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Summary of Telecom Council TC3, Part 1- Service Provider Innovation Forum


Telecom Council Carrier Connections (TC3) – the Telecom Council’s annual summit- was held Sept 12-13, 2012 in Sunnyvale, CA. The event provides an opportunity for startups and application developers to interact with telecom carriers (telcos) and network operators. Telco representatives who manage innovation, from developer programs and labs facilities to venture investing, discussed many issues that are relevant to their vendors and partner companies.  These included:

  • What innovations are network operators looking for?
  • How does a young company work with a large operator?
  • What kind of partnerships do carriers prefer?
  • Who are the right people inside the carriers to properly receive, handle, and implement new ideas?
  • What developer and partner programs are available?

A complete description of TC3 is available here from the Telecom Council.

Telco Innovation in SF Bay Area and Startups:

Over the last few years, more than 25 Telco Innovation Labs have opened up in the SF Bay Area, including Sprint’s in Burlingame, AT&T’s in Palo Alto, Verizon’s in San Francisco and Deutsche Telekom’s in Palo Alto.  These Telco Innovation Labs serve as incubators and offer testing facilities to a wave of startups, particularly in the wireless space.  Global telcos have also established Venture Capital (VC) divisions throughout the SF Bay Area.  This makes Silicon Valley a very appropriate place to hold the TC3 summit conference. Throughout the 2 day summit, speakers from telcos and mobile operators described what they’re doing for developers and how they’ve been handling partnerships with startups.

Telecom Council Service Provider Innovation Forum (SPIF) Meeting:

TC3 conference chair Derek Kerton said that the Silicon Valley culture of co-operation has been working for carriers. They are able to share leads and help each other out without worrying about competition. With that introduction, the first Telecom Council Service Provider Innovation Forum Meeting open to the public began. 11 later stage startups, with network ready products and services that “push the envelope of telecom innovation” gave rapid fire pitches. After each presentation, SPIF session moderator Liz Kerton invited carriers sitting in the front rows to ask them questions.

We highlight three of the most interesting vendor rapid fires below.  Click here for the complete TC3-2012 agenda.

1.  Actellis has offered Ethernet over Copper products, but is now shifting into the residential broadband space. Millions of Americans don’t have broadband access, primarily due to a lack of infrastructure. The FCC is trying to address this problem with the Connect America Fund. “The digital divide is a challenge, but an economic opportunity for carriers,” said Chris Heinemann, Director of Marketing at Actellis.

The Actellis Broadband Accelerator (BBA) delivers high speed broadband services to current unserved and underserved customers who are out of reach because of their geographical location.  The patented, shoe box sized box is placed between the telco’s DSLAM and the ADSL subscriber.  It provides “ubiquitous coverage over the existing copper infrastructure and takes only 15 minutes to install. The BBA is in field trials worldwide, with several deployments in the U.S. and one in South America,” according to Mr. Heineman. He encouraged the audience to watch You Tube videos describing the product and how to install it (wall or pole mounted). Please refer to:

Overview (YouTube video)

How to Install (YouTube video)

The BBA received the 2012 NGN Leadership Award for outstanding innovation.

Author’s Note: Mr Heinemann did not disclose how the Broadband Accelerator actually worked.  Yet he implied it could be used to deliver 15 to 30 Mb/sec total bandwidth per subscriber (the sweet spot for triple play services).

2.  Joyent provides “Cloud Infrastructure for Real-time Web and Mobile Applications.” The company, which counts Intel and Telefonica as investors, “builds a data center as a solid state device,” according to Jason Hoffman, Joyent’s founder. The company’s strategy is focused on local service delivery from a global alliance of tier 1 mobile carriers that operate their own mobile clouds and/or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) on Joyent’s data center fabric.

Joyent’s data center technology addresses challenges in real time latency sensitive mobile apps. “It’s designed as the back end of the storage array that runs Virtual Machines (VMs). The product can do throttling, scheduling, bursting and I/O acceleration in a unique way,” according to Mr Hoffman. “It can detect when applications are running slow via real time diagnostics and trace capabilities,” he said.

3.  Shared Spectrum Company is not technically a startup as it was founded in 2000 and funded by DARPA.  The company develops embedded wireless software for accessing shared spectrum resources and mitigating effects of RF interference by avoiding those bands. Their Dynamic Spectrum Access technology senses what frequencies are used as well as interference in unused bands. It avoids those and switches wireless traffic to selected frequency bands that are unused and clear of interference. Shared Spectrum’s software has been embedded in products from military radio manufacturers. Recently it has been used by InterDigital- a femtocell vendor. The company is now hoping to attract a broader range of OEMs (as described below).

Based on measurements his company has performed in major markets around the country, CEO Tom Stroup claims there is no spectrum shortage (in direct conflict with AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson who says AT&T needs a whole lot more spectrum to cope with exponential growth in mobile data traffic).

Instead, Mr. Stroup maintains that most allocated spectrum is not used.  He said that <20% of available and allocated spectrum is not in use at any one given time. That’s quite a bold statement!

The company sees a growth market in mobile cloud computing, which requires additional spectrum with QoS. Examples are TV white spaces (unused frequencies allocated to TV broadcasters) where interference from wireless microphones must be detected so as not to use those bands for wireless broadband services. The company’s “Spectrum Sensing Toolbox” is targeted at equipment used in femtocells, IEEE 802.22 Regional Wireless Area Networks, digital broadcasters in Europe, Machine to Machine (M2M) devices, Department of Defense and civilian government radio systems. Tom said that “Shared Spectrum’s Dynamic Spectrum Access technology was applicable across the world.”

Author’s Note: Various proposals, including IEEE 802.11af, IEEE 802.22 and those from the White Spaces Coalition, have advocated using white spaces left by the termination of analog TV to provide wireless broadband Internet access. A device intended to use these available channels is referred to as a “white-spaces device.” The FCC will meet September 28th to discuss rules for an auction where UHF broadcasters will sell spectrum to wireless carriers that have complained about a lack of available spectrum as U.S. consumers increasingly use and want more mobile data.

Closing Comment:

“Our monthly Service Provider Innovation Forum meeting has a 12 year history of helping entrepreneurs meet telcos and visa versa,” said Liz Kerton President of the Telecom Council of Silicon Valley. “This was the first time the public has had access to the inner circle of the Council and it worked well enough to do it again next year.”

Indeed, this author found the meeting a very effective way for telcos and start-ups to meet one another.


This concludes part 1 of the TC3 Summary.

Part 2 will cover the panel session on Rich Communications Suite (RCS) and carrier innovation agendas, strategies and case studies.  Part 3 will be on WiFi Offload 2.0.


SPIFFY award winners at TC3 in various categories-


Author Alan Weissberger

By Alan Weissberger

Alan Weissberger is a renowned researcher in the telecommunications field. Having consulted for telcos, equipment manufacturers, semiconductor companies, large end users, venture capitalists and market research firms, we are fortunate to have his critical eye examining new technologies.

One reply on “Summary of Telecom Council TC3, Part 1- Service Provider Innovation Forum”

Alan, thanks for reporting on this first ever Service Provider Forum at TC3 that was open to the public.The format sounds like it made for lively presentations.

The presence of so many innovation labs has to be a good thing for new companies in the telecom space, as these labs and the associated relationships offer the potential to provide early product guidance without having to trek to an operator’s lab in some far-flung location.

By having a relationship with a local innovation lab, I wonder if this helps start-ups when they do bring their products to the operators’ labs for evaluation prior to being approved for field deployment. I suspect it helps establish credibility, but it probably doesn’t eliminate the need for a start-up to have some sort of “feet on the street” in order to sell their product (for Field Trials and then general deployment) to the people within the operator who will actually be signing the purchase order.

Still, these labs have to be a good thing for the start-ups, as well as operators that benefit from being lose to the critical mass of “Silicon Valley” start-ups.

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