Robert Vrij during his keynote at TIA 2012
By Robert Vrij, President of Alcatel-Lucent’s Americas region.
Given I’m in the telecommunications industry, I know only too well what things really used to be like. Just ask my smart phone savvy teenage daughters, who have suffered through my “when I was your age” stories. It wasn’t that long ago that to make a call while you were away from home you had to search for a pay phone. For consumers it was a vital service. For service providers it was an important revenue stream.
Today telecom is all about the network — which has become an intrinsic, essential part of our lives in so many ways. The network is everywhere and always on, ready to connect consumers with the entire world. Smartphones and tablets are everywhere. WiFi connectivity is expected. Clouds have become a place to store things. “On Demand” entertainment is normal. Controlling your house remotely is no longer science fiction.
It was all on display last week in Dallas, Texas, at TIA 2012 — the annual tradeshow put on by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA).
As I shared with attendees during my keynote last Wednesday, last year the “connected car” concept was just that: a concept. Now, our “connected service vehicle” is a viable service offering, ready for deployment in the field – and running on the show floor at TIA. And earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show we demonstrated many other groundbreaking ideas that redefine what a telecom service is – such as a game table that acts like a giant tablet and a cloud-based fitness service that offers hotel guests a personalized exercise experience combining body recognition technology with high-def digital displays.
Of course, what allows these cool services to work is the network — which offers endless possibilities as we rethink what a telecom service is. But despite its increased relevance, service providers still have an opportunity to measure the true value of the network in terms of its impact in connecting, people, economies and machines – and not just by the sum of its bits or subscribers.
As we start to approach the network more holistically, we need to remember wireless versus wireline doesn’t matter to consumers. Consumers only think in terms of whether they are connected or not. All they want are things like email, texts, YouTube and Facebook, and they don’t care too much about how they get it. Frankly, they only think about the network when it does not work…and that’s the way it should be.
So service providers should be cashing in on their connectivity and trusted brand, as a ticket to new service offerings. They have networks so advanced they can now identify and authenticate humans, not just end points. The network can know when I am in one place, but my credit card is being used some place else. Imagine how invaluable this service would be for consumers in preventing identity theft. Best of all, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
These are exciting times for the industry. We have the opportunity to embed the network more deeply into consumers’ lives than ever before. And when that happens, it is going to be really entertaining to see my daughters talk to their children about “when I was your age” — and how the devices and telecom services they take for granted now have become forgotten much like payphones have.