NFV a dominant theme at this year's TM Forum Live

This year's TM Forum Live conference in Nice has come to a close after three and a half days of networking, keynote presentations, business lunches and deal making, not to mention dinners in some of the world's most stunning coastal locations.

It's not always easy to condense an event into a few words, but in the case of the former Management World show, key buzzwords immediately spring to mind: NFV--the much-discussed Network Functions Virtualisation--big data analytics, and the digital enterprise.

The real star of the show was NFV: the TM Forum dedicated an entire day of workshops to investigate how operators can change their organisations to become more agile and nimble in future, by virtualising certain elements of their networks.

Although the clear message was that NFV cannot be a "rip and replace", and is a highly transformational and risky process for operators, many industry experts also believe that NFV has already begun, and will be increasingly pervasive throughout networks in the coming two to three years.

Standards are a whole other matter, however: Ken Dilbeck, TM Forum vice president of strategy, said interoperability among vendors and the development of standards is a much bigger question and isn't here today

Big data was also a much-discussed theme: As noted by comScore's SVP Brian Jurutka, last year questions were still being asked about what big data actually is. Now, companies are at the stage of examining what are the best use cases for big data, and how mobile operators, for example, can exploit their vast databases of customer and network data to improve how they actually provision services to customer.

Microsoft, for example, told FierceWireless:Europe that it believes it is in a very strong position with respect to its big data analytics approach because of its role as both a service provider and vendor: "We are eating our own dog food," said Rick Lievano, worldwide director of industry technology strategy for the Microsoft Telecommunications Sector.

Based on a recent study it commissioned from IDC, Microsoft also believes that telecoms and media companies are sitting on a potential "data dividend" worth $235 billion (€172 billion) over a four-year period, provided they make better and smarter use of the data they gather from and about customers on a daily basis.

Microsoft is far from the only company jumping on the big data analytics bandwagon: comScore, which has typically provided consumer usage statistics, is also now in the analytics game and offers a product line that it says helps mobile operators "transform their data into subscriber-centric business intelligence for marketing, customer care and network teams".--Anne