S07E01 - The future of mobile networks

This week we talk to Dan Lane, COO at Simwood and previously Head of Special Projects at Truphone, for his view on the future of mobile networks. We discuss 'apps in the network' and making mobile networks 'open' with interfaces that allow external services to control and interact with them. Could we be in for a not-so-dumb pipe after all?

Ben: Hello and welcome to the 361 Degrees Podcast, Season 7 Episode 1. My name is Ben Smith from Wireless Worker.

Rafe: I'm Rafe Blandford from the All About sites.

Ewan: I'm Ewan from Mobile Industry Review.

Ben: Welcome back, gents, to Season 7.

Ewan: Rocking.

Ben: It's been, well, slightly longer than we planned, hasn't it?

Ewan: No, but yeah, we've been busy people.

Ben: We have been busy people and I think it would be nice, actually, just to perhaps welcome some of our new listeners. I've been looking at the stats, a lot of people who've joined listening and perhaps they don't know about us, or what we do, or why they might...

Ewan: They've made a very good choice.

Ben: These people are, obviously, discerning listeners who've made a good choice but I think it might be nice just to tell them a little bit. Rafe Blandford, you can combine that with telling us your news.

Rafe: My background is that I've run the All About Symbian, and subsequently, the All About Windows phone sites. Recently, I've had a little bit of a change, I'm now working at DigitasLBi in London, it's a big digital agency that concentrates on blending between different skills and digital transformations. I started as a Mobile Strategist, and actually, we're recording in their offices here in Brick Lane. We got a nice, swanky new recording studio for 361.

Ben: We have, a new central London recording studio, which is actually fantastic. I always actually assumed that your time with All About Symbian was some kind of community service for sins of the past. I just thought that maybe the sentence had expired.

Rafe: I should emphasize that, of course, I still continue to very much going All About Windows Phone, there's been a lot of activity there, which hopefully I can talk about later in the season without being pilloried too much by my fellow commentators.

Ewan: You can rely on us.

Ben: Congratulations on your new job, because it's a, and it pains me to say it but it is a pretty prestigious place to be. They've chosen wisely, Blandford. [00:02:00]

Ewan: I think they have.

Rafe: Thank you, guys.

Ben: Mr MacLeod?

Ewan: Right, background for me is that I'm an entrepreneur. I've been through the ringer quite a few times, I had some successes, many failures. I also run Mobile Industry Review, which has about a million less readers a month than Blandford.

Ben: Blandford has about a million readers a month.

Ewan: Now, hold on a minute. I don't think they did the calculation correctly. I've got some readers, most of them are executives in the mobile world. I also do consulting, consulting for Royal Bank of Scotland at the moment and it's been very, very busy.

Ben: What sort of things do you consult on?

Ewan: Interactive properties.

Ben: Blimey, I don't even know what that is.

Ewan: Digital things. I don't want to bore you.

Ben: No, well, and to be honest, you're not being successful already. My name is Ben Smith, I write Wireless Worker, occasionally, not very frequently. I should put more effort into that.

Ewan: You should, you should. We miss you.

Ben: It's an attempt to document my wireless working lifestyle and I also, in the time that I'm not blogging, I am Head of Mobile at a company called Tribal Group. We make software for the education market and my particular interest is in making, at the moment, software for people who do mobile learning.

Rafe: This season, Ben, we're going to focus a little bit more on topics and get away from the reporting on news. We've always tried to do that, but maybe you could just talk a little bit about the format for this season?

Ben: Yes, new season, new format. This season, we're going to do what we did last season in terms of talking about the things that interest us about mobile and we're going to keep doing that. One of the great things about being here in London and being sort of working across the mobile industry, is that we meet people who know stuff all the time. What we're going to do is in Season 7 is, we're going to bring in some experts to talk to us about things that they know about and interesting topics. We're going to get some advice, we're going to reference the things that we're interested in and also try and look at the big picture issue. We won't be looking at the news so much, but what we will do is pick out the stories behind the news and talk about why they're happening and what they're doing. [00:04:00]

Ewan: Today's topic is the future of mobile and what is coming.

Ben: The future of mobile, and particularly we're thinking that we would look at networks because we've properly slagged off networks in the past for being boring, uninteresting, lacking innovation; and do a certain extent that's probably true but none of us actually ever work in networks. It's my pleasure to welcome Dan Lane, who is currently head of special projects at Truphone and by the time I think this goes out, Dan you're going to Chief Operating Officer at Simwood to the show. Welcome!

Dan: Thank you.

Ben: First of all, we talked about Truphone loads on previous seasons but we got some new listeners and people might not be familiar with it, so just fill us in on what you've been doing today and then we can talk a little bit about the future afterwards.

Dan: Yeah. Truphone is actually the world's first global mobile operator, which means you can get a SIM card from Truphone, use it in pretty much any country in the world and the costs are pretty low. In certain countries, it's the same price as if you were just at home.

Ben: Today's topic is about the future of mobile networks. What we wanted you to help us understand is, we really slagged off mobile networks in the past because we haven't really thought that they were very exciting.

Dan: Rightfully so as well, in many respects.

Ben: I'm pleased to hear that, my view is validated by one person, therefore I think it's true. So because you've done all this work and actually perhaps you can tell us about Simwood and what you're going to be doing in the future lays into this. We thought, "What better than to bring Dan into the studio and ask him; what will mobile networks be doing in the future? Also, what should mobile networks do? What are the opportunities and the possibilities that they might have?"

Ewan: Can I just say that I have been following Mr Lane, here, for is it almost ten years or something crazy like that.

Dan: Probably about a decade, yeah.

Ewan: Every year or so, you'll come and chat to me or drop me an email and blow my mind with mobile technology that looks amazing. Perhaps the biggest frustration I've [00:06:00] had is all the cool stuff he's been showing me, and I think lots of other people, I can never, ever have. It's always because he's got a special SIM card that's got 17 different things. Answer Ben's question is here, but I want to know what should be coming next with networks. I also am ready to pounce on you verbally because I'm anticipating what you're going to say and I think shall destroy you.

Ben: You're properly giddy and excited about having Dan in today.

Ewan: Exactly, yes.

Dan: I'm glad you're sitting on the opposite side of the table right now.

Ben: Okay, Dan, I think that was like a three minute question Ewan threw at you but let's go, let's go from the top, which is; what things can you foresee mobile networks doing in the future?

Dan: I'm pretty lucky at the moment because I'm in between two different companies that have completely different approaches to mobile. On the one hand, we have the Truphone style, which is a big company that has big business customers and the requirements of those big business customers differ from the stuff that we're going to be doing at Simwood. Which is a wholesale company that's very innovative, very cutting edge and it's a brand new mobile place. There's no existing customers to need to protect from scary innovation. In the Truphone side, for example something that was released recently was a bundle. That doesn't sound very exciting, a bundle, but this is a bundle ...

Ben: If I'm honest, Dan, it doesn't sound ...

Dan: It doesn't sound very exciting. This is the small bits of innovation that are happening today in mobile networks. We have a bundle that works in 66 countries, I believe it is. You can share minutes, data, and texts of all of your company's members of staff between them. That ramps up to even things like, there's one bundle on there, one package you can choose which has half a terabyte of data to use in any of those 66 countries, in bundle.

Ben: Do you think in the future that there won't be roaming, that ...

Dan: Rightfully, roaming is disappearing. Roaming in Europe is gone, essentially. That's only going to get better.

Ewan: You say that, but most of us are paying two or three quid a day [00:08:00].

Dan: Give it a bit of time, roaming is disappearing in Europe, roaming will disappear around the rest of the world shortly. It's companies like Truphone that are making that happen today. That's the corporate line, moving on behind the scenes, a bundle isn't very exciting but it is in terms of business sense of things. If you look at what's happening outside of what's available today, I think we're going to see mobile networks opening up more at the really smart things they can have inside. Years ago, a lot of us were running around saying, "Mobile networks should just a dumb pipe. Just give us access to the internet, we'll sort the rest out."

Ewan: Hear ye, hear ye.

Dan: Yeah. I was with you until I tried to start my own mobile network and then went to work for a mobile network, and got much more heavily into the network side of things. Actually, there are so many smart things happening inside the network that just aren't exposed to everyone else. That when you get access to that, you can do some amazingly fun things that really ...

Ben: Such as?

Dan: Ah, such as ... One of the really simple examples is in the HLR, I know you're going to pull me up on that. It's Home Location Register ...

Ben: Don't come in here with your fancy geek talk.

Dan: In the brain of the mobile network, let's just refer it to like that.

Ben: That is Rafe Blandford's job is to use words we don't understand.

Dan: All right. Well, in the brain of the mobile network, in the core of the mobile network, it monitors everything that your SIM card is doing. You pop up from the tube on your way here and it logs onto the network, that creates an event in the HLR. You can actually take that and do stuff with it. You could post that out to things, it's not an app on your phone that has to be running, or has a background thing and pop up and do something. This is something that happens in the core of the network, it happens anyway. There's no extra battery drain, or anything like that. You can take that data and then you can say, "Right actually, he's just popped up there and maybe set some presence in something else. Set in some kind of business ..."

Ewan: He’s at work now.

Dan: Yeah, exactly. He's arrived at work, he's doing this, blah, blah, blah. You expose that and it doesn't actually matter what people do with it, because if they have access to that, they'll start doing stuff with it. That's where it really starts getting exciting; it's not when the operators themselves do this, [00:10:00] it's when they expose it to other people. I think the things that we'll see that really change the world are things that we, on the operators side of things, haven't thought of and won't think of. It's what the average person, once they get access to these things thinks up and thinks, "That I'm going to do."

Ben: All of a sudden, every cloud service that I use, either for me personally or perhaps for my business could hook up to the mobile network and get this rich series of bits of data or send data into the networks.

Dan: Exactly, exactly. One of the things that we're going to be doing at Simwood when we launch our mobile offering is we have a full API for the mobile network. Ranging from getting events out, so when your SIM card does something, it'll push something out to being able to control your call flow.

Ben: That sounds like a nasty medical condition.

Dan: Okay, so you have a call come into your mobile number, it rings your mobile.

Rafe: This is the kind of thing I've seen him demonstrating right before.

Dan: I have been demonstrating this particular one for years, but actually getting a mobile network to change the network in a way that supports it is quite difficult.

Ewan: Right, so take us through that. The phone rings ...

Dan: I ring your mobile number, right now it's assigned to that SIM card, that SIM card rings, right? That's the established protocol everyone has.

Ewan: Right, yes. You can divert that if you want.

Dan: If you wanted, yeah. I don't see why that has to happen. SIMs aren't assigned to mobile number that's a mapping that happens in the network. Why lock a mobile number to a SIM, and Truphone do this, they have multiple numbers on one SIM all over the world. I think it can be taken further and one of the things we're doing at Simwood is you can have a number come in, have it ring your desk phone, have it ring multiple mobile phones, multiple devices at the same time; whichever one answers picks it up. It's quite a simple thing to do in terms, there'll be plenty of techies listening going, "I can do that with a FreeSWITCH box or I can do that with Asterisk or software switches." But actually do it in a mobile network it's difficult in an existing mobile network. When you build something from scratch, it becomes a bit easier. You'll be able to [00:12:00] dynamically move numbers between SIM cards if you wanted. You'll be able to say between ... Imagine in a business scenario, an on call situation, everyone has a work phone with their work number on it but the on call number dynamically switches between them depending on some on call rotor that pulls out the calendar or something like that.  With enough control, with enough access through an API that's really easy to build.

Rafe: The question then arises for this is, how's it going to actually be controlled by the users? How flexible is it going to be for swapping services, in and out of the idea, mix and match; is that something that's going to be possible in this future mobile network?

Dan: I think what we'll actually see is once mobile networks open up APIs, you'll start to see an ecosystem, and I really don't want to use the term app store, but ...

Ben: Go on. I dare you.

Dan: No, I don't, refuse to. A selection of apps that you can tie into your mobile network. For example, one of Truphone's really good unique selling points is they do recording in the network. If a network was completely open, other people could  do recording in the network as well.

Ben: This is recording that I want? For example, because I'm a company and I need to record my calls.

Dan: Yeah, there are certain regulatory bodies that require all calls to be recorded.

Ben: We talked about apps in the network, dream big, Dan. Come on, tell us what else networks could do. In fact, actually, tell us what they should do to make themselves relevant and interesting to consumers again.

Dan: What they should do is exactly what I said, open up. Can we talk about what they will do?

Ben: Go on then.

Dan: Nothing.

Ben: Nothing.

Rafe: Why not?

Dan: Okay. Let's look at what we've got right now. We've got operators that make a lot of money. Their revenues are dropping but not dropping at a rate that they want to really cannibalize themselves. If you look at these modern [00:14:00] OTT services that people consider to be a disruptor. We've got Skype, Facebook with their messaging and voice, iMessage, and all of those are disruptive technologies and people look at them and say, "Oh, they're disrupting the operators." If you took all of those companies, with the exception of Apple, all of those companies and put together their revenue, it still doesn't match the biggest MNO. You've got people like Verizon that's big in The States, Vodafone over here. Their revenues exceed all of the OTT players put together.

Ben: Dan, we're out of time, so let's wrap this up. Closing thoughts from our special guest this week. If you could have one wish granted in terms of changing the way that operators work in the future to benefit consumers; what would it be?

Dan: I already have my wish because we're going to be doing this with Simwood. I'm going to get my own way. I'm going to launch my own network with the API integration that I foresee what really makes a difference to the mobile network. I hope that no one in the big mobile networks even cares, because it means we can sneak in and steal their lunch and I look forward to doing that.

Ben: So gents, apps in the network, APIs, not dumb pipes anymore. What do you make of it? You're looking pretty sceptical Mr MacLeod.

Ewan: I'm sceptical, I really, really am not impressed with the mobile networks. I've been on record for a long time saying it's boring, they are doing nothing new. I've given up actually, I used to write a series on the kind of things that mobile operators should be doing but I was talking to the wall. They aren't going to do this kind of thing. Anything new, anything exciting typically. I do get the idea, I get the point of having a SIM card that does new, cool, funky stuff. I could see myself going to Simwood, for example, I'm making this up, just speculating that I don't know, maybe I gave them [00:16:00] 25 quid a month and that gives me a SIM that does X, Y, and Z. Or maybe it gives me 10 SIMs with one number and one data package. That could get quite exciting, I can see some possibilities there.

Ben: Mr Blandford?

Rafe: Yeah, I think it's a vision worthy of the Elysian Fields.

Ben: Blimey, fancy words.

Rafe: The commercial reality is that I'm not sure we're quite there yet, what Dan was talking about in terms of where an operator revenue is going to force this thing to happen. It hopefully will be the smaller providers and I think particularly in the enterprise market when we start talking about unified communications. Which in their current form, feel a bit messy and actually do need the complexity or rather the redundancy of a mobile network to really operate properly. For me, the mobile of the future network is actually going to be more in the infrastructure in the immediate future. This is things like heterogeneous network and more small cells.

Ben: Just explain what you mean, because those are long words and frankly they make my ears bleed.

Ewan: Heterogeneous.

Rafe: That means a network of cells that make up ... A network having big existing cell towers and then smaller variations of that. Now that already exists but we can actually imagine, it's femtocells cells and it's sort of like the Vodafone SureSignal technology but actually done properly and not hacked on through a broadband network. It can be things attached to lampposts, it can be installations into stadiums, and it can be just small base stations. In theory, if we look a bit further ahead, it can even go down to things in individual rooms and potentially appliances and things like that. I think that's further away, but it's how do you increase the capacity of the network as we move into 4G and subsequently 5G. Ofcom here in the UK expect the data going over the network to increase 22-fold and you have to increase capacity. Partly that's about the spectrum, it's going to be seven times bigger on 5G.

It's also [00:18:00] about making the network denser. The only way to really do that, you can't put in more big cell stations, you have to do it with small networks. That's what I mean by heterogeneous networks. It's good because it makes it more reliable. It also has interesting implications for the energy consumption, you can actually switch bits of the network off overnight if they're not being used or put it into a low power mode. That's basically you can change how much power and therefore how much of a throughput it's got. Then it's all the virtualization stuff, which is a big theme at MWC. You can use that to cut the cost of running a network infrastructure. Both for the back end for all the billing stuff, and the routine, and all that. Also, for the base band processing in the base stations and cells. There's a lot of potential there.

Ben: As your voice starts to crack, I'm going to jump in and let you grab some water. You see the thing is, I'm politely interested about the idea of everything becoming a cell tower, complete coverage, complete high bandwidth coverage, all this kind of stuff. I think, "Okay, that's nice," but that's just like saying, "Over the last few years, coverage has got bigger, bandwidth has got bigger, and let's just assume it all just keeps going in a straight line. I look at all these over the top services that Dan mentioned and I accept that financially they are very small compared to the mobile networks. But any other business that stands still for a long time had somebody come along and steal their customers and their lunch.

I think from an end user perspective, so us; not big business, not the people who run the networks, not maybe even the network operators saving money… They have to do something to make it an interesting proposition. I can now get unlimited everything for a relatively small amount of money.

Ewan: Do they have to do anything? Because that's what Facebook, and everybody else off these over the top of your mobile service, your data connection, they do this anyway. You don't need to do anything to make it better. You go to Three, [00:20:00] you buy your data connection, "Thank you very much." I already have a brilliantly interesting services, thanks very much. I don't need it from Vodafone or anybody else.

Ben: It feels like a missed opportunity, because Dan was talking about being hooked into the network. Imagine if Facebook could get a feed of information out of my mobile operator so that it tailored my experience based on the way that I was connecting to it. At the moment, it has to guess, it uses some kind of location lookup.

Ewan: Just to be clear, what it needs to do is for Facebook to be able to tell you where you are, so you can say "I am at this bar or I am here or there." For that to happen, Facebook has to, you have to give it permission on your iPhone, yes I give you permission to look at my location. Then, once you've given it permission, it then looks up your position using a whole lot of different services that are nothing to do with the mobile operator. It's either looking at what their local Wi-Fi base stations and thanks very much to Google, who've gone around and had to drive a car around the UK to try and get all this data so that when you stand outside Liverpool Street Station and you are roughly at Liverpool Street Station, therefore Foursquare says that there's this restaurant nearby, is that where you are? There's so much work that's had to be done because these operators didn't think about this and weren't open to this but you know what, we've already done it.

The sad reality is Facebook has to, and let's just flippantly say every time you open your phone and say I want to see where I am, it has to take half a percent of your battery. The operators weren't visionary enough to think about this.

Ben: Rafe, something that Ewan was just saying made me think, because I was thinking, "Well, what about fixed line operators? What could you learn from them?" They don't put any services really in their network. They might peer with people to get you the fastest route somewhere but they don't really offer services. The way that those services [00:22:00] have evolved now is just at the point where they are completely a commodity, hugely high speed, and all the problems that not knowing anything about the network used to present have just gone away over time because they've become less relevant. Is that not actually what happened with mobile networks. That the opportunities of all these APIs, pings, context, data access into the network will diminish.

Rafe: I think it's too easy to compared fixed to wireless. There's actually, there's a lot more complexity in wireless.

Ben: Rafe Blandford’s telling me off. I just made a rookie mistake.

Rafe: There's actually the potential for more intelligent, more to the point, it actually becomes important. I think the point that Dan made, talking about the HLR records and that kind of intelligence and the important point of it, it puts context on the edge of the network. What I mean by that is mostly in the fixed world, you understand where the router goes but you don't have very much intelligence on the end of the network. We don't actually have that in wireless at the moment either, because operators behave in a fairly dumb way. Location is a good example of this, you could have that on the edge of the network and it's why people get so excited about beacons which is a separate technology. They put location, or they put context on the edge of the network. Potentially at least, mobile networks can do that context without actually having to install more technology and so that's why it gets exciting.

Ewan's talked about the direct consumer play here and that's interesting and I think there is potential there, but I agree with him that there can be incumbency effect. The fact that there's OTT through WhatsApp and its minions is going to make that difficult. Think about the future of the network, it isn't just going to be about the smart phone, the phone that you have; it's also going to be about machine to machine. Every single device you have being connected, it's going to become the ubiquitous network that connects everything together – Internet of Things. Why is that important? Because they actually need to interact with the network in a different way. [00:24:00] If we think about there being, say, 6 or 7 billion devices on the network at the moment, by 2020 there will be 50 billion devices. The average person owns maybe two connected devices at the moment. In that same time period, 2020, they'll probably own 27 connected devices but they won't actually be aware of owning most of them. That's where this intelligence in the network and the ability to with this API and the routing will actually become more important. Perhaps a potential is there on that side rather than in the hands that we think about as being at the forefront in networks today.

Ben: Actually, it's interesting that you were saying that. I did see a product once, I think at Mobile World Congress, to support mobile video streaming and it was software that was installed in the base station so that it would, because the base station knew the speed of the connection between the master and your phone, which was the problem; it could cache and transcode the video to a suitable format right at the edge of the network. It would even preload down so that it was all waiting for you almost at the cell tower when you stopped and started playback and things. I think that's, I suppose that's another example of putting intelligence in the network.

Rafe: Indeed.

Ewan: I know another example, just taking Rafe's point here is if you have those 27 devices that are going to be connected by 2020. Imagine a pair of trainers connected to the network.

Ben: I don't need to… I can see pairs of trainers.

Ewan: Imagine a pair of trainers that are connected to the network. Nike+ trainers or whatever, they might have a some type of SIM card, a soft SIM card, something that's connected into the network. From what Dan was saying, what Rafe's point here is, theoretically speaking, you don't have to put a GPS chip in those pair of trainers. As long as they're connected somehow to the network, then the network knows what SIM they're at, where they are. The rest of them, we all call possibilities that ...

Rafe: I don't think the location gets that accurate. [00:26:00]

Ewan: No, no. I don’t need to know precisely within two meters, but generally where I am.

Rafe: What happens with this machine to machine stuff is the network effectively becomes invisible because it's ubiquitous. That I think changes the way, this is why people get so excited about the internet and things, the ubiquitous city, and smart litter bins, and smart pavements, and pollution sensors, and all of that sort of thing. That's not going to happen if you don't have the network infrastructure that's set up to address these things. It's actually getting to the ridiculous point where some places in the US, you've actually got a separate network for the internet of things in New York. That shouldn't be happening; it should all be going over the same network. I think that kind of intelligence and in particular for me it's on the edge.

I think you can talk about, like the routing of calls and text messages is really interesting, particularly in the enterprise environment but even on the consumer side. Think of WhatsApp at the moment that's tied to your mobile phone number, which is really an artefact to the fact that these mobile networks aren't intelligent.  If you could have it go into your computer, appearing on a screen on your TV, and equally for calling. It's not just about your computer or your soft phone and your mobile phone, that could be in any screen that you happen to be ...

Ewan: Wouldn't that be horrifying? The moment that you take the mobile number away from WhatsApp, because that's the only thing that's keeping people on a phone, connected to a phone, it's WhatsApp requires your phone number.

Rafe: Anyone can be disrupted.

Ben: Okay. Do we believe, though, that the mobile networks have it in them because we've criticized them for being slow and let's say conservative with a small c. I'm sure somebody from a mobile network won't tell us that they spend a lot of time thinking about quality, and stability, and reliability, and innovation actually isn't the most important thing for them. Dan has alluded to the fact that actually there could be this great machine that all these [00:28:00] services can plug into in lots of smart ways. Do we believe that they could actually do that? Do we really believe that the leading operators have it in them to open up like that? Obviously, small players could offer these services but presumably, let's say, if you think about the enterprise space, Office365. Something that has presence, and communications, and status, and voice over IP if you use those kind of services. If that was going to integrate with a mobile network, it needs to be a giant, it needs to be something that is common across all the mobile networks so lots of people can use it. Services that are just tied to the APIs of one network that are bespoke to them won't really have legs, will they?

Rafe: Well, I think it can become a differentiator potentially. It wouldn't matter if it wasn't on every network but I do agree with you, it actually comes back to what Dan said. There isn't an innovation imperative in these big companies, they're the big incumbents and I hesitate to call them lazy because all big companies operate in that way.

Ben: Go on. Call them lazy.

Ewan: Lazy.

Ben: Lazy.

Rafe: We have to wait for the commercial imperative to come along. What's that going to be? Is that a small start up getting in there and providing these services, and suddenly everyone goes, "Actually, I really want these," and so Vodafone decides it has to do that. That feels unlikely to me simply because it's going to be hard to break in.

Ewan: See, I don't agree. I reckon that although I'm the one going "lazy, lazy," actually I think yeah, they have to focus on quality of service, connectivity, blah-di-blah. That's fine with these big companies. I reckon you need companies like Simwood, Dan's company, to be showing the way and then I think that that will help the bigger companies take the view that maybe they should be doing some investment there.

Rafe: I don't disagree. I think it'll be great and I want to see that happen but when I'm talking about the commercial imperative, I think the big companies will see that happening. The question is how quickly will they be able to respond [00:30:00] to that and when will it really start mattering?

Ewan: Years, it's going to be years.

Rafe: It does feel like years and as I said, it does for me maybe come back to this idea of the ubiquitous network which actually operates. When it doesn't operate in a different way, it just has to be more intelligent. Some of the realization of this everywhere connectivity, everything being smart and this idea of this ... We always see these visions of the future where everything talks to each other and everything's very smart. That feels like it's what will drive it in the end but I hope it's not like that. I really hope that there are some consumer products that come out that use this kind of smart network that we're talking about. I just fear that a lot of people will be happy with the good enough because it goes back to what Ewan said, they're mindless sheep basically and they're not appreciating the potential.

Ewan: I want to be clear and actually say that all mobile phone consumers are mindless sheep, thank you very much Blandford.

Ben: I can see Ewan's consulting career diminishing rapidly in certain sectors. We've got literally just one or two more minutes then. Wrap up the first episode of Season 7. Let's go back to our favourite wish list. What do you want from network operators of the future, Ewan MacLeod?

Ewan: I do like the idea, if they can tell me my rough location without me having to screw up my battery.

Ben: You love the location features.

Ewan: I really do like that. I do like the presence that Dan was talking about. I like the idea of multiple devices all the same connectivity, the same number of some sort. I think I'd like to see more efficiency around me as a person.

Ben: Rafe Blandford.

Rafe: I would love to see software based SIMs, not actually having to have a SIM card so that I can use multiple devices and pick up whichever one in the morning without having to gaff about with switching the SIM card. I do use multiple devices that's how I might be able to have it managed all through one account and still have just the one number and just the [00:32:00] one messaging thing coming in. That's the dream for me.

Ben: Do you think you could ever get to that point where your phone's out of battery and you get your friend's phone and you log into it and it becomes your phone.

Ewan: Yeah, that would rock. Wouldn't that be amazing?

Rafe: I'd like to think it would go like that. Again, it sounds a bit too much like wishful thinking.

Ben: I think I'd really like the, I really like the idea of the network becoming smarter because I spend loads of time working on 3G and 4G connections. In fact, where I live, I reckon my 3G connection actually gives my fixed line connection a run for its money. I'd love the idea of the networks, because now everything big is wireless I can pick. I have a much broader selection. I can't just buy from the guy who happens to have the wire in the ground. I can buy from anyone who is able to put up a transmitter anywhere in the area. I'd love the idea maybe that actually they could begin to segment the networks in the way that Rafe was talking about so that I could have a service that was more tailored towards, let's say, data volumes and synchronizing things.

Then I could have another one that will be tailored towards perhaps keeping all my devices at home synced up for example. Low cost, low bandwidth but having everything ticking over. The idea that it's not just now if I want to use data on the go, I've got to buy the same 5 gigabytes at the same price as I always do and then I just get whatever speed happens to be available from the transmitter wherever I happen to be. I think it's perhaps why there's been quite poor take up on 4G in the early days because people were being asked to pay a premium for a higher speed network but they weren't always getting to realize it. If they could get some guarantees that the network was being managed [00:34:00] to give them a differentiated experience.

Ewan: I think what we need to do is see if we can get Dan back later in the series, because theoretically speaking, hopefully he'll have launched a lot of these things.

Ben: This is Episode 1 and we do one of these a week, so I reckon really by about Episode 6, he should have this nailed.

Ewan: Or if he doesn't there's rubbish.

Ben: Okay, excellent. Okay, guys, thank you very much for your time again. It's a pleasure to see you. It's good to be back in a room again, isn't it? I've missed you guys.

Rafe: It is, it's delightful to be back for Season 6, all good things.

Ewan: Season 7.

Rafe: 7, excuse me.

Ben: I suppose as ever, we should put out our plea that you can go to 361podcast.com or you can go to @361podcast, leave a comment. Or you could tweet us or you could go to this week's episode's post and you could take a little survey to give us your feedback. Let us know what you're thinking. Thank you very much, gents. I will see you next week.

Ewan: Bye-bye.

Ben: Bye-bye.

Rafe: Good bye.