When Light Reading invites the world's top telecom minds to its annual Vision 2020 Executive Summit, we do so with the promise that they are free to share their ideas and opinions without fear of public exposure. That means, as journalists, that we put down our pens and close our laptops and listen.
In my case, much of that listening was done from the stage, as my job as emcee was to engage audience members and, in some cases, put them on the spot. So my recollections from the event are from that vantage point, and are also subject to the vagaries of an aging memory.
All that said, there are some distinct impressions that I can share from the three days in the Wicklow Mountains, outside Dublin, namely:
The telecom industry is not moving lockstep into its future. The paths that carriers take are increasingly diverse, and the pace at which they will move even more so. Of course, there are common technologies upon which the industry must rely and there is no one network operator that can define these, but I expect to see greater diversity in business plans and objectives than ever before. And that's a good thing, because strategies will become more company- and customer-specific.
"Virtualization" is being viewed as an infinite toolkit with many different types of tools, and ways in which they will be used. The companies that are moving ahead most quickly are connecting the capability of different tools with their business imperatives. Others are more engaged with trying to sort out how the tools fit together and what the frame of the house will resemble. That is not a perfect analogy, but it's as close as I can come.
The threat posed by hyperscale companies is not being underestimated but neither is it being exaggerated. There is little "woe is me" effect among network operator executives even though some of them might suffer from AWS-envy.
There is tremendous room for improvement when it comes to information sharing -- and this is embarrassing to mention as a trade press journalist -- but I find there's a lot of things I assumed to be common knowledge that didn't prove to be the case among a very smart crowd of industry execs. And I learned some things that surprised me. So if you are a hardware or software company or an industry association and you think your story is well understood, think again. And try harder. And make it simpler.
Along those same lines, telecom executives increasingly have little patience with platitudes or clichés, or whatever you want to call the industry-speak we often use as a short-hand. I'm not talking about the common curse of acronyms, I speak of frustration with broad discussion of "solutions" or even "ecosystems" -- granted, this is a personal pet peeve of mine so I may gravitate toward like-thinkers. Specifics, simplicity, fact-based statements -- those are what drove the best discussions in Dublin.
So I think I've managed to compile some interesting thoughts without breaking our Chatham House rules. And Happy New Year everyone.