Tag Archives: technology

Technology, mind maps and people! A blind man’s guide to MWC

The question I most often get asked at MWC is not what’s hot and what’s not. It’s always, how the hell do you cope with Barcelona and the FIRA as a blind person?  The answer is a combination of planning, people and technology.


  • The annual MWC Lewis spreadsheet is legendary. It’s a masterpiece in how to cluster meetings in the same or adjacent halls (and trying to avoid anything north of Hall 5)!
  • Taxis (the subway is a non starter for me). The GSMA put me in touch with a specialist disability taxi firm who sent the same driver each day and even negotiated with the police to drop me off in front of the FIRA South entrance (didn’t always work). NB: The white cane comes in useful in getting to the front of taxi queues – stick with me next year!


  • Mobile Apps: having all of my appointments in the iPhone and the diary announcing everything through Voiceover, meant that I was continually getting audible input whether I wanted it or not
  • Be My Eyes: an accessibility app with over a 100,000 volunteers around the world helping 400,000 visually impaired people. Simply point your smart phone camera at something, click and it polls for a volunteer who comes online via a Web RTC link to tell you what you’re looking at.
  • Tap Tap See: similar to the above, does what it says in the name. Tap when pointing the camera and the system tells you it sees.
  • Orcam:  this new self-contained device provides character, people and product recognition from its mounting on the arm of a pair of normal glasses. Tap the side and it reads any text in front of it. It recognizes people so that it tells you tChris Lewis 1heir names when they stand in front of you. You can even store products like cereal packets, wine labels etc and it will tell you what they are!




Navigation around the FIRA

  • A member of the GSMA customer team kindly arranged met me each morning outside and got me to my first meeting
  • The venue benefits from a grid system and the upper walkway spine: as long as I knew where I was relatively, I could vaguely find my way back to the Press Centre where I made my base
  • Collision avoidance: My low centre of gravity helps. I was bumped into so many times by people looking down at their phones or up at stands but never looking where they were going – despite vigorously waving my white cane. I was even rammed by a catering trolley but the person behind couldn’t see me and, not surprisingly, had expected people to get out of their way!

And, finally, just asking the hoards of people around me. Most are shocked that a man with a white stick is there at all but, as in life in general, the vast majority are phenomenally helpful. Most companies I saw actually walked me to my next meeting – a great excuse for them to get off the stand!

Just like living in London, I don’t allow myself be overwhelmed by the thought of over 100,000 delegates,  8 Halls,  an Upper Walk Way,  a Press Centre and even the new South Village. Just like commuting, you occupy a small island of the MWC at any time. What exists elsewhere is irrelevant, and optimising the route between islands is the goal. Shame Uber can’t operate in the aisles of the FIRA, or perhaps they, in a ground-based vehicle or a drone up near the ceiling, might well do so in the future. Or maybe I’ll give in to family pressure for a guide dog.

In terms of next year, my shopping list is pretty simple: HD Maps and iBeacons.  Despite the hype around autonomous vehicles, the GSMA and the mapping companies still haven’t come up with a walking navigation step-by-step tool to tell me exactly where I am.  For the premier telecoms industry event of the year, surely an app can be built based on all of that lovely tech to guide me? And, as with most accessibility technology today, everyone able-bodied I talk to say they would also love that for themselves!

Finally, my special thanks to all analysts, companies and GSMA employees who made this one of the best MWCs for me. Special mention to John Delaney from IDC who walked me back to my hotel when my taxi couldn’t get past the police barricades around the Catalonian independence demonstrators!

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A ‘brand’ view of the telecoms industry

Tim Pritchard, Kantar TNS at the Great Telco Debate

In the spirit of getting outside perspectives on the evolving telecoms market, Tim Pritchard from Kantar TNS, the WPP company which is the largest custom research business in the world, joined the Great Telco Debate on the role of telecoms in the digital economy. The brand perspective raised some very interesting and contradicting themes:


  • The customer is changing. Traditional segmentation is no longer valid. ‘Generation CX’ (young, old, educated, working class – a slice of everyone) is the new reality and brands either listen and respond to customer feedback or risk becoming irrelevant.
  • It is widely accepted that customer loyalty drives profitable revenue growth. As such, customer experience (CX) is non-negotiable. But how does it fit in with today’s telecoms ‘product’ given the world of apps and over-the-top content consumption?
  • Corporate mission statements and brand values tend not to include the customer – you’ll be amazed how few companies, even those spending tens of millions each year on CX, have an agreed customer strategy. Get it written down and socialised across the business so that everyone from the janitor to the CEO knows it, and uses it to frame their work, their thinking, and their daily behaviour.
  • WPP’s 2017 Global BrandZ  shows that 8 of the world’s most valuable 50 brands are telcos. A further 15 are technology companies. You’ve had the power for a long time, but have you leveraged that power? I would say not.
  • Most Telcos have adopted NPS (Net Promoter System) yet their NPS scores are among the lowest of any industry. Virtual network providers often enter markets and quickly start to outperform the network owners, sometimes by as much as 20-30 NPS points. It shouldn’t be that easy – there is something clearly amiss among incumbent telcos to afford disruptor brands that opportunity to create true CX differentiation.
  • A focus on self-serve business models may help to save telcos money but, aside from the customer groups who actively prefer to self-serve, tend to harm rather than enhance brand building efforts.
  • The customer voice is vital, and capturing customer feedback on specific interactions (preferably in real-time) provides critical input for both tactical response and strategy development, as well as brand building

There are 3 basic rules:

  • Don’t let customer down, especially at critical times (i.e. the moments that really matter)
  • Deliver emotional and functional experiences that stimulate long-lasting feelings for the brand
  • Do things that reinforce brand choice and deliver services to customers in a personal, relevant, and needs-satisfying manner

In short, the role of brand is changing with the digital market. Telcos and tech companies benefit hugely from high brand valuations yet typically suffer from poor customer service, reflected in low NPS scores. Part of the challenge is identifying what role the telco plays in the lives of ‘Generation CX’. Identifying, enunciating and promoting a clear customer strategy is vital to re-positioning the telco for the coming generations.

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Ensuring Quality in a Virtualising Telecoms World

The benefits of a virtualised infrastructure have been well-documented on many PowerPoints, webinars and web pages of late. All parties in the ICT world are getting excited about the potential savings and increases in flexibility and performance that virtualised processing, storage and networking can bring under a cloud banner. Telcos are no exception to this excitement. However, from the internal telco perspective, it raises some very significant questions about changing process, approach and even culture.

The traditional telecoms world of cosy but fraught relationships with Network Equipment Providers (NEPs), key software players as well as the essential niche players has always been part of the conservative, controlled world of telecoms with long lead times for product and service development and testing. Integrity of the software driving the network and emerging services from the telco portfolio has been done under ‘safe’ conditions. As the value and supply chain is disrupted by non-telco players, as the key network functions virtualise across the disparate infrastructure, ‘steady’ development time is being challenged. Add to this the fact that the telco will have to support the apps developed for the increasing proportion of smart mobile devices. Ironically, as the market stretches, the telco (and hence its suppliers) will have to work even harder to provide a control layer to underping the customer experience of the actual end user.

A future scenario where the telco is relying more and more on software developed by the NEPs, OTT players as well as off and near-shore in-house and partners along with a diminishing amount developed in-house), all puts an increased strain on the quality assurance and integrity of change management within the essential operating systems of the organisation.

This is all part of the move towards a more software defined telco. After all, the appeal of virtualisation is to operate in a more and more standard and dramatically lower cost compute environment.  Software Defined Network (SDN)  has emerged in the data centre with its new control plane to improve operational control and will now begin to impact the service delivery across the (Wide Area Network) WAN and on to the ever more mobile end device. Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) promises much as the key network functions gain the virtualised benefits of an open stack approach.

However, the timescales for developing and testing new infrastructure and services are being squeezed by the agility of the OTT players on the one hand and by the Cloud delivery players coming from a non-telco origin on the other. Change management is, therefore, even more critical and telcos will need to adopt a radically different approach to deliver competitive turn around times. The burden will, in many ways, be on the OSS and BSS areas. By definition, this is the software focus for the telcos and will tie together the various distributed components.  This subsequently raises the question of where the OSS sits within the organisation and puts the spotlight on the niggly issue of how networking and IT relate to each other in the telco. Evidence is scarce that the gap between the two has closed dramatically.

The solution may well be for the telco community to embrace the Cloud approach and encourage its suppliers to develop their own software components with appropriate APIs in the Cloud for the flexibility needed to match services coming from non-telco sources Having said that, it also needs a fundamental cultural and management change throughout the telco..

In short, the relationship between the telcos and their suppliers with a services component will become the underlying delivery mechanism for many of their future infrastructure and services portfolio to an ever more demanding market with individuals, households, business and the Internet of Things (IOT) demanding high quality services at a reasonable market rate.

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A blank canvas or a really complicated puzzle to unravel?

After almost 30 years of working for the telecoms & networking research community in the shape of many of the leading research and advisory houses I am now venturing out on my own. Although, is anyone truly on their own any more  if you consider the network of people from both the vendor side and the analyst community hovering in cyber space and on every social platform as well as the pseudo old school reunions at the main vendor events?  Many thanks to all of my colleagues across the industry for their kind words and positive reaction to this new venture for me. Doubtless we will have many interactions, debates, disagreements as we all try to navigate through this fascinating next phase of the telecoms industry’s development.

Having covered all aspects of the telecoms and many related industries during my various tenures, the challenge is now not around what I have covered but where to focus the effort. This is certainly the issue for the research industry and indeed the telecoms industry itself. The tendency is to want to look to the new sexy stuff – mobility, cloud, security & M2M/Big Data. However, the health and prosperity of the telecoms industry needs to be built upon a recalibrated basis of high quality pervasive connectivity.  Removing the legacy networks and services from the marketplace needs to be surpassed by a new flexibility in both network build and service roll out, as well as a radical improvement in the customer interaction at all levels. That good old trusted telco brand has been tarnished by poor customer service and a lack of appropriate partnering with fellow hopefuls from the broader ICT and media communities.

No doubt the whole supply, value chain (and dare I say it, the Eco system) is shifting to reflect the new reality for telecoms:

  • Sourcing the right mix of services and technology to build the new telco platform is resetting the relationship between the telco community and its suppliers of network equipment, software and indeed underlying IT infrastructure
  • Organising the telco into an appropriate structure for the delivery of competitive services across telecoms and adjacent markets such as IT services and media
  • Aligning the services portfolio offered to address the convergence of connectivity, processing, storage and applications/content needed for today’s customers
  • Understanding the role that telco plays in the emerging consumption model of today’s and tomorrow’s consumers of individual, household and business services to support new life styles
  • Embracing the ‘Omni channel’ approach to retailing services to customers.

As an analyst industry, we need to continue to build market models to provide the basis of decision making and we need to maintain our view of emerging technologies and services. Perhaps most importantly, we need to interpret the interplay between:

  • the technology and services on the networking side
  • the overlap with adjacent IT and media industries
  • and, most importantly,  the different vertical markets through which much of the technology is delivered.

How can I help? By drawing on my long experience of interaction with all players in the ICT spectrum both to help people outside of telecoms to understand the telco angle and simultaneously to help the telco community strengthen its position in the emerging digital landscape. I will, of course, leverage the social platforms but prefer, perhaps because of my lack of eye sight, my particular strength in interaction on a personal level (don’t write off voice!) with industry executives, workshops of strategy developers, sales teams and product development people to build a brighter and more prosperous future for the industry.

In summary, my aim is to leverage my network of contacts in the industry and work with many of my former colleagues across the globe to build the right mix of skills to address clients’ needs at whichever link of the emerging value chain.

Let the conversations begin!  +44 7824 360747  chris@lewisinsight.com @chr1slew1s 

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