How Thirsty Are Service Providers?

Convergence Corner

How Thirsty Are Service Providers?

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  June 10, 2013

The debate over the future of the traditional service provider market has never been louder, as pundits debate whether the behemoth network operators have it in their DNA to adapt quickly to meet the needs of customers. At ITEXPO Miami earlier this year, led by TMC’s Peter Bernstein, a panel of industry insiders discussed the precarious position in which carriers find themselves today. The panel’s collective resolution was skepticism over carriers’ ability to effectively leverage their golden egg – their networks – to become true full service providers to their communities of users.

“Carriers do not reach out and ask – rather they spend too much time acting as ivory towers that know the answers without doing the requisite consumer and enterprise homework. Instead of delivering smart solutions for their emerging smart pipes, they deliver solutions that fail to delight the consumer or business user,” TMC’s Tony Rizzo noted in his commentary.

The question then becomes, who has the power to step up and take control of the customer and the all-important customer experience, which includes being able to deliver a full suite of integrated services and applications?

At its recent Perspectives 2013 event, GENBAND, which many believe has been traditionally far too slow to react to market change, took a major step toward becoming part of the answer, officially launching its Innovation Exchange, a collaborative community of technology innovators designed to drive new applications, features, and services to market to help businesses and service providers alike increase their value to customers by creating tightly integrated business solutions that will replace disparate alternatives that have proven difficult to unify and manage.

Highlighted by a relationship with Samsung announced back in February, IX launches with a cast of charter members comprising both household Fortune 500 brands as well as smaller entrepreneurial innovators, which collectively already present an impressive capability to serve evolving business needs. Charter members include Arrow S3, Avnet, CounterPath (News - Alert), IBM, Intel, IP Command, IP Trade, M*Modal, mPortal, Netas, Polycom, RapidScale, SMARTRAC, T-Metrics, UXP Systems, Voxeo, X-Factor Communications, and Zecurion (News - Alert).

Following its “Making Networks Smarter” mantra, IX is merely the latest element to GENBAND’s evolution from a slowly moving, reactionary hardware business to a proactive innovator, as it continues to drive the transformation of networks and service delivery to all-IP environments. With IX, GENBAND continues to move the industry toward a vision of being able to deliver a single, unified platform that includes an ability to integrate OTT services and multiple application developers to create one holistic, interoperable set of offerings.

“The Innovation Exchange is a select community that brings together many of the best companies and start-ups in the industry to unlock the power of IP and deliver the breakthrough solutions that our customers are seeking – from the core, to the edge, to the experience,” said Sam Waicberg, chief marketing officer for GENBAND.

IX will prove a key asset to not only GENBAND as it heads towards an increasingly likely inevitable showdown with Oracle (News - Alert), but also for the operator community, which, in addition to being traditionally inflexible, often finds itself as the forgotten stepchild in the service world, as many developers are reluctant to partner directly with carriers for fear of ending up hopelessly tied to one and losing opportunities elsewhere, founded by carriers’ long-standing history of being unwilling to open up their networks to third parties.

Will Innovation Exchange be the answer to the service provider challenge? It can be – and GENBAND is undoubtedly in a position to support their transition. But, as CSO Mark Pugerude noted almost 18 months ago, “Everybody needs to recognize the importance of developers, and carriers have the opportunity to be viewed as value-added players, much as Google (News - Alert) does with search.”

The operators’ world has long been one that has shunned collaboration in favor of individually taking on the rest of the market. Understand, though, that it isn’t about the technology; rather, it’s a long-standing failure to truly understand customer service, placing short-term revenue ahead of long-term retention and loyalty. Indeed, there have been others who have promoted similarly focused service and application ecosystems – such as Alcatel Lucent’s (News - Alert) ngConnect program – but the inherent nature of operators as closed systems, and their reluctance to open their networks for fear of losing control is evidence they lack a fundamental understanding of subscribers and what drives their satisfaction.

Through Innovation Exchange, GENBAND can eliminate many of the traditional barriers but, in the end, much of it still comes down to the service providers being willing to become more transparent and working more openly and collaboratively with the community at large. The hope is that, with a powerhouse like GENBAND leading the initiative, the trust factor will increase and both sides of the equation will come to the table with open arms, for the greater good of developers, operators, and subscribers alike.

And if that doesn’t play out – or, perhaps, even if it does – GENBAND is not-so-quietly accumulating on its own the pieces to deliver the services businesses need. While the community should see Innovation Exchange as an opportunity for growth and evolution, for GENBAND, it’s a clear winning proposition.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi