Five events that changed telecom

Tom Nolle, CIMI Corp
10 Jun 2008

It might have taken millions of years of grinding through the evolutionary mud to produce the T. Rex but an asteroid wiped him out in the geological equivalent of a moment. So it is with the telecom industry. Progress may be made through long-lived and (let's face it) boring processes but sometimes it's a major event that really sets the stage for the future. Even flashy things sometimes have substance.

It may well be that 2007 was a pivotal year in telecom and a few key events created the pivot. The trends these events started will whirl through the industry for the rest of this decade and beyond. Here are the top five events that changed the industry. You may or may not like the repercussions but better to deal with them now and take the appropriate action.

Like all market ecosystems the telco networking ecosystem is driven by the ebb and flow of dollars and these five events changed the course of those flows this year which will cut new channels in the market of the future.

1. Voice services diagnosed with terminal disease. Over the last five years hopeful operators and vendors had been telling us that maybe TDM wireline voice was dead but something other than TDM was alive maybe somewhere like mobile instead of wireline. Wrong. Spell after me: D-E-A-D. Vonage and Skype prove that you can't make next-gen wireline voice profitable. Alcatel-Lucent is proving that if wireless voice is profitable somehow the service providers aren't using the profit to build more of it.

Sometimes you just have to let go and the pivot this event creates is the pivot toward non-voice services. With revenue per bit falling by 50% per year operators should have realized long ago that something that consumed a few crummy kilobits per second wasn't going to provide much long-term financial stability. Well now they know and that means starting in 2008 we'll see business planning for a non-voice future which is good since that's exactly what we're going to have in a financial sense.

2. Apple-Google unleashes a one-two punch at mobile. All the mobile operators were sitting comfortably in their IMS-colored walled gardens expecting that future services offered on mobile devices would be theirs to exploit. Apple's iPhone which works both on WiFi and standard wireless showed that handset vendors could create an alternate future. A dual-mode handset empowers municipal WiFi to bypass the mobile operators and forces those operators to recognize that there were strangers in the garden after all.

If they didn't get that point Google's Android and Open Handset Alliance sure brought it home. Google's alliance promises an open-source mobile device operating system with simply explosive future potential. The wireless operators were offered a choice—lend a hand in promoting a more open future or be rolled underneath the wheels as that future moves forward. There's can be no hiding under-featured data and content offerings under a walled garden's cover now.

Non-voice services from mobile operators will have to compete in a much more open world and that will create a mobile service revolution beginning next year. Built on what we might ask‾

3. PBT rises to challenge the Mighty MPLS and IP convergence paradigm. Everyone thought they knew the future was 'convergence' on 'IP ' but in 2007 without much fanfare ten of the ten top worldwide network operators decided to take a close look at Provider Backbone Transport (PBT). More of these commitments are becoming public every month the latest being NTT.

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