Broadband World Forum 2013 – Day 1 Keynote Round-up

ImageThe Broadband World Forum kicked off today in Amsterdam, and if attendees were in any doubt about the benefits of it being located in the city they were surely put paid to by the more than exuberant chair of the event, BBC World Report presenter Aaron Heslethurst, who exhaustively listed the many delights and attractions that the Netherlands’ capital city holds.

Aaron then handed over to the CTO of Alcatel-Lucent, Marcus Weldon, who said he would take up on a whirlwind tour of the future – and back, and that in doing so he would convince us that the industry has in hand a set of technologies and services that as he put would it would enable us to, “revolutionise how we interact with each other, and content, media, and services from the cloud.” ”. It was a bold aim for a Tuesday morning. Fortunately, Weldon was quite convincing that it could be done.

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CTO of Alcatel-Lucent, Marcus Weldon

Rather than an issue of technology, Weldon said that it was question of whether the industry had, “the confidence and ambition to build these networks, and we just had to ‘decide’ if can be done affordably.

The main challenge Weldon said came from tablets, which he showed via a chart were devices that have had the fastest adoption rate in tech history, and had fundamentally changed how users behaved and would soon be responsible for a 100x demand in signaling capacity.

Another small problem that the industry faced Weldon said was that it needs to innovate faster. In fact he believed that the industry had created just two services over the past 100 years – one being voice, and data a mere decade ago, compared to the web world where new services are created all the time.

Weldon also laid out that in terms of the solution small cells would be crucial. More spectrum, and more efficient use of spectrum would gain you 2x increases in bandwidth, but moving physically closer and using metro cells would give you far greater bandwidth to play with.  He also observed that ‘smart loading’ of networks at off peak times would be a way to make more efficiency gains in network architecture.

IT and telco architecture would also become one and the same Weldon said, and network virtualisation and cloud architectures would enable operators to create new architectures quickly and speedily. This would all be made possible by the reality of ultra-low cost compute, based on industry standard hardware and virtualisation of almost all parts of the network. He also called for more boldness in giving new approaches a go, and stated that operators need to adopt at web mentality of trying and failing and if it doesn’t work out they could redeploy the cloud compute services elsewhere.

Eric Hoving, the Group CTO of Dutch operator, KPN was proud of being the host operator to the event and the fact that its LTE network was offering a 23Mbps download speed inside the building at the RAI.

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Eric Hoving, Group CTO, KPN

He said that futurologists have always said that it’s hard to describe the future and that we do so using terms that we already know. So just as the first projectors were known as magic lanterns, and the first cars were known as horseless carriages, the term smartphone is going to be equally dated terminology in the future. He echoed Alcatel-Lucent’s Weldon in saying the demand from tablets it going to make operators redesign their networks and that the internet itself is still designed for fixed line, and that as access to the internet becomes predominantly mobile, the sites we access will have to adapt more than they do today.

Hoving also made the bold claim that the large telcos don’t understand how today’s youth actually use the internet and that the likes of Ericsson should have teenagers on the board to help guide them. I’m not sure how much that’s going to catch on, but we got the idea.

Wing Lee of YTL in Malaysia also had kids as his focus, and he spoke proudly of how YTL’s collaboration with the online learning platform Frog, was transforming education in his home country of Malaysia by connecting up to 10,00 schools. In a video, he demonstrated children from two schools communicating with each other via the learning platform, using Google Apps via Google Chromebooks. Though one of these was from an affluent area, while the other was from a poor rural area, and the 4G, cloud powered learning platform was effectively levelling the playing field between them. The aim was to give both sets of kids the same opportunities through access to same set of educational tools with a view to create an internet driven economy.

Google were also on hand to speak to the audience in the form of Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Fiber. The success of the program is clear in that everywhere he goes Lo is asked when Google Fiber is coming to such and such area, and it proved the case once again, proving that if nothing else Lo is a master at deflecting that question with the standard, “we’re concentrating on Kansas City, Utah and Provo”.

However, if anyone involved in planning from any city in the US was listening Lo revealed the hints and tips on how to make it easier to get fibre in those cities, which boiled down to access to infrastructure, access to maps, and expedited construction permits. For a company that epitomises the cutting edge of internet technology, the reality is rather mundane. To make it all happen, you still need a man with a ladder to tack a cable onto a pole, or blow fibre down a conduit. So if you want the benefits of a boosted economy, lag free gaming, and super high definition Netflix, you need make it easy for Bob the Builder to do his job.

To watch the Keynote Presentations from Day 1 visit our website: http://www.broadbandworldforum.com/conference/presentations/

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