Telecoms From Hype to Reality – Will We Learn this Time?
Probably more than any other industry sector, the telecommunications market has the habit of jumping from one hype cycle to the next, with only short phases of realism and depression in between. As opposed to other industries, both vendors and customers seem to be participating in this vicious circle - ‘full steam’. Neither side wants to be woken up, let alone stopped.
Vendors of brakes or washing machines would never survive similar phases of glory, frustration and restart for more than a year. But we’ve gotten used to it, and so far this vicious circle has only gotten better (or worse).
Looking back, even long term industry veterans can’t remember so many ‘earth shattering’, ‘ground breaking’ and ‘industry changing’ solutions hitting the market, in such a short timeframe. SDN will revolutionize the way we manage networks, shortly after (or before) NFV will change the way we build them. And all of this will make 5G the savior of bandwidth hungry users, service providers struggling to find feasible business cases, and lonely fridges looking for ‘peers’ to talk to. All, of course, based on openness and full vendor interoperability. Why would anybody want to crash this party?
Readers following the news may have noticed recently an unprecedented number of more ‘critical’ articles, with conclusions that seem to take us back in time. Mainly:
- 5G has no vital business case & IoT doesn’t have the potential to generate a healthy business case any time soon.
- Mixing and matching vendors based on ‘open source’ enabled products requires so much knowledge on carrier side that they might as well become system integrators and stop selling services.
- The most interesting conclusion I’ve come across is that service providers will increasingly default back to single vendor solutions - just to make sure that these ‘new world systems’ will be able to build a fully functional network. So is the open revolution about to eat its children?
Telecommunications, the enabler of the world’s most recent revolutions, such as digitalization and the Internet, was never questioned and thus remained a highly technologically driven industry. The crux of the matter appears to be that the majority of both customers and vendors insist on believing that new technology, per default, has a value in its own right. Only once both parties firmly understand that technology can only be an enabler for added value (aka services), will the system work the right way around.
You want proof? Take a look at the biggest ‘movers and shakers’, Facebook and Google. They want to deliver certain kinds of services to as many users as possible. They did not find anything that fulfilled their needs and so they devised their own solutions. Firstly, they solved their own problems, and now they are pushing concepts like Voyager into “our” industry to enable “us” to address their issues as well. And what a surprise, “our” traditional customers have taken to these concepts for their (perceived) simplicity.
Don’t worry, my friends, there’s enough high-tech left to keep us working. Simple solutions usually only solve simple problems. The “simple” idea of open source based vendor interoperability has led to the most complex architecture diagrams ever, making carriers think again about single vendor networks. We’ve come full circle and now it’s time to wake up. Only a service oriented mindset will stop us from daydreaming and wasting resources on ‘hero experiments’ or concepts that don’t have economic feasibility. So like in most other industries, one must first identify the problem, and only then start working on the solution.