Can Pigs Fly? Sometimes they can!

Moshe presenting Fone.Do at TADSummit  2015

Moshe presenting Fone.Do at TADSummit 2015

Can Pigs Fly? I don’t want to offend anyone, but I am just using a common idiom to make a point…

Last month, I took part in TADSummit 2015 in Lisbon, Portugal. TADSummit is  an intimate conference which brings together  small innovative developers like  Fone.Do together  with Big Telco and their suppliers. Among the 250 attendees, there were big guys like Telenor, Orange, T-Mobile, Cisco, Oracle and Huawei, rising stars such as Nexmo and Kandy mixing with relative small outfits such as Apidaze, Telestax, Zen.ly, Vivaction and others (just to mention a few!).

Towards the end Alan Quayle the conference organizer, led a panel and  announced the TADS Mentor initiative. The mentoring  program will assist innovative startups with technical and business mentorship. Werner Eriksen of Telenor Digital, who was sitting in the audience, pointed the discussion in a new direction when he suggested that maybe it is the Telcos who need a mentoring program!  Sad that it may be, I must say that there is something to that statement. While Werner’s company, Telenor is probably one of the most innovative Telcos, most of their innovation is shunted off to a small group that it is kept at arms length from the mother ship.

At other companies the situation is even worse. So while people like Werner, Sebastian Schumann of T-Mobile, Fernando Mendioroz of Digicel, among others are doing great work – in most their work stays in the PoC stage.

Same story for many of the other Big Telcos. Features like MultiRing (one number on multiple devices) are considered new, innovative products. Now, lets take a look at the  Internet, see how it has changed tremendously in the last decade, while Telecom has stagnated. With new technologies like WebRTC, ubiquitous bandwidth, abundant APIS and smart mobile devices, so much more can be done.!

CEOs of the Big Telcos need to turn innovation into their personal mission. The technology is there, as is the need. Those who do not heed the call for change, will be left being that term that they all abhor – Dumb Pipes!

So, while it may be true that Pigs can not fly – Telcos can! But it is up to their captains to take control. Will they?

The Biggest Revolution in Telecom since Alexander Bell

 

Christopher_Columbus_on_Santa_Maria_in_1492.

Those are definitely bold words. “Biggest”, “Revolution” “Since Bell”. But I am convinced that we are crossing the chasm into a new world and Telecom as we know it is changing.

For years improvements in Telecom were incremental such as replacing the copper analog pipes with digital and then Internet  Protocol packets. Even when we moved to IP Switchboards, we more or less copied existing features in a new format. Hosted PBX, a product I have been selling for years at The Flat Planet Phone Company, was basically just moving the existing system from the comms closet in the office to a Data Center aka as The Cloud. Functionality was the same.

My friend, Jeff Pulver spoke about this years ago. Jeff used to love to say that voice is just another application and at the end of the day, it is just bits and bytes. But, like many prophets, he was before his time.

But today we can definitely say – Voice is just another application and it is just bits and bytesWhat happened? What has changed? A number of things have come together, the main ones being technology and the ubiquity of high quality internet. 

  • Telephony has moved to the web. Adding a “telephony” like feature to an application is the same as any other web feature (WebRTC)
  • APIs have replaced the traditional network (Twillio, Tropo, Plivo, Restcomm etc.)
  • Acceptable QoS, “good enough” for telephony, is common.
  • Democratization of telephony. Any web programmer can add so called telephony, voice, text and audio to his application without knowing anything about how telephony works. All she needs is a few APIs.

I have been talking about this frequently for the last year. But today it really hit me. We were having a product planning meeting at fone.do and one of the participants suggested a real exciting feature. The consensus was, lets do it! It will be ready in a few days. That is unbelievable. In the past introducing a new feature in a telephone service took years of design, planning, testing and then more testing. Not to mention the whole marketing process. Now we are only limited by our imaginations, and web people really have  great imaginations. Unlike Bellheads who may be limited by the past (I hope all my bellhead friends excuse me….)

With these thoughts in mind I am heading next Monday to Lisbon, and if you are in the Telecom world, so should you! At TADSummit, disruptive developers will meet up with legacy carriers and their suppliers to chart innovative courses in this new exciting world.  It is fitting that this conference is taking place only a few hours drive from where Columbus set out on his trip. Like Columbus who had his theory, but found other lands, who knows where we will go?!?

Fone.Do is presenting on Wednesday at 10:20am. See you in Lisbon!