Canadian Telecom Summit – Day 3


Wednesday wrapped up the 2018 version of the Canadian Telecom Summit. Day 3 featured panels on Artificial Intelligence and Innovation (both great topics when you hail from Canada’s tech capital, Waterloo), keynotes from Allison Lenehan of Xplornet, Patricia Meredith of Catalytic Governance and Stephen Howe the CTO of Bell. Then the finale, a keynote from Navdeep Bains the Federal Minister for ISED.

Most of the above content is covered on twitter and in news reports on CARTT, the Wire Report and in the daily newspapers so I won’t rehash those details. One thing I did find very cool, was Stephen Howe showing us in his luncheon keynote how they are installing 4G LTE advanced service to 25 sites WAY up North, north of the Northwest Passage. The logistics make it a 2 year build, with all the required gear being shipped up in shipping containers through a narrow window of June to September in a race against the ice. You have to send up everything as you cant run out to Rona for tie wraps or tools up in Grise Fiord on Ellesmere Island. That was very interesting to see the challenges of installing cell service in a harsh remote location and it made my inner engineer geek out.

I also wondered if it might have been more cost effective to just get every resident an Iridium phone and a subsidized plan ?

So what did I get from my 17th edition of the Canadian Telecom Summit ? A reminder, again, that it is all about the people. The CTS brings a lot of our industry together in one place for three days, to learn, to argue, to laugh and eat and talk, face-to-face. Given that we make our livings in telecommunications it is still vitally important to connect in person. It is a reminder that I need to have such interactions more often.

Yes, I did business while at the event. How could I not ? But it is more than just doing deals and making sales. I got to meet-up and catch up with many old friends who have been through the ‘telecom wars” with me. At the lunches and coffee breaks and networking reception I got to meet new people, from all over the industry and all over the country. I even got a recommendation for a great Ethiopian restaurant in Yellowknife for when we visit this August (thanks Curtis !).

So a big thank you to my friends Michael and Mark for another great edition of the Canadian Telecom Summit. This event is important, thanks for gathering us all together for three days and I am grateful that you do it.

Canadian Telecom Summit – Day 2

The second day of the Canadian Telecom Summit was action packed again. The highlight was the annual regulatory blockbuster in the afternoon with the addition of Samer Bishay from Iristel and Andy Kaplan-Myrth from TekSavvy to the panel to face off against the incumbents; Bell, Telus and Rogers.

Aside from the fireworks on the stage, and the buzz from the keynotes and the panels the world kept turning. My attention was pulled away by a customer issue that needed to be dealt with. I was able to field the query and initiate resolution with a quick email to India. Twitter then informed me that Kate Spade had passed away in New York. I glanced up to see that Novak Djokovic had just lost in the quarter finals of the French Open to an unseeded Italian player, Cecchinato. And it occurred to me that I now take this all for granted.

When I started in telecom, I learned to type on a 50 baud, Model 32 teletype that served as my order wire and trouble ticket system. There was still open wire carriers (ie wires suspended from poles running beside the railway tracks) and mechanical switches that made a racket when the customers dialled and they completed the calls step-by-step. There were no mobile phones, a pager on my hip served to keep me connected in case of customer emergencies. News was delivered the next day in the newspaper. And the only way to watch a tennis match from Paris was to actually go there.

In the short span of three decades, telecommunications has made miracles seem ordinary. It has enabled me to be able to run a global business from anywhere. I can reach out and instantly connect with my customers and suppliers. The computer in my hand gives me news and alerts, the moment things happen. I can choose whatever entertainment I wish, whether it is watching a tennis match from the other side of the world or reading the ramblings of an obscure middle aged blogger from Northern Ontario.

Don’t take it for granted. Telecommunications really is a miracle. I was reminded why I love what I do so much.The Canadian Telecom Summit is an annual celebration of that.

And don’t forget to call your Mother.

Canadian Telecom Summit – Day 1


What a Day !
A big thank you to Jaime Leverton and Cogeco Peer One for feeding me dinner and a lovely networking event at the end of the first day of the Canadian Telecom Summit.

Viewing the day from an international telecom lens there were no specific panels or keynotes that were directly relevant but there were many highlights;

– Chris Wright, the CTO of RedHat making the case for the importance of Open Source software versus proprietary vendor software

– the always entertaining Ibrahim Gedeon , the CTO fo Telus

– Michael Weening from Calix outlining the ways that smaller service providers can use Amazon and Google to seize control of the “Smart Home” opportunity to better monetize the Network

– Panels on Customer Experience Management, Cyber Security and Network Innovation that all liberally borrowed from the language of agile tech start-ups . Coming from Waterloo, and understanding a little bit of this environment, it was interesting to hear how each of these panels were referencing the Steve Blank lean start-up methodology towards stodgy old telecom. Having a wife that is an executive in UI/UX made it even more entertaining.

– Finally a keynote from Jaime Leverton of Cogeco Peer One on blockchain. Not a sales pitch, just an overview on the technology and how it can change a lot things, for the better. A true example of #TechforGood

So in my discussions with people at the Canadian Telecom Summit I did find one overarching theme and that was that the traditional telcos and service providers are yet again settling for just being a commodity, a dumb pipe.

With all the talk around 5G and the Internet of Things, including a keynote from Rogers at lunch, the prevailing attitude was one of being happy or content with simply providing connectivity. Even though telcos bemoan the cost of the investment to provide the network for 5G and IoT , they cant seem to think beyond providing the commodity service.

Other players will provide the platforms and services that will take the bulk of the revenues that the new 5G networks will birth. Just as Skype, Netflix and WhatsApp and other OTT applications have taken the bulk of the revenues from Web 2.0

It seems that the traditional telcos are content with that model.

I may be wrong, perhaps in their executive suites they would contest that. But that was may takeaway from what I heard yesterday. Looking forward to Day 2

Timo

PS A final takeaway . If you find yourself at a Canadian event, hang out with the folks from Saskatchewan, they are the best !

Canadian Telecom Summit 2018


Monday, June 4 is the start of this year’s Canadian Telecom Summit to be held at the Toronto Congress Centre. This is the 17th Canadian Telecom Summit (CTS). I have been blessed to have attended each of these events, put on by two friends of mine Michael Sone and Mark Goldberg.

CTS was originally formed to replace the CBTA (Canadian Business Telecom Alliance) show that used to be held annually in Toronto. The first CTS coincided with the 10th anniversary of CRTC decision 92-12, which opened up Competition in the Canadian Long Distance industry. My own career in telecom was forged at competitive telecom providers like CNCP Telecommunications and ACC TeleEnterprises and Decision 92-12 was a milestone. Liberalization and deregulation of telecommunications around the world made the telecommunications sector an exciting place to work back in the ‘90s and 2000’s. (PS see my book reviews here for some books that chronicle those adventurous times)

CTS is a chance for the Canadian telecommunications industry to come together; for networking for sure, but also for thought provoking interaction. Over the years we have seen many announcements, both government policy and from industry, some discussions and heated arguments and some entertaining regulatory panel discussions (for us policy wonks).

This year the theme is “Innovation and Disruption in ICT: reinventing and securing our business and personal lives”. There has been much innovation and disruption in telecom throughout my career and the span of AurorA’s 24 years in business. Competition from Silicon Valley players like Google, Apple, Netflix and Microsoft have radically changed the industry. New technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), the introduction of 5G networks and the continued rollout of the Internet of Things (IOT) promise even more innovation and disruption.

This year I will be trying something new by blogging from the conference. My goal is to post a summary each night of some of the more significant talks, discussions and events from the Summit that I feel would be relevant to you, my readers, specifically from an international telecom perspective .

Hopefully, I will see you live at the Summit. If not, then check in here next week for my updates from #CTS18 . If there is something specific you would like me to cover then leave a comment below of reach out to me on Twitter at @TimoVainionpaa.

Common Carrier

fiber-optic-cable-stock
Since graduating from Engineering at the U of Waterloo, I have been in telecom all of my adult life. I was taught that telecom companies are “common carriers” and are subject to certain rules and regulations that other industries are not.

Simply put, in common law countries like Canada, industries like railways, airlines, pipelines and telecom firms that offer their services to the general public under a licence or authority provided by a regulatory body are common carriers. One of the biggest obligations of a common carrier is non-discrimination. A common carrier cannot discriminate, i.e. refuse the service to some members of the public and not others, or give prejudicial treatment to a favoured few.

Yet, I notice that in this day and age , telecom companies are discriminating, openly and blatantly and violating the principles of common carriage.

One example would be when a telecom company throttles your Internet service, slowing down bit torrent packets or videogame packets. Or when the companies that own the telecom facilities also own the content that rides on them (so called vertical integration). If they hoard that content and do not allow other carriers access to it at reasonable rates then it violates the principles of common carriage.

I would happily pay content providers directly for some content that appeals to me; say HBO or NBA basketball with their League Pass. Unfortunately, that is not allowed; I cant watch the Toronto Raptors on my computer by paying the league directly because the rights holder in Canada insists it be blacked out. They try and force me to purchase their offerings which I have no interest in.

When did we allow this to happen and what should we do about it ?