We are on the cusp of the next wave of innovation in telecommunications, driven by the application developers with a vision for how creative application of communications within their apps and services will deliver a unique user experience. But innovating with a traditional telecommunication company as a supplier is like trying to create an interactive infographic with a typewriter. Dependence on a hundred year old revenue model built around infrastructure exclusivity puts major players (and even an entire industry) at risk of irrelevancy in the face of demand for highly controllable connections. But the Be-Your-Own-Carrier (BYOC) model offers hope, and even the opportunity for the industry to thrive by granting carrier-level access to the critical consumers that are providing the innovative spark.
What’s wrong with legacy telecom?
Modern communications have to adapt at the speed of thought. As a developer, you need a carrier connection that’s nimble and malleable. Delivering a seamless communications experience necessitates real-time carrier-level control of telecommunications services such as provisioning phone numbers and channel capacity.
The traditional model of telecom was built around carriers monetizing significant infrastructure investment. That infrastructure was expensive,difficult to scale, and deployed with the end goal of providing dial tone to individuals and businesses. As a consequence, networks were not built to provide the flexibility required by developers today. That telecom model for providing a commodity service proves to be an impossible one for providing the flexibility and control required by today’s developers.
In a February 2015 report titled, “Exposing the core assets of communication service providers through APIs”, Deloitte called out a series of challenges keeping traditional communications service providers from adapting with the changing communications landscape.
Key challenges are:
- A lack of self-service tools and portals to enable easy onboarding and provisioning.
- Heavyweight service delivery platforms that result in high costs and long timelines for implementation of new services.
- Cumbersome operations, service enablement processes, and tools hinder the launch of products and services on time and on budget.
In his blog, Alan Quayle asserts that to be considered a viable partner for developers innovating with communications, carriers need to prove wrong the public perception that they are “incompetent at doing anything other than running a network.” Alan is right. Carriers also need to show they are willing to work with developers by getting very good at opening up access to and control of their network.
Winning carriers will provide developers access and control enabling what Deloitte calls “an open framework of lightweight, easy to consume services that are optimized for multiple devices, identities and APIs.”
Why does carrier innovation matter?
The context for carrier connections is transforming. Avaya recently purchased Esna, to “accelerate communications-enabled applications for effortless engagement”. The press release went on to explain that the acquisition will “enable the integration of multi-vendor communications into cloud-based applications.” Gary Barnett, SVP and GM, Avaya Engagement Solutions describes the deal as a move toward “the convergence of communications and business applications.” And that’s true but the keystone to the movement of connecting everything is having control of the actual connections.
As pointed out in the Telecom Applications Developer Manifesto, the rise of VoIP has made voice “just another application on the Internet”, and the telecom playing field has expanded to include web-based service providers, not just the usual telco suspects. Large enterprises (or really any organizations) that need connections control to customize their communications system, have options. Over-the-top (OTT) applications are subverting carrier services by rapidly answering evolving communications demands. As they do this, the cost of basic services will continue to approach zero, necessitating service providers to identify new, valuable services to offer. Carriers provide a dated service and modern organizations need something more; they need voice connections that can easily be adapted to work with a variety of applications on demand.
How carriers can support innovation:
Alan Quayle has hope for telecom carriers. In the post cited above, he said, “We’re entering a phase of hard-won business [for carriers], but it’s defensible.” There is catch-up work to be done. I argue that on the carrier side, innovation isn’t about adding new features and collaboration technology, that is a move to combine carrier services with other commodity applications, but this is the strategy of many carriers. The world needs carriers to focus their innovation efforts on delivering greater transparency and control to its customers.
The Deloitte report referenced earlier favors an API-based model for carriers stating, “An API-driven model can help CSPs expose core network capabilities to deploy new applications and stimulate network usage.” At the top of Deloitte’s list of benefits derived from exposing network control is quickly creating innovative services in collaboration with first and third-party developers.
The Be Your Own Carrier Model:
Carriers that focus on providing highly available service that scales and can easily be manipulated by third-party developers will earn a role in the resurgence of telecommunications. By giving the public carrier-level access to the software development community, the BYOC model supports technological innovation while focusing on their core service delivery.
From the carrier perspective, this new model makes sense. Deloitte’s report favors exposed access as good business, stating that the flexibility, ease of use, and scalability inherent in APIs will open “new revenue streams and channels to market existing services.”
Managing a direct connection to the telephone network requires an immense amount of paper-work and strict adherence to FCC regulations. Developers that need the carrier-level access lack the expertise and resources to become a carrier. And that’s where the real opportunity for carriers lies—facilitated dynamic carrier-level access to the telecom network.
Too much time is lost (and money wasted) force-fitting old models to meet new demands. The perception has been that the only way carrier service is valuable is if it is closely guarded. But the fact is that entry into the carrier market is barrier enough to most wannabes when all they want is the service, not the regulatory obligations.
As a developer looking to integrate real-time voice communications into your application, find a carrier that doesn’t withhold control of network functions. You will be able to better serve the needs of those who find value in your applications, and your business will not be at the mercy of a carrier’s ability to react to your needs.