Posts Tagged 'O2'

Where will the Internet go next?

I once read a book called Futurize your Enterprise back at the turn of the decade. At the time, it was seen as very ‘far out’ in it’s thinking, as it demonstrated the way the Internet may be used in future times. For example it displayed a future where everyone had their own domain and their own website. This site would not only display personal contact details for the user, but would also display their vital statistics, medical history, possessions and geneological history. The thinking behind this was that everyone was connected, and if for example, I had an accident when holidaying in Alaska, a local GP would be able to bring up my medical history at the touch of a button. Bearing in mind this was published just after the dot-com crisis, this seemed fanciful. However fast forward a number of years to a time where we are a lot more aware and protective of our privacy and you can see the issues that this concept had. Saying that, one of the other main concepts from the book was the fact that machines would use the internet more than humans, to commmunicate with each other. An example being that a fridge would order milk from the local supermarket when it sensed you were running out.

With the advent of mobile broadband and in particular LTE, this is not very far off. Machine to Machine (or M2M to add yet another acronym into the mix) communication is a technology that many see as the next logical step in the evolution of the Internet. And personally, I feel it offers many exciting prospects for entrepreneurs and integrators alike for the future. Carl-Henric Svanberg, the ex Ericsson Chief made the prediction that within the next 5-10 years, there could be as many as 50 billion sim cards embedded into ‘intelligent devices’. And where he says ‘intelligent devices’, he means items as mundane as doors and fridges. Others such as Juniper research predict that by 2014, there will be almost 412million M2M mobile subscriptions. Of course there are already a number of applications that connect to the internet. Fridges come with Ethernet ports allowing you to browse the Internet when choosing what flavour juice to have in the morning. However the main distinctive factor will be in the take-up of a universal language for machines to adopt when communicating with each other.

The fascination of this is the business model behind it, and the challenges it presents to network operators. Firstly for service providers, it offers a compelling way to cover the decreasing revnue from voice services, as these are increasinlgy delivered by IP. Secondly it means that service providers need not concentrate on selling services and bundles to ‘humans’ in a bid to increase ARPU. Whereas for many, there has come a natural saturation point as to the affiliated services you can bundle with connectivity, as to appeal to a mass market, you can only charge so much for a bundled package. Personally I don’t think M2M will change this markedly. Instead it will focus on areas within businesses that can be enhanced with remote support, as the potential number of devices that can be woven together is endless. This fits in nicely as companies look to cut costs by deploying a remote working environment as opposed to having physical branches.

Secondly the affect on network operators will be huge. One only needs to look at the issues O2 faced with the mass take-up of the IPhone. Personally although LTE will help the end user, it will not help the operators, as they will be tasked with delivering more bandwidth (and more expectation) to their subscriber base. One possible method to help this could be in mast sharing. Vodafone and O2 have done this in the past. Tom Alexander, CEO of Orange mentioned this was also a driver for the UK merger between Orange and T-Mobile. However a more compelling method would be the use of fixed line DSL, Ethernet and Fibre to backhaul mobile bandwidth as opposed to the legacy routes taken currently. In this respect, O2 owning thier own network (through BE) puts them in the enviable position of potentially being closest to delivering this ideal.

The future of the internet is a subject many more learned people than myself have spent time debating. A common theme is that we will move away from having a standard interface to the internet (being the browser) and instead will be able to interact through many different appliances. Also there will be a marked rise in traffic between machines. As always though, the main challenges to overcome will be how to facilitate this. Hopefully the launch of the Cisco’s CSR-3 will help to rectify that in the future.

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BT and O2 join up

Interesting news in the channel recently about how O2 have signed up with BT Wholesale to provide both fixed line data, broadband and consultancy services. On the surface this seems like a good opportunity for O2 to take a giant step into providing their client base with a converged solution based around their primary mobile offering. However one has to wonder why a comapny who has invested at the least £200 million on it’s own network would then make a further investment in providing a similar service based on another network.

The concept is sound. O2 have a massive mobile subscriber base, consisting of both consumers and businesses of all sizes. With their centre of excellences, they have one of the best support networks around for resellers of their products, to underpin their business offering. By offering their clients a unified solution consisting of business broadband seems like a sure fit. However, for one reason or another, this has never happened.

The acquisition of the Bethere network has enabled O2 to be a major player in the comms market. However so far, the market that has benefitted the most has been the residential market. This does not mean that the network cannot be used for businesses, just that so far, there have been few able to use it in this way. However with the advent of the wholesale channel, the network is now being used by business ISP’s as a primary offering to their client base, and is proving extremely successful in providing high bandwidth low latency services. As more exposure is given to this channel, it will be interesting to see how this is viewed by the powers that be in O2.

There’s nothing to say that a Be/O2 offering can’t co-exist with a BT service, as inevitably in the areas where Be don’t have an exchange unbundled, a rebadged BT service will be used. However, for my 2 pence, although BT Wholesale have persuaded O2 to sign a 5 year contract, I firmly believe that O2 will fully realise what an asset they have with the Be network, before we get anywhere near to the expiry date of their new contract with BT.

Fluidata/Be Wholesale offering

It’s been an exciting couple of months at Fluidata. We’ve always known the potential of AnnexM as a direct replacement for legacy SDSL. We’ve gauged how popular it’s been within our own client base. And we’ve been successful in aggregating it with services from other carriers. However, my own feeling that there has always been potential to offer a true wholesale platform around AnnexM is now being realised. Over the last few months there has been a lot of discussions between ourselves, Be and O2 regarding the best way to make this viable. Sometimes these conversations have been prolonged, but it’s now a reality. And a unique one at that.

Because initially the Bethere network was deployed specifically for transferring data, they have always made the invesmtent to provide services that allow for high speeds and little contention. By provisioning NTL based 1Gb and 10Gb fibre backhaul at their majority of their DSLAM’s, they’ve limited the possibility of contention arising at these points. Also, backed by O2, they’ve been able to proactively monitor contention throughout their network. This has proved attractive to a consmer audience that regularly uses services such as online gaming and P2P. However, this also has had it’s advantages to businesses who also hold similar values.

Now other ISP’s and service providers can have access to the largest AnnexM ready network in the country. With an ethos of ‘ease of use’, the flexibility afforded allows for maximum control of each tail. From full port functionality to no capacity charges, this offering really does make it easy for partners to fully provision, maintain and support their circuits in a way rarely seen within the industry. By delivering the platform via L2TP, partners now have the ability to compliment their existing centrals with a progressive NGN offering.

For me personally, managing this offering will be a new challenge. After being on the receiving end of a few channel offerings, I have an insight into the levels of service a channel partner may expect. Hopefully this will translate itself into a channel experience beneficial to both ourselves and our partners. If the last few months were exciting, the next few will be even more so!


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