NGSP Review: The “Art of the possible” and the “Mantra of self-defeat”

corporate mantra NGSPThe Next Generation Service Platforms (NGSP) event brings together 3 events: Telecom APIs, Web Real-Time Communications & Legacy Networks Evolution. Given the fragmentation of events it was nice to see an event bringing all the service platform issues under one roof. It ran in Munich, 10-11th June 2014, just after TADHack, it was an interesting contrast from the “art of the possible” at TADHack to the “mantra of self-defeat.”

Dean Bubley did a good review of the event, focusing on the issues of the legacy mindsets that came out in force during the evening event Dean, Martin and I ran. Some middle managers act like guardians of the corporate mantra of self-defeat in service innovation. In the limit all I could say to their negativity is: “if your can not innovate in services then be and ISP.” Its clear people change in Telcos is as critical as technology and process change.

I show below a review of some of the presentations given.

  • Dominique from W3C gave a nice review of WebRTC. He highlighted in important aspect of WebRTC to Telecoms. Because its in the browser its easier for developers to become aware of it than Telecom APIs which have very slowly (and in some cases negatively) entered general developer awareness. But as I saw in TADHack, once a developer sees what is possible in adding communications into their apps, services and business processes with WebRTC; they then appreciate the ubiquitous access made possible of Telecom APIs to any mobile device. What this means is WebRTC must be part of Telcos’ service innovation platform and plans. Telcos need to understand WebRTC within their own organization and not rely on their suppliers. As an example of vendor mis-information, several operators think they need IMS BEFORE they can use WebRTC. This is incorrect, and demonstrates why operators can not rely on their IMS vendors for impartial strategic advice / guidance.
  • Mark from OpenCloud gave a great presentation on adapting to change. OpenCloud have maintained the same message for over a decade – telcos need a communications focused service innovation layer to manage the complex mess across legacy and multiple IMS platforms. The network is not atomic, it’s a mess, and the organization supporting it can not look beyond managing the current mess to deal with service innovation. A layer it required to separate the problem and enable an organization with the people and processes to innovate in services. Yet telcos continue to spend $Bs with their NEPS and expect small innovative companies to provide their software, expertise and insights for free. To move faster telcos need to divert some of that cash and spend it with the innovators.
  • The Future of Voice by Dean Bubley clearly set out the challenges faced by the industry and the problems with some of the current industry initiatives. We have to act together as an complete ecosystem to address the challenges, and the GSMA is NOT the right route. They lack the freedom to act commercially and the leadership team does not understand the emerging market: no WebRTC position, OneAPI mess, RCS mess, weak 2020 vision, same tired old roaming model on voice and data, etc.
  • Andreas from Telefonica gave a great presentation on Telco API Architects Anonymous. He backed up a recurrent theme that we have to work together – in an open way that brings the all components of the ecosystem together. And I thank Andreas for recognizing TADSummit and TADHack are part of that approach.
  • Turker gave a good review of Turkcell’s API progress with quantification on the numbers of partners, transaction and importantly enterprises using their APIs.
  • Antonio from Telefonica gave an important review of the challenges in deploying VoLTE. Put simply the core network guys have enough on their plate in managing IMS, VoLTE and NFV on the horizon. Service innovation has to be a separate group within a telco, with adequate budget and with a different group of suppliers. Else service innovation will always be compromised by the legacy business trying to maintain its revenues, e.g. you need IMS to be able to do that, when clear that is a self-serving lie.
  • Antonio from Portugal Telecom gave an excellent review of their Service Delivery solution. He clearly shows its about IT technology NOT specialized Telecom tech that works. If you have a vendor talking SDP at you, its best to avoid them as they’re going to suck you dry in professional services fees and non-delivery. PT have delivered a common services infrastructure across all networks and end-points. And its mostly self-built using off the shelf IT software, including open source projects. Just like most web companies like Amazon and Google. They have 700 Services using it and about 23% growth YoY.  Its a great example of the importance of taking control of your destiny. PT are now focused on a range of bundled cloud services, this is worth watching as many telcos have struggled to be successful in offering me-too cloud storage. PT is focused on a range of local bundled cloud services – it will be interesting to see what market share they win. Initial performance of those offers appears quite positive.
  • Stefan (sorry to pick on you) from GSMA gave a review of OneAPI. The fact the GSMA continues to use the OneAPI logo, even after the standardization work has ceased.  Just look at the constant innovation in the Twilio, Nexmo and Tropo APIs. The GSMA is NOT the right institution or vehicle for Telecom API federation. My recommendation remains to use multiple channels, e.g. Nexmo, Tropo, Twilio, AT&T, Telefonica, Amazon, Pubnub, etc. and let the market decide, not some desk-jockeys in the GSMA. I find in my travels some poor VP that’s been indoctrinated by the GSMA on OneAPI that I have to frankly explain some market realities that rest of his colleagues already understand (and attend the meeting in the hope of watching a fun fight) that OneAPI was an important learning exercise but the market has moved on several years ago. We have to respond to change faster.
  • Mario from Telecom Italia reviewed Telecom Italia’s NetAPI. They are clearly following the approach of Antonio from Portugal Telecom and Telefonica in taking a much more web-centric model. Though subtle the key messages Mario left us with are: its not an SDP, open source and revenue share are going to play a greater role, enterprise (see Turkcell slides) will play a greater role.

Overall, the event showed an industry in slow transition. The corporate mantra of self-defeat in service innovation is still the loudest, the legacy institutions are ill-equipment to help the industry manage the change in its business, and the legacy lines of business are still trying to mis-inform and mis-represent what is required for service innovation. But there are increasing numbers of people, who are building solid service innovation businesses by adopting web-based technologies, processes and people. It is painfully slow, but change is happening, we can control our destiny, and adding telecom capabilities to apps, services and business processes is immensely powerful as shown on the TADHack YouTube channel.