If you were in Nice last week for the TM Forum’s annual award strewn extravaganza you would be excused for thinking two things.
The first is that the world’s problem with be solved with a virtualized, cloud based, real time, unified, elastic policy and charging thingy.
The second is that it rains in Nice. In fact, by the time I left at the weekend we had had three inches of rain since Wednesday night. Being from Scotland, I felt oddly at home.
A show such as this becomes a blur. Meeting melds into meeting, presentation into presentation, panel discussion into panel discussion. The whole thing becomes a blurry slide show.
If you suffer from this, here are my eight most important ‘slides’ from the show.
1) There are now so many transactions of such enormous complexity (300 billion a day in one example) that it is simply not feasible to store them all. New thinking needs to be done around how to get the value out of the – pre and postpaid – torrent and use it to the benefit of both operator and customer.
2) The debate about where Policy lives in an organization is the current debate for operators. Whilst policy solutions are still being bought by the network side of the house, this seems to be shifting to the software side of the house. Whilst software vendors are rejoicing, the eternal barrier – politics – will not make this shift easy. There may be trouble ahead.
3) M2M is only called M2M by the communications industry. To the Healthcare, Automotive and others industries it is simply the evolution path. Most operators are still not sure about their role in the ‘M2M’ space. One thing is for sure, they cannot win alone. This is the eco-system where strong partnerships will provide the ‘winners.’
4) The time of the new, small, specialist vendor is coming back – and the biggest of big operators know it. New, almost maverick ‘point’ solutions are emerging to pave the way for larger, more robust solutions that will solve immediate problems such as policy and real time charging.
5) 90 percent of operators say that Billing is in the way of innovation. My guess is that 90 percent of billing folk say that the business is in the way of innovation. In the words of one CIO, the funny thing “is that IT ends up selling business agility to the business.”
6) The GM of GM might be right. Why should your car – for example – not be part of your mobile plan? Your car should be the entity that takes care of all car related transactions. It should take care of its own gas payments, parking fees and fines, speeding tickets and toll fees. Why should it need to worry you with all that? And does that mean that GM or Ford becomes the MVNO? There are some interesting business model discussions around this.
7) ‘Proper’ balance management is now here, alive and in place at a couple of operators in Asia. Being able to transfer balances between, say, family members and ‘barter’ a Skype balance for a Spotify balance will provide game changing opportunities.
8) There are the first signs that operators have got over their perennial knee jerk reaction to a new more complex world – that everyone is a competitor. OTT players and operators seem to be beginning to have conversations about how to make the customer experience better, together. Up to this point it was a case of two monologues being delivered at the same time.
There was also a series of conversations about the Cloud and whether defining it is worthwhile. We think it is, but that is another story.