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Unisys boss predicts telco restructuring

Voicemail by MMS is just the first of many changes

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The days of dialling-up to retrieve your voicemail are numbered, thanks to audio MMS, says Carlo d'Asaro Biondo, the general manager for communications and media at Unisys EMEA.

Delivering voicemail as a free MMS message not only gives a better service, but will save millions of minutes a year on congested voice networks by moving the traffic onto under-utilised GPRS networks.

Biondo was speaking as Unisys announced a number of system integration deals with networks, including a $9m integrated messaging project for Polish mobile carrier PTK Centertel and a £5.5m contract with BT Wholesale for a directory services system.

"We are on the verge of big changes at the telcos," says Biondo, who joined Unisys from KPMG where he was the consultancy's French CEO.

He predicts that network operators could have just two to three years left in their present form, instead being forced to split into separate groups or divest divisions which operate under very different pressures.

"The mentality was 'I don't care if it makes money as long as it brings me more traffic.' That's changed and now the focus on cashflow means that every part of the operation has to be profitable in its own right," he says.

"Companies are looking for extreme granularity in their profit and loss accounts, so they can allocate costs and measure return on investment."

He is sceptical of attempts by telcos to add value to their networks through services and retail operations. He points out that these activities work in fundamentally different ways - the profitability of a network depends on volume, retail depends on efficiency, and the profitability of services is based on content and innovation.

"We will see a splitting of those three layers, maybe into different companies," he says. He adds that the prime candidates here are those telcos which own multiple networks, for example wired telephony, mobile and IP.

"The current split between fixed and mobile is not the issue," he says. "The services could be the same on both, and that's what counts, so those networks could be managed as one.

"The retail part needs to merge with other retail operations, and the services layer is more and more dependent on partners, content providers and system integrators."

Telcos need to look at things that belong in the network, such as information management and storage, he says, while building a platform that allows them to easily add third-party services on a revenue-sharing model similar to iMode. Amazingly enough, this is something which Unisys can help them do. ®

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