Telcos that fail to take advantage of new open source platforms might not be around in the next ten years, according to a senior executive from broadband equipment vendor Adtran.
Speaking at today's Broadband World Forum in London, Ronan Kelly, Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN)'s chief technology officer for the EMEA and APAC regions, warned service providers they risk suffering a similar fate to the handset businesses of BlackBerry and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) unless they adapt to new market realities.
Finland's Nokia famously quit the handset market in 2014, when it sold its handset business to Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), while BlackBerry announced it September that it would stop making devices.
Both organizations were decimated by the entry of Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) into the handset arena, and Kelly thinks service providers are now under the same kind of threat from so-called over-the-top (OTT) players that have taken a platform-based approach to the market.
Lauding the efforts of open source networking groups such as CORD and Open Daylight, Kelly said operators could take advantage of technologies like SDN and NFV that have "emanated" from the web-scale Internet companies. "We have bodies helping to standardize this so that it doesn't end up like the Wild West and that way we'll get network effects and ensure developers can secure a return for their efforts," he said.
Kelly also singled out the work of the The New IP Agency , a not-for-profit group that has been carrying out interoperability tests on NFV products from a number of different vendors.
Adtran is hardly the first organization to focus attention on open source -- which has fast become a buzz-phrase in the industry -- but Kelly's examples of other businesses that have been disrupted by the emergence of platform players should make operators sit up and take notice.
The impact that Uber and Airbnb have had on the taxi and hotel industries respectively illustrates how quickly change can occur. Blockbuster Inc. , a DVD rentals business that once had 9,000 stores worldwide, has all but disappeared since being knocked off its perch by Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), notes Kelly.
Telcos need to act now, he says, because of the transition that is occurring as next-generation access technologies are introduced into commercial networks. "Access technologies tend to move in generations and the key thing is that each of those generations usually lasts a decade," said Kelly. "If you miss the opportunity to define open then you will be locked out for another decade before you can bring the innovation you need to compete with the OTTs."
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading