LTE for Critical Communications – not yet there.

The 3G4G Blog: LTE vs TETRA for Critical Communications.

 

Great opinion-piece to read by knowledgeable people.

When dealing with mission critical communications, regardless whether in the public or private sector (think remote healthcare for voice and short data), LTE is not yet where it needs to be.

 

The 3G4G Blog: LTE vs TETRA for Critical Communications

The 3G4G Blog: LTE vs TETRA for Critical Communications

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The catch22 of mobile money moving – and the solution (Part 3 on mobile payment)

Number26 is a good example of new thinking in the mobile enabled digital banking arena. We have shown, that yet another mobile payment solution will be exactly that: just another attempt that fails, especially in the European market.

In a parallel universe, the banking world, it is uncommon to see real innovation, but alas, from time to time there is an attempt. And with that approach, it could be the platform for a shift into digitalization.

Number26 follows a “mobile first” approach (which is to be appreciated), and has some simple and unique selling points: Above all, it is free. There is no hassle opening the account, for a traveller abroad, additional charges typically added by all banks and credit card issuers do not apply and the immediate transparency of each transaction to be displayed as a push message on the smartphone is a Gen Y bonus.

There is a free mastercard included in the deal and the “know your customer” thing is done via -gosh!- IM video conference. Welcome to the 21st century.

Contrary to the article in Techcrunch, that states:

“As a reminder, commercial banks in Europe suck. In the U.S., you can show up and open an account in five minutes. They will scan your ID, make you sign a couple of documents, and you will leave with a temporary debit card. In Europe, you need to make an appointment with a bank’s local branch, bring documents, fill a lot of forms and listen to a customer representative trying to upsell you. You will waste a couple of hours.”

the situation in the US is even worse (try to open a bank account in the US without traveling there as a resident of Europe, and you will know what hassle and cost you have to look into!), and may I mention the usual “mailing a cheque” as being a bit 19th century? The Fed is still sifting through billions of hand-written cheques every month (18.3 billion in 2012). With SEPA, all over Europe this is a thing of the past. Money is wired between individuals and businesses alike without cost, and the crediting happens snappy. Nearly all transactions account to account are direct, without an intermediary other than the two banks involved.  Most states in the US have a strict “KYC” policy, due to the legal requirements.

So, Number26 is a refreshing approach. There are unique selling points in their offer and the transparency will probably be appreciated – mostly as a second account to try it out at first. But many people have several mobile phones and several different phone numbers, too – so why not have several bank accounts serving different purposes?

Adoption rates will take up for mobile banking (or mobile payments for that matter) if there is additional value in using them. The critical factor in mobile payments is the adoption rate. Conventional payment methods (CC, wire, …) are taken by nearly every business. Establishing a new payment method requires the infrastructure to be ubiquitous, which leads to a catch22, similar to the adoption hurdle of electrical vehicles, that also require a dedicated infrastructure).

There is only one way out: The market pull needs to be greater than the cost-resistance in businesses, forcing the shop-owners and vendors to adopt the infrastructure (bei it NFC or others) as being less costly than losing the clients that insist on using a certain payment method.

As long as providers don’t come up with a convincing innovation in the area, people will simply stay put where they are.

source: I-vista/pixelio.de

source: I-vista/pixelio.de

Surveillance in Oslo Government Quarter shows inadequate mindset to issues

Heise and Aftenposten  both report on IMSI catchers that have been detected in Norways government quarter. Now, given that anybody with a few thousand Euro in their hands can build such an IMSI catcher (which is capable of catching much more than just an IMSI, the unique mobile identification number of a cellphone, but can actually serve as a listening device to conversations and tape streams of voice-data), it is not neglect that is to be seen. In fact, it is an inability to see attacks while they are happening and take adquate measures.

This inability takes two different shapes:

1. technical and

2. mindset

While the technical one is obvious, the localization of an attacker is particularly difficult, depending on the way the attack is staged (active/passive), just to name a few issues, the most problematic one is the problem of mindsets.

First, it has to be assumed, that all the institutions that care about IT or communications security (e.g. BSI in Germany) are biased. They are not up to speed on the current attacks, and they are technologically way behind the attacking parties. Second, they are receiving orders from their political leaders, who live in fear of the foreign three-letter agencies.

The mixture of fear and preemptive obedience disallows our national leaders to take adequate measures in time they are needed, hesitance and blocking the needful are the most prevalent reactions, at least in nations that don’t carry “United States of” in their names.

The TLA and other criminal organizations are running circles around our national organs of safety, while even the slightest investment in means and methods are blocked.

And even if all of this weren’t the case, the mindset of beaurocracy would step in and destroy all and every innovative creativity in getting something positive for the nation done.

So, as a result, the technical is not an issue that couldn’t be resolved. It is the mindset that is the bottleneck to find solutions to the problem of how to catch the catchers (like search & destroy).

Vodafone Weighing Takeover of Malone’s Liberty Global

With quite a bit of a shock going through the market regarding the Telefónica/BT deal, it didn’t take Vittorio Collao long to have a similarly heavy deal on the table. Vodafone seems to be weighing takeover of  Liberty Global according to Bloomberg:

“Vodafone Group Plc (VOD) is exploring a combination with John Malone’s Liberty Global Plc (LBTYA) that would create Europe’s largest phone, Internet and TV company, worth more than $130 billion, people with knowledge of the matter said.”

At least, the shares of vodafone won 2.9% on the London stock exchange after these rumours were hitting the streets, not too bad a start for a year-end KPI rallye.

AT&T, Verizon agree to VoLTE interoperability in 2015

Things are moving quick in the mobile world. Interoperability is an issue in the Voice over LTE world, as it has always been in cellular communication. Currently, the standards that were pretty constant in the “old world” of GSM, have been drifting apart fairly quick, and the TMF has been asked to push “the toothpaste back into the tube” by making standards globally accepted, while many carriers rather enter into bilateral agreements than spend time on standardization issues.

Nevertheless, TMF have been fairly good at doing precisely that. Yet, here we go and see another bilateral agreement implemented, read more here:

AT&T, Verizon agree to VoLTE interoperability in 2015.

Liquid Broadband: Community CSP

The CSP market is under pressure. Now a new entrant in Germany may cause even more disruptive crazyness:

 

German Wirtschaftswoche has it:

“Wir bauen flächendeckend ein Volksnetz, an dem sich Bürger, Unternehmen und Kommunen direkt beteiligen können”, bestätigte Geschäftsführerin Beate Rickert die Pläne zum Aufbau eines neuen Mobilfunkunternehmens gegenüber der WirtschaftsWoche.

Wer genau das neue Unternehmen finanziert, will Rickert noch nicht verraten: “Hinter uns steht eine Gruppe mittelständischer Investoren.” Mehr wissen auch das Bundeswirtschafts-ministerium und die Bundesnetzagentur noch nicht.

So, a community-driven carrier that builds on offloading their mobile voice and data to broadband, present both in rural and metropolitan areas could indeed bring a little bit of a disruptive spirit back into an environment of consolidation after the Telefónica/E-Plus merger.

Similar ideas (with different technology background) were already proposed by FON (Argentina), BT (based on FON) or Giffgaff (UK mobile community based carrier). There are more of the same kind, but moving boldly into the comfort zone of current mobile CSPs required some serious balls.

Move over, network planning!

wordlist-blog

Network (extension) Planning, Design Development and Rollout as an Agile Challenge

One of the Experiences in R&P comes from our past experience in designing, planning and developing and later rolling out one of the biggest MPLS-based IP-VPNs globally with a standard-software-partner and helping the mobile telecommunication industry manage the challenges in a world that requires exponentially increasing bandwidth without loosing the standardization benefits.

This experience has given R&P the background and capability of doing similar projects with varying partners and in varying environments. While the previous projects R&P partners were doing, were predominantly CSP-oriented, we are seeing a strong shift in projects being induced by other disruptive developments, like location-based surveillance or networkinfrastructures, that support analyzing ‘big data’ cleverly, based on data-generating infrastructures that allow geolocalization, geofencing and movement-tracking.

Yet, when it comes to planning, designing and implementing the network, we often find the predominant variables are very similar and can be handled applying a clear and transparent process.

fig1

Following these simple steps seems easy enough. While on a high level, this is certainly true, in a real-world environment, it is not as straightforward as one could expect. Networks and organizations are living organisms. Both change while we go at them and make success a moving target.

So getting and keeping the buy-in from the stakeholders (these consist of management and team members alike, just as the software partners, integrators and suppliers) is key for success. In disruptive, creative situations, the environment can not be assumed to be static and adequate organizational and planning measures need to be taken. This is, where your run-off-the-mill systems integrator will do one of two things: Choke on the contractual obligations or ask for ridiculously priced change requests.  Now, there is a way to cope with scope creep and change request tsunamis. We call it AMNES, Agile Managed Network Planning and Extension Services.

Agile Managed Network Planning and Extension Services (AMNES)

R&P have taken Agile principles from cutting edge software development and lean industrial production and introduced them into several areas, one of them being Agile Managed Network Services for CSPs. The Agile Manifesto suggests some ways that help teams to self-organize, while giving management and commissioners an overseeing framework which is finely cut and provides both a dashboard-like view on progress and the capability to drill down into the actual status of work.

Tools for Agile projects abound and listing them is a chore for a never-tiring scientist. Pick one and use it and apply the principles to network extension work.
The core of the Agile methodology is it’s orientation alongside business value. “Do not waste” is an underlying guideline in lean production. By applying both principles to a project cut into small chunks of work packages, we can determine which work to do first and above anything else. Avoiding to do things twice that have already been done avoids slack. So by enabling self-organization in small 3-7 heads teams, and by checking progress on a daily basis (and of course document it by submitting work-objects into a continuous testing cycle), feeding back the results into the work-process and refining the “end-product” while finishing the project is allowing high-efficiency as well as high-effectiveness, accounting for cost-decreases and rapid results at the same time. The Scrum-teams can be working in parallel,  like small guerilla-groups of experts, each forming a “tribe”.

fig2

 

Team Spirits and efficiency

Let us look a bit at the team-members and their spirits. The more productive the team gets, the better the spirits are and the team may enter in what Jeff Sutherland calls “hyper-productivity”. While under normal circumstances, the pressure to be swifter in deployment decreases the teams engagement and leads to less cohesion and identification. Once we let the team organize itself an allow it to get better and improve at its own pace, we detect a significant change. Having more freedom to explore innovative or interesting options and being supported by the organization leads to highly improved spirits and – as a side-effect, higher efficiency and higher cohesion between both team members and the organization as such.
One of the members of each small team will act as a “scrum-master” and take the other members by the hand to improve over their current level. Jeff Sutherland has measured teams and typically Agile teams account for 30% of cost decrease and 40% of efficiency increases.

 

Innovative developments for CSPs are a reason to redesign networks

With every year, new technologies are surfacing that are of disruptive quality. This is especially true for CSPs.

R&P have kept you informed about some of the more interesting recent developments (e.g. smart tea-box sized base stations by Alcatel/Lucent or Ericssons Pico Cell, and pretty impressive developments in the area of WiFi unloading in 4G environments), but the most revolutionary developments combine geolocation and indoor location capabilities and 3G/4G/WiFi offloading by using clever access management and handover strategies. This is not always greeted with a lot of sympathy by all customers (e.g. in Switzerland the WiFi-offloading caused additional costs to some users, who complained about a silent change in the EAP-SIM settings causing them additional unwanted costs). In the long run, traditional CSPs will be challenged (or rewarded) by new market entrants and extended MVNO capabilities.

Combining these offers wisely with cloud based solutions,  clever analysis strategies in place to make good use of ‘big data’, and having a competent implementation partner for network extension and upgrading with a good hand for future disruptive business models and an orientation alongside business values will be key.