Monday, December 11, 2006

Telecoms: The Next Decade? 

In the last decade the future of telecoms was ISDN and Intelligent Networks. This idea was quite sucessful in wireless networks e.g. GSM. The last killer application was SMS (and still nobody knows why).

In this decade the future is (was?) NGN, IMS and walled gardens = IN over IP. All incumbent standard bodies are very busy in specifying NGN and IMS - ITU-T, 3GPP, 3GPP2 and TISPAN.

Even the IETF got infected. They succeded in making SIP the standard voice protocol used by all other standard bodies - for the price of making it more complex then ISDN and SS7. ENUM WG is tumbling on the border between circuit-switching and Internet, but is used only in private networks. SPEERMINT is trying desperately to find solutions how to interconnect the walled gardens.

The basic idea here is:
  1. the public Internet cannot be used because it has no QoS and because it is dangerous (bad),
  2. nobody is allowed to know which users and numbers I host,
  3. I as a Service Provider interconnect only with a limited set of other SP - the ones I trust (to get money from).
In the meantime the Internet by-passed the Telcos right and left, startup companies like Yahoo, Google, Ebay, Skype, YouTube and thousands of others are overtaking the service oriented Telcos with their services - most of them in The Long Tail.

As my readers know, I was always sceptical about IMS:
  1. it is to complicated (=expensive), especially if implemented in a walled garden,
  2. it will never be finished or too late,
  3. all potential services are already available on the Internet (Me Too),
  4. QoS in the core is not necessary and in the access it will not work.
I told the Telcos to concentrate primarily on their core business:

provide access, because the current killer application is speed.

Now what IS the future of the Telcos in the next decade?:

Some of them seem to get the idea:

Reuters.UK is reporting from the ITU Telecom World 2006 two weeks ago, for the first time not taking place in Geneva, but in Hong Kong:

Telecom carriers go back to the basics: plumbing the Web.

Some statements:

The telecoms industry is struggling to adapt to the Internet age, and while some operators hope they can mimic the success of YouTube and Google, the bravest are toning down their ambitions and refocusing on plumbing the Web.

"The integrated telco model is broken. All innovation is coming from the edge of the Internet. It's coming from companies other than telecoms companies, from the likes of Google, Amazon," said James Enck, an analyst at Daiwa Securities in London

None of the big names in the Internet space have been born inside a telecoms company or, for that matter, any big corporation, observed Charles Dunstone, the chief executive of mobile phone retailer Carphone Warehouse at a communications conference in London.

"The existential crisis is that telcos are asking: what are we here for? Are we here to provide connectivity or are we here to provide all the other services?," said Stephen Young, analyst at market research group Ovum.

An operator like KPN from the Netherlands, a trend-setter in European telecommunications, is not even trying to make the elephant fly.
"Of course we need help from non-telco people, because it's a totally different world. We're not used to buying content, we're not used to set up the TV user interface and things like that," said Eelco Blok, responsible for the fixed line operations at KPN.

"We're leaving the walled garden behind us," said Frank Sixt at Hutchison Whampoa.

Another insight comes from the OFCOM conference Communications and Convergence:

where Ben Verwaayen CEO of BT made the following statements (citing John Horrocks):
  • there are real dilemmas in direction for telcos, are we seeing classical convergence of the start of a new industry?
  • 21C is a leap of faith without a safety net
  • investment lifetimes are falling from 20 years to 3 years and this is a huge commercial change
  • communications is about collaboration, lifestyle and productivity
  • unpredictable elements are user behaviour,
  • power is shifting to consumer over when, where, how information is delivered
  • networks need to be open (John's comment: please tell TISPAN!)
  • markets are international but not yet global
And LightReading is asking: Is the IMS honeymoon over?

and simply: IMS: Dead?

Light Reading published a column by Peter Heywood about a week ago, inviting vendors to submit IMS projects for an online album of case studies: Calling All IMS Vendors. The result? Not a single submission – and an email from an ex-CTO of an incumbent carrier questioning Heywood's sanity and stating:

"IMS is dead. What customers want is open voice over Internet… not a walled garden."

Of course all this insight may come too late already - or as Henry Sinnreich stated simply when I told him that some telcos might finally get the idea:

Yes, like the passengers on the TITANIC.

So, if KPN is the trendsetter and IMS is dead; how do you explain that KPN has bought and is running IMS already?
That KPN is a trend-setter is said by Reuters, that IMS is dead by LightReading.

Peronally - just coming back from ETSI TISPAN and knowing the status of standardisation of TISPAN IMS release 1 and 2 - I wonder what kind of IMS KPN has bought and what kind of IMS they are running
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