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I’m optimistic about telco

Who doesn’t love the telco industry? I came back from Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2023 totally pumped, with my head spinning with possibilities for the future of our industry and everything it can deliver to the world. Totogi, where I’m acting CEO, had more than 100 meetings with prospective clients interested in our BSS enhancement platform. The path between our space and Amazon Web Services (AWS) was well worn, as the AWS team kept bringing more people to our booth to see our products. To say that the Totogi team is energized and excited about the future is a massive understatement.

Yet the headlines out of MWC told a different story. Sites were filled with Debbie Downer articles like “What’s the point of telecoms?,” which declared the GSMA Open Gateway initiative dead on arrival, and complained that the “MWC party goes on amid the rubble of telecom”—an industry in the throes of an identity crisis.

WUT?!?!

The telco industry doesn’t have an identity crisis. It’s really obvious, (at least to me): telcos build killer networks. Just because the hyperscalers go big at MWC does not mean their next move is to build their own networks that put telcos out of business (they want everyone’s enterprise workloads, not telco’s regulation nightmares).

Networks are expensive to build and telcos are stuck in a “prisoner’s dilemma” when facing each new G. At MWC this year I overheard discussions starting about 6G (!), which was mind-blowing to think about when we’re still having ROI discussions on 5G. So before you run off and build the business case to the board about why you need to build a 6G network, I suggest you pump the brakes for a half second and do two things first:

  1. Figure out how to build killer networks for less. Explore EVERY IDEA OUT THERE to lower the CapEx investment and cost per bit required to build your network. Really stretch yourself and think as out of the box as possible, starting with free ideas like OpenRAN and the public cloud (ahem). Every new G can’t be a megalithic capital expenditure.
  2. Find ways to technically leverage the network to create new monetization streams. Use APIs that can integrate directly to your network and to public cloud software services (ahem again) so enterprise IT and other software developers can easily access and use the network with their code. Set those devs free!

Telcos need to step up to the challenge—NOW. Put all your fear, uncertainty, and doubt on the back burner for a moment (as well as your fever dream that the tech companies will fund your network build out), and imagine that I’m right and the public cloud isn’t the worst idea ever. Imagine that Mats Granryd is on the right track with his MWC keynote announcing GSMA Open Gateway with 21 MNOs around the world collaborating on CPaaS APIs. Just maybe.

Because you know what? I’m so optimistic about the future of APIs in our industry that I returned from MWC and bought a bankrupt CPaaS company.

Trick or treat: I bought Kandy

Yes! In case you didn’t hear the news, Skyvera, an affiliate of TelcoDR, acquired substantially all assets of American Virtual Cloud Technologies, Inc. (AVCT), including Kandy Communications. Kandy provides global, carrier-grade, white-label cloud communications services, including communications platform as a service (CPaaS), unified communications as a service (UCaaS), and a rich portfolio of real-time communications APIs and supporting functions. It has great customers, such as Etisilat (e&) and AT&T.

To start, let’s talk about its CPaaS offering. Generally speaking, a CPaaS platform is offered as a cloud-based service that enables enterprises to add real-time communication services (RCS) like SMS messaging, voice calling, and video conferencing to business applications through APIs. The key to this software getting marketing traction is to provide an easy way for software developers to add real-time communication features into existing business systems, apps, and websites.

Twilio is probably the most famous and successful CPaaS provider. Over the past 15 years, it has done the hard work of integrating to networks around the world to make it easy for devs to add connectivity to any application. It began as a start up in 2008 and turned into a company now valued at $12 billion. But there’s no reason why telcos can’t have a CPaaS offering, too. This is a great example of technically leveraging and monetizing your network (#2 above!). With efforts such as GSMA Open Gateway and companies like Kandy, the ideas are out there and some—such as Twilio—are 100% working. Telco just needs to give it a shot, too.

Remember: you build the killer network, telcos. I can’t help you with that. I will tell you that you have to do it cheaper than you have been doing it, and you have to find new ways to monetize it. With so much talk at MWC—in the keynotes, in the halls, over coffee—about monetizing networks to pay for the 5G investment, you need to try out new ideas such as Kandy’s (and now Skyvera’s) CPaaS to create new revenue streams.

Your 2030 business model is going to be WAY different from your 1975 business model. Shush the little voice in your head that keeps telling you that you can’t do it—rip up the old model and give it a go. Want to get started now? Then give me a shout, I’ll be waiting for you over here in the new public cloud world.

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