In the 15 years since the Internet became a global phenomenon, there has been an intense growth in the number of services that customers are able to access through their telecommunications connection, most of which have been created and supplied by third parties.
Network providers basically today have two choices - a) to be providers of only a small number of mostly commoditized services, b) or to work with third parties to add value to the customer's overall experience of using Internet and Web services.
The shift to third-party services is accelerating as more software platforms are making it easier build and upload new ideas to the Web's expanding community of users. Look no further than Facebook to realize the wide range of ways in which open platforms are being used to leverage businesses and expose them to greater opportunities.
A recent Heavy Reading whitepaper outlined the likely dimensions or characteristics these third-party services include: increasingly image and video-centric; highly personalized and customizable; focused on collaborative and social activities; and are available on a much wider range of devices, including non-traditional media such as wearable devices.
In a 2007 survey with network operators, they were asked to choose three of the most important factors to the future success of today's mainstream telcos. More than half said "better partnering and collaboration with third-party service providers," most of whom are now trying to deepen relationships with third-party Internet and Web-based service providers and developers, primarily by giving those third parties better access to telco resources, capabilities, assets and databases that could be of value to those parties.
Application enablement is a network approach that combines the capabilities of network operators with the speed and innovation of the Web. Quality, security and reliability are key areas that network providers must supply. To create new value, network capabilities must be addressed in a managed and controlled way, facilitating new business models and improving return on investment.
According to the whitepaper commissioned by Alcatel-Lucent, to "free the network," operators need to abide by 10 core principles as they make strides in this area:
1. Establish a set of KPIs that set benchmarks for improving performance in this area.
2. Take a pragmatic initial approach to working with third parties, aiming to show through simple early-to-market solutions how the new relationship could work and demonstrating that superior value really can be created.
3. At the same time, be ready to have a variety of business and commercial solutions available over time.
4. Understand which third parties are most likely to respond positively to an invitation to work with you, probably through detailed market research.
5. Use software platforms that are suitable or adaptable for use by particular kinds of developers.
6. Sell the ability to connect third parties with end users wherever they are--through both partnerships and technology. This means resolving issues on behalf of third parties such as the customer's location, type of access network, device and so on.
7. Break down internal walls and barriers between the key stakeholders, which will include CIO, CTO, OSS/BSS, network operations, CRM, product management and marketing.
8. Deploy policy and QoS tools that are designed from the start to help enrich relationships with third parties, rather than simply as tools to control the behavior of applications or the telco's own services.
9. Focus on dismantling subscriber data silos and getting consensus on rules for using that data.
10. Emphasize the ability to identify and authenticate individuals in a secure environment, as well as the ability to bill them. Network providers - especially mobile network providers - are in a strong position to do this, and it is a capability that will be valued by third parties.
For more on application enablement and working successfully with third parties, visit Alcatel-Lucent's Next Generation Communications community on TMCnet.