Telcos today have figured out, to some extent, the need to partner. Partner with content providers, with OTT providers, with device makers and network vendors, partner with each other, and so on. But they haven't gone far enough and the execution has room for improvement.
The reasons are multiple. Habits developed over decades of (profitably) doing business in a particular way die hard. Yet, a radical shift in strategic thinking is what's needed in today's environment.
Lately telcos have not been particularly good at innovating, and it's high time they stop trying. Digital and global economies have enabled any start-up with the right attitude and access to capital, talent and a suitable ecosystem, all readily available nowadays across the globe, to out-innovate the largest telcos. And they can do so at much lower cost and much higher velocity - unless we're talking about the few telcos with giant markets and bottomless resources, but even then, they should stop trying to innovate.
I'd go further - telcos should dismantle their R&D teams. Given their track record and available opportunities, why go on wasting precious resources? Instead, spin off any team doing promising work and shut down all others. And then, partner with the spin-offs at arm's length.
Telcos will soon realize that people deliver more when freed from telco environments. Don't stop there. Create teams, hopefully consisting of many non-telco professionals, whose job is to scout, identify and negotiate partnerships with anyone who could help you differentiate and accelerate time to market for new services. One thing is clear: do not acquire. Quite the contrary, divest and focus on your core, which is serving your customers. Remember, you're a service provider.
The approach for partnership needs to be altered and dramatically accelerated. One thing telcos have yet to learn, at their own expense, is how to speed up decision-making. They mull over and over again on the what/why/how/when/who whenever faced with a decision to take. What's worse? Quite often they do nothing. Because they are incapable of making decisions and too busy hanging on to often obsolete business models, telcos prefer to put long overdue initiatives "on hold" and face paralysis.