It’s no secret that the pace of innovation is rapidly escalating as IP migration continues apace. We talked to David Walsh, president, chairman and CEO of GENBAND, to discuss the future of the network, the value of the customer experience and the lingering challenges facing operators in transitioning to an all-IP world–all issues that will directly affect the business of channel partners and the wholesale community.
Q: What are some of the challenges that carriers are facing in relation to the future of the network?
A: On a high level, carriers are being confronted by the same challenge they have always faced: How to provide their customers with a superior experience relative to the competition. What’s more acute these days is the intensity of that competitive threat. It’s taken the Internet roughly a decade to mature to a suitable level, but the Web is now clearly a viable medium for real-time communications. Subscriber adoption of so-called over-the-top communications applications is growing at about 45 percent a year, according to some industry sources. While the potential impact of the Web’s emergence as a communications channel has been well chronicled in terms of how it is disrupting carrier voice and messaging revenue, overall subscriber loyalty is also at risk. The Web and the traditional telecom domains are rapidly converging, posing both a significant threat and opportunity for network operators.
Q: How can operators convert these threats into opportunities?
A: To cite a sailing axiom, it’s a matter of leveraging the prevailing winds generated by these market forces, rather than bracing against them. To get specific, network operators need to participate in the OTT market by providing their subscribers with a low-cost or even free service that complements traditional service and maintains the loyalty of the subscriber. With the right approach, operators can add a free or low-cost service to their communications portfolio that can be made vastly superior to anything from an independent OTT by leveraging their telecom assets, such as control of the mobile phone number, the last mile infrastructure or the customer billing relationship. In the case of WebRTC, which will further democratize the communications landscape to moving real-time communications into the browser, network operators have before them a huge opportunity to meld WebRTC with SIP-based communications services and the PSTN, which is still the largest social network in the world.
Q: What is GENBAND doing help operators address these challenges?
A: On a high level, GENBAND has transitioned from a hardware company to a software company. With network functionality moving to pure software, network operators suddenly have an equivalent level of flexibility and access to cutting-edge architectures and technologies, including cloud, data center and virtualization, that have given Web-based entities time-to-market and cost efficiency advantages in the past. Specifically, GENBAND is utilizing its software-only solutions approach to help operators seize on these opportunities in a timely and cost-efficient manner. Our recent purchasing and white labeling of the fring mobile OTT service, for example, offer our customers a cloud-based entry into the OTT business without the risks or time constraints associated with building out service delivery infrastructure from scratch. On the WebRTC front, we’ve introduced the GENBAND SPiDR WebRTC gateway, which in a nutshell functions as a bridge between the Web and telecom domains.
Q: If you could suggest a one-word mantra to condition the telecom industry for dealing with future challenges, what would that be?
A: Persistence. I don’t know how many times over the past 25 years or so that some segment of the telecommunications industry, by exhausting nearly every possibility, has come up with a solution to a problem that was at one time labeled impossible to solve. A perfect example is the hands-in-the-air skepticism surrounding a graceful transition of the PSTN to IP that has pervaded the industry over the past few years. While most of the legacy contributors to the construction of the PSTN have abandoned transition strategies in favor of what can best be described as “let it rust” policies, GENBAND has remained steadfast over the past few years in searching for a viable solution by working with our customers and regulators and seizing on opportunities presented by the latest technology breakthroughs. Thanks to this persistence, GENBAND is now able to bring to operators an IP transition plan that both reduces costs and increases profitability. It’s a win-win. Persistence is an attribute that the entire industry should inject into its DNA. It definitely pays off.
Q: What is GENBAND’s role in supporting the future of the network?
A: The disposition of the telecommunications network in the distant and not-too-distant future obviously has a direct and monumental impact on the future fortunes of our network operator customers. The reason we get up in the morning at GENBAND – the very reason for GENBAND’s existence – is to assist network operators in protecting their dominant positions in the communications value chain and to provide whatever solutions and services they require to exploit new business opportunities and mine new sources of revenue.