The buzz from TC3

Author: Derek Kerton, Managing Partner of The Kerton Group and Chairman of The Telecom Council of Silicon Valley

TC3:Telecom Council Carrier Connections LogoThe 7th annual TC3: Telecom Council Carrier Connections Summit, Well, staff here at the Telecom Council are putting the final wraps on our big TC3 meeting earlier this month, and by all accounts it was a great success. Of course, here at the Council, we measure our success by yours – meaning we define a good meeting as one where many significant business transactions are initiated or moved forward. Your deals are our meals. But this short article is more about summarizing my take-aways about industry trends, which I picked up from the many presentations, discussions, and fireside chats. These discussions give us a pulse of where the Telco thinking is at the end of 2014, and what to expect for 2015.

SDN – No surprises here. The twin topics of NFV and SDN were the most discussed at TC3. Carriers and vendors alike are gearing up for additional investment in virtualization of network elements. And we are just starting to see the fruits of early NFV deployments, and it’s looking like security might be the tip of the spear as the first of the NFV services to emerge.

Security – The importance and investment in security caught me by surprise at TC3. It seems that the carriers and industry in general are responding to increased customer and IT concerns about privacy invasions and the related risks. Handset vendors are making encryption the default in their OSes, and carriers are seeking security enhancements in their networks, and looking to sell security layer services as a value-add to enterprise customers.

5G – There were lots of people looking forward to 5G, and discussing what it means to them. It’s free form, these days, because 5G is still not firmly defined. What we learned at TC3 is that 5G is not just about the modulation schemes or throughputs. 5G is about an intelligent network, a living network. 5G will dynamically bounce between all frequencies available, unlicensed included. It will bond different topologies and protocols, create meshes on the fly, ad hoc direct connections, and much more. The intelligence will be in the network to ensure that end clients get “best speeds” and “lowest cost” routing of their data in any situation, in real time. But the intelligence will also mean that the network is constantly re-organizing itself based on real-time user demands macro-trends. Virtualization and flexibility will be part of the fabric. It all sounds a ways off in the future to me, but I’ll look forward to its arrival.

Big Data – Big Data has been on the radar in past TC3s. But this year, it seems to have gone to another level. It’s no longer a question of storing and managing the data. It’s not even a question of Hadoop or real-time analytics. Now it’s a question of action. If Big Data has the information, and analytics can pull out patterns, carriers and vendors are focused on the “now what” question, and crafting a response to the extracted intelligence.

Machine Learning – With increasing repertoires of Big Data, it should come as no surprise that humans just don’t scale well as miners of that data. For analytics to truly pull out a wealth of useful patterns from massive databases, we need machines to do the work…but not just the heavy sifting…also the intelligence to decide what to search for. Machine learning was tied to personalization, smart home, smart cities, analytics and BSS/OSS.

Hybrid Cloud – The concept of cloud has evolved now, and it seems like Hybrid Cloud is the new focus. This means that enterprises won’t have to choose to in-house our SaaS the elements of their infrastructure, but rather can tap into the benefits of both. The lessons of Cloud seem to be that it’s cheap at first, but as a business scales, it becomes expensive and inflexible (with respect to customizations). So instead, Hybrid Cloud proposes to offer the flexibility to shift workloads from in-house to cloud and back again in real time, and thus leverage cloud for load smoothing, project initialization, redundancy, disaster recovery, and anywhere access, but not to be locked in.

Internet of Things – The TC3 meeting affirmed the industry energy around IoT, and in particular the forward look at how a 5G future looks with Billions of connected devices. Connecting these devices, handling the signalling, and using the right radio protocols for each device will require tremendous flexibility to meet the varied constraints of: throughput, power, battery life, size, heat, environmental tolerances, range, duty cycle, risk tolerance, MTBF, and cost. Seems pretty clear that one size does not fit all.

One thing I did NOT hear about this year, but heard about as job 1 in prior years, was the Data Tsunami (DT). It was interesting to see how it is no longer the hot topic. What happened? In short, people did their jobs. When the DT was first spotted as a crisis, both in Cisco’s VNI, or in AT&T’s cellular network after the iPhone, the industry reacted. Spectrum was bought, networks deployed, bands re-farmed, HSPA+ and LTE launched. When that wasn’t enough, economic incentives were forced in the form of usage caps and tiers. When that wasn’t enough, Wi-Fi offload solutions were built, honed, and improved. Lastly, heterogeneous networks, greater cell density, new topologies were deployed. Each step added a meter to the height of the levees in front of the tsunami. The good news is that for now, the floods have been averted. But don’t get too comfortable…there are more waves coming.

Anyway, I had a great two days, and was delighted to be your host, and equally grateful to be able to meet and have conversations with many of you. We will return to the Computer History Museum again next year Sept 30 – Oct 1, 2015, and I hope to learn from you all again.

-Derek

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