2017 has been the year of carrier and broadcast emancipation.
Over the past month I have been in and out of several conferences broadly representing a community of folks who represented every layer of the OSS stack.
It's been 20 years since I first talked to carriers and broadcasters about the revolution of Streaming. This last week I have chaired or moderated sessions at three carrier focused events.
MEC in Berlin ,Carriers World (20th Year) in London, and iCU in Amsterdam. All within 8 days. It’s a crazy conference season this year. Indeed one panelist I spoke to indicated that he could probably top-to-tail conferences constantly from September to November without ever having enough time to get back to his own office to actually put into practice what he was learning from the events!
All three were stimulating. Let me summarize why in each case:
Mobile Edge Compute (Berlin): A critical topic: not least because I think MEC within 5G is the most
tangible future of IP networks. The 5G rollout will be critical because it has the potential to seed a new generation of thinking in network service architecture, which will shape much of how Internet services are consumed for at least the next 10 years. If done right MEC will be a real world ‘FOG architeture’ at scale. That’s the sort of thing that gets me excited!
Carriers World (London): While ostensibly less visible than the consumer network propositions, the
carriers are the folks who understand the business of making physical networks available, and make the capex investment into the real world data housing and telecoms networks that actually deliver the Internet backbones and subscriber access infrastructure: Stuff that you can’t virtualize! While their market is slow moving and has massive utility-scale momentum, as they turn their attention to media and architecture for scaling online streaming these guys have the power to make significant infrastructure decisions that will shape a generation of application architects, and it is great that they are taking so much interest in the services that they are actually underpinning.
iCU (Amsterdam): This was in some ways the most broadly stimulating because of the vertical
engagement between all the actors in each layer that the event facilitated. At first I didn’t exactly see the connection between all the presentations, but the discussions about the latest trends such as Cybersecurity, Crypto Currency, Media delivery, AI, Bigdata, IoT (wonderfully termed ‘Intelligence of Things’ by one of the speakers) suddenly came into focus for me in the middle of day one. These topics are the key drivers that are going to shape the demand for submarine cables, power, hosting facilities, Internet Exchanges and so on between many of the key actors who build the carrier networks and the consumer demand for this growth.
With IBC preceding these at the start of the month it was the first time in 21 years coming from
‘my’ CDN and streaming niche that I could give a similar, if not identical, presentation to ALL of the events’ audiences – for me that was a real sense of everyone finally getting to the same page...
For sure 2017 has been the year of carrier and broadcast emancipation: Finally the world of traditional broadcast media accepted IP / Internet delivery as an equal cousin rather than an inferior bastard brother and, frankly started showing respect! ;-)
As the carriers and broadcasters now start to look at the Internet as an asset rather than a constant threat to their On-Net business we can finally expect much better alignment, and all the players are starting to embrace the disruption as an opportunity rather than an existential threat.
That is not to say there are no threats, and the one thing that really stood out to me on many of the various panels has been the self-realization in many blue chips that their biggest risk is their own cultural inertia. I have been saying this for many years, and I recall my comments used to elicit sniggers from audiences. I now realize those sniggers were actually nervous laughs. Indeed now I am no longer a lone-voice: CEOs, CTOs and other executive management all almost universally, publically agree that the fiefdoms and protectionism of incumbent teams within their organizations are the real risk to their survival.
In some ways the fear of ‘cannibalization’ of existing portfolios is become less of a concern than a focus on ‘how fast can we change’.
Welcome to the market of today and the future. Find anyone under 30 who understands the concept of a life-long ‘career’. Show me a millennial with strong enough ‘loyalty’ to a provider to make them remain a subscriber in the hope that the operator will ‘eventually’ bring a new killer app to their offering. It is no longer the case that users wait for lumbering operators to roll out a new service. We just switch instantly, as soon as a competitor has that service available.
Indeed, show me an infrastructure operator who isn’t trying to leverage virtualization to scale down underutilization in their platform. There are no more monopolies. There are no more ‘captive subscriber bases’. There is only change, and that change must be delivered with an increasing velocity (I call it ‘Service Velocity’).
The best thing is that for all the end users and customers of these new network services, the businesses are being forced to focus on propositions to ‘solve’ problems for their clients’ rather than simply market a fixed range of services that the network enables them to ‘do’ for their customers (if they can ‘fit the problem around the product’). And this is a shake up that both Broadcasters AND Carriers have been needing for a long time.
So in conclusion the message in 2018 is to no longer focus on what you might be able to ‘do’ for your clients, but what problem you can SOLVE for them, and how quickly.