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Archive for December, 2011

Become your own mobile broadband operator

December 23, 2011 3 comments

What if you had a gigabit Internet connection at home and you could connect a simple device to it and start to offer mobile broadband services without paying for the spectrum?

Four disruptive technologies and the support from a large disruptive player like Apple, Amazon or Google could make it possible in 2013. You could make money from instead of paying money for your fiber to the home connection.

Disruption 1: white spaces
FCC, the US telecom watchdog, is opening the US spectrum to unlicensed communications. The term is called white spaces. It basically means that unused spectrum can be used as long as you consult the FCC database and use an FCC approved device.

Disruption 2: Vanu
Vanu Bose is the son of the famous sound systems Bose. Vanu’s venture is about software-defined radio. It basically disconnects your mobile phone from the underlying radio technology.

Disruption 3: Openflow
I discussed Openflow before. It is one of the major standards for software defined networks.

Disruption 4: Cloud Computing
No further introduction necessary.

Bringing it all together
A white spaces compatible “mini base station” at your home that connects to the FCC database to get some local spectrum. Via the cloud and Openflow your nano operator network is linked to hundreds of other networks. A disruptive player offers Vanu enabled phones, e.g. iPhone 6 or Android Nexus Vanu as well as a monthly broadband subscription, e.g. €10 for 100gb. You download a database of “mini base stations”, their location and spectrum onto your phone. You are ready to go. Each time a phone connects to a “mini base station” a virtual network slice is setup (flowvisor / Openflow) and the owner receives money per Mb (nano payments). At the end of the month your Fiber to the Home subscription is paid for or you are even able to make money if you have enough traffic…

Telecom predictions for 2012

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment
Let me try to make predictions for 2012. Some will be negative, others will be positive for the industry.

Positive predictions:

  1. European television will become Cloud-based. Netflix, Apple, Google, etc. will launch all-you-can-eat video on-demand in Europe and change the current industry.
  2. M2M will become successful in the consumer & SME space but with moderate successes in the Corporate space. Some disruptive players will become market leaders. Due to lack of standards corporate adoption will have to wait till 2013.
  3. Telecom cloud solution providers will change the European telecom landscape. Twilio is a potential game changer.
Negative predictions:
  1. One or more major telecom operators will fail. With the crisis continuing some major telecom operator will get into trouble due to the high costs of LTE licenses and the abrupt drop in ARPU.
  2. Consolidation in the telecom provider domain. Either ALU or NSN will be losing its independence or Chinese players will merge.
  3. Nokia and RIM will lose their independence. Microsoft will absorb Nokia.

Let’s hope my negative predictions are wrong and a lot more positive things happen.

Disrupting the SDP market with Open Source Telco PaaS – An interview with the Restcomm team

December 20, 2011 1 comment

The service delivery platform market is going to see disruptive players in 2012. One of these offerings is Restcomm that offers an open source Telco PaaS solution that will get to version 1.0 in March 2012. I interviewed the director of Cloud Engineering of Telestax, Thomas Quintana, who is responsible for driving Restcomm within the Mobicents community.

What is RestComm?

RestComm is what I like to call a “Web Driven Communications Platform”. In order to understand what I mean it’s useful to have a basic understanding of how RestComm works. When RestComm receives a phone call for example, it calls out to some resource on the web to instruct it on how to handle a call. In turn the resource itself can turn over control of the call to other resources on the web. Hence my description of RestComm.

Who is the target user? 

In developed markets that is an interesting question because the target user has always been web developers but we have noticed that the RestComm instruction set maps nicely as a DSL (Domain Specific Language) on top of development platforms such as Java, Ruby, Python, etc. This in turn has made mobile applications developers and desktop applications developers target user communities as well.

In emerging markets the target users are operators who want to deploy a PaaS (Platform as a Service) and provide services to its customers and SME’s

What is the RestComm Vision?

The RestComm vision is to offer a 100% open source and service provider agnostic web driven communication platform to the open source community. Woah, that’s a mouth full 🙂

What is on the direct roadmap for RestComm?

There are a quite a few goals on the RestComm road map but I will list the ones I think are currently most important:

  • 100% Twilio API compatibility (Available as of ALPHA 2 which will debut in a few of weeks)
  • 100% Tropo API compatibility
  • Monitoring support
  • Web based management interface for easy management
  • Support for other communications networks such as Skype and Google Talk

Will RestComm also support non-REST APIs, e.g. Javascript?

Yes, as a matter of fact most if not all of the Twilio wrappers will work with RestComm with very little effort (possible as of ALPHA 2). Usually all it takes is just pointing the API at your RestComm server.

When will release 1.0 be available?

The RestComm FINAL release is scheduled to be available in March. 

What will be in release 1.0 that is currently not there yet?

We are doing a lot of work on RestComm based on community feedback from early adopters so it’s hard to tell everything that will make it in to the FINAL release but the following are things that will definitely be present.

  • A super set of the Twilio API to support functionality currently not covered by the Twilio API but requested by our development community (e.g. faxing, call leg and conference room recording, etc.).
  • JDBC and MongoDB support (plus it’s very easy to add additional back-ends)
  • Support for any SIP origination/termination provider
  • Support for more international SMS aggregators
  • High Availability support
  • and many more things stay tuned 😉

Below are two features that we would like to have available by the FINAL release but are still investigating.

  • RestComm application Fail-Over support
  • Very large self organizing conference rooms (1000+ participants)

How will RestComm scale? 

This question is a bit difficult to answer because RestComm’s ability to scale is limited only by the infrastructure that it runs on. In order to answer this question I would like us to assume that most of the RestComm deployments will be on private/public clouds with sufficient resources. Now that we have some context RestComm scales horizontally on two layers the RestComm interpreter itself and the media gateways. Each RestComm interpreter can drive tens to hundreds of media gateways providing scaling for media and by placing SIP load-balancers in front of the RestComm applications servers the interpreter itself can be scaled horizontally. We are currently investigation media gateway fail-over where if a RestComm interpreter becomes unavailable the other interpreters in the cluster will take over its media servers and continue executing the RestComm applications.

In order to provide a demonstration on how to accomplish large scale scaling the Mobicents team will publish a paper on how to deploy RestComm on the Amazon EC2 cloud with hundreds of instances once we reach our BETA release in February.

Will there be a GUI management interface?

Yes, we are planning on releasing a web based management interface but we are currently focusing on providing a stable release. 

Will there be a monitoring interface?

JMX and SNMP support are currently available for the Mobicents Sip Servlet Container which RestComm sits on and that is how we monitor RestComm for now. In the future RestComm will provide its own monitoring interfaces.

Will Telestax offer support/SLAs for RestComm?

TeleStax enables Telecommunication Service Providers and Enterprises to create scalable communication applications based on Open Source and Open Standards. Therefore, TeleStax will provide supported versions of the “RestComm Platform for Production” aka RCPP (like JBCP) to its end customers. The support subscription will be for developement as well as production support with flexible SLA’s to suit the requirement’s and demand’s of end customers. For further details contact TeleStax –http://telestax.com/contactus/ 

Clueless management by numbers is killing the telecom industry

December 16, 2011 1 comment

In the nineties it was paradise for those people who wanted to innovate. Unfortunately a lot of innovators forgot about revenues, cashflow, margins and profits. As happens too often in history, we went to the other extreme: clueless management by numbers. The type of management that thinks a strategy equals a growth target for next quarter. Innovation equals the next product release. M&A and financial engineering can make up for a louse product portfolio. Milking the cashcow can last forever.

The current crisis has many causes but one is definitely clueless management by numbers. For years IP telephony solutions have been around but no major operator has abandoned circuits. We ran out of IPv4 addresses recently and the world is full of sub-optimal NAT. The iPhone, Youtube, Netflix, etc. are killing networks but nobody tried seriously to come up with new revenue generators for operators.

It is five to twelve. Operators and telecom providers will need to join hands and come up with innovative products and solutions again. Management can no longer hide behind numbers because even with the best financial engineering the existing cashcows are at most two years away from dying. It is time to look for leaders that understand business and new technologies. The alternative is very clear. Telecom operators consolidate and seriously reduce headcount. Telecom providers get squeezed and either die or seriously reduce headcount.

Except for focusing on the core business, every operator and telecom provider should have an independent business unit that focuses on new revenue generating solutions. Otherwise can the last one to leave please switch off the light…

A Social M2M PaaS

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

I found an interesting alpha project called ParaImpu. It combines M2M / Internet of Things, a Cloud-based M2M Platform-as-a-Service / PaaS and a Social Network. The site is in private alpha stage but the concept of allowing people to easily set-up applications, connect multiple devices and share with friends, family and strangers is a strong concept. They call it the “Web of Things”.

Operators should pay attention to a new underground movement of hobbyists and small enterpreneurs that are using Do-it-Yourself kits to build new devices and applications. Although enterprise efforts are under way to offer end-to-end M2M solutions, the real M2M revolution is more likely to come from small startups like ParaImpu. A whole community of device builders, artists, software developers, etc. is forming around open source and Internet of Things solutions like Arduino, OpenPicus, mBed, ThingSpeak, Netduino, IOBridge, Pachube, Arrayent, etc.

Although most devices internally still use embedded C++ based software, more and more web technologies are being used to connect, monitor and manage devices. This is socializing the Internet of Things. The iPhone and its mobile apps took enterprises by surprise, the Web of Things might do the same…

M2M + Cloud = M2M PaaS

December 12, 2011 1 comment

Arrayent caught my eye the other day. They are a small startup that invented a very low cost way to connect sensors to a gateway and on to the cloud. Each device would need a $2 module extension in order for it to talk to the gateway. The gateway costs $5 and hooks up to an ethernet access point. The nice thing about the Arrayent solution is that the sensors are like mini webservers that can be controlled from the Cloud via simple REST APIs. Data can flow from the sensors to the Cloud as well. Via a mobile phone or tablet you are able to control remotely the sensors or understand the data that is provided by them. Developers can easily create applications.

Wireline operators should see this as an opportunity to offer M2M Cloud services without SIMs. Via a M2M PaaS, developers could create applications and sell them to consumers and businesses. Home automation could be a great example, however not the typical thousands of Euros example in which you need to rewire your house to get your blinds to go down automatically.

Instead who would say no to a bunch of low-cost flood, heat, gas, freeze, electricity, etc. sensors that automatically connect to your operator’s router and send information to the Cloud. The moment you have a water flooding, fire, gas leak, freezer that stopped working, power outage, etc. you get a call on your mobile via an automated IVR. With a two-year contract, your house is 24×7 protected for a small monthly fee without upfront investment.

Combining a SIM with the gateway would make it a viable solution for wireless operators that want to offer Cloud-based industrial sensor networks in remote locations…

Mobicents ‘ Restcomm is to Twilio what Eucalyptus is to Amazon

December 10, 2011 3 comments

In recent weeks I had the pleasure to talk to the team behind Mobicents. I have been pleasantly surprised by Restcomm. Restcomm is Twilio for the Private Cloud. Telco 2.0 SaaS for private cloud. Tropo APIs are also on the roadmap. Mobicents is starting a revolution by moving away from telecom standards and moving to the new Cloud telecom standards. Telecom engineers are no longer needed to make enticing value-added services. Any web developer can make telecom apps in minutes and integrate them with Web 2.0 and social networks.

Is Restcomm a threat for Twilio? Quite the contrary. Many larger companies did not want to move to Amazon because of fears of vendor lock-in. Eucalyptus brought a way for public cloud apps to move to a private cloud. Restcomm will allow companies to move their telco apps to the private cloud when they become a large hit. Developers could even start from a private cloud deployment and move apps to Twilio when spikes in demand happen, a.k.a. cloud bursting. In general Twilio is very likely going to get more customers instead of less by having a valid open source alternative.

Mobicents is also undergoing large changes. There has been a shift in direction at Red Hat and the Mobicents team started their own company called Telestax. The company is independent from Red Hat, however it will partner with Red Hat for telecom opportunities involving RHEL and JBoss products.

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