MEETING DEBRIEF: TM Forum Live! 2015
Author: Terry Young, for Telecom Council
- How much support will Facebook’s internet.org gain from service providers?
- What does it mean for service providers to be “fully digital”?
- How can service providers address the implementation challenges of virtualization and move beyond just concepts?
These are some of the questions addressed at TM Forum Live, held in Nice beginning June 1, where approximately 3000 global carrier and vendor attendees spent four days considering key note addresses by industry leaders, and discussin
g ways to improve monetization of carrier services, compete against OTT players, and accelerate transformation of legacy circuit switch networks and systems to a fully digital world. At the June 10 Telecom Council Debrief, Derek Kerton provided an overview of the organization, its mission and the event itself to Telecom Council members, and moderated the interactive discussion about the TM Forum Live! topics.
The TM Forum (Transformation Management Forum) is a quasi-standards organization, a non-profit group of service providers and their equipment and tech suppliers. whose mission is to provide members a “blueprint” for digital transformation through programs including Frameworx (a suite of best practices and standards for effective, efficient business operations), Catalyst (a series of hands-on, collaborative projects) and other initiatives. The TM Forum Live event itself a series of speakers, summits and workshops on a variety of topics considered to be critical to the successful transformation of service providers to digital environments. The event is small compared to mobile industry events such as MWC and CTIA and does not feature industry news such as new product announcements, but it does provide a more intimate networking opportunity for those interested in discussing and sharing ideas on the topics or the more focused “summits” incorporated into the overall event.
More details on the Telecom Council debrief discussion and a summary of the event activities can be found in the debrief deck, in the TC member library. Here are a few highlights from the presentation:
- Speaker Presentations:
- Facebook: Having recently joined TM Forum, Markku Makelainen, responsible for Global Operator Partnerships at Facebook tried to convince carriers to support internet.org, an initiative to provide a small sample of WWW content, free of charge, to phone users in the developing world. Content includes Facebook, Wikipedia, Google, and up to 100 others. When this program was previously presented at Mobile World Congress, service providers have responded somewhat negatively – the program calls for service providers to provide “free” basic access in those countries with no compensation from the content partners or the subscriber. But Facebook continues to promote the program and it seems that at least some service providers are starting to consider it. It is live in multiple countries, for example India with Reliance.
- BT: Talked about how network operators want NFV to bring in new ways of doing business, not just a digitized version of the old models. NFV needs to be interoperable and Speaker Chris Bilton described how BT is awarding RFPs to smaller vendors, which are proving more innovative, and actively avoiding vendors that try to “lock in” their business with proprietary elements. BT is implementing NFV while taking on their own systems integrator role.
- BT’s speech was augmented by Telecom Italia, which made comments warning the vendor community that NFV needed to be standards-based and interoperable. The carriers were not interested in swapping out one group of siloed solutions for another.
- TM Forum Live revolved around six “summits” or topics, including the following:
- Business Innovation / Transformation: There are thousands of legacy elements and systems that must continue to operate smoothly as networks evolve to virtualized environments. There are enormous implementation challenges that must be resolved and effective orchestration solutions are essential to enabling this transition.
- Customer Centricity and Analytics: Operators have mass volumes of data available to them, and many vendors at TM Forum Live! focused on solutions that provided useful visualization of that data so that it is clearer to humans. Kerton and members questioned this– does it need to make sense to humans? Why not just have the analytics engine bypass the visualization, bypass the human, and just fix the problem? The debate concluded that the human comprehension step was essential – at least for now, until machine learning and AI are a match for human insight.
- Managing NFV: NFV is creating significant shifts in how service providers operate. The big Service providers are now more likely to become their own systems integrators with increased competition from OTT pushing them to collaborate with each other, standards organizations, and a larger development community.
The debrief also brought up the overall importance of Orchestration in the deployment of NFV. As the industry works well beyond the powerpoint stage, the implementation issues are the ones that emerge. VNFs are easy enough to deploy, but as they grow in number, there are questions emerging about Orchestration across: VNFs, VNFs in different locations, VNFs from different vendors, VNFs with legacy systems. Are these VNFs orchestrated centrally or in a distributed system? Are the VNFs stateful, or stateless? Is system state centralized or distributed? Vendors are responding, and providing solutions, but it’s still early.
As noted by one Telecom Council member who attended the event in Nice, in spite of its focus on transformation, the TM Forum does continue to define the industry through the lens of its existing (i.e. legacy) structure. Does this encourage change or actually solidify the traditional thinking?
What do you think?
Make your voice heard at the next Telecom Council discussion.