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Saturday, November 26, 2011

The top 10 assumptions the telecoms industry makes about communications services

This is a slightly-edited repeat of a post I made last year. I think it is more relevant than ever, especially as the telecoms industry sleepwalks into another generation of mistakes, notably RCSe.

Disruptive Analysis' tagline is "don't assume". It is worth quickly stepping back to understand some of the basic premises and unspoken assumptions of the telecom industry “establishment” around personal communications. These are themes and concepts burnt into the mind of the "telecoms old guard", especially standards bodies, telecoms academics and traditional suppliers; they are seen as unwritten laws.

But are they really self-evident and unquestionable? Maybe not. 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 is 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.

For instance, we currently see the weird phenomenon of companies pushing so-called “HD” (high-definition) voice, as if it’s an amazing evolution. Actually, they mean “normal voice”, as it comes out of our mouths when we speak. We’ve only been using low-def voice because the older networks and applications weren’t capable of living up to our everyday real-life communications experience. Shockingly, this has taken decades to make a “big jump”, rather than evolving gradually and gracefully as technology improved.

So, in no particular order, these are the assumptions Disruptive Analysis believes are unwarranted.
  1. A “subscription” is assumed to be the most natural way to engage with, or pay for, communications services.
  2. The most basic quantum of human communication is assumed to be “a session”.
  3. It is entirely rational to expect people to want a single presentation layer or interface, for all their various modes of communication (ie “unified” communications or messaging).
  4. Communications capabilities are best offered as “services” rather than being owned outright, or as features of another product.
  5. A phonebook is assumed to be the best metaphor for aggregating all of a person’s contacts and affiliations.
  6. 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.
  7. People always want to tell the truth (presence, name, context) to others that wish to communicate with them.
  8. People are genuinely loyal to communications service providers, rather than merely grudgingly tolerant.
  9. Ubiquity is always more important than exclusivity or specialisation.
  10. The quality of a communications function or service is mostly determined by the technical characteristics of the network.
These are the types of issue discussed in much more depth my research reports, private advisory engagements, and in the Future of Voice workshops run by myself and Martin Geddes. 

If you'd like more detailed explanation of these assumptions - and what they mean for next-generation communications business models, please get in touch. I'm at information AT disruptive-analysis DOT com


Allen Sky said...

Great post. Number 1 is so true. I think the telecom industry should look beyond the idea of subscription and start cultivate relationships with consumers by understanding their needs, and not merely offering services.

Anonymous said...

"For any telecoms company wanting a continuing role for the next 100 years of the industry" - Would be nice however, I would say this target is undoubtedly ambitious - Nice post nevertheless. SBC