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The Five Surprising Tech Trends of 2013

Carol Wilson
12/31/2013

I'm a bit hard to surprise these days, but a few things caught me off guard in 2013 and here they are, in reverse order:

The power behind the virtualization trend: Software-defined networking (SDN) was already a hot topic at the close of 2012 and network functions virtualization (NFV) was picking up steam, so the fact these twin towers of virtualization dominated the telecom headlines in 2013 is far from surprising. But the determination behind service providers to push this forward was impressive – and a bit unexpected. The continued insistence that this is a long-term, full-scale network transformation a foot will keep virtualization front and center for some time to come. (See ESDN: SDN Is Under-Hyped, Says Ciena and ESDN: AT&T Calls for SDN APIs Now.)

The emergence of the MANO layer. This is virtualization surprise, part two. And, to be honest, it shouldn’t be a surprise at all and yet, it seemed to catch many folks off guard. By early summer of 2013, a number of folks paying close attention to the work of the ETSI NFV Industry Specifications Group (ISG) said there are major challenges lurking in the Management and Network Orchestration or MANO layer. They are too many to be detailed here, but one of the basic issues is how, when or whether to interface to existing operations and business support systems in introducing virtualized functions into the network. This is also going to play out over time and, no doubt, mean more curve balls. (See In the Cloud, Repurposed BSS Won't Cut It, The SDN/NFV Integration Challenge, ESDN: OSS Implosion, SDN & NFV to Shake Up Operator OSS Market, Heavy Reading Finds and Clouding Up the NFV Transition).

Cloud services face same old challenges. The things that were a challenge to cloud adoption in 2011 were a challenge to cloud adoption in 2013. Telecom network operators who jumped into cloud two to three years ago are still refining their approach – thus both Verizon Enterprise Solutions and CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) made major cloud moves in the second half of the year – and enterprises are still finding reasons not to move some core applications and data into the cloud. (See Enterprises Not Rushing to Embrace Cloud, Why Verizon Needed a Cloud Reboot and CenturyLink Shows Cloud Is Still Critical.)

Competitive eyes are smiling. In the US, competitive carriers are claiming things are going better, with business fueled in part by mobile backhaul services but also by growth in a variety of other areas, and continued demand for broadband data. One of those "other things" might be the biggest surprise I had this year. (See Comptel a Sunny Spot This Fall.)

Voice services still generate revenues. Voice is widely considered the tail, and no longer the dog, of telecom but the move to an all-IP realm is producing a surprising interest in converged services that include voice capabilities – the trend formerly known as Unified Communications – and network operators are again making money by delivering voice. To be fair, some of what they are delivering isn't actually voice, but network functions and capabilities associated with voice, such as phone numbers, and what they are delivering is actually VoIP, not traditional circuit-switched voice. But still. Mobile voice is even getting a little bit of love – and may well get more next year when VoLTE becomes more real. (See Why Voice Still Matters, Mobile Voice is Dead. Long Live Mobile Voice!, Business Market Rediscovers Its Voice and Bandwidth Bringing Profits Back to Voice.)

So that's just one reporter's view - what surprised you in the past year?

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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Ray@LR
Ray@LR
12/31/2013 | 12:50:41 PM
And there it is....the acronym for 2014
MANO alive.... whether this abbreviation catches on or not, this is going to be one of the hottest areas in 2014, because no one knows what the full set of challenges are yet, let alone how to deal with them.

This is where the traditional OSS players  face a massive challenge - can they deliver a MANO solution? Or will they be trumped by the IT/open source brigade?
Ray@LR
Ray@LR
12/31/2013 | 12:54:04 PM
Another surprise - backhaul
It seems to me that there is still a disproportionate lack of focus on backhaul. Having a Grade A backhaul network that is geared up for the transport of legacy and pcket traffic (ewith clock synch) is so vital, yet is still appears to be regarded as a second-tier consideration.
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson
12/31/2013 | 12:55:38 PM
Re: Another surprise - backhaul
There is a tremendous amount of activity still in the mobile backhaul space in the US, as the race to be the first fiber provider to a tower is in full gear. First one in wins the business and being second is like being last -- unless the first guys screws up the service. 
Ray@LR
Ray@LR
12/31/2013 | 1:01:25 PM
Re: Another surprise - backhaul
There has been a notable step up in the US, yes - maybe the arrival of widespread 4G will bring backhaul to the fore market-by-market.
DanJones
DanJones
12/31/2013 | 2:11:01 PM
Re: Another surprise - backhaul
There's still plenty of rural backhaul in the US to be served,  may not be as much drive to do that though.
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson
12/31/2013 | 2:33:38 PM
Re: Another surprise - backhaul
Yeah, I'm always a bit amazed when people talk about LTE as a broadband option for rural areas, when the backhaul solutions in their areas are often scarce. 
DanJones
DanJones
12/31/2013 | 2:41:50 PM
Re: Another surprise - backhaul
Well, carriers that talk about are looking to get people off DSL so they can shut down that expense. I still wouldn't be expecting great LTE service in the really rural parts of the US, that's why people are experimenting with White Spaces and more.
DanJones
DanJones
12/31/2013 | 1:01:18 PM
Re: Another surprise - backhaul
Is that possibly because -- in part -- all of the sync standards for LTE backhaul and beyond don't seem to be as nailed down as people might want them to be.
Ray@LR
Ray@LR
12/31/2013 | 1:00:00 PM
Another surprise - holding back in China
Considering how much vilification Huawei has had during the past year-plus, I am surprised there hasn't been a bigger backlash against Western vendors in China.
DanJones
DanJones
12/31/2013 | 1:02:41 PM
Re: Another surprise - holding back in China
Well, China Mobile did give a good portion of the LTE TDD contract to Huawei & ZTE. It's just that the crumbs from China Mobile are pretty damn substanial too.
mendyk
mendyk
12/31/2013 | 1:03:52 PM
Bubblicious
I'm surprised that Netflix's share price hit the exosphere this year in large part because of ... Kevin Spacey. Speculative bubbles continue to abound -- a sign that all the technology in the world won't really change human nature all that much. 
DanJones
DanJones
12/31/2013 | 1:38:16 PM
Re: Bubblicious
Well, people seemed fascinated with the idea that they could compete with network TV and cable, no doubt the novelty will wear off.
DanJones
DanJones
12/31/2013 | 2:24:28 PM
What's in a name?
Mano is already a famous Bollywood singer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6yrXsCsayk
DOShea
DOShea
12/31/2013 | 4:03:53 PM
Re: What's in a name?
Headline I'd most like to see in 2014 to describe competition in this segment:

Mano a mano over MANO
DanJones
DanJones
12/31/2013 | 4:12:05 PM
Re: What's in a name?
MANO WAR!

 

Then we get the cheesy heavy metal reference.
DanJones
DanJones
12/31/2013 | 4:13:50 PM
Re: What's in a name?
Or for the James Brown fans:

 

This is a MANO, MANO, MANO World (But it would be nothing with a network or a cloud).
DOShea
DOShea
12/31/2013 | 4:27:18 PM
Re: What's in a name?
Don't forget the new LR event:

MANO Live!
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