‘Under-The-Floor’ (UTF) Players: threat or opportunity?

Introduction

The ‘smart pipe’ imperative

In some quarters of the telecoms industry, the received wisdom is that the network itself is merely an undifferentiated “pipe”, providing commodity connectivity, especially for data services. The value, many assert, is in providing higher-tier services, content and applications, either to end-users, or as value-added B2B services to other parties. The Telco 2.0 view is subtly different. We maintain that:

  1. Increasingly valuable services will be provided by third-parties but that operators can provide a few end-user services themselves. They will, for example, continue to offer voice and messaging services for the foreseeable future.
  2. Operators still have an opportunity to offer enabling services to ‘upstream’ service providers such as personalisation and targeting (of marketing and services) via use of their customer data, payments, identity and authentication and customer care.
  3. Even if operators fail (or choose not to pursue) options 1 and 2 above, the network must be ‘smart’ and all operators will pursue at least a ‘smart network’ or ‘Happy Pipe’ strategy. This will enable operators to achieve three things.
  • To ensure that data is transported efficiently so that capital and operating costs are minimised and the Internet and other networks remain cheap methods of distribution.
  • To improve user experience by matching the performance of the network to the nature of the application or service being used – or indeed vice versa, adapting the application to the actual constraints of the network. ‘Best efforts’ is fine for asynchronous communication, such as email or text, but unacceptable for traditional voice telephony. A video call or streamed movie could exploit guaranteed bandwidth if possible / available, or else they could self-optimise to conditions of network congestion or poor coverage, if well-understood. Other services have different criteria – for example, real-time gaming demands ultra-low latency, while corporate applications may demand the most secure and reliable path through the network.
  • To charge appropriately for access to and/or use of the network. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Telco 1.0 business model – that of charging the end-user per minute or per Megabyte – is under pressure as new business models for the distribution of content and transportation of data are being developed. Operators will need to be capable of charging different players – end-users, service providers, third-parties (such as advertisers) – on a real-time basis for provision of broadband and maybe various types or tiers of quality of service (QoS). They may also need to offer SLAs (service level agreements), monitor and report actual “as-experienced” quality metrics or expose information about network congestion and availability.

Under the floor players threaten control (and smartness)

Either through deliberate actions such as outsourcing, or through external agency (Government, greenfield competition etc), we see the network-part of the telco universe suffering from a creeping loss of control and ownership. There is a steady move towards outsourced networks, as they are shared, or built around the concept of open-access and wholesale. While this would be fine if the telcos themselves remained in control of this trend (we see significant opportunities in wholesale and infrastructure services), in many cases the opposite is occurring. Telcos are losing control, and in our view losing influence over their core asset – the network. They are worrying so much about competing with so-called OTT providers that they are missing the threat from below.

At the point at which many operators, at least in Europe and North America, are seeing the services opportunity ebb away, and ever-greater dependency on new models of data connectivity provision, they are potentially cutting off (or being cut off from) one of their real differentiators.
Given the uncertainties around both fixed and mobile broadband business models, it is sensible for operators to retain as many business model options as possible. Operators are battling with significant commercial and technical questions such as:

  • Can upstream monetisation really work?
  • Will regulators permit priority services under Net Neutrality regulations?
  • What forms of network policy and traffic management are practical, realistic and responsive?

Answers to these and other questions remain opaque. However, it is clear that many of the potential future business models will require networks to be physically or logically re-engineered, as well as flexible back-office functions, like billing and OSS, to be closely integrated with the network.
Outsourcing networks to third-party vendors, particularly when such a network is shared with other operators is dangerous in these circumstances. Partners that today agree on the principles for network-sharing may have very different strategic views and goals in two years’ time, especially given the unknown use-cases for new technologies like LTE.

This report considers all these issues and gives guidance to operators who may not have considered all the various ways in which network control is being eroded, from Government-run networks through to outsourcing services from the larger equipment providers.

Figure 1 – Competition in the services layer means defending network capabilities is increasingly important for operators Under The Floor Players Fig 1 Defending Network Capabilities

Source: STL Partners

Industry structure is being reshaped

Over the last year, Telco 2.0 has updated its overall map of the telecom industry, to reflect ongoing dynamics seen in both fixed and mobile arenas. In our strategic research reports on Broadband Business Models, and the Roadmap for Telco 2.0 Operators, we have explored the emergence of various new “buckets” of opportunity, such as verticalised service offerings, two-sided opportunities and enhanced variants of traditional retail propositions.
In parallel to this, we’ve also looked again at some changes in the traditional wholesale and infrastructure layers of the telecoms industry. Historically, this has largely comprised basic capacity resale and some “behind the scenes” use of carriers-carrier services (roaming hubs, satellite / sub-oceanic transit etc).

Figure 2 – Telco 1.0 Wholesale & Infrastructure structure

Under The Floor (UTF) Players Fig 2 Telco 1.0 Scenario

Source: STL Partners

Content

  • Revising & extending the industry map
  • ‘Network Infrastructure Services’ or UTF?
  • UTF market drivers
  • Implications of the growing trend in ‘under-the-floor’ network service providers
  • Networks must be smart and controlling them is smart too
  • No such thing as a dumb network
  • Controlling the network will remain a key competitive advantage
  • UTF enablers: LTE, WiFi & carrier ethernet
  • UTF players could reduce network flexibility and control for operators
  • The dangers of ceding control to third-parties
  • No single answer for all operators but ‘outsourcer beware’
  • Network outsourcing & the changing face of major vendors
  • Why become an under-the-floor player?
  • Categorising under-the-floor services
  • Pure under-the-floor: the outsourced network
  • Under-the-floor ‘lite’: bilateral or multilateral network-sharing
  • Selective under-the-floor: Commercial open-access/wholesale networks
  • Mandated under-the-floor: Government networks
  • Summary categorisation of under-the-floor services
  • Next steps for operators
  • Build scale and a more sophisticated partnership approach
  • Final thoughts
  • Index

 

  • Figure 1 – Competition in the services layer means defending network capabilities is increasingly important for operators
  • Figure 2 – Telco 1.0 Wholesale & Infrastructure structure
  • Figure 3 – The battle over infrastructure services is intensifying
  • Figure 4 – Examples of network-sharing arrangements
  • Figure 5 – Examples of Government-run/influenced networks
  • Figure 6 – Four under-the-floor service categories
  • Figure 7: The need for operator collaboration & co-opetition strategies

Cloud 2.0: don’t blow it, telcos

Summary: enterprise cloud computing services need great connectivity to work, but there are opportunities for telcos to participate beyond the connectivity. What are the opportunities, how are telcos approaching them, and what are the key strategies? Includes forecasts for telcos’ shares of VPC, IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. (September 2011, Executive Briefing Service, Cloud & Enterprise ICT Stream) Apps & Telco APIs Figure 1 Drivers of the App Market Telco 2.0 Sept 2011
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Below is an extract from this 28 page Telco 2.0 Report that can be downloaded in full in PDF format by members of the Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing service and the Cloud and Enterprise ICT Stream here. Non-members can subscribe here, buy a Single User license for this report online here for £795 (+VAT), or for multi-user licenses or other enquiries, please email contact@telco2.net / call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.

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Introduction

In our previous analyses Cloud 2.0: What are the Telco Opportunities? and Cloud 2.0: Telcos to grow Revenues 900% by 2014 we’ve looked broadly at the growing cloud market opportunity for telcos. This new report takes this analysis forward, looking in detail at the service definitions, market forecasts and the industry’s confidence in them, and actual and potential strategies for telcos.

We’ll also be looking in depth at the opportunities in cloud services in the Cloud 2.0: Transforming technology, media and telecoms at the EMEA Executive Brainstorm in London on Thursday 10th November 2011.

The Cloud Market

Cloud computing represents the next wave of IT. Almost all organisations are saying that they will adopt cloud computing to a greater or lesser extent, across all segments and sizes. Consequently, we believe that there exists a large opportunity for telcos if they move quickly enough to take advantage of it.

Total market cloud forecasts – variation and uncertainty

In order to understand where the best opportunities are and how telcos can best take use their particular strengths to advantage of them, we need to examine the size of that opportunity and to understand which areas of cloud computing are most likely to offer the best returns.

Predictions for the size and growth of the cloud computing market are very diverse:

  • Merrill Lynch has previously offered the most optimistic estimate: $160 billion by the end of 2011 (The Cloud Wars: $100+ billion at stake, May 2008)
  • Gartner predicted expenditure of $150.1 billion by 2013 (Gartner forecast, March 2009)
  • IDC predicts annual cloud services revenues of $55.5 billion in by 2014 (IDC report, June 2010)
  • Cisco has estimated the cloud market at $43 billion by 2013 (STL Partners video, October 2010)
  • Bain expects spending to grow �?vefold from $30 billion in 2011 to $150 billion by 2020 (The Five Faces of the Cloud, 2011)
  • IBM’s Market Insights Cloud Phase 2 assessment of September 2011 sizes the cloud market at $88.5bn by 2015
  • Of that total, research by AMI Partners suggests that SMBs’ share of that spend will approach $100 billion by 2014 – over 60 % of the total (World Wide Cloud Services Study, December 2010)

Figure 1 – Cloud services market forecast comparisons

Cloud 2.0 Industry Forecast Comparisons Bain, Gartner, IDC, Cisco Sept 2011 Telco 2.0

Source: Bain, Cap Gemini, Cisco, Gartner, IBM, IDC, Merrill Lynch

Whichever way you look at it, the volume of spending on cloud computing is high and growing. But why are there such large variations in the estimates of that growth?

There is a clear correlation between the report dates and the market forecast sizes. Two of the forecasts – from Merrill Lynch and Gartner – are well over two years old, and are likely to have drawn conclusions from data gathered before the 2008 recession started to bite. Both are almost certainly over-optimistic as a result, and are included as an indication of the historic uncertainty in Cloud forecasts rather than criticism of the forecasters.

More generally, while each forecaster will be using different assumptions and extrapolation techniques, the variation is also likely to reflect a lack of maturity of the cloud services market: there exists little historical data from which to extrapolate the future, and little experience of what kinds of growth rates the market will experience. For example, well-known inhibitors to the adoption of cloud, such security and control, have yet to be resolved by cloud service providers to the point where enterprise customers are willing to commit a substantial volume of their IT spending.

Additionally, the larger the organisation, the slower the adoption of cloud computing is likely to be; it takes a long time for large enterprises to move to a new computing model that involves changing fundamental IT architectures and will be a process undertaken over time. It is hard to be precise about the degree to which they will inhibit the growth of cloud acceptance.

As a result, in a world where economic uncertainty seems unlikely to disappear in the short to medium term, it would be unwise to assume a high level of accuracy for market sizing predictions, although the general upward trend is very clear.

Cloud service types

Cloud computing services fall into three broad categories: infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS).

Figure 2 – Cloud service layer definitions

Cloud 2.0 Service Types vs. layers Telco 2.0 Sept 2011

Source: STL Partners/Telco 2.0

Of the forecasts available, we prefer Bain’s near term forecast because: 1) it is based on their independent Cloud ‘Center of Excellence’ work; 2) it is relatively recent, and 3) it has clear and meaningful categories and definitions.
The following figure summarises Bain’s current market forecast, split by cloud service type.

Figure 3 – Cloud services: market forecast and current players

Cloud 2.0 Forecast growth by service type Sep 2011 Telco 2.0

Currently, telcos have around a 5% share of the c.$20 billion annual cloud services revenue, with 25 % CAGR forecast to 2013.

At the May 2011 EMEA Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm, we used these forecasts as a base to explore market views on the various cloud markets. There were c.200 senior executives at the brainstorm from industries across Telecoms, Media and Technology (TMT) and, following detailed presentations on Cloud Services, they were asked highly structured questions to ascertain their views on the likelihood of telco success in addressing each service.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

IaaS consists of cloud-based, usually virtualised servers, networking, and storage, which the customer is free to manage as they need. Billing is typically on a utility computing model: the more of each that you use, the more you pay. The largest of the three main segments, Bain forecasts IaaS to be worth around $3.5 billion in 2011, with 45 % CAGR forecast. The market leader is Amazon with about 18 % share. Other players include IBM and Rackspace. Telcos currently have about 20 % of this market – Qwest/Savvis/Equinix, and Verizon/Terremark.

Respondents at the EMEA Telco 2.0 Brainstorm estimated that telcos could take an average share of 25% of this market. The distribution was reasonably broad, with the vast majority in the 11-40% range.

Figure 4 – IaaS – Telco market share forecasts

Cloud 2.0 IaaS Telco Forecasts Sept 2011 Telco 2.0

Source: EMEA Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm delegate vote, May 2011

To read the note in full, including the following additional analysis…

  • Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Hybrid Cloud
  • Cloud Service Brokerage
  • Overall telco cloud market projections by type, including forecast uncertainties
  • Challenges for telcos
  • Which areas should telcos target?
  • Telcos’ advantages
  • IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS?
  • Developing other segments
  • What needs to change?
  • How can telcos deliver?
  • Telcos’ key strengths
  • Key strategy variables
  • Next Steps

…and the following charts…

  • Figure 1 – Cloud services market forecast comparisons
  • Figure 2 – Cloud service layer definitions
  • Figure 3 – Cloud services: market forecast and current players
  • Figure 4 – IaaS – Telco market share forecasts
  • Figure 5 – VPC – Telco market share forecasts
  • Figure 6 – SaaS – Telco market share forecasts
  • Figure 7 – PaaS – Telco market share forecasts
  • Figure 8 – Total telco cloud market size and share estimates – 2014
  • Figure 9 – Uncertainty in forecast by service
  • Figure 10 – Telco cloud strengths
  • Figure 11 – Cloud services timeline vs. profitability schematic
  • Figure 12 – Telcos’ financial stability

Members of the Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing Subscription Service and the Cloud and Enterprice ICT Stream can download the full 28 page report in PDF format here. Non-Members, please subscribe here, buy a Single User license for this report online here for £795 (+VAT), or for multi-user licenses or other enquiries, please email contact@telco2.net / call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.

Organisations, people and products referenced: Aepona, Amazon, AMI Partners, Bain, BT, CenturyLink, CENX, Cisco, CloudStack, Deutsche Telekom, EC2, Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), EMC, Equinix, Flexible 4 Business, Force.com, Forrester, France Telecom, Gartner, Google App Engine, Google Docs, IBM, IDC, Intuit, Java, Merrill Lynch, Microsoft, Microsoft Office 365, MySQL, Neustar, NTT, OneVoice, OpenStack, Oracle, Orange, Peartree, Qwest, Rackspace, Red Hat, Renub Research, Sage, Salesforce.com, Savvis, Telstra, Terremark, T-Systems, Verizon, VMware, Vodafone, Webex.

Technologies and industry terms referenced: Azure, Carrier Ethernet, Cloud computing, cloud service providers, Cloud Services, Communications as a Service, compliance, Connectivity, control, forecast, Global reach, Hybrid Cloud, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), IT, Mobile Cloud, network, online, Platform as a Service (PaaS), Reliability, resellers, security, SMB, Software as a Service (SaaS), storage, telcos, telecoms, strategy, innovation, transformation, unified communications, video, virtualisation, Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), VPN.