Who are Tomorrow's Telcos?

Most people who work in the telecom industry do not really need to know too much about industry trends, as much as some of us like to think they do. Most people have jobs that do not require such knowledge, as important as such knowledge might be for those in “C” suites, industry and financial analysts, and some on the staffs of banks and equity underwriters.

Sales forces who actually have direct contact with customers do need some industry knowledge, but more product focused. A salesperson might well need to know at a high level if, when and how a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) complements or replaces MPLS, for example.

A salesperson might need to have some high level knowledge of how enterprise conferencing systems work, and the advantages or disadvantages of cloud versus premises solutions, based on enterprise size and workforce deployment.

So at the risk of being irrelevant, here’s a look at just one of the biggest business model changes shaping the fortunes of what we used to call the “telecom” industry (again, with the caveat that not even C-level executives in every single segment of the business need to know this).

Perhaps the most-startling change is that the “telecom” providers are not necessarily the only entities now providing telecom services. In the internet of things arena, there are specialized IoT networks such as SigFox that operate on unlicensed spectrum.

In some countries, Google or Facebook operate as commercial internet service providers. In the United States, Google is a fixed network and wireless internet services provider. In some markets there might also be local government-owned or supported internet access, voice and video networks.

Also, in the 5G era, large enterprises and venues will be able to build and operate their own private 4G and 5G networks, operating very much as enterprise Wi-Fi networks presently work, using unlicensed or in some cases licensed spectrum (Citizens Broadband Radio Service in the United States, other similar shared spectrum possibilities in Europe and elsewhere).

There will other changes. In the coming era of software-defined networks (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV), connectivity will be something akin to an object, as that concept is used in modern programming.

To create functionality, a developer combines various objects (compartmentalized functions). There are many advantages, aside from the ability to reuse existing code. Object-oriented programming allows developers to spend more time thinking about what they want applications to do, and less time creating the code to do so.

The frequent metaphor is an automobile. People can drive cars without knowing how engines and transmission systems work.

Here’s the application to telecom services: in a virtualized context, an entity can assemble full connectivity functionality by assembling pieces of discrete existing networks, without building a new physical network.
That might allow an enterprise to assemble all the building blocks of a global network, creating a virtual network that acts like a physical network.

Source: Nokia Bell Labs

In case the implications are not clear, it will be possible for an Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google or any other enterprise to create its own telecom network services by assembling the functions and integrating them.

Open networks, virtualized networks, software-defined functions and physical facilities that might be owned by any number of providers (traditional telecom and others) will enable such capabilities.


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