The top 3 telco challenges in enterprise communications

I have just finished writing a report for a client on enterprise communications (with support from my many associates). It closes with the top three technology challenges that network operators need to face up to in the next decade. An edited version is reproduced here.

The ‘democratisation’ challenge

The ability to create real-time communications services that are fit for business use has historically been reserved to network operators, equipment vendors, standards bodies and large IT suppliers. The combination of Web protocols and “good enough” generic network access challenges this model.

To succeed in enterprise communications in future requires shifting from a “supply-push” model (with limited user choice) to a “demand-pull” one (with enormous choice). It demands a qualitative changes in scale: lower cost, more partners, simpler integration, and full automation of operations.

The historical relationship between operators and content providers may not be a good template to draw upon. “Democratised communications” suggests a different model of doing business. To thrive, operators need to understand the new value chain and the roles they can take on (platform provider, storefront, sell-to, and sell-through). There are new criteria for when to partner, build or acquire the necessary capabilities. Internal case studies of how you “drink your own champagne” will be needed to maintain credibility.

Is the industry ready?

The ‘hyper voice’ challenge
The role of voice in communications is fundamentally changing. In the age of wearable technology, it becomes a (if not the) primary means of interaction with computers. Search becomes a legacy 1990s technology as we hold ‘information-finding conversations’ with intelligent machines. Every word we say when at work can be treated as a data asset: capable of being linked to its business and physical context, stored, analysed, indexed and made findable.Yet voice is not just ‘more data’. Our voice is a fundamental part of our root identity as humans. Attempting to apply legacy systems of identity, privacy, security to voice add complexity to an already broken trust model. The arrival of the Internet of Things and WebRTC are going to create a hyper-acceleration of development in sensor and sense-making technology. They will also create a technical and regulatory mess. Voice is in the vanguard of this process, as the primary form of sensed data.

This is the world of ‘hypervoice’.  Voice becomes a new form of hypermedia. It parallels the arrival of the Web and social media. It opens up new requirements for storage, transmission and analysis of voice data.

Is the industry ready?

The ‘ultra computing’ challenge
Telecoms networks can be thought of as large, distributed supercomputers. They have internal computing resources that simultaneously work on many inter-dependent problems. The system must remain stable at all loads, produce outputs within bounded timeframes, and be resilient to component or process failure.Compared to supercomputers, telecoms have additional complexity. The relative costs of computation and communications technologies continually vary. Both transmission and computation have become virtualised, by using statistically shared resources. This adds further variability. The cost structure and performance of the transmission can change from one territory to the next, as well as dynamically over time.

Managing service quality and assurance thus requires a new discipline beyond supercomputing: the performance engineering of complete large-scale dynamic distributed architectures. We call this ‘ultracomputing’. In the ultracomputing world, the design space is now very large, highly irregular, and involves interactions of subsystems from many vendors.

Is the industry ready?

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