Partnering and the telcos that walk the walk

Derek Kerton/TM Forum
01 Oct 2014

By now everybody knows, in theory at least, that the concept of NIH (Not Invented Here) should be put to rest. Gone are the days of vertically integrated solutions, where one company does R&D and builds the complete offering for the consumer. Open technologies, IP based communications, and fast-moving competitors have forced all industry players to disaggregate their solutions, and re-build using best-of-breed components from the most qualified vendors.

The problem remains that, in the largest of organizations, the NIH momentum is still palpable, and it’s not always the case that partnerships which make a lot of sense, are actually made and implemented all the way to deployments. Big companies also prefer to deal with a smaller number of established vendors, as opposed to multitudes of smaller partners. As recently as 2006, one major carrier actually outsourced its handling of developer partners to a third party company in another city — essentially outsourcing their innovation as something not worthy of their own attention. Things have come a long way since then, and even that carrier now has incubators and a multitude of programs to interact – directly – with start-ups and innovators.

Today’s leading mobile operators are no longer just talking the talk about “partnerships” or “capturing innovation”, they are walking the walk. Market forces and the rapid pace of change have killed the ability for an internal R&D group to even pretend like they can fully keep up. In Silicon Valley, at least 35 large global telecom carriers have set up field offices, trying to be even closer to the innovators there, with the obvious goal of making the right partnerships, and making them faster.

These carrier efforts bear fruit. R&D today means being part of an innovation community, having open lines of communication, spotting winners in the crowd, and choosing new partners to build on existing platforms, or to launch new ones. Is this for real? Sprint made a deal with gaming app ecosystem company PlayPhone, Telstra made a deal to modernize their billing with Matrixx, Verizon made a deal with Mojave around improving mobile security, and Vodafone made a deal with Argyle Data around leveraging Big Data and real-time analytics. These case studies and many others are available to the public at the TC3 Summit on Oct 1-2 in Silicon Valley.

It’s true that carriers aren’t making hundreds of deals each per year, but the deals mentioned above could never have occurred a decade ago. Today’s best carriers are not just making partnerships, but are re-architecting their networks and operations in order to be able to partner and adopt even faster in the future.

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