Editor's note: Setting telecom standards for network infrastructure is exacting work and takes a long time. The pace has picked up tremendously, however, and traditional telecom carriers are finding increased competition from over-the-top (OTT) players that can launch services quickly, without months of concern about network equipment interoperability. By establishing "procurement zones," telecom providers are changing their traditional procurement strategy and the telecom supply chain itself to better compete with OTT players, avoid standards-setting delays, and give preferred vendors more responsibility for equipment and network interoperability.
For decades, networks have been built in a planned evolution driven by changes in technology and the opportunity to sell services. To insure that equipment costs were controlled and that exposure to vendor failure was minimized, most network operators have routinely created multi-vendor networks and relied on established telecom industry standards to support the integration of their network devices.
In a major shift for the industry, the creation of procurement zones by telecom network operators is driving change in telecom procurement strategies in order to respond to changes in the relationship of the network to services and revenue.
Most current network infrastructure deployments support a "convergence" mission, creating a single transport/connection architecture onto which services are overlaid. The overlay services are created by a hybrid of network equipment and information systems technology (software and servers or Service Delivery Platforms). The goal of this structure is to contain service-specific capital and operations expense while maximizing the flexibility to deal with evolving service opportunities.
Another major change is that these evolving services are increasingly consumer driven rather than enterprise, and come and go very quickly. This change in the mission of networks has created a basic tension for operators: Standards can't evolve fast enough to guarantee the interworking of vendor equipment at the device level, and the number of devices in the network is exploding.