VNFs on public cloud: Opportunity, not threat

VNF deployments on the hyperscale cloud are just beginning

Numerous collaboration agreements between hyperscalers and leading telcos, but few live VNF deployments to date

The past three years have seen many major telcos concluding collaboration agreements with the leading hyperscalers. These have involved one or more of five business models for the telco-hyperscaler relationship that we discussed in a previous report, and which are illustrated below:

Five business models for telco-hyperscaler partnerships

Source: STL Partners

In this report, we focus more narrowly on the deployment, delivery and operation by and to telcos of virtualised and cloud-native network functions (VNFs / CNFs) over the hyperscale public cloud. To date, there have been few instances of telcos delivering live, commercial services on the public network via VNFs hosted on the public cloud. STL Partners’ Telco Cloud Deployment Tracker contains eight examples of this, as illustrated below:

Major telcos deploying VNFs in the public cloud

Source: STL Partners

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Telcos are looking to generate returns from their telco cloud investments and maintain control over their ‘core business’

The telcos in the above table are all of comparable stature and ambition to the likes of AT&T and DISH in the realm of telco cloud but have a diametrically opposite stance when it comes to VNF deployment on public cloud. They have decided against large-scale public cloud deployments for a variety of reasons, including:

  • They have invested a considerable amount of money, time and human resources on their private clouddeployments, and they want and need to utilise the asset and generate the RoI.
  • Related to this, they have generated a large amount of intellectual property (IP) as a result of their DIY cloud– and VNF-development work. Clearly, they wish to realise the business benefits they sought to achieve through these efforts, such as cost and resource efficiencies, automation gains, enhanced flexibility and agility, and opportunities for both connectivityand edge compute service innovation. Apart from the opportunity cost of not realising these gains, it is demoralising for some CTO departments to contemplate surrendering the fruit of this effort in favour of a hyperscaler’s comparable cloud infrastructure, orchestration and management tools.
  • In addition, telcos have an opportunity to monetise that IP by marketing it to other telcos. The Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP) marketed by Rakuten Symphony is an example of this: effectively, a telco providing a telco cloud platform on an NFaaS basis to third-party operators or enterprises – in competition to similar offerings that might be developed by hyperscalers. Accordingly, RCP will be hosted over private cloud facilities, not public cloud. But in theory, there is no reason why RCP could not in future be delivered over public cloud. In this case, Rakuten would be acting like any other vendor adapting its solutions to the hyperscale cloud.
  • In theory also, telcos could also offer their private telcoclouds as a platform, or wholesale or on-demand service, for third parties to source and run their own network functions (i.e. these would be hosted on the wholesale provider’s facilities, in contrast to the RCP, which is hosted on the client telco’s facilities). This would be a logical fit for telcos such as BT or Deutsche Telekom, which still operate as their respective countries’ communications backbone provider and primary wholesale provider

BT and Deutsche Telekom have also been among the telcos that have been most visibly hostile to the idea of running NFs powering their own public, mass-market services on the public and hyperscale cloud. And for most operators, this is the main concern making them cautious about deploying VNFs on the public cloud, let alone sourcing them from the cloud on an NFaaS basis: that this would be making the ‘core’ telco business and asset – the network – dependent on the technology roadmaps, operational competence and business priorities of the hyperscalers.

Table of contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction: VNF deployments on the hyperscale cloud are just beginning
    • Numerous collaboration agreements between hyperscalers and leading telcos, but few live VNF deployments to date
    • DISH and AT&T: AWS vs Azure; vendor-supported vs DIY; NaaCP vs net compute
  • Other DIY or vendor-supported best-of-breed players are not hosting VNFs on public cloud
    • Telcos are looking to generate returns from their telco cloud investments and maintain control over their ‘core business’
    • The reluctance to deploy VNFs on the cloud reflects a persistent, legacy concept of the telco
  • But NaaCP will drive more VNF deployments on public cloud, and opportunities for telcos
    • Multiple models for NaaCP present prospects for greater integration of cloud-native networks and public cloud
  • Conclusion: Convergence of network and cloud is inevitable – but not telcos’ defeat
  • Appendix

Related Research

 

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A3 in customer experience: Possibilities for personalisation

The value of A3 in customer experience

This report considers the financial value to a telco of using A3 technologies (analytics, automation and AI) to improve customer experience. It examines the key area which underpins much of this financial value – customer support channels – considering the trends in this area and how the area might change in future, shaping the requirement for A3.

Calculating the value of improving customer experience is complex: it can be difficult to identify the specific action that improved a customer’s perception of their experience, and then to assess the impact of this improvement on their subsequent behaviour.

While it is difficult to draw causal links between telcos’ A3 activities and customer perceptions and behaviours, there are still some clearly measurable financial benefits from these investments. We estimate this value by leveraging our broader analysis of the financial value of A3 in telecoms, and then zooming in on the specific pockets of value which relate to improved customer experience (e.g. churn reduction).

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The diagram below illustrates that there are two parts of the customer journey where A3 will add most value to customer experience:

  1. The performance of the network, services, devices and applications is increasingly dependent on automation and intelligence, with the introduction of 5G and cloud-native operations. Without A3 capabilities it will be difficult to meet quality of service standards, understand customer-affecting issues and turn up new services at speed.
  2. The contact centre remains one of the largest influencers of customer experience and one of the biggest users of automation, with the digital channels increasing in importance during the pandemic. Understanding the customer and the agent’s needs and providing information about issues the customer is experiencing to both parties are areas where more A3 should be used in future.

Where is the financial benefit of adding A3 within a typical telco customer journey?

A3 customer experience

Source: STL Partners, Charlotte Patrick Consult

As per this diagram, many of the most valuable uses for A3 are in the contact centre and digital channels. Improvements in customer experience will be tied with trends in both. These priority trends and potential A3 solutions are outlined the following two tables:
• The first shows contact centre priorities,
• The second shows priorities for the digital channels.

Priorities in the contact centre

A3 Contact centre

Priorities in the digital channel

A3 Digital channel

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • The value of A3 in customer experience
  • Use of A3 to improve customer experience
  • The most important uses of A3 for improving the customer experience
    • Complex data
    • Personalisation
    • Planning
    • Human-machine interaction
    • AI point solution
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix: Methodology for calculating financial value
  • Index

Related Research:

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5G: Bridging hype, reality and future promises

The 5G situation seems paradoxical

People in China and South Korea are buying 5G phones by the million, far more than initially expected, yet many western telcos are moving cautiously. Will your company also find demand? What’s the smart strategy while uncertainty remains? What actions are needed to lead in the 5G era? What questions must be answered?

New data requires new thinking. STL Partners 5G strategies: Lessons from the early movers presented the situation in late 2019, and in What will make or break 5G growth? we outlined the key drivers and inhibitors for 5G growth. This follow on report addresses what needs to happen next.

The report is informed by talks with executives of over three dozen companies and email contacts with many more, including 21 of the first 24 telcos who have deployed. This report covers considerations for the next three years (2020–2023) based on what we know today.

“Seize the 5G opportunity” says Ke Ruiwen, Chairman, China Telecom, and Chinese reports claimed 14 million sales by the end of 2019. Korea announced two million subscribers in July 2019 and by December 2019 approached five million. By early 2020, The Korean carriers were confident 30% of the market will be using 5G by the end of 2020. In the US, Verizon is selling 5G phones even in areas without 5G services,  With nine phone makers looking for market share, the price in China is US$285–$500 and falling, so the handset price barrier seems to be coming down fast.

Yet in many other markets, operators progress is significantly more tentative. So what is going on, and what should you do about it?

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5G technology works OK

22 of the first 24 operators to deploy are using mid-band radio frequencies.

Vodafone UK claims “5G will work at average speeds of 150–200 Mbps.” Speeds are typically 100 to 500 Mbps, rarely a gigabit. Latency is about 30 milliseconds, only about a third better than decent 4G. Mid-band reach is excellent. Sprint has demonstrated that simply upgrading existing base stations can provide substantial coverage.

5G has a draft business case now: people want to buy 5G phones. New use cases are mostly years away but the prospect of better mobile broadband is winning customers. The costs of radios, backhaul, and core are falling as five system vendors – Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, Samsung, and ZTE – fight for market share. They’ve shipped over 600,000 radios. Many newcomers are gaining traction, for example Altiostar won a large contract from Rakuten and Mavenir is in trials with DT.

The high cost of 5G networks is an outdated myth. DT, Orange, Verizon, and AT&T are building 5G while cutting or keeping capex flat. Sprint’s results suggest a smart build can quickly reach half the country without a large increase in capital spending. Instead, the issue for operators is that it requires new spending with uncertain returns.

The technology works, mostly. Mid-band is performing as expected, with typical speeds of 100–500Mbps outdoors, though indoor performance is less clear yet. mmWave indoor is badly degraded. Some SDN, NFV, and other tools for automation have reached the field. However, 5G upstream is in limited use. Many carriers are combining 5G downstream with 4G upstream for now. However, each base station currently requires much more power than 4G bases, which leads to high opex. Dynamic spectrum sharing, which allows 5G to share unneeded 4G spectrum, is still in test. Many features of SDN and NFV are not yet ready.

So what should companies do? The next sections review go-to-market lessons, status on forward-looking applications, and technical considerations.

Early go-to-market lessons

Don’t oversell 5G

The continuing publicity for 5G is proving powerful, but variable. Because some customers are already convinced they want 5G, marketing and advertising do not always need to emphasise the value of 5G. For those customers, make clear why your company’s offering is the best compared to rivals’. However, the draw of 5G is not universal. Many remain sceptical, especially if their past experience with 4G has been lacklustre. They – and also a minority swayed by alarmist anti-5G rhetoric – will need far more nuanced and persuasive marketing.

Operators should be wary of overclaiming. 5G speed, although impressive, currently has few practical applications that don’t already work well over decent 4G. Fixed home broadband is a possible exception here. As the objective advantages of 5G in the near future are likely to be limited, operators should not hype features that are unrealistic today, no matter how glamorous. If you don’t have concrete selling propositions, do image advertising or use happy customer testimonials.

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
    • 5G technology works OK
  • Early go-to-market lessons
    • Don’t oversell 5G
    • Price to match the experience
    • Deliver a valuable product
    • Concerns about new competition
    • Prepare for possible demand increases
    • The interdependencies of edge and 5G
  • Potential new applications
    • Large now and likely to grow in the 5G era
    • Near-term applications with possible major impact for 5G
    • Mid- and long-term 5G demand drivers
  • Technology choices, in summary
    • Backhaul and transport networks
    • When will 5G SA cores be needed (or available)?
    • 5G security? Nothing is perfect
    • Telco cloud: NFV, SDN, cloud native cores, and beyond
    • AI and automation in 5G
    • Power and heat

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Telcos in healthcare: Winning in a long game, Babylon, and the impact of 5G

Introduction: telcos in healthcare

This is a summary of some of the learnings from another fascinating session at the TELUS Carrier Health Summit in Toronto, May 22nd 2019. This is an annual gathering that was hosted by TELUS Global Solutions for telcos and their partners in healthcare.

Of the hosts, Fawad Shaikh, VP TELUS Global Solutions, said it ran this years’ session because it wants “to develop an alliance of like-minded telcos in health”. David Thomas, VP TELUS Health Solutions, added that “healthcare has to be delivered locally, which is a real plus for telcos. Yet we all need to gain global scale to compete, so it is a great opportunity for non-competitive collaboration.”

About sixty people from telcos and health tech companies were there this year, and the audience was global, with representatives from Latin America, N America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia.

STL Partners presented its research on nine telco healthcare studies, and caught up with participants, including Dr Ali Parsa, CEO and founder of Babylon Health, and Mairi Johnson, its Global Partnerships Director.

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Healthcare: the problem to be solved

Healthcare is one of our favourite examples of the drive behind the Coordination Age. The explanation is simple:

The problem with healthcare in most economies is not that there isn’t great medicine and healthcare professionals. It’s getting it all delivered to the patients at the right time and at a cost that’s affordable.

This is fundamentally a coordination problem: bringing the right assets (whether physical or digital – a nurse, a treatment, or the patients’ records) together for the patient. Then maintaining the order throughout the patients’ treatment, and indeed, their lives.

All healthcare systems face multiple mounting pressures: growing and ageing populations, greater costs, skills challenges, and more pressure on funding from other sources to name a few.

There’s money in health

It’s also an area of HUGE expenditure. PWC’s Tara McCarville shared figures showing that:

  • Global healthcare spend is forecast to grow from $9.7 Trillion in 2014, to $18 Trillion in 2040, growing at 21% CAGR over the next 5 years.
  • Even so, it’s perhaps surprising that 84% of Fortune 50 companies are engaged in healthcare in some way.

Given this, it’s less surprising to note that the big tech players are seriously engaged in digital health too, with Amazon’s recent tie up with JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway to create the Haven Group being the most eye-catching. Others between CVS and Aetna, and Sanofi and Click Therapies involve less broadly familiar names, but are weighty nonetheless.

From a government perspective the numbers are big too. In the UK for example, which is one of the EU’s lower healthcare spenders per capita, the NHS’s annual bill is currently £154 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to £188 billion in 15 years (to 2033).

A 5% tax rise?

Without borrowing, this would lead to something like a 5% increase in overall taxation. Over 98% of UK tax funding is from ‘general taxation and national insurance’ – so mainly income tax, VAT and ongoing employment contributions.  In other words, people would have to pay.

Despite the UK’s love of the NHS, a permanent 5% tax rise would draw many concerned breaths from both politicians and the public. The need to find better solutions is genuinely pressing.

(NB Try out this calculator made by the Institute of Fiscal Studies if you fancy yourself as a policy guru. To fund healthcare, would you raise taxes, cut pensions, defence, or education?)

Figure 2: The Institute of Fiscal Studies’ (IFS) Health Budget Calculator

IFS NHS Budget Calculator
Meeting the NHS’s future funding needs would mean a 5% UK tax rise

Source: https://explore.ifs.org.uk/tools/nhs_funding/tool NB At £154bn, the Health spending category is already bigger than all those above.

The rest of the report contains:

  • The road to Babylon – one of the ways ahead?
  • Some telcos are scared by health, others are serious about it
  • 5G, Healthcare – or both?
  • Conclusions: telcos in healthcare – making a long game a good one

And includes the following figures:

  • Figure 1: How to succeed in telco health – key learnings from the Summit
  • Figure 2: The Institute of Fiscal Studies’ (IFS) Health Budget Calculator
  • Figure 3: Babyl has particular strength in Rwanda’s rural areas
  • Figure 4: A flavour of Babylon’s UK online offering
  • Figure 5: Pros and cons of telcos in healthcare
  • Figure 6: Telstra’s National Cervical Cancer Screening programme benefits
  • Figure 7: Telcos face a serious choice in Capex / Opex investments

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Investing in original content: Is it worth it?

Introduction

An in-depth analysis of whether telcos can make money from original content, this executive briefing builds on previous STL reports exploring the role of telcos in entertainment and advertising:

This new report evaluates the success of AT&T, BT and Swisscom’s original content and related distribution strategies, as well as identifying lessons to be learnt. It also appraises their investment in original content, exclusive content (e.g. sport) and buying content creators (e.g. Time Warner).

Following the acquisition of Time Warner, AT&T is a content owner and content distribution colossus. What is its underlying objective for providing a wide range of over-the-top (OTT) services, including DTV Now (satellite TV service delivered over-the-top) and AT&T Watch (live and on demand content)? How will content from Time Warner’s acquisition in June 2018 be incorporated into its products?

Has BT’s head on clash with Sky in the market with live sports met expectations? Has its heavy investment in football grown its revenue take, broadband subscriptions and attracted eyeballs?

Swisscom has grown to become Switzerland’s largest TV provider, using live sports as its differentiator. What other initiatives have contributed to its market leadership and can it maintain its dominance?

The case for investing in original content

Telcos typically invest in original content to achieve three objectives:

  • to open up new sources of revenue (direct subscription sales, wholesale distribution and ads sales)
  • to increase sales of core telco services/products (e.g. fixed broadband)
  • to raise their profile, increase their relevance and build brand loyalty.

But trying to pursue all these objectives simultaneously requires some difficult compromises – maximising content revenues means distributing the content as widely as possible, which means it no longer becomes a competitive differentiator through which to sell connectivity and build loyalty to the core proposition. In any case, regulators may require telcos to make some original content, notably the rights to live sport, available to competitors.

Therefore, achieving all of these objectives requires telcos to perform a delicate balancing act between making their content widely available and integrating it with the core connectivity proposition from both a technical perspective (using a cloud-based or physical set-top box) and a commercial perspective (attractive bundles and/or zero-rating the content). They need to perform this balancing act at a time when the digital entertainment market is in upheaval – customers in many markets are migrating from traditional pay TV (one or two year contracts) to video-on-demand subscriptions (month-by-month).

Not all content is equal

Ownership of sports rights should guarantee an audience linked to the size of the fanbase. Investing in original content, such as dramas, is far riskier. For every series of The Crown, a Netflix hit airing its third series in 2019, there is Marco Polo that cost US$200 million, cancelled after two series and an abject failure. Telco shareholders would baulk at taking such risks, given many have qualms about BT’s investment in Premier League rights (32 matches a season, 2019-22), which are equivalent to £9.2 million per game.

Alternatively, telcos could purchase a content developer/media company with a back catalogue of proven programming, as AT&T has done by buying Time Warner in June 2018. Investment in original content is a differentiator for pay TV providers (e.g. Sky) as well as over-the-top players (e.g. Netflix). Netflix has dramatically increased its investment in original content from its early foray with the House of Cards. During 2018 Netflix invested about US$6.8 billion in original content, including films, simultaneously screening some films at cinemas (e.g. Coen brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs).

However, the audience for expensively-created content is finite. They are binge watching fewer shows. In the USA, according to Hub Entertain Research, viewers watched an average of 4.4 favourite shows in 2018, compared to 5.2 in 2016. These viewers increasingly find out about favourite shows through advertisements and watch them on an video-on-demand service.

More and more competition

Although they benefit from economies of scale and scope, the major global online players are not oblivious to the risks of creating original content. Amazon somewhat mitigates the risk by using co-production. Amazon is working with pay TV companies (e.g. Sky / Sky Atlantic) as well as public service broadcasters (BBC). The co-production of content with Sky provides Amazon with the rights to show series outside Sky’s footprint. For the BBC, a junior partner in the relationship, it gets to air the co-produced programmes after Amazon has shown them (e.g. the final three series of Ripper Street). Apple is also investing US$1 billion in original content, which will be distributed by its new streaming service[1]. The new service, business model unknown, will also be accessible on non-Apple products. New Samsung, Sony, LG and Vizio TVs will support Apple iTunes movies and TV shows[2].

It is not just the major Internet platforms that are competing with telcos for eyeballs. Major content rights owners are also taking their first steps to launch direct-to-consumer services. The Disney Play streaming service will launch in late 2019, once its existing distribution agreement with Netflix comes to an end. New sports streaming services are vying for attention, e.g. DAZN owns the rights to English Premier League (EPL) in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Japan, as well as combat sports (e.g. Matchroom Boxing and UFC) and other sports. Many sports federations also provide direct-to-consumer streaming services, alongside the sale of linear TV sports rights. These include The National Hockey League’s NHL.TV and National Football League’s GamePass in the USA, and the English Football League (EFL)’s iFollow service in the UK. Consumers outside the UK can also pay to stream EFL matches.

The importance of multiple content distribution models

But it is not just about having the right content: consumers also want the right commercial proposition. Pay TV providers recognise that not all consumers are willing to sign-up to 12- or 18-month contracts. Falling pay TV subscription rates, and a realisation that one-size doesn’t fit all has seen the emergence of month-to-month skinny pay TV packages. These offers may or may not be packaged with broadband connectivity.

Those that do subscribe to traditional pay TV will not subscribe to a second pay TV subscription, but many households are willing to subscribe to more than one additional over-the-top service. Half of the video-on-demand (SVOD) subscribers in the UK subscribe to more than one VOD service (Amazon, Netflix, NOW TV), and 71% of households with a VOD service also have a pay TV subscription (according to GfK SVOD Tracker).

There are essentially four key roles in the content value chain, identified and discussed by STL partners in previous reports. These roles are programme, package, platform and pipe. Traditionally, telcos’ primary objective is to sell as many pipes as possible. To that end, they offer packages of content (generally TV channels), which are sold on a subscription basis or offered for no fee, supported by advertising. A platform is used to distribute the channels, films and other content created and curated by another entity.

Telco content distribution models

four ways to monetise original content: pay TV, bundling and OTT

Source: STL Partners

Telco revenue from content and related services

An in-depth analysis of telcos’ return on investment in sports or film rights or original content is tricky. Telcos are not in the habit of revealing content revenue data. Figure 5 summarises the main metrics that need to be considered to evaluate the effectiveness of telcos’ investment in content.

The revenues that telcos can generate from content consist primarily of:

  1. Sale of the content to consumers
  2. Sale of banner, video and TV ads that sit / roll alongside the content
  3. Wholesale of content via third-party platforms
  4. Net additions of broadband / mobile pipes, increased ARPU/C and reduction in user/connection churn, increase in broadband / mobile pipe revenue.

Measuring return on investments in content

measuring original content ROI through direct sales, advertisement, wholesale and connectivity

Source: STL Partners

In the rest of this report, we evaluate AT&T, BT and Swisscom against these criteria.

Contents:

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • The case for investing in original content
  • More and more competition
  • The importance of multiple content distribution models
  • Telco revenue from content and related services
  • Swisscom sells content with strings attached
  • Investing in rights holders to secure original content
  • It is about the packaging, as well as the content
  • Limited advertising
  • Enriching the viewer experience
  • Mixed financial results
  • BT and its big bet on live sport
  • BT TV reaches an inflexion point
  • BT TV – getting more expensive
  • Is BT Sport changing direction?
  • BT’s broader branding strategy
  • BT as a content aggregator
  • BT Sport is available to rivals’ pay TV customers
  • Is BT making a financial return?
  • Is there a case for continued investment?
  • AT&T takes on Netflix
  • King of content?
  • DirecTV Now: A lackluster start
  • Takeaways: Walking a tightrope between old and new
  • A shaky financial performance to date
  • Conclusions

Figures:

  1. The differing strategies of Swisscom, BT and AT&T
  2. AT&T’s Entertainment Group is dragging down the broader business
  3. Rating the different elements of telcos’ original content strategy
  4. Telco content distribution models
  5. Measuring return on investments in content
  6. Swisscom’s TV subscriptions and market share
  7. Summary of Swisscom’s TV products
  8. Cost and availability of Teleclub Sport
  9. The growth in Swisscom’s TV Connections and Bundles
  10. Swisscom’s content strategy hasn’t arrested the decline in wireline revenues
  11. Swisscom’s ballpark annual revenue run rate from TV
  12. BT TV packages, February 2019 compared to end 2015
  13. BT has bought more low-grade matches and is paying less per game
  14. How BT tries to monetise its sports content
  15. A breakdown of BT’s brands and target segments
  16. BT Sport App packages across its multiple brands
  17. How BT is using content partnerships to broaden its offering
  18. BT Sport has helped to drive a major uplift in annual revenue
  19. BT’s Consumer Division has struggled to increase profitability
  20. BT’s TV and broadband customers are now flatlining
  21. Growth in BT TV and BT Sport connections has tailed off
  22. BT’s consumer fixed line revenue has been fairly flat
  23. BT Sport residential and commercial revenue estimates 2018 and 2022
  24. AT&T’s telecom, media and entertainment businesses (February 2019)
  25. AT&T’s pay TV and SVOD services (as of February 2019)
  26. The Entertainment Group’s revenues are slipping
  27. AT&T’s traditional pay TV business is in decline
  28. AT&T’s broadband connections are fairly flat
  29. AT&T’s Entertainment Group is seeing its top line squeezed
  30. AT&T is combining inventory to help increase ad spend

[1] Apple TV will be launched in 2019 https://www.fool.com/investing/2018/12/15/apples-original-content-ambitions-are-growing.aspx,  https://www.macworld.co.uk/news/apple/apple-streaming-service-3610603/

[2] Content can be streamed from an Apple device using Apple’s AirPlay wireless streaming protocol stack, which will be integrated into TVs.

SDN / NFV: Early Telco Leaders in the Enterprise Market

Introduction

This report builds on a number of previous analyses of the progress and impact of SDN (Software-Defined Networking) and NFV (Network Functions Virtualization), both in the enterprise market and in telecoms more generally. In particular, this briefing aims to explore in more detail the market potential and dynamics of two new SDN / NFV-based enterprise services that were discussed as part of an analysis of revenue opportunities presented by ‘telco cloud’ services.

These two services are ‘Network as a Service’ (NaaS) and ‘enterprise virtual CPE’ (vCPE). ‘Network as a Service’ refers to any service that enables enterprise customers to directly configure the parameters of their corporate network, including via a user-friendly portal or APIs. This particularly involves the facility to scale up or down the bandwidth available on network links – either on a near-real-time or scheduled basis – and to establish new network connections on demand, e.g. between business sites and / or data centers. Examples of NaaS include AT&T’s Network On Demand portfolio and Telstra’s PEN service, both of which are discussed further below.

‘Enterprise virtual CPE’, as the name suggests, involves virtualizing dedicated networking equipment sited traditionally at the enterprise premises, so as to offer equivalent functionality in the form of virtual network appliances in the cloud, delivered over COTS hardware. Virtual network functions (VNFs) offered in this form typically include routing, firewalls, VPN, WAN optimization, and others; and the benefit to telcos of offering vCPE is that it provides a platform to easily cross- and upsell additional functionality, particularly in the areas of application and network performance and security.

The abbreviation ‘vCPE’ is also used for consumer virtual CPE, which involves replacing complicated routers, TV set-top boxes and gateway equipment used in the home with simplified devices running equivalent functions from the cloud. For the purposes of this report, when we use the term ‘vCPE’, we refer to the enterprise version of the term, unless otherwise stated.

The reason why this report focuses on NaaS and vCPE is that more commercial services of these types have been launched or are planned than is the case with any other SDN / NFV-dependent enterprise service. Consequently, the business models are becoming more evident, and it is possible to make an assessment of the revenue potential of these services.

Our briefing ‘New Revenue Growth from Telco Cloud’ (published in April 2016) modeled the potential impact of SDN / NFV-based services on the revenues of a large illustrative telco with a significant presence in both fixed and mobile, and enterprise and consumer, segments in a developed market similar to the UK. This concluded that such a telco introducing all of the SDN / NFV services that are expected to become commercially mature over the period 2017 to 2021 could expect to generate a monthly revenue uplift of some X% (actual figures available in full report) by the end of 2021 compared with the base case of failing to launch any such service.

Including only revenues directly attributable to the new services (as opposed to ‘core revenues’ – e.g. from traditional voice and data services – that are boosted by reduced churn and net customer additions deriving from the new services), vCPE and NaaS represent the two largest sources of new revenue: Y and Z percentage points respectively out of the total X% net revenue increase deriving from SDN / NFV, as illustrated in Figure 1 (Figure not shown – actual figures available in full report).

Figure 1: Telco X – Net new revenue by service category (Dec 2021)

Figure not shown – available in full report

Source: STL Partners analysis

In terms of NaaS and vCPE specifically, the model assumes that Telco X will begin to roll out these services commercially in January and February 2017 respectively. This is a realistic timetable for some in our view, as several commercial NaaS and vCPE offerings have already been launched, and future launches have been announced, by telcos across North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

In the rest of this briefing, we will:

  • present the main current and planned NaaS and vCPE services
  • analyze the market opportunities and competitive threats they are responding to
  • analyze in more detail the different types and combinations of NaaS and vCPE offerings, and their business models
  • assess these services’ potential to grow telco revenues and market share
  • and review how these offerings fit within operators’ overall virtualization journeys.

We will conclude with an overall assessment of the prospects for NaaS and vCPE: the opportunities, and also the risks of inaction.

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Current and planned NaaS and vCPE products
  • Opportunities and threats addressed by NaaS and vCPE
  • NaaS and vCPE: emerging offers and business models
  • Revenue growth potential of NaaS and vCPE
  • Relationship between SDN / NFV deployment strategy and operator type
  • Conclusion: NaaS and vCPE – a short-term window of opportunity to a long-term virtual future

 

  • Figure 1: Telco X – Net new revenue by service category (Dec 2021)
  • Figure 2: Leading current and planned commercial NaaS and vCPE services
  • Figure 3: Cumulative NaaS and vCPE launches, 2013-16
  • Figure 4: Verizon SD-WAN as part of Virtual Network Services vCPE offering
  • Figure 5: COLT’s cloud-native VPN and vCPE
  • Figure 6: Evolution of vCPE delivery modes
  • Figure 7: SD-WAN-like NaaS versus SD-WAN
  • Figure 8: Base case shows declining revenues
  • Figure 9: Telco X – Telco Cloud services increase monthly revenues by X% on the base case by Dec 2021
  • Figure 10: NaaS and vCPE deployments by operator type and overall SDN / NFV strategy
  • Figure 11: Progression from more to less hybrid deployment of NaaS and vCPE across the telco WAN

Telco NFV & SDN Deployment Strategies: Six Emerging Segments

Introduction

STL Partners’ previous NFV and SDN research

This report continues the analysis of three previous reports in exploring the NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) and SDN (Software Defined Networking) journeys of several major telcos worldwide, and adds insights from subsequent research and industry discussions.

The first two reports that STL Partners produced contained detailed discussion of the operators that have publicly engaged most comprehensively with NFV: Telefónica and AT&T.

Telefónica embarked on an ambitious virtualization program, dubbed ‘UNICA’, toward the start of 2014; but its progress during 2014 and 2015 was impeded by internal divisions, lack of leadership from top management, and disagreement over the fundamental technology roadmap. As a result, Telefónica has failed to put any VNFs (Virtualized Network Functions) into production; although it continues to be a major contributor to industry efforts to develop open NFV standards.

By contrast, AT&T’s virtualization program, the User-Defined Network Cloud (UDNC) – launched at the same time as Telefónica’s, in February 2014 – has already contributed to a substantial volume of live NFV deployments, including on-demand networking products for enterprise customers and virtual EPC (Enhanced Packet Core) supporting mobile data and connected car services. AT&T’s activities have been driven from board level, with a very focused vision of the overall transformation that is being attempted – organizational as much as technological – and the strategic objectives that underlie it: those of achieving the agility, scalability and cost efficiency required to compete with web-scale players in both enterprise and consumer markets.

The third report in the series – ‘7 NFV Hurdles: How DTAG, NTT, Verizon, Vodafone, Swisscom and Comcast have tackled them’  – extended the analysis to the SDN and NFV deployment efforts of several other major operators. The report arrived at a provisional model for the stages of the SDN / NFV transformation process, outlined in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: The SDN-NFV Transformation Process

The transformation process outlined in the chart suggests that elaborating the overall SDN architecture should ideally precede the NFV process: logically if not always chronologically. This is because it is essential to have a vision of the ‘final’ destination, even if – or especially as – operators are navigating their way through a shifting myriad of technology choices, internal change programs, engagements with vendor and open-source ecosystems, priorities and opportunities for virtualization, legacy system migration models, and processes for service and business remodeling.

The focus of this report

This report re-examines some of the analysis undertaken on the players above, along with some additional players, to derive a more fine-grained understanding of the virtualization journeys of different types of telco.

We examine these journeys in relation to five dimensions and the analysis focuses on the choices operators have made in these areas, and how things have turned out so far. This, in turn, allows us to pinpoint six telco segments for SDN and NFV deployment.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to SDN and NFV. However, because the operators we examine have a similar rationale for engaging in SDN- and NFV-led transformation and display sufficient commonality in their approach to deployment, STL Partners has been able to make three core best-practice implementation recommendations.

 

  • Executive summary
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • STL Partners’ previous NFV and SDN research
  • The focus of this report
  • Virtualization journeys: 6 telco segments
  • The Story So Far: AT&T and Telefónica
  • ‘NFV Business Model Transformation Pioneers’: BT, China Mobile, NTT and Verizon
  • ‘Smart Piper Incumbent’: AT&T and Deutsche Telekom
  • ‘Fly Blind Incumbent’: Telefónica and Swisscom
  • ‘Agile Adopter’: Tele2
  • ‘Utilitarian adopters’: Vodafone and SingTel
  • ‘Cableco 2.0’: Comcast and Liberty Global
  • Conclusion and Best Practice Recommendations

7 NFV Hurdles: How DTAG, NTT, Verizon, Vodafone, Swisscom and Comcast Have Tackled Them

Introduction

This report is one of a series analyzing the progress made by leading operators in the application of NFV and SDN, and the lessons learned so far. The two most recent reports, AT&T: Fast Pivot to the NFV Future and Telefónica’s NFV: An Empire Divided? provided insights into those companies’ successes and challenges in this regard. These reports also build on the insights from our Telco 2.0 Transformation and Enterprise Cloud and ICT Research Streams.

No other Tier One operator has committed itself publicly to ambitious virtualization targets along the lines of Telefónica or AT&T. However, this does not mean that operators are not planning, or indeed have not already embarked on, similar transformation programs, with virtualization thus far proceeding mainly on an element-by-element and service-by-service basis. The migration to increasingly software-defined networks (SDNs) and the implementation of network functions virtualization (NFV) are now an unavoidable direction of the road ahead; and no operator that seriously intends to survive in the long term is not already drawing up a roadmap.

This report examines some of the potential road blocks in the way of NFV, which account in part for the caution displayed by other big operators about embarking on major virtualization programs and broadcasting what they are doing. These questions are discussed in relation to Deutsche Telekom, NTT, Verizon, Vodafone, Swisscom, and Comcast, and how those operators have addressed some of the challenges.

Our next report will bring together high level recommendations for operators based on these and other analyses, to outline a roadmap for best practice in this particular aspect of the transformation of the telecoms industry to new business models.

What’s holding back NFV?

1. Operators have been laying the SDN foundations

One of the reasons why no other Tier One operator is emulating either Telefónica’s or AT&T’s approach is that many operators have been taking their time to elaborate and implement their overall SDN, NFV and cloud strategies. Many potential and actual approaches to the dual challenge of SDN and NFV exist, depending on the overall strategic objectives. The approach favored by some of the operators reviewed here has been to elaborate the SDN framework as a precursor to virtualizing particular network functions – although there are different paths that can be followed in working through the technological challenges; and in practice, the roadmap is never fully plotted out until the twists and turns of the journey have been charted.

The logical reason why SDN has been seen by many as a preliminary to NFV is that, put briefly, SDN offers more flexible and efficient ways to design, test, build and operate IP networks. It does this by separating out the intelligence about how the network operates, and how traffic flows, from the networking device, and placing it in a single controller with a perspective of the entire network. Taking the ‘intelligence’ out of many individual components also means that it is possible to build and buy those components for less, thus reducing some costs in the network.

Like SDN, NFV splits the control functions from the data forwarding functions. However, while SDN typically does this for the switches making up a local-area network, for example in a data center, NFV focuses specifically on wide-area network functions like routing, firewalls, load balancing, CPE, etc. Both SDN and NFV aim to leverage developments in Common Off The Shelf (COTS) hardware, such as generic server platforms utilizing multi-core CPUs, or merchant switch systems-on-chips, which are used to host and deliver those functions as Virtual Network Functions (VNFs).

Figure 1: Moving to SDN sets the scene for NFV

Source: STL Partners

SDN can consequently be viewed a prerequisite for NFV: enabling virtualized network functions (VNFs) to be deployed in the most effective and resource-efficient way as part of an overall network management framework in which infrastructure and computing resources are allocated dynamically to support fluctuating service usage and network demand.

A perhaps more fundamental – even ‘existential’ – reason why SDN can be seen as ‘coming before’ NFV is that the SDN framework defines what the communications network actually is in the new software-centric and IP-centric universe. Once network functionality is stripped out of the dedicated hardware that has traditionally run it and is pushed out into the cloud in the form of virtualized functions, then the telecoms network itself has in effect become merely a virtual network that anyone can in theory replicate with relative ease. SDN is the glue that binds all of the distributed, cloud-based functionality together and makes it operate as (if it were) a traditional telecoms network: delivering equivalent and ultimately superior levels of performance to networks running on dedicated hardware.

SDN is, then, in both senses – operational and existential – what enables operators to remain in control of the new virtualized networks. Operators have therefore been understandably cautious about embarking on NFV before their SDN frameworks are in place. And this process is being protracted still further because the industry in general has still not reached agreement on open SDN and NFV standards.

 

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • What’s holding back NFV?
  • 1. Operators have been laying the SDN foundations
  • 2. Operators have started from the enterprise and the cloud
  • 3. Operators are having to negotiate fundamental architectural issues as they go along
  • 4. OSS / BSS evolution and integration: Swisscom and Comcast
  • 5. Security
  • 6. Limited-scope NFV
  • 7. Skill sets and culture change
  • 2015: the year the foundations of NFV were laid?

 

  • Figure 1: Moving to SDN sets the scene for NFV
  • Figure 2: The new network is built out of the cloud-based SDN
  • Figure 3: Multi-vendor VNF integration process for Vodafone Italy’s VoLTE deployment
  • Figure 4: Collapsing classic BSS / OSS hierarchies through SDN and NFV
  • Figure 5: Re-engineering the cable network
  • Figure 6: The Emerging SDN-NFV Transformation Process

Cloud 2.0: Telcos to grow Revenues 900% by 2014

Summary: Telcos should grow Cloud Services revenues nine-fold and triple their overall market share in the next three years according to delegates at the May 2011 EMEA Executive Brainstorm. But which are the best opportunities and strategies? (June 2011, Executive Briefing Service, Cloud & Enterprise ICT Stream)

NB Members can download a PDF of this Analyst Note in full here. Cloud Services will also feature at the Best Practice Live! Free global virtual event on 28-29 June 2011.

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Introduction

STL Partners’ New Digital Economics Executive Brainstorm & Developer Forum EMEA took place from 11-13 May in London. The event brought together 250 execs from across the telecoms, media and technology sectors to take part in 6 co-located interactive events: the Telco 2.0, Digital Entertainment 2.0, Mobile Apps 2.0, M2M 2.0 and Personal Data 2.0 Executive Brainstorms, and an evening AppCircus developer forum.

Building on output from the last Telco 2.0 events and new analysis from the Telco 2.0 Initiative – including the new strategy report ‘The Roadmap to New Telco 2.0 Business Models’ – the Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm explored latest thinking and practice in growing the value of telecoms in the evolving digital economy.

This document gives an overview of the output from the Cloud session of the Telco 2.0 stream.

Companies referenced: Aepona, Amazon Web Services, Apple, AT&T, Bain, BT, Centurylink, Cisco, Dropbox, Embarq, Equinix, Flexible 4 Business, Force.com, Google Apps, HP, IBM, Intuit, Microsoft, Neustar, Orange, Qwest, Salesforce.com, SAP, Savvis, Swisscom, Terremark, T-Systems, Verizon, Webex, WMWare.

Business Models and Technologies covered: cloud services, Enterprise Private Cloud (EPC), Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), Infrastucture as a service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS).

Cloud Market Overview: 25% CAGR to 2013

Today, Telcos have around a 5% share of nearly $20Bn p.a. cloud services revenue, with 25% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) forecast to 2013. Most market forecasts are that the total cloud services market will reach c.$45-50Bn revenue by 2013 / 2014, including the Bain forecast previewed at the Americas Telco 2.0 Brainstorm in April 2011.

At the EMEA brainstorm, delegates were presented with an overview of the component cloud markets and examples of different cloud services approaches, and were then asked for their views on what share telcos could take of cloud revenues in each. In total, delegates’ views amounted to telcos taking in the region of 18% by revenue of cloud services at the end of the next three years.

Applying these views to an extrapolated ‘mid-point’ forecast view of the Cloud Market in 2014, implies that Telcos will take just under $9Bn revenue from Cloud by 2014, thus increasing today’s c$1Bn share nine-fold. [NB More detailed methodology and sources are in the full paper available to members here.]

Figure 1 – Cloud Services Market Forecast & Players

Cloud 2.0 Forecast 2014 - Telco 2.0

Source: Telco 2.0 Presentation

Although already a multi-$Bn market already, there is still a reasonable degree of uncertainty and variance in Cloud forecasts as might be expected in a still maturing market, so this market could be a lot higher – or perhaps lower, especially if the consequences of the recent Amazon AWS breakdown significantly reduce CIO’s appetites for Cloud.

The potential for c.30% IT cost savings and speed to market benefits that can be achieved by telcos implementing Cloud internally previously shown by Cisco’s case study were highlighted but not explored in depth at this session.

Which cloud markets should telcos target?

Figure 2 – Cloud Services – Telco Positioning

Cloud 2.0 Market Positioning - Telco 2.0

Source: Cisco/Orange Presentation, 13th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm, London, May 2011

An interesting feature of the debate was which areas telcos would be most successful in, and the timing of market entry strategies. Orange and Cisco argued that the area of ‘Virtual Private Cloud’, although neither the largest nor predicted to be the fastest growing area, should be the first market for some telcos to address, appealing to some telcos strong ‘trust’ credentials with CIOs and building on ‘managed services’ enterprise IT sales and delivery capabilities.

Orange described its value proposition ‘Flexible 4 Business’ in partnership with Cisco, VMWare virtualisation, and EMC2 storage, and although could not at this early stage give any performance metrics described strong demand and claimed satisfaction with progress to date.

Aepona described a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) concept that they are launching shortly with Neustar that aggregates telco APIs to enable the rapid creation and marketing of new enterprise services.

Figure 3 – Aepona / Neustar ‘Intelligent Cloud’ PaaS Concept

C;oud 2.0 - Intelligent Cloud PaaS Concept - Telco 2.0

In this instance, the cloud component makes the service more flexible, cheaper and easier to deliver than a traditional IT structure. This type of concept is sometimes described as a ‘mobile cloud’ because many of the interesting uses relate to mobile applications, and are not reliant on continuous high-grade mobile connectivity required for e.g. IaaS: rather they can make use of bursts of connectivity to validate identities etc. via APIs ‘in the cloud’.

To read the rest of this Analyst Note, containing…

  • Forecasts of telco share of cloud by VPC, IaaS, PaaS and SaaS
  • Telco 2.0 take-outs and next steps
  • And detailed Brainstorm delegate feedback

Members of the Telco 2.0TM Executive Briefing Subscription Service and the Cloud and Enterprise ICT Stream can access and download a PDF of the full report here. Non-Members, please see here for how to subscribe. Alternatively, please email contact@telco2.net or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003 for further details.