ORLANDO, Fla. -- COMPTEL Plus Fall 2013 -- One of the things I've always liked about the Comptel Plus show is that it is a show for competitive carriers by competitive carriers, so the carrier execs are there. And because most of them grew up in the competitive carrier space, they tend to be a bit more opinionated -- or willing to share their opinions, at any rate.
And this time around I wasn't disappointed by the thoughts, often volunteered, about some of the "hottest" trends in telecom. To wit:
Carrier Ethernet: Ethernet has been a game-changer for telecom. And we have an entire event next week that grew out of the development of Carrier Ethernet. Know who's unimpressed? Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT) CTO Jack Waters.
Waters says Carrier Ethernet "didn't get the widespread adoption that was expected," and that in today's market, the distinction between Carrier Ethernet and what was developed for the enterprise has blurred substantially."It lacked value and a supply chain," Waters insists. "The economics were never as good. All the volumes are in the enterprise and if carriers want to buy a version of Ethernet, the lines between what they are buying and enterprise Ethernet are blurred."
Small cells: Everyone knows small cells are a major trend in wireless, and just about to take over the planet... or not, says Tower Cloud Inc. SVP of business development George Townsend.
"There hasn't been the explosion in small cells everyone expected," Townsend says. "There may be 20 nodes here and 15 modes there, but a lot of what was supposed to be small cells has been addressed by indoor DAS [distributed antenna system].
Interference issues have loomed that prevented small cells from delivering the improvements in coverage and capacity that wireless carriers expected, Townsend says. At this point, he sees small cells as "a solution looking for a problem," although he concedes the interference issues and other complications can still be worked out."
Software defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV): Multiple carrier executives downplayed their interest in the twin trends of virtualization, saying they don't yet see the relevance for those mostly engaged in transport networks right now.
That's not surprising, according to Joe Cumello, CMO of Cyan Inc. , and Patrick Ostiguy, CEO of Accedian , two companies that are suppliers to the competitive space, and that are also heavily engaged in SDN/NFV development. Comptel Plus doesn't tend to attract the IT executives from the carriers, and they are the folks who are going to be most interested in cutting their capex costs by moving to commercial off-the-shelf hardware and specialized software. Ostiguy told us:
These guys are tired of all the different appliances, most of which run on Linux PCs, but all of which have different service elements, different sparings, and different warranty and replacement schedules. If they could have two vendors, for vendor honesty sake, at the hardware level, for IT and in the datacenter, they'd do it.
The competitive carriers are driven by what their customers want and Cumello says those serving datacenter interconnection and similar markets are probably hearing from their customers about the need for more flexible services, which will push them in the direction of SDN and NFV. Those serving other markets might not be hearing it yet, but he's convinced they will.
And that's this year's contrarian report from Comptel.— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading