When you have IMS, what will you do with it?
Instead, it seems much more sensible to focus on capabilities and business models that can be enabled by IMS and this surely is where efforts must be directed in coming quarters.
There are key areas to explore, a selection of the most frequently discussed topics we list here:
- APIs from communications infrastructure that are exposed to third parties. Of course, we've all heard of this one, but it really does need to start happening if we are to capitalise on the biggest source of innovation available to us - Internet developers. The APIs need to be exposed: and swiftly. We said this last year, but the situation hasn't changed, except there are more cloud-based communications solutions that have emerged and Service Providers really have to move in this direction.
- Quality of Service. One thing that IMS can deliver is QoS across millions of subscribers. This is an asset and one that is not available to many. While it remains exclusive to service providers, it needs to be considered an asset and leveraged. There's a great deal of uncertainty here; no-one is quite sure how to do this and, let's face it, we are only just moving from a world of flat-rate plans to more innovative offers, but QoS, Policy and the way in which services can be differentiated remain key service provider assets. It's really time to start thinking about who else can benefit from these and how to charge for such capabilities. QoS hasn't been a product before - perhaps it needs to be considered a product, just as voice is today.
- Business model innovation. We go to shops because they have things we want to buy. We have bought services from service providers because we have to have them, not simply because they are attractive. Service provider A's voice product is probably not much different from service provider B's, or at least not for long. We choose one over the other because we like A's shiny widget more than B's, or they offer better customer service or marginally better pricing for our particular needs. This is all well and good, but really service providers need to think about the products that they have and the audiences to which they can sell them - and that applies both to traditional customers such as consumers and enterprise users and to companies in internet land who want to leverage assets that can be offered by service providers. Service providers are already innovating in this space, but it needs to become a core competency. What have I got that I can sell and how quickly can I put it in the shop window should be a mantra. It's clear that there are multiple opportunities to reach all kinds of audiences, but as yet this is marginal business. It must become core in order to really leverage the deployed assets.
- Time. 18 months to deploy a service or make up your mind is far, far too long. Risk tolerance needs to be increased. Perhaps instead of assessing individual projects on a risk basis, some kind of aggregate risk analysis can be created, such that more failed projects can be accommodated while meeting overall goals. Certainly, something needs to change here as the pace of deployment, let alone innovation is still worryingly slow and shows no signs of changing.