Some 80,000 visitors ventured to Barcelona to attend the annual congregation for the mobile-minded, the Mobile World Congress (MWC). Long gone are the days when one single theme dominated the show. My main impression of MWC was that compared with last year, there was surprisingly little true news. I see evolution not revolution, which is somewhat odd as the overall business environment is clearly changing faster than ever.
Of course, everybody again claimed that they are active in the obligatory fields of cloud, analytics, and customer experience. However, if anything, I feel this convergence of marketing messages creates too many platitudes and undermines the practical use case scenarios that define the mobile mind shift. I went to MWC with several questionsin mind, and my main takeaways of MWC are that:
Ericsson is well on its way to being a prime driver of transformation in the Networked Society, as Ericsson describes its vision. I do not question the leading position of Ericsson’s core network activities. But compared to last year’s EMEA Analyst Event, Ericsson has made noticeable progress in its ambition to become a network-focused provider of ICT services because it:
Has a clearer perspective of what it is trying to achieve for its enterprise customers. Ericsson is much more specific about which types of enterprise customers it is catering to with what types of services. It targets sectors that face a high degree of mobile disruption and that rely on secure networks for real-time information transmission. In addition to the public and media sectors, which Ericsson has been focusing on for some time, it serves utilities and transport and logistics companies. At the event, Ericsson showcased its strong capabilities and vertical expertise for the media sector in the form of media delivery networks and broadcasting services.
As many market observers had expected for sometime, Nokia closed the chapter on what can only be described as a dramatic climb-down for what once was the world’s leading mobile player. Nokia agreed to sell its Devices & Services business to Microsoft for 5.4 billion euros. What does this mean for Nokia Solutions and Services (NSN), formerly Nokia Siemens Networks? I have several observations:
I expect that more change for both Nokia and NSN lies ahead. Nobody can accuse Nokia of shying away from fundamental transformations: from pulp producer, to electronic component supplier, to mobile phone company, to now what resembles a holding company looking after a network infrastructure business (NSN), a cloud-based mapping service (HERE), and a patents and a licensing operation (Advanced Technologies). I see no synergies between these operations. Hence, a breakup of Nokia followed by an initial public offering of NSN could be one possibility. At the Mobile World Congress 2013, NSN presented itself in a manner what - to me - looked like dressing up for an IPO: a lean and mean provider of mobile broadband network solutions.
Recently we attended a Colt Technology Services analyst day in London. It was great to see a technology services provider who is trying to embrace both disruptive ICT trends and challenges facing enterprise IT. Here is a high level summary of our views from the event:
Dan: Colt views its network assets not as its key differentiators - but its IT services. Although IT services today account for only a small fraction of Colt revenues, Colt views its network infrastructure assets as a means to an end to support IT services. Whilst we agree that network infrastructure runs the risk of commoditisation, Colt’s network helps to differentiate Colt’s offering from both IT service providers without network infrastructure and carriers with a less impressive network footprint. Quality network infrastructure is the basis for developing reliable, secure, and compliant ICT solutions. Maybe Colt ought to view itself more as a communications integrator than an IT Services provider.
John: Colt’s provides a strong European IaaS offering. One of the presentations focussed on Colt’s European datacenter footprint. At Forrester we get many inquiries on hosting and IaaS-specific options for Europe as many clients have to address regulatory and business requirements for data to reside in specific countries. Colt has a substantial number of data centers in European countries including the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Switzerland.
Dane Anderson, Dan Bieler, Charlie Kun Dai, Chris Mines, Nupur Singh Andley, Tirthankar Sen, Christopher Voce, Bryan Wang
Huawei is one of the most intriguing companies in the ICT industry, but its overall strategy remains largely unchanged: imitating established products and services, then adjusting and enhancing them, and making them available at an attractive price point. But to be fair: Huawei is pushing more and more innovative products.
In 2012, Huawei’s annual revenue growth slowed down to 8% to CNY 220 billion (about US$ 35 billion). During the same period, its EBIT margin remained flat at 9%, despite the changing revenue composition due to the growth of its consumer and enterprise business. Unlike last year’s event which was dominated by the announcement to push into the enterprise space, this year’s Global Analyst Summit in Shenzhen saw little ground breaking news. It was more of a progress report:
Orange’s CEO mentioned during a business show on French TV that Orange is receiving money from Google for transmitting Google’s traffic (most of which stems from YouTube). No details about the financial arrangement of the year-old deal were disclosed.
Given the well-known explosion in data traffic, carriers must invest a significant amount in their network infrastructure to support this traffic. See the Forrester report, “The Future Of Telecom: Strategies To Move Off The Endangered Species List,” for more information. For years, carriers have argued that online service providers (OSPs) like Google should pay for using the carrier network infrastructure.
So, does the Orange-Google deal mean that Orange has won a true victory and that the balance of power between carriers and OSPs is restored? Does the deal really address the challenges of the carrier world? Hardly.
Carriers rely on video content that drives demand for high broadband connectivity. Moreover, consumers already pay the carriers for their broadband connectivity. In my opinion, there is a valid argument that those end users who want high-quality video should be able to have it at extra cost. But this extra fee could be paid directly to the carrier in the form of a high-end broadband connection fee. Alternatively, the carrier could offer wholesale connectivity to OSPs, allowing the OSPs to offer content that comes with embedded high-quality connectivity.
So what does VMware and EMC’s announcement of the new Pivotal Initiative mean for I&O leaders? Put simply, it means the leading virtualization vendor is staying focused on the data center — and that’s good news. As many wise men have said, the best strategy comes from knowing what NOT to do. In this case, that means NOT shifting focus too fast and too far afield to the cloud.
I think this is a great move, and makes all kinds of sense to protect VMware’s relationship with its core buyer, maintain focus on the datacenter, and lay the foundation for the vendor’s software-defined data center strategy. This move helps to end the cloud-washing that’s confused customers for years: There’s a lot of work left to do to virtualize the entire data center stack, from compute to storage and network and apps, and the easy apps, by now, have mostly been virtualized. The remaining workloads enterprises seek to virtualize are much harder: They don’t naturally benefit from consolidation savings, they are highly performance sensitive, and they are much more complex.
During Huawei’s 2012 EMEA Analyst Event in Amsterdam, Huawei emphasised once again its commitment to Europe and its dedication to innovation. With sales of $3.8bn, 7,300 staff, around 800 of which are in R&D, and 10 R&D centres in Europe, Huawei has positioned itself as a leading provider of network infrastructure in the region. The main themes that we picked up during the event are:
Its carrier activities are increasingly dominated by software. Huawei emphasises the role if IT and software as a core focus area of its carrier network infrastructure activities, which still account for 74% of sales, going forward. Softcom, Huawei’s strategy to drive software defined networking and to move towards a flatter network architecture, is central to this transformation. By 2017, Huawei aims to generate around 40% of its network infrastructure revenues from software-related activities. The central goal of Softcom is to decouple applications from hardware in the network infrastructure and to integrate multiple operating systems into one cloud-based operating system. To succeed, Huawei needs to attract top IT expertise. Its partnerships with leading universities and research organisations like Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft go some way.
The other day I had an interesting discussion with Google about their Fiber-to-the home (FTTH) infrastructure. Google’s reasoning behind the move into the network infrastructure space stems from the belief that online growth and technology innovation are driven by three main factors:
The cost of storage, which has fallen considerably in previous years.
Computing power, which has increased in previous years.
The price and speed of Internet access, which has been stagnant for a decade. Today, the average Internet user in the US receives 5 Mbit/s download and 1 Mbit/s upload speed.
Vodafone agreed to acquire Cable & Wireless Worldwide (CWW) for 1.04 billion pounds in cash, valuing CWW at three times EBITDA. The deal propels Vodafone to the second largest telco in the UK with revenues of GBP6.97 billion, behind BT with revenues of GBP15.6 billion. From a financial perspective, the deal has a limited impact, accounting for only 3% of Vodafone’s 2011 EBITDA. However, given BT’s lack of a mobile division, Vodafone, becomes the leading integrated telco in the UK, offering fixed and mobile operations. The deal is expected to complete in Q3 2012.
The main focus of the deal is on CWW’s UK fixed-line network and CWW’s business customer base, both of which Vodafone aims to add to its UK mobile network. CWW provides managed voice, data, hosting, and IP-based services and applications. The deal boosts Vodafone’s enterprise offering, both in terms of access and transport infrastructure and also in terms of customer base. CWW is a major global infrastructure player: Its international cable network spans 425,000 km in length, covering 150 countries. In the UK, CWW operates a 20,500 km fiber network. Moreover, CWW has about 6,000 business customers. The future of CWW’s non-UK assets remains uncertain. In our view they do provide true value for Vodafone, strengthening its global network infrastructure. Vodafone will provide further details regarding these non-UK assets later in the year.