Event News

Why you won’t want to miss FutureNet World 2024

As our FutureNet World event in London draws near, here’s a flavour of what’s to come from in-depth interviews with some of our top speakers…

 

The FutureNet World in-person event is taking place on 16-17 April in London. Here’s a flavour of the insights we look forward to from our stellar line-up of speakers.

As operators search for new revenues, the keynote panel on Day 1 looks at Capturing the enterprise opportunity: what needs to be done? Mallik Rao, Chief Technology & Information Officer, Telefonica Germany is part of that panel and expressed some strong views about his approach to 5G Standalone in his interview with FutureNet World.

He stressed the need to avoid being bogged down by legacy: “We have a globally autonomous network which we have been building for the last two years, but we think automation and AI should not be backwardly compatible like we usually do in telecoms because that kills innovation. So I don’t have the answer [about the future of AI] but I can tell you that is our thinking is right now.”

He adds, “I don’t want to do automation on 4G, not even for 5G NSA, because in 2025 we strive to go to 5G SA only…If I have a 5G SA in 2025, that should be the most modern, most adaptable for all these functions. We call it Network of the Future. When I say ‘network’, I mean radio, transport and core all under the BSSs because there is no point…in just automating the network.

“If I can’t have provisioning for the customer for any on-demand services – whether it’s slicing or anything else – if the provisioning is not automated, if my billing is not compatible, if my customer service cannot serve that particular customer, it’s pointless.”

Fellow panellist Greg McCall, BT Group’s Chief Network Officer, noted in his interview with us, “Having automation built into our cloud-native core allows us to quickly and easily optimise the platform to support 5G SA and the new services that we see this enabling. Network slicing is certainly one such application that we’re exploring, in which automating complex network functions creates the potential to unlock a range of emerging enterprise technologies which require the ultra-low latency of 5G SA – including IoT and edge devices.

“Through our 5G core we’ve also created a platform for network exposure, and we envisage that this too will help drive automation in the future, bringing our partners into the delivery process by giving them the ability to develop their own products using our network.”

 

Different business models

By implication, transformation is an underlying theme at the upcoming event, but Tony Geheran, COO, TELUS, is the keynote presenter on Day 2 and he will describe TELUS’ Telco-Techo transformation.

According to Tony in his recent interview with FutureNet World, TELUS’ approach to digitisation is based on three criteria: how to make customers’ lives easier; how best to enable the team; and how to simplify doing business with TELUS. Geheran describes this as, “Remodelling the business to be low touch, high efficiency and highly successful transactionally”.

Among the highlights of the interview was a new fibre deployment model and leveraging assets in original, longsighted ways.

Regarding the fibre deployment, rather than doing the usual telco thing of building out a network coverage as fast as possible, TELUS approached it as “a business within a business”.

The operator shortened the build-to-cash cycle by getting customers’ buy-in, treating, “every town, every city as a distinct project; every neighbourhood as an opportunity to market and sell directly…taking advantage of our presence to make people aware of the technology we’re bringing and sell them the technology and its benefits while we’re there,” Tony explained.

The operator looks at FTTP as a platform for introducing new services rather than simply providing connectivity. Already TELUS is the biggest provider of home security systems and services in Canada. Tony thinks the next big opportunity will be in managing smart home applications for consumers because currently they are unwieldy collections of disparate, discrete solutions.

 

Urban mining and real estate

TELUS is imaginatively finding new ways of sweating assets, like “urban mining” – reclaiming and recycling thousands of miles of copper cable from the obsolete local loop. Tony claimed this is “the greenest copper on the market”. Proceeds from the recycled metal fund the reclamation as well as future upgrades to the fibre.

TELUS is building a real estate empire, partnering with property developers to convert former local exchanges and their sites into social and other housing, for instance.

With fellow panellists, Tony will also strive to get to grips with Delivering the business value and impact of Network Automation & AI on the opening CxO keynote panel on Day 2. In his interview, he noted that as part of the drive to enable the team, “We’re very conscious that as we automate and bring massive machine learning to bear, we need to look at what the impact is on the business and the people within the business.

“We continually foster a culture of learning and experimentation, encouraging team members to be more curious and open to change and experiment with new tools and technology.” So far, again working with a partner, TELUS set up a fast track Digital Developer programme. The first cohort has graduated and more than 30 people became junior developers.

 

More speed less success?

Thomas Hundt, Group Strategy & Technology Office, Axiata, is a panellist in the Day Two Keynote Panel Network automation at scale: How to inject pace into the journey.

In his interview with FutureNet World, the message was that network automation’s role in balancing cost to serve with future benefits is a delicate balance, buffeted by macroeconomic forces – and timing is key.

 Cost to serve is fundamental because while the markets Axiata serves (under various brand names) are culturally diverse, to a greater or lesser extent are all low-affordability markets, with ARPU of between $5 and $2 at the bottom end of the range. Some markets are still struggling with the fallout from the pandemic.

He stated, “4G is our bread and butter [but] we are not behind the curve in terms of having state-of-the-art networks because only by going for state-of-the-art networks can you hit the cost positions we are striving for.” Thomas continues, “We are looking at our cost structures and network design from an end state where 100% of revenues are coming from data-driven services.”

He also points out that 5G is about much more than the network: it relies on the business case, regulatory readiness and ecosystem development, availability of 5G-ready devices and their affordability, and the availability of spectrum. “Any of these components can delay progress in markets,” he says, adding that he expects some solid steps towards 5G deployments in 2024 in some of Axiata’s markets.

Networks – coconut to avocado

 

Colin Bannon, CTO of BT Global, will end the FutureNet World event with a bang. He is the closing keynote speaker on day 2, addressing Network-as-a-Service: A generational shift in technology. In a recent interview with us, Colin described NaaS as a way of giving customers unprecedented control of their infrastructure in a deglobalised world.

He explained, “The concept of perimeters has changed. The network was like a coconut – hard on the outside, but all soft and watery inside. Once you got through that data centre and the firewalls, it was a trusted network internally.

“Now we’re dealing with networks that are more like an avocado, with less defined perimeters – people working from home, on their mobile, coming in through an ISP or whatever – but the applications themselves and the concept of zero trust have a hard core, like the stone in the avocado.”

 

Resilience earns new business opportunities

This evolution in network topology is about meeting changing needs. “There are business opportunities in being resilient and super-efficient.” he said, and especially in a world of automation and rising geo-political tensions.

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