From Phone Box to Smartphone - Bringing Unified Communications to the Consumer


Posted on: Feb 24, 2016 by Paul Davey

Designed back in the 1920s by the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the iconic red telephone box has been an enduring symbol of the UK – and of course, Malta, Bermuda and Gibralter! In the 1980s, the peak of phone box usage, there were as many as 73,000 of the ‘currant red’ kiosks installed across the region.

There are now only around 9,000 red phone boxes on the streets: a sign, if ever there was one, of the world’s rapidly changing relationship with the phone. Nothing demonstrates the speed of this change, as the oft-quoted prediction that by 2018 there will be over 4.5bn smartphones in use across the world; a huge increase in the 1.2bn at the end of 2012.

Progressing at a seemingly unstoppable rate, the advancement of consumer communication technologies is even outstripping that of the enterprise – with a number of operators now focusing on this substantial sector.

We are now seeing the industry’s first steps in bringing the unified communication systems to the citizen on the street - one of the most exciting developments in the domestic market.

Preparing for the Future

Part of the drive towards a fully integrated solution is the burgeoning Internet-of-Things (IoT) industry. With huge implications for society, from healthcare monitoring to shopping, maintaining connectivity between devices is going to be critical. For telecoms, this represents a challenge: for several reasons, current networks can be somewhat unreliable, dropping calls or offering weak signal.

The issues stem from the age and expense of network infrastructure. The majority of networks have been in place for over a decade, and when you consider that the first iPhone was launched less than nine years ago, you can quickly see how legacy networks may struggle to cope with modern usage. Thanks to the mainstream adoption of smartphone apps, mobile data consumption has simply exploded, and its set to grow – rising 53 percent between 2015 and 2020. This growth in network capacity demand is causing real headaches, with operators struggling to keep up with ever-inflating demands.

Keeping Issues in Check

The problem is compounded by the telecom providers’ inability to monitor the state of the network in real-time. Keeping tabs on the infrastructure hardware is near impossible, and often the first indication of problems is when the system goes down.

During this year’s Mobile World Congress, we can expect to hear a lot of discussion around this topic – with many of the industry keen to discuss more the proposed solution: Network Function Virtualisation(NFV).

By bringing the control layer up and out of hardware, and into software, telecom operators can better manage their infrastructure, keeping a real-time view on the potential issues.

It’s far, however, from being a silver bullet – bringing with it issues surrounding data privacy; regulation and compliance; as well as challenges in attempting to upgrade the systems without causing widespread or prolonged disruption.

NFV represents a real step forward when it comes to the Telecoms sector, and it is something that Atos is very committed to developing. With some many revolutionary aspects, it is an issue we can expect to see discussed in great detail over the next year, with more businesses looking to better understand how it can impact their approach to networking.

To hear more about the importance of real-time analytics in the telecom industry and how NFV can deliver this, check out my presentation at MWC: 2:30 pm on Wednesday 24th February at Customer Theatre, VMware

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About Paul Davey

Head of technology, innovation and delivery - Telecom Business
Paul leads the technology and innovation strategy and delivery for Atos’s multi-billion Euro Telecom business. The Atos Telecommunications industry business delivers value for our customers in the fields of Operator Networks, BSS, OSS, customer experience management and back office IT. He leads the development of Atos business in emerging areas of Real-Time analytics and Network Functions Virtualisation and provides the driving vision for Atos growth across the vertical market.

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