Wednesday, May 17, 2017

How Telefonica and project Loon provided emergency connectivity relief in Peru

As I had teased in a previous post, one of the reasons I joined Telefonica is to explore how to change networks to make them more customer-centric. One of the teams I am supporting, in Telefonica Innovation, have been exploring how we can help provide affordable connectivity in the most remote parts of our footprint. Two thirds of the world is still not connected to the internet and Latin America has a large unserved population.
One of the technologies we have been evaluating is Project Loon.
Since 2014, Telefonica has been testing the technological capabilities of Project Loon. In 2014, we helped to bring internet connection for the first time to a rural school in Brazil as a test trial. Since 2016, we have been executing additional technical tests to use Project Loon’s technology as an extension to Telefonica’s mobile network to connect people in rural areas in Peru.
In the last few weeks, Peru has been hit by catastrophic floods and rainfall across many parts of the country. Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected and have seen their possessions, together with public infrastructure swept away. Telefonica´s terrestrial infrastructure suffered from failures and outages in some region and immediately, the teams started to repair the network.
 Telef√≥nica and Project Loon brought basic Internet connectivity across more than 40,000 Km2, providing over 160 GB worth of data –enough to send and receive roughly 30 million WhatsApp messages, or 2 million emails. 
As part of this emergency, we agreed with Project Loon to temporarily expand the scope of the ongoing technical trials to provide emergency mobile connectivity to the affected areas while it continued to re-establish ground connectivity services.
For the past seven weeks, such collaboration led to connect tens of thousands of Telefonica customers on a daily basis across the most affected areas in the centre and northeast areas of Peru. Project Loon’s deployed infrastructure enabled Telefonica to deliver more than 160 GB of mobile data to its customers in areas outside Lima, Chimbote and Piura.
This is the first time that balloon-powered internet has connected tens of thousands of people. The joint trials in previous months had focused on integrating Project Loon's technology into Telefonica’s network to connect people to the internet in remote areas but this was the first deployment of the technology on this scale.
The company focused on bringing the best connectivity support in these emergency situations, especially in the most affected areas. It was a complex logistical challenge under extreme circumstances.
This effort was an exceptional demonstration of capacity to come together to help out people in times of need. Telefonica is committed to provide sustainable access to internet for all.
Stay tuned, I will provide updates over the coming months on how we are going to achieve that.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Customer Centric Networks and SDN NFV

These slides were presented in May 2017 at the NFV World Congress in San Jose.
They illustrate how we are looking at deploying cloud microservices at the edge of our networks to provide unique experiences using SDN, open source and NFV.





Monday, April 10, 2017

Telefonica's innovation framework

I have received many requests over the last months to explain in more details our innovation process. Now that our innovation methodology is a widely commented Harvard Business Review Case Study, I thought it was a good time to shed some light on how a large telco such as Telefonica can innovate in a fast paced environment.
Innovation is not only a decision, it's a process, a methodology. In our case we have different teams looking after external innovation, through business ventures and venture capital and internal looking after networks, data, and moonshots. The teams that I support, focusing on networks innovation are adapting the lean elephant methodology to invent tomorrow's mobile, fixed and TV networks.

Ideation

The process starts with directed ideation, informed by our corporate customer segmentation, customer sentiment studies and selected themes. An innovation call centered around specific themes such as "imagine tomorrow's TV" or "Artificial intelligence and networks QoE" is launched across the group, with local briefings including our selection parameters. A jury is convened to review the hundreds of ideas and shortlist the most interesting. The selected intrapreneurs have a month to prepare a formal pitch for their ideas. They are assisted by customer experience specialists who help them refine the problem they seek to resolve, its applicability and market appeal.

Feasibility

After the pitch and selection, the intrapreneurs are transitioned to the innovation team full time and given a few weeks to create a feasibility plan and preliminary resource budget for prototyping. Once ready, the successful applicants present the plan in details to the jury.

Prototyping

The lucky few that pass this gate are given 3 to 8 months to prototype their project, together with commensurate resource. At this stage, the project must have strong internal sponsorship, with verticals or markets within Telefonica who are committing to take the prototype in their labs for functional testing. The resulting prototype, together with the value proposition and addressable market are reviewed before passing to the next phase.

Market trial

The prototype is then hardened and deployed in a commercial network for friendly and limited A/B testing and refinement. This phase can last 2 to 6 months, with increasing number of users and sophistication in measurement of the value proposition's effectiveness. During this phase as well, a full product / service business case is finalized, using the data collected during the market trial.

Productization and transfer


The project meets customer needs? It is innovative and provides differentiation? It is profitable and Telefonica has an unfair advantage in solving real market problems? These are some of the tough questions the intrapreneur and his team must be able to answer before the solution can be productized and eventually transferred to one of our verticals or to create a new one.


This process has been the source of Telefonica's early advances in IoT, big data, smart cities... It has also killed, merged, pivoted and spun off hundreds of projects. The network innovations teams I support are aiming at radically changing networks topology, deployment and value chain using software defined networks, virtualization, containerization and lambda computing all the way to the edge of our networks. We are developers, network hackers, user experience experts, computer scientists, devops engineers,....

The next months will see some exciting announcements on this. Stay tuned.

You can catch me and we can chat about it at the upcoming NFV world congress or TM Forum live.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What is left for operator to enable SDN and NFV?

Debate: What is left for operator to enable SDN and NFV?





In a live debate held last week at Mobile World Congress, Patrick Lopez, VP Networks Innovation, Telefonica, and Manish Singh, VP Product Management, SDN & NFV, Tech Mahindra, joined TMN editor Keith Dyer to discuss what operators are hoping to achieve with the adoption of NFV and SDN.
The panel asked what the end goals are, and looked at the progress operators have made so far, picking out key challenges that operators still face around integration, certification and onboarding of VNFs, interoperability, the role of orchestration and the different Open Source approaches to NFV MANO.
The panel also looked at how operators can adapt their own cultures to act in a more agile way, adopting continuous integration and DevOps models.
Key quotes:
Lopez: “The end game is the ability to create services that are more customer-centric and enable operators to provide real value to consumers, things and enterprises by providing experiences that are tailored for them. And to be able to do that you need to have an infrastructure that is very elastic and very agile – that’s where SDN and NFV comes in.”
Singh: “As we dis-aggregate the hardware from the software, and get to this virtualised infrastructure layer where different network functions are orchestrated – integration, performance characterisation, capacity planning and onboarding all become challenges that need to be addressed
Singh: “There has been ecosystem fragmentation in the orchestration layer and for the VNF vendors that was creating challenges in terms of, ‘How many orchestrators, how many VIMs on the infrastructure layer do I support?'”
Lopez: “It’s really hard to create an industry that is going to grow if we don’t all share the same DNA.”
Singh: “The good news is there is a vibrant ecosystem, and I think having a couple of key alternatives as we drive forward is a good thing. And we see an inflection point where a new way of standardising things is coming up, and that really sets the way for 5G.”
Lopez: “You cannot implement automation well if you don’t understand how you have deployed that NFV-SDN technology. You need to implement that itself to understand the gotchas to be able to automate.”
Singh: “As we look at SDN NFV the other key aspect is the ability to bring new player, VNFs and components into the fold and we are enabling that to be done cost effectively, efficiently and rapidly.”
Lopez: “It [SDN-NFV] works, we can achieve the main core benefits of the technology. It can do what we were planning to do – to run a software defined network. We are there, now it is about optimising it and making it run better and automating it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

World's first ETSI NFV Plugfest

As all know in the telecom industry, the transition from standard to implementation can be painful, as vendors and operators translate technical requirements and specifications into code. There are always room for interpretation and desires to innovate or differentiate that can lead to integration issues. Open source initiatives have been able to provide viable source code for implementation of elements and interfaces and they are a great starting point. The specific vendors and operators’ implementations still need to be validated and it is necessary to test that integration needs are minimal.

Networks Function Virtualization (NFV) is an ETSI standard that is a crucial element of telecom networks evolution as operators are looking at their necessary transformation to accommodate the hyper growth resulting from video services moving to online and mobile.

As a member of the organization’s steering committee, I am happy to announce that the 5G open lab 5Tonic will be hosting the world’s first ETSI NFV plugfest from January 23 to February 3, 2017 with the technical support of Telefonica and IMDEA Networks Institute.  

5Tonic is opening its doors to the NFV community, comprising network operators, vendors and open source collaboration initiatives to assert and compare their implementations of Virtual Network Functions (VNFs), NFV Infrastructure and Virtual Infrastructure Manager. Additionally, implementations of Management and Orchestrations (MANO) functions will also be available.

43 companies and organizations have registered to make this event the largest in NFV interoperability in the world.

Companies:
•           Telefonica
•           A10
•           Cisco
•           Canonical
•           EANTC
•           EHU
•           Ensemble
•           Ericsson
•           F5
•           Fortinet
•           Fraunhofer
•           HPE
•           Huawei
•           Inritsu
•           Intel
•           Italtel
•           Ixia
•           Keynetic
•           Lenovo
•           Mahindra
•           Openet
•           Palo Alto
•           Radware
•           RIFT.io
•           Sandvine
•           Sonus
•           Spirent
•           RedHat
•           VMWare
•           WIND

Open source projects:
•           OSM (Open Source MANO)
•           Open Baton
•           Open-O
•           OPNFV

 OSM is delivering an open source MANO stack aligned with ETSI NFV Information Models. As an operator-led community, OSM is offering a production-quality open source MANO stack that meets the requirements of commercial NFV networks.

Testing will take place on site at the 5TONIC lab near Madrid, as well as virtually for remote participants.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Innovation and transformation, micro segments and strands

When I first met the CEO of Telefonica Research and Development, David Del Val, he asked me what I thought of the direction the industry was taking. I have not been shy on this blog and other public forum about my opinion on operators' lack of innovation and transformation. My comments went something like that:
"I think that in a time very soon, I don´t know if it´s going to be in 3 years, 5 or 10, voice will be free, texts will be free, data will be free or as close to a monthly utility price as you can think. Already, countries are writing access to broadband in their citizens´ fundamental rights. Most operators are talking about innovation and new services, but let´s face it, they have had a pretty poor track record. MMS was to be the killer app for GPRS/EDGE, push to talk for 3G,video calling for HSPA, VoLTE for 4G... There is no shame in being an operator of a very good, solid, inexpensive connectivity service. Some companies are very successful doing that and there will be more in the future. But you don't need hundreds of thousands of people for that. If operators' ambition is to "monetize", "launch new services", "open new revenue streams", "innovate", they have to transform first. And it's gonna hurt."

At that point, I wasn't sure I had made the best first impression, but as you know now, that discussion ended up turning into a full time collaboration
The industry is undergoing changes that will accelerate and break companies that are not adaptable or capable of rethinking their approach. 
4G wasn’t designed as a video network capable of doing other things like browsing and voice; the telecoms industry designed 4G to be a multipurpose mobile broadband network, capable of carrying VoIP, browsing, messaging, … but really, it wasn’t so hard to see that video would be the dominant part of traffic and cost and growing. I don´t have a crystal ball but I had identified publicly the problem more than 7 years ago.

The industry’s failure to realize this has led us in a situation where we have not engaged video providers early enough to create a mutually profitable business model. The result is traffic is increasing dramatically across all networks, while revenues are stagnating or decreasing because video services are mostly encrypted. At the same time, our traditional revenues from voice and messaging are eroded by other providers. 

As the industry is gearing up towards 5G and we start swimming in massive MIMO, beam-forming, edge computing, millimeter wave, IoT, drone and autonomous vehicles, I think it is wise to understand what it will take to really deliver on these promises.

Agile, lean, smart, open, software-defined, self organizing, autoscalable, virtualized, deep learning, DevOps, orchestrated, open-source... my head hurts from all the trappings of 2016´s trendy telco hipster lingo. 
This is not going to get better in 2017.

The pressure to generate new revenues and to decrease costs drastically will dramatically increase on operators. There are opportunities to create new revenue streams (fintech, premium video, IoT…) or reduce costs (SDN, NFV, DevOps, Open source…) but they require initial investments that are unsure from a business case perspective because they are unproven. We are only starting to see operators who have made these investments over the last 3 years announcing results now. These investments are hard to make for any operator, because they are not following our traditional model. Operators for the last 20 years have been conditioned to work in standards to invent the future collectively and then buy technology solutions from large vendors. The key for that model was not innovation, it was sustainability, interoperability.
The internet has broken that model.
·      
I think that operators who want to be more than a bit pipe provider need to create unique experiences for consumers, enterprises, verticals and things. Unique experiences can only be generated from context (understanding the customer, his desire, intent, capacity, limitations...), adaptation (we don't need slices, we need strands) and control (end to end performance, QoS and QoE per strand). Micro segmentation has technical, but more importantly operational and organizational impacts.

Operators can't hope to control, adapt, contextualize and innovate if they can't control their network. Today, many have progressively vacated the field of engineering to be network administrators, writing RFPs to select vendors, or better, mandate integrators to select and deploy solutions. The result is networks that are very undifferentiated, where a potential "innovation" from one can be rolled out by another with a purchase order, where a change in a tariff, a new enterprise customer on-boarding, a new service takes years to deploy, hundreds of people, and millions of euros. 

Most operators can't launch a service if it has less than 10 million people addressable market, or it won't make the business case, right off the bat.

There are solutions, though, but they are tough medicine. You can't really rip the rewards of SDN or NFV if you don't control their implementation. It's useless to have a programmable network, if you can't program. Large integrators and vendors have made the effort to retool, hire and train. Operators must do the same unless they want to be MVNOs on their own networks. 

Innovation is trying. Projects can fail, technology evolves, but transformation is sustainable.