All posts by James Meredith

IBC2019 – Consumers first

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The third day of the world’s most influential media, entertainment & technology show has now come to a close. Some of the Liberty team were lucky to attend day two of IBC2019, the theme of which for the packed Conference programme is ‘consumers first’.

This sentiment is clear for all to see wandering the various halls and listening to the packed conference sessions. While it’s true that this year’s event will have been host to 150 new product debuts by its close, there is very much a focus among those here on building partnerships and not solely looking for products.

IBC is clearly going from strength to strength. At this year’s Press Conference, we learned that there are over 1,700 exhibitors spread across 15 halls at the show, more than 200 of which are new for 2019. What’s more, many of these 200+ new exhibitors are exciting start-ups that could well be next year’s M&A targets.

The vibrancy of the event has not gone unnoticed by the FAANG giants, all of which have a presence in some form this year. At the Press Conference we heard from Google representatives about the latest developments with Android TV, which is now in partnership with over 140 operators in more than 60 markets. Over 25 of these operators have come on board since last IBC2018, demonstrating the impact of the event for nurturing collaboration.

Another big highlight of IBC2019 is the Media-Telecom Catalyst Programme, a collaboration between IBC and TM Forum aimed at driving open innovation between the media, technology and telecoms sectors.

Phase two results of three of these successful proof-of-concept Catalyst projects were unveiled at IBC2019. This included a collaboration between Al Jazeera, RTÉ, Associated Press, BBC, BT, V-Nova and Aviwest on a project designed to improve the quality and reliability of mobile news gathering and faster time-to-air for live and pre-recorded video.

We wish all the very best to the IBC team for the final two days of the event and look forward to hearing all about the exciting developments with the Catalyst programme in particular in the months to come.

5G – a new era for telecoms

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A bit like the final season of Game of Thrones, we’ve all (well a lot of us) been waiting for it with intrepid anticipation for what seems like an age. Well today, after all the hype, mystery, confusion and speculation, it finally arrived. It being the first 5G network to be rolled out in the UK.

EE announced today that it has successfully launched the next generation of wireless technology across Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London and Manchester, with several other cities to follow later in 2019. The operator, which is owned by BT, is targeting 1,500 locations by the end of the year, including Bristol, Coventry, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.

There’s no doubt that this is a significant moment for the telecoms industry, with EE seemingly having won a highly competitive race to be the first to get to market. Vodafone is expected to roll out its own 5G service across seven UK cities at the beginning of July.

5G has long been touted as one of the leading technologies to drive Industry 4.0, changing not just the way we live as consumers but the way we do business too. Exact figures for speeds vary, but the International Mobile Telecommunications-2020 (IMT-2020 Standard) indicate speeds of up to 20 gigabits per second. Assuming all is running smoothly, that will enable a user to download an HD film in less than 10 seconds. Latency also promises to be drastically reduced, so much so that it will be practically undetectable to the user.

The debate will continue as to whether or not 5G will eventually equate to revolution or evolution, but what is clear is that the capabilities for improving customer experiences and integrating services across multiple industries are almost endless.

Is the press release really ‘dead’?

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The relationship between the PR industry and the media has improved threefold in the last year, at least according to the results of Cision’s latest State of the Media survey, which gathered the responses of nearly 2,000 journalists across 10 countries.

With many journalists continuing to struggle with limited time and frequent deadlines, Cision’s 2019 report highlights how important a role the PR industry can continue to play when working in meaningful partnership with the media.

But what exactly do reporters want from PR professionals? What’s the number one priority? Well despite its much prophesised and publicised ‘death’, it’s actually the press release that is top of the journalist wish list.

Nearly three quarters (71%) of respondents to Cision’s 2019 survey highlighted news announcements/press releases as being the content they most wanted to receive from PR agencies. What’s more, this is the fourth consecutive year it has been the most popular choice.

However, thought is still needed! Informative content with a clear news hook, no jargon and direct relevance to the end audience are unanimous must have’s. Nearly two thirds (65%) of journalists would also prefer to receive a customised, tailored press release than a ‘catch all’ one-mass audience version.

Event invitations came in a close second behind press releases, which considering that the report also revealed that one in five journalists identified staffing and resources as the biggest challenge for journalism in the next 12 months, is perhaps somewhat of a surprise.

As Cision’s report emphasises, PR professionals and journalists are in many ways in the same business – that of storytelling. What’s vital is that both industries continue to collaborate and work together to ensure a meaningful relationship continues to prosper.

World ATM Congress – Day Three

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As World ATM Congress 2019 draws to a close today I’ve been reflecting on what I’ll take away from the event. Admittedly this was my first time in attendance, but my main impression is that unmanned traffic management (UTM) has moved from the periphery of discussion in the aviation industry nearer to front and centre.

There were somewhere between 40-50 talks at the show that included UTM as a focus, and the prevailing message is that the opportunities provided by UTM are real. This isn’t the future, it’s here and now. Fully commercial operations (not trials) are happening all over the world, and AirMap, the leading global airspace management platform for drones, is at the forefront of many of these in partnership with air navigation service providers including skyguide and ANS CR.

It would appear that we’re at a hugely exciting time in the history of aviation, with the skies busier than ever. Indeed, according to a special report from Airbus distributed at World ATM Congress 2019, at any one time there are more than one million people airborne around the world.

However, digital change is upon us and the need for a UTM system to monitor and manage the increasingly busy skies is touted as being more paramount than ever before. Consider for example the rapidly increasing use of drones, not only by hobbyists but by enterprises in industries such as utilities, public safety, oil & gas, mining, construction, agriculture and many more.

Off the back of such operations, the value of the drone industry continues to soar. In 2016, Goldman Sachs estimated that drone technologies would reach a market size of $100bn by 2020, while a more recent report from PwC forecasts commercial drone applications have a total addressable market value of $127bn globally.

But what’s clear from discussions at World ATM Congress 2019 is that for commercial opportunities from drone use to be fully realised and for safety in airspace to be ensured, UTM technologies must be integrated into existing air traffic management (ATM) infrastructure.

My overriding feeling after three days in Madrid at the world’s biggest ATM event is that the future of flight has never looked more exciting. The sky’s the limit.

World ATM Congress – Day Two

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Discussions around UTM continued to be at the fore on the second day of World ATM Congress 2019. Indeed, the topic was front and centre in the show daily publication World ATM Now, following a panel session featuring AirMap Chairman and Co-founder Ben Marcus, which for the first time in the event’s seven year history didn’t include any air navigation service providers.

Following on from three significant announcements released on day one of the show, AirMap shared news of another milestone on day two. The company today announced a collaboration with Fortem Technologies, a leading airspace awareness, safety and security company. Together, AirMap and Fortem will provide an integrated solution that allows for the safe operation of drones within geofences while also enforcing no-fly zones in cities, around airports and other critical infrastructure.

Announcing the collaboration, Ben Marcus, said: “The rapid increase in drone operations brings tremendous benefit to society in the way of public safety, medical logistics, infrastructure inspection and more. However, at the same time we are seeing a rapid increase in airport disruptions due to drone sightings. Combining AirMap’s industry-leading UTM for ‘known’ good drones with Fortem’s industry-leading technology will detect both welcomed and ‘unknown’ bad drones.”

Meanwhile, during an afternoon panel session titled ‘Anatomy of the U-Space: Tools & Technologies for Drone Enablement’, Andi Lamprecht, AirMap’s CTO, talked about how the company is helping to bridge the gap between technology providers and drone operators. He also highlighted how digitisation and automation is key to enabling authorisation for safe and secure drone operations.

It may be the final day of World ATM Congress 2019 tomorrow, but there is still a busy schedule of talks and demonstrations. And if the estimates from day one alone are anything to go by when there were thought to be over 1,000 more people in attendance compared to last year, the 2019 edition is sure to wrap up in front of a big delegation.

World ATM Congress 2019 – Day One

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Today, the IFEMA, Feria de Madrid opened its doors to attendees from 100+ countries around the world as the world’s biggest air traffic management (ATM) event kicked off. A partnership between the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) and Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA), World ATM Congress brings together stakeholders from across the aviation industry to discuss their visions and showcase their solutions for global airspace today and beyond.

The theme of World ATM Congress 2019 is ‘Tackling the Big Issues is ATM – Capacity, UTM Integration, People’. In this respect, much of the focus of this year’s event is around integrating and managing drones in today’s crowded airspace and exploring the best ways to expand UTM capacity.

Day one of the show was particularly significant for AirMap, the leading global airspace management platform for drones. The company announced three new significant developments, starting with its work with the Air Navigation Services of the Czech Republic to enable SmartSky, the country’s strategy to enable and support the safe operation of drones and the development of drone-related services.

AirMap also announced the deployment of Low-Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) for drone flights in Geneva and Lugano in collaboration with skyguide, the Swiss air navigation service provider, as well as the development of a cost-effective drone tracking solution in partnership with Honeywell.

Events at Gatwick before Christmas last year where the airport was brought to a standstill due to suspected malicious drone use also dominated much of the discussions during the various talks given at the event on day one. The true scale of the disruption caused is estimated to have cost the UK economy somewhere between £5om-£70m, with over 100,000 passengers affected and 1,000 flights cancelled.

However, rather than dwell on the incident itself, the focus at World ATM Congress has been to move the discussion on to what needs to be done in order to prevent such incidents, which appear to be becoming more commonplace, from happening again. Key to this is the need to integrate a UTM platform/solution with Counter-UAS and ATM.

Mobile World Congress – Day Four

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So the final day of Mobile World Congress 2019. A last chance to explore – and try to make it to Hall 8.1. It’s a long way from Hall 1…

Away from that, much buzz was created late yesterday and continued into today with discussion around the first ever tele-mentored surgery over a 5G connection. This was performed between the Fira Gran Via and Hospital Clinic de Barcelona with, reassuringly, the full consent of the patient.

A medical expert advised the surgeon during the live operation, with Vodafone providing the 5G connection in partnership with Hospital Clinic de Barcelona, Mobile World Capital and online education portal, the Advances in Surgery Channel.

Although interestingly elsewhere at MWC, a panel discussion featuring a representative from McKinsey among others, highlighted a lack of capabilities within the mobile sector to capitalise on opportunities within the (digital) health sector.

I had a chance to wander round today and I have to say my personal highlight was learning all about liquid repellent nanotechnology. Basically you can drop your phone in the bath or swimming pool and it will still work afterwards. The aim of P2i, the company behind the technology, “is to bring liquid protection to the mass market.”

As I wandered round some other halls I saw similar variations of the same technology, with a fish tank type object housing 10 iPhones in various stages of immersion. Each had a clock showing how long the device had been submerged. Not that anyone would leave their phone in the water of course, but as a gimmick it was certainly attracting attention.

I’ve been thinking about how this year’s event compares to last year’s, and the main conclusion I have drawn is that if anything the technology, gadgets and gizmos on display just continue to get more, well, whacky! The bar has very much been raised for MWC 2020.

Mobile World Congress – Day Three

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We’re now three quarters of the way through Mobile World Congress 2019 and the themes of social good and diversity have been evident throughout the week so far. This included a keynote session delivered by UN deputy secretary-general, Amina Mohammed who highlighted that work is needed to increase gender diversity across the mobile industry.

She also issued a note of caution, pointing out that while new technologies increase convenience for a large proportion of the population, they also risk further widening the digital divide and so the need for inclusive innovations is paramount.

Meanwhile, Telefonica O2’s chief digital and strategy officer, Jo Bertram told those in attendance at 4YFN, the startup event at MWC 2019, that the operator is committed to a diverse and inclusive workforce. She highlighted the initiatives O2 runs to promote a workforce reflective of society today, including apprenticeship and graduate schemes.

Elsewhere, the winners of the 2019 GLOMO Awards have also been announced, with TV and Radio presenter, Remel London and BBC Africa Business Editor, Larry Madowo presenting the awards. John Hoffman, CEO of GSMA Ltd, emphasised that the GLOMOs celebrate and showcase the companies and individuals driving innovation across the mobile industry.

For a full breakdown of all of the winners, visit the website, but some of those successful include:

  • Ericsson – Best Mobile Network Infrastructure
  • Nokia – 5G Leadership Award
  • Huawei – Best Smartphone – The Judges’ Choice
  • Accenture – Best Mobile VR or AR

In further awards news, the 4YFN Startup of the Year Award, which is focused on accelerating business development, was announced live earlier this afternoon in Hall 8 in front of packed audience, with NanoLock Security taking home the prize. The company provides the industry’s only lightweight, low-cost security and management solution for connected edge devices.

So three days down and one to go. Tomorrow we can likely expect the GSMA to reveal details around attendance numbers and a comparison to last year’s event. It certainly feels busier, but the numbers will not lie!

Mobile World Congress 2019 – Day Two

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Much of the talk on day two of Mobile World Congress 2019 has been centred on security, and specifically network security for 5G.

Conversations have followed on from a keynote session given late on day one by Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for digital economy and society, addressing what she described as unrest amongst the mobile industry on potential legislation related to 5G rollout and wider national security. She sought to reassure attendees that the European Commission is taking all of the industry’s concerns very seriously and is committed to finding a solution as a priority.

Despite these concerns however, operators are continuing to press ahead, with T-Mobile’s CTO Neville Ray, announcing today that the company would build a 5G network in 30 US cities this year. Ray revealed that the operator’s first 5G sites could run on mmWave spectrum even though the company has previously touted a 600MHz rollout.

But others within the industry are less convinced. BT’s Consumer CEO Marc Allera, told delegates today that the deployment of commercial 5G will not go to plan, and flexibility is key to operators as EE, which Allera also heads up, prepares to launch 5G across 16 UK cities this summer.

Elsewhere away from 5G but still very much focused on security, Kevin Riley, Ribbon Communication’s CTO delivered a very well received presentation during the afternoon focusing on migrating and securing real-time communications on AWS.

Kevin discussed how attitudes to the cloud have changed dramatically in the last few years from a sense of fear about putting digital assets and critical data into public cloud infrastructure to the view of public cloud being more secure than many private cloud offerings. This is highlighted by the growth of AWS, which today accounts for over a third (35%) of the public cloud market.

He also talked about the growing sophistication of attacks today, including highlighting the work of bad actors who stole the records of millions of Home Depot customers a few years ago by infiltrating an IoT enabled air conditioning unit on the roof one of the company’s stores!

That’s now half of MWC 2019 complete and we’re looking forward to seeing what day three brings tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Mobile World Congress 2019 – Day One

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The theme for Mobile World Congress 2019 is Intelligent Connectivity, and it was no surprise to see 5G dominate much of the headlines on day one of the show. A study released by the GSMA forecasts that the fifth generation of mobile communications will account for 15% of all global mobile traffic by 2025, with around half of these connections expected to be in the US and a further 30% in China and Europe.

The financial impact for the global economy is also expected to be enormous, with the GSMA report estimating 5G to contribute $2.2 trillion over the next 15 years. Sectors including manufacturing, professional and financial services as well as utilities are expected to see the most financial benefit from the new technology.

But in his company’s press conference today, Ericsson CEO Borje Ekholm issued a plea to authorities to address the issues he said are holding back 5G in Europe. Ekholm stated high spectrum fees, uncertain spectrum duration and heavy regulation are all putting Europe at risk of falling far behind Asia and North America in the 5G race.

There has also been much talk of IoT connectivity at MWC so far, with the GSMA study also predicting that global IoT revenue will quadruple to $1.1 trillion by 2025 as the number of global IoT connections triples to 25 billion in the same period. Meanwhile during a panel session on the eve of the show, the GSMA’s Mobile IoT Summit, the overriding message was that the IoT ecosystem is now mature enough to cope with mobile IoT services entering the market.

Of course it wouldn’t be MWC without the unveiling of the latest and greatest handsets, and this year’s event has not disappointed with the show kicking off with a number of manufacturers revealing their visions for the next generation of smartphones.

Huawei revealed its new foldable 5G device, the Mate X, with the promise of availability for consumers by the middle of the year at a price point of €2,299. The CEO of the company’s Consumer Unit, Richard Yu, emphasised that the device would support both non-standalone and standalone 5G, meaning it’s “not only for today’s 5G, but for the future 5G.”

Samsung had of course already released details of the Galaxy Fold at its own Unpacked events in San Francisco and London in the run up to MWC, but it did unveil a pair of new phones to its midrange Galaxy A series in Barcelona – the Galaxy A50 and the A30.

LG meanwhile showcased its V50 ThinQ, its first 5G smartphone, which comes with an optional accessory called Dual Screen. The company said this is its own spin on the foldable device trend and that while it had no plans to release a foldable screen this year, it will at some point in the near future as this is what it believes everyone will be using soon.

With day one drawing to a close amidst a planned metro strike, it’s a rush to the exit doors before regrouping and retuning for day two and everything that MWC 2019 has in store tomorrow.

Data, Data Everywhere

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Einstein wrote a riddle about data when he was just a child. At least that’s the apocryphal claim. He, allegedly, claimed that 98% of the world’s population wouldn’t be able to solve it. Personally I’m not convinced he got his numbers right as I managed to solve it in 15 minutes – and I’m no Einstein.

But the point he was making (or at least that I’m inferring) is that at first glance the data we have access to might appear of little or no value. Look a bit deeper however, and you’ll find that data provides a whole host of links and crucial pieces of information. And of course there’s a lot more data about today than there was in Einstein’s day.

At Liberty, we’ve been working with one of the leading companies at helping organisations extract value from their data for just over a year now. MarkLogic Corporation, the leading operational and transactional Enterprise NoSQL database provider, empowers its customers to build modern applications on a unified, 360-degree view of their data.

And the use cases for MarkLogic’s technology are vast. From financial services and insurance to pharmaceutical and the public sector, the number of industries that are overwhelmed by data is in many ways like the data itself, seemingly endless.

In the last month we have worked closely with MarkLogic to maximise attendance at key industry events in the insurance and pharmaceutical sectors and help drive the message of the value that these industries can gain by integrating their data quickly and efficiently.

But as we know from many high profile incidents over the last year, gaining actionable intelligence from data is one thing, but being able to secure that data is vital. Where MarkLogic play a key role here is reducing risk. Using a NoSQL database, such as MarkLogic’s, makes the whole process of integrating data faster and more seamless. No data gets discarded and you can track the details across the data lifecycle – its provenance, who can see it and how it changed – all in a single system.

We’re very pleased to have been able to champion the work of MarkLogic over the last 12+ months, and will be keeping a keen on the results of the 2018 Computing Security Excellence Awards next month, where MarkLogic is nominated in three categories.

And as for Einstein’s riddle – here’s the answer if you’ve given up.

Liberty at IBC2018 – Day Five: The day after the night before

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The main headlines to first emerge on the final day of the IBC2018 conference were focused around the big winners from the night before at the event’s prestigious Awards ceremony. The flagship International Honour for Excellence Award, as announced in the run up to the show, went to Joan Ganz Cooney, Co-Founder of the long-running and hit TV show Sesame Street.

In a video message broadcast during the ceremony, Cooney said she did not want to talk about her or Sesame’s Street legacy because “this is not over.” Other winners to be crowned on the night were:

  • Eurosport and DiscoveryIBC Innovation Award for Content Creation
  • Medialaan – IBC Innovation Award for Content Distribution
  • RTÉ – IBC Innovation Award for Content Everywhere
  • Econet Media – IBC Judges’ Prize
  • BBC (Civilisations AR) – IBC Special Award
  • BBC R&D – Best Technical Paper Award

Other discussions on day five included a conference session on public service media and the coming of age of AI and cloud-based workflows.

The panel included George Wright, Head of Internet Research & Future Services Section at the BBC, who told the audience that the broadcaster did not view as Netflix as a threat or as competition. He outlined that the BBC is in fact currently one of the OTT media services provider’s biggest suppliers.

Wright also recapped an amusing discussion he and the R&D team at the BBC had with the public broadcaster’s ethics team, when the question was posed on if footage that has been edited by AI can be held accountable for satire, sarcasm and parody. Answers on a postcard please.

When questioned on if increased use of AI at the BBC would see people losing their jobs, Wright was keen to stress that the opposite is in fact true. He revealed that while computers are being used in more incidences to help select the best shots to go out, it is a myth to think that this means people will be replaced in the process,.

Rather he outlined that the BBC produces 1,080 hours of content every hour and that AI requires more people rather than less; to train, analyse and supervise the systems. Ultimately, Wright said, the end goal is to provide viewers with a better shot or a shot that they have not seen before, and that these are not necessarily the same thing.

In one of the final afternoon sessions at the IBC Content Everywhere Hub, there was another discussion on one of the big topics of this year’s event – the convergence between the telecoms and media industries.

One of the key takeaways was a word of warning from Gilles Domartini, CEO of Cleeng, about what he called ‘content fatigue’. In other words, that producing more and more content might drive engagement, at least in the short term, but it won’t necessarily engender the most crucial aspect – customer retention.

And that’s a wrap for IBC2018. It has been five packed days of discussion, debate and collaboration at the world’s most influential media, entertainment and technology show. Thanks to all of the team at IBC for putting on such a fantastic show. Here’s to 2019!

Liberty at IBC2018 – Day Four: From Sesame Street to Amsterdam

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The conference track delivered just before the mass exodus for lunch on day four of IBC2018 provided a fascinating insight into how the digital revolution is driving the world of sports broadcasting to attract new audiences.

Ralph Rivera, EVP & MD at Eurosport Digital, highlighted how what differentiates digital is consumer choice as people (viewers) can now go beyond what a broadcaster prioritises on its schedule. He described the big challenge this creates for broadcasters: delivering the principal reliability provided by traditional TV with the desired level of interactivity that TV alone cannot.

Strides in the right direction are being taken, but Rivera stressed that the industry is in a transition period that will take at least a couple of years. He revealed that Eurosport will be focusing a lot of efforts towards the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo where the broadcaster wants to utilise up to 360 cameras on track and field for better use of athlete data.

He also emphasised that storytelling is intrinsic in bringing data to life. Take the biathlon for example; getting the heart rate of a biathlete during cross-country skiing is great for viewers, but they also need to have the understanding that biathletes need to bring their heart rate down for rifle shooting.

Also on day four was a presentation from Julina Tatlock, Founder & CEO of 30 Ninjas, who talked about the opportunities for new media forms in 5G, which she said will provide massive connectivity possibilities for new forms of storytelling.

The key, Tatlock said, when it comes to 5G and content creation is that while you can hypothesise as much as you like, you only really learn through ‘making and doing’. She gave the example of being able to turn a self-driving car into a moving movie theatre through VR enabled by 5G connectivity.

And how about working with Tom Cruise? Well as an actor who prides himself on always knowing where the camera is, Tatlock revealed the struggles Cruise had on the set of 2017 film American Made.

Directed by 30 Ninjas’ other founder Doug Liman, who has a predilection for quickly cutting sequences (The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith etc), the ever so cool Cruise stopped a scene at one point to shout: “Where’s the camera?!” The truth Tom, I’m not sure you could handle it.

But Mr Cruise was not the only Hollywood A-Lister to crop up on day four of IBC2018. No, the real red carpet treatment was saved for Ernie who travelled all the way from Sesame Street to collect the IBC International Honour for Excellence Award on behalf of Joan Ganz Cooney, Co-Founder of the long-running and hit TV show.

More on the Awards tomorrow after what is sure to be a fantastic ceremony this evening.

Liberty at IBC2018 – Day Three: Pugafly, giggles and gigabytes

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With it following a Friday, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that day three of IBC2018 would be host to a few bleary eyes. But in actual fact you couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The third day of the world’s most influential media, entertainment & technology show kicked off with a 4k charity run completed by over 500 IBC participants, raising over $40k in the process for two fantastic Dutch charities: Stichting NewTechKids (NewTechKids Foundation) and Iridescent.

Meanwhile, during a press conference in the media centre, some of the key figures at IBC revealed some of the early successes of this year’s show. This included the fact that the number of female speakers on stage this year has more than doubled last year’s line-up, while IBC2018 has also attracted a record number of 1,700 exhibitors.

5G also continued to be a key topic of discussion during the day’s conference programme. Mark Hyung-Joon Kim, EVP & Head of Global Business Unit at Korea Telecom (KT), provided a fantastic behind-the-scenes glimpse from into how KT was able to deliver the world’s first trial of 5G services at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Mr Hyung-Joon Kim set the scene by walking a captivated audience (most definitely including yours truly) through a brief history of both the Summer and Winter Olympics’ longstanding history with technology and innovation:

  • 1936 (Berlin) – The first live broadcasting in black and white TV
  • 1964 (Tokyo) – The first satellite coverage in colour TV
  • 2006 (Turin) – The first mobile live broadcasting
  • 2016 (Rio) – The first 4K UHD live broadcasting
  • 2018 (Pyeongchang) – The world’s first 5G trial services to provide an ‘inside the track, first-hand experience of the Olympics’

He then revealed how 2,294 minutes of coverage (including highlights) during the 2018 Games had been broadcast and delivered through KT’s 5G technologies. This included providing audiences with a live feed from the viewpoint of athletes competing in the bobsleigh, which was facilitated via a sync camera embedded within the front of the bobsleigh in real time via a 5G module and network.

After a brief interlude, Mark Hyung-Joon Kim joined a number of other panellists on the stage in the Forum to discuss the road to 5G. Christian Harris, Head of Digital Entertainment at Three, perhaps best described the current state of affairs by stating that “we know what the destination is, just not the journey that will get us there.”

Harris also described how Three is working hard to change its business model and public perception. He outlined a commitment to stay relevant by changing the company’s organisational culture to better engage with the whole media-telco ecosystem.

Three’s partnership with Snapchat, Harris emphasised, is a fantastic demonstration of this through the much loved (he assured everyone) ‘pugafly’. After all, as a colleague of Harris’ has said on 5G: “it’s about giggles, not gigabytes.”

Liberty at IBC2018 – Day Two: A Scot and two aliens walk into a bar

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Day two of IBC2018 kicked off in esteemed fashion with a welcome from the Mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, before attention turned to the main topic of the day’s keynote session – blockchain.

Buzzword? Hype? Ground-breaking technology? Well Kim Jackson, Co-Founder & President of Entertainment at SingularDTV, detailed how blockchain is being utilised by her business to empower content creators to retain control of their IP and evolve the entertainment industry.

Jackson explained that blockchain is essentially a public digital ledger of transactions, and that with a decentralised system in place you can create an ecosystem where everything is connected. It also, Jackson said, eliminates the need for an intermediary, thereby creating a peer-to-peer value chain and fair exchange process between creators, producers and buyers.

But how is blockchain being used in practice by content creators to do this? Well joining Jackson on stage was Maurice Schutte, Producer & Co-Creator of Space Beers, described as ‘an insane alien abduction film where beer is the only hope of survival.’ Brilliant.

Schutte explained how and why he and his team have used blockchain to tokenise the whole brand. He emphasised the importance of all financial supporters of the project (who purchase Space Beers Tokens) reaping the benefits of its (hopeful) success.

There were further blockchain discussions during an afternoon session in the IBC Content Everywhere Hub, as well as an in depth look into 5G. Andreas Westhoff, CEO of Smart Mobile Labs, talked a packed audience through a number of use cases his company has been supporting, including in Formula One, e-Sports, live music festivals and football.

However, he also highlighted that market adoption for 5G is a case of evolution not revolution, with full functionality likely at least three years away, and complete widespread network coverage realistically taking up to a decade.

In other news on day two, Maria Ferreras, VP Business Development for EMEA at Netflix, was asked if the over-the-top media services provider would be following the lead of Amazon and others and expanding into live sports.

While admitting “you can never say never”, Ferreras explained that ultimately there isn’t any value in Netflix doing so because they wouldn’t be able to do it any better than current broadcasters. As for the next chapter, Ferreras revealed that Netflix’s revenues are currently growing 43% year-on-year.

But as for Space Beers and a Scot vs two aliens in a drinking contest at an intergalactic bar, well I know who my money would be on.

Liberty at IBC2018 – Day One: BBC, Beyoncé and Mr Bean

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Over the next week, around 60,000 visitors from over 170 countries will descend on the RAI in Amsterdam for the prestigious annual IBC show.

Today was day one of IBC2018, and things kicked off in style with a welcome from Keith Underwood, Chief Operating Officer of Channel 4, followed by the Opening Keynote from Tim Davie, CEO of BBC Studios.

Davie wasted little time before announcing a significant new deal for BBC Studios, which will see it collaborate with Clerkenwell Films and Anton Corp to develop and fund a schedule of high-end, short-form drama and comedy projects.

The agreement will see the creation of premium, high volume, short-form content produced for digital and linear platforms, with additional funds set aside to self-commission. This, Davie highlighted, represents a major move from BBC Studios into more short form content, with several other initiatives being pursued at significant investment.

When asked to comment on rumours of a bid for Endemol Shine Group, Davie didn’t shy away. He ruled out bidding, stating that the BBC is focused on premium British content and suitably scaled in certain areas.

Davie also explained that he is “exhausted” by events and conferences that review the threat of online to the industry. He emphasised that a growth market should be welcomed as good news, and content makers who can’t make this work should probably look at alternative employment.

Not long after, Peter Salmon, Chief Creative Officer of Endemol Shine Group took to the Forum stage to discuss how broadcasters can best create content for the connected generation. Leaving the question of a rumoured bid from BBC Studios to those “above his pay grade”, Salmon discussed the “war for attention” driven by the huge premiums for successfully connecting with today’s young, connected audiences.

He highlighted the success Endemol has had by focusing on constructed reality content through shows such as Hunted and The Island, as well as a brand new programme he revealed is set to air soon: The Heist. It is the non-scripted element, which makes up around 70% of all of Endemol’s shows, and ‘box-settable’ nature that mainstream audiences buy into, Salmon explained.

But perhaps the biggest surprise of the day, at least to yours truly, was when Salmon revealed that one of Endemol Shine Group’s biggest success stories is a comedy animation series following the daily trials and tribulations of Mr Bean and his best friend Teddy. With some 79m+ fans, Salmon confidently stated that this is the biggest media brand on Facebook – ahead of Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, Harry Potter and The Simpsons. Who’d have thought it.

So here’s looking forward to day two and what other surprises are in store.

The Netflix effect

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The battleground for viewing figures has arguably never been as hard fought as it is today, with legacy media companies being forced to play catch up and offer multiple services in order to compete, thanks in no small part to the ‘Netflix effect’.

The capabilities offered by Netflix’s video on demand streaming service, which allows subscribers to stream films and TV series on any number of platforms and devices, has seen the over-the-top media services provider reach 130 million total subscribers worldwide as of July 2018.

This success has not been missed by more traditional broadcasters, with Sky agreeing a deal earlier this year to integrate Netflix’s subscription VOD offering into its pay-TV service for customers with its ultra HD Sky Q platform.

These strategic business moves and partnerships are continuing to become more commonplace, with arguably the biggest of more recent times being the bidding war between Comcast and Disney to acquire 21st Century Fox. The latter won the battle, at a reported cost of more than $70bn, but rather than lick its wounds, Comcast simply turned attention to acquiring a controlling stake in Sky plc.

While we can consider Netflix as one of the biggest catalysts behind many of these major partnerships in terms of the need to provide and deliver exclusive and original content, sport is also a driving force.

Amazon in particular has been making a major play in this market, including breaking the stranglehold of Sky and BT for Premier League football rights earlier this year. The online retail giant has also made a foray into tennis, outbidding Sky last year to obtain exclusive rights to broadcast men’s top flight matches from 2019, as well as more recently securing a £30m deal to exclusively broadcast the US Open in the UK next month and for the following four years.

In such a competitive and fast moving marketplace it’s difficult to predict what the future will hold or where the next partnership will come from, but what is clear is that the FAANG giants (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) are re-shaping the rules of the game at all levels.

But this doesn’t just bring challenges, it also opens the door to new opportunities for telcos in particular, through broadening their offerings by adding content assets and exploring partnerships with these leading content providers. AT&T has already paved the way with its acquisition of Time Warner, and now it’s time to see if anyone else will follow suit.

Liberty will be at IBC2018, the world’s most influential media, entertainment and technology show at the RAI in Amsterdam from Thursday 13 to Tuesday 18 September 2018. If anyone would like to meet up at the event please get in touch – info@libertycomms.com.

Liberty’s Mobile World Congress 2018: Day Three and 5G is still the talk of the halls

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It may be three quarters of the way through Mobile World Congress 2018, but 5G continues to dominate most of the headlines. Today saw another leading operator draw a line in the sand and commit to timeframes for launching 5G services, as T-Mobile US confirmed plans to build 5G in 30 US cities this year. Top of the list, according to the operator’s CTO Neville Ray, are ‘places that matter’ – namely New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Dallas.

While Ray acknowledged that it won’t be until 2019 that 5G mobile devices can take advantage of the network, he explained that T-Mobile will use equipment from Nokia and Ericsson to build a network spanning the operator’s 600MHz, 28GHz and 39GHz airwaves.

But it isn’t just American operators aiming to lead the 5G charge. Telenor Norway’s CEO Berit Svendsen today expressed confidence in her country’s capability to continue its impressive track record with 4G and keep the ‘leader jersey’ in 5G while speaking to Mobile World Daily. Given Norway’s similarly impressive pedigree in the Winter Olympics, I’d have been tempted to go with ‘flag bearer’. But that’s just me.

Outside of 5G, one of the other big stories to emerge from day three of MWC 2018 was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by the GSMA and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Signed by GSMA Director General Mats Granryd and ICANN President & CEO Göran Marby, the MoU aims to advance the organisations’ shared objective of fostering the continuous expansion of interoperable networks and ongoing deployment of information and communication technology. Both organisations have committed to a number of joint activities as part of the agreement, including a series of workshops and regional events.

Away from the technology talk, the weather has been a topic of conversation amongst many. Reports and pictures of the aftermath of the ‘Beast from the East’ have caused many here in Barcelona to worry about flights being cancelled, redirected or rescheduled.

It’s a far cry from the warmth on display from the 900+ exhibitors welcoming thousands of delegates to their stands; not to mention the heat sensing cameras on display between halls 5 and 6, which we couldn’t help but stop for a selfie in front of.

So bring on tomorrow MWC and the final day of what has been another fascinating show.

Celebrating 20 years of technology – the birth of GPS

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As we continue the countdown to our 20th anniversary next month, so we resume with our series of blogs detailing our favourite technology innovations of the last 20 years. And today it’s the turn of in-car GPS navigation.

The best way to celebrate how fantastic an innovation it was when the likes of Garmin, Magellan, TomTom and others flooded the market around the mid-2000s, is to think back to how it was before.

Remember those joyous car journeys of 20 years ago with the front seat passenger sifting through a stack of print out directions from AA Route Planner? Ah the heady days of mum and dad cursing at each other as the final piece of paper highlighted that you’d ‘arrived at your destination’ and you glanced out the car window from a layby on the A466 to see a herd of cows staring back at you.

In many ways it can be difficult today to imagine how people actually got anywhere 20 years ago. Having a strong sense of direction and being able to recall every inch of the M6 from the trip you’d done the week before seems almost superhero-esque. Nowadays we are surely guilty of taking being able to get from A to B so easily for granted.

The introduction of in-car GPS navigation really was quite revolutionary. A perhaps little known fact is that publicly available GPS devices had actually been around since the 1980s, but it was only after an intervention from Bill Clinton that the accuracy of consumer-based GPS navigation systems increased dramatically and devices became more mainstream.

While it’s true that sales of TomToms and the equivalent have fallen over the past few years, largely due to market saturation and the exponential growth of smartphone technologies, many of the cars of today continue to offer the very latest by way of in-built and voice activated GPS systems.

Unfortunate incidents aside (driving into a Canadian lake is never a good idea), today it really is easier than it has ever been to simply not get lost. Go back 15 years or so and we have in-car GPS navigation to thank for taking us on that journey.