Nortel has announced a PBB win at Verizon, the same provider who reportedly said it would not be using PBT. SInce PBT is officially PBB-TE and is a simple upgrade from PBB, we believe the sequence of events here shows the overall lack of media sanity on key technology issues.
First, Verizon’s selection of VPLS over PBT, as reported, was a core network decision not metro, where most of Verizon’s dollars are spent. Second, the “decision” had never been in doubt, as we reported when it was first announced, since Verizon’s core network isn’t even a candidate for Ethernet deployment.
In any event, there is no problem in the Carrier Ethernet market, and IP players may be looking wistfully at the opportunity there before long. Metro buildout is clearly on a faster pace worldwide than core build-out for revenue reasons.
Apple’s MobileMe may be more than an “Exchange Killer” (or at least a competitor); it may be the beginning of Apple’s challenge to Microsoft’s Connected Services Framework (CSF) and also a challenge to network operators. Finally, it may be a boon to Cisco. The reason is that MobileMe is an example of an over-the-top application of advanced service features, and thus a step in further disintermediating operators that might want to offer similar services themselves.
That’s what Microsoft has been doing, but more in partnership with operators than as a competitor. But it’s pretty much what Cisco had hoped to do (and presumably still hopes to do) with WebEx Connect. In all, we think MobileMe may be the most important thing about the latest iPhone announcement because it may be setting off a new industry trend. We also think that MobileMe is the revenue kicker that Steve Jobs sees in his new iPhone deals with providers, which eliminate the Apple cut of future service revenues in favor of a one-time subsidy.
UBS has released a sector report on telecom that suggests that the slowing IP traffic growth will threaten router vendors. While the firm has long taken a rather bearish stance on the industry, this seems more alarming and less justified than most positions.
We know of no credible reports of slowing IP traffic growth; in fact, the increased deployment of high-speed broadband seems to promise the opposite. However, beneath its questionable main thesis is an essential truth, which is that while IP traffic growth may not be slowing, the IP revenue ramp is definitely slowing. Service providers, like everyone else, invest for profits, and revenue per bit has been declining.
We have seen pitch after pitch from the service providers talking about their strategies for transformation, but we have also heard these same providers tell us that their barrier today is equipment vendors that have not followed up on operators’ published strategies. The trend toward usage pricing and caps, and traffic metering, are all related to the need to curtail costs to match revenue potential. If equipment vendors want to continue to sell gear, they need to step up in the NGN revenue game, not just push boxes.
WiMAX companies are proposing a patent pool to create a stable and reasonable royalty picture for the technology, hopefully stemming any loss of interest due to perceived risk in patent payments to third parties. Intel, Cisco, Sprint, Clearwire and Alcatel-Lucent are all involved. WiMAX, a new service framework likely dependent on wide acceptance by portable device vendors, poses greater risk than something like 3G, whose market is already established. The move is seen as a way to encourage participation by equipment vendors. This shows that the Clearwire WiMAX consortium formed here earlier is likely serious about trying to make WiMAX work.
Infonetics reports that router sales in the first quarter rose sharply, further validating the notion that the IP infrastructure market is more immune to economic problems than the enterprise. Both Juniper and Cisco gained market share, apparently in part at the expense of Alcatel-Lucent, whose IPTV position had previously been gaining it traction. We have long believed that IPTV would not be the silver bullet for ALU; too few regions meet the very special economic demographic requirements to make the strategy optimal.
Verizon is in advanced talks with Alltel, aimed at acquiring the mobile player. The move would make Verizon the largest mobile operator in the U.S. and a more effective competitor to AT&T. It also signals yet again the shift in the mobile market. Consolidation is not a move that is undertaken in a dynamic and growing market, but rather in one that is already facing commoditization. France Telecom has also announced negotiations to acquire Swedish phone company TeliaSonera, a move that would create the EU’s largest operator. All consolidation moves are aimed at creating economies of scale, and in FT’s case, these are targeted initially at operations costs and core network costs, since access networks are not generally overlapping and don’t generate any real consolidation economies. In the case of Alltel, we believe there will be a net reduction in mobile spending.
Verizon and BT have both announced their commitment to use MPLS as the service architecture for enterprise services and converged services, abandoning their consideration of PBT for the role. We had reported earlier that BT was being lobbied heavily by Cisco and Juniper to make this move, so the decision there is not a surprise. Further, Verizon had never seriously considered PBT for a region-wide deployment according to our sources; however PBT is still being explored in the metro area. There has been no loss of momentum for PBT trials according to what we are hearing, but there is no question that these two announcements will make things harder for PBT vendors, erasing the groundswell of momentum they had previously enjoyed.
The TM Forum (TMF) meeting in Nice this year seemed to show that the body is becoming more relevant to key issues like service delivery platforms (SDPs), content, and even advertising, but that the vendors involved in the process are lagging in their productization of these advances. The product announcements at the meeting were pedestrian and vendors are often defensive in their role in working activity, demonstrating a desire to direct the processes to the benefit of their companies in the near term. We believe that the programs will win out, since both the survival of the body and the support of the network operators and service providers that buy the systems and software will depend on relevance to current market needs.
Verizon’s backing of LiMo is being perceived increasingly as a shot across Google’s bow, and also something that may be linked with an operator shift toward FMC and a more software-driven mobile strategy that moves away from IMS. The latter issue is, we believe, an important one for the industry, since any open platform strategy like LiMo or Android will devalue the network if no features are hosted there; everything becomes “over the top” by necessity.
Juniper Networks and Net One Systems have announced the CONTENTsphere Field Trial Cookbook, a collaboration between the two companies to generate an implementation of IPsphere’s content distribution field trial, authorized by the body in the plenary meeting last September. A contribution on the Cookbook is being presented this week at the Stockholm IPSF plenary. The move is important because up to now no vendor has announced an implementation of IPsphere, even Juniper, which was the force behind starting the body about three years ago. This may also signal increased interest in the software space by Juniper, which could be positive for the company’s strategic directions. The question now will be what other vendors in the IPSF do, and what the providers do to encourage other implementations. We expect some insight out of the meetings this week in Stockholm.