Even a wireless network needs wires – Next Generation Optical Networking Conference

Recently I attended and spoke at the Next Generation Optical Networking Conference held in Nice, France.

Key topics discussed during the conference included

  • 100G in the Metro,
  • SDN in the transmission/transport layer
  • IP/Optical Convergence
  • 200/400G Evolution.
  • Datacentre evolution & geographical spread

I spoke at two sessions during the four days.  First in one of the pre-conference workshops WDM-PON Networking. In this session I introduced Three UK and discussed WDM in the access environment for mobile backhaul and participated in a panel discussion with Fabienne Saliou of Orange Labs on the subject.

On the final day I presented to the conference during a section on Fronthaul & mobile backhaul. The title of my paper being “Even a Wireless Network needs Wires.”

I gave an example of a complex mobile backhaul environment and discussed some of the future requirements that architectures such as C-RAN may bring to the transport network.




The Rising Tide of Mobile Data.

Just recently I spoke at my first industry conference of the year, Transport Networks for Mobile Operators Conference held in London.  A good opportunity to strike up some new contacts and business relationships.

In my address I put forward the case for demonstrating that the global rise in mobile data traffic was no longer a tsunami but in fact more of a rising tide with the sea levels rising each year.  I presented statistics from the last 7 years within the Three UK network which has been leading the market in mobile broadband volumes in the UK to illustrate my point.   Being a scuba diver, one who looks for the turning of the daily tides and slack water, I found it interesting that whilst in UK waters we experience two tides (High, Low, High, Low) a day, in the terms of Mobile data usage, there is only one tide in a day.

The Mobile Data Tide
The Mobile Data Tides of the Day

The slide on the right taken from my presentation illustrates a typical midweek day in March 2014, with a low water mark around 5am and a high water mark around 10pm. Weekends also look like this with the axis shifted one hour to the right.  It seems the UK consumer likes to stay in bed an hour later on the weekend and stay up an hour later using their mobile devices.  Month on month, year on year the overall volume of data traffic has continued to rise and overall market and industry trends bear this out and the outlook towards the end of the decade and the development of 5G indicates this will continue.

Michael Carroll, reporting on TNMO 2014 for Fierce Wireless picked up on the analogy for one of his reports on the conference.  Link to report , thanks Michael.

There was a quite a lot of debate on the need for and use of backhaul for small cells, this will be explored further no doubt at the upcoming Small Cells World Summit and Backhaul summit at the Excel Centre, Dockland, London.  I will feature on a couple of panel discussions at that conference, debating the Small Cell Backhaul Demand and how to prepare for small cells.

In the next few weeks I will be attending and participating in the Mobile Network Performance Management Conference, Small Cells World Summit and The Next Generation Optical Networking Summit.


Adventures for all the family in the UK.

20140218-084225.jpgAt the weekend I met Daniel Raven-Ellison self proclaimed guerrilla geographer and his 10 year old son Seb.
They were presenting on the Travel Adventure stage of the Outdoor show and speaking about their recent adventures together, 125 of them to celebrate 125 years of the National Geographic magazine.
Teaming up with Toyota who provided them with a car they embarked on 125 different adventures across the UK. They ranged from a 100mph zip wire experience in Wales to mushroom identification in the new forest.

It was the diversity of the activities and differing demands on time and money that have inspired me to create our own list of activities to do as a family. Whether they be lavish one off activities or micro-adventures there are plenty of adventures to get up to on any budget.
The list will contain some of those off the 125 but I am sure will include some of our own. (Some we have already done and done lots like the diving @Porthkerris divers –Adventure 22 )

I’ll let you know how we get on.

Making a small difference.

Yesterday my 11 year old daughter had her hair cut, not normally a blog post event, however she was doing it for a reason.
Her cut hair will be used to create a real hair wig for children undergoing treatment for cancer. She was inspired to do this because of a 5 year old friend who has recently begun very intense treatment for cancer.

The hair is donated to the Little Princess Trust who organise for the creation of the wig. It also costs about £350 per wig and so my daughter has also been raising that as well so that she can donate the hair and the funds to create a wig.

And so yesterday she had over 7 inches taken off her hair and she is £25 short of her target. So if you can help support this cause pop along to her just-giving webpage www.justgiving.com/Emily-Gilmour and donate a few pounds to help.

Click on the picture below to be taken to the video clip.


2014G – The Year of 4G in the UK?

I rejoined the mobile operator Three UK in August 2013 after a 7 year stint within the managed services arm of Ericsson, prodominately providing services back into Three but also all of the other mobile network operators in the UK .  The team I managed throughout 2012 & 13 were heavily & directly involved in the rollout of the transmission network enabling EE’s 4G launch in October 2012 and as I prepared to leave the company and move back to Three were doing exactly the same for Three’s 4G launch.

August 29th 2013 was an interesting date as the rest of the major MNOs in the UK announced their 4G launch plans including Three making public their intention to switch on their 4G network to all customers with compatible handsets and subject to 4G coverage at no extra cost.

Those with an IOS device on Three would have had updated carrier settings sent to them just before Christmas.
4G on Three is coming soon.

So to my title will 2014 be the year of 4G for the UK ?

Source & Copyright three.co.uk
Source & Copyright three.co.uk

Each mobile operator will be expanding their coverage map throughout the year. A quick glance at the coverage checker on the website of each MNO and it is clear that EE are still streets ahead in terms of coverage but all operators have plans this year and will be rapidly enhancing their 4G footprint.
Device penetration will increase, certainly for Three this means that a large percentage of their customers will be able to experience 4G once coverage reaches them. For the other operators it will hinge upon the tariffs and bundles in place to entice the UK consumer to make the change.
Ultimately the change to 4G in the UK will be driven by demands of the customer. The continuous and seeming insatiable desire for bandwidth on the move will continue to drive operators like Three and others to make the change to their networks, because where there is demand there is a customer base.

The challenge for mobile operators is to complete these upgrade programmes whilst at the same time maintaining or by necessity increasing network availability and quality.

As for me at Three I am looking at what comes next and how the transmission network has to evolve.
The future looks very promising for the mobile industry but it will look different.

Time for change….. of phone

So my Nokia N97 gave up on me this week, the facia around the edge fell off whilst on a call and then a few days later the glass screen started to peel away and now the touch screen doesn’t work. So following a deep reset, its gone off for repair. I am currently without smart phone , relegated to standard issue Sony Ericsson T715.

I have a first generation iPod touch and attached to my mi-fi dongle it gives me the mobility but somehow it is not the same.

How I miss the push email alerts from the Profimail app on the N97 or the polling of tweets via the outstanding Gravity twitter app for symbian phones.

On the first generation iPod touch without multi-tasking (this was introduced in IOS 4.0 which is not available on the 1st Gen touch) twitter just isn’t the same experience.

So this is the opportunity to look at a new phone.

The important question Android or Apple IOS

I like the look of the new SonyEricsson Xperia ARC, pictured on the right, having had a look at one of the test models here in our building, it looks stunning and has a decent sized screen for touchscreen use.  I haven’t had the opportunity to use it in earnest yet but from the limited demo I saw  the screen quality is evident (possibly due to the Bravia Engine) and the processor speed light years ahead of the N97.

I have loved having my N97, it has been fantastic as a mobile computing device, but things really have moved on…

Speaking of moving on,  had a play with my first 3D smartphone today…

Safely negotiating this web of information & entertainment

Last week on the BBC 5live breakfast show I listened as presenter Nicky Campbell interviewed a mother whose two daughters had been victims of unwanted inappropriate attention on the internet. Both had received messages from older men masquerading as friends of the girls on the Internet. This is just one of all too many experiences and episodes that I have either heard, read or been told of first hand as part of the research I conducted for a devotional I gave at the beginning of January.

The devotional was entitled Continue reading “Safely negotiating this web of information & entertainment”

Working through the snow

Once again the country has been gripped by adverse weather conditions and in some areas that grip has been a strangle-hold. Just yesterday the reports from Scotland included people stranded for hours on end and overnight on the motorways & a-roads of the central belt.
For me the weather has an impact on three fronts, my employment, my calling in the church and family life.

Family life.
The effect on the family is the ability to move around safely for things such as school for the children, purchasing of food etc and heating in the home.
Conditions such as those experienced in the last two weeks highlight the providence of good preparation & planning ahead of time. The motto of a “stich in time saves nine” and the idea of being self-reliant are important pragmatic principles in such times. Having an adequate food storage or larder stocked with food can help alleviate the need to have to journey out when the weather closes in.

The need to heat the home is also important for basic survival and if one can have a back up way of generating heat then all the better. It is almost inevitable that the boiler will break as soon as the temperature drops! Oil filled raditors, calor gas heaters are useful to have around the house to provide back up if necessary.
Now if you were going the whole hog how about a little generator to provide electricity should the mains fail. Unfortunately we haven’t got to that level of preparedness yet but it is possible and I am sure there are those who do have the ability at home.

I am fortunate and blessed that I work in an environment that enables me to have a virtual office. Through secure VPNs, the Internet, voice telecoms, mobile networks and video conferencing I can take my office wherever there is connectivity to the internet. With advances in mobile data speeds through 3G mobile networks and enhanced coverage access is more readily available. When the weather closes in though all of this technology allows me to set up my computer and work from home, so long as there is electricity and I have the will power and discipline to do so.

So work can go on and in my case with this recent weather, even increase in productivity as the normal distractions in the office environment such as people approaching one’s desk and endless, all encompassing meetings seem to dwindle. It appears that because one is not physically there then sometimes problems that another came to see you about no longer seem that important and one is left to continue the work that is important to oneself.

Church Life

The final area for me affected by the weather is my responsibilty in the church.
My role neccesitates a number of meetings and interviews and some of these may have to fall by the wayside when travel becomes difficult. I have found though that a lot of this work can also continue by the use of web, telephone & video conferencing. I have even tried my hand at webcasting during this cold spell.

In much the same way as work life can continue then also can the work of the church.  It may require some adaption though as this technological solution does not replace the need and desire to meet often to uplift, edify & instruct one another. There is a warm edifying feeling that comes from meeting face to face and enjoying human interaction. This is an important and vital part of ministering to people that is so necessary when dealing with spiritual and emotion needs of individuals which is a lot of what religious worship caters for.  What the technology allows is for the administering of the church to continue so that the precious time that is available for ministering is not consumed with the necessary administration.


“Technology won’t make people interact.

It only gives them a forum to do that.

If you want people to use technology to collaborate,

let them get to know each other first.”

– Maridan Clements

Not an iPhone but not a bad option – The Nokia N97

And Ok so as I was blogging the match report for the Under 10’s football team that my son plays for I reflected on the process I was using to do so. The scene is familar to many and fairly typical, parents and families standing on the sidelines cheering and offering advice and instruction, we’re all capable of managing top flight football teams weren’t you aware. In between the cheers and shouts I am there tapping away my thoughts into my 3G Nokia N97. The ball is cleared up the field the defender misses it, the ball bobbles on the uneven pitch and beats the keeper who is dwarfed by this goal behind him. I tap onto the keyboard .. “a thunderous shot from half way beats the defense and the back of the net bludges 1-0” I then go up a few lines and recap on the build up and snap a shot using the 5megapixel on board camera. The picture quality is acceptable from the phone and I email it directly to the flickr link that is set up for the team and it’s up on the blog before half time oranges are dispensed.

The final whistle goes and I have a quick check through what I have written, there are only a couple of spelling mistakes or phantom ‘m’s dotted through the sentances where instead of hitting the spacebar that is located to the right of the keyboard on the N97 and not on a 4th row as with a full size qwerty. So i decide it’s good enough to go straight on the blog and so email it to my wordpress email address as I am doing with this post and it’s there on the blog.

When I joined 3UK in 2001 is this what I envisaged I would be using a 3G phone for? All the talk then was video calling and what would be the killer app. It would seem there is no one killer app but many…. I used profimail to write and send the text of my blog entry, gravity to tweet about it, photobrowser to pick the right picture to send.
Maybe next time I’ll use the you tube app and upload a video clip of the goal to the blog.
It seems to me that the killer app is just our insatiable need for bandwidth fuelled by a desire to access all we can on the move via our mobile devices. These devices such as the iPhone or this N97 that I am typing on now are packed with little goodies with which to consume bandwidth, they add wifi connectivity to such devices and so we become accustomed to broadband speeds and expect the same when we are travelling on the bus, train or sat in a field camping. 3G networks are not quite there yet but it won’t be long.
I blogged on here a couple of years ago that the original iPhone was a shadow of future models and that is true as we have seen not only extra models added but the introduction of the app store took the iPhone to a new level. This is to a certain extent being emulated with the launch of ovi store for nokia devices and the number of apps for symbian devices such as N97 & Samsung phones that are on the net. If this can be built upon then the device can be a successful alternative to the iPhone.
Gonna go now just had a text message with Man Utd’s full time score and there is a video highlight to watch.

T-mobile/Orange merger

The announcement this morning by Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom of the impending merger of T-Mobile UK and Orange UK has been one of the top trending topics on twitter today and has been a hot topic in the office.
It has been no secret that Deutsche Telekom have been looking to sell off the UK arm and it seems quite sensible that Orange the only mobile operator not currently involved in a Radio Access Network consolidation of some nature with another operator would want to be involved.
When the news broke earlier this year that Vodafone & O2 had entered into a network co-operation deal similar it would seem to the RAN consolidation announced last year by 3UK & T-Mobile it became apparent that orange would have to do something.
It can be argued that they did try in the first place to shake the market up by investigating a site share/network share of their own with vodafone a couple of years back, but that didn’t come off. It is my personal opinion that the 3UK/T-Mobile deal in forming MBNL UK was as a direct result of the orange/vodafone trial. Now it is all change, it’s analagous to a game of musical chairs, a chair has been taken away. the music has stopped and instead of being the last one standing Orange have sat on the knee of T-Mobile. Now the interesting question is whether or not they have pushed 3UK off the chair aswell or whether the MBNL experiment will be allowed to continue to press ahead. Time will tell, it always does with these things.

For the observer of this market the challenge is trying to keep up how it is evolvimg. Perhaps these sorts of the deals are the only way mobile operators are going to survive as they continue to labour under the massive debt they were placed in as a consequence of the huge sums paid for the 3G licenses auction in 2000.