Are Telcos the new Enterprise IT department?

A few weeks ago, I attended a TMForum local event which had a number of different tracks for different topics. While I’d normally be attending the fulfilment track that my CEO Greg Tilton was running, I opted for the 5G track to check out an area I don’t normally get too involved in.

There was a lot of discussion on 5G slices. If you’re wondering what a 5G slice is, you can think of it as a subset of the bandwidth that’s dedicated to a particular purpose. That might be for a specific enterprise, or Emergency services or for a device type like IOT. If a enterprise customer wants to guarantee that they’ll have bandwidth no matter how busy a cell tower is, a 5G slice is the way to do that.

Lets take the example of an enterprise customer buying a 5G slice for themselves, then lets say that they also buy from cloud compute and storage – perhaps resold through the Telco that’s also providing the 5G slice and lets say that same Telco is also providing an e-WAN to connect their headquarters with their branches all over the country, with a fail-over to the 5G slice that they bought. The e-WAN fibre network could be completely software definable (SD-WAN) for greater flexibility and resilience. The Telco might also resell Office 365, Dynamics CRM and other cloud applications … more and more, the Telco in this scenario is providing what in the past has been provided by the Enterprise’s IT department.

Are we seeing Telcos becoming the new IT department of the enterprise?

Over the years, many internal IT departments have shrunk, particularly in terms of the services that they provide in house. More and more, those departments are outsourcing software services to cloud providers like, and (of course) As we see them also outsource infrastructure services to to the likes of Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and IBM Softlayer, that’s less and less for the IT departments to manage (particularly in terms of the in-house server rooms).

If I compare the current IT world to my first job in the sector way back in 1994 where I was responsible for day to day running of:

  • A DEC VAX mini-computer
  • A Lotus Notes collaboration platform
  • A Lotus cc:Mail email platform
  • A bank of 36 modems for remote staff to connect back to the core systems
  • Changing backup tapes and taking them once a week to a bank safety deposit box for offsite storage

We didn’t have any other offices, so no real multi-site connectivity required, but if we did, back then it would have most likely been a leased ISDN line between the different sites.

Let’s compare with what I see in IT departments today…

  • Outsourced email
  • Outsourced compute
  • Outsourced storage
  • Outsourced backup
  • Remote staff connectivity over the internet
  • Outsourced software platforms (providing capabilities like billing, CRM, Ticketing etc)

That doesn’t leave a lot of in-house services that the IT departments are providing.

That doesn’t mean that the Telcos are replacing the IT departments, but if a Telco is selling advanced services such as compute, storage, software and networks as a service, we could get to a situation where Telcos are providing more IT department services than not – it’s an opportunity for Telcos to elevate themselves up fromt he networks that they traditionally provide…

I see some Telcos reselling SaaS products of other cloud providers, but not a lot of them are tying it all together in a comprehensive offering to Enterprise customers in an effort to take over from the in house IT departments.

5G Conspiracy…

I watch some of the Internet’s stupidest conspiracy theories; chemtrails, jets don’t burn fuel, flat earth, hollow earth, moon landings were faked, vaccines cause autism (and apparently every other childhood ailment), naturopathy, chiropractic, HAARP weather modification etc – they all provide a bit of amusement to me when I consider how easy it is for some people to get sucked in.

Recently, I’ve been hearing more and more conspiracy theories around 5G mobile networks. Some more ridiculous than others:

  • 5G causes cancer and other cellular mutations
  • 5G causes headaches
  • 5G causes weather problems such as storms
  • 5G causes COVID-19 (SARS-Cov-2 Coronavirus)
  • 5G cause trees to be deformed, losing branches and leaves

One of my family members has been spreading these conspiracy theories, trying to convince the rest of my family to sign some protest web site to prevent the roll out of 5G. She has been seeing conspiracy memes blaming 5G for bird mass death events, for headaches (allegedly causing nausea, headaches and other wellness issues at the Glastonbury Music festival – I’ll cover this one separately).

Lets get a basic understading of the facts first.

  1. 5G is the term used to identify the fifth generation of mobile phone technology – moving beyond 4G (generally Long Term Evolution (LTE)) which itself is an evolutionary change from 3G technologies which did not require telcos to completely rebuild their networks, rather just add some components to each cell site and turn it on. I know that’s a rash generalisation, but in simple terms, that’s what needed to happen for the 4G rollout and adequately explains why 4G was so quickly rolled out in comparison to 3G around the world.
  2. 5G radio frequencies are higher on the electromagnetic radiation scale than previous generations of mobile phone networks but still much lower than radiation we’re exposed to from numerous other sources. 5G mobile network frequencies are split into two basic bands – the lower frequencies which are within the same range of previous generations and the higher frequency band in the 26-39 GHz range.
  3. 5G is not just about more bandwidth/speed for consumers, it’s also about supporting a much greater density of devices – this is key for the Internet of Things (IOT) becoming pervasive – more and more small devices connecting to improve our lives in lots of different ways.
  4. The higher frequency and corresponding shorter wavelength has much less penetration power that longer wavelength frequencies.
  5. Because of the lower penetration power for (the higher frequency) 5G networks, the range of the network will be significantly reduced compared to previous generation networks. This means that a 5G network will need to have many more cells to cover the same geographic region. The distance between cell towers will be much shorter as a result.

So, should you be freaked out by 5G mobile networks or not?

The short answer is no. The long answer is that it’s complicated; long term testing of a 5G network’s effects on humans has not been conducted, so some caution should be exercised. That said, you should also consider the following:

  1. We are constantly exposed to EMF radiation at higher frequencies and higher power than a 5G network could ever deliver and we don’t suffer any significant consequences from that.
  2. As unlicensed ElectroMagnetic Field (EMF) spectrum, the 5GHz band is widely used by Wifi networks, Microwave Ovens, Refrigerators and others items around the house) – this is very close to the higher frequencies of the 5G bandwidths.
  3. Incidents of brain cancer have not increased in the past 20 years as mobile phones have become more and more pervasive. Experts consider brain cancer to be the most likely cancer if mobile phone usage did have a causal effect because of the proximity to the head of mobile phones when on a call – which also coincides with the maximum power output of a mobile phone – when on a call)
  4. Because of the weak penetration power of the 5G radio signal, it cannot penetrate more than 5-8mm beneath the skin of a person.
  5. 5G enabled phones have between 1-3 watts of transmission power – that’s very little power.
  6. EMF radiation in the tens of GHz range does have the ability to excite molecules and apply a warming effect, however because of the weak power levels a human would not be able to detect such warming of their skin or sub-dermal tissue.
  7. EMF below 750 THz (7.5 x 1015 HZ)does not have the power to knock electrons out of their orbits and is called non-ionising radiation. Non-ionising radiation is not considered harmful by the health community. 5G has a much lower frequency (3.9 x 1010 Hz) than this.

Don’t get freaked out by the term EMF radiation – you’re not going to grow extra eyes or get super powers!

The diagram below illustrates the EMF spectrum – from non-ionising all the way to harmful Gamma Rays (which are Ionising – do you remember that from High School – that’s when I first learned about them).

Electromagnetic Radiation Spectrum – note the logarithmic scale for frequency

With all the paranoia surrounding the 5G rollout, I’m constantly amazed by the lack of critical thinking skills being exhibited by so many people. For instance – the alleged health impact of the 5G trail at Glastonbury. With about 10 minutes of research online – being careful of sources, it seems that BT were planning on running a 5G trail at the Glastonbury music festival in 2019. These mass gatherings provide telcos with a unique test that they cannot achieve in a lab with a handful of 5G handsets. A local committee called Villagers Against Masts (VAM) who seem to have swallowed the 5G conspiracy theories hook line and sinker petitioned the local council to prevent the 5G trial. Frightened of the bad press they would get from VAM for allowing the 5G trial, then prevented BT from running the trial. There were no reports I could find from reputable news sources that indicated anyone attending the festival suffered from headaches, nausea and other mysterious health conditions. It didn’t happen. Despite this and the fact that the 5G trial didn’t even happen, there were still memes published suggesting that the 5G trial caused all sorts of health issues for the festival goers.

So – a lack of critical thinking prevented all these conspiracy theorists from getting to the bottom of the real situation – instead they chose to accept a meme they saw on facebook or instagram as the truth.

Another instance of 5G damaging life I’ve heard of is the supposed mass bird deaths supposedly as a result of 5G. Again a little bit of research online reveals that the locations of these mass bird death events are never where there is a 5G deployment. One example given to me as “proof” was a mass bird death event that happened in the Welsh countryside at Angelsey – follow the link, you’ll see how far Angelsey is from major cities in the UK. Where do you think UK telcos are deploying 5G networks first? yep – where their customers are – in the major cities. Nowhere near Angelsey. A lack of critical thinking is preventing people from dismissing these crazy conspiracy theories with a minimal amount of thought or effort.

Amid our current worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, I see the same lack of critical thinking skills being applied to 5G supposedly causing COVID-19. Radio waves cannot cause a virus to develop. Wuhan, China was not the first city in the world to have 5G coverage, in fact it’s 5G coverage is quite spotty – London, England has much more coverage than Wuhan.

Source – Johns Hoplins worldwide data visualised via ArcGIS –

Think about it:

  • The virus may have started in Wuhan, but it has spread worldwide and the 5G deployments have only just begun in most countries – there is a distinct lack of a causal relationship.
  • Radio waves (EMF radiation) cannot cause mutation of viruses let alone magically create viruses or damage human cells.
  • The majority of COVID-19 cases in Australia find their roots in the Ruby Princess cruise ship that docked in Sydney with multiple infections – the ship does not have a 5G network aboard and did not visit cities with 5G networks prior to arriving in sydney with infected people on-board.

I see the same pattern among flat earthers, moon landing deniers, anti-vaxxers and 5G conspiracists – a lack of critical thinking and an eagerness to accept these crazy ideas because that’s all they’re getting fed within their echo chamber bubbles on social media means that these insane theories continue to circulate and continue to drag in new people who fail to exercise critical thinking.

Well – this post has gone a bit longer than I had intended. Sorry for that. All I ask that you do is to use critical thinking when you come across these crazy 5G conspiracies and encourage others to do the same.

COVID-19 Pandemic

While the world is in lockdown, I seem to be one of the lucky ones that can continue to work – in fact, I’m feeling as busy as I’ve ever been while at DGIT systems. For the most part, we’re all working hard to sell and deliver Quote Order Bill solutions to our Telco customers.

For those that are not as lucky as me, those that have lost their jobs, those that have been temporarily stood down, those that have had to leave your jobs to look after kids that are now having to be home or remote schooled, I feel for you. I’m not in any position to promise relief or to change the direction of this pandemic other than working from home and isolating – doing my little part to slow the path of this terrible disease.

So, I’d like to pass on my encouragement to everyone. Stay the course – isolate yourselves until the health professionals say you don’t need to. Those that need to look for new work, be patient and keep at it. Roll with these punches, and keep on keeping on. If we all do that; we’ll get through this crisis.

OneWeb, we hardly knew you…

Since my last post, OneWeb launched 36 new low Earth orbit (LEO) communications satellites (in an effort to rival Starlink, but with a much less ambitious network), then as the COVID-19 lockdown commenced in Europe and many other countries worldwide, abruptly declared bankruptcy. What a bizarre turn of events.

Oneweb, was to be made up of just under 650 satellites at approximately 1,200km altitude, on polar orbits. For a summary of their plans, check out the most recent launch video below:

Now, 650 is a MUCH smaller network than Starlink’s huge LEO network of 21,000 satellites and some of the results showed – greater latency than Starlink and lower throughput – broadband speeds in excess of 400 Mbps and latency of 32 ms, but still a huge improvement on a traditional geostationary communications satellite. Back on 21Mar20, not quite three weeks ago as I write this post, OneWeb launched their third batch of 36 satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan giving them a total of 74 birds in the sky. I love a rocket launch, so here it is a t-10s for your enjoyment.

So, with a reasonable start to their network deployment, a 2021 launch of their service is looking good… until just six days layer, OneWeb filed for US Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. I’m no accountant and I don’t pretend to understand US bankruptcy law, but this is not like bankruptcy in Australia – where creditors would move in and sell of the assets to try and recoup some of their money, no in the USA, the company keeps operating and reorganises it’s finances to ease the burden on its creditors. In this case however, this statement from OneWeb states that they’re trying to reorganise their finances with a view to continue operations (which at this point in the company’s life, means network deployment). These steps have resulted from failed finance negotiations that were progressing, but fell in a hole when the markets tanked as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

OneWeb’s Satellite Network as of April, 2020 (120x speed)

OneWeb have about half of their planned 44 base stations built and another 580 satellites to get into orbit, lets hope that they can get their finances in order to finish out their build because until they do, all they have is a lot of liability.

A quick comparison between OneWeb and Starlink reveals the obvious advantage that Starlink have right now:

Starlink’s Satellite Network as of April 2020 (50x speed)

This is all very interesting and all, but what’s this got to do with the Telecommunications industry?

Well, as these players move along with their deployments, it’s going to be harder and harder for Telcos as we know them now to compete against these new companies. If OneWeb can get past these financial problems – and that’s a whole other discussion given the state of the markets as a result of COVID-19 – we could see national CSPs that are focussed on (particularly) IP traffic (lets face it, aren’t they all!) fall to these new competitors.

It all depends on companies like OneWeb and Starlink ability survive this current financial crisis, their price plans and if they can live up to their promised performance. I can’t predict the future, so you and I will need to wait and see…

Are National Broadband Networks Doomed?

Over the years, I’ve worked with national broadband projects in Australia, New Zealand, Qatar and Singapore. More recently in Australia, the National Broadband Network (NBN) has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Their Retail Service Providers (RSPs) – who sell the NBN services to end customers, have been up in arms about NBN approaching large enterprise customers directly. Today, they announced that they would no longer do that – and that has the RSPs like Vocus, Mactel and Telstra very happy. Arguably, the decicion for NBN to sell direct was in breach of the founding principles that the Australian government put in place when it created NBNCo.

Such controversy is not why I think the NBN and the equivalents in other countries are doomed, although it’s not helping their case in the eyes of the public and end customers.

No, I think the proliferation of 5G networks and more recently global players like SpaceX’s Starlink constellation could be the harbinger of death for NBN.

Slow Rollouts

NBN has been copping a lot of flack lately in the media for taking too long to roll out. I get it, Australia is a HUGE country – even with most Australians living within an hour of the coast, it’s still a lot of physical ground that needs to be covered by the fibre and HFC networks that cover the bulk of the NBN end users. This has lead to a level of dissatisfaction with NBN as a whole.

Slow Network

Those end customers that do have a NBN connection are often complaining to the telecommunications ombudsman about the service they get – and while some of those faults are laid at the doorstep of the RSPs, some of it is due to physical breakages of modems and network termination devices and some are the fault of NBN – in all cases, because in Australia, we include NBN in the product offerings of the RSPs (ie – its customer facing), NBN cops the blame for ALL of the issues. As an example, my RSP (Optus) sold me a 100/40 HFC based NBN connection – which is usually fine. I often get 90-95 Mbps downstream and 30-37 Mbps upstream. However, so many HFC customers were seeing much slower than advertised speeds that Optus removed that speed combination from the market – the fastest they sell now is 50/20. (50 Mbps down, 20 Mbps up).

5G Networks

The 5G rollout in Australia is still pretty limited, but the 4G (LTE) rollout is pretty comprehensive and on 4G, I often see speeds approaching my home NBN based connection. Assuming 5G will bring a significant boost in speed (along with many other advantages including much great density of connections per cell) – which means that a 5G connections promises to deliver faster connections than NBN and without the need to tie the end customer down to their home boundaries.

If you add unlimited plans (in terms of Gb to be transferred up or down) to such as 5G (or even a 4G service) then you have a strong competitor to the NBN.

Some local mobile network providers and even MVNOs are already talking about selling fixed mobile services instead of selling a NBN based home (or office) connection.


This morning, SpaceX launched another 60 satellites into orbit, bringing the total to 240 – that’s 120 new satellites within a month – well on the way to 12,000 satellites.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog post (see, SpaceX’s Starlink constellation of communications satellites promise to deliver broadband (up to 10 Gbps) AND low latency (good for gaming) to 100% of Australia (other than the Australian Antarctic Territory). If SpaceX can deliver reasonable plans (in terms of speed, capacity and price) then SpaceX will be a strong competitor for NBN. If the plans are right, it could kill NBN.

Two NBN alternatives – either could kill NBN

Sure, NBN in Australia is facing some significant challenges, but these are exactly the same challenges that all national broadband networks/project face… Customers have zero allegance to NBN – and if 5G or Starlink will provide faster speeds at a competitive price, NBN is doomed.

If you disagree, let me know what you think…

Starlink – a global CSP disruptor

As SpaceX reach 180 starlink satellites in low Earth orbit; on the road to 12,000 once the network is complete, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Starlink is set to become a global disruptor in the telecommunications industry. Once complete, SpaceX’s network will be nearly global (except for polar regions) and will be ubiquitous. The diagram below illustrates the coverage area – basically 100% coverage of most of the populated regions of the Earth :

Starlink network coverage (approximate)

The big benefit that the Starlink satellite constellation over a traditional communications satellite sitting in a geostationary orbit is the time it takes for the signal to get from a point on Earth to another Point on Earth. The Starlink constellation at an altitude of 550km is much closer to us than a geostationary communications satellite at (approx) 35,700km. The Starlink constellation will transmit information between Starlink satellites before downlinking to the destination. In an example of a connection between Australia and the Middle East, the diagram below shows the Starlink connection in White, a Fibre (mainly undersea) connection in Red and the geostationary communications satellite connection in yellow. This is approximately to scale.

A scale comparison of Starlink vs Geostationary Satellite and Fibre connections (Melbourne to the Middle East)

The white Starlink connection can pretty closely approximate a great circle path and thus is a shorter path than the red fibre connection (which must travel where the undersea cables have been laid). Yes, there are potentially more hops in a Starlink connection than a traditional satellite connection, but the distances involved are MUCH shorter. The other issue with traditional geostationary satellite connections is because of the distances involved, the signal strength is relatively very weak and because of that, these signals suffer from higher data loss, which means that these comms don’t just use standard TCP/IP, rather they use protocols that have much greater error correction and parity capabilities – this has the cumulative effect of slowing down the connection. Combine this slow connection speed and high latency (because of the distances involved), traditional satellite carriers have a big challenge ahead of them when compared to Starlink which promises to deliver much greater speeds at much lower latency – competitive with fibre for all but the largest bandwidth consumers.

To give you an idea of the comparison between Starlink and Geostationary satellite communications, I built a quick animation – remember this is only half of the connection (one way only) ; a real connection would be double the times as the response needs to back to the initiator.

A visualisation of the speed difference between Starlink and traditional geostationary satellite communications

What about for connections between two systems in the same country, as opposed to international connections? Even local in-country CSPs face significant competition from Starlink.

If we look at the Telstra coverage map for Australia+, easily the largest Telco in Australia with the best coverage, and yet we have lots of space that has no coverage at all. Contrast that with a 100% coverage that Starlink would provide with lower latency and much higher throughput… what do you think ? Will Telstra or any other CSP in the world face a challenge from Starlink? I think so…

January 2020 Telstra Mobile Coverage Map

+ Yes, I know Australia has a very large area and has a relatively small population, so the problem is not as big in other countries, but just imagine 100% coverage 100% of the time and in any country you ever visit…

SpaceX launch new batch of Starlink satellites

I’ve just watched the SpaceX launch of the latest batch of 60 starlink satellites into low earth orbit – aimed at providing low latency internet services all over the world. Initially, SpaceX are targeting the North American market – I mean, why wouldn’t they? The US has such a disjointed connectivity marketplace with a mixture of Metro Area Networks (WiFi and Wimax based) in small towns, LTE/5G in larger population centres, HFC cable and Fibre connectivity options for fixed services and probably still a bit of xDSL running around… Not to mention the oft complained about mobile network coverage. Starlink (despite being Internet rather than voice focused) has the potential to steal a lot of the subscribers that live in or travel to marginal coverage areas. Think of it – 100% coverage of North America at up to 10Gbps – if the price is competitive, why wouldn’t you as a subscriber go with that option!

There were a few things that peaked my interest with this launch in particular:

  • The launch of these Starlink satellites in close succession from the December’19 launch of the Kacific comms satellite (ironically on a SpaceX Falcon 9), a more conventional geostationary communications satellite, targeting at providing services to the South Pacific, SE Asia and Himalayan nations (not Australia) via Ka band radio (thus the name). They plan to provide services to over 600 million subscribers – from the following countries (from
    • American Samoa
    • Bangladesh
    • Bhutan
    • Brunei
    • Cook Islands
    • East Timor
    • Federated States of Micronesia
    • Fiji
    • French Polynesia
    • Guam
    • Indonesia
    • Kiribati
    • Malaysia
    • Myanmar
    • Nepal
    • New Zealand
    • Niue
    • Northern Mariana Islands
    • Papua New Guinea
    • Philippines
    • Samoa
    • Solomon Islands
    • Tonga
    • Tuvalu
    • Vanuatu

Obviously, the bulk of those subscribers are going to be coming from Indonesia, being the highest population country in their target list. It makes me wonder about the competition between Kacific and Starlink for those same subscribers once SpaceX establish their services in the north American market and spread their wings to the rest of the world…

  • The Starlink swarm of satellites have had astronomers up in arms because of the additional light and radio pollution these satellites have been adding to the night sky making it difficult for both visual and radio astronomers to get good observations. With more than 12,000 (!!!) Starlink satellites planned to go into orbit, we’re just seeing the beginning of this problem.
Telescopes at Lowell Observatory in Arizona captured this image of galaxies on May 25, their images marred by the reflected light from more than 25 Starlink satellites as they passed overhead.
Victoria Girgis/Lowell Observatory – image linked from

I noted during the latest launch coverage, the SpaceX presenter said that one of the satellites launched today had been ‘darkened’ to reduce reflections in the hope that it would lessen the affect on visual (at least) astronomy. Let’s hope it works.

If you want to read up on the Starink’s effect on Astronomy – I’d suggest you read this article on Nat Geo –

For sure, these launches are great to watch and remind me of when I watched Apollo 17 launch as a boy (that’s the only one I remember from way back then) and the excitement I felt when I watched that launch…

ZTP Catalyst at TMForum Digital Transformation Asia’19

We’ve been back from Kuala Lumpur for a few weeks now and while we didn’t win an award for our Catalyst project (think of catalysts as Proof of concepts with participants from a variety of vendors and supported by multiple telcos), we did get a log of interest in it.

The Zero Touch Partnering catalyst for Kuala Lumpur was the third stage of the project where we extended the system to an IOT model introducing a new vendor (Unico) to the project with their eSIM entitlement server.

The basic premise for the catalyst is to enable telcos to deliver products and capabilities that are actually provided by a third party WITHOUT the need to integrate systems, build integrations or develop code – in fact without IT involvement at all. The way we can do that is to use the TMForum OpenAPIs to:

  1. Determine what products a 3rd party is prepared to sell to me (using the Product Qualification TMF679 OpenAPI)
  2. Fetch the product specifications that I need to successfully order that 3rd party product (using the Product Catalog TMF620 OpenAPI), then
  3. Order the 3rd party product from the 3rd party (using the Product Order TMF622 OpenAPI)

All without IT getting involved…

I recorded a short video presentation about the catalyst

Overview video presentation of the ZTP Phase 3 catalyst project

If you want to see a demonstration of the catalyst in action – onboarding 3rd party products live, then adding them to a product offering and then buying the new product offering including onboarding of a water level sensor via a QR code to activate the eSIM for the device, then check the video below:

Demo of the ZTP Phase 3 Catalyst

I think the ZTP catalyst is a great demonstration of why standards matter – when a telco says to me “What’s in it for me?”, these are the sorts of examples I like to show – that demonstrate standards in action and make it easy and fast to integrate different vendors without the need for lots of IT involvement.

IBM releases WebSphere Liberty to Open Source Community

Originally posted on 27Sep17 to IBM Developerworks (9,154 Views)

This is BIG!

(OK, it’s not strictly Telco related, but check the footnote to see my personal connection with the J9 VM in particular)

WebSphere Liberty is the high performance Java Enterprise Edition Server that’s ultra light-weight – it includes and OSGi container and uses the IBM J9 VM at it’s core – which IBM has also donated to the Open source community (via Eclipse – see .1

This will improve access to such great technology and I’d encourage you to go check out the project at

1. A little history lesson on the IBM J9 VM – it was originally developed by IBM’s (now defunct) Pervasive Computing division for IBM’s J2ME lightweight VM. It was then ported to the J2SE and J2EE platforms. When it was developed, I was in a Tech Sales role for the Pervasive Computing division, so I have a soft spot for the J9 VM.

Driving Analytics in a Telco

Originally posted on 21Sep17 to IBM Developerworks (11,101 views)

An ex-colleague of mine (Violet Le – now the Marketing Director at Imageware) asked me about the drivers for Analytics in Telcos. I’ll admit that it’s a subject that I haven’t really given a lot of thought to – all the projects that I’ve worked on in the past that have included Analytics have had a larger business case that I was trying to solve… Marketing, Future Planning, Sales etc I’ve never worked on an Analytics project for the sake of analytics, nor have I designed a solution that was just (or mainly) analytics.

There is a definite value in analytics in providing an insight into how the business is running – to enable business to plan for the future and to manage how they run in the present. Both Strategic and Tactical cases for analytics would seem to me to be of value to any business. An analytics system that delivers insight into the business (customer behaviour, sales effectiveness, capacity usage and predictions etc) is great, but at the end of the day, a Telco needs to do something about that information/insight to actually deliver business benefits.

As I’m no analytics specialist, I wont’ try to describe how to define or build those systems. What I will try to do is to describe the bits around the analytics systems that make use of that insight to deliver real value for the CSP.

What are the business cases that I’ve seen?

  1. Sales & Marketing 
    • Driving promotions to to positively affect subscriber retention or acquisition… I did a project with Globe Telecom in the Philippines which was primarily aimed at driving SMS based outbound marketing promotions that are targeting based on subscriber behaviour. An example might be if a subscriber had a pre-paid balance less than (say) 5 pesos, and the subscriber topped up more than 20 pesos and less than 50 pesos, then send a promo encouraging the subscriber to top up by more than 100 pesos… all the interaction is via SMS (via a ParlayX SMS API)
    • Back in 2013, I did an Ignite presentation at the IBM Impact Conference in Las Vegas – Here is the presentation (Smarter Marketing for Telecom – Impact 2013)
  • Social networking analysis to determining who should be targeted. IBM’s Research group was pushing for years a Social Networking Analysis capability that looked at Social Networking connection to determine which subscribers are followers, which are community leaders and influencers and based on that assessment.
  1. Networks
  • Ensuring utilisation of the network is optimised for the load requirements. I worked with a telco in Hong Kong that wanted to dynamically adjust the quality of service level to be delivered to a specific user based on their location (in real time) and a historical analysis of the traffic on the network.  For example, if a subscriber was entering the MTR (subway) station and the analytics showed that particular station typically got very high numbers of subscribers all watching youtube clips at that time of day on that day of the week, then lower the QoS setting for that subscriber UNLESS they were a premium or post-paid customer in which case, keep the QoS settings the same. The rating as a premium subscriber could be derived from their past behaviour and spend – from a traditional analytics engine. 
  • Long term planning on network (SDN/NFV will allow Networks to be more agile which will reduce the need for traditional offline analytics to drive network planning and make the real time view more relevant as networks adapt to real time loads dynamically … as traffic increases in particular sections of the network, real time analytics and predictions will drive the SDN to scale up that part of the network on demand. This is where new next gen AI’s may be useful in predicting where the load will be int he network and then using SDN to increase capacity BEFORE the load is detected…  read Watson from IBM and similar….

A few years ago, a number of ex colleagues (from IBM) formed a company on the back of real time marketing use case for Telcos and since then, they’ve gone ahead in leaps and bounds. (Check them out if you’re interested, the company name is Knowesis)

Do you have significant use cases for analytics in a CSP? I’m sure they are and I’m not claiming this is an exhaustive list – merely the cases that I’ve seen multiple times in my time as a solution architect focused on the telecommunications industry.