Is the communications services sector finally unshackling itself from the legacy cultural and operational practices that have been holding it back during the past decade?
There are signs that this is starting to happen, says Heavy Reading Chief Analyst Graham Finnie, who will take to the podium on the first morning of Light Reading's upcoming Big Telecom Event (BTE) in Chicago to examine the ever closer relationship between business and technology within communications service providers, and highlight the emerging signs of service innovation by telcos.
There certainly are signs that the relationship within telcos between marketing and IT/networks is becoming closer, and, believes Finnie, the shift to virtualization should help that. "But what's really important," he adds, "is whether the telcos can look beyond the pure technological gains they can get from virtualization. It's possible they could get more efficiencies from hardware, but what they really want is a more responsive business, one that can react more quickly to changes in customer requirements and connect the technology to the business.".
That shift towards virtualization is one that Finnie and his Heavy Reading team have been analyzing for years. "Heavy Reading has been at the forefront of this trend. As far as I can tell, Caroline Chappell [Heavy Reading Senior Analyst – Service Provider Cloud, SDN/NFV] noted before anyone else that IT was going to transform telecom network technology, and we are now at the start of that transformation. We recognized years ago the importance of SDN and virtualization. And during BTE we'll be talking about the results of a special survey to give us a picture of where we are today with virtualization in telecoms," says Finnie.
But is there any evidence that communications service providers are changing their ways, becoming more innovative and adopting new cultural and operational models?
"I've been cynical about their ability to do that in the past, but what we're starting to see is that the theoretical ideas about new services are starting to be translated into reality -- there's a lot more service innovation going on, especially by mobile operators, where they are creating new plans based on applications, or shared use of data, or buying service promotions on the fly, or sponsored data," says Finnie.
He says he has been "particularly cynical about sponsored data because it has taken operators forever to start building relationships with third parties but that's starting to happen now. Spotify has done lots of deals with service providers, there are a lot of Facebook-based services, and services based on Netflix or some other video service. In the next year or two we should see if that innovation is translating into improving business," which is something the operators need, because "especially in developed markets, they have experienced flat revenues and declining margins. The question is, can they reverse that? At least they have been coming out with new plans and ideas and for me that's a good sign -- maybe we are turning a corner," says Finnie.
Such moves by the operators are just down to new cultures and business plans. "Of course it's all underpinned by technology, so there is some evidence that the marketing people are driving more of the technology decisions than in the past. That couldn't happen without greater collaboration within the telcos. Vendors are saying they have been spending more time with the service provider marketing people than they used to: Sometimes that is driven by the vendors, being proactive about getting them involved, but that's often coming from the telcos themselves, which are becoming more driven by the marketing side that they used to be," notes the analyst.
Finnie will dig deeper into these trends and challenges during his BTE presentation at 9:05 a.m. on Tuesday, June 17. For full details of the event, see the BTE website.
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading