Can Carriers Adopt Agile Practices?

Posted on June 16, 2014

Recently I attended the Telecommunications Industry Association Network of the Future Conference in Dallas. The conference was well attended and featured a combination of informative keynotes and a series of lively panel discussions. I participated as a panelist for the 5G Networks track Carrier Aggregation Across Licensed and Unlicensed Spectrum. (I wrote about this in my last blog.)

Over the next few months I plan to blog about some of the conference’s themes But for this post, I want to focus on the conference’s front-and-center issue: the adoption and growth of Software Defined Networks (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV).

SDN allows network topologies to be defined via software. Think of it as using “digital wires” to interconnect the network. SDN enables the decoupling of the system that makes decisions about where traffic is sent, called the “control plane”, from the underlying systems that forward traffic to the destination, called the “data plane.” The key benefit here is that ease in changing network topology. The first network area to really benefit from SDN is called the vGI-LAN. That’s the IP network between the packet gateway and the public Internet. It’s also the natural starting place for this type of network evolution.

NFV is related to SDN and allows network functions such as the evolved packet core Mobility Management Entity (MME) or Packet Data Network Gateway (PGW) to be virtualized and “freed” from the underlying dedicated hardware, and to run on commodity systems. This is of course the overwhelming trend in enterprise and Internet computing; and it’s been fundamental to the amazing growth of offerings such as Amazon Web Services.

So what does this mean for operators who adopt the trend? With SDN or NFV virtualization, operators can:

  • Quickly implement improvements, changes, and even rollout new services in totally new ways
  • Rapidly align the network with current business priorities—and without lengthy multi-year projects
  • Experiment with new services and changes on a sub-section of their subscriber base, in the same manner that web companies such as Amazon.com and Facebook do.
  • Transition—likely slowly at first—from “waterfall” development, which is characterized by much longer lead times than Agile development.

Operators can also adopt the “DevOps” model used by many Internet companies, which closely aligns the roles of software development with production IT.

Traditionally IT teams have managed Operation System Support (OSS) and Business Support Systems (BSS) functions, and network teams have managed the core network. With virtualization, these lines are blurring. Because the increasing majority of network functions will be virtualized in commodity hardware housed in data centers, the bulk of network management might actually be controlled by IT. That’s a big change!

For vendors, this can only be positive news. Sales cycles will likely be shorter, and new opportunities for software companies to provide technology to the operators will proliferate. So it’s important that vendors in this space adapt, as well, and speak this Agile language.

SDN- and NFV-based deployments promise powerful capability for quick network evolution. Devicescape’s Wi-Fi Service Platform is built from the ground up using virtualization and can easily integrate into the NFV model. It’ll be interesting to see where the adoption of Agile processes take the network.

Monetizing the Entire Data Experience

New opportunities for telecom operators

Posted on June 2, 2014

It’s remarkable how well mobile operators navigated the challenge of massive growth in mobile data consumption. For a mammoth industry—oft criticized for slow movement—things moved extremely fast over the last two years. The big shift to shared data plans drove alignment of data growth with revenue growth, while the technology transition to LTE helped improve Read More

Carrier Aggregation over Unlicensed Spectrum

Posted on June 1, 2014

Recently I’ve been following the proposals to use unlicensed (i.e. Wi-Fi) spectrum to augment cellular capacity. The most prevalent camp proposes using LTE-Advanced carrier aggregation, introduced in 3GPP release 10, where the 5Ghz Wi-Fi bands are used for downlink data, and all other traffic, such as signaling, is ‘anchored’ on licensed spectrum. The 5Ghz unlicensed Read More

ANDSF Helps Enable an “Always Best Connected” Experience

Posted on April 11, 2014

ANDSF (The Access network discovery and selection function) has been around for a while now—ever since 3GPP Release 8. ANDSF allows a mobile network operator to define policies on how “non-3GPP” networks are accessed. (In reality, non-3GPP means Wi-Fi.) It defines three groups of information that can be sent to a handset: Inter-system mobility policy Read More

Hotspot 2.0 or Hotspot Oh.No: My Carrier Wi-Fi Experience at MWC

Posted on March 7, 2014

Wi-Fi—and its Carrier Wi-Fi subset—has become a critical component of mobile network operator strategy.  Carrier Wi-Fi has undergone several redefinitions, but the next generation vision focuses on Hotspot 2.0, also known as “Passpoint.” Theoretically, Hotspot 2.0 provides a seamless connection experience for smartphones by utilizing the SIM card for authentication and leveraging 802.11u to advertise Read More

Posted on February 21, 2014

Devicescape is excited to showcase it’s engagement services at Mobile World Congress 2014. Accessed through any of the over 20 million hotspots that make up Devicescape’s CVN, Popwifi aims to better connect individuals with the places they frequent most and gives them the ability to share what they love about a particular place with anyone Read More

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Curated Spot Check: Bucharest, Romania

Posted on January 26, 2014

A recent trip to Europe saw us in Bucharest for a Curated Spot Check. If you’ve seen earlier posts, you’ll know this is our way of doing an on-the-ground Wi-Fi assessment of our crowd-sourced curated Wi-Fi service. It involves field measurements, primary research, and data analysis of the Wi-Fi environment, so we can fine tune Read More

Black Friday 2013 – The Numbers Are In

Posted on December 9, 2013

Devicescape’s stats are in for the Black Friday and Thanksgiving week, and once again our users benefitted from high performance Wi-Fi connections in many top retail establishments while shopping for bargains. The numbers show big increases in Black Friday foot traffic at many U.S. merchants compared to normal levels. First, a quick note about the Read More

The Amenity Wi-Fi Owner’s Dilemma: Ease of Use Versus Compliance

Posted on December 3, 2013

Two common themes about publicly available Wi-Fi circulate constantly in the press:  security (for users), and abuse (by users).  I find these issues fascinating because they position users at opposite ends of the spectrum. There’s the hapless user whose secrets are being stolen, and there’s the terrorist/ identity thief whose using free (and supposedly anonymous) Read More

Amenity Wi-Fi Goes Mainstream

Posted on November 6, 2013

Recently I had the chance to talk to Light Reading’s Dan Jones about the changes taking place in amenity Wi-Fi. Dan had written previously about the Facebook/Cisco collaboration to offer stores a solution for free Wi-Fi, whereby consumers “sign in” with their Facebook credentials. He’d also written an interesting article after our conversation (which you Read More