Is There a Need for Telco 2.0?


Recently good friend and PR 2.0 guru Andy Abramson commented on which people would be the ideal heads of a Telco 2.0 companies. I thought the post was quite intriguing as it got me thinking about the various people I know with disparate telecom and web 2.0 experience. One of the comments I made about Andy’s post is as follows:


It is an interesting premise as the typical service provider exec is focused on building a closed monopoly which excels through the use of lawyers and deft knowledge of the legal/justice system. Of course a working background in lobbying is quite a help in such organizations.

The typical “2.0” executive thrives on open APIs, co-opetition and other concepts which are typically foreign to organizations who thrive in industries where they are part of something that ends in opoly.


Ken Camp – another good friend is one of the brightest minds in the communications blogging world having experience at AT&T, Lucent and a number of other pertinent areas.  Ken and I recently got into a dialogue regarding the term Telco 2.0. Ken hates it for a number of reasons. Here is an excerpt:


I find the idea of Telco 2.0 an anathema to good business sense. I know the carriers all want to be Telco 2.0, but why? If I extend my Yucatan event analogy a bit, the Mastodon was simply Elephant 1.0. It’s gone and pretty much forgotten, but why on earth would you aim to become Elephant 2.0, the pachyderm that’s shrinking in population today? To what end? Why would you aim to become a slow, lumbering beast of burden that’s faced with extinction on the horizon?

I will speculate that there will never be a Telco 2.0 It cannot come into being because its time is already past, by 20 years. Telco 2.0 would predate the Internet dot com bubble burst.

I think that’s why I balked at Andy’s idea of the talented roster of guys he picked as draft picks for the Telco 2.0 All Stars. I absolutely agree about the talent, even genius of the people he mentioned. But to put them into the already extinct construct of a Telco 2.0 fabrication would be to consign them to the seventh level of hell (or deeper).

Ken then brought Jeff Pulver into the post and this was a relevant choice given Jeff’s very early realization of the importance of IP communications and social networking by saying:

Jeff nailed it most accurately the other day when he used the term Internet Communications Continuum in a post. There’s a difference between a continuum and a timeline. In the continuum, the incremental time elements don’t matter. In the continuum we’re talking about the evolution from Bell System to telecom to unified communications to the future was disrupted by something we now call social media. Social media is a bigger disrupter than any technology I’ve seen in my 55 years, but I’m not sure we all get that just yet.

Ken’s most important thoughts are as follows:

Five words that do not describe telecommunications or the telecom industry – Participation, Openness, Conversation, Community and Connectedness. The industry, the whole construct of that framework is to control four of those by ensuring there is no community in the first place. To embrace community is not to become Telco 2.0, but to create something entirely new.

And he is right. Traditional telcos haven’t been about community building and many of these other terms but I might mention that allowing subscribers to speak with one another via voice, SMS, etc are basic forms of enabling community.

In a follow-up post Camp mentions the following nugget:

Social media companies really do look to do exactly the opposite of what the telcos did. They’re a huge disruptor because they change how we communicate with others. They don’t change the technology of communications; instead social media makes communications a multi-modal experience.

To me it is not the terminology which is as important as the reality that telcos are the opposite of social media networks/services.

This means that whatever term we apply to companies who want to be next-generation communications enablers, we are going to have to realize that they will need to be the polar opposite of what phone companies have been this past century.

These future companies will have to embrace Participation, Openness, Conversation, Community and Connectedness and more importantly they will need to foster true community building.

What Ken doesn’t touch on is revenue models and this to me is the fascinating intersection of web 2.0 and Telco 1.0. You see services like FaceBook and Twitter are likely responsible for many billions of dollars of service provider revenue as they both drive the need for enhanced services like data and SMS.

So perhaps the next part of this conversation needs to be can you have web 2.0 without Telco 1.0. To date, Facebook and Twitter are some of the most popular social networking enablers of our time but they don’t have ways to generate profit.

Yet because of them, Telco 1.0 is reaping massive rewards for communities they didn’t build.

Don’t you find it ironic that Telco 1.0 is angry that Google generates massive amounts of revenue over their pipes but when companies generate massive revenue for the telcos at a loss, they go silent?

This line of reasoning leads one to wonder if indeed you need Telco 2.0 if you have web 2.0 companies around to do all the grunt work of generating the communities you get paid to enable.

  • Art Rosenberg
    January 11, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    I think Ken Camp is right on in questioning the name “Telco 2.0.” Telcos were all about voice-based telephony, point-to-point, device-based, person-to-person services. The fact that they now want to expand their network capabilities to service multimodal contacts doesn’t mean you have to keep their old “telco” descriptors, especially when new players who never were “telcos’ will be competing with them.
    UC service providers should not be called “telcos,” especially when voice telephony activity will be diminished by text messaging (both asynchronous email and real-time IM). Perhaps “Public IP Carriers” would better describe what is really happening as wireless mobility, mobile smart phones, and desktop softphones come into play for both business and cosnumer needs.
    I do care about good terminology for technology, because it helps technology users understand what it does as opposed to how it is done. So, when there is disruptive change going on in how people will communicate, it doesn’t help to recycle old labels. Adding the “2.0” doesn’t tell me what the change will be, and everyone will have to start defining their view of the changes.

Leave Your Comment