Telehouse Europe Interview KDDI Europe’s Deputy Director of Network Sales & Consulting Division, Nick Polydorou on How the Telecoms industry will evolve to deliver technologies at The Edge.

1. According to IHS Markit, connected devices will grow to 30.7 billion in 2020, and 75.4 billion by 2025. How can Telco providers look to provision their infrastructures to cope with this data demand?

Telecoms providers have been doing the same thing for a very long time now. That is, they have been building and supplying high-bandwidth, reliable, and secure wired and wireless networks. These have been mostly aimed at the corporate entities, but also at the consumer, and dispensed as simple “dumb pipes”, supplied without too much thought on what their ultimate role should be. Over The Top providers (OTTs) helped fulfil the overlay roles of these pipes, created to carry out this additional function, such as SaaS and application environments aimed at the end user.

As the Internet of Things, now starts to materialise as a fully functional solutions service, rather than a concept, the Telco has to decide how it fits into this new world of new services.

Here we have the chance for the Telcos to do one of several things:

  1. Continue to be a supplier of dumb pipes and hence connectivity.
  2. Become an IoT enabler and start to provide services via some kind of platform or platforms and in partnership with OTTs.
  3. Become an IoT supplier – this establishes the Telco as a direct provider of IoT services and solutions.

Customisation for the telco could be a priority service offering

For the Telco to become an IoT supplier, it would mean the move to a more bespoke and customisable, service for the customer. Traditionally, customisable services were mostly associated with corporate WAN networks with configurable data consumption measured, and policed, through Quality of Service (QOS) parameters, rate limiting criteria (CDR) and delivered through engineering mechanisms.

Now, as telcos make the transition to offering a more bespoke set of services, including the IoT as a service, this enables customised end user experiences for an individual, not just a corporate entity. This is where Quality of Experience (QOE) becomes fundamental to supplied services in households and the individual. This bespoke customisation empowers the individual to assume control of their own QoE.

A more symbiotic future

As we have said, before, Telco’s traditionally provided simply circuits, with these circuits being the equivalent of dumb pipe. From here OTTs added value. In the future this relationship will become more symbiotic. Additionally, these dumb pipes will become more “clever” in providing a more responsive throughput, in terms of optimising things such as payload transmission and also distances, especially in terms of Wi-Fi.

One of the services that will continue to enable this ‘clever’ configuration is software defined services – empowering the end user with the ability to prioritise their own experience. Remember, according to industry analysis, IoT is forecast to deliver sales in the region of USD $11 Trillion globally a year over the next 10 years. This is something that Telcos cannot afford to miss out on, seeing that the value of simple, dumb pipes and Ethernet have been slashed in the last few years. Actually, I honestly believe that USD$11 Trillion is an underestimate.

2. With so many devices in place, security will be a major challenge? How is KDDI Europe tackling this?

In a single word “Education”. As we start to work with a number of different IoT manufacturers and OTTs, the burden of security still, unfortunately, falls and rests on the Telco. We will provide and use the usual arsenal of security measures such as encryption and secure authentication and we will enhance these and make them more robust. Also there is the present danger of malware that Telcos previously did not give very much thought to. However, with the intrinsic “interconnectedness” of IoT, a malware attack could cause catastrophic consequences and hence we have to be even more vigilant and increase our own security measures on these types of attack with our own anti-malware solution.

In conclusion we will also need to educate the end user, whether corporate or an individual into understanding that the remit of security still rests partly with them. Although this may sound unfair, this education needs to make clear that by working together, user and supplier together, we stand a much better chance of providing a concerted and effective response to these threats.

3. With big data being generated at the edge, demanding low latency data transfer, how is the traditional Telco infrastructure evolving to take advantage of this trend?

The edge is becoming more and more defined and refined and clearly aimed at the needs of the end user. With so many new devices coming online at the edge, IoT is forcing the Telco to configure its traditional infrastructure towards a more decentralised, at the edge, service and aimed at the person on the street as much as the corporate client.

One major activity which will take place is the development of partnerships across the industry to reach edge locations. Furthermore we will see Telcos investing in building bigger and wider bandwidth pipes but in partnership with localised providers in regional locations as opposed to traditional methods of increasing global reach to enable their edge platform to be universally available.

4. Is the industry 5G ready and what is KDDI doing to ready themselves for maturing technologies such as VR, AR, immersive video streaming and wearable technology?

KDDI Corporation itself has a long established R&D arm, going all the way back to 1953. We carry out novel research which is published in peer reviewed papers in internationally accredited scientific and engineering journals. This research is at the forefront of both 5G and IoT technology, especially the “connected cars” methodology for enabling the next generation of vehicular access to a connected infrastructure and environment(s). Find more here.

In terms of specific research, as an example, KDDI announced late last year (Sep. 2017) results of a high capacity and long distance optical fibre transmission technique. The purpose of this is to transport mobile wireless signals without digitising the original signal waveform and successfully demonstrated that the developed technique could achieve 2.5 times higher capacity than that of the existing world record. The achieved capacity was 63 Gbps, which corresponds to over 3 times higher capacity than that expected in 5G mobile communication systems. Since this technique can greatly downsize and save power consumption of base station equipment, we know this will contribute to the rapid deployment of infrastructure, which demands both high capacity and quality for 5G.

5. How will content and big data affect the relationships between OTT players and traditional Telcos?

OTT and Telcos will become more symbiotic in nature. Both the Telco and the OTT will partner to provide a much more coherent and intelligent solution providing the best that both of the partners can offer. Alternatively the Telcos themselves will become OTTs, either through acquisition or through creation of new entities that are wholly or partly owned by them. A leading example is the acquisition of Time Warner by AT&T.

6. At the end of 2017, there were 647 commercially-launched LTE networks with 680-700 anticipated networks. Are Telcos likely to invest in this technology ahead of 5G due to varying market objections currently being seen in certain markets?

This depends on a number of factors but fundamentally it does come down to both country and regional adoption. For example, Japan has been readily developing LTE for a number of years now and this technology is quite mature. At the same time, research that has already been developed in terms of transmission capacity and distance for LTE, will be applied and used to optimise further 5G as a service technology. Certainly, lessons learned from the development of LTE will be applied to the rollout of 5G over the next 3-5 years.

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