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A Cluster Of Links: Telcos & Innovation

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Last months Mobile World Congress prompted a cluster of posts and book reviews around the subject of Innovation & Telcos, especially around the roll of Bell Labs. Here are the top ones to read: 

The Carriers Are Stuck In The Innovator’s Dilemma. Just Don’t Tell Them That.
Jeff Lawson, Pando Daily, February 20th 2012 (the author is founder of Twilio, an example given in the post for innovation using Telco networks)



“To survive the innovator’s dilemma, carriers need to increase the intelligence of their networks and open them up for innovation.”


“There is, in fact, a party of innovation among developers of voice, VoIP and SMS apps that is similar in spirit to the early days of DIY telephone networks. It’s time for the carriers to join in.”


“Instead of being fearful, operators should embrace the opportunity to innovate. But they do require a different organizational structure that allows them to fail fast and learn so that every once in while they have a winner.”

A new book is out  “The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation” and the author Jon Gertner wrote an opinion piece in NYTimes that has prompted me to add the book to my reading list. Here is what he has to say:


Indeed, in the search for innovative models to address seemingly intractable problems like climate change, we would do well to consider Bell Labs’ example — an effort that rivals the Apollo program and the Manhattan Project in size, scope and expense. Its mission, and its great triumph, was to connect all of us, and all of our new machines, together. 

In his recent letter to potential shareholders of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg noted that one of his firm’s mottoes was “move fast and break things.” Bell Labs’ might just as well have been “move deliberately and build things.” This sounds like the quaint pursuit of men who carried around slide rules and went to bed by 10 o’clock. But it was not. 

But to consider the legacy of Bell Labs is to see that we should not mistake small technological steps for huge technological leaps. It also shows us that to always “move fast and break things,” as Facebook is apparently doing, or to constantly pursue “a gospel of speed” (as Google has described its philosophy) is not the only way to get where we are going. Perhaps it is not even the best way. Revolutions happen fast but dawn slowly. To a large extent, we’re still benefiting from risks that were taken, and research that was financed, more than a half century ago.

You can read more reviews of the book @ Huffington Post and NYTimes.




Written by Ashu Joshi

March 27, 2012 at 11:06 am

Posted in Service Providers

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Innovative Business Models: Bharti-Airtel

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Bharti-Airtel of India continues to innovate on their business models, recently outsourcing mobile value added services to Comviva.  As you read through this article, one paragraph captures my attention:

Airtel’s IT contract with IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) works on a revenue-sharing basis, while the operator’s network outsourcing contracts with Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Nokia Siemens Networks introduced a radical financial arrangement whereby Airtel pays for network capacity usage (priced per erlang), and not for the network infrastructure.

Bharti is not paying for the network infrastructure, they are not even leasing it, they are paying based on actual usage.

Written by Ashu Joshi

June 19, 2009 at 10:00 am