Digitisation, connectivity and social innovation
Public initiatives consistent with the core business
Here are some of the projects carried out in 2016 in response to the needs of the community using TIM’s technologies.
IIn a national and international context in which crisis and conflict scenarios multiply, against an ever-increasing number of subjects in need and emergency situations, private fund-raising is a key factor in the cohesion and support “from person to person”. For over ten years, TIM has been a key player in the solidarity chain associated with humanitarian, scientific or environmental projects which it supports by allowing people to make a donation of 1 or 2 euros by sending a text message and of 2, 5 or 10 euros by calling a dedicated free number from a land line. Of the 100 numbers intended for the voluntary sector, of which 2 are for emergencies, 60 are currently configured and available, and shared with other operators. The amounts collected are returned in full, with no withholdings applied by either the tax authority or the Company for the costs incurred.
In 2016, 126 campaigns were launched (3 earthquake emergencies), 50 of which were managed by Dono Per1 (2 earthquake emergencies) which started its work on 1 October 2016, and around 27 million euros were raised2: around 9 million for emergencies, around 10 million before 1 October and around 8 million after 1 October.
The term Social Innovation defines the set of new ideas that respond to the needs of society more effectively than existing alternatives, while at the same time developing new relationships and collaborations to strengthen it.
WithYouWeDo (withyouwedo.telecomitalia.com) is TIM’s crowdfunding platform that promotes and supports the funding of digital projects by individual citizens, businesses, and for profit and non-profit institutions in the fields of social innovation, digital culture and environmental protection. The Company, in addition to making the technological platform available, undertakes to contribute 25% (up to a maximum of 10,000 euros) towards the financing of published projects that reach their financial target, and provides strong communication support and visibility, also through special dedicated initiatives. In 2016, a total of around 850,000 euros was raised.
Moreover, at the end of August WithYouWeDo helped to create unaiutosubito.org, the crowdfunding platform for raising funds for victims of the earthquake that struck central Italy several times. The initiative was highly successful, raising over 1,300,000 euros and thereby setting the world record for raising funds for earthquake victims through crowdfunding.
TIM also continued with its activities in the dissemination of innovative technology to schools: as a partner of Fondazione Mecenate it participates in ‘Programme the Future’ to encourage the introduction of computational thought and coding in schools; the commitment is broken down into economic support, communication actions and corporate volunteering through its employees. In 2016 TIM also launched ‘At digital school with TIM’: a two-year project in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR) to introduce teachers to digital innovation, thereby permitting new educational opportunities, as better described in the chapter on Digital Culture of this report:
Research and development in Brazil
In the last three years, TIM Brasil has invested more than 16 billion reais, most of which in innovative infrastructures. The business plan for the three years 2017-2019 envisages investments of around 12 billion reais, almost entirely in the development of the country’s 3G and 4G networks, with the aim of reaching cover of more than 92% of the urban population by 2019.
At TIM Brasil, Research and development is carried out by the Innovation & Technology department - headed by the Chief Technology Officer - numbering 27 telecommunications engineers, electrics and electronics engineers, IT experts and other technicians of varying origin, competence and experience, which cover all the network operations, pursue the innovative needs and provide support to R&D. The main responsibilities of this department are the definition of the network’s technological innovation, the evolutionary needs for new technologies and devices and the architectural guidelines together with the development of strategic partnerships, so as to exploit the new business models and guarantee the evolution of the network infrastructures according to business strategy.
In terms of infrastructures, one important result was the constitution of the Innovation Lab, which consists of a multi-purpose test environment based in Rio de Janeiro, which is able to guarantee the assessment/validation of innovative services, products and technologies, certifying their functional efficiency and performance and developing new models and configurations, consolidating the innovation flow. The Innovation Lab plays a strategic role in providing support for the conduct of Credibility Test, Trials and Proof of Concept, for the validation of the services in collaboration with the main suppliers of technology and partners, through the sharing of knowledge and the technological infrastructures for interoperability tests, the assessment of capacity and the definition of technical requirements; in synergy with the R&D department, it facilitates innovation and promotes collaborations with universities and research institutes.
In 2016 206 validation and innovation projects were completed, which will tend to increase in view of the extensive range of innovation and research and development initiatives underway. In this sense, the latest technological plan approved (2017-2019), envisages investments in excess of 24 million reais in this project, which also includes the construction of a new Innovation centre (at the Corporate Executive Offices complex) in Barra da Tijuca, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, a building with a surface area of 650 square metres able to accommodate more than 60 people. This new office, which will operate as a national reference point for R&D activities will host technicians and researchers and will be used as an open space of innovation for new opportunities and the development of innovation for the Brazilian telecommunications market.
The Innovation & Technology department has worked on projects aiming to ensure the evolution of the business of TIM Brasil through the recommendation of sustainable, efficient network platforms and “disruptive” models, including anticipating the availability of new services. The main developments are set out below. The reassignment of the 1,800 MHz spectrum from 2G to 4G is bringing about three important competitive advantages for TIM Brasil:
1) reduction of costs for LTE deployment;
2) increased LTE coverage area;
3) improved indoor coverage.
In addition to the expansion of coverage, use of the 1,800 MHz bandwidth can increase the capacity in cities already covered by the LTE bandwidth at 2.6 GHz, at only a small additional cost. Another important consideration in this scenario is that 70% of current LTE terminals are already compatible with the bandwidths 1,800 MHz and 2,600 MHz, hence the implementation of LTE 1,800 MHz benefits from the dissemination of devices.
The deployment of the LTE 700 MHz layer will result in significant expansion of the coverage and indoor penetration, promoting the presence of LTE throughout the national territory and consolidating TIM Brasil’s leadership in LTE. The actual rollout will follow the rules dictated by the EAD (Entidade Administradora de Processo de Redistribuição e Digitalização de Canais de TV e RTV) in order to manage the spectrum cleaning and avoid interference problems with the analogue TV transmission service. 64% of the devices used by the current users of TIM Brasil services are enabled for the 700 MHz bandwidth. In June 2016, TIM Brasil activated its first commercial LTE 700 MHz network in the city of Rio Verde, which makes it one of the first Brazilian operators to explore this frequency bandwidth.
As part of the IP Multimedia Network Evolution, thanks to tests conducted in the past at the Innovation Lab to evaluate the IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem, solutions focused on functional tests, specific analyses and interoperability with the so-called “legacy system”), TIM Brasil was able, in 2016, to set up the functional infrastructure to provide services such as Voice over LTE (VoLTE)2 and Wi-Fi Calling, which allow calls to be made without the need to pass through switched lines, also taking advantage of the extremely widespread presence of Wi-Fi connections.
As regards the Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)3 and Software Defined Networks (SDN)4 some initiatives were launched, such as the creation of the “TIM Brasil NFV Program” developed through four working groups (established on the basis of the logical domains and competencies of the NFV) which have a mandate to define technical requirements, infrastructural plans, roadmaps of the virtualised network functions, “open lab” specifications and reference architecture compliant with the ETSI standard on NFVs. In this context the first “Virtual Network Function” made available was the “messaging/VAS Consolidation” followed by IMS and the roaming services platform developed following the NFV approach. Other virtual functions, such as PCRF (Policy and Charging Rules Function)5. Preliminary studies are also being conducted on the different approaches to the Software Defined Networking aimed at the creation and full orchestration of the Cloud environment. The main drivers that push the adoption of these innovative network approaches are reduction of the CAPex/OPex, faster time to market, optimization and boosting innovation.
In the upcoming years mobile networks will have to handle an ever greater amount of traffic due in particular to the use of video content. In order to optimize the use of the network resources TIM Brasil has started to investigate LTE broadcast technology6 which enables highly efficient video transmission. TIM Brasil has already implemented video transmission through the LTE mobile network in partnership with Ericsson, Samsung and Qualcomm and with the main Brazilian television networks.
The expansion of “4G RAN sharing”7 , in partnership with other Brazilian mobile operators, aims to define the architectural requirements, technical assumptions and specifications for the “RAN sharing” solution, optimising the network resources and costs. TIM has assessed RAN sharing solutions since 2007. Another powerful motivation is the need to extend the 2.6 GHz radio coverage to many cities in a short time, which requires the activation of many sites in compliance with regulatory requirements. Initially, tests were conducted in a controlled environment at the Innovation Lab and thereafter a pilot project was launched to assess other technical problems.
Tests are being carried out to activate savings and energy efficiency solutions, which primarily concern the low traffic periods for the 2G, 3G and 4G access layers. The energy savings may be up to 10% per site, depending on the access technology and the coverage conditions.
1 In 2015, “Dono per...” was established, a limited liability consortium company founded by Telecom Italia, Vodafone Italia and Wind to deal with initiatives for the raising and distribution of funds for charity as well as loans to political parties or movements, as envisaged by the new legislation. The company is a non-profit organisation and, therefore, any operating profit are used for social projects. The new legal entity guarantees a standardised, shared approach with regards to non-profit organisations, political parties, institutions and the media. The Consortium is open to adhesion by other telecommunications operators.
2 The amount collected by the date the 2016 Sustainability Report was presented, has been estimated; moreover, the amount collected is not directly attributable to the campaigns run in the calendar year due to the time lag between invoicing and payment
3 VoLTE is a technology that allows voice calls to be made on the LTE (4G) network, based on the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) architectural model. The quality of the calls is better with respect to the past also thanks to the wider bandwidth spectrum reserved for the conversations.
4 The NFV benefits from the typical virtualization technologies of the IT world, in order to allow several network applications to share the same hardware and to ensure greater operational flexibility through the use of automated tools for managing the life cycle of the infrastructure and services.
5 Software Defined Networking is a technique that transforms traditional networks into flexible and smart platforms to respond in real time to the bandwidth requirements and the dynamic nature of the modern applications.
6 PCRF refers to the software node authorized in real time to determine the policy rules in multimedia network environments.
7 It represents an evolution of 4G that enables new generation “mobile TV.” The new technology makes high definition video and multimedia content usable and, with a single data flow, delivers multimedia content to a potentially unlimited number of mobile users.