Device and service convergence continues to accelerate and as it does, the complexity involved in creating new products and services increases. A counter to the trend of increasing complexity is the new multi-industry ng Connect Program, founded by Alcatel-Lucent which is establishing a rich and diverse ecosystem of infrastructure, device, content and applications for both mobile and fixed broadband networks including 4G, LTE, GPON and other ultra high bandwidth technologies.
The group accelerates the deployment of new devices and services by helping to determine interoperability across industries such as automotive, entertainment, wireless and consumer electronics. The value proposition for members include access to research, reduced development costs and a first mover advantage across markets. For carriers there is the increased use of broadband, reduced OPEX and churn and accelerated time to market.
For consumers the benefits include better integration of disparate entertainment systems, a higher level of value for devices which are part of this initiative, enhanced payment options and perhaps lower cost for a variety of next-gen services and devices.
To learn more about the group's progress I had a chance to interview Chris Carfagnini, Director of Emerging Technology & Media for Alcatel-Lucent via email. The interview is below.
What is the ultimate goal of the ng Connect Program?
The primary goal is to facilitate improved end user experiences on all forms of ultra high bandwidth broadband connections. By helping to bring new applications and services to market for next generation networks more quickly, the ng Connect Program will facilitate an expansion of the revenue base for network operators and others, offer members a chance to work with companies they may not have been able to collaborate with individually and expand their own market opportunities. By doing so, ng Connect will also deliver the benefits of a seamless broadband experience to mobile phones, computers, cars, gaming systems though this ecosystem of infrastructure, devices, content and applications. Users will be able to stream more content, run more sophisticated applications on-the-go, and communicate in the most popular formats of today, and tomorrow.
Who should join and why?
Any company that is interested in leveraging next generation networks in their future offerings, and are interested in learning more about it today, before it's implemented. Initially we are focused on industries that can bring innovation and capability in five key focus areas, although this is expected to grow in the future: Consumer Media & Entertainment, Enterprise Collaboration & e-Healthcare, Automotive Connectivity, Digital Signage and Computing Experience.
We currently have 18 member companies in a variety of industries and specialties including augmented reality, consumer & enterprise electronics, digital signage, music label, mobile games and compelling social networking/entertainment developers as well as leading technology companies in the education and automotive fields. The initial members in ng Connect Program include 4DK, Alcatel-Lucent, Atlantic Records, Buzznet, chumby, Connect2Media, dimedis, FISHLABS, HP, Kyocera Communications Inc., LearningMate, MediaTile, QNX, Samsung, SIGNEXX, Total Immersion, TuneWiki and Words & Numbers.
What is the primary reason companies are not joining?
We've been lucky that nearly every company we approach and have had the opportunity to discuss the ng Connect Program with, has become a member company, even some that are traditionally quite conservative see the value. In fact, our challenge isn't convincing companies to join once we've discussed the value of the program, it is determining which companies to bring into the program in which priority ... we have many, many companies in the funnel today. Right now on the membership front, the focus is on educating people about who we are and our goals, the more companies we can reach, the more companies will join.
What is the most exciting part of your involvement with this group?
I work with Alcatel-Lucent who conceived and created the organization and I have been closely involved in helping this initiative get off the ground. The most fun is working with companies in industries not traditionally associated with telecom and seeing their eyes light up when they realize the value proposition of what next generation broadband networks and applications enablement can do for their business plans.
It's great because we at Alcatel-Lucent believe that a broad spectrum of companies must come together to collaborate in a strong ecosystem to innovate, remove business and technical barriers and define new business models to accelerate mass adoption of new services and devices for next generation networks.
There is currently an unmet demand scenario in the telecom services marketplace. Ultra high bandwidth networks will unleash the art of the possible for meeting these demands and creating exciting new user experiences. The members of ng Connect represent multiple industries' key innovators within a framework to focus them collectively towards breakthrough innovations in both services and business models.
Do companies quickly understand the group's value proposition or does it take work to explain?
Those within the ICT (Information and Communication Technology) sector clearly understand immediately but even those in diverse industries, who have not, to this point, engaged deeply with communications technology, understand very quickly and are eager to start which is why we've been able to sign up 18 companies in a very short time.
Does the success of the organization depend on any particular companies or is critical mass most important?
As an ecosystem, it's most important to have key players in each of the segments we are focusing on that include both large, well-established companies as well as the smaller, nimbler start-ups. We are extremely happy with our current membership and look forward to expanding it.
When will companies see the benefits the group has to offer?
Companies, both our customers and potential new members, can see it today. To date the membership have collaboratively developed 6 Proof of Concept demos and there are many more in the funnel. In addition to visiting our labs, many of these demos can be seen at tradeshows. In fact at CTIA Wireless we had six Proofs of Concept in the Alcatel-Lucent booth under the ng Connect banner, including a Mobile Enhanced Reality demo, with member companies 4DK and Total Immersion that was recognized with an E-Tech Award from CTIA.
How about consumers? Will we see a day where ng Connect becomes a recognizable consumer logo?
While that might be flattering, the goal is not to create a Consumer brand, but to facilitate innovation that allows consumers, member companies and service providers and network operators to experience the value of what next generation broadband can enable. It would be optimal though, if ng Connect was eventually recognized by multiple industries as a key "enabler" organization.
What benchmarks have you set to gauge future success?
Clearly, the ability to collaborate and rapidly create compelling proofs of concept demonstrations for new services and experiences is a key benchmark. We measure ourselves on our ability to demonstrate the "art of the possible" over broadband networks. Also, attracting key members from many industries to help drive demand and remove barriers to innovation will help enable new business models for all along the digital media value chain and improving uptake of new technologies and services.
How do prospective new companies learn more?