has gone mainstream when Forbes does a ‘What Is?’ Lots of mistakes, such as claiming UCaaS does not offer APIs, it does, chat with RingCentral. It’s a business model thing, you need to subscribe to RingCentral’s UCaaS to get access to the APIs. Nothing to do with technology.

Many UCaaS and CCaaS today include APIs to enable 2FA, alerts, notifications, reminders, etc. That’s many of the popular CPaaS use cases. Most are integrated with the UCaaS/CCaaS platforms’ workflows, so it works quite well.

Stand alone CPaaS helps when you do not have UCaas or CCaaS, or your PBX / call center is old-school and does not have the capabilities, or your in the web customer experience division and trying to coord with the group who owns the contact center is almost mission impossible.

Bottom-line: it’s all just programmable telecoms with different business models. Look at the diversity of Twilio’s business, SIP trunking, CCaaS, email marketing, customer data consolidation, security, the list goes on. To call it a CPaaS company misses many parts of its business.

Twilio positions itself as the Future of Communications. It’s definitely part of it, and led the change to make communications programmable, after telcos initial attempts. The current fashionable term is composable. Analysts thought programmable was too geeky.

But the term programmable is important, as the service created through stitching together a couple of APIs and platform functions must be managed as a product, it’s a development project. It needs a product manager as any updates across the chain can impact the service. For example, an SMS alert sent when stuff is left in the e-commerce basket stops working. Only when the sales drop and the cause is investigated is it discovered the e-commerce update added a field to the basket alert, which was read by the SMS notification app as a do not contact indicator. Workflows need product managers.

Bottom-line: ignore the current fashionable term of composable services, its been created by consultants like CPaaS, who lack in-the-trenches experience. And are focused on making me-too platforms seem soft and friendly, rather than experienced.

Scaling WebRTC Applications

Nice review from WebRTC.Ventures, many WebRTC applications begin as hacks, not built for scale from the start. It’s easy to claim, build it right from the start. But then it would not have been built, being a hack is what enabled the application to come into existence.

WebRTC applications are often initially built to handle a minimal number of users. Later, as an app proves its usefulness in the marketplace and becomes successful, it is necessary to increase the number of WebRTC connections it can handle. This type of application scaling is an important and regular part of their work at WebRTC.ventures. Often they can refactor the existing application. Other times, it becomes necessary to apply a new architecture entirely.

When thinking about refactoring an application to make it scalable, there are many aspects to take into consideration. You will most likely want to set multiple instances of your services, which will require data storage and data consistency across all of them. In the case of a WebRTC application, you will also need to store some objects that need to be mapped (like the media pipeline and WebRTC endpoints in our case). You will also need to set up the communication between services and think about how to configure all the queues for your instances so that messages can be consumed by any instance of a service. These are only some of the considerations you will need to take into account when upgrading your application.

Additional 14M for Federated Wireless – CBRS

Federated Wireless, shared spectrum and CBRS technology, announced that it has closed on an additional $14 million in Series D funding bringing the total raised in the round to $72 million. With the additional funding, the company added affiliates of Fortress Investment Group, Giantleap Capital, and LightShed Ventures to its list of investors. Existing investor GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, also participated.

Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) refers to 150 MHz of spectrum in the 3550 MHz to 3700 MHz range (3.5 GHz to 3.7 GHz) that the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has designated for sharing among three tiers of users: incumbent users, priority access license (PAL) users and general authorized access (GAA) users.

Founded in 2012, Federated Wireless focuses on the development of shared spectrum CBRS capabilities. As the first to market with a Spectrum Access System (“SAS”), Federated Wireless is enabling, commercializing, and driving adoption of shared spectrum and private wireless technologies.

With more than 350 customers and over 85,000 connected devices across the United States and territories, the company serves a customer base spanning defense, government, manufacturing, telecommunications, utilities, real estate, and education, with a wide range of use cases ranging from network densification and mobile offload to private wireless and industrial IoT. The company’s partner ecosystem includes more than 40 device manufacturers and edge partners, all of which are dedicated to collaboration to advance development and proliferation of CBRS services.

Sipfront secures six-figure angel funding for its launch

Sipfront simulates phone calls and video conferences for its customers and checks whether connections get established and call quality meets predefined requirements. “We’ve all experienced video conferences with participants either not seeing or hearing each other, or suddenly got dropped in a corporate call center while waiting on hold. Testing and reproducing these scenarios is very difficult and involves a lot of manual work, compared to other areas of software development,” says Sipfront founder Andreas Granig. Sipfront automates the entire test process of real-time communication systems and increases the service quality, lowers the cost and improves the overall end user experience for their customers. This has already been validated in a successful private beta with major Internet and telecom companies.

For over a year, Andreas Granig has been busy preparing his new startup Sipfront. With their six-figures investment, Daniel Tiefnig and Markus Seidl are now joining as partners. Daniel and Andreas already sold their co-founded telecom equipment supplier Sipwise to Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise for an eight-figures amount in 2018, and they are off to repeat their high-tech success story. The investment enables Sipfront to operationally kick-off with first customers and fill key team positions.

Twilio’s Wild Ride

Twilio reported its Q1 results: $875.4 million in revenue, up 48% year-over-year. That’s impressive. They’re approaching $1B a quarter, and growth is close to 50%! I was expecting a post-pandemic slowdown. Now there is M&A in those numbers. I expect TeleSign to use M&A to achieve its revenue growth targets in 2023. Sangoma does this regularly.

For the second-quarter, it expects revenue to be between $912 million and $922 million, representing a growth rate between 36% and 38%. So the stock went down 18%, then up, then settled flat. The pandemic is over, there could be a recession, 37% growth is still good. Just like the silliness over Netflix, demand is finite and competition continues to increase. 50% is crazy at these revenues, granted organic growth is a more reasonable 35%.

Cloopen – I did warn

Back in CXTech Week 6 2021 after its IPO I did raise my concerns about Cloopen. While Vidyo was bought for $40M with $60M in annual revenue by Enghouse in 2019, and a similar Chinese company Agora raised $360M in a 2020 IPO, with 2019 revenues of $64M. Following that trend a CPaaS/CCaaS/UCaaS (enterprise comms) provider Cloopen raised $320M on about $110M revenue, giving it a valuation of $2.4B. The Chinese market is definitely hot. I’m not convinced on the international growth potential of Cloopen, but it is and will continue to do well in the SMB Chinese market, regulation dependent.

Cloopen has now formed an independent special committee to investigate employee misconduct and transaction irregularities.

People, Gossip, and Frivolous Stuff

Frank Zhu is now Senior Sales Engineer at Chronosphere. Frank Zhu was one of the first TADHack winners, back in 2014.

Chalithya Sangeeth is now a Full Stack Engineer at Spades. He’s a TADHack 2020 winner with an RFID based transport ticketing by team SKAT: Anjana Malindra Fredricks, Kasun Sudharaka, Chalithya Sangeeth, Thineth Athukorala.

Michelle Howie is now an intern at the World Economic Forum in the Early Careers Programme – 2030Vision Knowledge Network. Previously with Telstra, and below is her session at TADSummit 2021 on Telstra’s Track and Monitor.

Wei Chen is Head of Engineering, Zoom Chat at Zoom. I’ve known Wei Chen since his time at Voxeo / Tropo.

Anton Roman, ex-CTO Quobis, is joining Core Networks CTO team at Nokia as Chief Architect, according to Victor, see below, and he’s just updated his Linkedin profile.

Jason Emery is now Chief Product Officer at Securrency. I’ve known Jason since his time at Tekelec.

Andrew Serentis is now Senior Application Engineer at Oracle

Adam Sillitoe is now Sales Director at CDM Media.

Daniel Boghici is now Presales Engineer at Frequentis, previously with Sipwise.

Gerry Christensen is now Vice President at YouMailPS

Oswaldo Lauschner is now Managing Consultant, Emerging Technologies at TELUS

Mark Freer is now Founder & CEO at 𝐇𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐬 𝐔𝐩 & 𝐅𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐫

Jeff Haynie is now Head of Labs at Shopmonkey

Matt Stallknecht is now Senior Business Development Executive at Tipico

Gauthier Renard is now Head of Product at G&V Energy Group

Gianfranco Bulgarelli is now LinkedIn Content Creator at LinkedIn

Mihajlo Prerad is now VP Sales EMEA at VertiCare Systems.

Marwa Raboudi Senior Frontend Developer at Scheidt & Bachmann Maghreb

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