Thursday, January 03, 2019

What might we see with the next generation of mobile technology?

Everyone is excited about the possibilities of the fifth generation of mobile networks to significantly change the way that mobile "phone" control our lives. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Using a 3D hologram rather than travelling so that you can be "in the room" with work colleagues and loved ones,
  2. Voice Activated Concierge Service that you allow to read your messages, control your diary etc so that you might manage the information overflow of your daily life,
  3. Avatar based news feed that allows you to be updated about what you need/want to know when you want without having to flip across a number of services,
  4. Autonomous Cars that self report faults and arrange service appointments based on usage and your needs to "drive",
  5. Smart Homes that are capable of turning on lights, heating, running a bath, washing machines, cookers and remote access for deliveries whilst also security features using video based on real time location information from your phone and traffic flows so that you get home and find that the house is how you want it,
  6. Augmented Reality that uses the camera in your phone to overlay information for you so that you can move around a new space as if you were a local.
Whilst these are all suggestions about what we could see with 5G services they are in fact predictions that Orange made when planning for the launch of 3G nearly twenty years ago. It was the work of those who staffed the Think Tank that was called The Imaginarium it had people with titles like "ambassador of strategy" and "knowledge consul". It right predicted that Mobile Networks will be about providing life services rather than selling phone calls and that there will be no killer app for wireless.  It made some bold bets on that future, paying $137.5M to the Press Association for a digital news-feed and $137.5M for a start up speech recognition service called Wildfire. Under the ownership of France Telecom these bets did not pay off and the people who dreamt of the future left.

Today we have very few Labs within Telecoms Networks and they are not focused on Innovation as they once were. Perhaps 5G might deliver some of what we thought possible with 3G. Perhaps some of what was predicted failed because demand could not be stimulated significantly to create the market.  Perhaps the Executives who started to run Mobile Networks once 3G launched had to manage the debt in such a way that they gave away Customer Relationships to the likes of Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google without getting anything in return. If 5G is to change anything it needs to change the way that infrastructure is paid for and valued.

Friday, May 11, 2018

BT Group Results

The Financial Times Opinion on BT's results talks about the strategy risking a Kodak moment, in doing so they fail to address the Elephant in the Room. This must be music to the ears of  CEO Gavin Patterson.

If the Company is to be turned around, then the job cuts need to be about the closing of businesses that have no future and the loss of 13,000 members of staff is not enough.  Global Services is not a business that works and looks more like Carillion than a magic money tree. The idea that BT Vision can get customers to pay more for services that are not core  has been proven wrong and thus is now the time to close the business?

Yet these plans were not addressed in the presentation rather short terms issues of investment in Next Generation Investment and statutory requirements for funding Pension requirements where the focus. 

If BT Group is to be turned around I do not think that Gavin Patterson is capable of leading the job, and that they need to find talent from outside the company capable of leading the restructure as well as changing the relationship with regulators if the business is to have a future. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

My review of Building a Full-Fibre Future

Today Ofcom hosted a forum for industry leaders to address the future of ultrafast, fibre broadband in the UK.

Matt Hancock told us what the Government hoped to achieve from the event

The FttH Council Europe didn't answer the exam question but shared some data from a study they conducted 

A man from Virgin Media turned up and said something interesting and not related to being bought by Vodafone  

The price of setting Britain on the right path has gone up a lot since Steven Carter's Digital Britain Report got kicked into the longer grass  

Ofcom close with the Chief Executive saying that things need to change but it is the market rather than stakeholders that need to deliver  

This man has a plan, but it needs your money, lots of your money. But he is wise and knows how to spend it on good things...  

Lots of talking, so top quality graphics but no firm plan on how to move forward as it's complex stuff!   

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 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.