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Can Big Telco do Perestroika?

Part 1: Wrestling with IP-zilla

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Operators make money on the voice call today, said Geddes, but many of these calls are calls the network would rather we didn't make. Instead, they should make money before and after the call. How many of us, he asked, have to write down a phone number on a piece of paper during a call? Why isn't there a simpler way of sending a number during a call?

When asked, users want lots more information that carriers are either failing to provide, and better services. Topping STL's poll was presence "metadata" about the recipient. Were they busy? Users also wanted better directory services from their operators, which means "better address books".

Even in the IP world, which after 15 years of web innovation, such services don't appear by magic. The internet doesn't have credible (i.e., spam proof) identity services or address books, and isn't likely to in the near future. (The flavour of the week, OpenID, is a spammer's delight).

At least one participant was aware of another tool in the the telco's favour. "How long before Google has to partner with telcos to deliver an acceptable end user quality of experience?" one attendee asked the Adzilla speaker, who was sadly absent through illness.

Do androids dream of near-field shopping coupons?

Telco 2.0's emphasis on shock tactic does have its downsides, however.

Near field electronics was hardly mentioned, but this technology in every phone will make many transactions, of various kinds, much easier. Not just shopping, but something as simple as exchanging business cards, can be achieved with a simple tap (or swipe). With today's Bluetooth, it's so tedious hardly anyone bothers.

Nor is there much awareness of the potential of legal P2P. I didn't hear a blanket license mentioned once - which is astonishing, considering that France nearly voted to legalize P2P file sharing with a compulsory tariff on ISPs (and mobile operators) last year.

This potentially represents a huge opportunity for incumbents. A flat fee would encourage, not penalize media consumption, but in itself it wouldn't solve any of the problems we have finding and sharing music or video. Therefore, there are countless services, from radio to music discovery, that have yet to be tried.

So things aren't as bad as they seem.

But in managing their own Perestroika, telcos will have to open up to services on mutually agreeable terms. They'll need to simplify APIs, and speed up the access process for bright new service companies. And this we'll examine in the next instalment. ®

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