Showing posts from 2017

Can AI Help Move Beyond "Something Happened" to "Something Happened and the Network Fixed Itself"?

To say artificial intelligence is trendy is an understatement, experienced routinely by a growing number of consumers in the form of their smartphones and voice-activated assistants, invisibly in their consumption of content.

Investments in artificial intelligence have been highest, to date, in banking, retail, healthcare and manufacturing, IDC estimates. In the communications business, AI use cases arguably have been most pronounced in smartphones, customer service automation and possibly billing.

But it is logical to ask whether AI should not logically come to play a role in network operations and marketing, among other basic functions of communications networks.

Can AI be used by networks to make decisions based on customer activities or location? And does that create incremental value and revenue opportunities?

Can AI help network supervisors move beyond “I know what happened” to “I know what will happen” to “something happened and the network fixed itself?” That is not a terribly…

How Much Can a Telco Afford to Invest in Faster Internet Access?

How much should any tier-one service provider invest in its internet access capabilities?
Much depends on the market dynamics: whether that firm’s role is wholesale-only; wholesale and retail; or retail only or mostly.
But in every case, the fundamentally-sound position is to invest only to the point that an adequate return on capital can be made. The level of return might be dictated wholly, or in part, by a government entity that caps the rate of return. In other markets the rate of return is limited by the amount of competition and risk of stranded assets.
In the U.S. market, some are not optimistic. Jonathan Chaplin, New Street Research equity analyst, believes cable companies could have 72 percent market share in 2020, with as much as 78 percent share of the internet access market.
Some might argue, given such trends, that telcos should simply harvest their internet access customer base. Of course, such forecasts likely include an assumption that telcos must either upgrade to fib…

"Insight" is the Outcome AI Delivers

All of us have heard the phrases “data-driven business” and “digital transformation” as hallmarks of the way firms will have to evolve

Add insights-driven to that list. Though we are in the early days, that phrase is supposed to refer to the way firms mine the data they own to develop insights about customer behavior that can, in turn, be used to drive sales, retention and profit margins.

“Insight” is another way of saying “knowledge” or “understanding” about actual patterns in customer and prospect behavior, with the ability to apply such understanding to actual product features, processes and delivery, in a predictive way.

And without belaboring the point, such insights, the result of data mining using artificial intelligence or machine learning, already have been deployed in some business processes such as customized content, search, customer service operations and e-commerce.

Some firms have ad advantage, though. Etsy, the e-commerce site, created a “dedicated research department t…

One Interesting Factoid from Verizon's 3Q 2017 Report

Just one interesting observation from Verizon’s third quarter earnings report, which probably was better than most had expected. Note just one indicator, voice connections, which shrank seven percent. At that rate, Verizon loses half its voice revenue in a decade.
That is one illustration of the argument that tier-one service providers must replace half their current revenue every decade.

Despite the shift to unlimited plans and heightened competition in the mobile services market, Verizon managed to add a net 603,000 mobile connections, 486,000 of those being the highly-regarded postpaid accounts.
Operating revenues also were up, year over year. Even Verizon’s wireless segment posted higher revenue, year over year.

source: Verizon

Massive MIMO Deployments are Inevitable

It is not hard to predict that use of massive multiple input-multiple output radio technologies is going to grow, as advanced 4G and 5G networks are built. Massive MIMO is required to make use of vast new spectrum resources to be released in the millimeter wave region to support 5G.
In fact, massive MIMO is intrinsically related to use of small cells, ultra-dense cell networks and millimeter wave frequencies.
Massive MIMO trials or limited deployments in 2017 were undertaken by Sprint, Deutsche Telekom, China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Singtel, T-Mobile Netherlands, Vodafone Australia, Optus, and Telefónica. Massive MIMO also is being developed by Telecom Infra, the open source telecom infrastructure effort.
The spectrum bands at which many of these trials have taken place include 2.5 GHz, 2.6 GHz, 3.5 GHz, 1.8 GHz, and 2.3 GHz. Except for 3.5 GHz, the remaining frequencies are also allocated for LTE in many countries. Telecom Infra is testing much-higher frequencies (60 GHz…

Why a Massive New Gigabit Upgrade, Instead of DirecTV Acquisition, Made No Sense

Two years ago, when DirecTV was acquired by AT&T, it would have been easy to find detractors arguing that AT&T should have spent that money investing in fiber to home infrastructure. With linear video cord cutting possibly accelerating, the new version of that story is being heard again.

So what should AT&T have done with $67 billion, assuming a 4.6 percent cost of capital? Cost of capital is the annualized return a borrower or equity issuer (paying a dividend) incurs simply to cover the cost of borrowing.

In AT&T’s case, the breakeven rate is 4.6 percent, which is the cost of borrowing itself. To earn an actual return, AT&T has to generate new revenue above 4.6 percent.

First of all, AT&T would not have borrowed $67 billion if it needed to add about three million new fiber to home locations per year. Assume that was all incremental capital, above and beyond what AT&T normally spends for new and rehab access facilities.

Assume that for logistical reasons, A…

SD-WAN Growing 70% Annually, MPLS 4%

Only one fact about software-defined wide area network services is incontestable: its growth rates dwarf  growth rates for MPLS, a service some believe eventually could emerge as a replacement for some portion of MPLS demand.
A new forecast from International Data Corporation estimates that worldwide SD-WAN infrastructure and services revenues will see a compound annual growth rate of 69.6 percent and reach $8.05 billion in 2021.
MPLS, on the other hand, will grow at about four percent rates through 2021.
source: Ovum
The most significant driver of SD-WAN growth over the next five years will be driven by increased reliance on cloud computing, big data analytics, mobility, and social business, IDC says.
Use of those tools generally increases network workloads and elevates the network's end-to-end importance to business operations, including support at all branch locations.

Which Way for Retail Internet Access Pricing?

We are about to see an unusual test of internet access pricing; unusual only in the sense that the direction of retail pricing in the internet era has been down, in a cost per bit basis and generally even in an absolute cost basis.
The test is a thesis some advance that U.S. cable companies--especially Comcast--will be able to boost retail internet access prices dramatically in coming years. That would run counter to past trends, and assumes that competition in internet access space will not increase.
Prices are complicated though, as one broad pattern has been for prices to remain roughly flat while speeds have grown dramatically, in some cases as fast as Moore’s Law might predict, at the high end of the market (what it is possible for a consumer customer to buy from an internet service provider such as Comcast).
That means sharp declines in cost per megabyte per second of speed might not be seen in posted retail prices. Also, pricing trends also reflect consumer decisions to spend m…

Netflix, AT&T, Comcast: Same Strategy?

Netflix strategy has been clear for some time: “Become HBO faster than HBO becomes us.”

By that, Netflix means becomes a source of original programing, not a retransmission or distribution vehicle for third party content.

Not just incidentally, the Netflix strategy sheds light on what AT&T and Comcast have done, despite criticisms of AT&T for doing so. Netflix occupies what formerly were a few distinct roles in the video entertainment ecosystem: content owner, program network and content distributor.

TV Channels of the Future - AtticTV Pte Ltd from Johnson Goh

In the old model, programming networks were one segment of the business, while distributors (broadcast TV, cable TV, telco and satellite TV) were in a distinctly-different part of the ecosystem. The content creation business (studio function) was a third role.

But what Netflix has done is create a new position that simultaneously combines those several former roles.

Its investments in original programing make it a content …

AT&T Critics are Simply Wrong About Linear Video

Inevitably, aside from claims that the “wheels are coming off” the linear video business, there will be renewed criticism that AT&T should instead have spent the capital used to acquire DirecTV, and then (if approved by regulators) Time Warner, to upgrade its consumer access networks.
The critics are wrong; simply wrong, even if it sounds reasonable that AT&T could have launched a massive upgrade of its fixed networks, instead of buying DirecTV or Time Warner (assuming the acquisition is approved).
AT&T already has said it had linear video subscriber losses of about 90,000 net accounts in the third quarter. In its second quarter, net losses from U-verse and DirecTV amounted to about 351,000 accounts.
Keep in mind that, as the largest U.S. linear video provider, AT&T will lose the most customers, all other things being equal, when the market shrinks.
Some have speculated that AT&T potential losses could be as high as 390,000 linear accounts.
Such criticisms about AT…

How Important is Network Effect in Telecom? Not Very, at Industry Level

It is a truism that network effects are key to many businesses and industries, ranging from social media networks to access networks. The network effect describes a situation where the value of a product or service is dependent on the number of others using it.
But there are other “scale” effects that shape the profitability of business models, ranging from “economies of scale” (lower unit costs possible because of customer mass or volume) to “economies of scope” (efficiencies created by product variety, not single-product volume).
Ideally, if one had a choice to operate in any industry, the “best” pick would be an industry with low scale requirements and high barriers to consumer switching behavior. Such industries are hard to find, as many consumer-facing  businesses require scale.
In that respect, internet access is in a difficult environment. It requires lots of capital, tends to earn lower profit margins than many other industries, requires some amount of sc…