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The Case for Cable in the Tablet Era

By Roland Klemann, Director of Service Provider Practice, Western Europe, Internet Business Solutions Group

Although the coaxial cable may have been born in 1929, predictions of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

While traditional models for consuming television are indeed under siege—from time-shift TV, over-the-top video, and an ever-expanding array of new devices—cable remains highly relevant, even in an age of exploding data traffic. In fact, with savvy deployment of Wi-Fi services, cable providers can seize an opportunity—not in spite of the mobile data deluge, but because of it.

After all, that sleek new iPad—introduced last week while I was attending the Cable Congress in Brussels—boasts dazzling video resolution. But for network operators, it only adds to a growing problem. They are already reeling under the burden of a massive upsurge in traffic, from tablets and IP-enabled devices of all kinds. What’s worse, they are still at the low end of an ongoing mobile data explosion. Cisco’s Virtual Networking Index predicts an eighteen-fold increase in mobile traffic from 2011 to 2016.

As a result, two things are breaking down: 1) the physical capacity of the networks, and 2) their economics. Theoretically, mobile carriers can build enough macro cells to carry all the traffic in the world, but in reality, that gets prohibitively expensive—fast. No wonder some are feeling an encroaching sense of doom.

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A Data Deluge, Driven by Tablets and Mobile Video, Is Disrupting Mobile Carriers

Only a few years ago, the challenges facing mobile providers seemed well within the realm of their traditional expertise. Their vast and complex infrastructures, built around towers, antennas, core networks, and the like, focused on providing the bandwidth and signal quality necessary for providing clear voice signals. Early mobile Internet applications were limited to services like weather, news, and stock quotes. As video entered the picture, it was mostly limited to a quick, manageable snack here and there on YouTube. After all, on a tiny, phone-sized screen, the prospects for a sumptuous two-hour movie feast were limited.

The situation, however, is being radically transformed. And at this years’ Mobile World Congress, which I attended last week in Barcelona, a clear focus was on a prime disruptor: the tablet and vast, media-rich applications. For with the sudden and phenomenal growth of the iPad—along with its Android-based counterparts—end users who had been limited to quick bites on YouTube are ready to indulge in long-form video buffets, anytime and anywhere. And while those game-changing tablets don’t quite provide an IMAX experience, their larger screens nevertheless offer the perfect mix of visual quality, mobility, and convenience.

For mobile service carriers, however, this has created a certain amount of havoc. Read More »

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The Cisco – SP Partnership: Best Practices for Lifting Service Quality

By Carlos Cordero, Director, Service Provider Internet Business Solutions Group

Service providers (SPs) often face a number of service quality challenges. These challenges, more often than not, result from hardware failures, software bugs, network outages, packet loss, and capacity issues. The majority of these challenges may not be new, and may have already been resolved by SPs’ technology partners, or by other operators. Indeed, SPs could capture significant operational benefits simply by adopting well-established best practices.

However, adopting these best practices requires a proactive and open relationship between SPs and their technology partners. Without open cooperation, adopting these best practices and continuous improvement will always prove to be a challenge.

To explore the relationship between an SP’s culture and the adoption of best practices, I will be writing a series of articles on the SP360 blog covering operational and engineering best practices, challenges, and benchmarks observed in the course of working with major service providers worldwide.  The specific topics I will cover include: operational practices such as testing, certification, engineering rules, go-live, and incident management; as well as organizational capabilities (planning, program management, culture, management practices, IP skillsets, and staffing levels).

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Is Network Technology a Key Enabler for Smart Eco-City Development?

Earlier this week, the US-China Green Energy Council convened an impressive seminar on “Smart Eco-City Development Progress: Connecting People in Unique, Innovative and Regenerative Communities.”

Participants came to the discussion from many angles — infrastructure, engineering, architecture, urban design, planning, technology development, energy, to name just a few. That diversity of perspective certainly added a layer of richness to the debate, especially when skeptical voices worried about the longer-term  impacts of the global recession. Clearly, there was a lot of ground to discover in one short event.

Three panelists, including myself, shared our background, experience,  and views,  and  the floor was opened for what turned out to be a vigorous discussion. Our moderator was James T. Caldwell Ph.D., Director of UCGEC and the Chair of UCGEC’s Green Building and Ecocities Task Force. He also serves as a consultant to Heller Manus Architects, based in San Francisco, which is undertaking massive projects in China for their clients.

I laid out the story behind Cisco’s ‘Smart+Connected Communities’ initiative, which is improving the delivery of urban services while strengthening economic development in cities of varying sizes and types. I also explained some of S+CC’s current areas of focus, and presented some of the work now underway in Asia, Europe and North America. For more about IBSG’s perspective on this work be sure to take a look at the blog post, “Innovation in the 21st Century,” written by Nicola Villa, global director of IBSG’s Urban Innovations team.  And for a deeper dive, you may want to review Nic’s white paper, “Connecting Cities: Achieving Sustainability Through Innovation,” which he  co- authored with Shane Mitchell, IBSG Public Sector.

Joining me was Eric Lundquist, an architect, and Managing Director of Heller Manus Architects. Eric’s firm has clients with a total of 7,500 acres of development in California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Russia, Mexico, and China, and he said that “we must recognize that each project has a unique geography, culture and its own strategic imperatives for sustainable, healthy and attractive communities.” Eric described “how diverse goals and ecological imperatives are integrated through architectural planning in partnership with key stakeholders.”

Ed Cazalet, Ph.D., and  President and CEO of TeMix, Inc., also weighed in. With  forty years of electric industry experience as a founder and CEO of several companies and as a Board member of the California ISO, Dr. Cazalet described TeMix’s “Smart Transactive Energy Services” as “useful for eco-city smart grids.”  He explained that his company’s technology will “optimally coordinate renewable energy production, storage, grid demand, and traffic among all components and players on the grid.” He included in his presentation a review of renewable energy micro-grids, including one proposed by OSISoft for Hainan Island in China.

As we wrapped up for the day, I found myself reflecting on the initial statement the organizers released about the seminar’s focus:  “The key to human survival and healthy fulfillment is strengthening economic, intellectual and social growth in ways that maintain healthy, resilient eco-systems (global, regional and local). Since all these variables change, we survive and thrive by designing, measuring, connecting and managing our built environments interactively. We adapt, innovate and change in full view of the unique and charming qualities of each city and ecosystem. In smart eco-city development, we connect its diverse natural environments, diverse communities and creative people with flexible, connected built environments. We interactively encourage, preserve and balance the special qualities and contributions of each city, species, community, individual and ecosystem. We cannot measure and manage every variable. This approach optimizes self-management, creative innovation and it minimizes unforeseen consequences.”

A spirited and robust conversation has begun; I look forward to its continuation.

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With High-Frequency Trading, Financial Firms Face New Challenges

In recent years, the financial industry has witnessed a revolution. To discuss, debate, and seek a bit of consensus on the crucial issues impacting the industry, I met earlier this year in New York with a team of experts at the Electronic Trading Innovation Council. For the event, Cisco partnered with the founders of the council, Julio Gomez and Clay Booma. I was joined by my Cisco colleagues Aron Dutta, co-managing director for financial markets, Cisco IBSG; Chris O’Connell, Cisco’s head of strategy for alternative investment markets; and Dave Malik, Cisco’s technology & architecture lead. The other participants represented a wide range of financial and tech-based firms, including BNY Mellon, Citi, Credit Suisse, Lazard Freres, Morgan Stanley, Nomura, State Street, UBS, Equinix, Savvis, and Tervela.

It was a great team, and the roundtable meetings benefited from a vast body of knowledge and a high level of participation. Read More »

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