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Why Carriers Are Embracing NFV, and What They Should Demand of These New, More Agile Environments

By: Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC

Service providers are undergoing a sea change.

Their networks, which traditionally have been based on turnkey network elements running software on purpose-built hardware, are moving to a software-centric model. In this model the true value lies in the software, while the hardware is typically of the commercial-off-the-shelf variety.

Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is the name of this new architecture, which not only embraces the model of instituting network functionality in software and running it on industry-servers, but also allows applications and services to leverage those resources whenever and wherever they are.

Opening up the skies with LTE Air-to-Ground

By: Thierry Sens, Marketing Director Transportation Segment, Alcatel-Lucent

(Note:  Originally posted on Alcatel-Lucent corporate blog)

“Ladies and gentlemen, the fasten seat belt sign has now been turned on. Please ensure your mobile devices are switched off for the full duration of the flight” It is the announcement that many passengers dread as they hurry to finish up one more e-mail, or send one final text or tweet, before the start of a flight and a few hours of absence from the connected world.

But from the end of 2016 this is set to change in Europe. Inmarsat announced on November 20 that it has signed a contract with Alcatel-Lucent to develop Long-Term Evolution (LTE) air-to-ground technology, which will be delivered in partnership with service providers and airlines in 30 European countries. Alcatel-Lucent will supply the ground LTE radio infrastructure, which consists of antennas situated 100 km apart. The system is capable of providing download speeds of up to 75 mbps to planes using 2x15 MHz FDD licenses which Inmarsat owns in the Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) S-band. This makes it not only the world’s fastest airborne broadband service, but a pioneer of future in-flight services for passengers and airline operations.

Addressing the threat from OTT voice apps with VoLTE

By: Josee Loudiadis, Director of Network Intelligence, Alcatel-Lucent 

Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and rich communications services can help mobile service providers reclaim market share being lost to over-the-top (OTT) applications.

Voice and text revenues are declining as mobile service providers (MSPs) face an unprecedented challenge from OTT communication apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and lesser known entrants, including WhatsApp and LINE. At first, MSPs enjoyed net gains because the use of these apps had generated significant data revenue. But times have changed. While still a source of revenue, these apps have begun to erode MSP’s native voice and messaging revenue.

To illustrate, let’s look at WhatsApp, who recently debuted its business model for mobile virtual network operators. In this model, WhatsApp (now owned by Facebook) provides voice and messaging services while leasing wireless services from a mobile operator. This means that MSPs are left with price per bit as their sole differentiator.

LTE Small Cells Help Public Transport Users Stay Informed in Real-time

By: Thierry Sens, Marketing Director Transportation Segment Marketing, Alcatel-Lucent

It’s raining. It’s Monday morning. And the bus hasn’t turned up.

It’s a story experienced all the time in cities across the world, and is a major challenge for transit operators in the battle for passengers. When you are wet through and the bus still hasn’t come around the corner, taking the car always feels like the better option.

However, telecommunications technology is helping to readdress this balance. Research has shown that use of mobile apps which show up-to-date and accurate journey information is improving journey experience. Passengers can plan their journey better meaning the wait for the bus is no longer such a drag.

Partnering to Meet the Challenges and Opportunities in Building Smart Cities

The dynamics of this global change are fairly well known, although how to address the challenges isn’t so obvious. For example, cities consume three quarters of energy and contribute 80 percent of CO2 emissions globally, according to a recent report in The Guardian. How can that energy be most effciently delivered, with minimal environmental impact?

Consensus is emerging that what’s needed are smarter, safer, greener cities. Governments and municipalities are under pressure to invest in sustainable infrastructure capable of efficiently delivering services to citizens and workers.

There’s a pretty compelling smart grid transformation opportunity for public-private partnerships embedded in this evolution. Together, telecom service providers and information and communication technology (ICT) providers can bring in their assets, expertise and experience to help power utilities meet goals for smart grid applications.

Next Generation Railway Communications Highlighted by Alcatel-Lucent at InnoTrans 2014

From original posting on Alcatel-Lucent TRACKTalk Blog

InnoTrans might have been and gone for another two years but Alcatel-Lucent’s highlights from the world’s largest railway exhibition live on in three videos which are now available to view at any time online.

Small Cell Deployments Can Gain from Thoughtful Collaboration

By: Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Mobile operators know that small cells deliver efficient, cost-effective wireless coverage since they can be placed anywhere to add or augment service. But while the technological benefits are not in dispute, actual small cell deployment can be a challenge. The very advantage of small cells is also a disadvantage.

That’s because unlike macro cells, small cells require many deployments and agreements with many sites. Instead of one deployment, there are several. This adds complexity, especially with small cells outdoors.

The numbers bear this out. A recent study by Informa Telecoms & Media found that roughly 60 percent of the operators it surveyed said that deployment problems were the biggest challenge with small cell technology.

VDSL and Vectoring are Important Parts of Broadband Deployment

By: Wendy Zajack, Dir. Product Communications, Alcatel-Lucent

From original on Alcatel-Lucent corporate blog

A few months ago our home WiFi slowed to a crawl. At first we thought it was a temporary thing, but after my son ran a diagnostic there was a problem with our high-speed broadband.  

While the technician was fixing it, he mentioned that for an extra $10 a month we could get a faster plan.  Living in the US we already (in my opinion) pay enough for our monthly broadband package so I immediately said ‘no.’ But I told my kids that IF they wanted to pay for it … we would consider it.

German Internet Exchange Shows its Support for Alcatel-Lucent's IP Core Routing Solution

By: Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

The routers and infrastructure that lay at the foundation of Internet service provider (ISP) networks rarely are named; which service routers that ISPs use are not often openly discussed.

But sometimes the veil does get pulled back, as was the case recently with the announcement that the world’s largest ISP, Germany’s DE-CIX, has leveraged the Alcatel-Lucent 7950 XRS Extensible Routing System (XRS) for its newly deployed DE-CIX Apollon German Internet exchange.

NFV INSIGHTS: The right SDN is right for NFV

By: Roland Mestric, Director, Video Solutions Marketing

It feels like it was just a few months ago when you could read articles in the trade press lumping together SDN and NFV with NFV being a form of SDN or vice versa.  Yes, both somehow are about virtualization and about converting hardware into software. Today – after numerous proofs-of-concept run by service provides around the globe – we know the role of SDN as virtually indispensable for NFV solutions that aspire to deliver the kind of agility and operational simplification we all expect from NFV. Only SDN can deliver quickly enough the (virtual) networks needed for newly deployed network functions. Alcatel-Lucent has recently demonstrated a complete virtual evolved packet core (vEPC) including a virtual IMS/VoLTE deployed in less than 30 minutes.

IP Video: A Whirlwind of Innovation

By: Roland Mestric, Director, Video Solutions Marketing, Alcatel-Lucent

Before the iPhone, the world of TV was relatively simple. Linear TV programs were delivered to the TV set over the air or to its set-top box (STB), which was directly tied to the cable coax, the home gateway or the satellite dish.

Now everything has changed.

Video-enabled, IP-connected devices with ever-greater screen resolution are flooding the market. Tablets, smartphones and smart TVs are running on many flavours of operating systems. All use different protocols, formats and standards. With these devices, end users have many options to watch video. These include being attached to the service provider’s managed network, or being directly connected to the Internet and consuming ‘over-the-top’ content. Moreover, end users want to watch their favorite content on demand; they no longer want to be restricted to linear programing. This adds yet another level of complexity to this whirlwind of change.

Covering all IP video options results in countless protocols, proliferating standards and loads of acronyms. Even industry watchers can find the rapidly evolving world of IP video confusing. That’s why I created this IP video streaming infographic.

The New Facet of Customer Experience Management - Field Service 2.0

By: Rhodo Odysseos, Product/Solution Marketing, Alcatel-Lucent, and Jess Verbruggen, Motive Integrated Marketing Assistant, Alcatel-Lucent

Traditionally, communications service providers (CSPs) have treated the field service aspect of their organization as a cost center. Field technicians engaged in maintenance activities were simply a part of the cost of doing business.  More recently, the communications industry in general and the field service arena in particular, has been disrupted by immense changes in the customer profile, service expectations, and behaviors.

Field service is often the only face of the company that a customer will ever see, so it’s not a surprise that CSPs are striving to make a positive impact on customers in this realm. Achieving full potential in field service saves CSPs a lot of time and money. Productivity and efficiency reviews targeted at field service operations, done correctly, can reinforce other areas of the business by increasing customer satisfaction and improving safety and quality. 

Here is how Telecoms Can Keep Over-the-Top in Check

By: Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Why I don’t use Skype much largely is the result of a savvy move from a telecom provider in Southeast Asia.

I have many friends in Asia, many of whom are not exactly rolling in money. So they can’t afford a data plan on their cell phone to use Skype. But what they all can do is use Facebook, and they all can use Facebook because many telecoms in the region give Facebook access away for free while charging for other Internet access such as web browsing. This is a good way to slowly upsell consumers—and to indirectly get me to use Facebook even more than I normally would.

Similar value-added services through selective access to particular mobile applications can be seen here in the U.S., too. T-Mobile, for instance, has recently begun offering unlimited streaming Internet radio even for customers who can’t step up for the larger data plans that normally would be needed to support Internet radio on a mobile device.

This is good business. It is a way that operators can help fend off the over-the-top challenge that threatens to turn telecoms into commodity businesses.

Answering the Question of How to Manage NFV Effectively with an vEPC

By: Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

The advantages to mobile operators of network functions virtualization (NFV) and moving to a virtualized evolved packet core (vEPC) have become clear, and mobile networks operators are pretty much sold on the technology in theory.

As the technology side has been figured out and operators begin to plan commercial deployments of NFV and vEPC, however, discussion is starting to move toward operational requirements and challenges. Mobile network operators need to figure out how best to manage these new virtual network functions (VNFs) and the NFV infrastructure, and also how to modify the existing network operations model when these VNFs are deployed.

NFV INSIGHTS: Is OpenStack ready for NFV?

By Andreas Lemke, Ph.D. - Alcatel-Lucent

Open source has had a massive impact on information technology and the web: The Linux operating system, the LAMP stack, browsers, the Android smartphone OS. Individual enthusiasts, universities, and businesses spend enormous resources to build technologies, and then give them away for free. Are they out of their mind? The success of open source shows they are not. 

OpenStack, the open source cloud management software, has come into the focus of service providers as a rapidly advancing, cost-effective technology foundation for NFV. With OpenStack, service providers are expecting to escape the tangles of individual vendors and build an open horizontal platform for their future networks.

How to Kill Shadow IT: Step Three - Kill It with Kindness

By: Bryan R. Davies, Senior Director of Enterprise Communications Marketing, Alcatel-Lucent

In my second blog in this series, I discussed how you can regain control when enterprise IT users defect to self-service IT. In a nutshell, they’re looking for faster, easier ways to get their hands on tools that boost productivity. 

ALUSnip.10.3.14.JPG

So your solution starts with a simple concept. Think of these users as valuable customers. Then provide a superior offer. Of course, to succeed with this new approach, you’ll need a framework for agility. In this blog, we’ll look at three reasons why this framework is important for your enterprise, as well as individual IT users.

Successful Communications Services Have Six Features in Common

By: Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Large enterprises increasingly resemble public network service providers as they manage access, transport and network routing while controlling devices and sessions. Whether businesses build their own or buy their communications services through a public provider, the IP communications architectures are looking remarkably similar.

“I’ve noticed that both private service operators (CIOs of large enterprises) and public service providers are implementing very similar solutions around the globe,” wrote Oliver Krahn in a recent TechZine article, 6 Steps that Improve Communications Services.
ALUSnip10.14.2.JPGSource: Alcatel-Lucent

Most Mobile Traffic Happens In-Building, and Operators Need to Beef Up Their Support

By: Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Most mobile traffic is consumed indoors, and operators need to get a better grip on serving this market since it is a huge one.

Roughly 80 percent of mobile traffic is now consumed in-building, according to a recent Gartner study, whether mobile bandwidth is consumed in a public space, a shopping mall, or at the office. The total market for in-building services is estimated to be $4.3 billion currently, according to ABI research, and it is expected to grow to $8.5 billion by 2019.

Business leaders recognize the need, too; 72 percent of businesses are interested in enterprise cells that can boost performance on their premises. An Alcatel-Lucent infographic tells the tale.

Most Mobile Traffic Happens In-Building, and Operators Need to Beef Up Their Support

By: Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Most mobile traffic is consumed indoors, and operators need to get a better grip on serving this market since it is a huge one.

Roughly 80 percent of mobile traffic is now consumed in-building, according to a recent Gartner study, whether mobile bandwidth is consumed in a public space, a shopping mall, or at the office. The total market for in-building services is estimated to be $4.3 billion currently, according to ABI research, and it is expected to grow to $8.5 billion by 2019.

Business leaders recognize the need, too; 72 percent of businesses are interested in enterprise cells that can boost performance on their premises. An Alcatel-Lucent infographic tells the tale.

Smart Cities Will Make Our Lives Better

By: Anthony Trinh, Integrated Marketing Assistant, Alcatel-Lucent

The Internet of Things (IoT) is enabling the world around us to exchange data via a common network. This data will actually help us to understand the ‘things’ (objects and devices) in our lives and make sense of it. But how does the IoT improve our lives?

By 2020, the IoT will connect more than 26 billion devices and almost anything – your connected car, your dog’s collar, and even your entire city – will be able to communicate with each another. Cities are getting bigger and there are a lot of opportunities to streamline operations and manage scarce resources with IoT technology. Innovations in IoT technology are helping public and private organizations gain in-depth insight into the needs of their communities. Cities will become smart – developing strategies to improve their infrastructure, plan for long-term growth, create more energy-efficient environments, and keep people safe.

Cloud DVR Comes of Age

By: Mathew Pitt-Bailey, Product Communications, Alcatel-Lucent 

I know what you’re thinking. Here is another article about “the cloud”. There’s been a lot of talk, a lot of promise – in short, a lot of hype about how the cloud will transform our industry. But when is it going to start delivering? 

Well actually, it already has.

Big Data for Better Operations - The Use of Analytics in the Connected Home

By: Alan Marks, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Alcatel-Lucent’s Motive Customer Experience Solutions

The increasingly competitive broadband market has service providers facing new challenges as they deliver services to today’s Internet-connected home. One challenge is delivering technical support for the rapidly increasing number of Internet-connected devices in the home. Consumers are now connecting gaming consoles, smart phones, tablets and other devices to their residential gateway, and their broadband Internet service. In light of this increasingly complex and dynamic technological landscape, it is no surprise that service providers have turned to analytics to better understand their customers’ needs.

The Cat Video Index: A Simple View of Data Costs

By: Andy Porter, Product Manager in the Payment, Policy and Charging department at Alcatel-Lucent

The Economist has its famous Big Mac index for comparing buying power across countries. But I wanted an index that focuses on the cost of mobile data usage. That meant I had to find a data-charging equivalent of the Big Mac. I needed an item that crosses cultural boundaries, is universally understood and is available worldwide.

I considered many possibilities. But the answer arrived when I saw my daughter laughing at a video of a cat playing a piano. Obviously, the mobile data equivalent of the Big Mac is the YouTube video. It’s a universally available service that is easily measured in quantitative terms, making it ideal for comparing mobile data costs.

In honor of my daughter, I chose the classic “piano-playing cat” as the baseline video. And by the way, this cat video has been viewed over 34 million times, proving its suitability as a baseline.

Cable MSOs Can Learn a Lesson from Kabel Deutschland

By: Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Kabel Deutschland (KD), a Vodafone company, is a good example of what cable multiple system operators must do to gracefully manage growing demand and continue to deliver innovative new services by upgrading their network edge for IP services.

As highlighted in a recent TechZine article by Steve Davidson, European Marketing Director for Cable, Alcatel-Lucent, KD’s investment in infrastructure and cable services had already paid great dividends. The company’s initial 100 Mb/s product offering had a take-rate approaching 50 percent. But with this positive consumer response came some new challenges.

Among these challenges were managing cable operator costs and subscriber growth, supporting legacy cable services, and accelerating IP service deployment. How the cable company dealt with these problems and did so in the context of having a vision of its IP services future is worth studying.

Ethernet VPN Brings Distinct Advantages over Its Predecessor

By: Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Ethernet services delivery based on the control plane approach hasn’t changed for proven solutions such as MPLS/VPLS and PBB. Layer 2 flooding and learning as an approach to build the forwarding database is still necessary, but this has inherent limitations.

A new approach has emerged that brings many benefits over the control plane approach in the form of Ethernet VPN (EVPN). With EVPN, the control plane and data planes are abstracted and separated. A multiprotocol BGP (MP-BGP) control plane protocol carries MAC/IP routing information, and there are several data plane encapsulation choices.

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