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April 2009 | Volume 12 / Number 4
The Zippy Files

Telecom Saves the World (or Not)

The topics of several articles in this month’s issue have, over the years, acted as lightning rods of sorts for consumers, enterprises and network operators. They are as follows: WiMAX (News - Alert) and other Wireless Broadband alternatives, Telecom Expense Management, and conferencing and collaboration.

Interestingly, the current economic world situation seems to be intensifying public sentiment and activity in the above-named areas. If the global telecom equipment market is any guide, with the market having grown by nearly 5 percent in 2008, only to shrink by a projected 1 percent in 2009 (according to researchers at IDATE), we can expect increasingly levels of apprehension by just about everybody, which should be good for the Telecom Expense Management (TEM) industry. Indeed, as Noel Huelsenbeck of Vocio (News - Alert) wrote recently in the Telecom Expense Management Blog: “Clearly the ‘Technology Trigger’ that created the Telecom Expense Management space was the dotcom implosion (circa 2001). It was then, not unlike now, that the economy was depressed and most corporations were focused on lowering expenses. It was during this era when many newly created Telecom Expense Management firms began their journey to tame telecom expenses.” He also says that 2009 looks to be Vocio’s best year ever.

The latest TEM platforms go way beyond checking phone bills (like in the old days) and instead have branched out into such things as Ordering/Procurement Management, Inventory Management, Wireless (Mobile) Expense Management and “Business Intelligence” or “Intelligent Total Communications Management”, which menas that TEM is really starting to enter the world of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).

Wireless/Mobile Expense Management is now the hallmark of today’s most advanced TEM systems, since the world’s working population continues to forsake office space for mobility, whether they want to or not. Wireless broadband alternatives such as WiMAX and LTE (News - Alert) are the missing pieces of the puzzle that will finally make mobile unified communications a reality, as well as high-end teleconferencing systems such as telepresence and ultimately total holodeck-like virtual presence.

Metcalf’s Law, “the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system” (which was actually stated this way in terms of users and not devices by George Gilder in 1993) should be amended to: “the square of the number of connected users of the system, subject to two multipliers: one multiplier is proportional to average bandwidth capacity of the links comprising the network, the other multiplier is proportional to the number of wireless links.”

Thus, the largest network wins out over smaller networks, unless all links on the smaller network have many times the bandwidth of those on the larger network, and/or if users can be mobile as they tap into the network. Think of a user and his or her laptop roaming about the landscape with a multi-megabit per second WiMAX and LTE service, and then think of the Internet’s original stationary terminals connected to a 56Kbps network.

There has always been an expectation that, in the face of adversity, technology will rise up and save us all. It doesn’t matter whether it’s world hunger, overpopulation, a plague, or global warming – technology will rise to the occasion. There’s a bit of such sentiment when it comes to telecom, which is why money-conscious “fence sitters” who were endlessly thinking of adopting IP communications, TEM and what-not, finally decided to do so, resulting in TMC (News - Alert)’s best ITEXPO ever.

Let’s hope telecom doesn’t let us down. IT

Richard Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC’s IP Communications Group.

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