Network operators are at a crossroads in this data-driven world. Does their future call for them to be simple purveyors of data, merely supplying paths for the transit of information, or will they instead leverage their unique assets to provide a host of genuine, useful services for customers? These topics and more were discussed at a keynote panel at ITEXPO Las Vegas 2013.
The panel, titled “Service Providers: Smart Ecosystem Facilitators or Dumb Pipes?” featured Glen Gerhard from Sansay, Nancy Maluso from Sonus Networks, Kart Stahl from Ingate systems, Craig Walker (News - Alert) from UberConference and Steve Gleave from Metaswitch.
Maluso spoke about the fact that there are many different models, ranging from companies that just want to provide bandwidth to ones that want to be involved in providing applications and hosted services as well. Stahl and Walker pointed out that, while the “dumb pipes” term may seem derogatory, there is certainly a role for providers that simply want to enable access, though there are others that seek out more elaborate features.
Gerhard stated that service providers are not as nimble as startups, and that now is the time to make a move, either through customer service or other applications, so that they can compete in an increasingly crowded market. Gleave talked about current trends, including fiber-to-the-home and the pervasiveness of smart technology, and how service providers need to look closely about how they can change their models to maintain relevance.
The proof of the service provider’s mindset is evident in their marketing campaigns, said Walker. T-Mobile’s (News - Alert) ads are focused on connectivity speed, and these service providers are not as concerned with creating must-have applications (they are no longer in the same realm as Bell Labs (News - Alert)). People choose their providers based on connectivity and speed, not on other factors.
The panelists then discussed what they would do if they ran the service providers, and their answers covered topics from WebRTC to seeking out the next killer app. In the end, there was no true consensus in the panel, but each party brought a point of view to bear, and the future will likely find service providers somewhere between mute and transformative.
Edited by Rachel Ramsey