As telcos move forward into the 4G era, and basic voice and data transmission services become increasingly commoditised, the need to find a viable model for delivering value-added services becomes more urgent for both mobile and fixed-line operators. Cloud services are being suggested as the panacea. But how do cloud services differ from the managed services or hosted services of the dot-com period, and how can telcos avoid the mistakes that have dogged them for the last ten years? Symantecs overtures to the sector may show the way forward.
4G networks can provide a rich application ecosystem
4G networks hold the prospect of a rich media ecosystem populated by a multitude of services from different suppliers. Telcos could derive revenues by selling third-party services from outside their network. Their customers expectations will be more aligned with those of Internet users today. But telcos need to radically change their attitudes to seize the opportunity, and the industry needs to do more work to standardise inter-network service interfaces in a way that preserves service quality and monetary value.
Get the network architecture right before adding services
A service-oriented network architecture needs to provide an abstraction layer separating the physical network from the applications and services it hosts. It also needs to be inherently secure.
Telcos have been slow to appreciate the scale of the problem of spam and its impact on their services. Symantec is extending the concept of clean pipes, from being a way that enterprises can connect with a managed security service provider to being a means of interconnecting service providers. This should prevent spam and malware travelling between service provider networks, and reduce bandwidth requirements while improving quality of service. This frees resources for new high-quality services.
Telcos must follow a business-driven approach
Telcos still make most of their money from voice traffic, despite a decade of commoditisation. Unlike the 2G and 3G service rollouts, they must come up with a flexible implementation that is geared to a revenue-generating business case, and not repeat the mistakes of the past. Individually, todays cloud services are similar to the managed or hosted services of the dot-com era, which failed to deliver commercial success. If we are to advance, the services must be flexible and interoperable. It is essential that new services are designed to meet the needs of the market and exploit the capabilities of IP-hosted technologies such as web service protocols and virtualisation.
Early enterprise market opportunities appear to lie largely in the infrastructure-as-a-service area, such as storage, back-up and disaster recovery services.
Customers need to have the ability to configure services. Corporate customers need to be able to apply policies to their end users, while parents might want to apply some parental control policies to their childrens devices. For example, Irish vendor Adaptive Mobile sells a layer of software to enable this deployment.
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