Wireless Networks & Platforms

Covers market sizing forecasts, best practice case studies and the insights to guide profitable mobile broadband growth.

August 11, 2010 16:08 suerudd
August 11th 2010 Doing the FCC’s job? On Monday August 9th. Verizon and Google issued a joint ‘suggested policy framework for lawmakers’ which reads as if it had come from the FCC, leading to an appropriate response from FCC commissioner Michael J. Copps that it is “time to reassert (FCC’s) authority”. The framework endorses all the good ‘motherhood’ concepts - openness for legal content, nondiscrimination that does not block or degrade the Internet, and transparency for both wireline and wireless. And it addresses some of the traffic and network management concerns raised in my blog of May 27th . But the sting is in the tail. The fifth and sixth points posted in the expository blog carve out two major markets. The ‘Carve Out’.Two key markets are carved out for minimal FCC oversight and therefore would not be subject to many ‘net neutrality’ and access requirements. First area is ‘differentiated online services’ that integrate application services with bandwidth – “healthcare monitoring, the smart grid’ etc. i.e. vertical markets where performance and security must be guaranteed. The proposed Verizon and Google approach allows each application to be ‘nailed-up’ to a specific network - rather than the Virtual Private Networks VPNs) with Service Level Agreements(SLAs) that operate today. This could lead to significant innovation – if only it were not based on exclusive bi-lateral transport and applications vendor deals. Haven’t we been here before? Didn’t this lead to the original Enhanced vs. Basic Services split of Computer Enquiry II.  And it recreates the comparatively unsuccessful ‘Walled Garden’ approach to applications. Second ‘carve out’ is wireless broadband which is claimed to have “unique technical and operational characteristics” and to be “more competitive and changing rapidly”, so “in recognition of the still-nascent nature of the wireless broadband marketplace” Verizon and Google recommend against applying any of the “wireline principles” except transparency. Broadband is Broadband is Broadband….Although wireless has historically had special treatment, mobile broadband is rapidly reaching parity with wireline speeds and quality. Over the next two years applications will operate seamlessly across wireless and wireline networks and many users may not even be aware which network they are on. To users Broadband is Broadband. All applications require an appropriate class of service at a competitive price. Special value added networks and mobile broadband cannot and should not be carved out from the general area of FCC broadband service oversight. Reactions and Furor on both sides of the ‘pond’ In the US, Wall Street Journal welcomes this ‘Traffic Plan’ and TIA notes that the “Verizon and Google…rightly addressed important issues such as the need for network management welcoming it as a “step in the right direction … and a possible solution to the uncertainty created by the Comcast decision.” But bloggers and the New York Times Opinion page started discussing carrier/search engine business alliances and making jokes about ‘VerGoogle’ that have now prompted a strong tweet denial from Google “We've not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open internet.” Wired magazine however, describes the ‘differentiated online services network’ as a “left-field proposal to anticipate an entirely new information highway for ‘fast lanes’” and believes that “Google and Verizon have proposed creating a second, paid-access-only internet” “over an unspecified global network”. Could that be Verizon’s new Packet Optical Transport Platform (P-OTP) network? Across the pond reactions are still evolving. Financial Times subtly points out that “industry insiders on Capitol Hill and at the FCC are questioning Google’s motives for an apparent about-face on its position as one of the most powerful advocates of net neutrality.” Others reflect the stronger view that the EU is taking on Net neutrality.with one blogger warning that “An obvious outcome … is that when Google is dragged backwards through an antitrust investigation by the EC or DoJ, it will find no favours from civil society after this betrayal…..Good luck, Google - you thought China was sticky in terms of political support, you'll find that was a storm in a delicate teacup.”

May 27, 2010 20:05 suerudd
Throttle or Choke.‘Net Neutrality’ proponents argue that there should be no restrictions by service providers on any type of end-user access to content, equipment or modes of communication but in April a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC had exceeded its authority when it told Comcast not to ‘throttle’ BitTorrent’s peer-to-peer video exchange and related applications - even though BitTorrent was ‘choking’ performance for other Comcast users. FCC is now proposing additional regulation and Congress is getting in on the act. Lurking behind the partisan rhetoric of ‘Net neutrality’ are serious issues. It is time to deal with them. Issue 1. Harm to the Network. Ironically Comcast was trying to protect its customers from ‘harm to the network’ as the Communications Act requires. Many service providers - including many mobile operators - are struggling to manage the disproportionate traffic demands of a few heavy duty users whose peer-to-peer or high bandwidth applications slow down performance for everyone else. Solution: Some equitable form of network management is not only reasonable but essential for the broadband networks to function. Issue 2. Service Quality at a Fair Price. Insistence by ‘Net Neutrality’ advocates that everyone get the same access with the same ‘class of service’ leads rapidly to a lowest common denominator for all. When video ‘bandwidth hogs’ block more time sensitive or more valuable, low bandwidth applications there is a good case for throughput guarantees. Solution: In both fixed and mobile broadband markets, tiered classes of service for different user applications with different bandwidth requirements and different priorities at different prices will enable operators to balance broadband traffic demand with new capacity expansion. Issue 3. Exclusive Walled Gardens. The owners of broadband access have been tempted recently to consider exclusive deals with preferred application and content providers – like Google and YouTube. Often there are only one or two access providers, so small new or innovative vendors are concerned they will be relegated to a lower class of service. This is not just a US issue. In April European Union telecoms commissioner Neelie Kroes suggested that “users should be able to access and distribute the content, services and applications they want”…”Nor should telecommunications providers be allowed to block services provided by direct competitors.” Solution: Toll highway operators should not choose the customers’ automobiles. Nor should the automobile companies pay the user tolls in advance for the fastest highways. A primary reason for communications regulation is to prevent access providers from extending their power to control access to limit content choice or overcharge for services. Networks need a clear and neutral boundary between transport and applications so that choices are separate and made by end users. Let’s deal with the real challenges to delivering broadband for all - instead of firing political rhetoric at one another

January 11, 2010 22:01 David Kerr
Afte the inevitable wave of irrational exuberance has come the equally inevitable correction and flow of negative comments regarding Google Nexus One.
  • We are now seeing a huge rebound of criticisms about customer service, implementation and execution, moaning and complaining for existing t-mobile customers who have to pay more than a new customer to get a cool device and strong complaints from developers about availability of SDK and support.
  •  Naturally, the questions about Google's ability to execute on direct sales are being raised but these shall pass very quickly in our view.
Within our wireless team we had divergent opinions from network centric, application focussed and device driven analysts but ultimatlely we arrived at the following key perspectives:
  • Consensus is that Nexus will be successful by high end tier Smartphone levels (single digit volumes in 2010 but upside potential when it rolls out beyond TMO in US and to more open markets in Europe). Nexus is likely to sell more through operator channels than direct overall. Handset volume though is not the metric by which Google will measure Nexus success nor should operators as Nexus sales are a means to an end.  If Google is successful and Nexus ends up driving usage and value for operators, they will support it with subsidies.  Otherwise, operators can passively watch Google evolve its own-branded offering with little to lose. Tier One handset vendors (SAM, LG) may have the most to lose as Google’s marketing muscle and brand coupled with compelling devices and experiences will be a strong competitor for Operator slots, subsidy dollars.
  • Handset revenues and profits are a nice to have for Google. Key to their success and long term ambition is too boost the mobile browsing ecosystem. More open devices capable of browsing/search/maps from Google or others is positive for Google.  Google needed to update and get close to parity in terms of an engaging, fun, easy browsing UI with competitive links to key apps like maps, media etc and this device achieves that goal. Google is great at creating a buzz and the media is ready to talk about something other than Apple.
  • Google Nexus and indeed the whole Android approach is not about controlling/owning the user (contrast this with Apple). Google’s key metric is advertising revenue. Google's vision is well publicized: the browser is how they will deliver services, even on mobile, and apps are a stop-gap measure as far as Google's strategic vision is concerned. Google is banking on HTML 5 as their solution to fragmentation but we believe they are drinking too much of their own coolaid here and underestimating the importance of apps. Google’s key goal is to increase eyeballs and advertising.
  • Some key elements that have not been addressed which we believe are key in Google’s future evolution and will be key to watch relate to Voice and what Google does its Gizmo5 acquisition to push Google Voice into a full VoIP proposition. This is where Telcos should be most worried and where we have yet to see all the pieces positioned on the battlefiled.

December 4, 2009 15:12 David Kerr

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As we rapidly close the cover on one of the toughest years the telecommunications, content and internet industries have ever seen, SA takes a look ahead beyond the recession to detail the key megatrends for the mobile industry in 2010.

We see a tough but positive mobile ecosystem outlook with devices recovering stronger than services. More consolidation is likely among network operators, while profits for device vendors will continue to flow away from handset only vendors in favor of device/services integration specialists. Emerging markets will continue to dominate volume with strong 3G rollout competition expected. The global market for services, applications, devices and infrastructure will post modest growth of approximately 3% in 2010.

The total mobile industry revenue including services, infrastructure and devices was flat in 2009. We expect a modest growth of 2.8% in 2010 to $1140B.

· In 2009, only strong growth in data spends by users ensured that total industry revenues did not decline. Data revenues grew 9.5% in 2009 and are expected to grow at a 13% rate in 2010 reaching over $200B.

· Handset market sell through revenue will rebound well in 2010, posting growth of 4% while the infrastructure market will continue to struggle and will decline slightly.

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Key issues shaping the 2010 landscape include:

  • Operators needing to balance the the strong rise in Capex requirements driven by the data traffic explosion against slow revenue growth. The likely outcome being significant M&A, network sharing and even applications development.
  • Handset OEMs will be forced will put the early stake in the ground for new device categories. Traditional OEMS will continue to struggle to match the Apple & Google vertical integration strategy which has proven so successful.
  • As the big five vendors focus on smart phones and content/services in the open markets, a race develops to get services/apps onto feature phone products or other operator customized devices
  • On-portal traffic continues to grow but is outpaced by off portal session growth. Contextualization and personalization of the user experience will determine winners and losers.
  • The rapid diffusion of Flash and HTML 5 on handsets could negate much of the need for mediacos to use open platforms/app stores in mature markets.
  • In the business sector we see SMEs and Manage Mobility as key battlegrounds. We see growth in hosted services for SMEs (e.g. Unified Communications infrastructure-one phone mobile and fixed, one voicemail etc.  Personal v corporate liable devices (iPhone v BlackBerry) becomes a major issue.
  • In the Emerging Markets area we see consolidation & 3G expansion in urban areas as key battlegrounds. With improved financing prospects, there will be significant consolidation among regional operators and rationalization of holdings.