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European Communications discusses the latest telecom trends with telco executives, analysts and topic experts viainsightful analysis, Q&As and opinion pieces.

INTERNET GAMBLING - Place your bets

As Internet gambling – whether via mobile or fixed lines – continues its upward path, Windsor Holden looks at the different approaches of prohibition versus regulation currently exhibited by governments on opposite sides of the Atlantic

Before we kick this off, I would like to get one thing straight. “Tex” Holden, king of casinos, lord of the gamblers, is a myth. You will not espy me playing the roulette wheel at the Golden Nugget, nor cleaning up at baccarat in Monte-Carlo, nor even studying the form guide in the Racing Post. In short, I am not ordinarily a gambling man, although one might suggest taking a through train on a Friday evening from Manchester Piccadilly to Cambridge represented a bit of a punt, particularly if I were expecting it to arrive on time, or even arrive at all, rather than bundling all its passengers into the cold dark night at Sheffield.

And yet, while drafting some notes for this article, and cursing Central Trains, I remembered that it was the Euromillions umpteenth draw that night, and I’d forgotten to buy a ticket, and the hundred million ackers destined for my wallet would now slip regrettably into the pockets of some undeserving continental chappie.
Because the lottery doesn’t count, does it? It’s just a couple of quid here and there, a bit of a laugh, a bit of a giggle: not proper gambling, with big money an’ that. Indeed; and the vast majority of us do not count ourselves as gamblers, although more than three-quarters of the UK adult population, for instance, play the National Lottery at least once per year, and most on a more regular basis. Even if the Lottery is excluded, nearly half of us dabble in one form or another. Gambling, in its myriad forms, is popular. People want to gamble. And, with more and more people acquiring access to the Internet, whether through a fixed line or mobile phone,  companies are naturally eager to allow them to fulfil their desires online.
But governments have not always seen it this way, and generally feel disposed to impose some or other form of regulatory structure on the industry. There are two extreme approaches here. The first, which may still be practised in some relaxed and possibly dangerous environs, is anything goes. The problem with this regulatory model is that it offers enormous scope for the following scenario: a couple of characters named Slim and Frenchie set up www.greatbets.com, offer wonderful odds for the less percipient and discerning customers and then silently disappear into the night with the loot. While profitable in the short term, this business model is probably not sustainable in the longer haul, if only because people are highly unlikely to be repeat visitors to your site. Furthermore, and unfortunately for Slim and Frenchie, very few – if any – governments are inclined to be so laissez-faire, with the possible exception of countries where Slim and Frenchie are first cousins to/and or best buddies with the Minister of Commerce.
The second model, which the United States has employed, lies at the other end of the spectrum. Here, under the quaint and misplaced belief that prohibition actually works, the feds will send in the modern day Eliot Nesses to arrest anyone who places a bet over an Internet connection. There are many things that could be said about this policy, and while, as Johnson said of Cymbeline (and, latterly, if somewhat unkindly, Muggeridge said of Sons and Lovers), it is pointless to criticise unresisting imbecility, it can be enjoyable and cathartic nonetheless. And so, let us take a closer look at the US approach.
While you can legally buy lottery tickets, gamble in licensed casinos, and place a bet at a bookmakers in person, it becomes a heinous crime should you wish to do so remotely via a telephone. The legislation which decrees that it is so is the 1961 Wire Act: this was originally drafted to prohibit bookmakers in states where gambling was then legal taking bets from would-be gamblers in other less liberal areas of the US.   However, times have changed, and America has become exposed to the wonders and depravities of the World Wide Web, and various upright (or uptight, depending on your viewpoint) congressmen and senators have sought to update the 1961 Act  to ensure that those pesky remote gamblers don’t gamble online across state lines: in fact, to ensure that they can’t gamble online at all. Senator John Kyl repeatedly tried to introduce various incarnations of the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act , none of which made it to full senate vote, before Senator Jim Leach took up the baton for righteousness and sponsored HR4411, the Unlawful Internet Enforcement Act. The argument behind this legislation is as follows:
“The Internet's ease of accessibility and anonymous nature: (1) make it difficult to prevent underage gambling; and (2) feed on the compulsive behaviour of the millions of Americans suffering from gambling addiction.”
I have a big problem with (1) and an even bigger problem with (2). To (1), I would answer: no, dear, it doesn’t. There are numerous checks and balances that can be put in place, notably age-verification requiring at least two items of identification, which actually works very well. And as for (2): up to a point, Lord Copper. The Internet can certainly facilitate mobile gambling (that’s why Ladbrokes, William Hill, Uncle Victor Chandler and all were in there like a shot); it makes it very easy to place bets without the bother of popping down to the bookies or the bingo hall (or, if you’re feeling flush and flash, the Golden Nugget). But I would question whether the majority of those Americans who do suffer from gambling addiction as a result of visits to the aforementioned locales would be significantly more likely to gamble were Internet gambling to be permitted. For one, as a recent survey by the American Gaming Association revealed, the demographic profiles of online gamblers are markedly different from, say casino gamblers: the former are predominantly males, aged under 40 and college educated; the latter are inclined to be older, less well educated, and with a greater preponderance of women in the mix. Secondly, and this is the biggie: why should the overwhelming majority of responsible gamblers be denied the opportunity to enjoy a leisure activity in their own homes which is perfectly acceptable and legal in public places?
This is not in any way to deny that gambling addiction, whether online or in any other form, is a serious issue: a short perusal of the website run by the charity Gamcare provides hair-raising evidence of the scale of problem gambling, and of its consequences, both to the gamblers themselves and to their families. But, as Gamcare acknowledges, there are ways of addressing the problem, not least by working with the gambling industry, regulators and the government. For Senators Kyl and Leach, that conciliatory approach would be anathema. Naughty Internet gamblers! Bad Internet gamblers! Ban them and lock them up!
I called it imbecilic: and yet (credit where credit’s due) there may be method in their apparent madness. Back in 2001, when the American Gaming Association was appearing before a Congressional Subcommittee, it grumbled that offshore Internet gambling sites: “Frustrate important state policies, including restrictions on the availability of gaming within each State… Unregulated Internet gambling that exists today allows an unlicensed, untaxed, unsupervised operator to engage in wagering that is otherwise subject to stringent federal and state regulatory controls. These controls are vital to preserving the honesty, integrity and fairness that those in the gaming industry today have worked so hard for so long to bring about.”
Untaxed. That is the key word here, the one which gives all governments the screaming habdabs. Those blasted foreigners are not paying tax – just look at all that gorgeous, lovely, sexy money being pumped offshore! Why not introduce an Internet protectionism; oh, sure, it’ll mean that us boys at the AGA don’t get any competition, but hell, we can put up with that! We’re good, God-fearing, tax-paying US citizens!
But the problem for the US government is that those blasted foreigners are not taking things lying down. In Antigua and Barbuda, gambling is the driving force behind the economy: the tiny nation is home to more than 500 remote gambling sites; it has been estimated that 3,000 of its 67,000 inhabitants are employed in the on-line gambling business. And many of its best customers are American. Accordingly, when the US government began using the Wire Act to prohibit foreign transmission of gambling information, its Antiguan counterpart lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organisation, which found in November 2004 that the US restrictions on remote gambling were in violation of international trade agreements. The US government, naturally, appealed against this verdict, before altering its standpoint and claiming that it was no longer in breach of the trade agreements, but hey, you still can’t gamble on Antiguan web sites. Much paperwork later, a WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) will shortly adjudicate on the matter: whether the US will abide by its ruling is another matter entirely.
Well, then, we have had the two extremes: now for the middle ground, which is what Tessa Jowell, the UK Minister of Culture, is proposing. I am no lover of regulation for regulation’s sake; but in this the British government has been careful and reasoned at just about every stage in the process. Recognising the international nature of the industry, it has called for the implementation of international standards of regulation. Recognising that would-be punters tend, not unnaturally, to be more attracted to gambling websites where Frenchie and Slim don’t disappear into the sunset, it has backed the introduction of kitemarks for the online industry. It has worked with the Gambling Commission to develop proposed licensing conditions and codes of practice. It has called for greater co-operation with the industry as a whole.
But before I get too lovey-dovey with Tessa Jowell, I would venture to suggest that at that heart of the matter, there is a great deal of similarity between the US and UK governments. Both are aware that gambling is not going to go away; both, being pragmatists, would like to earn some money from it. However, while the US approach is rooted firmly in the past, in the robust and defiant protectionism it has so often mocked when its own products are being exported, the UK option has been to appreciate that it is better to have the gambling companies inside the tent rather than outside it (in Antigua, Gibraltar, or wherever). It is an approach which will ensure that the industry is well regulated, that gamblers’ rights are protected; it will also be an approach which is more financially rewarding. So I would say to the US government: do you sincerely want to be rich? If so, listen up.
Dr Windsor Holden is Principal Analyst at Juniper Research
Mobile Gambling Markets Re-Assessed (Post US Legal Changes), 2006-2011,  published by Juniper Research, January 2007
www.juniperresearch.com

MULTI-NETWORK OPERATORS - A closely tailored approach

Designing solutions based on specific customer requirements sounds like Nirvana for telecoms users.  Chris Britton explains how Multi-Network Operators are aiming to fulfil the dream

Historically, corporate customers were compelled to rely on incumbent public
telecoms operators (PTOs) for their telecoms services. Now, an increasingly liberalised
 telecoms sector has led to fierce competition among both established telecommunications operators and newcomers, which is delivering choice and improving quality of service and price benefits across the majority of markets.

In this deregulated telecoms world, a new type of company has emerged – the Multi-Network Operator (MNO). Unlike traditional, network-centric telecoms operators, MNOs do not own the infrastructure over which their services are provided.
Instead, they design tailored solutions based on their customers’ specific communications requirements, using an optimal combination of telecoms networks and technologies.   Relying on their skills, experience, service management capabilities and partnerships, MNOs bring added value to enterprise customers, as well as to their network infrastructure partners.
So why is the term ‘multi-network operator’ used here in preference to the more familiar ‘virtual network operator’ (VNO)?  The key reason is that MNOs understand there is nothing ‘virtual’ about their customers’ networking requirements.
Regardless of the underlying infrastructure, MNOs take full responsibility for designing, implementing and managing network solutions.  Indeed, while some traditional telecoms operators offer different service levels depending on whether a solution is ‘on-net’ or ‘off-net’, MNOs approach service level commitments more from an end-to-end perspective. 
The term, Multi-Network-Operator, highlights the way MNOs use their expertise, skills and tools and solutions to find the optimum mix of network technologies on their customers’ behalf. They do this via multiple routes, from multiple sources and across multiple geographies, before integrating the disparate components and operating them as a single solution.
MNOs also differentiate themselves from VNOs via their product focus. VNOs have previously concentrated on virtual private network (VPN) solutions, which involve connecting multiple sites using shared Internet infrastructure. While not ignoring VPN services, MNOs focus on delivering high capacity, custom-built network solutions using dedicated leased line, optical fibre and Ethernet technology, which they manage 24x7. 
MNOs believe that business customers have become accustomed to receiving substandard service from traditional telcos and are crying out for significantly higher service levels for their wide area networks.  It is a sad fact that there are now whole industries – such as telecom expense management and outsourced service level management – that exist because customers feel the need to ‘police’ the traditional telco model. 
MNOs represent a more customer-service driven approach.  In this respect, they offer several key benefits over single carriers operating alone.
Traditional telcos are inevitably focused on maximising the utilisation of the network infrastructure they own. Everything they do – the way they price services, target customers and select technologies to offer – is geared towards squeezing as much value as possible out of that capacity. In contrast, MNOs are constrained by neither the fiscal nor the physical limits of a single network. 
This is an important advantage when servicing the needs of large corporates. The ongoing globalisation of industry means that enterprises increasingly need their networks to provide services to all parts of the world. Consequently, they are looking for end-to-end solutions that will almost certainly demand a combination of the network facilities of carriers in their home region with providers operating in territories across the globe.
By managing multiple networks instead of relying on one provider with a limited footprint, the best MNOs enable customers to expand their business network into new markets and remote, hard-to-serve locations faster and more cost-effectively than ever before.
The MNO approach can also offer increased choice and flexibility for customers in other ways. Rather than focusing on maximising capacity in one particular network, it concentrates on delivering the combination of network technologies that best suit the business needs of the specific customer. Once this is decided, the MNO can concentrate on putting these networks together as a seamless whole and managing them to a single service level agreement. 
In addition, MNOs can help their customers to achieve lower total cost of ownership by reducing the hidden costs of using a traditional telco. Again, the best of these operators will adhere to robust global service level agreements, provide a single point of contact for multiple vendor solutions and deliver accurate, easy-to-understand invoices to customers.
Leading MNOs also have the expertise to integrate multiple transport and networking technologies ranging from private line to satellite and from IP-VPN to Frame Relay, coupled with the experience to deploy solutions that combine fixed broadband, managed mobility and secure site-to-site connectivity.
MNOs’ in-depth understanding of their customers’ business also enables them to offer consultancy as enterprises migrate to triple play solutions and next generation technologies like Ethernet and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and are faced with the need to integrate and interconnect increasingly disparate environments.
For the MNOs, committed to providing the best possible networking solutions for their customers, the move to these fast and efficient new networking technologies is inevitable and to be welcomed. And they are much better placed than carriers to provide an effective migration strategy.
This is because unlike carriers, they do not own the network infrastructure and therefore they have no financial stake in the embedded legacy environment. Effectively, they take on the role of reseller of network capacity and services. For these reasons, they are much more likely to prioritise the need to migrate customers to new technologies.
The MNO approach can also provide both network “route” diversity and vendor diversity. Many enterprise customers today see this as a critical requirement to ensure that their networks are both reliable and highly cost-effective.
Leading MNOs will be able to use network design tools to identify diverse, alternative transport routes to eliminate network ‘single-points-of failure', while drawing on a portfolio of wholesale carrier relationships to give customers an immediate and cost-effective second or third carrier option.
But it is not only customers that benefit from the MNO approach.  More and more facilities-based telecom carriers are actively looking for opportunities to work with MNOs because they recognise that the MNO can be a strategic sales channel for their wholesale efforts, allowing them to support customer requirements they would otherwise never have been able to fulfil. 
Increasingly, the MNO model is attracting telecom industry leaders.  GTT is a good example of this, with several members of its board boasting leadership experience with companies such as Sprint, AT&T, Equant and Nextel.  These executives recognise the value of the MNO’s service-driven, customer-centric approach.  They understand there is category of business customers that needs a more closely tailored approach to their wide area network requirements. 
They also recognise the market trends driving the adoption of the MNO model: enterprises are more global in focus; they are moving into new, hard-to-serve markets and they want greater network diversity to address business continuity concerns.  Having seen the strengths and the limitations of traditional telcos, these executives appreciate, perhaps better than anyone else, that the time is right for enterprise customers to consider the MNO approach.
Certainly, the prospects for MNOs appear positive.  Armed with a business model that addresses today’s telecom environment, MNOs can offer enterprise customers a range of benefits that are beyond what most traditional telecoms carriers can provide. Equally, this realisation is beginning to attract senior executives who have previously played key roles within large operator organisations to take a more active involvement in the new MNO model. With the current rapid rate of technological change making flexibility and diversity of product offerings more compelling and with the complexity of the market making the single point of contact that MNOs provide more attractive, the future looks bright indeed. 

Chris Britton is Executive Vice President EMEA, Global Telecom & Technology

NEWSPEAK/Summer

European Communications presents its regular round-up of the latest developments in the world of telecommunications

Developing mobile advertising
The GSM Association (GSMA) and the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) have agreed to co-operate to accelerate the development of mobile advertising worldwide.  The two organisations will collaborate to deliver standardisation and transparency around current mobile advertising activity, and to develop new, innovative advertising techniques.
The MMA will lead the development of guidelines, formats and best practices for mobile advertising, while the GSMA will work with mobile operators globally to develop and prioritise consistent structures, such as inventory types, and commercial and measurement models that will allow advertisers to create valuable advertising propositions.
“This partnership will build on the MMA's work-to-date in the development of mobile advertising,” says Bill Gajda, chief commercial officer of the GSMA.  “The MMA and GSMA will bring leading advertisers, agencies and operators together to ensure that this very promising, but nascent advertising medium realises its full potential for the benefit of all players in the ecosystem.”
The agreement follows the recent announcement of the GSMA's Mobile Media and Entertainment Group that will oversee its Mobile Advertising Programme, which is made up of representatives from leading mobile operators from around the globe.
 “The value chain for mobile advertising is more complex than other media channels, with the mobile operator playing a key role, hence the driver for collaboration.  The GSMA brings the global GSM mobile operator community to the table and we are pleased to be working with them to expand the reach of a sustainable mobile advertising ecosystem,” says Laura Marriott, president of the MMA.  “We look forward to working jointly with the GSMA to deliver a consistent global industry standard for mobile advertising.”
Details: www.gsmworld.com /  www.mmaglobal.com
MVNOs on the rise
MVNOs will continue to grow on a global basis – with worldwide subscriber numbers more than doubling for the period from 2007 to 2012, according to a recent report, The Future of the MVNO, from telecoms research and consultancy firm BroadGroup Tariff Service. However the report warns that business models and distribution will need to change.
The report examines over 300 MVNOs in 37 countries, and profiles the main players in each of the main mobile markets where access to the incumbent's network has been allowed. It also evaluates the role of the country regulator in enabling the MVNO to become established in key markets.
The research reveals a wide range of different approaches and market drivers. The global mobile market is becoming more fragmented with the power of brands and distribution – together with the emergence of new low-cost MVNE aggregators – favouring the development of emerging niche MVNOs based on a small social community. The report features case studies based on in-depth interviews with BT, Lebara, Virgin Mobile and Blyk, each using a different business model.
Retailers and non-telecoms companies with strong customer relationships are using the MVNO model as a marketing tool to broaden and improve their existing customer experience, and so improve customer retention for their core business.
The distinction between pure MVNO and pure MNO is likely to become increasingly difficult to sustain as the MNO is utilising the MVNO technique of sub-brands or multi-brands to retain loyal customers.  As the larger MVNOs grow their subscriber base they also seek to develop a post-paid business stream and are adopting the characteristics of the MNO.
“The MVNO model is perceived as a perfect low cost entry vehicle to launch new mobile business models,” comments Margrit Sessions, Managing Director of BroadGroup Tariff Services.  “MVNOs can help lower prices in a market, but purely competing on price can not be sustained as a long-term strategy. Developing new business models and distribution will be key to success”.
Details: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

WiFi health scare
Health concerns surrounding WiFi have the potential to seriously undermine consumer confidence, and affect competition in the telecoms marketplace, according to telecoms consultancy Lorgan Orviss International
The scientific community appears polarised by heath concern reports – such as the 'test' that allegedly proved that WiFi radiation in the classroom was three times the level generated by mobile phone masts – a portion of the community believing caution is imperative, and the remainder believing it is all irresponsible scaremongering.
“If schools across the UK are starting to rethink implementing WiFi, as reports have suggested, confidence is already rattled,” says Hugh Roberts, senior strategist for Logan Orviss. “Consumer behaviour and purchasing decisions in the private sector will be impacted.”
Roberts continues: “It is important to consider what could happen in the communications value chain. Wi-Fi offers a form of 'mobility' for fixed line operators who want to offer their customers converged services that include 'out of home experiences' without incurring mobile roaming tariffs for voice and data services. Even a small erosion of consumer confidence – which is now almost inevitable – will change the competitive landscape and will undoubtedly influence the future re-structuring of the telecoms industry.”
Logan Orviss notes two other areas that might become affected if these scare stories continue. One - telcos are investing in convergent services targeted at family groups, where the bill payer (typically a parent) is responsible for the overall profile of the family's usage, although individuals are able to top-up or modify their accounts in defined ways. Home networks – typically WiFi – have been an important part of the development of this comprehensive offering.  And two - apart from the potential decline in customer revenues from hardware and usage sales, teleco advertising revenues for certain types of convergent services that utilise WiFi may be hit. Even with the current level of concern, the advertiser profile will start to change.
Details: www.logan-orviss.com
Must have VoD
Video on demand (VoD) revenues will reach $12.7 billion worldwide in 2011, making it one of the fastest-growing digital content services over the forecast period, predicts analyst and consulting company Ovum. Starting from a base of $2.7 billion in 2007, Ovum expects to see more telcos across the globe launching their on-demand content propositions, moving themselves into content distribution.
"VoD is not a revenue generator at the moment but a 'must have' vision of the future in terms of both cash flow and telcos' content business survival," says Aleksandra Bosnjak, Content and Media Analyst at Ovum.
"From a content provider's perspective, telcos and ISPs will be the new contributors to content distribution and film finance, especially over the long term as the service improves and reaches a more significant scale and enhances its on-demand functionalities," explains Bosnjak.
Telcos are facing competition from all kinds of players - from old pay TV media to new digital distribution entrants - and the pressures of network convergence. This, coupled with challenges around content acquisition costs and finding the winning VoD business model formula, will mean that it is not a source of cash for the moment.
"We argue that over the next five years, 50 per cent of telcos' costs will come from content acquisition and marketing-related activities," says Bosnjak. "In their quest for an innovative content strategy, some telcos will experiment with various forms of content finance, such as financial backing via minimum guarantees, or go even deeper into the actual co-productions or co-ventures. In fact, we predicted this move back in February 2006 when we ran into telcos at the Berlin Film Festival. And we already see it happening with France Telecom and a baby IPTV operator Croatia Telekom Max TV service, which is producing its own short-format shows, and by using its own in-house production talent and facilities."
Ovum's view is that a careful content strategy and locally adapted VoD proposition will be a major driver of telco VoD service revenues, now estimated to comprise one third of the whole VoD revenue pie, depending on the country.
"Understanding the cash flow of traditional content distribution and collaboration with local content players will be the best approach for many operators in this tough VoD race - because the future of TV content, and especially European content distribution, is based on an on-demand business model," concludes Bosnjak.
Details: www.ovum.com

FOREWORD - Telecoms: vital to education?

The One Laptop Per Child initiative has drawn both great praise, and considerable criticism.  Lynd Morley takes an overview of the debate and the role telecommunications can play

The (almost) legendary Nicholas Negroponte was a keynote speaker at TMW in Nice this year.  The co-founder and director of MIT Media Lab, and author of the seminal Being Digital, came to talk about another of his brain-children – the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative.
It may not seem the most obvious subject for a keynote address at one of the leading communications OSS events, but Negroponte pointed out in his opening remarks: “I think that a lot of the big problems in this world will all have solutions that include education.  And telecommunications and education are intimately tied.  I’m very fond of telling ministers of telecommunications that they are, in fact, ministers of education.  Because, until the world is really connected, education remains a very narrow phenomenon.
“If we look ahead to a world where children  – who are global by nature – have the opportunity to communicate with each other and learn, clearly telecommunications has a big role to play.”
OLPC is a non-profit organisation, set up with the goal of providing children in developing nations with laptop computers, offering – among other things – access to a whole raft of information.  As Negroponte stresses, OLPC is an education initiative, not a laptop organisation.
However, this apparently completely altruistic activity has generated an amazing amount of criticism and backbiting; some from the industry itself – including Intel and Mircrosoft - and much of it among the tech-heads and bloggers whose comments – some angry, some well meaning, some passionate about the greater need in developing nations for a whole range of things from fresh water, to food, to healthcare – has provided a huge theatre of debate.   Indeed, the arguments came to a head recently when Negroponte effectively accused Intel of damaging the non-profit scheme by launching a competitive product – the Classmate PC – resulting in some countries, previously behind OLPC, now considering their options.  Given that Intel chairman Craig Barrett initially described the OLPC laptop – the XO-1 – as a ‘gadget’ and questioned the effectiveness of the scheme, the Classmate is an interesting development.  Intel, however, strenuously denies that it is undercutting its own prices in order to push OLPC out of what it has now decided is a lucrative market.
Other giant players in the industry, however, are committed to the OLPC initiative.  BT is backing the project.  It’s chief science officer, Sinclair Stockman comments: "The project aims, through connecting even the most disadvantaged to the Internet and the web, to provide them with an invaluable tool to build a better and safer future.
"One of the challenges - which is where BT is providing assistance - is how to extend the local net connectivity, which is built into the PCs and allows them to easily form local wi-fi based networks, on to the global Internet.
"This in turn allows Internet protocol access to a much richer source of information - and allows the children to participate in wider global communities.
“The technical challenges are just one hurdle to overcome,” he adds. "Others include language, content delivery, effective community sharing - and also assuring the trustworthiness of the connected community."
So, EC reader, whether you are of the Gordon Gekko school of thinking (greed is good, and b****r the consequences) or the – shall we say – Al Gore school, perfecting the art of ‘caring’, you can join the critics and nay-sayers, and dismiss the whole thing as another example of Negroponte’s supposed egomania (or just simply misplaced good intentions) or you might conclude that it may not be perfect, but at least the guy is trying something, and try to find out just how the telecoms industry can provide additional help.
Details: www.laptop.org

EVENT PREVIEW - ECOC

The European Conference on Optical Communication (ECOC) event organisers detail what to expect at this year’s show in Berlin

The 33rd annual European Conference and Exhibition on Optical Communication (ECOC) will take place on 16-20 September, 2007 at the Internationales Congress Centrum (ICC) in Berlin, Germany – Europe’s largest conference centre. 
The event, expected to be a sell-out for the first time since the height of the telecoms boom in 2000, will feature over 300 exhibitors and a comprehensive speaker line-up, including some of the world’s leading technical developers, both commercial and academic, addressing key industry topics.
Confirmed speakers at the conference include: Gregory Raybon of Alcatel-Lucent – 100 Gbit/s: ETDM generation and long haul transmission; Biswanath Mukherjee of the Department of Computer Science, Univiversity of California Davis, USA – Optical Networks: The Road Ahead; and Russel Davey of BT – Long-reach Access and Future Broadband Network Economics.
Within the exhibition, seven of the world’s largest carriers, AT&T, China Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom Group, KDDI, Telecom Italia and Verizon, under the banner of the Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF), will show the results of months of interoperability demonstrations.
“This is the first time that we have had service providers take part in the exhibition and this is a clear recognition of the rise of optical communications to become integral to all players in the telecom and datacoms sector,” says marketing manager, Simon Kears.
Also on the exhibition floor, visitors will be able to see and take part in a number of new, interactive features: The FTTx Resource centre, delivered by The Light Brigade, will be a focal point for all things FTTx; the ECOC Market Focus seminars will feature presentations from senior executives at JDSU, Bookham and a view on the European FTTH market from Heavy Reading’s Graham Finnie; the latest products will be showcased in the live demonstration area; and the CTTS will give free practical training courses in fusion splicing and fibre preparation tools.
Details: www.ecocexhibition2007.com

EVENTS LISTINGS

  EVENT    /LOCATION/    DATE/    CONTACT

EMC Europe/    Paris/    14-15 June    /    www.theiet.org
Capacity CEE/    Prague/    18-19 June    /    www.telcap.co.uk
NXTcomm/    Chicago/    18-21 June    /    www.NXTcommShow.com
FTTx Summit/    Munich/    18-21 June/        www.iir-events.com
CommunicAsia/    Singapore/    19-22 June    /    www.communicasia.com
Mobile TV World/    Rome/    21-22 June    /    www.items-int.com
Optimising Telecoms Opex & Capex/    London/    25-27 June/        www.informatm.com
Mobile Content & Services/    Berlin/    25-28 June    /    www.iir-events.com
Radio Planning Forum/    Monaco/    25-28 June    /    www.iir-events.com
Service Quality Management
& SLAs for Telecoms/    Berlin/    25-28 June    /    www.iir-events.com
Telecoms Wholesale/    Berlin/    25-28 June/        www.iir-events.com
Revenue Assurance Summit/    Kuala Lumpur/    25-28 June/        www.iqpc.co.uk
Telecoms Loyalty & Churn/     Barcelona/    25-29 June    /    www.iir-events.com
WDM & Optical Networking/    Cannes/    25-29 June    /    www.iir-events.com
Digital Home/    Berlin/    2-4 July/        www.iqpc.co.uk
VoIP Asia/    Singapore/    16-19 July/        www.iir-events.com
Black Hat USA/    Las Vegas/    28 July-2 August/        www.blackhat.com
Telecoms World Africa/    Johannesburg/    30 July-3 August/        www.carriersworld.com
MVNO Summit/    Chicago/    6-8 August    /    www.iqpc.co.uk
Wi-World Africa/    Johannesburg/    27-30 August/        www.carriersworld.com
GSM>3G ME & Gulf/    Dubai/    2-3 September/        www.gsm-3gworldseries.com
Fixed Mobile Convergence/    Chicago/    5-7 September/        www.pulver.com
SDP & SOA in Telecoms/    Berlin/    5-7 September/        www.marcusevans.com
IBC 2007/    Amsterdam/    6-10 September/        www.ibc.org
Telecoms Quality & Business
Process Excellence/    Vienna/    10-11 September/        www.jacobfleming.com
Branding in Converging Comms/    Berlin/    10-11 September /        www.jacobfleming.com
Effective HR Management in
Telecoms/    Amsterdam/    10-11 September/        www.jacobfleming.com
EXPP Summit/    London/    10-11 September/        www.expp-summit.com
Nordic & Baltic Telecom Forum/    Helsinki/    10-12 September/        www.marcusevans.com
Mobile Device Management/    Amsterdam/    12-14 September/    www.marcusevans.com
User Generated Content &
Social Networking/    Rome/    12-14 September/        www.marcusevans.com
Evolving Telecoms/    Berlin/    17-19 September/        www.marcusevans.com
ECOC 07/    Berlin/    17-19 September/        www.ecocexhibition2007.com
MVNO Congress/    Vienna/    17-20 September/        www.iir-events.com
Number Portability/    Prague/    17-20 September/        www.iir-events.com
Strategic CRM in Telecoms/    Lisbon/    20-21 September/        www.jacobfleming.com
VSAT 2007    /London/    24-27 September/        www.comsys.co.uk
Carrier Ethernet World/    Geneva/    24-28 September/        www.iir-events.com
GSM>3G CEECom/    Prague/    25-26 September/        www.gsm-3gworldseries.com

BUSINESS CONTINUITY - A lemon by any other name?

Ignoring business continuity is no longer a reasonable option, yet many companies are wary of being sold a dud.  Patrick Roberts looks at the positive steps that can be taken to ensure a better-informed choice of solution

According to the Chartered Management Institute’s 2006 Annual Survey of Business Continuity Management, less that half of the organisations surveyed (49 per cent) had a “Business Continuity Plan covering their critical business activities.”  In understanding why so many businesses are still not investing in business continuity, despite the proven benefits, it is instructive to look back at an article, “The Market for ‘Lemons’: Quality, Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism”, published by Nobel Prize-winner George Akerlof over 30 years ago.  The article is an elegant exploration of the situation that evolves when the buyer of goods or services does not know the true value of what they are buying: they cannot distinguish between a high quality product and a ‘lemon’.   

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Consider, for example, what would happen to the used car market if only two types of vehicle were offered for sale - high quality cars worth £10,000 and jalopies worth only £2000 – and prospective purchasers cannot tell the difference.  If a buyer believes that there are equal numbers of both types of vehicle on the market then they might be inclined to think “I have a 50/50 chance of getting a good car or a ‘lemon’ so I’ll offer up to £6000 for a car.”  But on further reflection he or she realises that the owner of a quality used vehicle is very unlikely to sell it in a market where people are only willing to pay half of what it is really worth (they will find an alternative means of selling it) so, in reality, all you will have in this market is jalopies.  The prospective buyer then determines not to pay more than £2000 for a car bought in this way.
Measuring the true value of an investment in business continuity management is extremely challenging for the most experienced business continuity practitioners let alone a prospective purchaser with little knowledge of the subject.  The stage is therefore set for a classic ‘lemons’ problem where prices in the sector are forced down and, ultimately, both buyers and sellers are driven away from the market.  Whilst, in the illustration above, there are numerous practical alternatives to buying a second-hand car (eg buying new, public transport), simply ignoring business continuity is no longer a sensible option for most organisations.  Obviously the onus to remedy the situation lies largely with the business continuity profession and much is already being done by both individuals and professional bodies, such as the Business Continuity Institute, to improve awareness and understanding.  However, those involved in purchasing business continuity products and services - including training, consultancy services and IT solutions – also have a vested interest in becoming more knowledgeable in order to ensure that they are getting the best value for money.  The rest of this article concentrates on the positive steps that people in this latter group can take to ensure that they are better-informed consumers.
The publication of BS 25999:1 in November 2006 was a very important milestone, establishing a simple and robust lingua franca for business continuity management.  The document itself is less than 50 pages in length so any prospective purchaser of business continuity services would be well advised to take the time to read it.  Building on this foundation, a great deal of general business continuity information is available in the form of public presentations: business continuity practitioners speak regularly to audiences from numerous professional and business organisations and many of these events are free.  As one becomes more knowledgeable, it is also worth considering attending specialist events such as the Business Continuity Expo and Business Continuity Institute Annual Symposium where industry-leading practitioners discuss best practice and examine topical issues.  These simple steps give the knowledge and confidence to ensure that what is being purchased is actually appropriate to the business needs. 
Finally, a wide range of high-quality business continuity training is now available, ,with many organisations offering inexpensive one or two-day introductory courses to the subject.  Some providers also offer courses in a convenient evening-class format or can even deliver bespoke training in your workplace.  Scenario-based crisis management exercises, where a management team has to wrestle with the difficulties of a simulated incident, are also a very enjoyable and effective way to raise awareness of business continuity issues and improve the ability of individuals and teams to manage in a crisis.  Taking advantage of some of these numerous training opportunities is undoubtedly the best way to equip yourself as a sophisticated business continuity consumer and ensure that you are getting good value from your investment.
In conclusion, the following simple case study is offered as a recent illustration of how improved buyer understanding can create real win-win outcomes for buyer and seller.  The client in question was a small public-sector body who received a day of Crisis Management training for their executive team as part of a national programme delivered by Needhams 1834 on behalf of the Cabinet Office Emergency Planning College.  As a result of this training, the executive team realised that their existing business continuity plan was not fit for purpose; it also gave them the confidence to ask Needhams 1834 to conduct a review of their plan and deliver a simple exercise.  In the event it only took an additional seven days of work to provide the client with a far more robust business continuity plan and facilitate a simple exercise to familiarise the crisis management team with its contents.  Surely this is a far better outcome (for both parties) than the client struggling on with an inadequate plan or paying for a great deal more consultancy than they really needed: improved understanding by the buyer led to a win-win situation.   

Patrick Roberts is Senior Consultant with Needhams 1834.

Needhams 1834 Ltd will be exhibiting at the Business Continuity Expo and Conference held at EXCEL Docklands, London from 28th - 29th March 2007.
www.businesscontinuityexpo.co.uk

ENTERPRISE MOBILITY - Don't get hung up on the phone

Enterprise mobility should focus on message delivery not device type insists Peter Semmelhack

The benefits of mobile business solutions are hard to ignore for most enterprises today. Used for everything from tracking home visits by medical staff and maintaining airport x-ray machines to keeping beer flowing in pubs and hotels, mobile applications are giving customer-facing employees in the field the power to run their business wherever they happen to be. As Rob Bamforth, mobile applications analyst at Quocirca so neatly puts it, "the key application of all mobile devices is communication, and the 'killer' feature is relevance to the user."

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The debate has moved on to how best to manage mobile devices and treat them as the business enablers that they truly are. IDC predicts that $52 billion will be spent on all mobile services by 2010, with $1.5 billion of this being spent on mobile device management and security.

Let the user be the chooser
Traditionally, field service has been the poster child for enterprise mobility since, by its nature, it involves the delivery of timely customer information to a geographically dispersed workforce who are mobile for the majority of their working day. Because of this, field service engineers have often borne the brunt of early attempts at force fitting enterprise applications onto mobile devices that were never designed to handle that level of complexity. The result was many failed or less than stellar deployments due to lacklustre user adoption.
The BlackBerry revolution awoke executives to the freedom, flexibility and efficiency that could be gained through mobile access to applications. Now mobility is being demanded not only by field service operations but also in a variety of customer-facing roles. As IT managers juggle the mobility requirements, user preferences, and budget requirements of different business units across the enterprise, they soon realise that when it comes to mobility solutions one size clearly does not fit all.
A survey undertaken at Service Management Europe found that that 23 per cent of respondents cited user acceptance as one of the major hurdles to successful mobilisation of data applications. This is precisely why Pitney Bowes UK set up working groups to consult its field service engineers on their device preferences and mobile application interface requirements, long before it standardised on a hosted enterprise mobility solution to deliver SAP and Siebel updates directly to field service engineers' devices throughout Europe.
It is therefore vital to consult field staff on the best device for their needs and the best interface to aid them in their collection of updates and daily reporting of services delivered or sales made. It is also important to retain flexibility by choosing a solution that can support future migration to new devices. The bottom line is choosing the right mobility solution from the start will lead to fewer headaches when deciding on devices and networks and when managing the evolution of the system over time.

Change costs
One of the major issues concerning IT directors is total cost of ownership (TCO). This cost is generally driven down by simplification. So any increase in complexity, such as a change in device type across the enterprise, or even in only one part of it will inevitably increase TCO. And one thing is certain, change will come.
The device market is changing so fast that any decision made at the time of deployment could be almost obsolete within six months with newer, as yet unknown, devices coming onto the market offering immediate and significant incremental business value and/or cost reduction opportunities. In addition, the recent litigation between NTP and RIM sent shockwaves through the enterprise community in the US, where the BlackBerry has become essential to the average executive. With some employees becoming more dependent on their mobile device than their desktop PC, the enterprise mobility strategy must include the flexibility to minimise disruption if the company needs to switch devices to accommodate mergers or acquisitions, change of operator, customer demands or new technologies.
Gartner predicts that the overall TCO for mobile solutions will rise by 30 per cent for most enterprises. Gartner attributes this cost to "the increased support costs for a more-disparate set of mobile data users, lack of management of recurring monthly charges for mobile data services and the need to support point solutions across multiple types of wireless data offerings." Inevitably, if an enterprise opts for a mobility solution that already supports the majority of devices on the market, then this will reduce the costs, while also reducing the time to roll out mobile applications to a new set of devices. Therefore, enterprises must plan to have a multiple device environment to enable the business to take advantage of the value of new devices as they come onto the market. The cost of supporting multiple device specific applications versus a single application for multiple devices must be considered.

International deployments
When rolling out mobile applications to thousands of users across multiple territories it is vital to consider choosing software that supports the majority of devices without needing any modification. So whether staff choose to work on PDAs, Pocket PCs, BlackBerrys, notebooks or laptops, or even a touch tone phone using IVR, they should still receive the same updates from the back-end applications running over SMS, GSM, GPRS, 1x RTT, 2 way paging or Mobitex.  This means you must deploy a flexible and extensible software solution that accommodates multiple language support, and both wireless device and network variances without any costly re-engineering of the application.
Field sales and service pose particular problems for larger enterprises because they involve the management of data delivery across multiple territories, over numerous networks. For example a field engineer may need to run the same field service application interchangeably on either his BlackBerry or his laptop depending on the service task he is undertaking. He may prefer to use his laptop for diagnostics in an area with poor wireless coverage. However at the next job he may prefer to use his BlackBerry. Using real time data communications, backed up by 24 x7 monitoring from a reliable Network Operations Centre, ensures consistency and currency of the data, no matter which device is being used for the job in hand.

Host with the most
We have stated earlier that simplification reduces cost. One significant way to simplify application delivery is to use a hosted 'on-demand' model, enabling employees to access mobile applications on whatever device they happen to be working on at that time. Analysts at Unstrung advise that "if the use of BlackBerries, Treos, or other mobile messaging devices extends beyond a few top executives, it's time to consider outsourcing the management thereof." Using a hosted model allows central management of devices, with different user privileges for different groups. Depending on the service provider, this model can also enable 24 x 7 monitoring of multiple networks around the world, to guarantee message delivery.
According to industry analyst AMR, the software-as-a-service-model grew by 60 per cent in 2005 and this is driving the CRM market. The next logical step is to extend this hosted software to the field sales and service staff that have most contact with your customers and this means getting critical data held within enterprise CRM and ERP systems such as Siebel, NetSuite, and SAP onto their mobile devices, so that they have the most up to date customer information at their fingertips while they are on site with customers.
We have discussed the need to choose an enterprise mobility solution that supports the widest range of handheld devices. But sometimes the most effective way to get critical information to an engineer is to route the message to a landline near the site where the engineer is working. This is particularly important for employees working on hidden assets such as underground piping, or in hospital environments where there is no wireless coverage. So enterprise mobility isn't always about accessing data from a PDA or phone, sometimes traditional communications technologies are the most effective route to get messages to your mobile employees. So don't get hung up on the phone, or on one particular device. Enterprise mobility is all about ensuring that relevant up to date information reaches the right person at the right time - using the most effective delivery method possible.

Peter Semmelhack is CTO of Antenna Software
www.antennasoftware.com