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Dileep Agrawal, CEO, WorldLink: “When things don’t happen fast enough it can get frustrating.”

Dileep Agrawal, CEO, WorldLink, Nepal

If you have recently been frustrated by buffering while watching an HD video-on-demand stream, then hold that thought. For those in the less developed parts of the world, watching HD video at all, is, quite literally, something of a pipe dream.  In these countries, for those fortunate enough to be able to move past existential concerns such as food and housing, internet connectivity and bandwidth is still a mere fraction of what those in developed countries are used to. It’s a pain point of which Dileep Agrawal, chief executive of Nepalese ISP WorldLink, and a speaker at the Broadband Asia conference in May, is only too aware.

WorldLink has been serving Nepal with internet connectivity since 1995 and owns 90 per cent of the infrastructure that it uses to deliver services. This is a network consisting of Ethernet and optical fibre to both consumers and enterprise customers. ADSL however, if off the table, as the incumbent Nepal Telecom has not agreed to unbundle its network for others to use, and as such dominates that market.

Nevertheless, as of February 2012, WorldLink has a total of 22,000 customers and in addition to providing basic internet access offers VoIP, web hosting, network integration and support services which Agrawal sees as being all part and parcel of being a modern data services company. “Nowadays, it’s not just providing simple internet but providing value added,” he says. “Providing just simple internet services is a difficult job in any economy now.”

The major challenge facing WorldLink is dealing with the high prices it has to pay for backbone internet access compared to developed nations and the fact that it is land-locked that ensures that prices remain very high. As a result its customers on average pay for a relatively lowly sounding 384Kbps service. In practice WorldLink delivers a one megabit connection, consisting of 512kbs of international bandwidth and 512Kbps of local bandwidth. Agrawal admits this isn’t fantastic compared to more developed economies. “Penetration is traditionally lower [here] and the speeds are terrible,” he admits frankly.

The customer experience is boosted at least by the fact that Google has installed local caches in the country. It’s not purely for altruistic reasons though as Agrawal is quick to explain. “It’s for YouTube. [Google] wants YouTube to stream better. Its gives a better experience to get more people watching. They want advertising .” Still, he’s not complaining. “It’s nice that they have put servers in our country as our customers don’t complain to us that there’s too much buffering.”

But what about content located in other parts of the world? “Getting higher speeds [for customers] directly impacts us as we need to buy more upstream bandwidth to the internet. That’s the only limitation. And that upstream bandwidth is still not at the price levels that people buy at in Europe, America, or Singapore; any places where bandwidth is available in plenty. In major areas it would be US$ 5; we pay US$ 100.”

Worldlink buys most of its international connectivity from Indian operators Airtel and at present there’s a lack of competition to bring prices down. “It varies because there aren’t many operators selling bandwidth to Nepal, so the competition there is less,” Agrawal explains.

“We have connectivity to China but it’s not too reliable, and it’s not operational yet. So we have very few choices of who we can buy from on the Indian side, because there are very few people that have built their network up to the border of our country.”

There’s no immediate technical solution to this situation, but time and political stability will eventually enable a more competitive market to spring up. “It’s down to the political will on our side to negotiate with the government of China. We have not tried, as politically our country has not been that stable in the last few years.”

However, it’s clear that progress is being made. Where Nepal was paying US$ 300 per meg a few years ago, it’s now at US$ 110 and Agrawal believes that in five years it will be down to just US$ 5-S10, which is level at which developed countries would expect to pay now.

He’s keen to see that future pay dividends both for his company and for the prosperity of his country. “We still haven’t been able to experience the transformational benefits that have occurred in more developed economies where internet penetration is higher and the bandwidth higher”. Things are changing though, as those who are able to afford it, and those who live in coverage areas are turned on to the benefits of connectivity.

“I’ve been in the industry for 15 years now and initially it was just mail that people used. We could see people who did international business had a competitive edge and were able to close more deals. With the advent of the internet it’s given them a new edge in terms of being able to advertise and promote themselves globally.  And I’m pretty sure that with more bandwidth people will be able to access internet resources in a much better way. And once you have access that there’s a lot of educational content that you’ll be able to access and society will benefit from that.”

With ADSL blocked off by the incumbent, WorldLink has three methods of connecting up its customers, Ethernet, fibre and fixed wireless and Agrawal explains the technical reasons behind ow it makes the choice of what to roll out.

“The Ethernet service for residential customers is theoretically capable of delivering 100Mbps in the last mile, but the network is not reliable enough to deliver an enterprise grade service.  We pull fibre to the node, and from there, we pull outdoor (shielded) CAT5e cable on utility poles with outdoor switches at every 100 meters.  The switches are cascaded in series and then further branch out to extend the network into streets and lanes. A customer is connected to one of these switches using outdoor CAT5e cable.  The switches are powered using DC voltage passed through the CAT5e cable.  [However], we experience periodic cable cuts or switch and power failures, resulting in service outage.

“For enterprise customers, we pull optical fibre cable from the node to their premises.  This is more reliable as it is not dependent on any intermediate switches or power failure.  Fibre media is more reliable as well.”

WorldLink is inevitably keen to explore any means it can to reach its potential customers,  and as such, has two fixed wireless technologies in its portfolio. The Motorola Canopy for its Enterprise customers, and a lower cost device from Ubiquity Networks for home users. Neither are based on WiMAX or LTE. “Both are proprietary,” Agrawal says. “We would love to roll out WiMAX but the spectrum for that is not available.”

With the proximity to India spectrum this is a situation that’s not likely to change anytime soon due to the recent political scandals round telecoms licenses. “The stumbling blocks are surrounding India today is that people are scared of spectrum. It’s a dirty work after what happened in India. Politicians are very scared of taking any decisions on spectrum issues for fear that it might backfire on them in the future.”

This leaves WorldLink to focus on rolling out its existing technologies to other areas outside the main areas of Katmandu. “We are moving our focus to underserved , semi-rural markets where we can get some customers who are happy with the fixed wireless that we provide. Katmandu is 60 per cent of the market and rather than just focus on it we’re trying to shift outside.”

With so many challenges, Agrawal is keen to come to attend the Broadband Asia conference to meet and talk with others to explore ways to innovate out of the constrictions it faces to improve its service and grow its customer base. “I’m looking forward to understanding what the feelings around Asia for broadband growth. What works; what doesn’t work? What business models are coming in? TD-LTE is coming into the picture and we’d like to try and meet different ISPs and operators that we can collaborate with.”

Armed with first-hand knowledge of how things are going in other areas of the world, Agrawal is confident that he’ll be able to improve things for WorldLink and its customers. “It’s a very exciting time but when things don’t happen fast enough it can get frustrating.”

The Broadband Asia conference is taking place on the 15th-16th May 2012, KL Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Go to the website now to register your interest. – telecoms industry news, analysis and opinion

Turkcell Moving Fast on the Way To 5G

Working together to develop 5G technologies, Turkcell (NYSE:TKC) (BIST:TCELL) and Huawei broke a record by carrying out the first 5G mmWave speed test together in line with their innovative work. In the test performed using real 5G equipment in the 71.5 – 73.5 GHz frequency band, a new speed record was reached in this area in Turkey by reaching a difficult system speed of 70 Gbps. In this regard, Turkcell has become one of the few mobile operators in the world that can reach a speed that is impossible with current technologies, using the technology of the future, 5G. Click here for more.

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Europe dominates fast broadband survey

Europe dominates the global broadband top 10 connectivity chart, but South Korea leads

Countries in Europe enjoy the fastest average broadband connectivity globally, according to a report from global content delivery network Akamai. Details of the report, which is scheduled to appear later this week and revealed by GigaOm, defines a high-speed broadband connection as one that connected to the Akamai network in excess of 5Mbps.

The report shows that seven of the top 10 fastest connected countries are European, with the Netherlands the most connected of that group high-speed broadband penetration of 67 per cent. Others in the top 10 were Belguim, Switzerland, Latvia, Romania, Czech Republic and Denmark. However, the Dutch have to play second fiddle to South Koreas, which tops the overall list with a incredible high-speed broadband penetration figure of 83 per cent. Japan and Hong Kong comes in at 60 per cent and 57 per cent respectively, and the United States comes in 12th with 44 per cent.

The UK does not trouble the top 10 list and we await the full report to discover its placing. However, based on the report, the UK government’s stated aim of bringing of at least 2Mbps to every home and business appears to be decidedly under ambitious.

The report also focuses on the 100 fastest connected cities and the average speeds of the fastest cities were between 21.8Mbps and 8.5Mbs. The overall average was brought up by the peak speeds of the South Korean cities of Taejon and Taegu, which recorded speeds of 59.2Mbps and 56.7Mbps respectively.

The Broadband ip&TV Asia 2012 conference is taking place on the 15th-16th May 2012, KL Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Go to the website now to register your interest. – telecoms industry news, analysis and opinion

Virtualization and BSS Transformation: The Fast Road to Innovation

Opening virtualised BSS to partners / new service enablers

Opening virtualised BSS to partners / new service enablers periodically invites expert third-party contributors to submit analysis on a key topic affecting the telco industry. In this piece Corine Suscens Senior Marketing Manager at Openet examines the advantages of deploying virtualized BSS, which include shorter time to market for new services and enabling a smoother transition to NFV.

A recent survey by Intelligence (“Operators’ BSS Strategies”) showed that 66% of operators have deployed or are planning to deploy virtualized BSS by 2016. Beyond the cost optimization that virtualization promises, operators are leveraging virtualization concepts to transform their BSS environments in order to innovate more rapidly, drive new revenues and better compete.

Virtualization makes it easier for operators to deploy and manage BSS software through the use of virtual machine images where a single host can be shared by multiple virtual machines. This approach removes the need to create a full new hardware based environment for each service introduction, with its full procure-design-integrate-test-deploy cycle. This simplifies the deployment process, enabling operators to focus on innovating and creating new revenue streams more rapidly, without having to worry about integration, deployment and infrastructure management. Offers can be more efficiently tested and launched on the same infrastructure, without the need to create a separate test environment. The time from test to scale production can therefore be reduced from weeks to hours. Services can also be rapidly scaled up or down as required, allowing targeted services based on geography or customer sets to be introduced more rapidly.

Overall, BSS virtualization accelerates the cycle of innovation and the time to market for new services. As an example, a tier one North American mobile operator is now able to introduce services in days which previously would have taken months without virtualization. As reported in, in Europe, Telefonica has indicated that its UNICA virtualization infrastructure can reduce deployment times from about 4 months to less than 4 days.

Virtualization also makes it easier to test new services with minimum risk as these can be rolled out or rolled back, without committing resources that cannot easily be reused elsewhere. In the above mentioned survey by, 73.5% of operators said that virtualization enables them to trial new services and business models with minimum disruption. A key advantage being that it’s easy to then go from a small scale trial to full scale production in a virtualized environment. Furthermore, once the initial service is up and running, operators can far more quickly and safely perform in-service, automated upgrades and modifications. The adoption of open standards also removes vendor lock-in, reducing the need for vendor specific skills and simplifying the integration of new components to the existing network.

Besides operational efficiencies, BSS virtualization enables operators to more easily deploy new business models by quickly and securely opening up their BSS, via APIs, to third parties. This can include MVNOs, OTT/content partners, business customers, IoT providers and any other ecosystem provider and partner. This open approach, illustrated in figure 1 below, enables operators to much quicker execute on new business models and take advantage of new verticals.

Whilst many operators are beginning to virtualize their network operations using the network functions virtualization (NFV) initiative launched in October 2012 by thirteen of the world’s leading telecoms network operators under the auspices of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), BSS virtualization is an essential step.

In fact, given that a full end to end NFV may take many years to roll-out, some operators are considering virtualizing BSS first to create more flexible service innovation environments. Operators can adopt a phased approach to virtualizing BSS. Because virtual functions can be built to handle a specific service or target a specific market segment, everything does not need to be ready on day one. For example, an operator can start with a particular application to virtualize, such as Policy and Charging Control (PCC). The deployment can be started at modest scale, for instance as an adjunct deployment to handle a specific business case and then be scaled and/or additional functions can be virtualized as opportunities or needs demand. Areas where the functionality can be isolated such as VoLTE, MVNOs and M2M schemes may be the early deployment choices.

Virtualization and NFV concepts need to be applied to the BSS to accelerate the cycle of innovation and the time to market for new services but also to easily enable new business models. According to Current Analysis, operators are “using virtualization to drive innovative service creation, especially the creation of services and apps that require time to market intervals of only days, even hours. Many operators view NFV as a key ingredient in their OSS/BSS transformation objectives, offering an escape from the legacy 12-24 month service creation cycles that handicap their long-term competitiveness”. Many operators are adopting BSS virtualization and more are expected to follow as its promises are realized.


openet-corine-suscensAbout Corine Suscens

With over 13 years in IT/Telecom marketing, Corine Suscens has been developing leading edge thought leadership content for the industry. During her career, Corine has helped leading companies to explain their technical offerings in order to maximise industry understanding. In her years at Openet, Corine has written several whitepapers tackling key business challenges that operators have been facing. She is currently responsible for thought leadership marketing programs globally. Corine holds a Master of Science in Management from Grenoble Ecole de Management.

Telekom Malaysia R&D: “The Internet of Things is fast becoming a reality”

Dr Gopi Kurup, CEO, Telekom Malaysia R&D

Dr Gopi Kurup, CEO, Telekom Malaysia R&D

We speak to Dr. Gopi Kurup, CEO at Telekom Malaysia’s R&D unit (TMR&D), about the work he is overseeing on pervasive computational footprints, connecting motes, and so-called “sense-able” applications.

Telekom Malaysia is doing some very exciting R&D work in the broadband sphere. To start with, can you tell us a bit more about your concept of the “pervasive computational footprint”?

With the presence and growth of broadband connectivity to our customers, it provides TMR&D an opportunity to investigate technologies and applications which help create value and impact our clients positively.

The computational footprint or ability to process data is now pervasive within the home, from smart fridges to medical sensors to Internet-ready TVs. The combination of high-speed internet connectivity and smart devices enables us to look at new ways of serving our customers.

What work have you been involved in recently with connecting motes?

The Internet of Things, where all devices, sensors & motes are connected to the Internet, is fast becoming a reality.

We have developed applications around food safety and healthy living by tagging food items within the household and providing real-time information to users on consumption trends, expiry dates and healthy recipes.

With the worldwide trend of an ageing population and urban migration, we are investigating ways to provide better medical support and enhanced security to Internet-ready homes.

We keep a close watch on the latest mote and connectivity technologies and capabilities to investigate new methods to support health and security applications.

What are some of the challenges that you anticipate as data comes from everywhere and goes to everywhere?

Deep data mining, analytics and visualisation are new exciting areas for us. We currently do not make very good sense of the types and volume of data we generate.

The pervasive availability of computing and connectivity also increases energy consumption and carbon footprint. The challenge will be to ensure the energy usage of creating and transporting the data from everywhere is at healthy levels.

What exciting capabilities do you anticipate from so-called “sense-able” applications?

A combination of heuristics and Artificial Intelligence applied to data generated by smart appliances and motes gives us a certain level of sensible and sense-able information.

The challenge for us is to investigate how the data made available from our day-to-day living can be presented in a simple and distributed manner to make meaningful living decisions.

To get a sense of the exciting possibilities, I would highly recommend revisiting The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy and episodes of Star Trek for inspiration.

Dr. Kurup is speaking at the Broadband IP&TV Asia 2012 event, taking place in Malaysia on 15th-16th May. For more information and to register, please visit – telecoms industry news, analysis and opinion