Displaying items by tag: digital services

Irish capital is Europe’s data hub

Written on Thursday, 24 January 2019 12:28

A new industrial revolution is underway in the heart of the Irish capital as clusters of warehouses housing vast quantities of data continue to emerge.

Dublin has really embraced technology in an effort to boost its flagging and shrinking economy following the global crash in 2008. Internet behemoths such as Facebook, Apple and Google all have their European HQ’s in Dublin and the city has become the continent’s No.1 data hub.

A familiar term within the ICT ecosystem is that ‘data is the new oil’ and will fuel the global economy. Those sentiments were echoed by Brian Roe, Commercial Director of Serve-Centric, which is a data center company.

Roe said, “Data is the new oil, definitely.  These powerhouse developments provide 24/7/365 access to the massive data, processing power and storage that digital services around Europe require. People are saying, ‘Well everything is going to come from the cloud’.  Well where's the cloud? The cloud is data centers."

Ireland’s industry lobby group Host has said the new phenomenon has become the unlikely engine room for everything from video streaming to phone apps and social media.    

In addition to this, progressive government incentives, a highly-skilled workforce and high connectivity to Europe and America are helping attract data center construction investment which is expected to reach nine billion euros ($10 billion) by 2021.

The sector employs 5,700 people in full-time equivalent roles including 1,800 as data center operators, according to a report produced for Ireland's investment agency. Many of Ireland’s brightest young talent were forced to emigrate after the recession, but many are no returning to avail of the exciting new opportunities presented by Dublin’s transformation into a tech hub.    

Data has become a hot topic in Europe following the introduction of GDPR. Enterprises have been forced to examine their data harvesting and storage practices in a more forensic manner. Consumers have also now been awakened to the dangers of providing their data online following the high-profile Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal which emerged last year. 

Amazon Web Services (AWS) -- which provides cloud services for hire -- is a particular concern for Paul O' Neill, a researcher based at Dublin City University. "The ethical implications of hosting AWS data centers in Ireland are potentially vast," he said.

AWS, which has announced plans to expand its Dublin operations, sells controversial facial recognition technology to US police.

"These corporations are or have been involved in many of the dominant controversies and debates of our contemporary networked era including privacy, data breaches and surveillance.”

Published in Infrastructure

Ericsson released a statement on January 16 noting that it will book SEK 14.2 billion (US$ 1.77 billion) in write-downs in its Q4 2017 financial results. The write-downs, Ericsson said, are related to the company’s Digital Services and Other divisions, in addition to an SEK 1 billion charge related to tax changes in the United States.

The announced write-downs did not come as a surprise however, as Ericsson did warn in December 2017 that it would likely book an impairment charge in its Q4 results, which is due to release on January 31, after an internal review following a previously announced corporate restructure.

In the statement, Ericsson said the write-downs will have no “impact on cash flow, but impairments will have negative impact on reported operating income mainly in segments of Digital Services and Other, while tax asset revaluation will impact income tax expenses, in Q4 2017.”

Ericsson said majority of the write-downs are related to goodwill from its Digital Services segment, accounting for SEK 6.7 billion, and SEK 6 billion goodwill from its Other segment. Goodwill refers to a range of non-physical assets such as brand name and reputation, and is often added to balance sheets after the acquisition of another company.

“The majority of goodwill originates from investments made 10 years ago or more, and has limited relevance for Ericsson's business going forward,” Ericsson said in the statement. “All impairments are non-cash accounting adjustments. The adjustments have no influence on Ericsson's commitment to executing its strategies and to investing in technology to support customers' success.”

The company’s Digital Services division is said to be a priority of CEO Borje Ekholm, and is being refocused towards software services to reflect the changing needs of Ericsson customers. Ericsson’s segment referred to as Other includes its media and broadcast units, which the company is reportedly planning to sell.

Other write-downs in Ericsson’s statement include Segment Managed Services: impairment of SEK 0.3 billion of deferred costs related to “termination of certain transformation activities”. In addition, Ericsson’s Segment Networks division recorded impairment of SEK 0.2 billion of “capitalized development expenses related to technologies that are no longer planned to be used”.

The other significant write-down Ericsson announced is the SEK 1 billion charge related to a change in the corporate income tax rate in the United States. The lowering of the U.S. corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21% (effective 1 January 2018) requires a revaluation of U.S. deferred tax assets.

Ericsson said the current estimated impact will be “a non-cash charge to the Group income statement of approximately SEK 1.0 b. that will impact income tax expenses.”

Ericsson admits that the impairments and the tax asset revaluation will impact reported net income in its Q4 earnings report, but insists that it will have “no impact” on the company’s cash flow and cash position. “Ericsson’s gross and net cash position remain strong,” the company said. “An impairment is not an indication of the performance of the business in the quarter.”

Ericsson announced in 2017 that it was restructuring the business, following an extensive cost-cutting program as it seeks to offset the decline of its traditional network business. In Q3 2017, the company recorded a loss of SEK 4.3 billion, which included a restructuring charge of SEK 2.8 billion and a write-down of assets in Canada amounting to SEK 1.6 billion.

"We continue to execute on our focused business strategy," said Borje Ekholm in a statement following the Q3 results. "While more remains to be done, we are starting to see some encouraging improvements in our performance despite a continued challenging market.” He said the “general market conditions continue to be tough.”

Ericsson’s focus on 5G

It’s not all looking downhill for Ericsson. In November 2017, the company filed a landmark 5G patent application in preparation for the next-generation technology. The patent application, which combines the work of 130 Ericsson inventors, is the largest in cellular communications in terms of number of inventors, anywhere in the world.  

Ericsson’s Middle East and Africa president, Rafiah Ibrahim, acknowledges that the company has been going through a rough patch, but remains vigilant, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. Speaking to Telecom Review, she said Ericsson has signed MoUs with leading telecom operators to plan for the introduction of 5G.

Helping operators introduce the next-generation technology is one of Ericsson’s focus points moving forward, she said, while also helping operators to monetize existing 4G networks. Rafiah said the company’s experience and understanding of using automation and processes makes it the ideal partner for telecom operators willing to embrace change.

Published in Telecom Vendors

Having abolished roaming charges in 50 destinations and introduced industry-leading care initiatives like TOBi the chatbot in April, Vodafone UK has made even more improvements that put customers’ needs at the heart of its service including new AI digital customer service initiatives.

The initiatives include 24/7 social media care on Facebook and Twitter; 24/7 ‘Message us’, a new support service that puts customers in control of how they contact Vodafone; and trialing of new voice authentication services, making it easier for customers to verify their identity, access their details quickly and receive an account update through Amazon’s personal assistant, Alexa.

Vodafone has been working with some of the world’s most sophisticated voice recognition technology companies to improve services for customers calling its 191 number for help. This includes testing a new capability that will free customers from having to remember passwords to access their account. By registering and repeating a pre-recorded phrase, customers can confirm their identity based on the unique sound of their voice. The operator is trialing it now and aims to complete its pilot study by the end of the summer.

The company also developed a fresh skill for Amazon’s Alexa that will enable customers to ask the digital assistant for information about their Vodafone account. Once the customer has followed a simple authentication process, they can ask Alexa for billing data, account details and information about extras. The operator expects to launch the ‘Ask Vodafone’ skill later this summer.

Vodafone UK is also expanding its service capabilities using its chatbot TOBi, to provide customers with instant answers to specific questions about their account as well as advice on the best deals. When Vodafone launched TOBi in April, it became the first UK mobile provider to deploy an artificial intelligence chatbot to speed up responses to customer queries.

Initially used to answer popular support questions in Web Chat, TOBi’s role has now been expanded to answer account-specific questions on subjects like roaming. TOBi can also offer advice on SIM only price plans. Already learning new skills, TOBi understands what a customer needs help with more than 90% of the time, and will be handling even more account transactions by year’s end.

The operator has also been working on enhancements for better mobile coverage. This includes using existing masts to enhance indoor 4G coverage across many areas of the UK.

“Our new service offerings illustrate our commitment to putting our customers at the very heart of everything we do,” said Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK CEO. “Whether it’s providing 24/7 customer care, developing innovative new digital services or outstanding indoor 4G coverage, we are determined to make our network and services easier to use, faster and more engaging for our customers than ever before.”

Vodafone’s current multi-billion-pound network modernization program has resulted in its most reliable network ever, with its call setup success rate at an all-time high, fewer dropped calls and the best indoor coverage the operator has recorded to date.

As part of Vodafone UK’s commitment to deliver outstanding network performance, the company is combining some of its existing spectrum bands to increase the availability and quality of 4G services across major UK locations. This includes both outdoor and, crucially, indoor locations, to give customers confidence that Vodafone’s network will be there when they need it.

Published in Telecom Operators

ZTE Corporation showcased Qcell Plus, its next-generation digital indoor mobile broadband solution, at the 11th global Small Cell World Summit in London on May 24. The upgraded Qcell Plus solution helps operators build evolving-towards-5G digital indoor infrastructure with a view to providing enhanced digital architectures, digital services and digital operation and maintenance, as to deliver a full indoor digital experience to users.

Supporting key Pre5G technologies such as 256 quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM), massive carrier aggregation (CA), distributed multiple-input multiple-output (D-MIMO), and LTE augmented access (LAA), the Qcell Plus solution can bring an nGbps experience to users. It adds to 300MB full broadband, which ZTE first implemented as an industry first to meet operators’ demands for sharing and co-building indoor infrastructure and to improve economic benefits.

The Qcell Plus solution can provide various digital services, such as indoor high-precision positioning, local distribution, local caching, big data, and the Internet of Things. With open APIs, this solution allows a variety of third-party applications and content to enter operators’ network channels in order to meet the diversified service needs of indoor users and to add value to the channel.

With all nodes visible, measurable and manageable, the digital operation and maintenance of the Qcell Plus solution, which includes various operation and maintenance scenarios, can implement in-depth indoor performance analysis and optimization to dramatically improve the precision level of fault location and operation and maintenance efficiency. The upgraded Qcell Plus solution has already become the new engine to accelerate the drive towards indoor services in the 4G era.

Published in Telecom Vendors

Ericsson says it will pursue a more focused business strategy to revitalize technology and market leadership, improve group profitability and enable customer success. The overall strategy is to enable service providers to expand their business across industries and into new profit pools.

The company says it will drive the development of market-leading solutions, fully leveraging the potential of 5G, IoT and cloud. Restoring profitability is key for Ericsson and it will start by focusing the portfolio to fewer areas and securing effectiveness and efficiency in operations.

Ericsson will increase emphasis on solutions across the company, combining products and services, to drive efficiency and better meet customer needs and requirements. This will also be reflected in a simplified organization. In parallel, Ericsson will also accelerate investments both in R&D and services capabilities in selected core areas to ensure that it can offer customers leading solutions.

"For some time Ericsson has been challenged on both technology and market leadership and the group strategy has not yielded expected returns,” said Börje Ekholm, Ericsson President and CEO. “In our strategy review we have listened carefully to customers around the world and made an in-depth analysis of our portfolio and performance. To enable us to immediately take action and move with speed in execution we are today outlining our path to restoring profitability and to lead with innovation and best in class solutions in areas we have decided to focus on."

Accelerate and increase investments in key areas in Networks to support a continued global rollout of 4G and establishing a leading position in 5G.  

Ericsson plans to target the Network Rollout business on its own networks portfolio. Ericsson’s ambition is to optimize the end-to-end offering to address customers' needs. The work to improve profitability in this area will be further sharpened.

For the newly created Digital Services Business Area, including cloud based virtualized network infrastructure and applications, management and monetization software (OSS/BSS) and related services capabilities, the near term focus is on re-establishing profitability for Ericsson. As this area is strategically important to customers going forward, Ericsson says it will also selectively increase its investments to enable the company to be the partner of choice for customers on their journey to become digital service providers.

Ericsson plans to shift the IoT strategy from a systems-integration-led approach to a platform- and solutions-led strategy to better leverage its global scale and industry expertise. It will refocus Managed Services strategy with emphasis on automation, fully leveraging its global scale and OSS capabilities, to provide high-tech services and cost efficient operations. Ericsson will focus on turning business around from a negative result in 2016, addressing low- performing operations and contracts.

The company plans to explore strategic opportunities for the Media business while continuing to develop its media solutions, to enable the business to scale and succeed in the evolving media landscape. Ericsson’s media business consists of two parts, managed services and technology solutions. Ericsson will now create two separate units, Ericsson Broadcast & Media Services and Ericsson Media Solutions, to create a stronger operational focus.

Video traffic today constitutes over 50 percent of mobile data traffic globally, and is forecast to grow to 75 percent by 2022. Ericsson has built a strong and competitive portfolio and become a world leading supplier of TV & Media products and services.

As a consequence of its increased focus on software technology development within virtualized core networks and management and monetization software (OSS/BSS) Ericsson says it will explore strategic opportunities for the IT Cloud Infrastructure hardware business.

Ekholm continues: "With these changes I am confident that we will create the most intelligent and efficient networks, deliver the most competitive solutions and constantly innovate to enable our customers to succeed in a fully connected world."

In addition to the actions above, the company will continue its work to rationalize legacy portfolio and drive company-wide efficiency measures. Combined, these actions will establish a new and stronger earnings level for Ericsson.

Ekholm says: "While we will continue our work to take out cost at high pace with targets surpassing current ambitions, we will not guide on cost levels going forward as it is an isolated part of the profit and loss statement. With the actions announced today, and assuming stable market conditions, we foresee significant improvements already in 2018. And beyond that I am convinced that Ericsson, on a sustainable basis, can at least double the 2016 Group operating margin, excluding restructuring charges. But even more importantly, I think that we can deliver a return on capital employed that will create value for our shareholders."

Published in Telecom Vendors