Next Generation Communications Week in Review: 5G Readiness, Digital Disruption, Network Slicing

This week in the Next Generation Communications Community was interesting because of some prescient observations about “digital disruption” and the role next generation communications can and should play, and its value for giving companies a competitive edge.  Topics ranged from new initiatives to get ready for 5G to the continuation of the review of information as to why customers keep or switch their mobile service providers.

News

Community host Nokia (News - Alert) had two items that were newsworthy this week.  In the first, Kenyan service provider Safaricom is using Nokia Customer Experience Management on Demand (CEMD) solution to enable the company to deliver a superior customer experience.  In the second, it was announced that Nokia is providing Tele2 with its Cloud Packet Core solution as the carrier transforms the infrastructure across its Northern Europe footprint in preparations for the transition to 5G.

As to the studies there is certainly plenty of food for thought.  The one that caught my attention was the release of Accenture’s new report, Thriving on Disruption.  It highlights that a failure to accommodate change is an invitation to be disrupted rather than be a disruptor. And, disruption was also the topic of a study from BT (News - Alert) and Cisco that makes the case that technology-driven dislocation in the workplace has revealed a desire by enterprises to have updated video and other cloud-based collaboration capabilities.

Features

The features this week once again were a prime example of the scope of community interests. They included:

The last item, Facebook Could Put Lasers to Use to Bring Internet to Underserved Communities, was a grabber for obvious reasons given in the title. We use lasers for all kinds of things and now Facebook (News - Alert) engineers have detailed how breakthroughs in the use of lasers could be used for Internet access.

Weekend Reading          

The above is just a sample of the news and views that can be accessed from the community home page which has been designed as your place to navigate to constantly up-dated news, whitepapers, videos, podcasts and case studies.   

Items worth spending some time with this weekend, along with the Nokia 2016 Acquisition and Retention Study and the accompanying series of more granular reports, are the following postings from Nokia Insight:   

Plus, don’t overlook links to other outstanding community resources such as the “Digital Ideas” section, along with links to eBooks and blogs.  And, make sure you are in fact signed up for Nokia’s newsletter, Insight.

Transforming Network Infrastructure Week in Review: Google, Virtuozzo, Cisco & More


Transforming Network Infrastructure Week in Review: Google, Virtuozzo, Cisco & More

July 30, 2016

Network transformation is nothing new; but the technologies and solutions being leveraged are done so in a way the industry has never seen. SDN, NFV, the cloud and beyond offer developers and engineers a new arsenal to assault legacy networks and provide improved efficiency, performance and cost savings at the end of the day. And, with the weekend upon us, there’s no better time than the present to take a look at the week that was in network transformation: Time for the Week in Review!

Hitting leadoff in Transforming Network Infrastructure’s lineup is none other than Internet giant Google. The tech titan is now leveraging artificial

Image via Pixabay

intelligence (AI) to minimize energy usage in its data centers. AI is a perfect match for the complexity in data center operations. Find the full report HERE.

This week Cradlepoint and Softbank announced a newly minted partnership, and in addition, Cradlepoint unveiled its NetCloud Platform. The cloud-based solution leverages the recent acquisition of Pertino to offer Cradlepoint’s offerings available via software. This appears to be the first in a line of announcements expected from this duo, stay tuned. Paula Bernier provides all the details HERE.

Virtuozzo is a firm well versed in virtual environments, and this week announced the general availability of Virtuozzo 7, which promises improved flexibility and performance.   In addition, the enhanced solution reduces latency to ensure the network is highly responsive and smooth. Steve Anderson has everything you need to know HERE.

Cisco has taken aim at the cloud management software space. Months back, its purchase of CliQr provided Cisco with a solution that aids firms in selecting cloud management solutions by providing the cost effective and efficient products. And now Cisco is doubling down on cloud, as its Senior Director for CloudCenter Business Development David Cope noted “Instead of getting apps to work for the infrastructure, there needs to be a way to get the infrastructure to dynamically conform to the needs of the application, providing complete portability and manageability across any of the environments.” Tracey Schelmetic’s complete analysis is HERE.

Remember to stop by early and often for all things network transformation. See you next week!

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Virtual and Hosted PBX Services Transform Telephony Into Just Another App

Virtual and Hosted PBX Services Transform Telephony Into Just Another App

July 29, 2016

By Laura Stotler, Virtual PBX Contributing Editor

Only a few years ago, the world of VoIP still largely consisted of a legacy approach to hardware and software. On premises equipment had to be managed, monitored and updated, licensing agreements had to be honored, and things still occasionally went wrong. And those glitches often required hours of manpower to repair, sometimes necessitating costly outside expertise.


VoIP has evolved along with most technology services in the digital age, as the communications world moves toward an application and services-based delivery model. The transition from legacy, circuit-based telecom to IP telephony reduced the size of the cumbersome PBX closet, as customers shifted to more efficient IP-PBXs and SIP-based phones. Even so, this on-site equipment still carried the burden of licensing, maintenance and necessary upgrades, along with technical expertise and manpower to keep it up and running.

Enter the age of the virtual and hosted PBX, in which business telephony has become just another application or service. A recent survey of small business telecom buyers revealed none of those in the market for VoIP services were interested in purchasing a premises-based IP PBX, with a majority seeking a web-based solution. When combined with the growing market for SIP trunks, we have a favorable climate for promoting digital voice as a service – on an enterprise scale.

Of course, there are a few considerations businesses must make when selecting a virtual or hosted PBX service for their communication needs. After all, a service is only as strong and reliable as the company providing it and customers need to perform due diligence to ensure they’re getting the best deal to accommodate their specific needs.

Data center security and availability is one of the largest factors, and a quality provider will run its services out of a secure data center with backup and disaster recovery plans in place. The feature set is also extremely important, as certain types of businesses will require specific features. Along those lines, organizations will want to ensure their provider’s services work with the existing network configuration and equipment and that service providers are offering SLAs to ensure consistently high call quality.

Finally, prospective virtual and hosted PBX customers will need to make sure their provider offers 24x7 technical support and is always available when needed. Providers should also offer monitoring and analytics so customers can glean information about how their networks and systems are performing and make the necessary adjustments to ensure quality control.

The age of technology applications and services is upon us, and telephony and the PBX are no exception. By being diligent and responsible when choosing a virtual PBX solution, organizations can offload the burden of maintaining complicated on-site equipment while retaining all the features and functionality digital communications solutions have to offer.

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Effective Shopper Marketing More Important Than Ever

July 28, 2016

Shopper marketing is more important than ever now that many people do most of their shopping online. While it was once used for driving short-term sales, it is now essential in motivating behavior, according to findings from the Association of National Advertisers and GfK. An article from Luxury Daily stated that, when surveyed, “41 percent [of respondents] identified driving conversion among shoppers as a key role in shopper marketing, 35 percent identified it as a way to motivate behavior through means other than price. The increase in online shopping and its convergence with in-store has spurred increase in shopper marketing as it becomes a viable means of instigating long-term gains.” Needless to say, shopper marketing is essential to making sure your business gets and keeps customers.

When discussing the original purpose of shopper marketing, Sarah Gleason, senior vice president of Gfk shopper and retail strategy, said, “Initially shopper marketing was primarily about influence shopper behavior within bricks-and-mortars’ four walls.” She continued on to say, “With the advent of online and digital and mobile that has included influencing behavior wherever the shopper is, online or in-store.” Gleason expanded on the need for companies to have a persistent online presence: “That means not just when they’re making a purchase but also when they’re researching and looking for coupons and gather product info, compare price, understand benefits, etc.,” she said. “All of that now needs to be available when and where a shopper is considering shopping.”

One of the ways in which shoppers can be targeted on their phones is through geo-location. The report, Shoppers Want More From In-Store Mobile, focused on shopping behaviors and found that 33 percent of shoppers regularly use a mobile device while shopping in a store. Previsit, geo-location can kick in and start sending someone advertisements related to shopping areas by them. If they happen to be driving by, why not stop in to the store that just sent you a coupon? While in the store, advertisements encouraging those 33 percent of shoppers to buy products will continue. Likewise, mobile is now being used to extend people’s shopping visits. While they may not have bought an item in the store, they might go back in to buy it if they receive a coupon after leaving. It’s all about enticing the customer via mobile.

Companies may think they have the upper hand in this situation since they can easily target and persuade shoppers. However, this isn’t actually the case. An Internet connection is obviously needed in order for shoppers to be receiving these coupons online. With an Internet connection comes exposure to other stores. So while you may think that your coupon is going to blow the shopper’s mind, they could in fact be finding the same product for a cheaper price elsewhere, despite the coupon. This is an obstacle that companies are fighting to overcome. It just goes to show how important good shopper marketing is.

“Shoppers have taken control,” Gleason said. “If you think about it historically, in the ’50s with the advent of brand marketers they were in control, but then as retailers got bigger they got in control, and now with mobile and digital, shoppers are in control.

“It’s not bad at all; it requires a lot greater level of insight and understanding that are these moments of truth where you can truly influence or intersect with a consumer or shopper,” she said. “There is this huge range of places they may be interacting with you, but not all are going to have the same level of impact and influence on their purchase decisions.

“Today, you need to have more understanding of the shopper that you are going after.” 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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Sharknado No Longer Taking the World By Storm

Remember back in 2013 when a movie called “Sharknado” came out and we all questioned the future of the movie industry? I still want to know who came up with the idea in the first place. Just picture that boardroom, full of people brainstorming movie ideas, someone suggesting a tornado full of sharks, and everyone agreeing that it was a good idea. What on earth? Well, that interesting experiment on Syfy’s part took off thanks to social media fanfare, and now here we are in 2016 with its fourth installment’s debut right around the corner. That’s right, “Sharknado: The 4th Awakens” will debut on Sunday to an underwhelmed audience.

I say underwhelmed because, even for those who loved the first few, the classic it’s-so-bad-it’s-funny routine gets old after awhile. If you’re uninterested in watching any of the Sharknados, stay away from Syfy on Sunday because there’s going to be a marathon. The three prior movies will play leading up to the premiere, and the entire week preceding the event will have Syfy showing nothing but shark-related content. This marathon suggests that Syfy is trying to rekindle an interest in the series. The first movie was way more popular than anyone expected because of social media, and the second film attracted almost three times as many viewers with its first telecast—about 3.87 million people. By the third installment, interest seemed to be waning, as only 2.81 million people tuned into the premiere. While these numbers from Nielsen are impressive, the drop from movie to movie is a clear indicator that interest in Sharknado is decreasing. We’ll have to wait and see how the fourth installment makes out.

Despite drops in viewership, Sharknado’s budget has actually gone up because of all the attention it brings to the network. The original reportedly

                     Image via Bigstock

cost less than $2 million, which isn’t surprising given then quality of the film. Even with a bigger budget, the overall feel of the movies remains the same. While these movies seem to be just a joke on the outside, they’re actually about more than escapism and a good time, according to senior vice president of original co-productions Chris Regina: "It's not just about the ratings…It's about our influence and our presence in the pop-culture landscape." Syfy uses the franchise as an opportunity for synergy with its larger NBCUniversal family. The fourth installment will showcase NBC talent including “Today’s” Al Roker and Natalie Morales, as well as MSNBC as a whole.

So, there you have it. There is going to be a fourth Sharknado movie, which is sure to be full of Star Wars jokes based on the title. Producers don’t have the highest of hopes for its success, but they don’t seem to be too worried about it. They’re marketing the movie all week on Syfy and will be airing a marathon to get people interested. For all we know, social media may even give the series new life. Although all the movies are essentially the same, the newest version takes place in Las Vegas and Kansas, with a company having created anti-Sharknado technology. Of course the technology fails and chaos breaks out. If you want to hear more, you’ll have to tune into Syfy on Sunday. Or, you can save yourself the trouble and just watch this Shaknado in Two Minutes video. Be warned, the video is overrun with fake sharks, blood, chainsaws, and overwhelming weirdness.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Virtual Reality Transports Comic-Con Goers to New Worlds

By now, you’ve probably witnessed someone trip over a bench or walk in front of a moving vehicle in an attempt to catch Pokémon. While the Pokémon Go app plays on nostalgia, people really love it because of the augmented reality (AR) they get to experience. There’s something undeniably cool about the game in your phone being immersed with the world around you. After the app’s success, businesses around the globe are racing to use this technology to their advantage as well. The entertainment industry is no exception.

Augmented reality and virtual reality technologies are the next big things. In a world where McDonalds Happy Meal boxes are being turned into VR goggles, the competition to see who can produce the best VR is close. According to mbryonic, as of April 2016, people that succeed with Virtual Reality (VR) marketing do two things very well: they identify VR marketing narratives that will get results, and they put 100 percent of their resources into creating the stories that resonate with their audience.

The marketing teams who prepped for Comic-Con proved that they exceed in those two categories. One of the most looked forward to VR experiences at Comic-Con was the Mr. Robot booth. What better opportunity is there to test out VR than with Mr. Robot? Season two just started a few weeks ago, and viewers were more than happy to indulge in a VR experience along with the premiere of their favorite show. All sorts of people watch Mr. Robot, but a large chunk of its audience is comprised of those who appreciate how technology works; these are the same kind of people who would be unbelievably excited over getting to partake in a VR experience. The marketing team behind Mr. Robot knew this, proving that they do exceed expectations when it comes to the previously mentioned VR marketing must-haves.

When the show’s booth offered up the experience, people were overjoyed at getting to take a step into the hacker’s fictional world. Everyone was

excited to see how well the scenes were recreated, and they weren’t disappointed. However, this show wasn’t the only one offering VR to its fans, proving that VR marketing really is taking off. The Man in the High Castle, Suicide Squad, X-Men: Apocalypse, and American Horror Story, to name a few, all offered similar experiences.

                    Image via Bigstock

American Horror Story even went so far as to ask people what their fears were, and then plunge them into a virtual reality reflecting those phobias. Fans of the show love it for that exact reason; it takes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to look the disturbing evils of the world in the face. The American Horror Story marketing team took this fascination with horror and offered it up to people in real life, rather than from the comfort of their own homes. Talk about knowing your audience; that virtual reality certainly resonated with the brave souls who stepped into that world. Needless to say, those who participated were shaken up, but loved the thrill.

Whether you love horror, superheroes, or hackers, VR can help get you closer to your favorite characters and the worlds you watch on TV every week. Comic-Con is just one instance in which VR marketing was prevalent, however. It’s being used in all sorts of businesses; hotels, food franchises, and travel agencies are just a few examples of where VR marketing has reached. For an idea about the wide range of companies that are using VR, check out the 10 best uses of virtual reality in marketing. Just remember not to get too obsessed with hanging out with Harley Quinn or spending time on a fake beach. Learn from the mistakes of the Pokémon Go players of the world— becoming too immersed in a fake reality can lead to some embarrassing and awkward situations.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

IoT, Data & Marketers: The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

Marketing is without question moving in a more personalized direction. Data-driven decisions are guiding firms to meet customers where and in the manner they choose, as according to a recent Ascend2 survey 70 percent of marketing experts surveyed view personalization as the most important tools for data driven marketing. Data is mission critical to the personalization process, and following ‘Sutton’s Law,’ the obvious place we know with no shortage of data is the Internet of Things (IoT).

A recent Marketo infographic reveals that more than half of the world’s top global marketers expect IoT will revolutionize the marketing landscape by 2020. The study predicts the number of IoT connected devices to jump from its 2015 estimation of 2.9 billion to more than 13 billion by 2020, reaching a valuation of over $7 trillion by that time. How does this help marketers? Well, the growing number of devices results in a greater amount of data, which leads to smarter data that empowers marketers to create more relevant campaigns and improved engagement.

Marketers can target the many screens we encounter in our day to day lives: smartphones, smart appliances, watches and performance trackers, to name a few. Advertisements may not be applicable across the board here, but putting a focus on engagement certainly is. A savvy marketer can still control time-based marketing, simple alerts, push messaging and more.  

Let’s take a look at some use cases.

While the number of “Road Warriors” is dwindling, many still travel frequently for work. And I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do when I finally reach my hotel is wait in line to check in. Hotels are shifting toward providing guests digital keys via the guest’s smartphone. In doing so, the hotel has created an additional data point, which serves the purpose of gathering and integration. Hotels can track habits and preferences – from where they are spending money to where they are spending their time. This allows the hotel marketing team to create more targeted offers to clients, such as discounts at the spa or restaurants.

The IoT lends retail as well sports marketers a boost with beacons. Retailers can leverage beacons to provide shoppers targeted offers while they are shopping. Maybe it’s a special sale or discount code for that shopper that has them buying and coming back for more. In sports there are many professional teams seeing serious returns by putting beacons to work. Beacons improve customer engagement, which is resulting in improved ticket and merchandise sales.

Allow me to illustrate with a few real-life examples from the NBA. Over the course of the 2015-16 season, beacons resulted in 11 percent of seat upgrades for the Atlanta Hawks and 9 percent for the Golden State Warriors. After the 2014-15 season, the Warriors reported recouping the cost of installation from seat upgrades alone. The Orlando Magic has also reported impressive results: 30 percent app adoption (compared to the industry standard of 5 percent), $500,000 in-app sponsorship revenue, more than a million dollar increase in ticket sales as well a 233 percent uptick in sales of its “Fast Break Pass.”

The above are merely the tip of the IoT marketing iceberg, as with growing adoption comes growing innovation. As more firms see the tangible benefits of leveraging this marketing approach, the sky is the limit. A good marketer knows how to use all the tools in its arsenal; the IoT should be front and center.

As much as I believe in “gut feelings,” data driven decisions drive a hard bargain. The copious amount of available data is proving invaluable; this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Stay tuned…The IoT has much to offer marketers.

Edited by Alicia Young

VoIP Providers Must Continue to Educate Prospects on Benefits

VoIP Providers Must Continue to Educate Prospects on Benefits

July 28, 2016

By Christopher Mohr, Contributing Writer

A recent report from Zion Research indicates that the global VoIP services market should remain strong for the next few years. In 2015, the market was valued at approximately $83 billion, and is expected to pass $140 billion by 2021, a CAGR of 9.1 percent. Both the high volume and the single-digit rate of growth indicate that VoIP is maturing as a technology, analogous to a spacecraft having a successful liftoff and achieving the needed altitude and velocity to go into orbit.


Although this report suggests that VoIP has already achieved widespread acceptance and is still a growth market, research performed by Telappliant finds reluctance on the part of many businesses to adopt VoIP still exists.

The cause of this reluctance is tied to many misconceptions about VoIP: it’s unreliable, it has no financial benefits, it’s too hard to maintain, it’s insecure, and you have to wear a headset. Telappliant easily discredits these objections, describing the benefits of VoIP that many customers and industry observers have known about for a long time. Nonetheless, many companies still cling fast to their landline service.

The reality of phone service today is that copper-based landline service is being phased out. The FCC has pretty much given phone companies the green light to move forward with retiring copper-wired networks. As long as enough notice is given and any new system is an adequate replacement for the old circuit-based system, copper-wired networks can be retired and some already have been. As a result, many people are using VoIP and probably don’t even know it. This is especially true in many bundled packages from cable companies that combine TV, Internet, and phone service.

So from one perspective, many holdouts will move to VoIP whether they like it or not--It is simply a matter of time. If service providers want to hasten the process of change however, it is up to them to continue to educate prospects on the cost-saving benefits of VoIP over legacy PBX systems, and that the misconceptions they have are largely no longer applicable or unfounded. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

ONOS Project Introduces Leaf-Spine Fabric for Software-Centric World

Software-centric data centers can now be much higher performance and more scalable due to a new open source, white box-based leaf-spine fabric made available by the ONOS Project. This is considered an industry first, and CORD will be among its first applications.



“This is an L2/L3 SDN fabric with state-of-the-art white box hardware and completely open source switch, controller and application software,” explained Saurav Das, principal architect at the Open Networking Foundation. “No traditional networking protocols found in commercial solutions are used inside the fabric, which instead uses an integrated SDN-based solution.”

This solves the performance and scalability problems of SDN through the use of modern merchant silicon ASICs, the fabric control application design, and ONOS technology, added Das of the ONF.

The ONF and the Open Networking Lab (better known as ON.Lab) collaborated with the ONOS Project on this leaf-spine fabric. Ciena Blue Planet, Edgecore Networks (News - Alert), and various other vendors, enterprises, and service providers are also involved with the effort.

That fabric employs Edgecore Networks hardware and switch software from the Open Compute Project. And it builds on ONF’s Atrium release and the SPRING-OPEN (News - Alert) project.

As noted above, the project know as CORD, which is hosted by The Linux Foundation, is leveraging the fabric. CORD stands for central office rearchitected as a data center. It refers to an approach of providing infrastructure-as-a-service and networking services as tenant applications for this infrastructure. This concept combines the cloud, commodity infrastructure, NFV, open building blocks, and SDN to bring the agility of the cloud and the economies of scale found in the data center to service provider networks – spanning from the equipment at the home or office customer premises, to the access part of the network, to the telco’s central office. As I reported about a year ago at this time, key components of CORD include commodity hardware, NFVI orchestration (XOS, Openstack), an Open Leaf Spine Fabric, an SDN Control Plane (ONOS), simple on-premises customer premises equipment and virtualized CPE, virtualized access (PON OLT MAC + vOLT), virtualized BNG, and virtualized functions.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Queue Optimizers Empower Customers While Clearing Up Contact Center Gridlock

Queue Optimizers Empower Customers While Clearing Up Contact Center Gridlock

July 27, 2016

The key to successful customer engagement is being able to correctly prioritize and optimize interactions. Customers simply don’t want to be placed on hold for a long period of time in today’s omni-channel customer service environment, when there are more efficient ways to interact.



Being able to prioritize and optimize customer interactions can be a real challenge for any organization. A recent blog post from Aspect (News - Alert) Software, which specializes in contact center and workforce optimization solutions, points to a doctor’s office as a prime example of where prioritization can go horribly astray.

Medical offices typically have a set number of staff members during any given period. Those interfacing with patients are constantly tasked with prioritizing those interactions, having to make snap decisions about which calls are most important and whether a patient in the office should be prioritized over one on the phone. Hiring additional staff to handle the overflow can be an issue as well, since agents will ultimately be idle during slow times.

An increasingly popular way to handle heavy call volumes that is being utilized across a broad range of industries is the queue optimizer. Very

                    Image via Bigstock

simply, this type of solution gives customers a choice to request a call back when an agent is available, and in some cases callers can even schedule a specific time for the call back. The key to the queue optimizer is that it gives customers control of their interaction while sidestepping inconvenience on both ends of the communication. Customers may go about their day instead of waiting on hold for long periods, while organizations can avoid contact center gridlock.

Queue optimization also ensures an organization’s IVR is working correctly and efficiently, routing customers intuitively to the most appropriate agents and departments. In addition to giving customers a callback option, queue optimization may also include letting customers choose to leave a voicemail message and sending callers directly to voicemail if the maximum queue size has been reached, avoiding gridlock and long wait times. Call queues may also be monitored and managed regularly to observe traffic trends and help better staff agents and office personnel during known busy periods.

Today’s customers want to be engaged and empowered in their interactions and sitting on hold waiting for an agent accomplishes the opposite of this. By utilizing call queue optimization, organizations can use their existing systems and resources while simultaneously giving customers more choices and ultimately delivering better and more efficient service.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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