Recently I seem to have been involved in multiple ongoing discussions that revolve around the impact of greater than 100 Megabits per second wireless data service (via 4G / Long Term Evolution (LTE)) and the apparently increasing ease of creating rich digital media experiences. All of sudden there is talk about service providers and even wireless carriers becoming a commodity. Anybody can do it, including Google. On the infrastructure side, some like Shelly Palmer, Managing Director of Advanced Media Ventures Group LLC in a recent blog entry (http://www.shellypalmermedia.com/category/blog/) wonder whether “two pre-teens [could] use WordPress, OpenSocial and a few free third party plug-ins to create [a better than a $2 million development effort] media experience … for pizza money?” Focused on the media delivery application layer she comments: ”It is about to become extremely inexpensive to create full-featured, consumer-oriented digital media experiences…”
I am having a case of déjà vu. I am not quite so sure the end-to-end media experience is going to be that simple. We need to be cautious of oversimplifying the apparent role of the service provider and the infrastructure provider. In these new service mash-ups, we could have a wireless broadband access network, an associated service provider’s core transport, 3rd party enterprise networks, data centers with syndicated services on application servers, and maybe, a 2nd and 3rd service provider’s wireless broadband access network(s) plus their associated core transport networks. All of this will have to work together in harmony to deliver an excellent end-to-end digital user’s experience to an ever increasing standard.
There is a lot of work that needs to be done to get just the currently available services to work properly across all these disparate network pieces. The demands that these newer < 20-30 Meg per second services are going to impose on the network are incredible. Just the economics, engineering, and management of over-subscription of the core verses the edge is mindboggling. Trying to manage all of this across multiple provider networks and infrastructures is not really possible today except by brute force over-engineering – not a feasible long term strategy.
Content providers should not trivialize this and just assume the bandwidth with needed Quality of Service (QoS) they need to satisfy their customers are just going to be there. Far from being in danger of being relegated to just a “dumb pipe”, service providers are in a strong position going forward. Equally significant will be the Infrastructure providers. They also have a critical role to play defining services that include in their service descriptions technical, commercial, fault/performance, and QoS characteristics that enable such services to be readily syndicated, aggregated by other service providers, and subsequently consumed. For real revenue to be recorded, Business Support Systems, Operations Support Systems, Service Delivery Frameworks are going to have to work effectively with conventional as well as SaaS delivery and advertising generated revenue models.
Content providers are going to come under pressure to deliver certain levels of QoS and they are going to learn that both the infrastructure player and the service providers provide critical services necessary to actually offering and managing end-to-end service delivery in true commercial environment be it on a per service, per transaction, and/or per subscriber basis.