Bloomberg are hosting an exclusive briefing on the changing shape of the mobile industry

bloombergEvent: Exculsive briefing on the changing shape of the mobile industry,  by invitation.

Date: Thursday 15th October, 8am

What: Professor Simon Saunders, director of technology will be discussing:

  • The future of the ever-changing and often unpredictable mobile industry
  • The impact of mergers between global telcos and competition
  • The role of 5G
  • The future shape of communications infrastructure

Wireless technology and commercial property: why should property developers care?

CommIn 2015, mobile users — including both you and I — expect to be able to use our mobile devices and laptops wherever we are.

More than this though, we expect to receive the same level of service, functionality and, increasingly, data speeds, regardless of the environment we are in.

This has big implications for property developers and others that provide commercial property. While most people have been aware of how important mobile connectivity has been within their buildings for business tenants, in the past this has typically been basic voice and SMS access.

In the past developers and building owners typically found that there is adequate coverage and service for these technologies inside their buildings with minimal additional effort; the external mobile network could penetrate their building and serve their tenants to a sufficient level.

However, as mobile data connectivity (and the expectations of users of these services to receive good data speeds) has spread, the need for dedicated infrastructure inside a building to meet these needs has also grown.

It’s also no longer sufficient to rely upon Wi-Fi alone to provide data connectivity, with residents expecting 3G and 4G devices to work inside a building as well as they do outside.

Mobile operators, meanwhile, are becoming increasingly reticent to fund the rollout of this infrastructure for all but the very largest of their corporate customers.

It is therefore increasingly expected that the building owner themselves will invest in the infrastructure required to provide mobile services to people inside the building.

We’ve therefore created a guide that helps outline the wireless need — and business case for installation — that modern commercial property developers face. It outlines how wireless can improve current business models and practices, helping to both attract and retain tenants through enhanced connectivity.

After all, it would seem completely illogical to construct a commercial building that did not include a water or electricity supply, as no business would become a tenant. As mobile adoption amongst consumers and businesses becomes so universal, it’s time wireless connectivity was treated the same.

The guide ‘Wireless technology and commercial property’ is available free of charge.

Are UK mobile phone users paying too little?

17470913285_bbda8cf99a_kDuring the launch of its new iD MVNO service, Dixons Carphone suggested that UK customers overall overpay on their mobile bills by more than £5bn each year. If you look at Ofcom’s figures, which state that the UK has around than 83.1m mobile subscriptions, then you can assume that this £5bn figure equates to an additional £60 per year for each person who owns a phone.

While that news will undoubtedly raise the collective eyebrows of mobile phone users, we would argument that if users paid more, the mobile industry would be able to offer substantially more benefits in return.

Users will undoubtedly object to paying more for what they already consider to be pricy smartphone contracts. But when considering the fact that UK mobile operators receive four times less average revenue per user than Japan, two and half times less than the US and one and a third less than the rest of Western Europe, maybe UK users are still paying less than they really should?

The lower average revenue per person generated by UK consumers translates almost directly into a lower spend on networks by mobile operators in the UK compared with other countries. A 2013 report in to Europe’s telecoms infrastructure found a 34% difference in investment per head between Europe (£111,000) and the US (£167,000). What’s more, the report found that European investment is declining at a rate of 4% per annum. The lower spend shouldn’t be surprising — the money to invest has to come from somewhere, after all.

Without the money to invest, operators cannot roll out their networks to deliver the coverage and capacity we need. Since poor coverage costs UK businesses over £30m a week as employees waste time hunting for mobile phone reception, the need to eradicate black spots has never been more pressing.

Without the money to invest, mobile operators are cutting costs by sharing networks, resulting in little differentiation between competing operators — something that could reduce competition out of the market in the long term. We used to have unrivalled levels of competition with five operators, but that number is soon likely to reduce to three.

The challenge for mobile operators is to persuade customers to use their voice and data services more to generate additional revenue for investment. The benefit to users of mobile is around 8–10 times that to the operators — a great investment in anyone’s money.

MNOs need a change of culture rather than technology

3235380837_933c1c96dc_bOf the many issues that operators are currently seeking to address, one of the main ones they face is resolving problems relating to capacity — but some might argue the solution to this already exists, hiding in plain sight.

Offloading some of the mobile traffic to Wi-Fi networks has been a key strategy of some mobile operators in recent years. Wi-Fi accounted for an enormous 75%–90% of all mobile data consumed in leading LTE markets. The reasons for this are threefold. First, it’s frequently made available free at the point of use for users; secondly, support for the technology is included as standard in almost every mobile device on the market today; and thirdly the operators do not have to pay for the unlicensed spectrum used by Wi-Fi.

Although some operators deploy their own dedicated Wi-Fi networks, they are still not comfortable with sending voice over Wi-Fi. Carrier-grade Wi-Fi has been something the industry has discussed at great length, but as of yet has failed to turn into a reality on a large scale. This is because the best-effort Wi-Fi networks are not controlled from the carrier’s core network and the Wi-Fi access points (APs) often do not support any form of traffic management or prioritisation. As a result, the operators are unable to monitor or address performance issues such as congestion, as it would in the wireless or wireline access network. This means the provider cannot guarantee QoS (quality of service) and control things such as speed, latency, connectivity and prioritisation.

Despite what operators might believe about mobile users, they’re in fact quite used to the fact that when something is free it’s often not as good as the paid alternative. This is the same with Wi-Fi and mobile networks, and they need to adjust their thinking to suit this.

For example, I am a heavy Skype user and, especially when I travel to Africa, I always make sure I find a hotel that offers Wi-Fi. Sometimes there is a severe delay, and I have to live with frequent call drops — but this is a free service, I’m hardly going to complain about it.

Millions of other Skype users may also experience the same issues when using the service on free Wi-Fi networks, but again also accept that they get what they pay for and love the experience all the same.

Perhaps operators need to therefore acknowledge and accept this fact: users are happy to accept a lower QoS when using free Wi-Fi.

Now, I’m not advocating operators suddenly shift their entire business model to focus on freely available Wi-Fi networks. The industry knows all too well that when you augment a technology to do something it was not designed to do, it can become incredibly inefficient in the long term. This is why LTE networks were designed from the ground up to be fit for purpose.

Instead, operators could educate their users regarding the implications of using VoWi-Fi. Choice is crucial — let the user choose between quality, price and convenience. They will be much happier with the outcome and this gives operators more room to focus on improving the QoS of their own networks, as well as tackling capacity issues.

Operators could think outside of the box and take hold of this opportunity, rather than continuing to struggle until new technology appears to fix their issues. Otherwise they risk losing out to a new breed of MVNO, like Google.

Users are (somewhat) intelligent and, although their expectations are rising, they are already familiar with the limitations of technology like free Wi-Fi.

Nobody would use Skype in their hotel room if this wasn’t the case.

Real Wireless joins prestigious consortium to assess the socioeconomic benefits of 5G Network Architectures

Today we’re excited to announce that Real Wireless is part of the ‘5G NORMA’ (Novel Radio Multi service adaptive network Architecture) project, joining a consortium of leading companies and academic groups as part of the 5GPP initiative to help define 5G and its potential benefits.

The overall aim of the 30-month project is to propose an end-to-end architecture taking into account both the radio access network (RAN) and core networks. As independent wireless experts with experience in delivering 3G and 4G networks and the economics, regulation and standards behind them, Real Wireless has a lot to offer.

The project partners, spread across six countries, include leading mobile operators (Orange, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica), network vendors and IT companies (Nokia Networks, Alcatel-Lucent, ATOS), SMEs (Nomor Research, Azcom Technology) and Universities (King’s College London, , Technische Universität Kaiserslautern, Univerdidad Carlos III de Madrid)

Our role in this project is to look at the socioeconomic benefits that 5G could bring and what some of the market drivers might be. We’ve seen a lot of talk already on what technologies might be a part of 5G, but the business case is crucial and needs to be carefully considered.

This is the area where we specialise — bridging the gap between the technical and the commercial.

As such we’ll be looking at a wide range of industries that could benefit from 5G, including transportation, energy and public safety. For each of these, Real Wireless will assess the potential use cases for 5G services and the challenges in delivering them, both with current 4G networks as well as predicting future demand.

There’s a lot still to iron out for 5G, but as more and more industries rely on wireless and as consumer demands increase, clearly something needs to happen. The work of the 5G NORMA group will be key in defining the technical specifications and the all-important business case that will be essential in generating investment for 5G development.

The 5G NORMA project starts now and will continue for the next 30 months. For more information on the project, see the formal press announcement or contact us here.