Do we let technology shape the future of the telecoms industry or do we let the market, partners, customers and business models have their say?

Thinking ahead to the shape of the telecoms industry as it emerges into digital reality, what sort of product portfolio business processes and supporting systems will be required? This is a chance to rethink the industry, recalibrate in the light of a shifting role for the world’s communications service providers and position for the long-term rather than for the quarterly shareholder demands.

  • Product portfolio:The history of telecoms is strewn with the corpses of failed offerings. ATM (Another Telecoms Mistake), MERLIN (Means Early Retirement Looks Even Nearer), let alone what X.25 or Frame Relay ever meant! Hiding behind technology is no longer acceptable. What is needed is a simplified portfolio of fixed and mobile broadband with easily understandable pricing (not tariffing) and an open approach to APIs. This will allow the entrepreneurialism of applications developers and associated services to be smoothly integrated.
  • Business processes: These evolved along individual service lines and in different lines of business (LOBs) with their own idiosyncratic support services. The industry is crying out for business processes that short-cut the traditional complexity of getting a service ordered, installed and delivered to the customer and supported through suitable customer service channels.
  • Systems:Much is made of building the ‘programmable platform’ needed by the future telecoms players. This blend of formerly separate IT and network-derived components is brought much closer by the blurring of lines between network and IT assets, cloud delivered functions and the web scale players disrupting the hitherto hardware-centric marketplace.
  • AI/Analytics:on top of all of this now comes the power of AI/analytics and the ability to predict network and IT activity and even throw light on the customer’s behaviour.

In my early days at Logica, we always had the acid test of ‘fitness for purpose’  – i.e. did the software do what it was supposed to do. The goal for the future telco is to have a programmable platform which can serve as the engine to drive all consumer, business and wholesale services whether they find themselves playing directly or indirectly in the wealth of emerging business models. This means building economies of scale across all the operating functions within the telco. From outside of the telecoms industry it appears there is a lot of slack built into the system!

Yes, simplification means driving a lot of cost out of the business. A simpler portfolio will be more easily presented to the marketing functions of the LOBs and will remove unnecessary complexity from the billing side. In fact, how about removing billing altogether, flat rate bundles and even ask a credit card company to deal with the billing (as suggested to me by Tier 1 telco CIO)?

Cloud partners provide the ideal hybrid approach to building the platform of the future. We simply cannot predict the traffic patterns that will result from individuals, households, businesses and the wealth of ‘Things’ connected to each.

My suggestion: let’s start thinking from the outside-in. What are our partners, customers and customers’ customers trying to achieve? And how can we, as the telecoms industry, make ourselves as easy as possible to work with? Thinking in current telco terms doesn’t help the rest of the world build trust in telco’s role in the digital world.

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