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…

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.

Progress on the miss-match between the TMF SID and TMF API Data model

Originally posted on 4Sep17 to IBM Developerworks (10,430 Views)

I wouldn’t normally just post a link to someone else’s work here, but in this case Frank Wong – a colleague of mine at my new company (DGIT Systems) has done some terrific work in helping to eliminate the miss-match between the data model used by the TMF’s REST based APIs and the TMF’s Information Model (SID). I know this was an issue that IBM were also looking to resolve.  In the effort to encourage the use of a simple REST interface, the data model used in the TMF’s APIs has been greatly simplified from the comprehensive (some might say complex) data model that is the TMF’s Information Model (SID). This meant that a CSP who is using the SID internally to connect internal systems needed to map to the simplified API data model to expose those APIs externally – there was no easy one-to-one mapping for that mapping which meant that the one could not simply create a API for an existing business service (eTOM or otherwise) – a lot more custom data modelling work would be required.

This interview with Frank by the TMF illustrates some of the latest work to resolve that miss-match – read it at

Are MicroServices the future INSIDE a CSP?

Originally posted on 30Aug17 to IBM Developerworks (11,517 Views)

Across many industries, including the Telecommunications sector, there seems to be a strong movement towards a MicroServices Architecture and (somewhat) away from Service Oriented Architecture. I’ve seen this move in a CSP here in Australia. The TeleManagement Forum have a significant project that is trying to standardise the REST APIs that a CSP might publish.

The TMF state:

TM Forum’s Open API program is a global initiative to enable end to end seamless connectivity, interoperability and portability across complex ecosystem based services. The program is creating an Open API suite which is a set of standard REST based APIs enabling rapid, repeatable, and flexible integration among operations and management systems, making it easier to create, build and operate complex innovative services. TM Forum REST based APIs are technology agnostic and can be used in any digital service scenario, including B2B value fabrics, Internet of Things, Smart Health, Smart Grid, Big Data, NFV, Next Generation OSS/BSS and much more.”

“TM Forum is bringing different stakeholders from across industries to work together and build key partnerships to create the APIs and connections. The reference architecture and APIs we are co-creating are critical enablers of our API program and open innovation approach for building innovative new digital services in a number of key areas, including IoT applications, smart cities, mobile banking and more.”

Laurent Leboucher, Vice President of APIs & Ecosystems, Orange

I’ve been a part of a number of projects where these REST APIs have been exposed primarily to a CSPs trading partners – my very first Service Delivery Platform exposed APIs to external developers. Back then, it was Parlay X Web services (REST didn’t really exist and certainly there to external developers.were no Telco standards in place for REST based interfaces) that exposed the functionality of network elements to 3rd party developers. With many of the APIs that the TMF have defined, they seem to be more focused on OSS/BSS functions instead.  Now that the TMF have quite a number of Open APIs defined, there are some network focused APIs that are coming onto the list – for instance, a Location API would have typically be exposed using the ParlayX Web Services or ParlayREST REST interfaces to the network’s Location Based Server (LBS).  As a result, there does seem to be a small amount of crossover between the new TMF APIs and the older ParlayREST APIs.

Does this mean that the new TMF OpenAPIs are of no use? Not at all.  There are certainly advantages to exposing functions that a CSP has to external developers and REST based OpenAPIs make the consumption of those functions easier than the ParlayX web services or Parlay CORBA services have been in the past.  Ease of consumption is not to be underestimated.  An API that is easy to include in an application and provides a real capability that would have been otherwise difficult to provide stands a much greater chance of wide usage.

Sure, there is a place for externalising the OSS/BSS functions of a CSP. Trading partners could place orders against a CSP, they could bill to a subscriber’s post or pre-paid accounts, they could update the subscriber profile held by the CSP. All relevant use cases for externalising the TMF Open APIs.

The big question in my mind is will REST APIs be of use internally?

REST based APIs being easier to integrate internally will drive some value.  But in CSPs that have significant investments in a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), I’m struggling to see the business value in abandoning that in favour of a MicroServices Architecture where there is no common integration tool, no common orchestration capability, rather lots and lots of point to point integrations through REST APIs.

For those of us that have been around a while, you will have seen point to point integrations and the headaches they cause – complex dependencies in mesh architectures make maintenance hard and expensive.  Changing a (say) billing system that is integrated through multiple point to point connections is a nightmare – even if they have a standardised API describing those interfaces. The plane truth of the matter is that not all of those interfaces will be adequately described by the TMF’s Open APIs, so custom specifications APIs will arise and make swapping out the billing system expensive. Additionally, not all of a CSPs internal systems will have TMF Open API compliant interfaces – many won’t even support REST interfaces natively.  Changing all of a CSP’s systems to ensure they have a REST interface is a non-trivial task.

A Hybrid environment may be needed.

I’d suggest that a Hybrid approach is needed – existing Enterprise Service Busses may be able to interface with REST APIs – certainly IBM’s Integration Bus and the (now superseded) WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus could connect to REST APIs just as easily as they could connect to Web Services, Files and other connectivity options.  The protocol transformation capabilities of a ESB are able to provide REST APIs to systems that would have otherwise not supported such modern interfaces. Similarly, where a function is not provided by a single system, a traditional orchestration (BPM) capability can coordinate multiple systems to provide a single interface to that capability even if (behind the scenes) there are multiple end point systems involved in providing the functionality of that transaction/interface. The diagram below shows my thinking of what should be in place….

What’s all the fuss about Orchestration for NFV?

Originally posted on 6Jun17 to IBM Developerworks (11,950 Views)

Think about it – orchestration is everywhere in a Telco – the Order to Cash process, The Ticket to Resolution process, the service and resource  fulfilment process and even the NFV MANO processes.  Orchestration is everywhere…

There is a hierarchy to processes in a Telco – just as the TMF recognises that there is a hierarchy in business services (within the eTOM Process Framework). At the highest level, the Order to Cash process might look like this:

Each task in this swimlane diagram will have multiple sub-processes. If we delve down into the provision resources task for instance, a CSP will need processes that will interrogate the resource catalog and network inventory to determine where in the network that resource can be put and what characteristics need to be set, then tell the resource manager to provision that resource. If it’s a physical resource, that may involve allocating a technician to install the physical resource. If it’s a virtual resource such as a Virtual Network Function (VNF) then the Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) orchestration engine will need to be told to provision that VNF.  If we go one level deeper, the NFV Orchestration engine will need to tell the NFV Manager to provision that VNF and then update the network inventory.

Perhaps the diagram below will help you to understand what i mean:

This diagram is a very simplified hierarchical process model designed to show the layers of process. As you can see, there are many layers of orchestration required in a CSP and as long as the orchestration engine is flexible enough and can handle the integration points with the many systems it needs to interact with, there is no real reason why the same orchestration engine couldn’t be used by all levels of process.

Over the past couple of years as NFV has risen significantly in popularity and interest, I’ve seen many players in the market talk about orchestration engines that just handle NFV orchestration and nothing else.  To me, that seems like a waste. Why put in an orchestration engine that is just used for NFV when you also still need orchestration engines for the higher process layers as well? I’d suggest that a common orchestration and common integration capability makes the most sense delivering:

  • High levels of reuse
  • Maximising utilisation of software capabilities
  • Common Admin and Development skills for all levels of process (be they business focussed or service or resource focussed)
  • Common tooling
  • Common Integration patterns (enabling developers and management staff to work across all layers of the business)
  • Greater Business Agility – able to react to changing business and technical conditions faster

There are a number of Integration platforms – typically marketed as Enterprise Service Buses (ESB) that can handle integration through Web Services, XML/HTTP, File, CORBA/IIOP  even Socket/RPC connections for those legacy systems that many telcos still have hanging around.  An ESB can work well in a MicroServices environment too – so don’t think that just because you have a ESB, you’re fighting against MicroServices – you are not.  MicroServices can make use of the ESB for connectivity to conventional Web Services (SOA) as well as legacy systems.

A common Orchestration layer would drive consistency in processes at all layers of a Telco – and there are a number of Business Process Management orchestration engines out there that have the flexibility to work with the Integration layer to orchestrate processes from the lowest level (such as within a Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) environment) all the way up to the highest levels of business process – the orchestrations should be defined in an standard language such as Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) or Business Process Model Notation (BPMN).

To me, it makes no sense to re-invent the wheel and have orchestration engines just for the NFV environment, different orchestration engines for the Service Order Management, the Resource Order Management, the Customer Order Management, the Service Assurance, the Billing, the Partner/Supplier management etc etc – all of these orchestration requirements could be handled by a single orchestration engine. Additionally, this would make disaster recovery simpler and faster and cheaper as well (fewer software components to be restored in a disaster situation).

Blockchain and BPM – follow up

Originally posted on 31May17 to IBM Developerworks (12,500 Views)

A link to this blog entry (link now broken) popped up in my LinkedIn feed today which in turn linked to a Developerworks article – Combine business process management and blockchain (link now broken) which steps you though a use case and allows you to build your own basic BPM & Blockchain demo. Complex processes could save and get data to/from Blockchain ensuring that every process in any organisation (within the same company and across company boundaries) are using the most up to date data.

I thought it would be appropriate to paste in a link given my previous post on Blockchain in Telcos. As I think about this topic more, I can see a few more use cases in Telecom. I’ll explore them in subsequent posts, but for now, I think it’s important that we be pragmatic about this. Re-engineering processes to make good use of blockchain is non-trivial and therefore will have a cost associated with it.  Will the advantages in transparency and resilience be worth the cost of making the changes? Speaking about resilience, don’t forget the damage that a failure can cause.  British Airways IT system failure (which I believe is outsourced but I cannot be sure) was down for the better part of three days – failures like that have the potential to bring down a business.  We don’t know yet what will happen to BA in the long term, but you certainly don’t want the same sort of failure happening to your business.

This Is Not a Test: The Emergency Alert System Is Worthless Without Social Networks

Originally posted on 17Nov11 to IBM Developerworks (11,306 Views)

This makes for an interesting comparison to the National Emergency Warning System (NEWS) that was implemented in Australia last year as a result of the Black Saturday  bushfires.
Here is the URL for this bookmark:
This makes for an interesting comparison to the National Emergency Warning System (NEWS) that was implemented in Australia last year as a result of the Black Saturday  bushfires.  Of particular interest is that the USA have avoided the SMS channel when in Australia, that has been the primary channel – alternates like TV and Radio are seen as not as pervasive and thus a lower priority.  I don’t think that NEWS here in Oz is connected to twitter, facebook, foursquare or any other social networking site either, but that could be an extension to NEWS – the problem is getting everyone to “friend” the NEWS system so that they see updates and warnings!

TeleManagement World 2011

Originally posted on 25May11 to IBM Developerworks (12,766 Views)

 I am in Dublin at the moment for TeleManagement World 2011  which has changed locations from Nice, France last year. it looks to be a very interesting conference.  I’ve already done two days of 

training and now, we’re beginning the sessions. the keynote  session has the Irish Minister for Communications, Mr Rabitte who is talking about the challenges that CSPs face all the world around.  He is also talking about an innovation programme that the Irish Government have started called ‘Examplar‘ which is part of their NGN Trial network. i’ll see if I can get some more info over the next few days… 

Steven Shurrock, CEO at O2  Ireland

Steven Shurrock, the new CEO at O2  Ireland  who has been in the role for just six months is very bullish about the opportunities in Ireland for data services. After Steven, we saw a host of Keynote speakers who have been focused on a number of themes, but many common presenters included:

  • Standards compliance – including certification against standards.  Particularly with the TMF Frameworx standards
  • Horizontal platforms and moving away from silos is their IT strategy
  • SOA is the basis for all of the new IT initiatives

I have recorded a number of keynote speakers as video, but for the time being, those files are very large.  Once I have had a chance to transcode them to a smaller size, I’ll add them to the blog as well – while not particularly technical, they’re very interesting for a Telecom perspective.

Governments vs Blackberry – what’s it all about?

Originally posted on 13Aug10 to IBM Developerworks (19,781 Views)

Over the past few weeks, I have been watching what seems to be a snowballing issue of governments spying on their citizens in the name of protection from terrorism.  First cab off the rank was India a couple of years ago asking Research In Motion (RIM) for access to the data stream for Indian Blackberry users, then asking for the encryption keys.  That went quiet until recently (1Jul10), the Indian Government again asked RIM for access to the Blackberry traffic and gave RIM 15 days to comply (See this post in Indian govt gives RIM, Skype 15 days notice, warns Google – Telecompaper).  That has passed and the Indian government yesterday gave RIM a new deadline of 31Aug10 (See Indian govt gives 31 August deadline for BlackBerry solution – Telecompaper). In parallel, a number of other nations have asked their CSPs or RIM for access to the data sent via Blackberry devices. 

First, was the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who will put a ban on Blackberry devices in place which will force the local Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to halt the service from 11Oct10.  RIM are meeting with the UAE government, but who knows where that will lead with the Canadian government stepping in to defend it’s Golden Hair Child – RIM.  Following the UAE ban, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and more recently Indonesia have all said they will also consider a ban on RIM devices. As an interesting aside, I read an article a week ago (See UAE cellular carrier rolls out spyware as a 3G “update”) that suggested that the UAE government sent all Etisalat Blackberry subscribers an email advising them to update their devices with a ‘special update’ – it turns out that the update was just a Trojan which in fact delivered a spyware application to the Blackberry devices to allow the government to monitor all the traffic! (wow!)

Much of the hubbub seems to be around the use of Blackberry Messenger, an Instant Messaging function similar to Lotus Sametime Mobile, but hosted by RIM themselves which allows all Blackberry users (even on different networks and telcos) to chat to each other via their devices.

I guess at this stage, it might be helpful to describe how RIM’s service works.  From a historical point of view, RIM were a pager company.  Pagers need a Network Operations Centre (NOC) to act as a single point from which to send all the messages out to the pagers.  That’s where all the RIM contact centre staff sat and answered phones, typed messages into their internal systems and sent the messages out to the subscribers.  RIM had the brilliant idea to make their pagers two way so that the person being paged could respond initially with just an acknowledgement that they had read the message, and then later with full text messages.  That’s the point at which the pagers gained QWERTY keyboards. From there, RIM made the leap in functionality to support emails as well as pager messages, after all, they had a full keyboard now, a well established NOC based delivery system and a return path via the NOC for messages sent from the device.  The only thing that remained was a link into an enterprise email system.  That’s where the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) comes in.  The BES sites inside the Enterprise network and connects to the Lotus Domino or MS Exchange servers and acts as a connection to the NOC in Canada (the home of RIM and the location of the RIm NOC).  The connection from the device to the NOC is encrypted and from the NOC to the BES is encrypted.  Because of that encryption, there is no way for a government such as India, UAE, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia or other to intercept the traffic over either of the links (to or from the NOC)

Blackberry Topology

Last time I spoke to someone at RIM about this topology, they told me that RIM did not support putting the BES in the DMZ (where I would have put it) – since then, this situation may have changed.

Blackberry messenger traffic doesn’t get to the BES, but instead it goes from the device up to the NOC and then back to the second Blackberry which means that non-enterprise subscribers also have access to the messenger service and this appears to be the crux of what the various governments are concerned about.  Anybody, including a terrorist could buy a Blackberry phone and have access to the encrypted Blackberry messenger service without needing to connect up their device to a BES which explains why they don’t seem to be chasing after the other VPN vendors (including IBM with Lotus Mobile Connect) to get access to the encrypted traffic between the device and the enterprise VPN server.  Importantly, other VPN vendors typically don’t have a NOC in the mix (apart from the USA based Good who have a very similar model to RIM).  I guess the governments don’t see the threat from the enterprise customers, but rather the individuals who buy Blackberry devices.

To illustrate how a VPN like Lotus Mobile Connect differs from the Blackberry topology above, have a look at the diagram below:

Lotus Mobile Connect topology

If we extend that thought a little more, a terrorist cell could set them selves up as a pseudo enterprise by deploying a traditional VPN solution in conjunction with an enterprise type instant messaging server and therefore avoid the ban on Blackberries.  the VPN server and IM server could even be located in another country which would avoid the possibility of the government easily getting a court order to intercept traffic within the enterprise environment (on the other end of the VPN).  It will be interesting to see if those governments try to extend the reach of their prying to this type of IM strategy…

ICE at TeleManagement World 2010 – a great example of real benefits from TMF Frameworx

Oroiginally posted on 29May10 to IBM Developerworks (23,580 Views)

Yes, I should have posted this a week ago during the TeleManagement World conference – I’ve been busy since then and the wireless network at the conference was not available in most of the session rooms – at least that is my excuse.

Ricardo Mata, Sub-Director, VertICE (OSS) Project from ICE

At Impact 2010 in Las Vegas we heard from the IBM Business Partner (GBM) on the ICE project.  At TMW 2010, it was ICE themselves presenting on ICE and their journey down the TeleManagement Forum Frameworx path.  Ricardo Mata, Sub-Director, VertICE (OSS) Project from ICE presented (see his picture to the right) presented on ICE’s projects to move Costa Rica’s legacy carrier to a position that will allow them to remain competitive when the government opens up the market to international competitors such as Telefonica who are champing at the bit to get in there.  ICE used IBM’s middleware to integrate components from a range of vendors and align them to the TeleManagement Forum’s Frameworx (the new name for eTOM, TAM and SID).  In terms of what ICE wanted to achieve with this project (they call it PESSO) this diagram shows it really well.

I wish I could share with you the entire slide pack, but I think I might incur the wrath of the TeleManagement Forum if I were to do that.  If you want to see these great presentations from Telcos from all around the world, you will just have to stump up the cash and get yourself to Nice next year.  Finally, I want to illustrate the integration architecture that ICE used – this diagram is similar to the one form Impact, but I think importantly shows ICE’s view of the architecture rather than IBM’s or GMB’s.

For the benefit of those that don’t understand some of the acronyms in the architecture diagram above, let me explain them a bit:

  • ESB – Enterprise Services Bus
  • TOCP – Telecom Operations Content Pack (the old name for WebSphere Telecom Content Pack) – IBM’s product to help Telcos get in line with the TMF Frameworx)
  • NGOSS – Next Generation Operations Support Systems (the old name to TMF Frameworx)
  • TAM – Telecom Applications Map
  • SID – Shared Information / Data model