|Issue:||Europe I 2011|
|Topic:||Making mobile Internet flourish|
|Title:||Executive Vice President of Networks, Carriers and Research & Development|
|Organisation:||France Telecom Group|
Thierry Bonhomme is the Executive Vice President of Networks, Carriers and Research & Development (R&D) for the Group. Mr Bonhomme previously served as Director of R&D within the Orange/FT Group strategic marketing function and, earlier, headed business enterprise and customer distribution for FT Group in France, managing the distribution of all Group business products and the control of sales and customer services. Mr Bonhomme began his career at France Telecom where his first role involved fieldwork in networks, transmission and switching. Mr Bonhomme left FT to join Idate, a company specialising in research for the telecoms and media industries, as Director. He later returned to FT Group as a Director of technical management, initially for the Paris regional division and then for the Grenoble and Marseilles regional areas. Thierry Bonhomme earned his degree in engineering at the Ecole Polytechnique and the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Telecommunications (ENST) in Paris.
Nowadays, users are demanding high-speed connections to a wide variety of devices and services. To serve them, operators are working to get more out of existing spectrum, find new spectrum, migrate to technologies such as LTE and share network resources with other operators. Video-based services now account for the bulk of broadband traffic growth and new ‘rich services’ also promise to drive network traffic. To prepare for this future, operators need industry-wide standards, and networks optimised for individual service requirements.
We have entered a new phase in the digital revolution. Customers are now in a fully digital world and at the centre of several personal, professional, and social networks. This phase is characterised by the need to remain constantly connected, by the abundance of offers, applications and services and by the explosion of traffic exchanged by each user. We are also seeing a growing number and wider variety of devices, tablets, netbooks and, now, TV sets that are connected and which offer specific services. This poses new challenges for telecom operators as the current technical and business models become obsolete. Cost-effective delivery of mobile broadband Broadband services are multi-format. Broadband service is challenging, and the primarily challenge is to provide customers with cost-effective, simple, and easy-to-use services and access. Very high-speed broadband access is of great value for mobile users. Telecommunications operators all provide the first two basic services that customers most appreciate: reachability and throughput, that is, access to a network. The mere possibility of being always connected and able to send and receive information (voice, SMS, email, Web, video…) is what they most value. Operators have invested heavily in recent years to improve this service and expand their mobile coverage. To increase the speed of connections, telecom operators have also invested their plans for third generation (3G) evolution to High Speed Packet Access (HSPA), HSPA + and LTE. There are four priorities for advanced network development: – Getting the most out of existing spectrum resources – Operators are deploying various versions of HSPA and now HSPA+, and are working to increase both network capacity and provide the increased performance that customers require. – Accessing new, suitable, spectrum resources – New spectrum bands will be needed in the near future to cope with the traffic by improving both the capacity in dense areas and the coverage of mobile broadband services. The ‘digital dividend’ spectrum and the 2.6GHz bands are complementary so that both goals can be reached. – Migrating to more efficient technologies – The evolution of mobile backhaul to packet technologies is a good example of such migration. LTE will be a major step towards packet-based technologies optimised for large volumes, in all parts of the networks, from the radio to the core network. – Developing and deploying complementary accesses technologies – WiFi access and femtocell access are currently the two main technologies in the short-range/high-throughput category. They offer a cost-effective way to expand mobile network capabilities in densely populated areas. ‘Mutualisation’ – The sharing of network resources – is an effective way to decrease network unit costs, and network operators are pursuing it actively. There are various forms of mutualisation – national roaming, RAN (radio access network) sharing, mutualisation of service platforms, mutualisation of operational teams within a group, outsourcing of operations, and the like. However, they all target the same goal: reducing costs to remain competitive through economies of scale and the elimination of redundant infrastructure. Broadband growth trends Mobile Internet is not merely a question of faster access; it brings new behaviours, new usages, and new applications. One trend that is emerging in mobile broadband, and fixed broadband too, is the development of video-based services. These services now account for the bulk of broadband traffic growth. They include real-time TV and VOD (video on demand) services, which have seen a very high adoption rate in France, as well as Internet video clips (YouTube and Dailymotion), and video content produced and posted online by companies and individuals every day. A considerable amount of video content is already found on newspaper websites. These companies which traditionally handle texts and photos have been very good at understanding the power of video content on the Web. This trend will continue to grow as video quality gets better and new technologies, such as 3D and interactivity, become more widespread. However, some of this video traffic will require dedicated management to guarantee cost-effective, high-level, quality. The second emerging trend is the development of ‘rich services’. ‘Rich services’ refers to services that are easy to use and which give customers clear and direct benefits with real, usable, value. Rich services are complex to deliver and require technological innovations. They may require the combination of various types of information and services, and, in many cases, involve several specialised service providers. ‘Location-based services’ are an example of such services. To create these services, we need to develop an industry-wide cooperative environment, in which value is created jointly by several actors – each of which is rewarded according to their level of contribution. Mutual involvement for customer satisfaction Customers’ expectations are high, and in order to meet them we need: – efficient networks; – appealing devices; – applications that bring value to the user; – simple and attractive offers; – value for money and rewards for all. The first two requirements are obvious and network operators are already working on the needed high-performance networks. The other requirements are less tangible and more difficult and a variety of actors will have to work together to achieve them. Two specific items need further development – open interfaces and interoperability, and the optimisation of network behaviour for individual service requirements. Open interfaces and interoperability Many operators already have some open interfaces and many have open APIs that developers of applications for SMEs can use. The need for interaction between the operator’s services and the many applications developed by users and developers will increase. We have to, as an industry, continue developing common models and standardised interfaces, to ease the development of new applications. Optimisation of network behaviour The existence networks carrying traffic without capacity limits (the ‘all you can eat’ model) while maintaining a consistently high quality of service, is a myth. Networks must be optimised for the services they carry and this need will always remain. The overall optimisation is already under way, as described in the first section. The next optimisation that will be needed is an optimisation that takes into account the specific characteristics of the service and its value for the customer. This optimisation may take the form of quality of service parameters specifically set per service. It may take the form of caching of content adaptation and usage policies. However it is done, we will have to put in place the mechanisms to manage and optimise the customer experience. The foundations are being laid today to respond to the mobile Internet boom. Nevertheless, we still have work to do to reach maturity and offer a full variety of services – each with an optimised user experience – but there is no doubt that our sector can answer these challenges.