The telecomm revolution will not be televised

"It's smaller outfits which are coming up with the innovations, like systems to let people win eBay auctions by phone, pay parking tickets, or make international cellphone calls free.

Maria Bartiromo CNBC
Maria Bartiromo of CNBC ticked me off the other day.

It was in her introduction to the NxtComm show in Chicago, the successor show to Supercomm. She breathlessly described how "the industry's heavyweights" were there to "decide on the future of telecommunications."

But the future doesn't come from there anymore.

The future is coming from small outfits like Digium, which sells equipment and services around the Asterisk open source PBX. Founder Mark Spencer gave me a call, and I think I learned more in those few minutes than Bartiromo offered her audience all day.

"The large carriers have Asterisk in their lab. Some of them have it in field test, or tucked away in their network," he said. "It's smaller outfits which are coming up with the innovations, like systems to let people win eBay auctions by phone, pay parking tickets, or make international cellphone calls free.

"Next generation providers are using Asterisk to provide a better experience for the customer," he explained. "Larger companies see the same opportunity and want to deploy the services they can dream up. The big question is will the large carriers be able to move fast enough from a lab to a service deployment before the next generation carriers get there?"

Some folks think so. Avaya just got an $8.2 billion private equity buy-out. Spencer has a different view of where change will come from.

"Asterisk has just 500 individual contributors of any consequence, and maybe just a few dozen really active contributors. But because of the flexibility of the platform, because of the size of the ecosystem, it’s able to displace these platforms" from Cisco, Avaya, Alcatel and Nortel.

"There are now two next generation mobile handsets in development. What’s exciting about them is you could have an open source handset combined with an open source switch to allow innovation to exist between the two."

That, I submit is the future. Maria can have her heavyweights. My money is on the lightweights, and open source. The telecomm revolution will not be televised.