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Next Generation Thinking to Empower NGNs

According to a new ABI Research Brief, network operators are slowly beginning to roll out all-IP next generation networks (NGN). The move to an Internet Protocol-based infrastructure is a natural evolution for the fixed network as broadband services, including Voice over IP (VoIP), take over from the legacy Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).

Mobile communication networks have a parallel evolution to IP -- although at a slower pace -- but the standards work is accelerating. By the end of 2007 there will be full NGN standards for fixed and mobile networks allowing IP-based services to be deployed on NGNs, a process that ABI Research analysts expect to be largely complete by 2015 for a total cumulative investment of more than $1 trillion.

"As we move to the end of the decade, bandwidth-hungry services such as IPTV will need an IP infrastructure to support them. Operators will also want to control operating costs by moving all services over an IP network," says ABI Research analyst Ian Cox. "This will enable deployment of service delivery platforms and IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) in the network, streamlining operations and allowing new services to be introduced quickly."

For users, says Cox, NGN provides better and more compelling services and deliver higher data rates, for video and rich voice sessions. For operators, NGN allow services and transport in the network to be separated and to evolve independently. This will speed up the development of content and services, to the advantage of the whole industry. At least, that's the intent.

If only it were that simple, and then perhaps a trillion dollar capital investment might be a wise move. However, it's not that simple, because broadband service providers won't be deploying IMS infrastructure in a competitive vacuum -- the world is changing, apparently much faster than the typical service provider can change their business model.

Meaning, service provider executive leadership that hasn't evolved beyond 'previous generation thinking' will attempt to apply NGNs from a legacy business model perspective. They will believe that technology, like IMS and SIP, will be the essential basis to assure their future viability. They will also believe that once they're armed with these platforms, and the underlying IP network infrastructure, developing and launching successful service offerings must become easier.

I question the validity of both assumptions, since I believe that technology and enabling platforms are a relatively small part of what really needs to change, in order to pre-position broadband service providers to compete effectively in the 21st Century. NGNs deployed without 'next generation thinking' are doomed to produce lackluster results. Why?

Broadband service providers are inherently 'marketing challenged' organizations -- with only a few exceptions globally. Most still are unable to translate shifts and changes within their marketplace into business opportunity. Most lack a strong market assessment discipline, and many lack fundamental strategic foresight.

My point, you can't expect to compete in a fractured and diluted communications and entertainment service marketplace with an unsophisticated or obsolete grasp of market and consumer segmentation. Prior success, given the business model dynamics of the last century, doesn't assure future success. Clearly, a forward-looking perspective typically won't come from those who tend to dwell on the past.

In the past, a perspective that's centered around technology and platforms may have been 'good enough' for a sedate monopoly or duopoly business environment. It's not good enough today, you can be assured of that fact.

Do service providers really have a good grasp of the market trends already in motion, and can they anticipate what their customers will require from them -- going forward towards the horizon? Hint: the answer won't be found in the equivalent to a business assessment rear-view mirror, with walled-gardens as the focal point.

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