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NSN's Learning Curve

Ray Le Maistre
7/11/2013

Operators and vendors alike are desperate to keep up with new application and service trends these days, now that they're not dictating the market the way they could before.

Some, like Telefónica Digital, are hot-housing startups with a view to learning, as well as gaining some new partners and potentially lucrative investment opportunities. (See Inside Telefonica's Startup Incubator and Euronews: Orange Hatches Startups.)

Nokia Siemens Networks, meanwhile, is tapping the application developer community for fresh ideas by organizing competitions: It recently held its Israel Innovation Competition, announcing the winners, content discovery specialist Racana and analytics firm C-B4, earlier this month. (See this press release for details of the competition and winners.)

The idea was to attract developers that could come up with innovative technologies able to run on, or complement, the vendor's Liquid Applications proposition, which involves the integration of an IBM Websphere server at mobile base stations to enable content storage and data processing close to end users. (For more details, see NSN: Understanding Liquid Applications and NSN Gets Its Cloud On.)

Hossein Moiin, NSN's CTO, says his company is keen to meet small startups with innovative ideas that need to be developed. "NSN can act like a chef in a high-end restaurant, looking for the right ingredients. We can combine various ideas, add our own ingredients, to help solve problems." (Or create a fine digital dish, surely?)

For example, he says that combining the applications of multiple competition finalists -- one creates 3D mobile coverage maps, one predicts content downloads and makes recommendations, another analyzes trends from multiple network and user "objects" -- can ultimately result in an operations tool that can be used for urban mobile network optimization.

So, did NSN learn anything from the process? Moiin says it has become clear that there are some applications that don't benefit from being at the very edge of the network. "There are classes of apps that can benefit, such as security, privacy and content distribution and localization, but there are others that are better to have at the core, such as policy management."

Surely NSN would have figured this out for itself, but this appears to be the main takeaway for Moiin (who maybe didn't want to share more for competitive reasons…). And maybe the NSN team will learn more as it works more closely with the winners during the next few months.

Clearly NSN believes these competitions are worth the effort as more are planned, "at least one, maybe two more in the next few quarters, one in Silicon Valley and another for the European developer community." Silicon Valley and the Tel Aviv area are the two main innovation zones, believes the CTO, so there will be another Israel competition within the next few years.

— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson
7/11/2013 | 7:48:09 PM
re: NSN's Learning Curve
Operators are only going to benefit from relationships with innovative startups and developers when they've figured out how to connect their new services/apps to existing networks and systems in an automated way that is easiily replicated. One-off relationships are expensive and doomed.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
7/11/2013 | 6:39:49 PM
re: NSN's Learning Curve
I think best-case scenario, they get acquired...the operator or vendor gets more out of it than them, although I'm sure it's mutually beneficial in a lot of cases. I just don't think they tend to gain as an independent company, unless there is funding involved.
Ray Le Maistre
Ray Le Maistre
7/11/2013 | 6:19:12 PM
re: NSN's Learning Curve
There's obviously much greater engagement by large telcos and vendors with the startup and developer community these days, but what will be interesting to track (if possible) is how many of the startups ever get anything tangible out of it. The companies in the Telefonica Digital Wayra incubation program certainly do, as they get an investment, resources and mentoring from day one. I wonder about others, though.
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