Friday, February 09, 2018

Back to the future?

When Racal and British Telecom launched mobile telephone networks in the UK in 1985 they were separated from the customer by Service Providers. The Economist in a leader thinks that when it comes to 5G it might be an idea to return to because the business case does not work for current networks to build multiple overlapping infrastructure.

Don't cry for Charles Dunstone...

Yesterday TalkTalk reported it's results to the City and people were not happy with what they were telling them.

The once wonder of the telecoms industry is turning into his idol Richard Branson, but not in the way he dreamed. It's only a question of time when TalkTalk is no more rather than one of if.

Dunstone has built his fortune on the spin that with him you get the best price be it Mobile phones, fixed line telephony or broadband like some spiv working the crowd in Romford Market. The problem with TalkTalk is that the customers are now not prepared to pay the actual cost of delivering fibre broadband and having seen an exodus of customers because of poor service and hacking it has had to offer contracts at below cost to keep the numbers respectable.  The perfect storm has also seen it now having to fix the holes in its finances with a cash injection almost equal to 12 months income.

Since the days of FreeServe I have said that the issue with UK Broadband investment that needed to be addressed was that the Retail Price never reflected the cost of the service or offered a Return on Investment that justified major spending. The TalkTalk partners in a project to bring superfast fibre to York have got their fingers burned from working with Dunstone to the extent that don't wish to undertake anymore work with him.  Dunstone thinks that because he has a large customer base someone else will provide the money. that might have worked 20 years ago but not today.

As others invest in the building of Superfast Broadband Dunstone will be on the sidelines shouting that its a rigged market and BT has failed to invest in Wholesale services that would allow him to stay in business. TalkTalk's strategy in terms of maintaining it's customer numbers means that he will invest in marketing and promotions at the expense of infrastructure and customer service which means that he will have difficulty in get those customers to pay more. Thus we are looking at decline to the point of bankruptcy nobody will buy them out of the hole they have dug for themselves.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

BT Broadband plans, to little to late?

Woke up this morning to CEO of BT Openreach talking on Radio 4 about the plan to accelerate his Fibre to the Premises build programme so that he has a chance of hitting 3m homes and buildings by 2020. In order to work 50% faster than it is at the moment BT will be hiring 3,000 engineers.  It would seem that HR Director Kevin Brady has massive task on his hands given that candidate require very little in entry skills if this is anything to go on. 

When you look at the investment made to deliver Fibre to Milton Keynes by rival CityFibre it looks like the plans of BT are not aggressive enough and by the time they have hit the 10m target the technology they are deploying is unlikely to be capable of serving needs of 5G mobile.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Mobile Futures

It's been a while since I have blogged but hopefully over the next few days I'll start to establish a better routine.

Expect 2018 to see a number of Mobile Networks doing proof of concept trials of 5G, we are seeing the first in Europe with DT is already doing so, more will follow. Physical Devices will start to become available in the last quarter of the year once chipsets move into preproduction phase.

The focus for IoT should move away from Consumer fantasy solutions to more of a focus on Enterprise offerings because significant elements of integration will be required if the sector is to be more than just basic plug and play applications. IoT needs to evolve into a major market because a significant amount of planning around its demand for capacity has been used to justify the need for 5G at a time when 4G has yet to be completely deployed. Without being able to show new markets Mobile Networks are not likely to be able to raise the finances needed to build 5G out.

I expect to see more criticism of the negative effects of Smartphones on our everyday lives as people start to realise that the App ecosystems rather than helping is hurting. I left Facebook over a year ago, when I upgraded my phone in Summer 2016 I removed the Facebook App that was preinstalled. I do not have notifications enabled on by phone for anything other than email, and then it is only my work account. It is not mobile phones that are doing the damage it is what you allow on them and how you then live with that software. But just as it is usual the child of someone who works in technology who is last to get a phone at school it is those in the sector who are least likely to use excessively the technology.                                         

Running a Telecoms Network is about a lot more than just deal making you just have to look at the problems of those who jumped on the M&A bus and crashed into a pile of debt as the consolidation boom they embarked on failed to deliver the riches from scaling up. As you layer generation upon generation of technology the issue becomes more complex not just in terms of Infrastructure but also Customer expectations and demand. Before the iPhone we saw a broad spectrum of handset designs enable by the fact that manufacturing processes were controlled by Equipment makers rather than outsourced. Today Smartphones are all the say form factor and operate one of two software systems this means that the generation that has known nothing but smartphones has a set of expectation and behaviours vastly different from those whom started out with phones that were primarily phones.

So how might things be made better? Can it be done without the need to Regulate and litigate? Are Investors happy to allocate capital at a rate that allows development? I will try and post a few thoughts on how to go forward without breaking confidentiality clauses signed with clients of the next few weeks. 

Friday, October 06, 2017

Somethings to ponder

The Google future is one that means you only need to speak one language. Alongside showing the Phone that Google hopes will "incentivise" Android Handset Makers they showed off a headset that allows real time translation. Will this be the Babble Fish of Douglas Adams fame or is it going to lead to mistakes that a Comedy Writer could only dream of?

Interesting round up on the current state of UK's next round of Spectrum Auctions over at Telecoms.com gives Ofcom more credit that they are due, but I also think that a delay might not be a bad thing given that most Networks are still trying to figure out just what they are going to do with 5G.

Softbank investment in to the UK post purchase of ARM is highlighted in this report. Whilst the UK headcount has grown so has the non-UK headcount and I expect that the increase will be greater outside of the UK going forward given the politics of a post Brexit UK.

Technology Review has an interesting post on the problems being a Futurologist that is worth a read. Almost all of the thoughts about the potential for AI could have been written by the staff of Orange's Imaginerium in 1999 when they modelled what customrers would be using the 3G network for once it launched.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Imagination Technologies sale to Cabyon Bridge

On Friday, Imagination Technologies announced that Canyon Bridge had bought the company that put itself up for sale following the loss of Apple as a customer earlier in the year.

The Telegraph has been reporting that such a transaction leaves the UK Government with a headache as Canyon Bridge is backed by Chinese money and might also suffer the fate of Cadbury post purchase and be stripped of its assets.

I rather expect that the Hertfordshire based business is likely to suffer the fate of Vertu and end up bankrupt and sold for scrap in less than two years because of mismanagement and the new owner having very little understanding as to just what they own and control.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Did Liberty Global just pay Arthur D Little to publish research that shows it has very little future?

Having spent some time reading Arthur D Little's latest report, Unlocking GigaWorld Innovation, I have to ask why was Liberty Global associated with it?



If you take the time to read the report very little of what the outline can be served by the services currently sold by Liberty Global unless I have missed them building a massive Business Services unit to match those of BT Global Services and Vodafone Enterprise Services. The report in itself seems to be of the sort written by Analysts in order to justify a particular market and has a degree of optimism even a Blockchain booster my call over confident.

If the report is a forecast of what is happening rather than what might then Liberty Global does not have the product portfolio or workforce that is capable of grabbing the opportunities and thus faces the terminal decline of a British High Street shopping chain that failed to engage suitably with the Digital Consumer.

Go take a look and tell me if I'm fooling myself!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Virgin Media investment plans

Over the weekend Virgin Media revealed it's latest investment plans to The Telegraph. It is seeking to expand it's network asking Liberty Global to increase it's investment to grow the footprint of it's Fibre network a £3bn plan to grow from 50% of households covered to almost 66%.   

Given that interest rates are at all time lows and Virgin have said that the investment has a good return in growing the customers base in areas where they are new entrants rather than established provider why are they not seeking to be aggressive and double the investment? The reports on broadband coverage in Britain say that the costs are not commercial for just the last 10% of households and so the capacity is there to almost double what Virgin already has. 

We could say that Liberty Global is being cautious given the uncertainty around Brexit and its economic impact or as a Global player the upside of investment outside of the UK is greater than inside.  One option would be for Virgin to become more of a player within the Business market which its brand does not speak to other than in the small business sector, some players are realising that BT is providing a very poor quality service.   

Is Virgin gaming the market to such an extent that it knows that investment is infrastructure is like betting on England's football team? It needs to stay in the game and the cost of new customers is lower in areas that it is an entrant to rather than established in that they are likely to buy a bundled service bigger than that established customers.