At the end of the nineties Sillicon Valley was nerd paradise. Every technically skilled person could have a chance on getting excellent working conditions and maybe become rich. The bubble burst. No more unprofitable dotcoms and the end of telecom innovation paradise. Shorts in the office were replaced by ties.
The new ruler of the world was the CFO, who was first promoted to COO and afterwards to CEO, shortly CFEO. Shareholder value, CAPEX and OPEX were the new buzzwords. Creative accounting the solution to revenue problems. The current crisis is showing the limitations of focusing only on cost reductions and not on growing the business via innovative products and services.
It is time for a new class of rulers, the CBIO. The ideal profile is a generalist with a technical background, knowledge of financials, operating experience and an innovative strategist. This person does not have to be an expert in all domains but have at least a good understanding of each and be able to surround him/herself with experts in these areas. The CCO will understand that there are two types of technical projects: routine and innovative. The routine projects should be executed in the cheapest fashion possible: Cloud Computing, Off-shoring, Open Source, etc. The innovative projects will make the difference between global leadership and bitpipe doom in the next 12-36 months. No single RFQ process has brought innovative results to any operator that got front-page news coverage. So innovative projects should not be handled by an RFQ. The telecom operator should be split in two units: “Business as Usual” and “New Business”. The “Business as Usual” should continue to focus on shareholder value, CAPEX and OPEX and become a best-in-class bitpipe. The “New Business” should launch on a weekly basis new services and features to quickly understand what works and kill those things that do not. If the “Business as Usual” systems are not delivering the results the “New Business” needs then they should be allowed to shop elsewhere, even shop with competitors! The “New Business” should focus both on hits as well as long tail services. Giving end-users the choice between millions of services instead of only Voice and SMS. Focusing on the why people communicate and not the how.
Failure to recruit a CBIO will result in the “Business as Usual” becoming a bitpipe but the “New Business” being called Google Voice, Facebook Seamless Messaging, Apple App Store, etc.
CBIO stands for Chief Bitpipe and Innovations Officer…
The dotcoms of this world generate massive amounts of web server logs. Users upload files. Make comments. Vote on items. All this data is unstructured data. Google has just pushed the bar higher with their Google instant that is able to change almost instantly* their search results based on real-time data changes. Percolator is the real-time indexing that makes it all possible. Really impressive to see indexes change almost real-time for a company that moves daily 20 peta bytes of data [= almost 30.000.000 CDs].
So if Google is able to index all our web data, what about our voice and video data? Google Voice brought voice transcription to the general public. Voice transcription is based on machine learning. Every time a voicemail is incorrectly transcribed, users are able to “teach” Google how to do it right. This will make Google’s voice transcription quickly the best trained in the world. From there it is only a small step to also connect it to all Google Voice calls. Next step is to index what you say. Real-time indexing is key to interpret this vast amount of new content! So not only when you send a Gmail message talking about a trip you are planning to Paris, will you get advertisement from travel agents, but also when you talk to your friends about the trip.
Can Google go any further? Yes of course. Don’t forget Google Talk and Android. Two more sources to get voice data from. Google Talk can be used now. Android probably only if you use Google Talk or Google Voice on your mobile given the excessive data charges you would get if you would send “normal circuit” calls to Google.
Where are today’s limits of image recognition? Especially in videos? Taking a video with an Android phone and uploading it to Youtube could also mean that GPS data of where the video was taken could be included. Google Goggles ‘ technology could then find out what it is you were doing. Probably not possible today but let´s wait some months…
What this means is that Google will very likely be able to subsidize more customer services if you are willing to trade-in some extra privacy. “Free” calls and even video calls for Android will definitely set it apart from iPhones, Nokias, etc. Google would need to subsidize wholesale interconnects to other providers, which are not that bad compared to end-user prices. But could marketing dollars also subsidize a monthly data plan? If yes then Google could become an MVNO and offer free phone and data services. This would be a killer feature to subscribe to Google Voice on the mobile. Killer in both senses, but not the positive sense for operators…
Where does this leave operators? Again a piece of their voice and SMS pie will disappear. But also a large piece of monthly subscription fees. Today there is very few operators can do to defend themselves if they don’t change their own rules. Every operator that thinks their assets are sacred, RFQ’s will bring innovation and scalability is about writing a large check to Oracle, will likely suffer. Those that are willing to experiment with disruptive innovations and are open to discuss the previously unthinkable, still have a window of opportunity…
* There are delays between the time a page is updated and the new results being visible due to crawler and indexing delays so real-time indexing does not mean real-time search results.
Google Voice has changed the mobile broadband industry in just three months. Who would have thought that Google would start offering free mobile broadband and even give away 10.000 free mobile phones and access points?
It all started with a small governmental change in the summer of 2011. After years of lobbying, the New American Foundation convinced the US government to open some of the previously military spectrum to free wireless communication. The New American Foundation chairman, Eric Schmidt, declared the act a step towards universal broadband access.
Two days before the new spectrum was opened on January 2012, Google surprised the world with the announcement that they would give 10.000 free Nexus Goomax phones if people installed a new sort of device at home called the GooPoint.
The Goopoint turned out to be a new generation of a femtocell network device that was on one side connected to fixed broadband and on the other side was a Goomax antenna.
Goomax, the next generation of wireless connectivity improves on the WiFi and WiMAX standards by allowing Google´s servers to remotely and dynamically control the network and the different Goopoints, a.k.a. Cloud-based network management.
The end result is that the US in two months time had an extra mobile network provider. However this network provider did not install any antennas. Neither did they pay expensive spectrum licenses. The new network was formed by home devices that allowed people within 5 kilometers to connect to mobile broadband for free. Goopoint owners that contributed fixed broadband capacity could earn points and exchange them afterwards for Android Apps among others.
Disclaimer: This is an invented story but could one day become reality.
In the telecom domain a scalable real-time architecture means paying a lot of money in hardware and licenses. You buy the Oracle RAC solution, build a Weblogic cluster, set-up a storage area network, etc.
In the dotcom world things look differently. Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, Amazon, etc. have more active users then any telecom system. However they have build their architecture on top of open source solutions and average servers. Some even build their own software and sometimes open-sourced it.
Some of this software has very exotic names: Hadoop, Bigtable, Cassandra, Pig, Elephant-Bird, Dremel, Pregel, Dynamo, etc. Additionally design decisions are taken that would surprise every IT teacher: “do not normalize”, “do not expect immediate consistency”, “no transaction support”, “store in memory instead of on disk”, etc.
However if you can support 500 million users, 100 million daily hits, 130TB of logs, 20 billion tweet messages, 1 million servers, etc. then something you should be doing right.
The telecom software industry seems to have been isolated from the Internet during the last five years. With the shift to IP it is expected that more IT companies will be able to provide telecom solutions. Is this the solution? Not sure! Also IT companies are still playing catch-up in the cloud computing domain. Few IT solutions providers are demonstrating, they now think Map-Reduce instead of Middleware.
Google Voice is coming and most operators seem to be still more worried about churning subscribers. Google Latitude and Maps demonstrated that with new technology and innovation you can destroy the telecom monopoly on location-based services overnight…
If you are a telecom operator and you are worried, perhaps it is time we talk.