Elon Musk blasts into MWC to update on Starlink plans

Satellite-based broadband services are becoming a commercial reality thanks to billionaires such as Elon Musk – should traditional telcos be worried?

MWC may be a scaled-down event this year, but the organisers have nevertheless managed to land a significant keynote speaker: Elon Musk.

The billionaire tech entrepreneur will attend the event virtually – live from his home in California – and the keynote is likely to focus on Starlink, the satellite–based broadband network being deployed by Musk’s Space X space flight company.

Starlink’s mission is to connect those still unable to get online. The GSMA estimates that roughly half of the world’s population – approximately 3.7 billion people – are not yet connected to the internet. Lack of mobile broadband network coverage is considered one of the main barriers.

Even in mature markets such as the US there are so-called ‘not spots’ – which is one reason why the US regulator awarded Space X almost $900 million late last year as part of a programme to extend high-speed access to rural areas.

Musk first announced his plans for Starlink back in 2015, but he has ramped up activity recently. It plans to eventually build a network of 4,400 satellites orbiting the Earth. It already has around a thousand in place and Space X is currently launching multiple new Starlink satellites every week.

So how does it all work?

Satellite-based internet is nothing new – but it has traditionally meant connectivity provided by satellites in so-called Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO). Satellites at this distance from Earth – about 35,000 kilometres away from the Earth’s surface – are usually used for weather services and surveillance. They can usually only provide a basic connectivity service, and usually at a cost that is prohibitive for consumers. For this reason, such services tend to be marketed to specialist sectors that need connectivity in remote areas, such as the maritime industry. UK-based Inmarsat is one such company in this space.

By comparison, the satellites Starlink is sending into orbit operate at lower altitude known as Low Earth Orbit (LEO), which can be as low at 160 kilometres from the Earth’s service. As a result, LEO satellites are able offer lower latencies and faster speeds – making their services comparable to conventional 3G/4G/5G mobile broadband. Starlink says that users can expect to see data speeds from between 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s and latency from 20ms to 40ms in most locations.

Building a LEO satellite broadband network is, of course, eye-wateringly expensive, which is why tech billionaires such as Elon Musk are among the very few able to fund such an initiative, Nevertheless, Starlink does have competition. OneWeb began launching satellites last year (despite going into bankruptcy) and now has the UK government as an investor. Amazon, meanwhile, is investing $10 billion in a project called ‘Kuiper’ that is planning to launch more than 3,000 LEO satellites in order to offer a broadband service.

Friend or foe of the telcos?

The first wave of LEO constellations launched in the 1990s mostly failed to develop business models that could absorb the vast costs involved. But advances in satellite technology over this period, the increased need for bandwidth – and the deep pockets of billionaires such as Elon Musk and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos – mean that there is some optimism for this new era of players.

As McKinsey noted in a recent report, “companies planning large LEO satellite internet constellations still need to reduce a range of costs significantly to ensure long-term viability, [including] lowering launch costs [and reducing] the cost of manufacturing spacecraft, ground equipment, and user equipment.”

If this is achieved, McKinsey says these new players could “unlock enough demand for large LEO constellations to transform both the B2C and B2B communications markets.”

But if they prove successful, could such services become a threat to traditional telcos?

Musk has been keen to position Starlink as a complementary – rather than competitor – to land-based services. Speaking at the Satellite 2020 conference last year, Musk confirmed that “Starlink will effectively serve the three or four per cent hardest to reach customers for telcos, or people who simply have no connectivity right now.”

“So I think it will be actually helpful and take a significant load off the traditional telcos,” he added, reported Light Reading.

Many believe the same. Intelsat concluded in a recent report that “space-based communication platforms are set to play a larger role in mobile network strategies in the 5G era. The variety of use cases with diverse requirements as well as the ambition to connect everyone and everything make space-based solution providers ideal partners to deliver 5G network strategies.”

We look forward to understanding more at MWC this week about how these new partnerships will work.

eContact Services has 20+ years’ experience working with telcos and adapting to an ever-changing landscape. Speak to us today to discover how we can help you engage with telcos and key players from across the industry.

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Telcos bet on the public cloud for future 5G and data-powered services

Vodafone’s deal with Google is just the latest example of an operator leveraging the power of the cloud hyperscalers – but telco vendors are also embracing the cloud.

The debate around how telcos should take advantage of cloud services has been one of the hottest topics in the industry. It is likely to be a major theme at #MWC21 later this year, which will feature a ‘Cloud City’ for the first time. 

Last month saw Vodafone make a significant move, announcing a new, six-year strategic partnership with Google Cloud with the aim of launching a range of new cloud-based products and services. 

The pair plan to jointly build a new data platform – called ‘Nucleus’ – with the capability of processing and moving huge volumes of data globally from multiple systems into the cloud. The platform will be capable of processing around 50 terabytes of data per day, equivalent to 25,000 hours of HD film. 

Vodafone has already identified more than 700 use-cases. For example, on the network side, the operator says it will be able to precisely match network roll-out to consumer demand, increase capacity at critical times, and use machine learning to predict, detect, and fix issues before customers are aware of them.

There is the potential for public services too, such as the ability to provide governments with anonymised movement data to tackle the spread of diseases such as COVID-19. 

Vodafone is not the only operator shaping its future strategy around the public cloud. In the US, satellite broadcast operator Dish Network claimed to be the first telco in the world to run its entire network in the cloud via a deal with Amazon. Dish will begin deploying its fully-cloud-based 5G Open RAN network in the US later this year using Amazon’s market-leading AWS public cloud. 

As well as hosting all of Dish’s virtual infrastructure and OSS/BSS systems, AWS will also enable the telco’s enterprise customers to develop their own 5G services via private networks. 

“I think telcos increasingly want to move in this direction. They want to have the ability to not have to build and maintain everything themselves,” Amazon CEO Andy Jassy told the Financial Times. He added that the current network architecture approach was “expensive and slower than they’d wish” as telcos look to move into the 5G era. 

These moves appear to present a threat to the traditional telecom equipment vendors such as Ericsson, Nokia and Huawei. 

But these vendors are also placing their strategic bets on the cloud. For example, Ericsson recently extended its partnership with Amazon to offer its BSS portfolio via AWS. 

The vendor believes such as move would offer its telco customers a choice of cloud-based solutions. “When I talk to customers about their cloud transformations, clear patterns are emerging”, says Ericsson’s Mats Karlsson in a blog post announcing the deal. “Service providers want choice. Some are working with private cloud, some are moving towards public cloud and some are embracing a hybrid approach. But they also want choice when it comes to cloud providers”.

Rival vendor Nokia struck a similar deal with Google Cloud in January 

But as we have discussed previously, moving an entire telco’s operations into the cloud is far from straightforward. As Ericsson noted in a recent paper, legacy BSS systems may in some cases be “decades-old” but are still being used by telcos around the world today. This makes a quick switch to a fully cloud-based architecture impossible.

“The challenge for CSPs lies in converting the enthusiasm for all things digital at the top of the organisation into a detailed vision for the entire business,” warned the TM Forum in a recent report. “Without a holistic strategy, cloud migration could fall victim to short-term budgeting decisions.”

But this caution hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of some of the most zealous advocates of telcos using the public cloud. One of the most vocal has been TelcoDR, the telco cloud consultancy that has taken on Ericsson’s space at #MWC21 to create the ‘Cloud City’. 

“We believe the future of telecom can best be delivered by the public cloud,” said TelcoDR’s outspoken founder, Danielle Royston, in a blog post. “We’re tired of the old guard creating [fear, uncertainty and doubt] about the adoption of cloud technologies that other industries have been benefiting from for years.”

eContact Services has 20+ years’ experience working with telcos and adapting to an ever-changing landscape. Speak to us today to discover how we can help you engage with telcos and key players from across the industry.

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5G is creating a new era of enterprise opportunity, but can telcos capitalise?

The enterprise market is ripe for adopting 5G services, but operators have work to do to unlock value in this growing customer segment

5G is considered the first generation of mobile tech that is set to have a greater impact on the enterprise rather than consumers. KPMG estimates that £3.35 trillion in value is waiting to be unlocked across major industries that embrace 5G such as government, finance, healthcare and manufacturing.

Ericsson, meanwhile, estimates that the addressable market for what it calls “industry digitalization” could grow to about $700 billion by the end of the decade. 

However, this opportunity has required a shift in mindset, both for operators – who are targeting a new type of customer – and for enterprises, which must weigh up how to most effectively invest in new technologies.

A recent report by the TM Forum summarises the situation as follows;

For the first time ever, the mobile communications industry is prioritizing the enterprise market. Indeed, for the past 30+ years, its whole focus has been on serving individuals and consumers, but 5G is changing the target. Now mobile operators and their suppliers believe there is more potential for revenue growth in serving enterprises than consumers.

So what is the appetite for 5G among enterprises? According to a recent study by Nokia, which conducted in-depth research with 1,000 IT decision-makers across seven vertical sectors, nearly two-thirds of companies are aware of 5G and 47 percent say they have already started planning to implement it. Encouragingly for telcos, 61 per cent of businesses said they would look to a mobile operator for advice and guidance when planning 5G deployments.

Energy and manufacturing firms were revealed to have the highest awareness of 5G (see chart). Nokia says that these verticals are exploring 5G for its potential for advanced use cases including infrastructure maintenance, remote machine control, and cloud robotics – all applications could be accelerated following the Covid-19 pandemic.

5G enterprise opportunity graphic

Source: Nokia

Video monitoring and detection was seen as the top enterprise use case with 83 per cent finding it appealing and 48 per cent citing 5G-enhanced video monitoring as a near-term opportunity. Indeed, 75 per cent of businesses surveyed already use video for monitoring purposes, and were therefore deemed able to readily grasp the additional value that 5G can bring in terms of high-quality and uninterrupted video streams.

Nokia says that larger businesses are likely to purchase 5G-enabled video monitoring and detection technology as part of a wider suite of security services, making the security industry an attractive channel to market for service providers. Other top enterprise 5G use cases identified in the survey included Connected Machinery, Fixed Wireless Access, Connected Vehicles, and Immersive Experiences.

So how will operators realign their business models to tap into these types of opportunities?

Whilst providing connectivity services will always be part of an operator’s offering, it is thought they will need to evolve to provide platform services that will allow them to focus on specific applications. According to the TM Forum, this would allow an operator to use connectivity as an enabler as part of an end-to-end solution that could, for example, provide low-cost air conditioning services in a building using IoT. Whilst this approach might capture a larger proportion of enterprise spending, the organisation believes that connectivity (or (‘Connectivity-as-a-Service’) would offer “a far more realistic, achievable opportunity for CSPs”, albeit one with less upside.

But according to a 2020 Omdia 5G report, only one in five of early enterprise deals have been “CSP-led”. Clearly, operators must seize the enterprise opportunity now or risk being outflanked by a new era of competitors.

eContact Services has 20+ years’ experience working with telcos and adapting to an ever-changing landscape. Speak to us today to discover how we can help you engage with telcos and key players from across the industry.

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Telcos and the public cloud: the debate set to ignite MWC21

Should telcos be embracing the public cloud?

We talked recently about the challenges and opportunities facing telcos looking to run key parts of their business (OSS/BSS) directly from the cloud – and becoming cloud-native.

This issue has come into sharp focus with the latest twists and turns involving the mobile industry’s largest trade show, MWC, which is still planning to go ahead as an ‘in person’ event in late June despite a string of cancellations from high profile exhibitors.

One company that won’t be in Barcelona is Ericsson. But, in a surprising twist, Ericsson’s exhibition space – one of the largest on the MWC show floor – is being taken over by a public cloud consultancy called TelcoDR. The consultancy’s outspoken founder is talking up the move as symbolic, representing a move from the old guard to a new era of telcos running their businesses from the ‘public cloud’ – i.e. based on one of the so-called ‘hyperscale’ cloud providers such as Amazon AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure.

The reality is not quite so clear cut. Many of the established vendors supposedly threatened by this trend are themselves enthusiastic supporters of the public cloud. Only a few days ago, for example, Nokia signed deals with all three of the big cloud providers to extend reach of its Cloud RAN and Open RAN technology and accelerate 5G deployments. A spokesperson said the company was “building an ecosystem of public cloud partners that will ultimately support our customers and help them to build compelling 5G use cases”.

Telcos have been striking their own deals with pubic cloud providers for some time. One of the most notable was the deal between AT&T and Microsoft Azure last year: the US operator said it was becoming a “public cloud-first” company by migrating most non-network workloads over to Azure by 2024. In the UK, 3 UK has said it is aiming to reduce costs by 30 per cent by moving its OSS and BSS to the public cloud.

There are multiple benefits for telcos using the public cloud rather than building cloud infrastructure themselves or going with a hybrid model. As George Glass, CTO of the TM Forum explains in a recent post:

Public cloud providers have invested heavily in the automated management of their cloud infrastructure, and this is something that CSPs can leverage with the move to public cloud. The scale of public cloud is such that the promise of compute or storage on demand can be a reality, which is especially powerful if you have applications that experience significant spikes in resource demand. The flexibility and scalability, together with the speed of response in a public cloud environment, are compelling when compared to having to build your own infrastructure.

However, public clouds may not be suitable for every type of telco application. In a recent white paper, IBM’s Red Hat explains how the public cloud may not be the right option for certain applications that require low latency, large amounts of storage, specialised compute, and network protocols. It adds also that telcos must also be mindful that their public cloud partners are (or have the potential to become) competitors to a telco’s core communication services.

It concludes that a ‘multi-cloud’ approach may be the best strategy for now:

When business uncertainties, whether market or execution risks, are high, public clouds offer an efficient way to expand footprint, launch pilot programs, and elastically scale. When production services and applications have established, more consistent demand, private clouds are often able to deliver economic advantages and improved control.

This debate looks set to continue into MWC and well beyond. Stay tuned!

eContact Services has 20+ years’ experience working with telcos and adapting to an ever-changing landscape. Speak to us today to discover how we can help you engage with telcos and key players from across the industry.

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Which channels should you be using to reach telcos?

A new report has shed some light on how telcos are influenced in selecting and buying from vendors

Last month we highlighted the problem of ‘digital fatigue’ as a result of the Covid pandemic – and the challenges this presented for B2B marketers, particularly those at tech vendors that want to influence – and eventually sell – to telcos.

A new study by tech PR agency CCgroup, ‘Navigating telco turbulence’, has examined this matter further. It attempts to understand which channels deliver real influence amid a changing landscape of how vendors reach their telco customers.

When asked which marketing channels had the greatest impact on them when it came to increasing their awareness of technology vendors, 55 per cent of telco buyers cited the telecoms trade press, such as telecoms.com, Light Reading and Mobile World Live, as having the greatest impact. The ‘business technology media’ was ranked second.

Notably far down the list was ‘industry events’, reflecting – perhaps – the diminishing importance of trade shows as a result of their year-long absence from the calendar.

Virtual events scored marginally better in terms for raising awareness, but it was also noted that “46% of telco tech buyers believe that vendor participation in an industry or virtual event is a strong indication of its expertise or market leadership on a technological development or issue.”

More than a third (38%) of telco tech buyers said they had watched live or pre-recorded content from industry virtual events during 2020.

Telco Channels graph

Interestingly, the channels that influence buyers to select vendors for RFPs was significantly different to those used simply for building awareness. ‘Internal business analysts’ was the biggest influence here, identified as a “deciding factor” or “major influence” by 57 per cent of respondents.

“Most telcos have teams of internal business analysts to research market and technological developments and drive innovation,” explains the report. “These individuals track market progress by consuming information from a variety of different sources – including vendor websites; industry, national and international media; industry analyst research and industry events.”

When it came to actually selecting a vendor to take part in an RFP process, around half of all respondents could point to industry analysts (51 per cent) or internal business analysts (48 per cent) as having a major influence or being a deciding factor to a vendor being selected.

Telco buyers were also asked if the pandemic had caused them to delay making purchases. 70 per cent of respondents said that this was true, but the majority of delays (55 per cent) had been for less than 6 months.

“What is clear from the analysis is that vendors trying to influence telco buyers must understand the combined impact of a wide variety of different channels if they are to maximise their chances of success,” the report concluded.

At eContact Services we have seen first-hand how the disruption of the last 12 months has impacted how vendors engage with telcos, and what this means for generating and closing sales leads.

The ability for vendors to meet with their prospects ‘face-to-face’ at in-person trade shows will hopefully be possible soon – but it’s clear that the ‘old normal’ will not be returning.

Experience and expertise will be key to navigating this rapidly changing landscape. At eContact Services we draw on our deep understanding of our sector, which includes a database of more than 150,000 telco contacts.

For more than 20 years, our core service has been QUALIFIED lead generation, arranging one-to-one meetings and conference calls with the key people in target accounts, taking the pressure of your sales teams to start ‘cold calling’ potential prospects.

So why not give us a call today?

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Going native: the challenges telcos need to overcome to effectively run OSS/BSS from the cloud

Upgrading systems to run cloud-native apps is key to telco success in the 5G era – but the migration won’t happen overnight.

Like lots of other businesses, telcos have been moving towards cloud-based architectures in recent years. From a BSS perspective, the move away from legacy systems to a ‘cloud BSS’ brings the promise of lower costs, automation and the ability to roll-out new product offerings at speed.

The move to software-defined and virtual networks has helped expediate this migration, but it is taking time. As Ericsson noted in a recent paper, legacy BSS systems may in some cases be “decades-old” but are still being used by telcos around the world today. This makes a quick switch to a fully cloud-based architecture impossible.

“Implementing a completely new, side-by-side stack while maintaining the legacy one isn’t really an option,” writes Ericsson’s Israel Mor. “A gradual, stepwise re-architecture of BSS components to a cloud architecture is needed in order to get the benefits of the cloud while safeguarding existing revenues.”

In a recent report, TM Forum outlined how this situation has led to some confusion around what precisely counts as cloud migration: is it simply “lifting and shifting” existing applications using cloud containers or is it the deployment of applications designed from the outset to be ‘cloud native’?

This question has come to the fore in the 5G era, where telcos need to quickly deploy – and quickly monetise – new types of services and target new types of customers.

As Nokia explains: “Cloud must be re-architected to cloud-native so that [telcos] can get breakthrough business agility in rapidly onboarding new apps and deploying and operating new services. The scale of 5G brings many more devices and a very diverse mix of services, there’s no way legacy operations can keep up.”

To understand how these cloud-native apps work in practice we need to dig a little deeper into the technology and understand the terminology. Intel provides the following high-level description of the four important features of a cloud-native set-up:

  • Microservices: services that work together as a distributed system. Microservices are small, focused and autonomous.
  • Containers: a method of virtualisation that bundles an application with all its dependencies – required executables, binaries, libraries and configuration files, for example – into a singular package.
  • Continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD): a DevOps technique that supports frequent code changes or service updates (sometimes daily) while verifying that those changes do not negatively affect service functionality.
  • Dynamic cloud-based management: taking advantage of automation, Containers-as-a-Service (CaaS), and other orchestration tools to keep the network up and running 24/7.

Meanwhile, Ericsson has developed a “holistic” approach to cloud-native that requires four areas to be fully addressed in order to maximise the benefits: 1/ application design and development, 2/ technology and infrastructure, 3/ processes and ways of working, and 4/ management and orchestration.

TM Forum backs the need for such a holistic approach: “The challenge for CSPs lies in converting the enthusiasm for all things digital at the top of the organisation into a detailed vision for the entire business,” it says. “Without a holistic strategy, cloud migration could fall victim to short-term budgeting decisions.”

Thankfully, vendors are innovating at pace in a bid to help telcos meet these challenges. In January, for example, Google Cloud and Nokia announced a partnership to bring new solutions to CSPs built on a cloud-native 5G Core. Based on Google Cloud’s Anthos platform, the deal enables CSPs to build an ecosystem of services that are deployable anywhere, from the edge of the network, to public clouds, private clouds and carrier networks.

Such offerings will smooth the path for telcos migrating to cloud-based infrastructure – but it may take time for the industry to become ‘fully native.’

eContact Services has 20+ years’ experience working with telcos and adapting to an ever-changing landscape. Speak to us today to discover how we can help you engage with telcos and key players from across the industry.

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Engaging with prospects in an age of digital fatigue

Your potential customers are suffering from too many Zoom calls and you still can’t buy them a coffee at a trade show. So what’s the solution?

It’s been almost a year since the first lockdowns were implemented around the world, forcing people to conduct their lives and their business online.

The availability of services such as Zoom, Microsoft’s Teams and others has enabled work life to continue. But it has come at a cost.

London’s South Bank University was one institution that looked at the impact of digital fatigue in employees. It found that remote working generally leads to increased tiredness or “Zoom fatigue” for employees and longer recovery times compared with onsite office work.

Moreover, it added that video calling over Zoom and other platforms is more tiring to deal with than other forms of digital communication (such as emails, texts, or chats), as video calls require higher levels of self-control and regulation of emotion.

This move online has been particularly disruptive for those in B2B marketing, where building meaningful relationships with prospects is key. At a time when trade shows and other face-to-face networking events aren’t available, how is that achieved?

Most marketing departments have sought to replace face-to-face events in their go-to-market strategies with online replacements such as hosting their own webinars and virtual roundtables, or attending third-party virtual events.

The results are often been mixed, underlining the fact that, while the shift to virtual events has been necessary, it has not been easy, nor is it sustainable.

A survey by El Advisory published in November found that selecting the right platforms and formats for proprietary activities had been the biggest challenge in the move to virtual events – 39 per cent of respondents citing this as a ‘high priority’.

This was closely followed by another key challenge: the ability to networking and generate meaningful leads in virtual environments.

This situation can create a perfect storm: businesses having to rely on unsuitable digital channels to generate leads by reaching out to potential end-customers suffering from digital fatigue. It’s hardly a recipe for success.

This is where marketers need expert help. eContact Services has been supporting its clients on virtual events for many years, and understands how to leverage events to drive business objectives.

One of the first questions our clients ask us is whether to attend a third-party virtual event or ‘go it alone’.

Online events organisers are coming up with innovative ways to replicate the trade show experience, but no-one has yet really figured out how to do online networking effectively. As a result, many third-party events can offer little beyond sponsorship packages.

This has served to loosen the grip of the big events organisers, prompting many companies to host their own events in a bid to connect directly with their customers and prospects. In this instance, hiring the services of a specialist company that can identify and target the right audiences and drive them to your event should be a key investment.

Our approach to getting the right people to your event is the same as our approach to delivering qualified sales leads for our clients: we draw on our deep experience and knowledge of our sector – which includes a database of more than 150,000 telco contacts.

For 20+ years, our core service is QUALFIED lead generation, arranging one-to-one meetings and conference calls with the key people in target accounts, taking the pressure of your sales teams to start ‘cold calling’ potential prospects.

Even in the age of Covid we continue to provide the ‘human touch’ via our telemarketing approach.

And in the age of digital fatigue, that’s been more important than ever.

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High-fidelity holograms and digital replicas: examining the early promises of 6G technology

As 5G deployments ramp up, industry visionaries are already looking ahead to 6G. In this article we examine where we are on 6G today and what it promises to deliver when it eventually arrives. 

6G? Surely we can’t be talking about 6G already? 

Most of us don’t yet own a 5G phone. In many markets around the world even 4G is still in its early stages of rollout. 

But remember this is the telecoms industry, which loves to jump ahead to the next big thing – and 6G is the next big thing on the mobile horizon. 

If you think the gap between mobile generations – or ‘G’s – is getting shorter, you’d be correct. According to a recent report from Samsung, the time spent defining a vision and developing technical standards has shortened from 15 years for 3G to just eight years for 5G.

And with the ITU-R officially due to start work on 6G this year, this acceleration means we could see commercial 6G services come to market as early as 2028 – with mass adoption by the end of decade. 

Now that the 6G countdown has begun, governments, industry players and institutions are jostling for position to take a leadership role in shaping the new technology.

In Europe, for example, the EU-funded REINDEER project aims to build a new type of multi-antenna-based smart connectivity platform to power future 6G systems and is designed to position Europe as central in the development, standardisation and eventual deployment of 6G. Ericsson announced this month it would be taking a leading role in the project. 

Meanwhile, Ericsson rival Nokia is at the forefront of another EU initiative known as Hexa-X which is tasked with creating “unique 6G use cases and scenarios, developing fundamental 6G technologies.” 

On the other side of the Atlantic, the industry has jointly launched the Next G Alliance, “an industry initiative that will advance North American mobile technology leadership in 6G and beyond over the next decade.”

And the other likely 6G superpower will, of course, be China, which last year launched what it claimed was the world’s first 6G satellite.  

But despite these developments we’re still some way away from understanding what 6G will look like or what it will be able to deliver. 

In a white paper published this month, Counterpoint Research defines 6G in spectrum terms – as marking the jump to so-called terahertz communications. It says use of this spectrum range (between 300GHz and 3THz) will mark a step change as the industry aims for terabit throughputs, microsecond latencies, and huge capacities.

In terms of use cases, Counterpoint adds that this leap will provide the necessary bandwidth required to transport holographic images and videos over wireless links. 

“Lower microsecond-level latencies could unlock real-time tactile applications such as almost zero-lag remote collaborative surgeries, real-time remote control of machines, and more,” it says. “Further, high-resolution digital twins or digital replicas will be used for interaction between the digital and physical worlds through mixed-reality devices and the power of AI.”

The era of the 6G-powered ‘digital twin’ may be some years away – but Samsung has identified a number of megatrends which will shape the development of the 6G market over the coming years. 

Firstly, it predicts a shift to the ‘machine’ as the main user of 6G rather than the human, as the number of connected machines grows exponentially. It is envisaged that the number of connected devices will reach 500 billion by 2030, which is about 59 times larger than the expected world population (8.5 billion) by that time. It also highlights the role of AI and open-source equipment in building and operating a new era of intelligent networks. 

Encouragingly, Samsung’s ‘6G Vision’ also sees the new technology as a force for social good: “A wide deployment of 6G will reduce differences in regional and social infrastructure and economic opportunities and thereby provide alternatives to rural exodus, mass urbanisation and its attendant problems.” 

In concludes that 6G will “tremendously contribute to the quality and opportunities of human life,” – so let’s consider it something to look forward to. 

eContact Services has 20+ years’ experience working with telcos and adapting to an ever-changing landscape. Speak to us today to discover how we can help you engage with telcos and key players from across the industry. 

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Life on the edge: edge computing explained and why it matters for telcos

Edge computing is one of those new concepts in telecoms that we keep hearing about. But it’s not always obvious what the ‘edge’ is and why it’s important.
So let us explain.

Edge – or Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) to give it its correct name – refers to apps and services that can be accessed ‘closer’ to the end user by deploying infrastructure at the ‘edge’ of a service provider’s network.

In the traditional model, the processing and storage of data usually occurs on remote servers residing far away from the end user or device. This is increasingly the case as more of our information is held in the cloud – which usually means servers operated by one of the big cloud providers such as Amazon, Microsoft or Google.

But these remote, centralised cloud servers come with disadvantages in an age where end devices are requiring ultra-fast speeds and super-low latency response times.

The answer is a distributed cloud within a geographically dispersed infrastructure, which brings the cloud as close as possible to where the data is being requested.

Edge computing is also a key concept underpinning 5G. According to Ericsson, 5G will account for around one-fifth of all mobile data traffic by 2023, while around a quarter of 5G use cases will depend on edge computing capabilities.

“The main benefits edge solutions provide include low latency, high bandwidth, device processing and data offload as well as trusted computing and storage,” says Ericsson.

This means that edge will be fundamental to both new 5G-powered enterprise and IoT services, and consumer applications such as virtual reality and gaming.

Let’s have a look at some real-world use cases where this combination of edge computing and super-fast 5G networks can make a difference.

In the automotive industry, most modern cars have cellular connectivity but streaming information about the car and its journey back and forth to a mobile network can be costly and inefficient. That’s a problem when, according to Intel, an autonomous vehicle will be able to generate up to 4TB of data per day.

Instead, edge capabilities allow a connected car to process data in real time, eliminating the need for centralised processing. This unlocks a range of new opportunities in areas such as self-driving, smart traffic management, and better fuel efficiency and car maintenance.

There are also multiple use cases in industrial settings: for example, using edge infrastructure to optimise production lines and provide real-time AI to monitor stock levels.

“By extending cloud computing to the edge, [enterprises] can run AI/analytics that make actions faster, run enterprise apps to reduce impacts from intermittent connectivity and minimise data transport to central hubs for cost efficiency,” explains IBM in a recent report.

Today only round 10 per cent of enterprise-generated data is created and processed outside a traditional centralised data centre or cloud. But, by 2025, Gartner predicts this figure will reach 75 per cent.

So what does this mean for telcos?

A report last year from Omdia concluded the rise of edge computing will see operators face increasing competition with app developers, cloud providers – but would also present an important opportunity to unlock new revenue streams.

“As 5G technology and networks evolve, edge computing can provide a high-performance, on-demand, and cost-effective platform capable of supporting a growing number of use cases [but] CSPs will need to establish their role in the value chain by determining the right business model and partner(s) and also where new revenues will come from,” the report concluded.

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From networks on the moon to 5G robots: the ten stories that shaped the telco world in 2020

2020 was a tumultuous year for all – and the telco sector was no exception. As we approach year-end, eContactServices looks at the ten telco-related stories that made an impact this year.

1 – MWC gets canned

Mobile World Congress was cancelled just two weeks before it was due to open its doors for its 2020 edition, becoming the first major event to fall victim to the pandemic. The absence of physical events in 2020 had a far-reaching impact on the industry, forcing many to rethink how to connect with customers and launch products. But the problem with pushing everything online meant that people were overwhelmed with digital content. Dealing with this ‘digital fatigue’ will be a key challenge for the year ahead.
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2 – 5G goes mainstream – and telcos seek to monetise

More than 100 telcos worldwide have now launched commercial 5G networks, but monetisation remains a challenge. As 5G matures, BSS is playing an increasingly important role in enabling 5G operators to quickly define and deploy new offerings. Operators will also be hoping that new high-profile 5G devices, such as the first 5G-equipped iPhone (the iPhone 12, unveiled in October) will be the catalyst for strong consumer uptake of 5G services.
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3 – 5G becomes embroiled in Covid paranoia

The Covid pandemic unleashed many conspiracy theories that gained traction – but the one suggesting that 5G masts were responsible for spreading the virus had particularly dangerous consequences. Around 90 attacks targeting UK telecoms infrastructure had been reported by May, forcing the government and the industry to address the issue.
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4 – Mobile networks climb Everest… and reach the moon

China Mobile and Huawei secured publicity points in May by deploying a 5G network at the top of Mount Everest, the Earth’s highest point. Not to be outdone, Nokia announced in October that it as working with NASA to bring a 4G-LTE network to the moon – part of a project to enable a “long-term human presence on the lunar surface.”
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5 – Nations compete to set the 6G narrative

As 5G network deployments continued around the globe in 2020, the conversation inevitably turned to what happens next. According to a Samsung white paper, the ITU will begin work to “define a 6G vision” in 2021 with the standard will likely be completed around 2028. However, 2020 saw the first signs of activity with the EU launching a 6G initiative and China successfully launching what it described as the “world’s first 6G satellite”.
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6 – Open RAN revolution disrupting telco supply chains

Momentum behind ‘Open RAN’ equipment gathered significant pace in 2021 led by vendors such as Altiostar, Mavenir and Parallel Wireless. Meanwhile, many high-profile MNOs are now pursuing Open RAN strategies. In August, for example, Vodafone became the first UK operator to launch commercial Open RAN, switching on a new 4G network in Wales
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7 – Telcos selling off phone towers to preserve cash

2020 saw an uptick in the number of telcos deciding to divest their physical infrastructure to specialist companies. The most significant deal occurred in Europe where Hutchison (owner of the 3 mobile brand) sold almost 25,000 towers to Spanish towers company Cellnex in a €10 billion deal.
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8 – Nvidia acquires ARM in $40bn deal 

Perhaps the most significant piece of M&A activity in the telco space in 2020 was Nvidia’s proposed $40 billion purchase of the iconic UK chip designer, ARM. The deal has regulatory hurdles to overcome before it is finalised, but the companies aim to eventually build an AI-powered computing giant.
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9 – 5G robots come of age

In June, Qualcomm announced its new RB5 platform in a bid to accelerate the market for 5G equipped robots. The platform is a set of hardware, software and development tools that will allow manufacturers “to create the next generation of high-compute, low-power robots and drones”, and could kickstart robot momentum into 2021.
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10 – Voice calling makes a return

Another consequence of the pandemic was a resurgence in voice calls. Orange France, for example, noted that the number of voice minutes on its network doubled in the first two weeks of lockdown. As we know at eContact Services, voice calling provides that ‘human touch’, which is all-important when doing business. We hope this trend continues into 2021!
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