Over the last couple of years, over-the-top (OTT) voice and messaging applications have gained traction, so much so that Hollywood's own Ashton Kutcher is firing off warning shots to the wireless carrier community, telling them at CTIA they are in danger of losing business to a decentralized model of OTT players offering a better, cheaper user experience.
This is sage guidance from a person who is refreshingly well qualified to deliver it, given Kutcher's extensive and successful venture capitalist background, focusing on cutting-edge technology such as Dwolla, milk, Airbnb and others.
But let's step back. Are traditional telcos really that far behind the times? Are OTT providers really that far ahead? The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Industry experts are pointing a finger at traditional telecom suggesting they take a page from OTT, using a laundry list of critiques. But there is a flip side to that coin.
The fact is, even with the buzz around the latest OTT startups, there is a great deal to learn from traditional telecom; the things telecom providers have done to become one of the most stable and established industries in the world. Some of these lessons include:
Each lesson requires a nimble internal structure that is open to introspection and change as new regulations surface. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. OTTs will also need to respond to operators' network reliability, service quality and device availability -- features that are harder to simply emulate -- if they want to disrupt a crowded marketplace.
— Steve Leonard, EVP & GM, Bandwidth.com