“We’re here to celebrate the success that that industry is enjoying.” These were among the opening works from the Ulf Ewaldsson, the senior vice president, and chief technology officer of Ericsson, who kicked things off on Day Two of the Broadband World Forum.
There are 1.1billion users on Facebook spending 400 minutes per month each on the site, 400 million Tweets per day, 100 billion downloads of app smartphones and this all possible because the networks are really performing, crowed Ewaldsson. He also picked out Netflix as a service that wouldn’t exist were the networks not up to scratch.
According to analysis done by Ericsson, network performance he said was rated even more highly than value – implying that consumers will pay more for a better performing network and not surprisingly he then that he reiterated the famous mantra that soon spectrum would be more of a scarce resource that oil.
Interestingly, he showed a graph from other Ericsson research that showed that those operators that had chosen to only charge for data, rather than for voice, (EE in the UK comes to mind) had been consistently doing better since an inflection point around 2010, with a 10 per cent increase in CAGR. And making a call that would be echoed by others in later presentations, Ewaldsson called for what he dubbed ‘visionary investments’ rather than, investments made on a business case basis.
The said operators should be ‘ecosystemtic’ which as well as being a great new word, simply means being willing to partner with others in the eco-system, for example, seeing working with the likes of Skype as an opportunity rather than a threat.
From here he moved on to the Ericsson vision of the ‘Networked Society’, which is essentially a vision of 5G, where the network would be redefined, somewhat scarily, as a sentient global machine, intertwining with the home and controlled connected devices from the car, to wearable tech such as Google glass. To make this all possible though, the technology needed to be introduced now – and that technology was, or course software defined networking. Reference was also made to M2M – and the tremendous change that will happen with everything that can benefit from being connected to the network, will be connected to the network. I imagine this is when Skynet will become sentient, and that will be it for all of us, but hey, at least Arnie is acting once again so will be on hand to save us.
The second speaker, Tom Stanton, chairman & CEO of USA firm Adtran, focussed on the reasons for the accelerated rate of change in the industry, and explained them as combination of three overlapping laws– Moore’s law, that states that a microprocessor will double in performance every two years for the same cost, Metcalfe’s law, where the value of a network is proportional to the square of the all its users, and Gilders Law, where the bandwidth of a system is predicted to triple every 12 months. Stanton admitted that the last one had been proved not be accurate – with bandwidth ‘merely’ increasing by 45 per cent, but it was good enough that when combined together with the other two it would be enough to shat Stanton referred to as a synergistic reaction, creating growth that he believed would be as significant a step change as the invention of the Gutenberg press was in its day.
And in a summary that I suspected would have some operators being taken out of the room on stretchers, he said he believe that demand for broadband would effectively be ‘infinite’ and that speed would remain that bottleneck for innovation. I dub this, Stanton’s law. You heard it here first.
Neelie Kroes, vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, delivered a pre-recorded message on a video screen, Big Brother-like. The summary of her speech was to berate the European broadband industry for lagging behind the leaders round the world and that while the EU target of achieving 100 per cent basic internet access for every European citizen had been achieved there was still a long way to go to reach the 2020 target of 30Mbps. In particular Kroes focused on her own seemingly personal bug bear, roaming charges, saying that new market deals to end these were still being worked on. At this I half expected someone from a European operator to run up to the screen and chuck a giant hammer at it.
This didn’t happen, but later a representative from one major European telco told me that if Kroes got her way he would immediately quit his job, saying it would be game over for any operator to have an incentive to invest in a network. I will be following this up with him when the inevitable happens.
Kroes had a representative at the show in the form of Anna Krzyzanowska, head of unit B5, Broadband, for the EU. Whatever that means.
Describing the challenges the department was facing in getting operator to invest in deploying networks to those areas of Europe that still lack any kind of fast broadband, her frustration was almost palpable.
Discussing the regulatory red tape that prevented companies getting started on building infrastructure she said that one county required 32 permits before work could start, and she looked very cross when she said it – though refused to mention names. (Spoil sport).
She also echoed Ericsson’s Ulf Ewaldsson in stating that short termism was causing a lack of vision, and that investments based only on the business case would “not unlock the potential for the European economy”.
Axel Clauberg, vice president at Deutsche Telekom won the prize for the first keynote to mention the zeitgeist word of the moment ‘moonshot’ – mentioned in relation to the fact that the industry needs to reduce costs by stripping out legacy network elements and move to a new streamlined network that features only what is necessary . This, naturally, would not be easy, and ironically observed that “the most complex part, will be simplifying it.” The network should be built on three things he said – IP, NFV, and SDN. When quizzed on which was the most important he said, rather unhelpfully, “all of them”, though did say you could start with virtualisation and go from there.
Balan Nair, of Liberty Global was next up, and mainly pointed out that networks are getting faster, whether they’re xDSL, cable, fibre or LTE and that soon the bottleneck would be the Wi-Fi in the home rather than anything out of the home. He also made the call for the whole industry to move to volume based billing – which while seemingly inevitable for wireless would make this writer very cross if it happened on my home connection, which happens to be Virgin Media, now owned by Liberty Global. Oh dear.
In the panel session, Sprint’s vice president of technology Ron Marquardt flew the flag for his company’s unlimited data offering, while Vivek Badrinath, Deputy Chief Executive Office of Orange, France, said something I’d not heard anywhere else, – that operators look to reduce the energy consumption for both cost and ecological reasons, proving that Orange wants to be green. An admirable approach, but let’s hope it’s a policy that doesn’t leave it blue.