Telcos Go Pro? No!
Industry-specific services attacking vertical markets are becoming more common, while managed services -- especially in key areas such as security -- are almost table stakes. Service providers are adding IT and industry expertise to their service rosters as a matter of course.
One key growth area for the near future is in helping enterprises make the transition to IPv6, by offering consulting services that identify where changes need to be made, what equipment needs to be purchased or upgraded, and how to best handle existing applications into which IPv4 addresses have been embedded.
When going this deep into an organization, don't telecom service providers begin to compete with systems integrators, consultants, and other professional services personnel?
According to Ron Spears, president and CEO of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s Business Solutions group, there's a not-so-fine line that companies such as his have to avoid crossing... for their own sake.
The problem is that, while enterprises are used to hiring consultants or others and paying them rates of $250 an hour for their expertise, when that consulting expertise is embedded within a telecom service provider, many companies expect to get it for free. (See AT&T: Mobility, Network Capacity & Fun.)
So while AT&T has acquired some companies -- USI, for example, and the security services business of VeriSign -- for the expertise of their employees, it only does so in specific areas where that expertise is a billable quality, as it is in the security realm where companies pay for professional assessments.
"You are not going to see a 'Let's go buy a big professional services company' from us," Spears assures. "I would lose the value of whatever talent I bought."
Telecom service providers are thus challenged to bring in industry-specific expertise and make sure they know exactly how they will monetize those efforts. Going beyond the fat pipe isn't just a matter of adding value, but adding value for which businesses will pay.
— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading