Displaying items by tag: digitization

A recently released Analysis Mason study in collaboration with Huawei entitled, ‘Digitalization reshaping operations: a new digital operational model for the future’ has illustrated how digitalization is fundamentally reshaping the way businesses are being operated, and how in order to remain competitive a new operational model for the future operational environment is necessary.

As such, communications service providers (CSPs) are embarking on their own digital transformation journey to increase service agility and operational efficiency through infrastructure evolution and operations transformation.

In developing the study, Analysys Mason worked with Huawei to provide insights into how software is changing the world. The study exemplifies how the success of CSPs operations transformation hinges on a new software-driven operations model that is already driving the success of digital businesses across different industries.

The new operational model must support high levels of process automation to the point where predictive autonomous operations becomes a reality, enabling CSPs to automatically pre-empt and tackle service quality issues before they occur.

This study explains several key areas that cover the radical overhaul of the operations model; why CSPs must adopt a multi-pronged transformative approach; the need for continuous innovation, ecosystems and lean operations; and the strategic journey to achieve digital operation transformation.

Based on extensive research across diverse industries, the paper explains how the current operations model severely constrains CSPs’ abilities to achieve the benefits of digital transformation and that to remain relevant in the digital era, the telecoms industry must adopt a software-driven operations approach that has been instrumental in the success of major digital companies such as Uber, Google and GE. 

Anil Rao, Principal Analyst at Analysys Mason and the author of the study, said, “The telecommunications industry is at a major tipping point; as operators embark on important digital transformation initiatives, with NFV/SDN, IoT and 5G still to come, the prevalent operational model and economics severely constrains them to achieve the benefits of these strategic transformation initiatives. CSPs need a future proof software driven operations model that can not only support today’s physical networks but also adapt as the infrastructure transitions to hybrid and virtual networks.

“The new operations model must be underpinned by highly automated operational processes, enabled by analytics powered operations software platform and supported by an operations workforce with the software skills to continuously enhance operational efficiency by developing automation as part of their daily duties,” continued Anil Rao.

The study also illustrates innovative ways for the CSPs to transform, whether they embark on the journey alone through a ‘Do It Yourself’ (DIY) approach or establish a partnership depending on the level of maturity of the vendor offer and the level of control and ownership that the CSP wants to retain in-house.

The paper includes a description of the various engagement options such as consultative led operations-as-a-service which relies on the partner to deliver the operations, based on agreed service level agreements using the partners’ operations platform, supplemented with advisory and implementation services to transition to software driven operations. 

Analysys Mason concludes the study with key recommendations for CSPs including how they should learn from other industries; implement automated operations, and the best partnership model for the transformation journey. The study also provides insightful recommendations for vendors on developing solutions for software-driven operations, offering innovative engagement models and how to demonstrate a robust vision of software-driven operations. 

Published in Telecom Vendors

How can telcos navigate the digital revolution?

Written on Wednesday, 13 September 2017 08:42

Telecom providers face tough times as digitization disrupts traditional business models. In fact, the telecom industry is ranked second after media as most likely to experience major digital disruption, according to a 2015 survey of C-level executives from 15 industries. EITC, the parent company of ‘du’, has responded to the disruption of digitization by embracing it, launching a fully digital mobile service.

Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC) officially launched the Virgin Mobile brand in the United Arab Emirates on September 5. It’s the first fully digital mobile service launched in the country. The new service offers “simple and transparent technology” and a “unique customer experience” through what the company describes as a fully app-based service.

The Virgin Mobile UAE app signifies a paradigm shift in the mobile industry, digitally designed to simplify life for customers, and the Virgin Mobile distribution model allows customers to download the app and have the SIM card delivered directly to their homes or office. The digital experience gives customers flexibility and convenience, putting control of mobile services back into the customer’s hands.

EITC’s move to create a fully digital service shows that digitization is not just a threat, but also an opportunity for operators to rebuild their market positions, revamp their business systems, and come up with innovative offerings for both existing and new customers. The growth of digital business and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to Gartner research, will drive large investment in IT operations management through 2020.

If telecom operators were to fully embrace digitization, advisory firm McKinsey calculates that it could improve their profits by as much as 35 percent. One of the ways in which telecom operators can bridge the digital gap, according to a McKinsey report, is to drastically revamp IT services. The firm said: “For most operators, streamlining their application landscape and automating their IT infrastructure will need to be a priority.”

Complex and out-of-date IT applications are a “major hindrance” in competing against digital rivals, McKinsey says. The company conducted a study of 80 telecom companies around the world and found that the most successful ones had “removed redundant platforms, automated core processes, and consolidated overlapping capabilities.” Following this method allowed one South American telecom provider to free up the equivalent of 31 percent of its full-time employees.

Another recommended approach by McKinsey, seemingly adopted by EITC with the launch of its new digital mobile service, is putting customers’ needs first and then working backwards by implementing services to meet those needs. Telecom providers need to focus on the customer’s entire experience of the company, rather than seeing customers as a series of touch-points, the report suggests.

The goal is not to digitize multiple elements of a customer’s experience but to deliver a “superior customer experience” with everything gelled into a seamless journey that flows across functions, channels and devices, and where the biggest pain points are identified and eliminated. It’s important for telecom operators to make use of digital technologies across the whole business to “combat declining growth, shrinking margins, and intensifying competition.”

EITC achieved this in the UAE by allowing customers to pick their mobile number without visiting a store, track their data and minute usage in real time, search and choose their favourite mobile number, and set up monthly spend limits, all via the Virgin Mobile UAE app. The subscription-based model means that there is no need for a contract, giving customers the flexibility to decide how they want to communicate without being constrained by specific time bound terms and conditions. 

A $2 trillion opportunity

The digital transformation of telecom companies is so lucrative, that a report by the World Economic Forum says it represents a $2 trillion opportunity for the industry. The next decade of digitization will look markedly different from the past, the report says, and companies across the industry will need to be “well-prepared” to take advantage of the “sweeping transformation taking place in consumer lives, enterprises and the broader economy.”

The 2017 report, titled ‘Digital Transformation Initiative Telecommunications Industry’, looks at the untapped potential for telcos in digital services. The industry has recognized the opportunity that digital services represent, but the players haven’t been able to capture significant value at the scale and speed of digital disruptors, the report says. This is despite the fact that telecom operators have access to several key ingredients, including millions of customer relationships and proprietary data.

Majority of companies have yet to overcome key inhibitors around talent, legacy IT systems and unfavorable regulation, the report adds, in order to compete effectively against digital native companies. Operators’ share of the industry profit pool has declined from 58 percent in 2010 to 47 percent in 2015, and is forecast to drop to 45 percent in 2018. Pressure on traditional revenues, the report claims, means that it’s increasingly important for operators to look at new digital business models.

Another report by AT Kearney says more than 80 percent of telecom executives from South Asia, Middle East and Africa (SAMENA) believe their future success and growth depends on making fundamental changes to their business and operating models. The report, based on a recent survey of C-level executives from the region’s leading telecom companies, highlights the importance of mastering customer retention and customer base value management to sustain returns.

In terms of new consumer revenue sources, less than one quarter of executives believe that content or digital services will be important, according to the report. For the enterprise segment, though, more than 80 percent of executives believe ICT-related revenue will increase, with the largest potential expected in mobility, cloud, and data center services.

Simultaneously, to sustain competitiveness, telecom operators will continue focusing on operational efficiency, in AT Kearney’s view, although commercial-related costs will be less under scrutiny. The key driver, the report says, is the understanding that significant investments are needed to bring commercial operations into the digital age with upgrades to the customer experience, such as support online sales, self-service via apps, etc.

“Telecom operators in the region are considering a wide range of changes to their operating model,” said Marc Biosca, Partner at AT Kearney. “The customer is at the epicenter of this strategy as most operators and executives in the region believe that a differentiated and superior customer experience is a top priority for long-term success. Providing a seamless customer experience across interfaces has never been more key.”

If there’s one consistent element throughout the reports by AT Kearney, McKinsey, and World Economic Forum, it’s that customers come first and demand digital services that are engaging and convenient. Customers today require an interface that’s simple to use across all channels, and desire efficient 24/7 service. Yet many operators struggle to meet these expectations due to slow design processes, ineffective data collection, and out-of-date IT systems.

To overcome these barriers, McKinsey points out, is to invest in effective customer-relationship-management systems to “track customers’ digital footprints, reduce costs, boost customer satisfaction, and improve brand advocacy and differentiation.”

Published in Featured

Spark, New Zealand’s leading telecom operator, reported an overall net earnings increase of 13 percent to $418 million, Spark Chairman Mark Verbiest announced on August 18. The results for the year ended 30 June 2017 were in line with expectations and mark further progress in Spark’s long-term digital transformation.

“It’s been another year of relentless focus on delivering for our customers in very competitive retail markets and on positioning Spark well for the digital future,” said Verbiest.

Spark’s revenue growth for FY17 was solid at 3.3 percent taking revenue to $3.614 billion, on the back of continued strong performances in IT services, up 19 percent, and mobile, up 5.6 percent. This performance, together with a continued focus on cost, helped to drive overall EBITDA growth of 3 percent, to $1.016 billion.

Despite the increased EBITDA, costs were up in 2017 compared to 2016, said Verbiest, reflecting higher short-term costs needed to successfully address customer service challenges experienced last year and to manage the workload arising from strong growth in Telecommunications-as-a-Service and IT service contract wins. In addition, there were costs related to the large-scale migration of customers off copper to wireless or fiber, and from Yahoo to SMX email.

“While we’re proud of what we have achieved so far, and we’ve continued to execute our long-term strategy well and deliver good financial results, there are signs that fresh impetus is needed for the next phase of our transformation,” said Verbiest.

Spark Managing Director Simon Moutter said, “Operationally, we have made some big moves. The successful launch of our ‘Upgrade New Zealand’ program saw wireless broadband connections grow to 84,000 (up 72,000), and fiber connections grow to 172,000 (up 73,000) –meaning around 37% of Spark’s broadband base is now off copper.”

Moutter added, “We also successfully migrated 800,000 customer email accounts safely to New Zealand-based provider SMX, and entered new partnerships with Netflix and Spark Arena to complement our Lightbox and Spotify value add-ons.”

The company has seen a strong take-up of Telecommunications-as-a-service offerings to Government with 100+ customers connected to solutions that contribute towards delivering more customer-centric public services, Moutter said. The company also made material improvements in key customer service metrics including call wait times.

“But we still have a long way to go,” Moutter claims. “In an exponentially evolving digital world, where change is the new normal, the complexity of fast-changing technology has customers grappling with the pace of change.

“Meanwhile, customer preference is shifting rapidly to wireless, enabled by high-speed mobile coverage. In mobile and broadband particularly, commoditization pressures mean more and more New Zealanders are buying their mobile or broadband services based primarily on price.

“Increasingly, the companies most likely to win are those that cut through complexity to deliver a highly automated and slick digital self-service customer experience, and who have a simpler proposition to sell, maintain and support than their competitors.”

Over the next few years, Spark plans to put more resources into digitizing and simplifying its products and services to materially lower its cost of operating and put more power into the hands of customers. Spark’s other focus will be to better leveraging its brands, meeting the needs of all parts of the market.

Spark’s third new area of focus will be to meet the growing customer appetite for wireless technologies. Moutter said the company will increase its emphasis on investment in this area to deliver improved mobile and wireless broadband services. “By 2020 we aim to have 85 percent of our broadband customers migrated away from copper onto fiber or wireless technologies,” he said.

Mr. Verbiest said the future looked bright for Spark. “Spark is in a great position to navigate the new digital era. We have a strong balance sheet. We have invested well in fiber and wireless data network leadership,” he said. “Our aim is to accelerate change at Spark, and work hardest where we can make the biggest difference for our customers.”

Published in Telecom Operators

A new study published by Swisscom, a major telecommunications provider in Switzerland and IMD business school supports public authorities on the road to digitization. The document provides a comprehensive methodology and a decision-making tool to assist city leaders in the selection of digital projects.

Smart City initiatives generally lack an operational framework that would guide the process undertaken by the heads of public entities. IMD and Swisscom joined forces on this particular ground two years ago and developed the Smart City Piano, which represents a significant step forward in the digitization of cities.

Since then, various projects have been conducted based on the Piano on different geographical scales, from cities to regions. The experience gained from these co-operations has demonstrated the need for public authorities to have a more detailed methodology to define, select and implement the most promising projects.

A six-step method

This second report provides a comprehensive six-step approach. This was developed on the basis of interviews with project managers in public and business entities. The experience gained in project management with Swisscom customers has made it possible to refine the proposed methodology.

"Our co-creation projects with the Canton of Geneva, the cities of Pully, Montreux and Fribourg, have allowed us to confirm a number of assumptions and to find solutions to identified problems, such as governance issues for instance," says Raphaël Rollier, head of the Smart City program at Swisscom.

The study also provides city leaders with some advice on how to practically apply the Smart City Piano. Blaise Vonlanthen, Head of Consulting at Swisscom, sees a number of applications: "The proposed method allows resources to be concentrated on initiatives that make a concrete contribution to the objectives set."

A dynamic specific to the public sector

In 2015, IMD created the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation in partnership with Cisco. Hundreds of companies around the world - active in various industries - have since referred to the center to plan their digital transformation journey.

"However, in order to transform the public sector and, in particular, to develop smart cities and regions, many rules of the private sector do not apply," says Michael Wade, Professor of Innovation and Strategy at IMD and co-author of the study.

This collaboration has led to a deeper understanding of the specific dynamics of digital transformation in the public sector and the study will enable city leaders to accelerate their digital transition.

Published in Telecom Operators

Under the patronage of the President of the Council of Ministers, H.E. Mr. Saad Hariri, represented by the Minister of Telecommunications of Lebanon, H.E. Mr. Jamal Jarrah, the 8th edition of Telecom Review Leaders’ Summit co-hosted by Alfa, managed by Orascom Telecom, was held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beirut on the 20th of April. The event put a spotlight on Lebanon and the role that technology can play in revamping a nation full of potential.

Telecom and ICT VIPs took part at the event, notably the Minister of Information and Communication Technologies of Egypt, H.E. Mr. Yasser El Kady; the CEO and Chairman of Alfa, Mr. Marwan Hayek; Vice Chairman Group CEO of Zain Group, Mr. Bader Nasser El Kharafi; the CEO of touch (managed by Zain Group), Mr. Emre Gurkan; and the CEO of Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (du), Mr. Osman Sultan; Mr. Jawad Abbassi, Head of MENA, GSMA; Dr. Kamal Shehadi, Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, Etisalat; Ghazi Atallah, CEO, NXN; Jay Srage, President, MEA and East Europe, Qualcomm; as well as many other CEOs of international and local telecom companies.

Highly distinguished guests took part in several panels that focused on the importance of 5G and its impact on societies and how it will change the telecommunications sector and the level of speed, efficiency, and network capacities. Other panels tackled IoT’s impact on our daily lives, how to promote smart cities, and the operators’ and governments’ role in this transformative process.

In the framework of the Summit, co-host Alfa announced a great accomplishment in cooperation with Nokia. The operator undertook a live demo of its 4G+ network and achieved a speed of 950Mb p/second, which is the highest record achieved in Lebanon to date.

Mr. Toni Eid, CEO of Trace Media International and founder of Telecom Review, gave a welcoming speech, highlighting that Telecom Review is the largest telecom media in the world and covers 80 percent of the telecom and ICT audience. In addition, Mr. Eid praised the success achieved at the Telecom Review Summit, noting that the Summit would witness the commitment of the Lebanese government towards the telecoms sector, which will lead to a digital economy that brings prosperity to the country.

Mr. Eid extended his heartfelt thanks to H.E. Jamal Jarrah and his team, the co-host, Alfa, and Mr. Bader Nasser Al Kharafi, in addition to all the sponsors for bringing their support to the event. H.E. Jamal Jarrah stated that holding the Summit at this particular period shows that Lebanon is on the right track.

“We are gathering here today for the 8th edition of Telecom Review Leaders’ Summit in a friendly professional environment where we will witness the Lebanese government’s commitments towards the telecom sector, which will lead to a digital economy that brings prosperity to the country,” said Mr. Eid. “In addition, all of us will join very important debates and lectures with our Leaders who came from several countries with their experience and expertise which we will all share, as our Summit is always about sharing ideas, knowledge and opinions in order to help shape the future together.”

H.E. Jamal Jarrah said the telecoms industry is not only rapidly evolving, but also evolving daily in several fields. He noted that the Ministry of Telecommunications has the support of the President of the Council of Ministers and is determined to deploy tireless efforts to achieve its vision for the sector while taking into account the great Lebanese human capacities.

When asked about his opinion about the summit H.E said: “It’s essential to hold this summit in Lebanon and the most important thing is the remarkable level of participation from all over the region. This summit has offered to Lebanon new dimensions, ideas and opinions that will benefit the country and the telecoms sector.”

On another side, Mr. Hayek tackled Alfa’s greatest achievements since its establishment in 1994. He said: “We have made headway through our leading technological projects and the innovative services, which have helped us to transform from a traditional operator to a digital one, leading the IoT revolution in Lebanon and the region.”

“This role was reflected through the accomplishments that the company has achieved since its establishment,” Mr. Hayek added. “In fact, we were the first company to launch GSM mobile service in Lebanon, 3G+ in 2011, 4G in 2013, and today 4G+ has become a reality, covering more than 92 percent of the population on Alfa’s network, and soon we will reach 5G.”

Mr. Hayek said Alfa has become a digital operator aiming at providing the best services to the Lebanese people at the level of the internet speed and other services that address the citizens’ needs. He also talked about unprecedented records achieved by the company in terms of smartphone penetration that reached 88 percent which is equivalent to the percentage reached in most developed countries. He added that more that 75 percent of Alfa’s 2 million subscribers are data consumers and 30 percent of them use LTE devices.

H.E. Yasser El Kady, Minister of Information and Communication Technologies of Egypt, added to Mr. Hayek’s delight of having the Telecom Review Summit held in Lebanon, a nation he said that feels “like a home” to him. “I have a very good feeling about being here,” he said. H.E El Kady praised the Telecom Review Summit tagline “It’s All About SMART Networking,” claiming that conversations around technologies such as 4G, 4.5G and 5G are important.

“What is this transformation we are experiencing in the world?” His Excellency asked. “It’s about networking, it’s about smartness, and it’s about how we can change things for the better. Telecommunications technology right now is paramount when it comes to changing the world that we are living in, and it even affects the whole economy. People are talking about smart networking and digitization.”

Today, an important topic is defining how we can accelerate digitization around the world, said H.E. El Kady. He said we need to focus on how to change the delivery of services to be more efficient and smart. The heart of this transformation, he said, is telecommunications from an economical point of view and from a technology point of view.

Echoing H.E. Yasser El Kady’s speech on digitization, Osman Sultan, CEO of UAE-based telecom operator du, presented to the audience “smart headlines for smart conversations”. “Although I operate in a country that today is amongst the highest rates of penetration in mobile telephony, fiber optics, and in internet, the real conversations are not yet taking place.”

“We are in the middle of a digital revolution, but it didn’t start recently,” Mr. Sultan explained. “There has been the industrial wave; when I was a teenager the discussions were different, there were different keywords to be used back then: It was about labor, productivity, and manufacturing. Then we moved towards the communication wave with mobile telephony, followed by the digital wave (the internet, video and cloud) that has radically changed everything. Then we reached the data age where we are now able to combine data with each other; there’s a sensor where everything we touch in our lives such as the car, house, window, elevator, are all generating data.”

When all of these things are connected, said Sultan, by applying analytical data science, you can unleash the power that data can bring. When we are able to know how much a person is spending, where they are living, etc., then we can have dashboard and insights on personal, corporate, city and nation levels to be used for planning for a better city and the revolution of nations, said Sultan.

“This is empowerment, big data and IoT. This is what smart cities will bring. We will reach a time where our kids will not need to drive anymore,” said Sultan, adding that we will have 7 billion drones by 2020 and $12 billion revenue by 2021. It will replace a billion worth of human labor and services, he said.  Moreover, “technology will become our new companion and even save our lives, and it will probably replace 50 percent of all jobs by 2030.”

As a final note Mr. Sultan said: “I strongly believe that technology is fundamental and will be a positive transformation to this part of the world where we will have smart technology, smart learning and smart people. So I am calling for all of us to take part in this positive transformation.” 

As for Mr. Emre Gurkan, CEO of Touch Lebanon, he has participated in the smart cities panel. “As Zane Group we have been working with smart cities for a long time, now after 3 years we have been very active in this space and as touch we believe in digital transformation that is going to be a significant topic in the next 5 years in Lebanon. From that perspective this panel was a very interesting one, we talked about smart city, smart education, and smart health and how we can enable smart cities as telecom operators.” 

When it comes to touch’s plans for the next few years Mr. Gurkan said:One of the reasons I came to Lebanon is because I believe in Lebanon and I believe in touch as a company. A lot of Lebanese startups are around the world including the Middle East and that’s why Lebanon has the future in terms of human potential and we have a significant education population here. As touch we have an amazing future since we know about digitalization, we have learned it from Zain Group, so my whole objective is to bring all this success and ideas and adapt it to touch and then get the Lebanese society to become digital in the coming 3 to 5 years.”

On another note, Imad Kreidieh, Director General of OGERO, participated in the “Future infrastructure for the digital transformation” panel, in which he talked about the importance of the infrastructure for the ICT sector in the country. When asked about his opinion about the summit, he said: “It’s a very beautiful event and I’m really pleased to be part of it. It is a promising event in terms of ideas exchange between the attendees, which can improve the development of the ICT industry.”

Furthermore, speaking about the progress being made in Lebanon’s tech sector, H.E. Nicolas Sehnaoui, Chairman of the UK Lebanon Tech Hub, said the organization is “doing a lot of things to prop up the Lebanese ecosystem.”

The UK Lebanon Tech Hub is an international initiative by the Banque Du Liban and the UK government supporting the growth of Lebanon’s knowledge economy. The UK Lebanon Tech Hub’s accelerator program is the first accelerator from the region with a truly global footprint. Each acceleration cycle comprises of two phases: 3 months in Lebanon constituting workshops, mentoring and investment matching, then 3 months of international acceleration, opening the doors to new markets.

The UK Lebanon Tech Hub started with capacity building, acceleration of startups and building success stories, but now it’s going further into research and development (R&D) with an international centre, said H.E. Sehnaoui. “We started this year with three R&D projects collaborating with three major Lebanese universities and major universities in the UK. It’s a very promising R&D work that is being done and this is with the help of the British government who provide the funds.”

H.E. Sehnaoui said the Lebanese government needs to “improve its act” in terms of having proper governance to implement proper infrastructure to improve its technology sector. “I think we are currently on the right path with the new government,” he said. “The main challenge of Lebanon is not the local market – it’s being able to be a hub for the Lebanese entrepreneurs, inventors, startups and companies to branch out throughout the region and the world. This is a challenge that I think we are winning.”

Sharing H.E. Sehnaoui’s commitment to Lebanon and its future, Dr. Kamal Shehadi, Chief Legal and Regulatory at UAE-based telecom operator Etisalat, said that given Lebanon’s rich resources and human capital in entrepreneurship, it would “be a shame if Lebanon did not really give its youth and entrepreneurs” the telecom platform from which they can launch their businesses. 

In order to do that, he said, Lebanon needs to be thinking about how to put in place a dynamic that constantly innovates in terms of technologies that allows people to realize their full potential. This involves moving from the current generation to a more advanced generation of technology, which requires not only expanding and spending on the networks, but also a vision and the proper policies and regulation.

“It is these regulations that are lacking today,” said Dr. Shehadi. “5G has been one of the topics discussed today, but 5G is not just another technology that vendors can sell to telcos – 5G is a whole ecosystem which allows all the stakeholders in this space to come together on one network to exchange services, etc. This means that if the regulations are not there, you will not achieve the full potential.

Dr. Shehadi concluded saying: “My main interest in being here today is to make sure that Lebanon advances in terms of putting in place the right vision, the right policies, and the right regulations to enable continuous improvement.”

Lebanon-born Ghazi Atallah, CEO of NXN (formerly neXgen) shared in the valuable discussions about the role that technology can play in making Lebanon a smarter, more agile economy. “We have many interesting opportunities here in Lebanon especially with the municipalities in the cities. Our role is to help cities transform to become smarter,” said Ghazi.

“There are many opportunities here in the various dimensions of the cities. We have evolved to become a smart city service provider and the reason why we rebranded is to highlight to our customers and people in the industry that we have evolved from being a consulting organization to becoming a full-fledged service provider where we build, operate and run smart city services on behalf of our customers. We are now able to deliver smart city as a service – not just design it – but actually build it and run it.”

Ghazi highlighted the fact that every city in the world has its challenges, and Beirut and the various municipalities in Lebanon are no exception. “I think the smartest thing to do to transform a city is to actually focus on your own challenges - there is no such thing as a smart city for everyone,” said Ghazi. “The challenges in Lebanon are around environment, transportation and logistics, so that should be the focus and the emphasis of any smart city initiative that takes place in Lebanon.”

A gala dinner at Casino Mehanna followed the Summit, where Merit Awards and certificates were presented to distinguished ICT Leaders as a token of appreciation. At the end some lucky guests won Huawei P10 smartphones in an entertaining raffle draw.

His Excellency Jamal Jarrah, the Lebanese Minister of Telecommunications, and Mr. Toni Eid, founder of Trace Media International and CEO of Telecom Review, presented the awards.

Telecom Review Leader’s Summit 8th Edition Merit Awards:

  • Mr. Bader Nasser Al Kharafi, Vice Chairman and Group CEO, Zain Group, won the Leadership Award for significant investment and contribution to the development of the Telecom and ICT Industry in MEA
  • Mr. Osman Sultan, CEO, Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (du), won the award for Best Brand Maker
  • Mr. Ghazi Atallah, CEO, NXN, won the Leadership Award for significant contribution to the development of Smart Cities in MEA
  • Dr. Kamal Shehadi, Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, Etisalat International, won the award for Best Achievement for Regulation & Standardization
  • Mr. Jay Srage, President, Qualcomm International Inc., Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe, won the award for Best Management for Bridging Innovation
  • Lebanese telecom operator Alfa won a special Appreciation Awardfor co-hosting the 8th edition of the Telecom Review Leaders’ Summit
Published in Featured

Looking at information from Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, the average age of the top 500 companies in the Index is 12 years, says Microsoft’s Necip Ozyucel, Cloud + Enterprise Business Group Lead. In the year 1960, the average age of companies was 60 years. It means that the top 500 companies have a much shorter life cycle. This is because of digital transformation, Necip says. Speaking to Active Telecoms, he highlighted the ways that Microsoft is working towards helping digitize its customers through IoT because of the dire need for them to redefine themselves quickly, or fall behind in a competitive digital market.

Necip has high praise for Microsoft’s Digital Transformation framework, which is aimed at helping organizations achieve more through digitization, with solutions spanning productivity, business intelligence, security, the cloud, mixed reality, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT). The company is striving to digitize its customers so that they can “still be competitive, successful and lead in their industry,” says Necip.

There are three areas of Microsoft’s operations: one of which is creating more personal computing; the other is re-structuring productivity; and the other is building an intelligent cloud. Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and more—over the Internet (“the cloud”) – and Microsoft has built a strong reputation for it.  These are its core aspirations, according to Necip. But when Microsoft translates them into digital transformation for its customers, there are four areas.

“Starting with our customers’ external parameter, we begin by helping our customers engage with their own customers even better, enable their employees to be more productive, enable them to optimize their operations, and finally transform their products,” Necip told Active Telecoms. “Those are the areas we are trying to link with our three aspirations of how we innovate using technology.”

Three things stand out about Microsoft’s cloud: it’s global, it’s trusted, and it’s available in ‘hybrids’, says Necip. Its range extends to 34 regions where Microsoft has physical locations, each with more data centers. “The number of data centers or physical locations Microsoft has is far more than our competitors,” he said. It is Microsoft’s number one priority to be compliant and secure privacy for its customers. What’s more, Microsoft offers both public and private clouds (hybrid), and seamless integration depending on customers’ data, applications, etc.

Embracing the Internet of Things

Microsoft recognizes the merging of the telecom industry with ICT. By 2020, 1.7 megabytes will be generated every second by humans, says Necip. This demand will bridge the divide between IT, telecommunications, mobility, sensors, etc. “Digital transformation is not a supportive initiative – it is the core,” he said. Many businesses are running their core on digital – including online and mobile – and now many traditional businesses are moving their focus to digital.

A major pillar of digitization is embracing the Internet of Things movement. IoT is a result of the developments of connectivity, including cloud and the cost of sensors, says Necip. This mobility brought about many devices such as mobile phones, tablets; and because of the cost of the sensors, he said we are seeing many more in society.

Cloud is also a huge enabler of IoT, which has enabled organizations to collect information, and then shape it, and prepare to analyze what kind of data insights they are looking for. These are three things that are fueling IoT according to Microsoft.

“At Microsoft, we are offering end-to-end IoT services, from connecting devices, to pulling data, managing devices and sensors, and storing data – because it is huge,” said Necip. “We are collecting data in different formats, and then shaping it in order to find insights. We even have the option of seeing the data as it streams in. We can then visualize the insight that we obtain from the data, and connect it with actions such as cognitive services, including face recognition, digital assistants, etc.”

These innovations fall under the category of artificial intelligence – an area where Microsoft is excelling. According to Necip, by 2020, Microsoft expects data to reach 180 zetabytes, an 18x increase in just ten years. The question is: how can we use this massive amount of data in an intelligent way? The answer, he says, is artificial intelligence. Microsoft’s latest breakthroughs have been in machine learning and bots.

“We are working on deep neural networks, and there is a way we use this called convolutional neural networks, which are based on vision cortex – a biological process that is stimulated,” Necip explained. “We are implementing spatial devices into Microsoft Cloud called FPGAs – Field Programmable Gate Areas, similar to CPUs. Artificial intelligence enables the ability to learn, and training is key. Those neural hardware components related to Microsoft Cloud are a deep neural network, and enabling Microsoft Cloud to change artificial intelligence needs which will help to build the intelligent cloud which is one of Microsoft’s aspirations.”

Bots are also the outcome of artificial intelligence and the intelligent cloud that Microsoft is building. Bots can help people to make arrangements quickly, easily, and customized. Bots can also help with engaging customers to help solve their problems. “We see bots are a breakthrough to come in the near future,” said Necip.

Smart Cities is another important implementation of IoT, data and analytics, because in a smart city there many things to remotely monitor or manage in terms of assets, says Necip. For example, Barcelona is a “Microsoft customer success story worldwide.” Microsoft manages all of Barcelona in terms of accident management, case management, tourist assistance – “encompassing the whole city.”  

Microsoft also teamed up with ThyssenKrupp Elevator, one of the world’s leading elevator manufacturers, which maintains more than 1.1 million elevators worldwide, including those in the new 102-story One World Trade Center in New York – the fastest in the western hemisphere. To gain a competitive edge, ThyssenKrupp teamed up with Microsoft and CGI to create a connected intelligent system to focus on elevators that run safely and reliability, around the clock.

Using the IoT, the solution securely connects thousands of sensors in ThyssenKrupp’s elevators that monitor cab speed, door functioning, shaft alignment, motor temperature and much more to the cloud, using the Microsoft Azure Intelligent Systems Service (Azure ISS). The system pulls all this data into a single integrated real-time dashboard of key performance indicators. These “smart” elevators are teaching technicians how to fix them, thanks to Microsoft Azure Machine Learning. Rather than respond to failure alarms after-the-fact, ThyssenKrupp technicians are now using real-time data to identify needed repairs before breakdowns happen.

“The Internet of Things is a huge ecosystem involving sensors, connectivity, and cloud, so the end approach is important,” said Necip discussing the challenges involved with IoT. “Our customers and partners should understand this end-to-end approach so that their projects will become successful.”

The most challenging thing for Microsoft, he said, is when its customers begin a project and cannot foresee the challenges. Each scenario varies from customer to customer, especially since digital transformation “is as much IT play as it is business play.” Microsoft wants to transform businesses to reap the benefits of digitization, said Necip, which should be happening within business, and should be a collaborative effort.

Published in Interviews

Telstra bumps up capex by $A1b per year for three years

Written on Thursday, 11 August 2016 08:59

Australian carrier Telstra has announced plans to increase capital investment by $A3 billion ($US2.3) over the next three years with the investment going into its network, digitization and customer experiences.

The move represents a significant increase on Telstra’s current capex levels: expenditure for the year to 30 June 2016 was $4.0 billion. The announcement was made along with Telstra results announcement for the year to 30 June 2016 and follows a series of large-scale and highly embarrassing outages of Telstra’s mobile network in recent months.

CEO Andrew Penn said details of the investment program would be progressively confirmed during FY17 to FY19 and would be aimed at maintaining strategic advantage by ensuring continued technological leadership and by significantly improving customer experiences in a heavily competitive environment.

He said the move would deliver business benefits such as capital efficiency, reduced operating costs and increased revenue, and reinforce Telstra’s market differentiation “Our customers and our networks are our biggest assets. We must invest to set new standards and deliver excellent experiences for our customers.”

He added:  “The opportunity is clear as average monthly data consumption on our networks increased seven-fold over the past five years, with mobile traffic growing almost nine-fold in the same period. We are now accommodating and anticipating growth in the number of connected sensors and devices as well as specialized applications and services.”

He said Telstra would retire legacy systems and invest in evolution of the network with a set of architectural advances such as virtualization and increased automation to build a dynamic and programmable next generation network around the virtualization of functions across network domains.

“Telstra will further boost capacity in key networks to cater for increasing demand for core services and undertake an ongoing evolution of 4G network capabilities as foundations were laid for the 5G network,” he said.  “The work will have distinct streams to support consumer and enterprise customers, recognizing the often unique needs of larger business partners.”

Telstra said mobile focus areas would include building on the success of the 4G network evolution and readiness for 5G, LTE-broadcast, voice over LTE and the Internet of Things.

“Telstra will make strategic investments in its fixed network services, taking into account the ongoing National Broadband Network rollout, particularly in ADSL service areas. This reflects rapid increases in data consumption in recent years with home and business users.”

Penn said investing in digitization was also a critical component of the additional funding, building on work in recent years to remove manual processes. The digitization program will include expanding digitally-enabled sales and service channels so that customers can interact with Telstra on their terms, as well as introducing capability to better pre-empt issues faced by customers.

“Telstra will develop a flexible, software-defined network architecture, so new capabilities of the network investment are fully integrated with sales and service channels,” the company said.

“A simpler product architecture which is easy for customers to understand would improve the way in which products are delivered, meaning all new products would be ‘born digital’.”

Published in Telecom Operators

The European Commission is pushing to speed up the standards-making process with a focus on five priority areas related to telecommunications, according to a report by Mobile World Live. The five priority areas include: 5G which is expected to be implemented in 2020, cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), data technologies and cyber-security.

The EU's standard decision-making procedure is known as 'co-decision'. This means the European Parliament has to approve EU legislation together with the Council based on a proposal from the Commission. The push to make the standards regime faster is just one of many measures unveiled by the European Commission in order to help the European industry, as well as researchers, SMEs and public authorities who could benefit from new technologies that become available. With technologies like cloud computing and increased cyber-security, businesses will be able to function more efficiently and safely, which would in turn boost the EU economy.

The European Commission is reportedly going to set up large-scale pilot projects in order to boost the Internet of Things, advanced manufacturing, technologies related to smart cities and homes, connected cars, and mobile health services. Smart cities and homes would ultimately benefit peoples’ health, improve government services and reduce emissions, by providing citizens the tools to reduce energy consumption.

Reports haven’t indicated exactly how much will be spent on these areas of smart technologies, however the European Commission has said that its plans in total should “mobilize over €50 billion of public and private investments” in support of the new areas of digital expansion. “We need the right scale for technologies such as cloud computing, data-driven science and the Internet of Things to reach their full potential,” says Andrus Ansip, VP for the digital single market.

There are, however, those who doubt that Europe has the current infrastructure to support a rapid digitization. For example, Vodafone, a leading global operator, supports the initiatives, but has expressed concerns about Europe’s underlying infrastructure and whether it can support it the initiatives suggested.

Vodafone expressed concerns saying the European Commission just assumes that fibre optic networks delivering gigabit speeds will be ubiquitous across the European Union. “Yet the connectivity required to attain digital leadership is lacking in many Member States which remain reliant on outdated copper telephone networks rather than gigabit fibre,” said Vodafone in a statement.

An example of this is in Germany, where Vodafone is one of the leading operators in both fixed and mobile networks. According to Vodafone, the European Commission has the decision before it from the German regulator that supports “short-term incremental” upgrades to legacy copper networks, “which would leave German businesses and consumers trapped in the slow lane of Europe.”

Published in Internet of Things