The need for an industry reset on services

Its 2015, in case you didn’t notice ūüėČ ¬†IMS is still not pervasive, tier 2 telcos continue to buy NEW soft-switches in preference to IMS as its too expensive / complex, and RCS is nowhere as discussed in this weblog¬†–¬†a big thank you to all the contributors in the comments. ¬†VoLTE is making slow, painful progress with little impact on customers’ experiences. ¬†Telco standards continue to restrict vendor supply and inflate prices (see IMS and RCS with tier 2 telcos voting with their feet). And the current BS on NFV is an industrial embarrassment, as discussed in this TelecomTV weblog.

Let’s get real on NFV, $1B of IMS software is $1B regardless of how you implement it. ¬†It only gets cheaper when you replace it with open source software that has been specifically designed for the cloud.¬†Virtually all the use cases showing “NFV works” (e.g. SBCs, app servers) are simple virtualization implementations that we’ve been doing for over a decade.

RCS is dead, it needs a reset, the comments in this weblog by experts who worked on RCS succinctly explain why it failed.

Though, I am impressed by the take-up of connect car in AT&T’s latest results, at 800k connections. Its a barmy proposition in my opinion, 30GB for $500 is crazy. ¬†But just like people buy in-car navigation systems for $2.5k to $5k when Google Maps is free and on their phone, rationality often does not apply. ¬†Telcos are able to sell data connections everywhere. ¬†And recently¬†20 operators in 15 countries launched 300Mbps Category 6 LTE-Advanced services, the pipes are getting dramatically fatter. ¬†If its selling connectivity or deploying radio access networks, we can not fault the industry ‚Äď its got that nailed.

But beyond that some parts of the large vendors, the standards bodies, and the GSMA are simply killing the industry on services. It doesn’t need to be this way, TADS shows we can lead in services, just review this summary from TADSummit with impressive keynotes from Khairil of Axiata Group, Amos from Axiata Group announcing the open sourcing of their API management infrastructure, Dialog sharing amazing service revenue growth with IdeaMart, and many many more.  The hacks from TADHack show impressive service thought-leadership that put the industry to shame Рjust compare Tim Panton’s Fragment hack with AT&T’s WebRTC demo at CES, and his review.  The world-first demo of IMS in minutes at TADHack remains the most popular video, and the follow-up world-first demo at TADSummit where the platform was then connected to a live network and a contest ran over the freshly provisioned network. The plans for TADHack in 2015 build on the many developer successes, as discussed in this weblog.

The GSMA should be addressing the services gap as a matter of urgency, they will not, they are pre-occupied with MWC and the thoughtless hype on wearables (peripherals) and claims of being the edge of innovation (sigh!) which continue to distract the from the real problems.

Most CTOs I talk with understand the situation we‚Äôre in, the challenge is CTOs have traditionally been within telcos “ministers without portfolio” as the operations guys resist any change and as they own the core revenue they always got their way. Given today’s yawning gap in service innovation compared to the web its clear this model is failing the future of the industry. CTOs need to band together and kick the industry into action on IMS, RCS, the mess of NFV, etc. ¬†Their job is to protect the industry’s future. ¬†The old ways of how the industry operates on services has failed and failed again ‚Äď its time for an industry reset on services. ¬†Else telcos should focus on the few things they remain good at, broadband and connectivity, just like the fixed ISPs did over one decade ago.

4 thoughts on “The need for an industry reset on services

  1. Ivelin Ivanov

    To add insult to injury, I can share a few observations from conversations I had last week with various companies at ITEXPO, Miami.

    * The IP PBX company perspective: “We sell the best and easiest to use IP PBX out there. But people still say its just another PBX. Its becoming hard to compete on features. We have 50 , they have 40. How do we differentiate? ”
    * The office deskphone manufacturer perspective: “We are doing well selling through our channel, but we would like to grow into higher margin products. There is only so much room to make profit with generic phones.”
    * The wholesale VoIP provider perspective. “Operating CLECs, selling DID inventory and traffic has been good for us but its becoming a zero sum business. We are not sure where things will be in 2-3 years.”
    * The OSS/BSS software vendor: “Calling cards used to be hot and made us money. No longer. Pre-paid used to be hot and we expended into it. Then we expanded into post paid. With margins shrinking our software is worth less to customers. What’s the next trend for billing?”
    * The telco application developer perspective: “We’ve been doing a lot of work for hire as an anonymous consultants for service providers. Money is good and we want to grow. How can we build brand awareness and reach more customers?”

  2. Patrice Crutel

    IMS is very complex. It is still not as easy as I guess it was presented to integrate new services.
    SIP is not really the easiest protocol for Apps.
    If you want to integrate for example existing Apps (for example IN services or even SIP apps)’ I can tell you that it can lead to complex orchestration in the IMS Core. If I take the example of VoLTE with its great concept of SIP Preconditions, I can tell you that it can bring you big headakes.
    IMS is too complex (too many functional entities) . If you want to allow service innovation’ you need to add an extra Service Layer for making the IMS Core agnostic. Creating API is the best solution. The Service Layer would map it to SIP… APi would be used by 3rd Parties and also internally.

    IMS is always evoluting. IMS is for sure not a cheap solution.
    / Patrice

    1. Alan Quayle Post author

      Good points Patrice, real time communications over multiple networks is complex regardless of standards and technology options. And SIP Preconditions is creating challenges for the whole industry, though I remain surprised at the lack of open discussion on the topic.

      IMS is always evolving, but its always adding more and more stuff, rather than making its simpler and better fit for purpose. There’s a time on all long-run software projects when its time to make a break from the past, to start anew, else end up like Microsoft Windows.

      1. Patrice Crutel

        Good point Alan
        IMS is becoming more and more complex. It is directed by too many standards too complex sometime to be understood (which create for sure misunderstanding).
        IMS should have been thought just as a SIP router (why spliting it into so many entities…).
        You wonder sometime if IMS has been done just for avoiding the operators to try to understand it and to have so many release i.e. huge amount of money spent for just having a Call Control Sesion handler… but no new services…
        Do we really need some standard for webRTC GW… I don’t think so…
        please, stop writing so many complex standards… Be more simple…
        The communication cannot remain as it is i.e pure voice (even if it is improved with codecs..).
        The evolved comm shall consider new devices fixed and mobile (webRTC ??? some light RCS features ???), reachibility (I am always reachable everywhere, everytime… (webRTC, Voice & Video Mail ??? Discovery Capability…)), interoperability ( Comm between any device and any technology . webRTC GW, Social Network GW), Opening to 3rd Party for voice, visio and messaging (webRTC ??? RCS API) including access to Media Server for announcement, text2speech…
        Visio becomes a reality… if we can secure the QoE then there are many services possible…

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