Archive for the ‘Enablers’ Category

The box mobile operators find themselves in

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

I joined Sprint in 2003. Until then, my entire career had been in wireline telecom. In previous roles, I’d cared about wireless because it could be either an opportunity (driver of growth) or threat (substitution). But 2003 was the first time I had really looked at the world as a mobile operator.

One of the first questions I asked was “what applications really require licensed spectrum?”

I was surprised that no one inside the company seemed to understand my question. In 2003, WiFi really wasn’t a threat to mobile operator core revenues (primarily voice in 2003). While I had been talking about a future where everything would be connected to the network for years (I called it “bandwidth built in”), very few people were really thinking about an “internet of things.” The only smartphones with any commercial success (and tiny at that) were Palm and Nokia/Symbian. In fact, in my first few years at Sprint, there was real resistance to including things like Bluetooth and WiFi in our handsets. Can you imagine?

What I was seeing was the first side of the box that mobile operators find themselves in.

Over the next 11 years in strategy roles at Sprint I began to see the other sides of the box. I wish I could claim that I’d been successful helping my fellow executives to see them and to either build the best possible inside-the-box business or launch and fund outside-the-box growth businesses. But Big Bell Dogma rules.

So what are the other sides of the box?

The four sides of the box can best be seen by asking four questions, starting with the one I mentioned above:

  • What applications require licensed spectrum? (e.g. what won’t work on WiFi?)
  • What applications/services work best using network vs. device intelligence? (e.g. GPS/location based services)
  • What applications can best be met by a single operator? (e.g. RCS/joyn vs. WhatsApp)
  • What applications are best served via carrier billing? (i.e. What could never be offered for free?)

There is no question that mobile operators offer an incredibly important infrastructure that has enabled innovation that has literally changed every aspect of our lives. I’m proud to have been a part of that. Unfortunately, telecom companies move slowly and have expensive operations. Innovators can’t afford to wait for, or pay for, the mobile operators to provide what they need, so they have innovated around them and increasingly pushed operators back into their box.

To be successful, operators need to figure out either how to be the best inside-the-box (nimble, low-cost commodity transport and related services providers) or… (I tried to find a hopeful way to end that sentence, but each option I thought of I could shoot down. There’s nothing in the nature of a telecom company that positions it to prosper outside the box.)

For today, mobile operators can have some level of success selling voice and data connectivity services to consumers. That’s clearly inside the box. Will the box shrink to squeeze even those services? What options do operators have for growth? Those are great and important questions.

My favorite lunch

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Yesterday I attended Sprint’s annual Patent Luncheon. This is my favorite lunch event of the year!

In 2010, Sprint was awarded 357 patents. At this luncheon, all the individuals across the company who either received a patent in 2010 or submitted an application for one during the year, are recognized and honored.

What I love about this event isn’t the food (although it’s always good). What I love is that it’s a rare opportunity in the spotlight for the folks behind the Sprint innovation that has made this company great for more than 100 years. The folks walking up on stage and getting their photo taken with the company’s top executives (4 members of Dan Hesse’s senior team were at the event) spend most of their days being brilliant in hidden labs and obscure cubicles across the Sprint campus.

Throughout the year, as I have meeting after meeting in Sprint’s boardrooms, or in high level partnership meetings, these aren’t the folks I see. But when Sprint wins awards for innovation in systems, devices (and here), networks, or even customer service, it’s often the

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innovation coming from this group of folks that’s behind it.

Go Sprint! Power up!

Enabling Technology: February 9, 2011

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

The Law of Mobility talks about value increasing with mobility. The impact of this law is being felt because the barriers to building mobility

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Enabling Technology: December 29, 2010

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

The Law of Mobility talks about value increasing with mobility. The impact of this law is being felt because the barriers to building mobility in are being obliterated week after week. Here are examples of technology advances enabling this to happen:

Russ’ observation: Technology is enabling mobility to be increasingly integrated into the real world and everyday life.

Enabling Technology: October 11, 2010

Monday, October 11th, 2010

The Law of Mobility talks about value increasing with mobility. The impact of this law is being felt because the barriers to building mobility in are being obliterated week after week. Here are examples of technology advances enabling this to happen:

Enabling Technology: August 21, 2010

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

The Law of Mobility talks about value increasing with mobility. The impact of this law is being felt because the barriers to building mobility in are being obliterated week after week. Here are examples of technology advances enabling this to happen:

Enabling Technology: June 2, 2010

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

The Law of Mobility talks about value increasing with mobility. The impact of this law is being felt because the barriers to building mobility in are being obliterated week after week. Here are examples of technology advances enabling this to happen:

Intel’s Aggressive Agenda

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

I’ve spent the last two days in a meeting of Intel’s Communications Board of Advisors along with 20 other representatives from service providers around the world. It has been a very informative session. Since it has been under NDA, I can’t share with you the specific content, however, my key takeaway is public information and yet is eye opening.

It all starts in Intel’s wheelhouse – silicon. This week, Intel brought to market their Moorestown platform. Moorestown offers very competitive processor performance for the netbook and smartphone market. Intel would argue that Moorestown provides significantly higher performance than anything else on the market. However, the real game-changing factor here has less to do with performance and more to do with architecture. What Intel has done is take the same Intel Architecture (x86) that developers are used to developing for, which is always designed for forward and backward compatability, and driven breakthroughs so that it will work in a smartphone implementation with competitive battery life. The engineering achievements are huge, but the potential impact of having the exact same processor architecture in a smartphone as scales up to laptops, desktops, and even into data center environments has the potential to dramatically broaden the application landscape and sweeten the business case for mobile application development.

That Intel is pushing the envelope in the silicon space is no surprise. As Paul Otellini reminded us this morning, from an Intel perspective, at the end of the day everything has to conform to Moore’s Law and the laws of physics, and no one is better than Intel at scaling that Moore’s law progression into technology advances.

What was surprising to me is that Intel’s aggressiveness doesn’t stop at the silicon layer. As Otellini pointed out, Intel is increasingly becoming a software company.

On top of the silicon layer, Intel has made a big bet with MeeGo, a mobile platform intended to compete with the iPhone OS, Android, and other platforms. MeeGo has been contributed to the Linux Foundation, so it is truly open source with full transparency. MeeGo is the result of the combination of separate efforts from Intel and Nokia. By aligning with Nokia, Intel has significantly upped the ante in their software game, quickly translating MeeGo into a viable platform option that can gain operator support. MeeGo is intended to operate across smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and laptops. I believe that much of the question of whether Intel will succeed as a software company rests in their success with MeeGo, so this really is a huge bet for them.

Finally, on top of the operating system sits applications. The third step in Intel’s aggressive agenda is with a new approach to the app store phenomenon. The AppUp Center supports applications for MeeGo and Windows on devices ranging from smartphones to netbooks to tablets to “smart” TV platforms (another part of Intel’s strategy). Intel is also positioning the AppUp Center as an app store behind the app store, so folks like us mobile operators could have a fully customized store without having to worry about managing the developer program behind it.

Bottom line, when looking at these three separate initiatives, Intel has aggressively moved to take the best capabilities that have driven their success in the PC world (backward and forward compatibility, scalability, a vibrant developer ecosystem) and brought it into the mobile world. They have also created and open sourced the replacement for Windows in that mobile world, and have learned from the recent history of what drives adoption and habituation (the app store phenomenon) and tied it all together into a package that is designed to be attractive to the rest of the ecosystem (operators, OEMs, and application developers).

This is a very aggressive agenda. It will be interesting to see how this big bet plays out.

Enabling Technology: April 6, 2010

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

The Law of Mobility talks about value increasing with mobility. The impact of this law is being felt because the barriers to building mobility in are being obliterated week after week. Here are examples of technology advances enabling this to happen:

Enabling Technology: March 7, 2010

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

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