Telcos' future: Slim down and open up

Telcos' future: Slim down and open up

Summary: Phone companies have allowed over-the-top players to roll over their turf. But customers are fickle, and, with a more innovative approach, they can soon claim back their home-ground advantage.

TOPICS: Telcos

Jason Collins is Alcatel-Lucent's vice president of Emerging Technology and Innovation. He came to the ZDNet studios this week to talk about the future role of telecommunications companies. Are they destined to remain as network providers selling dumb pipes?

Jason says not. He says that ultimately, an approach where intelligence sits in the cloud and on the network makes more sense; services can be more flexible, and phones won't need to be quite so smart, and therefore cheaper to produce.

With their ownership of the network, phone companies have a bigger advantage than most, yet they constantly fail to find ways of adding value to what the user wants. We discuss the need for these big old companies to change their ways — perhaps including slimming down and opening up their network and management systems to innovators.

What do you think? Can phone companies change enough to give Apple a run for its money? Can we shift the approach from smart phone, dumb network to smart network, dumb phone? Call the Twisted Wire feedback line on 02 9304 5198 to leave a message with your views.

Running time: 34 minutes, 21 seconds

Topic: Telcos


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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  • Are network speed increases not user needs?

    Not sure I agree that phone companies constantly fail to add value to what the user wants. What about faster, higher capacity networks? Users want that. In fact users NEED that. It might not always be the most tangible need but its there nonetheless. As regards app development or device design / manufacture, has that ever really been a telco speciality? Telcos can take much of the credit for the success Apple have been able to enjoy. Do concrete technologists continue to fail to add value to car drivers?
    • Network speeds are user needs -- but not the only value to be provided.

      Yes, of course you are correct. The point is that that is not the only value that phone companies can add. If that is all the value they add then we are in the "dumb pipes" scenario that the carriers are trying to avoid. They are trying to avoid this scenario because it means they are less involved in the end-user services and associated profits.

      While they haven't been great at apps, apps aren't necessarily services. I believe the carriers are well positioned to do certain kinds of things. For example, look at how good they have been at packaging mobile devices with their connectivity. Most people buy devices from their carrier for this reason even though it is possible to do otherwise. To provide a good and profitable next generation service they will certainly have to engage an ecosystem -- and not be just siloed lone-wolf "app developers". If they don't then they will continue to be "pipes".