The Huns are coming, what is real innovation

12 Dec 2013

Top 10 things heard at Telecom Asia’s Insight Summit:

1. Olivier Carnohan, emerging businesses intrapreneur, SingTel Group Enterprise, explains his new job title: “An intrapreneur is actually a little bit of an idiot. He’s someone who does the work of an entrepreneur without the equity.”

2. Bubbly CEO Thomas Clayton: “We keep talking about OTTs. App companies don’t even know what that term means. OTT is what telcos call them. And if you ask Line, Skype, Viber, Facebook or Twitter, not one of them would say they are a competitor to an operator. It’s a one-way competition here.”

3. Nick Pilbeam, director of PwC’s TMT Center of Excellence: “Real innovation isn't about deploying networks – any phone company can do that. Real innovation is asking yourself, why do I have x many call centers and shop fronts? Why isn't all that online? Innovation is how the business operates.”

4. Karan Hendrik Ponnudurai, chief innovation officer at Axiata Digital, compares the OTT trend to Attila the Hun’s invasion of Eastern Europe, leaving telcos with three choices: “Pray to the regulators for deliverance, fight to the death, or say “Shit happens, the Huns are coming and hopefully we can work with them to survive”.”

5. Amrish Kacker, partner at Analysys Mason: “There’s now a recognition that innovation isn’t going to come from within, it’s going to come from more innovative external companies. But to filter that and add to their portfolio is where telcos struggle. Because it costs money and they don’t have an unlimited budget to take every interesting idea.”

6. SingTel’s Carnohan talks about why telcos don’t partner well: Quoting a McKinsey consultant, “telcos are like white blood cells that kill everything that isn’t telco.”

7. PwC’s Pilbeam: “Telcos went flat rate because no body could account for it in the back-office. Going forward we’ll have variable rate pricing whether you like it or not, and we’ll end up paying for what we use.”

8. Carnohan: “Telcos have a margins culture. We’ve been sitting fat and happy for many years, and every time an OTT partnership was on the table, we thought it would be margin diluted and we’d walk away. That culture has to change.”

9. Bubbly’s Clayton on the speed of innovation from carrier initiatives like WAC, Joyn and RCS: “Governing by committee is too slow and just doesn’t work. They just spawn more sub-committees and nothing ever gets done.”

10. Carnohan: “I’m not a fan of having more than three telcos in a room doing a standard. Anytime more than three are involved, I think it will fail.”

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