Judy Reed Smith

New Business Models Will Define the Future of Carriers

The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed.
                                                                                  William Gibson

Recognizing and acting on what is ahead for an industry is an ongoing challenge. You do not have to dig deeply into our industry’s history to find both victors and victims, who either embraced or missed the future.

Today’s carriers successfully surfed the Darwinian tsunami of 2001-2005, or have risen as more recent entrepreneurial ventures. Today, as in every point in history, there are emerging carriers well positioned for the next wave and those who are still searching.

Carrier services – certainly data and even voice – are still growing for those who serve today’s growth segments. These growing customers are all around us in many shapes and forms, using traditional services as well as our latest-and-greatest. We put them in three categories: IT resellers, cloud service providers, and applications providers.

IT Resellers

This category is full of familiar, big-branded companies with acronym-branded business models – systems integrators (SIs), independent software vendors (ISVs) and value-added resellers (VARs). They account for millions of dollars in Ethernet connectivity, IP VPN, MPLS and other well-established products.

They include Fortune 500 names such as HP, Accenture, IBM, Harris, CSC and CA Technologies, privately-held powerhouses like Sabre Holdings, CFN Services, BMC Software, Valorem Consulting and Bluewolf and hundreds of smaller VARs helping companies worldwide to use IT effectively. They serve customers ranging from their fellow Fortune 500 companies to mid-sized enterprises and even some (relatively) small establishments.

The more complex IT management becomes (and does it ever get simpler?) the more powerful they become. I have heard carriers claim this category should not exist, as carriers themselves could manage these services. Meanwhile, the carriers that recognise the strong relationships between customers and IT resellers – and are selling with, through, or to them – are seeing fine growth.

Cloud Service Providers

Amid shortening IT product life cycles and a persistent (in the US, at least) shortage of IT skills, offloading IT headaches is becoming increasingly appealing. Cloud providers and their models are evolving to fit a range of needs, and they burn through bandwidth like flame through a haystack.

Established and emerging brands like Workday, Softlayer, Rackspace, SalesForce, Evernote, Carbonite, Amazon Web Services, Dropbox, GoGrid and Pandora need connectivity: ethernet-over-everything, especially fibre, DIA and data center space and connections, as well as IP transit. As they evolve, enterprises will use different cloud models for different internal needs, with all models linked to growing network usage.

Application Providers

Gaming, web 2.0 and mobile applications providers represent another emerging segment, with brands like Telmetrics, Zynga, Skype, Google, GroupMe, Twitter, Twilio, WhatsApp and too many others to name, penetrating our lives at multiple levels.

These entrepreneurial firms use carrier application programming interfaces (APIs) to form the features they need for their services. Like cloud providers, the remote-software core of their business models consume massive quantities of bandwidth and drive retail demand for our networks.

My favorite end-user example is Uber, stealing taxi and black car business from the street hailers or telephone-for-taxi folks. Working with Twilio’s platform, the mobile app contacts the car, delivers the passenger an SMS with the driver’s name and expected wait, shows the car on smart phone map, gives the driver GPS directions to pick up and drop off destinations, then puts fare and tip on the passenger’s credit card without the driver seeing phone or card numbers. Products like these are limited only by entrepreneurial imagination, funding and carrier APIs.

All of these businesses, and their future competitors, consume our carrier services on scales that, not too long ago, were unimaginable – bandwidth, data centre space and connections, voice, SMS and bits and pieces all through the chain, from the origination of a byte, all the way through to the fingers, desktops and devices of consumers. Find your slice of the future and serve it well.

This analysis was originally published at Capacity Magazine

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