About Benoît Felten

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Benoît Felten is the co-founder and Chief Research Officer of Diffraction Analysis, a research and consulting firm that focuses on exploring the transformation in telecom access networks, the challenges it raises and the opportunities it presents. Benoît’s work is transverse and explores issues of technology choices, regulatory frameworks, service propositions, commercial approaches and shifts in the industry ecosystem. His customers are service providers, internet players, equipment vendors and local and national authorities all over the world.

"Smart City" is one of the trending buzzwords these days. Like all buzzwords, no one really knows exactly what it means, but let me venture a broad definition: a smart city is a city that strives to reinvent itself using technology to improve its efficiency, enhance the service it offers to citizens and visitors and adopt a more sustainable model.
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Google Fiber’s recent announcement about Austin, Texas and Provo, Utah has sparked a flurry of reactions from other service providers in the US. AT&T and Century made (somewhat dubious) assertions that they would match Google’s Gigabit. Comcast, Time Warner and Frontier on the other hand insisted that no one needs a Gigabit.
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A couple of months ago a screenshot of the control panel of Doc Brown’s Delorean time machine in Back to the Future II circulated on the internet with the date of the day. Turns out it was a hoax, and a recurring one for that matter because the real date that Marty and Doc fly out to in that movie is October 21st, 2015.
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There are many stories in business lore of companies failing because they tried to protect their legacy business against a new technology they could have implemented themselves. Probably the most emblematic example – and the one that will be used as a case study in business schools for many years to come – is Kodak. Kodak’s R&D invented and prototyped a digital camera back in 1975. The R&D guys didn’t know what to do with it, and the management only saw the risk to their film business and couldn’t conceptualize how users would relate to it (which, to be fair, wasn’t all that easy in pre-PC, pre-Internet days). My favorite part of that story is the comment in the technical description of the project:
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