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Friday, December 11, 2015

Predictions for 2016: Network Function Virtualisation, 4G throttling and video calling

Mark Windle, head of marketing at OpenCloud, predicts that this year’s reduction in the number of traditional telecoms operators in some countries will provide an opportunity for other operators to innovate and capture market share in 2016. He says next year will be a year of rapid change for telecoms… whether it’s MVNO disruption, competitive tariff pricing or simply defence from the ‘dark art’ of hacking.

NFV finds its footing despite industry trepidation

This year, headline-grabbing news such as the TalkTalk hack has served to put the security of cloud-based services into question. Naturally, these questions extend to the use of the cloud and NFV (Network Function Virtualisation) within the telecoms industry. However, despite these concerns, 2016 will be a year of progress for these technologies as operators realise they are invaluable when used within their networks, providing agility, flexibility and the means to innovate their core services.

Jumping on the WiFi-calling band(width) wagon

In 2016, mobile use of video streaming services will push networks to the point where all the extra bandwidth delivered by 4G has been consumed. Consumers will increasingly seek alternative connection via WiFi and mobile operators will be keen to support them. Off-load of voice (and video-call) traffic over WiFi will become more important, and will tend towards a more integrated ‘native’ experience rather than via the use of a separate app.  Within the network, the service-layer equipment that delivers these services will be extended to become access-agnostic; enabling the same service experience regardless of how the subscriber is connected.

Operators go full throttle

Despite impressive 4G data speeds, the rise in bandwidth consumption next year might see some operators put the brakes on. Shortly after the launch of 3G mobile broadband, a number of operators toyed with offering mobile broadband at different prices for different speeds.  Manipulating pricing may help manage demand and offer some upside for revenues, however it will require significant dialogue between operators and regulators in order to agree how this will work. 

This links to the industry’s journey towards 5G and the internet of things (IoT) where the characteristics of the connection, such as peak speed, guaranteed speed and latency will be varied, and charged differently according to service type. Therefore, in 2016 operators will also need to consider flexible implementation of the service control, charging and policy triangle to allow experimentation with various charging models in the near future.

IT giants keep their eyes on the ‘prise

IT powerhouse companies such as Microsoft will continue to win enterprise communication deals at the expense of incumbent European operators. This is because enterprise CIOs will increasingly view communications as another IT service and not a provision exclusively from traditional telecoms operators.

For these IT giants it could be big business, and potentially billions of dollars of lost revenue for mobile operators. In response to this threat, many mobile operators will be looking to deliver a more innovative, tailored range of services to their enterprise customers to keep them from churning.

A global Internet brand will successfully enter the communications market

In an industry that discusses ‘disruption’ daily, it is not often we see a consumer brand upset the telecoms status quo. Arguably, no brand has stepped forward to truly challenge the monopoly of incumbent operators in the UK – yet in 2016 we shouldn’t be surprised to see a major brand step up to the mark.

In the mid-2000s, Disney launched a mobile service in the US; that didn’t pan-out too well, but times have changed. Is 2016 the time for Google Fi to make an impact in the European market, or perhaps Amazon to launch a direct rival service?

Video calling gets the camera rolling

After the first iPhone in 2007 and the rise of 3G mobile connectivity, video calling was supposedly the next big thing in telecoms. Yet, aside from the occasional FaceTime, most people don’t use video calling on their smartphones, and especially not spontaneously – such activity is reserved for planned Skype calls via a computer or tablet (and even then on Wi-Fi, not using a cellular connection).

Voice over LTE (VoLTE) deployments have started and a notable uptick in new deployments is expected in 2016. The technology also includes provision for Video-calling over LTE, sometimes referred to separately as ViLTE. Assuming the dialler on the smart phone is correctly designed, video-calling will be as simple as Apple’s FaceTime – with the ability to add and drop video from regular calls as you go. Moreover, as a standard capability it won’t be restricted to one particular brand’s phone. However, it begs the question of whether it will ultimately acquire the same reach that telephony has today? Probably not: sometimes things are better heard and not seen.

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Opinion Articles

Is Android losing its impact for Google?

Mark Bridge writes:

Recent figures released by ABI Research have prompted the market intelligence company to ask whether Google is losing control of the Android ecosystem.

At first glance, Android dominated smartphone shipments for the final quarter of 2013. ABI Research says 77% of the 287 million smartphones shipped in Q4 2013 were running Android.

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It’s time to prepare for the upcoming surge in signaling traffic

Robin Kent writes:

After initially suffering from slow pick up by consumers, 4G has begun to accelerate, and is now well on the way to the forecasted one billion subscribers by 2017. In fact EE, owner of T-Mobile and Orange, recently announced the addition of 493,000 new 4G customers to its existing base of 1.2 million.

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Mobile phone coverage: is this as good as it gets?

Mark Bridge writes:

A new report has highlighted the issue of poor mobile phone coverage in rural Sussex villages. BBC Sussex invited me onto their ‘Sussex Breakfast’ radio show to explain what could be done - and, as usual, I made enough notes for a lecture rather than a three-minute interview.

Here’s what I would have liked to have said if I’d been given a disproportionate amount of time to talk.

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Last week at The Fonecast: 27th January 2014

Expecting the unexpected

Mark Bridge writes:

Great news for mobile phone users. Ofcom’s new rules preventing unexpected mid-contract price rises came into force last week, which means UK consumers can no longer be surprised by their subscription charge increasing while they’re still locked into a minimum-term deal.

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Ofcom changes the rules for mobile phone contracts... and so does O2

Mark Bridge writes:

This week, new Ofcom rules came into force. They’re designed to avoid unexpected price rises during the minimum term of a mobile phone contract. Yes, just because you signed a fixed-term contract doesn’t mean the charges can’t increase. Networks said they needed this option in case of inflation or regulatory changes. Customers felt trapped.

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Recent Podcasts

Reviewing our 2015 mobile industry predictions... and looking forward to 2016

Podcast - 15th January 2016

Iain Graham, James Rosewell and Mark Bridge return to review their mobile industry predictions from last year. Which mergers, partnerships and developments did they forecast correctly... and which didn’t work out as planned?

Later in the programme, the team anticipates some of the topics that will be hitting the headlines during 2016.

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Podcast from Mobile World Congress 2015

Podcast - 6th March 2015

Mark Bridge learns about the mobile technology trends at Mobile World Congress 2015 by chatting to James Rosewell of 51Degrees, Dr Kevin Curran from the IEEE and Chris Millington of Doro.

They talk about wearable devices, wireless charging, mobile operating systems and much more... including some of their favourite products from the exhibition.

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Looking back at February: from security scares to multiple MVNOs

Podcast - 27th February 2015

We're taking a look back at the biggest mobile industry news stories from February 2015, including allegations that the UK's security service tried to breach SIM card security by hacking into one of the world's biggest SIM producers.

We also talk about the planned BT and EE merger, the creation of two new UK virtual networks, some acquisitions in the mobile payment arena and a new Ubuntu smartphone.

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Interview with Chris Millington of Doro about mobile retailing, wearables and technology for older consumers

Podcast - 24th February 2015

In today's programme Mark Bridge talks to Chris Millington, who's Managing Director for Doro UK and Ireland.

They discuss the state of mobile retailing in the UK, the future of wearable devices and - as you might expect - smartphones for seniors.

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A month of mobile: O2 counts on 3, Microsoft counts to 10 and Apple counts its profits

Podcast - 30th January 2015

We're back with a month of mobile industry news, including takeover talks and takeover rumours. O2 and Three are said to be discussing a merger... but is there any truth in the suggestions that BlackBerry could be up for grabs?

We also discuss Apple's record-breaking quarterly figures, the highlights of CES and the launch of Microsoft Windows 10, as well as saying farewell to the current version of Google Glass.

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