The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, in the modern telecoms Wild West

By theoretical definition, we can see Telecommunications as an industry looking to apply technology means for communicating people, solving their communication problems and improving their life, by applying innovations made by the man from the physical elements in the best possible way. By practical definition however, we can really and simply see it as a business. A business supported by technology means, making money by satisfying some of the communication needs in the people. As obvious this might sound, modern telecoms for most operators, vendors, and consultants are all about being profitable or making the most money with the less cost, which is often (logically and unfortunately) the exact opposite of applying innovations in the best possible way for improving the users’ life.

Telecom Wild WestLucky for us the good news is there are some visionaries in the industry, who always try to think out of the box and differentiate themselves by pushing innovations every day, even when these might imply higher costs, or not so highly profitable business models. As we see financial crisis everywhere, we are fortunate the telecom industry is still among the ones having the highest investment and proposing the most innovations in technology in the world. What other industry can afford investing more than $300 billion per year and keep growing?

In the carriers’ world, the role of the Operators has always been the buyer or investor, the Good organizations who seek to attend their subscribers’ demands by buying or investing in developing the top innovations proposed in the market; some investing more for providing a better service, or some investing less being punished by global crisis. Call it better quality of experience (e.g. LTE, FTTH, Policy Management, etc.), call it new services (e.g. OTT, IoT/M2M, IMS, etc.), or call it higher reachability and coverage (e.g. Small Cells, White Space Spectrum, etc.) every year we see innovations applied by the CSP’s. These are being offered on a global scale, and often fighting for keeping and winning subscribers in highly competitive markets.

The sellers in the other hand are typically the Vendors, who also invest on developing new solutions that meets the operators’ demands, and give them tools to provide services. Some of these organizations have a massive scale and wide range of services, others a smaller scale and specific innovative services, but all propose their technical features in fight with costs and prices for being competitive, seeking to get the most profitability out of the products. The role of the vendors in modern telecoms is being the Bad, most of the times playing hardball for convincing the operators their products are the best, on a market that has gone mad due to globalization. Do you remember the last time a telecom trend like NFV/SDN produced such a fuss in the world, and had so many companies involved trying to make business out of it? Do you remember companies massively investing in new technologies like in the last years, and having to cut thousands of jobs some time later for not losing competitiveness in the industry? These are consequences of the new paradigms appearing in the modern telecoms.

The third element of what I like to call the modern telecoms’ game are the Consultants, who takes the role of the Ugly. These organizations are typically in the middle of operators and vendors, often making the hard jobs needed for implementing or adapting the solutions in the networks, and sometimes advising ones and others on the ways to keep the pace in the telecom market. The consultancy model has become a way for operators and vendors to externalize the resources, tasks, and often the problems. Every day it is getting more common to find whole areas in the operators being outsourced to consultancy or even vendor organizations, as an effort to cut spend and avoid risks and problems from human resources management.

 No matter if you are playing the Good, the Bad, or the Ugly, make sure your organization is ready for the modern telecom’s Wild West market, where technology and business profitability are more dependent to each other than ever before.