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Friday, August 20, 2010

The Top 10 Unwarranted Assumptions in Telecoms

Disruptive Analysis' tagline is "don't assume".... so I thought it might be interesting to examine what the main unspoken assumptions are in the telecoms industry as I see it. These are themes and concepts burnt into the mind of the "industry establishment", especially standards bodies and traditional suppliers; they are seen as unwritten laws.

But are they really self-evident and unquestionable? I don't think so. It needs to be remembered that the telecom industry has grown up around the constraints and artificial boundaries of 100-year old technology (numbering, for example, or linking of length of a conversation with value). Many of those unnatural constraints no longer apply in an Internet or IP world - it is possible to more accurately replicate society's interactions - and extend them way beyond normal human modes of communication.

For any telecoms company wanting a continuing role for the next 100 years of the industry, it's worth going back to first principles. It is critical that everything previously taken for granted is reassessed in the light of real human behaviour - because we now have the tools to make communications systems work the way that people do, rather than forcing users to conform to technology's weird limitations.

So, in no particular order, these are the assumptions I think are unwarranted:

1) A “subscription” is the most natural way to engage with, or pay for, communications services

The most basic quantum of human communication is “a session”

It is entirely rational to expect people to want a single presentation layer or interface, for all their various modes of communication

Communications capabilities are best offered as “services” rather than being owned outright, or as features of another product

A phonebook is the best metaphor for aggregating all of a person’s contacts and affiliations

A phone call – (person A sets up a 2-way voice channel with person B for X minutes) is an accurate representation of human conversation & interaction, and not just a 100-year old best effort

People always want to tell the truth (presence, name, context) to others that wish to communicate with them

People are genuinely loyal to communications service providers, rather than merely grudgingly tolerant

Ubiquity is always more important than exclusivity

10) The quality of a communications function or service is mostly determined by the technical characteristics of the network

I'm sure that there are others - and also plenty of debate to be had around the ones I've listed. I regularly encounter innovators and strategists that *do* question these principles, or actively look to subvert them. But I still see a huge amount of focus put on these undebated tenets, especially among standards- and policy-makers. In my view, such assumption is an abdication of duty.

Together with its associates, Disruptive Analysis addresses all of these issues and more - and the implications for service providers, investors, regulators and product vendors. Please get in touch via information AT disruptive-analysis DOT com if you would like more detail on workshops or advisory engagements.


Anonymous said...

>9) Ubiquity is always more important than exclusivity

I am not sure I understood the above one. Could you please elaborate?

Dean Bubley said...

The prevailing assumption is that all services should "be available anywhere, on any device" (ubiquity)

Yet there is also value in invite-only services (eg exclusive social networks), or those that only work on particular (aspirational) devices, eg BlackBerry Messenger.

People pay good money to be elitist in some circumstances.