Eurescom Study programme outline
The study programme outline document provides guidance about the type of study proposals and study topics the programme is addressing. The last version of this document was issued in December 2007.
The potential topics for work in the new Study Programme have been grouped into groups, and briefly elaborated in the remainder of this document. However, the groups and the individual topics are by no means the only areas that study proposals could address. Study proposals should address any issue with respect to, for example, market evolution, or technology trends, and which is relevant and important for the business of the Eurescom Study Programme subscribers.
The topics list below does not claim completeness by any means:
1. Network issues
2. Service and Content
3. Business models – alternative charging and rating methods
4. Political, societal and environmental drivers and issues
5. Socio-economic and user dimension
6. New opportunities
There is a further set of work areas and issues that are either broader in scope and could fall in several groups, or are complementary in nature supporting service and network evolution in general.
Notably issues related to international standardisation and European ICT market regulation are emerging again as important issues that can and should be addressed collaboratively. In particular studies could ad-dress topics such as:
- Test network – there is a need for a test network to enable the trial and evaluation of service concepts, technologies, system solutions and business models to the point where the risks associated with launching of these as commercial products will be minimised. This concept could be realised as an interconnected, distributed and federated test network, composed by existing test laboratories at the members’ premises.
- Test suites – the definition and execution of test suites, in order to ensure interoperability, is a very costly part of the development and deployment of new services as well as the introduction of new network nodes. The increasing complexity of services and network nodes is starting to question whether the “traditional” way of defining and executing test suites is a scalable concept and is an effective way to ensure interoperability in the NGN in the long run.
- Standards – the large amount of standards and their options are an obstacle towards fast deployment of interoperable networks and services. Activities are needed to “screen” and “flash out” existing relevant telecommunications standards, as well as to develop joint submissions to standards.
Each study must have a well-defined goal, and which in general should be measurable. The main goal of each study must be very specific, defined in advance as the rational for doing the study and could for exam-ple be to:
- Satisfy a business information need on your organisation
- Provide a technical solution
- Describe a service opportunity
- Define a new project in FP7, or CELTIC
- Develop a position statement for regulators, or EU
- Develop a joint submission to a standardisation organisation
- Define an independent joint undertaking within the telecom community
Download the proposal template
Telecommunications networks have undergone a major change in the last couple of years. A lot of new technologies and approaches emerged and are still emerging. The discussion about the future Internet is a result of the multiple possibilities the new technologies provide.
There are many different opinions about the future internet and how we get there. This has been the case with every network evolution for the last 50 years, but this time there is a new twist in the discussion. We are now seeing the emergence of a conceptual dispute about how we should define and design the Future Internet. The question is who will arbitrate between the different viewpoints and how can we get past this to exploit the great potential we have in Europe for leading the changes.
In the many discussions about how future networks will look one point must be understood from the start: the future internet cannot be more than the network. Pervasive services require a pervasive network. The evolution of the networks, as the infrastructure, is a fundamental element of enabling the future internet. In the discussion below the future internet and the future network terms will be used interchangingly without trying to identify what the difference is as, to all intents and purposes, they will become synonymous in the future.
The organic approach – We have a large sector of the intellectual community who believe that the future internet will be an almost self-defining concept coming from many advances in technologies and the best approach we can have is to seed a number of exploratory actions to determine which one has the most potential to be the basis for the future internet. This approach has its merits – particularly when we cannot de-fine the problem statement with any great accuracy.
The architectural approach – We have a growing community of people who have already determined clear identifiable needs for future networks. They are aware of problems, they are aware of pragmatic issues related to the operation of large scale networks and services, and they want to have better networks to offer better services in the future internet.
The first and most important point is to ask, if we will have any technological advances in the next 15 years. Let us assume we will. Therefore, we must expect that we will have the technological capability to have a much improved network. We do not know yet where the advances will be, but we can contemplate advances that demand improvements in the technologies.
The 3-layer model represents the ambition that future communications should have a simple three-layer model protocol stack. The three layers are transport layer, network layer and application layer. There should be intelligence and security at all layers.
Transport layer: We need to be able to carry lots of different forms of data: packets, streams, flows, virtual circuits, multicasts, 1:1, 1:N, N:1, N:N, high priority, low priority, guaranteed quality, contracted quality, best effort, and lots more. The question is what future structure can give us the best characteristics of fixed, mo-bile, broadcast and private networks in a friendly, flexible and manageable way.
Network layer: The network layer needs to be where the real issues of large scale network operations are addressed. It should deal with signalling, addressing, routing, negotiations with other domains as well as interactions with home and business networks. The administrative parts of network and customer management should be supported in capturing communications records for billing, accounting, statistics, and provide for the lawful interception requirements that are going to be there in the future. Other basic network rules need to be investigated such as management of traffic to ensure equal treatment of traffic or managed treatment of traffic as appropriate.
Applications layer: The application layer should be a totally open concept where we can encourage professional service providers to offer their services in a secure environment. However, it should also be open to the support of peer-to-peer type services, end-user generated services and the legal distribution of content of all forms. We should also be expecting that the future applications will involve more innovative service inter-actions where the user level services can invoke network level services and there is lots of work to be done in creating the technical, legal and social environment for this to happen.
Develop an architecture: We know we will not get it right first time, but if we do not have a first time we will never get it right – an obvious starting point!
Identity management: A simple, but again obvious, challenge now is to solve the identification and protection of the individual identities. In 15 years we should have developed clear unique ways of identifying people. People using the future networks should be recognised by the network so they, and they alone, can ac-cess their service portfolio. Strong measures should be in place to prevent identity theft. This will be a key factor for protecting digital rights and ensuring the digital commerce is going to work fairly.
Addressing is an area where many issues can be solved. Having an effective way of identifying people will allow us to determine where they are and how to get their communications to them. We have to demand something more efficient than semi-random packet forwarding in the hope that some other node knows what to do with it, and it also must be more flexible than the telephone book. Maybe there is a possibility for the concept of the home location register to be expanded to take account of names, nicknames and even the context people are in.
Routing requires intelligence in the network to address the problem where we want the nodes to be autonomous in handling their traffic, but we also want them to be aware of the greater network context so that their independent actions do not generate problems for other network nodes. Some of the original net-work management concepts need to be revised and applied here. The question of signalling being in-band or out of band could have a major effect on the management capabilities and the robustness of the network.
These are just a few examples of where work is necessary.
From a more practical and business oriented point of view, since the middle of the 90’s the Internet has been used increasingly for commercial purposes. On one hand, very fast social and commercial change processes have been triggered. On the other hand, it is to be expected that the overall system comes up against scalability and complexity limitations because the initial Internet and its architecture were not de-signed for a predominant commercial use. This applies in particular to the following aspects:
- The basic architecture of the Internet assumed a research network environment, operating processes of commercial telecommunication networks were of minor importance only. Today’s commercial global networks come up against limiting factors because of complex operating processes and handling errors. To complicate matters, the commercial use of the Internet requires an administrative structure, which satisfies the network operators’ needs. Today this is only possible in parts.
- The basic architecture of the Internet was based on a trust model, i.e. within a research network individual users do trust each other. Of course, the situation clearly changes in a commercial environment, with companies or user groups competing with each other and pursuing varied conflicting and only partly legal interests.
- Security and privacy are essential requirements for the Internet. Simply by looking into the electronic mailbox and the included spam mails shows that these requirements will have to be met in a future architecture in any case, and cannot be realised through partially unreliable additional measures and auxiliary programs as today.
- Another problem which is in particular connected with the commercial use and the convergence of different networks to a standardised NGN (Next Generation Network) is the availability of communication re-sources. If entire industries rely on the network’s operability, a permanent availability of the essential communication relationships has to be guaranteed. The current Internet architecture is not able to provide this availability.
- From the commercial perspective too, the already mentioned mobility has to be supported permanently and safely.
- In connection with usability considerable improvements are required too. As an essential function the future networks should provide information processing and customisation as well as an improved usability of the end devices and terminals.
- Advance network monitoring techniques must be realised in order to offer adaptive monitoring functions to a new generation of management systems.
Sevice and Content
Services and applications
In general the issues that should be addressed include service architectures, platforms, technologies, methods and tools that enable context awareness and discovery, advertising, personalisation and dynamic com-position of services. Services offered should support flexible business models, provide for service management, and guarantee end-to-end quality of service, considering the multitude of component technologies.
Service engineering approaches, development processes, and product lifecycle must be supported by appropriate tools and lead to dynamically composed services with dependable quality of service and reliability properties. Investigations should also include the degree of involvement of joint user and development communities. Open source software plays an important role in general and in particular it could play an increasingly important role in the non-main stream application areas of open-source, such as Operation Support Systems and Network & Service Management supporting vendor independence.
Furthermore services should support generic solutions for intra- and inter-enterprise interoperability and collaboration in the context of the networked enterprise.
Services can be seen as autonomous platform-independent computational elements that can be described, published, discovered, orchestrated and programmed using standard protocols for the purpose of building networks of collaborating business applications distributed within and across organisational boundaries. Commonly the approach derives from the concept of Service oriented Architecture (SoA). In practice the questions that are particularly important for telcos’ service offerings are related to the Quality of Service aware service composition and orchestration, as well as the associated validation, and monitoring for service level agreement verification.
Most services can be delivered over mobile or fixed networks. The end-user should experience the same look and feel of the services, irrespective of the type of network. Mobility means that the subscriber should be recognised wherever he logs-on, irrespective of his location and the access network technology. This ba-sic requirement can be translated to the need for network agnostic service provisioning which separates the service logic from the underlying network infrastructure. This by itself is not a new requirement; however the industry still lacks a clear definition of the necessary interfaces for resource negotiation at the technology and administrative domain borders. The evolution of the Internet Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) will play an important role towards this goal.
Media and content
The type of content has changed over the last years. Content used to be provided by “content providers” like film producers, TV and radio stations, and agencies owning the right for big sports events. Now user generated content becomes very important. Now everybody can provide content and produce his/her own movie, photo show or music, a fact that begun to change the requirements for the dimensioning of the network in particular the access part.
New types of media applications are crucial for the success of broadband. One of the most important items is interactive media. In Google the search term “interactive media” returns more than two million results. Though the term is used and sometimes misused for a vast variety of things, interactive media has huge business potentials. For example interactivity can brings non-linearity together with personalisation into a media production so that end-users get their real-time personalised programmes put together from small media objects; very much like assembling Lego bricks.
User Driven Innovation
User-driven innovation (UDI) means engaging the intended end-users in the whole process of inventing and creating something new and relevant. As many current research results suggest, users can be roughly categorised in three groups. The first and smallest, with 1 % of the population, is the groups of creators or using producers, who actively think of completely new solutions for problems. The second group of users, with 9 % of the population, is the synthesisers or producing users, who use actively all new technology and take a role in improving it or thinking new ways of using. The rest are consumers or everyday users who are not particularly eager to jump at new technology and use all products in the intended way, or in their own way thinking that it is the intended way. By allowing users early access to new technologies and services, it is possible to observe their behaviour and invite them to a dialogue on their needs, requirements and habits of use of technology. Industry can thus effectively enlarge the reach and richness of its R&D organisation taking it one step closer to the so-called extended enterprise. The question that should be addressed is how precisely the users can be included in the full innovation process.
Business models – alternative charging and rating methods
In many future scenarios the network itself is just a bit pipe for transporting bits, regardless of their relevance and perceived value to the customer. Thus the focus of network operators has move to the services and applications areas, an area, which still promises high revenues and margins. This trend resulted in rather large amount of different services that are each accounted for and charged separately. This trend not only in-creases the complexity of the back-end systems for service providers and network operators, but also starts to have a negative impact on the perception of the value by the customers. The current trend is again to bundle several offerings together. Similar to the rational for the regulatory efforts for the unbundled local loop, the regulatory issue could emerge about the unbundling of future services.
At the same time new technologies offer additional service possibilities as has been indicated by studies concerning ad-hoc networks, wireless LAN hot spots and peer-to-peer services. Currently it is unclear how such new technologies will impact the current business models of network operators and service providers and whether accounting and charging in whatever form makes sense or is possible.
Network operators will need to look for disruptive new business areas, even if they are not in the scope of network operators today. Topics that may be subject to potential studies include:
- Where is the business for network operators when services are at the edge?
- Charging in peer-to-peer or edge services
- Business models for utility computing
- Simplicity of billing and charging
- Bundling of services
- Customer loyalty
Political, societal and environmental drivers and issues
This section includes a number of areas that constrain the current and future business of telcos. There are high pressures from the regulatory and political side to speed up rollout of advanced services at competitive prices. At the same time the discussion about the neutrality of the network emerged, together with its role as part of societal critical infrastructure. Finally the environmental aspects have been recently added to the discussion. Among the issues that should be studied are:
- Regulation – this issue is and will be on the business agenda of the subscribers to the study programme. Since many telecommunications market regulation issues are today decided centrally at the European level, and yet there is enough room for national level regulation, it must be of interest to the members of the study programme to also develop a joint strategy to respond to market regulation in general. As a starting point a map of the current regulation scenarios across Europe should be developed.
- Network neutrality – refers to the principle that is applied to residential broadband networks, and potentially to all networks. Precise definitions vary, but a broadband network free of restrictions on the kinds of equipment that may be attached and the modes of communication allowed, and where communication was not unreasonably degraded by other communication streams would be considered neutral by most observers. The possibility of regulations designed to mandate the neutrality of the Internet has been subject to fierce debate in various forums. Telcos should develop a consistent definition and approach to network neutrality.
- Critical infrastructure – refers to the fact that the network is defined as a critical infrastructure that, if disrupted or destroyed, would significantly affect the well being of society. Analyzing the critical infrastructures and their interdependencies one will soon discover that the telecommunications and information networks, together with energy, are at the heart of almost all other infrastructures. The highest degree of interdependence is Power and Communications. All sectors depend on both of these.
- The EU has affirmed that at least a 15-30% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 will be needed to keep the temperature increase under 2°C, and a deeper reduction by 60-80% may be needed by 2050. The strategic use of ICT can contribute significantly to energy efficiency, sustainable economic growth as well as job creation. ICT can reduce the need of travel and transportation of goods by bridging distance problems. It can increase efficiency and innovation by allowing people to work in more flexible ways. It can also ensure a shift from products to services and allow for dematerialization of the economy. Beyond this aspect the operational cost of the equipment that supports the electronic communications is increasingly an aspect of concern, since in high density electronics the need for additional energy to cool the equipment adds to the energy bill.
Socio-economic and user dimension
During the past years, when the ICT bubble had burst and business models came under threat, companies realised that the socio-economic and user-related dimensions of ICT cannot get too much attention. The time when technologists brought new services to the market without having taken the customers’, the societal and the economic issues into account is definitely over. Only products, which help people to fulfil their professional and private roles in a better and more efficient way, which get accepted by the targeted user groups, and which can be provided at a reasonable cost level will be successful and make their providers happy in the long term. One of the paramount questions for telecom companies is: How can I convince my customers to spend more of their money for ICT services? Well-founded socio-economic research can help to answer this question.
In particular the aging population in Europe and a better usability of services and devices are crucial for success in the coming years. According to the EC the percentage of the European population, which is 65 years and older, is growing from 8.7% in 1950 to 16.1% in 2010. A large part of the elderly people has no access to the Internet, because of the still high technical and procedural thresholds.
Plenty of socio-economic work is currently going on at different organisations. A Google search for the key words “socio-economic” and “telecommunication,” returns more than 40,000 results. The European research programmes have increased their socio-economic share, and in the 6th Framework Programme, socio-economic work is a required objective within all Integrated Projects. Eurescom has had a significant focus on socio-economic ICT projects and studies since 1999, including large ICT user surveys, behavioural studies, usability research, business models, and investment strategies. The Eurescom community should take the chance and build on this for a more prosperous future of both the ICT customers and the telecommunication service providers.
Topics in this area include:
- Health services (the Health services sector needs a more fine grain elaboration in view of the size of the sector).
- Social services inclusion – simple to operate friendly services helping the otherwise homebound etc. (mostly elderly people, but not exclusively) to stay in touch with friends and family and better integrate.
- Removing usage barriers for elderly people. General “inclusion” issues.
- Enabling broadband access uptake removing the obstacles making it easy for the user.
- Exploring the market of elderly people (e.g. providing elderly people with simple Internet devices and services).
- How can we decrease the digital divide if we do not include the elderly in using modern ICTs?
- Changing usage patterns as generations change
- Education and training at distributed locations
- Simpler user interfaces and devices for accessing basic services, such as www and e-mail. Is there a role for telcos to provide a simple full service?
This section includes a rather unsorted collection of potential new service opportunities.
Topics that may be subject to potential studies include:
- Intelligent ambient environment, in which the user receives ad-hoc support and instructions in foreign locations
- Usability of configuration of home net appliances
- Universal communications without a terminal
- Operator opportunities for car communication services
- RFID and near field communication in general offers new service possibilities. How concrete and exploitable could such services be?
- Telecom for better transport/logistic (air/rail/road/water) and automotive services (e.g. traffic, safety ser-vices)
- Telecoms as the trusted third party. This business opportunity has shifted out of focus, yet the window of opportunity is still open.
- New opportunities using the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM-card)
- Considerations and awareness of the fact that development and rollout of mass-market services to the consumer markets is usually much slower than the technology development pace.
- Is there an opportunity in helping the customer to offer some services him/herself? Can a telco help in the accounting/charging/billing?