Telecom operators naturally place the network and themselves as central to a customer problem; whether it’s delivering the critical mobile phone call or creating an enterprise WAN. Yet in the last 15 years  a telco operator’s core products have moved from being central to a direct customer relationship to becoming peripheral add ons or hidden infrastructure to another’s ‘shiney’ products. For my teenage son a phone call has become a peripheral free add on to Snapchat. For an internet start up an ethernet data centre connection is the difficult slow part of participating in the public cloud.

The idea that network and its management can be created as software on demand seems to be changing very little about the fundamental business and operational model of a telecom operator and the architectures that support them. Yet it is possibly the critical capability that would enable an operator to become valued in the internet economy; countering commoditisation and marginalisation. If we continue to simply build virtual network as a replacement of physical networks and bolt this to the existing business and operational model we will miss the opportunity to really insert telecom operator value into the next wave of internet innovation. 5G and IoT’s 50B devices, are great opportunities to enable innovation. However, bolted onto the same telco operational and business model they are simply technology rather than something a customer will buy and value!

Are we already too late? Have we already passed the black hole event horizon, where the external world cannot see or care about our value added capabilities, our inevitable destination the singularity of being utility dumb pipe providers.

Alternatively do we have one last chance to change trajectory and properly insert network software value into the internet economy, an economy where there is no network, BSS or OSS only software services and applications?

Francis Haysom

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