The winding down of Lumina networks is yet one more indication of the difficulties for small innovative companies selling to telcos. Telcos are simply too slow in innovating and risk averse to support these companies. Their buying culture reflects this, with a chasm between the technology led aspiration for new ideas/innovation and the reality that most spending remains with traditional “low risk” suppliers.
Telco culture remains a problem
It is somewhat ironic that this month, another initiative was announced to address innovation in telco – Accelerating Innovation in the Telecommunications Arena, The need for innovation is a key need for telcos to avoid becoming utility suppliers of connectivity to the internet. However, without a willingness to take on and financially sustain new suppliers, and their ideas, this is unlikely to occur. It would be good to see more of the courage of innovators, such as Lumina, being matched by service providers; the risks accepted yet supported, in pursuit of a truly common industry-level objective. We have several to choose from, yet progress is widely and repeatedly acknowledged to be short of everyone’s expectation.
Opensource is not free
Lumina’s business model was built on opensource and Open Daylight. Telco has been vocal in its desire for open source. However, too often this can become confused with a desire for “free” software. Successful opensource relies on creating a community that can sustain its development. Inherently this means more emphasis for companies, like Lumina, on services and support for the “free” software. Traditional suppliers can afford to participate in opensource on the promise of making up for the investment in other sales. Telcos need to find a way of sustaining the independent community in opensource initiatives, that need to rely wholly on the services and support for the opensource. We need more emphasis on a few sustained programmes with independent opensource suppliers and less emphasis on lots of small scale under funded science projects.
With Covid19 focusing telcos at their existing networks and suppliers, we fear that Lumina will not be the last telco focused small company to have trouble in the coming year. If service providers want a vibrant, innovative and diverse supplier community they need to find ways to sustain and grow investment in this community.