Speaking Engagements & Private Workshops - Get Dean Bubley to present or chair your event

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To discuss Dean Bubley's appearance at a specific event, contact information AT disruptive-analysis DOT com

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

New: Workshops on Enterprise Cellular & AI/Blockchain in Telecoms, May 30-31

NOTE: I am away travelling & "off-grid" without email or phone April 24 - May 2. I will respond to any inquiries about workshop places on my return, or else contact: caroline AT rethinkresearch DOT biz

I'm delighted to announce a new collaboration:

Rethink Research & Disruptive Analysis announce joint workshops on Enterprise Cellular Networks, and AI/Blockchain in Telecoms

At the end of May, two of the leading independent thinkers in telecoms research will jointly be running small-group interactive workshops in London, addressing two of the hottest topics in telecoms technology and business models:

  • 30th May: Private Cellular Networks for Enterprise, IoT and Vertical Markets
  • 31st May: Use-cases and Evolution Paths for AI, Machine Learning and Blockchain Technologies in the Telecoms Sector
Each day will have a maximum of 30 attendees to ensure a high level of discussion and interaction. We expect a diverse mix of service providers, vendors, regulators and other interested parties such as enterprises, investors and developers. 

The sessions will combine presentations, networking opportunities, and small-group interactive discussion. Rethink Research’s Caroline Gabriel, and Disruptive Analysis’ Dean Bubley, will be the leaders and facilitators. Both are well-known industry figures, with many years of broad communications industry analysis – and outspoken views – between them.

The two events will run as separate standalone sessions, but there will be common themes and approach across both, to benefit organisations with an interest in both topics.


Enterprise Cellular Networks, May 30th


The first day will cover the rising need for businesses of many kinds to control their own, well-managed, wireless connectivity solutions. The growing use of mobile devices and the emergence of the Industrial IoT means that high-quality – often mission-critical – networks are required for new systems and applications.  

These can span both on-premise coverage (eg in a factory, office or hospital) and the wide-area (eg for smart cities or future rail networks). It is unclear that traditional mobile operators can or will be able to satisfy all the requirements for enterprise coverage – or assume legal liability for failures. Some enterprises will want to have full control for reasons of security, or industry-specific needs.

Among the topics to be discussed are:

  • Key market drivers: IoT, automation, mobile workers, industry-specific operational and regulatory issues, diffusion of wireless expertise outside of traditional telecoms providers
  • Evolution of key enabling technologies such as 5G, network-slicing, SDN, small cells and enterprise-grade IMS cores
  • Regulatory/policy issues: spectrum allocation, competition, roaming, repeaters, national infrastructure strategies and broader “Industry 4.0” economic goals
  • The shifting roles of MVNOs, MVNEs, neutral hosts and future “slice operators”
  • Spectrum-sharing approaches, including unlicensed, light-licensing and CBRS-type models. Also: can WiFi run in licensed bands?
  • Numbering and identity: eSIM, multi-IMSI, liberalised MNC codes
  • Commercial impacts, new business model opportunities & threats to incumbents
  • Vendor dynamics: Existing network equipment vendors, enterprise solution providers, vertical wireless players, managed services companies, new industrial & Internet players (eg GE, Google), implications for BSS/OSS, impact of open-source
(I've covered various of these themes in previous posts and presentations. If you want more detail about some of my thinking, see links here and here. I'll include links to Caroline's thoughts on this in subsequent posts. We will be going into a lot more depth in the workshop itself).


AI & Blockchain in Telecoms, May 31st


The second day will consider the specific impact on the telecoms sector of two of the hottest new “buzzword” technologies in software: Artificial Intelligence (and its siblings like machine-learning) and Blockchain / Distributed Ledgers. Both have already received more than their fair share of hype: but what are the realistic use-cases and timelines for adoption? What problems do they solve, and what new opportunities do they create? Are they just re-branding exercises for “big data” and “distributed databases” respectively, when applied to telcos?

(I've been covering these areas as part of my "TelcoFuturism" research, including presenting on Blockchain at a recent TMForum event (link) and at Nexterday North last November, plus thinking about various AI intersections with telecom trends such as 5G (link). Caroline has done a large amount of work on AI / Machine Learning).


This day will benefit attendees from the telecoms industry looking at new developments; as well as  those from the AI/blockchain mainstream interested in specific applications in the telco sector. It will include some basic “101” introductions so that delegates from both sides can be sure they’re speaking each others’ language & decode the jargon.

Among the topics to be discussed are:

  • Understanding and categorising the types of AI (machine/deep learning, image recognition, natural language etc)
  • Introduction to blockchain concepts and the complexities of “trust”
  • Review of telecoms industry structure, key trends and important components of network/IT systems
  • Where will AI have the largest impacts for telcos? Improving customer insight & experience? Improved network operations & planning? New end-user facing services such as chatbots or contextually-aware communications? B2B, B2C, or B2B2C platforms?
  • Mapping the possible use-cases for blockchains in telecoms, and current trials / status of projects – from micro-transactions, to roaming settlement & fraud prevention, data-integrity protection, or smart contracts for NFV systems
  • Impact of 5G & IoT for both AI and BC
  • Risks and challenges: regulatory, privacy, new competitors?
  • Vendor and supplier ecosystems and dynamics: new entrants vs. adoption by established providers

Reserve your place today


Both workshops will take place at the Westbury Hotel in Mayfair, central London [link]. They will run from 9am-5pm, with plenty of time for networking and interactive discussion. Come prepared to think and talk, as well as listen – these are “lean-forward” days. Coffee and lunch are included.

Fees for attending one day: £795 / US$995 / €930 + UK VAT of 20%
Fees for attending both days: £1395 / US$1750 / €1650 + UK VAT of 20%

There is an early-bird discount of 10% available for confirmed bookings prior to May 2nd.

Payment can be made either credit card or Paypal, or by invoice / bank transfer: please email me at information AT disruptive-analysis DOT com, for payment-request by email or with purchase-order details. Please also contact me for any more information.

NOTE: I am away travelling & "off-grid" without email or phone April 24 - May 2. I will respond to any inquiries about workshop places on my return, or else contact: caroline AT rethinkresearch DOT biz

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sources of value in voice: Asking the right questions

In the last few weeks I've been doing a lot of work on voice communications (and messaging / video / context):

  • I attended Enterprise Connect in Orlando discussing collaboration, UCaaS, cPaaS, WebRTC and related themes
  • I spoke at a private workshop, for a Tier-1 operator group's communications-service internal experts team
  • I've helped a client advise a strategy around the new European eCall in-vehicle emergency-call standard
  • I've been writing a report on VoLTE adoption and impact, for my Future of the Network research stream published by STL Partners / Telco 2.0 (Subscribe! Link here)
A common, over-arching, theme is starting to form for me. The future sources of value in voice are all about SPs / vendors asking the right questions when they design new services and solutions.

Historically, most value in voice communications has come from telephony (Sidenote: voice is 1000 applications/functions. Phone calls are merely one of these). And in particular, the revenue has stemmed from answering the following:

  • Who is calling?
  • Where are they?
  • Who is being called?
  • Where are they?
  • How long did they speak for?
  • Plus (sometimes):
    • When did they call?
    • What networks were they on?
    • Was the call high-quality? (drops, glitches etc)
    • Is it an emergency?
This pretty much covers most permutations for ordinary phone calls: on-net/off-net, roaming, international and long-distance, fixed-to-mobile and so forth. 

Clearly, the answers to these questions are worth a lot of money: many billions of dollars. But equally clearly, they don't seem to be enough to protect the industry from competition and substitution from other voice-comms providers, or alternative ways of conducting conversations and transactions. As a result, voice telephony services are (mostly) being bundled as flat-rate offers into data-led bundles for consumers, or perhaps per-month/per-seat fees for unified comms (or SIP trunks) for business. 

In other words, current voice revenues are being delivered based on answering fewer questions than in the past. Unsurprisingly, this is not helping to defend the voice business.

The current "mainstream" telecoms industry seems to be focused only on adding a few more questions to the voice roster:

  • Is it VoIP / VoLTE / VoWiFi? (Answer = sometimes, but "so what" for the customer?)
  • Can we use it to drag through RCS? (Answer = No)
  • How can we reduce the costs of implementation? (Answer = maybe NFV/cloud)
  • Are there special versions for emergencies? (Answer = yes, eg MCPTT and eCall)
  • Is there a role for CSPs in business UCaaS? (Answer = yes, but it's hard to differentiate against Microsoft, Cisco, RingCentral, Vonage and 100 others)
  • What do we do about Amazon Echo? (Answer = "Errrrmmmm... chatbots?")
Given the huge expense and complexity involved in implementing IMS for VoLTE, many mobile operators have very little "bandwidth" left to think about genuine voice innovation, especially given wider emphasis on NFV. What limited resources are left may get squandered on RCS or "video-calling". 

Fixed and cable operators are in a slightly better position - they have long had hybrid business models partnering with PBX/UC vendors for businesses and can monetise various solutions, especially where they bundle with enterprise connectivity. For fixed home telephony, most operators have long viewed basic calls as a commodity, and are either protected by regulators via line-rental and emergency-call requirements, or can outsource provision to third parties.

In my view, there are many other questions that can be asked and answered - and that is where the value lies for the future of voice communications. None are easy to achieve, but then they wouldn't be valuable if they were:
  • Why is the call occurring? (To buy something, ask a question, catch up with a friend, arrange a meeting or 100 other underlying purposes)
  • Where is the call being made and received (physically)? For instance indoors, in a noisy bar, on a beach with crashing waves, in a car, in a location with eavesdroppers?
  • Is the communication embedded in an app, website or business process? 
  • Is the call part of an ongoing (multi-occasion) conversation or relationship?
  • Is a "call" the right format, with interruptive ringing and no pre-announcement? Is a push-to-talk, one-way, "whisper mode", broadcast, team or other form more appropriate?
  • Are both/all parties human, or is a machine involved as well?
  • What device(s) are being used? (eg headset, car, wearable, TV, Echo, whiteboard?)
  • Who gets to record the call, and own/delete/transcribe the recording?
  • Are the call records secure, and can they be tampered with?
  • What's the most effective style of the call? (Business-like, genial, brusque, get-to-the-point-quickly etc)
  • What languages and accents are being spoken? Can these be adjusted for better understanding? What about background noise - is that helpful or hindering?
  • Can the call add/drop other parties? Are these pre-arranged, or can they be suggested by the system in context?
  • Are the participants displaying emotion? (Happiness, anger, eagerness, impatience, boredom etc) . How can this be measured, and if necessary, managed?
  • Is there a role for ultrasound and/or data-over-sound signalling before or during the call?
  • How can the call be better scheduled / postponed / rescheduled?
  • Is a normal phone number the best "identifier"? What about a different number, or a social / enterprise / gaming / secure identity?
  • Are there multiple networks involved/available for connection, or just one? What happens when there are multiple choices of access or transit providers? What happens where the last 10m is over WiFi or Bluetooth beyond the SP's visibility?
  • Is encryption needed? Whose?
  • What solutions are needed to meet the needs of specific vertical-markets or other user groups? (Banking, healthcare, hospitality, gaming etc)
  • What are the desired/undesired psychological effects of the communications event? How can the user interface and experience by improved?
  • Did the call meet the underlying objectives of all parties? How could a similar call be improved the next time?
  • How do we track, monetise and bill any of this?
In my view it is these - and many other - questions that determines the real value of voice communications. Codec choice and network QoS are certainly useful, as is (sometimes) interoperability. Network coverage is clearly paramount for mobile communications. But these should not be put on a pedestal, above all the other ways in which value can be derived from something seemingly simple - people speaking to each other.

I'm seeing various answers to some of these questions - for example, contact-centre solutions seem to be most advanced on some of the emotional analysis, language-detection and other aspects. There are some interesting human-driven psychology considerations being built into new codec designs like EVS (eg uncomfortable silences between words). MVNOs and cPaaS players are doing cool things to "program" telephony for different applications and devices. The notion of "hypervoice" was a good start, but hasn't had the traction it deserved (link). Machine-learning is being applied to help answer some of these questions - most obviously with Alexa/Siri/Assistant voice products, but also behind the scenes in some UC and contact-centre applications.

But we still lack any consistent recognition that voice is "more than calls". 99% of effort still seems to go on "person A calls person B for X minutes". Very little is being done around intention and purpose - ask a CSP "Why do people make phone calls?" and most can't give a list of the top-10 uses for a "minute". Most people still use "voice" and "telephony" synonymously - a sure-fire indicator they don't understand the depth of possibility here. And we still get hung up on replacing voice with video (they have a Venn overlap, but most uses are still voice-centric or video-centric).

Until both the telco and traditional enterprise solutions marketplaces expand their views of voice (and entrench that vision among employees, vendors and partners), we should continue to expect Internet- and IoT-based innovators to accelerate past the humble, 140yr-old phone call. Start asking the right questions, and look for ways to provide answers.