TMF Dublin and the Future of the Telco Industry

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Two weeks ago, the impressive glass house of the CCD venue in Dublin hosted the TMF conference, an annual event that brings together the great and good of the global telco world. Global business leaders, service and product innovators, and world-class engineers gathered to mingle and talk shop. However, the forum’s real stage is for engineers and technicians to share their knowledge. They, after all, are the ones on the front lines determining the policies and procedures that will assure the delivery of the unstoppable growth of communication.

The Dublin conference made news for the innovative and varied ways in which we communicate, but the big headline to come out of the event was that future is uncertain—a rare moment in the history of the industry.

“Dumb bit pipe” is an often used derogatory term for a telco’s business and too often that’s what many companies deliver. This has to change. On the business side, the challenge is finding a way to monetize a multi-threaded value chain, but that can’t happen without bandwidth. That’s what the world is demanding.

“Telcos urgently need to find a new business model that rewards those who invest in the network,” said telco oracle Ben Verwaayen in his keynote speech. It was an apt summation of the challenge we all face. And yet, as was the case a decade ago when telcos searched for the “killer app,” we all know the question, but no one knows the answer.

Away from the eminent keynote speakers were dozens of meetings, presentations, forums, events, and demonstrations, all pushing the boundaries and expanding the dialogue to fix the problems of Internet speed. Central to these topics was one subject: the customer. How can telcos create steps to improve service propositions for an evolved, more sophisticated, network environment?

Answers to that question came in several forms, including: the adoption of Customer Experience Management (a hot topic on the Forumville vendor stands); the deployment of cloud services as an indispensable proposition for wireline telcos; and the growth of the “digital life” and how the rise of video and social media is changing our society. Add in network convergence, interactive TV, and cyber security and one can see the many ways telcos are evolving.

Though the future’s uncertain, there are two things the entire TMF community can agree upon. First, the future can be reduced down to a few core frameworks:  Standardization, architectural frameworks, best practices, eTOM, and ITIL. And second, the hunger for bandwidth is not going away, so the dumb pipes better get smart fast.

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