Posted by: KateGerwig
CDN, content delivery networks, video strategy
Comcast customers throughout the Eastern seaboard (full disclosure: this writer included) collectively wailed in agony Sunday night as their fantasy football scoreboards stopped refreshing and Justin Bieber’s YouTube video streams ground to a halt (full disclosure: I was doing neither… no, really) when the cable operator’s home Internet service went kablooey.
Like everyone else from Boston to Baltimore affected Sunday night, our digital voice and cable TV services were working fine. I’ve sat on hold with customer service enough times to know that I should try resetting the router and modem before I assail some poor call center agent for their lousy service. Sure enough, all that unplugging and plugging got us nowhere. My first call to 1-800-COMCAST was disconnected, and subsequent calls over the next hour or so kept giving me a busy signal. Guess their call center software had a hernia too.
I hate being a cliche consumer of social media, but lacking any way to reach customer service, I got my answers by doing a search for any mention of Comcast on Twitter via my smartphone. In addition to the reports of major outages in Boston and Baltimore, hundreds of tweets flooded the page from equally aggrieved customers in New Hampshire, Vermont, Virginia and D.C. experiencing the same issues.
Foregoing a clever yet incomprehensible name, Cisco announced a new straightforward Traffic Packet Optimization (TPO) service that combines deep packet inspection (DPI), integrated intelligence and value-added services on its ASR 5000 multimedia core platform. The purpose? Helping wireless operators speed end-user downloads and reduce bandwidth needs by using software to optimize wireless packet traffic in the platform without having to offload to load balancers and provisioning servers that could slow down delivery.
A better mousetrap kind of announcement that speaks directly to congestion and bandwidth issues faced by wireless operators, TPO is designed to better manage data by adapting traffic to accommodate dynamic network conditions. Cisco said TPO can potentially reduce the amount of traffic on a wireless network by up to 50%. The software solution also uses compression techniques to reduce the size of text-heavy HTTP traffic and optimize transmission control protocol (TCP) traffic. Optimizing traffic can reduce mobile backhaul costs.
“Cisco TPO is a valuable tool that does two very important things: It allows mobile operators to enhance the end-user experience while improving bandwidth utilization at the same time,” said Daryl Schoolar, principal analyst, wireless infrastructure at Current Analysis.
Cisco said wireless operators have been testing the new service, but it could not announce customer wins at this time.
The TPO advantage to consumer and business users is faster mobile video, Internet and cloud computing services, while the advantage to wireless operators is reducing traffic loads on their networks.
Ashraf Dahod, Cisco’s senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s mobile Internet technology group, discussed TPO briefly in his keynote address at the 4G World conference in Chicago on Tuesday. Dahod was the founder and CEO of Starent Networks Corp., the mobile packet core specialist acquired by Cisco a year ago for $2.9 billion.
To increase revenue, Dahod said one way wireless operators can improve profitability is by reducing capex and opex by optimizing their networks through a combination of techniques including offload, optimizing video and adapting multimedia traffic (called transrating) – a message that would highlight the need for the TPO service, which had not yet been announced.
Andrew Capener, director of marketing for Cisco’s Starent Networks division, said TPO can reduce a 1.2 Mbps text-heavy mobile page to 250 kbps, which can be delivered faster and use much less bandwidth. “It’s one of those simple things that has a big impact. TPO can reduce HTTP and TCP traffic,” he said.
As for charges that the software solution could slow performance by overtaxing processors, Capener said Cisco’s TPO service was tested in a recent European Advanced Networking Test Center and showed zero performance loss.
Mobile backhaul equipment is having a good season due to early 4G LTE deployments and continuing HSPA/HSPA+ deployments. The latest Infonetics Researchmobile backhaul market analysis shows 36% year-over-year growth in Ethernet-based equipment and services, which is expected to reach $4.8 billion this year — a full 80% of total backhaul spending.
Infonetics co-founder Michael Howard said he sees no slowdowns for Ethernet in the foreseeable future now that packet timing and synchronization improvements have been made. Howard noted that 100 global operators are deploying a single IP-Ethernet backhaul to carry all traffic. At the same time, TDM microwave backhaul spending is declining significantly as Ethernet rises, according to Infonetics’ Richard Webb, who analyzes the microwave market and co-authored the report. Webb said he expects the mobile backhaul equipment market to grow to an estimated $8.2 billion by 2014, largely due to Ethernet.
Ericsson leads the vendors in the microwave radio mobile backhaul market, according to Infonetics, followed by Huawei, Nokia Siemens and NEC. In Ethernet backhaul, however, Alcatel-Lucent took the top spot in the first half of 2010 due to its sales of Ethernet cell site routers and gateways, edging out Tellabs, Cisco and Huawei. The Ethernet mobile backhaul market is expected to grow 367% this year alone.
Alcatel-Lucent is understandably pleased with its Ethernet backhaul win, which accounts for 23% of the Ethernet cell site gateway and router market. Timed to coincide with the 4G World trade show in Chicago and the Infonetics Research report, Alcatel-Lucent announced enhancements to its “AnyG to LTE” radio access technologies that support 2G, 3G and LTE. The company added its 7705 Service Aggregation Router-18 (SAR–18) to its mobile backhaul portfolio, a solution that also has unified network and policy management from the radio access network (RAN) to the packet core.
Alcatel-Lucent’s Gary Leonard, mobile IP unit senior director of product marketing, said that while the backhaul market is definitely moving to Ethernet in all of its forms and packet IP is replacing TDM and ATM, only 3% of cell towers were connected via Ethernet/IP in 2009. “We think that will jump to 33% by 2013, but that means the majority of existing toward are using TDM or ATM legacy backhaul solutions,” Leonard said. “We’re shipping more Ethernet ports than ATM ports, but TDM and ATM aren’t dying.”
Equipment needs to support legacy interfaces, even where there are IP/Ethernet connections available, Leonard added. “Everybody wants to move more traffic at lower cost, but not all cell sites have the connectivity,” he said. Clearly introducing a service aggregation router that can handle 2G, 3G and 4G in one box positions Alcatel-Lucent as the vendor that has its eye clearly on LTE, but isn’t forgetting that it will take years for mobile backhaul to catch up to the fastest and cheapest technology around.
It would be unfair to make blanket characterizations about a region as vast and diverse as Latin America. But we know this much is true: Throughout less developed parts of Central and South America, service providers are seeing an opportunity for mobile services in areas where wireline telecom infrastructure is sparse.
But there are still challenges to entering the market, including the relative lack of undersea cabling to connect the region to the rest of the world. Additionally, returns on investment (ROI) can be slow in emerging economies — particularly as enterprise market opportunities remain immature – and even growing ones are fragile. Some operators also may be turned off by pockets of political instability in some countries.
Not Global Crossing. The tier 1 IP network operator entrenched itself in the Latin American market in 2006 with its acquisition of Impsat Fiber Networks Inc., a private regional carrier, for $95 million. Its 12,400-mile undersea fiber-optic cable system for the region, South American Crossing (SAC), is just one of two systems that cirumnavigate the majority of Latin America, according to the carrier’s latest annual report.
Héctor R. Alonso, Impsat’s former CFO, now serves as Global Crossing’s managing director of its Latin America business unit and spoke with SearchTelecom.com about what opportunities and challenges the market presents for service providers.
What kind of growth opportunities does Global Crossing see for the Latin American telecom market? What will drive demand, how quickly can we expect the market to mature and what kind of revenue growth do you think is possible?
Global Crossing is very optimistic about the growth of the telecommunications market in Latin America. We see ongoing increased demand for broadband connection and applications, data usage, mobile telephone and VoIP. We’ve also seen extensive Internet penetration in South America and significant growth in Central America as well, due to the extensive broadband demand.
Demand is being driven by the increased need for convergence of services, such as voice, data and video. Adoption of IP, mobility and increased use of social networks also call for increased broadband penetration which leads to greater opportunities for the telecoms market. The maturity of the market varies from country to country; some countries are in more advanced stages of development because they have greater access to state-of-the-art telecommunications equipment that has led to cost decreases. Others have relatively well developed telecom infrastructures particularly in the urban areas with rural areas lagging behind, a phenomenon found throughout most of the region. We also find some countries have benefited from large private investment of mobile, fixed lines and long distance telephony, which has helped increase growth as well.
I can say with complete assurance that I will be not; standing in line at Best Buy on November 14 to buy Umi, Cisco’s latest consumer offering designed to bring telepresence to the home in a big way. In case you want to be the first person on your block to videoconference from the comfort of your living room HDTV, I won’t stand between you and your Umi.
Cisco’s home videoconferencing solution comes with a $599 hardware price tag and a $24.99 monthly subscription fee. (What happened to the $200 consumer-adoption break point?) The money isn’t even the main deal-breaker for me, although it is totally one of the deal breakers. Someone would have to have a powerful video-chat motivator to pay the price right now.
Of course I realize I’m probably not in Cisco’s target demographic. Plenty of people already look to Skype or Google to video chat from their computers. For a sanity check, I IM’d my friend Rivka, a proper geek and editor of SearchNetworking.com. “Do you want to video chat?” I typed. The answer came back in all caps: HELL TO THE NO.” It was early. She was probably in her sweats. I was.
So what’s my problem? As with many things, it goes back to childhood fears. I would hear about the video phones of the future and cringe – from a very young age. Now I lay me down to sleep, please protect my dog and family, and don’t make video phones a reality. For me, Umi has a Big-Brother quality, even though one can allegedly close the shutter and prevent the living room or the bedroom from being a window on the world’s network (just imagine the possibilities).
Let’s say video chat takes off in a big way despite my personal issues. Cisco’s Visual Networking Index predicts that it would take 72 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks during calendar year 2014.
Naturally Cisco wants to capture a good share of the consumer video market. In that vein, telecom consultant Tom Nolle looks at the video domino effect that could influence changes in service provider business models to deal with the video tsunami. Even though I’m a huge Internet booster, I won’t contribute to the madness by asking anyone to watch my dog’s tricks over IP – it would take too long to position them in front of the TV.
Alcatel-Lucent has added another piece to its in-progress application developers platform, which is designed to use the network as a Web development platform and insert carriers in the consumer app revenue chain.
Its second acquisition in the past few months, Alcatel-Lucent acquired mobile software and applications development tools vendor OpenPlug on Wednesday. With OpenPlug’s capabilities, Alcatel-Lucent will be able to offer operators and enterprises a platform where Web developers can write an application once and have it translated to run on any of five major mobile operating systems (iPhone, Android, Symbian, windows Mobile and Linux).
Alcatel-Lucent plans to combine OpenPlug’s tools with some of its own development tools to effectively create a development platform that can float across devices and run on any of a large number of appliances, including smartphones, IPTV set top boxes, game consoles and some car systems.
The advantage for service providers buying into Alcatel-Lucent’s applications development platform is to broaden the content in their app stores and make their networks more valuable to customers.
From a carrier perspective, Alcatel-Lucent’s applications enablement building blocks, which now include OpenPlug, create a framework that lets operators expose network features as APIs in a way that lets developers use them easily at a low level of risk to the operator, according to telecom consultant Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp. “Alcatel-Lucent has effectively tied its developer program to the network, which in the future could become the company’s service layer solution.”
If everything goes according to plan, Alcatel-Lucent may have just revitalized its position as a network-based service layer platform competitor. Vendor descriptions of their network-based service layers have been difficult to understand at a high level, much to the frustration of telecom carriers. But if Alcatel-Lucent keeps the pieces coming and explains and positions them correctly, it could pull its service layer position out of the fire.
We’ve been hammering on IPv6 migration issues a lot lately, and we’ll probably keep yammering as IPv4 addresses dwindle. But to change up the IPv6 discussion, we thought we’d get off the “what you and your partners and vendors have to do” soapbox. Instead, we invited guest columnist Mike Jude, program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan, to weigh in on IPv6 through the eyes of the consumer. Have the majority of consumers even heard of IPv6? Do they care? According to recent Stratecast research, the short answers are: No and no.
We can understand why enterprises and government agencies are interested in their own IPv6 transitions, and buying IPv6 services like managed IPv6 router services, IPv6 test beds and IPv6-enabled managed firewalls from carriers might have some appeal (that could grow over time). But even most enterprises are more interested in running IPv6 through IPv4 tunnels for now.
The general wisdom is that carriers moving to IPv6 are paying for the upgrade themselves because it’s necessary. And yet, a few unnamed hopefuls want to pass IPv6 costs on to consumers. What would these customers be paying for, exactly? IPv6 access doesn’t exactly have the “gotta have it” sound of voicemail or Caller ID — yet. We were so busy scratching our heads that we had to bring Jude in to shed light on the subject. Have a look at what he has to say, and let us know what you think on the subject early and often.
Today’s story on the rapidly expanding femtocell market brings up some eye-popping forecasts for the global market — from 1 million units shipped this year to 62 million by 2014, according to Dell’Oro Group’s five-year forecast.
North America is slated this year to have the highest numbers in terms of revenue and units shipped, but will lose that the top spot for units shipped by 2014 to the European market. Interestingly, North America will remain as No. 1 in terms of revenue. Why? Loren Shalinsky, who wrote the forecast, told me that it’s because CDMA femtocells, which are used predominantly in the States, cost more than what the rest of the world uses — W-CDMA.
In case you have the same curiosity streak I do (and the answer wasn’t blatantly apparent to you), here’s Loren’s explanation on why CDMA femtocells cost more than W-CDMA:
I recontacted some of the companies in the supply chain, and the pricing differential comes from a combination of standardization and integration (which turn out to be related). The W-CDMA Femtocell standard was developed relatively faster, and so the companies involved in the supply chain were able to begin development of optimized chips (with more integration). The CDMA femtocell components are behind on this optimization and development, which leads to higher pricing on their femtocells.
That packetized voice is the key to keeping voice services alive may be the duh statement of the decade, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. I know — voice is so last century that no one talks about it as a killer app. But it still is, and i t doesn’t even take much bandwidth to talk. The razzle-dazzle is about the big bandwidth for video and enterprise apps, and of course there’s social networking. But carriers can ignore next-gen voice only at their own peril.
People still talk, but voice isn’t edgy or interesting unless it’s over the top (OTT) or delivered over a 4G network that doesn’t have a circuit-switched voice channel for the first time in more than a century. That’s where the evolved packet core comes in to help enable voice over LTE, for example.
The tricky part is that service providers still have trillions tied up in the PSTN, and people still spend money to talk, so it’s financially critical to find a better path. Which brings me to my point. Telecom consultant Tom Nolle takes a hard look at the convergence of a handful of next-gen voice drivers that make voice an interesting business case for carriers: OTT competition, 4G evolution, enterprise pressure, femtocell maturation and fixed-mobile convergence.
The bottom line is that it all comes down to two basic carrier options for offering next-gen voice: using an IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) framework, or adopting essentially their own OTT model of packet voice service. Since there are decisions to be made, carriers are going to need to understand their options before the over-the-top gang takes over.