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What's Trending Now in Enterprise Telecom

The social media sites all report incessantly on what's "trending now", by which they mean what subjects have been the most mentioned in the last day or hour. Cool (maybe), but not very useful to enterprise network managers, whose time frame, even for the latest and greatest, is more like a year or two. Here's what LB3 and TC2 (telecom procurement/regulatory/dispute advisers to half of the Fortune 100) think has been hot in enterprise telecom/IT for the last year or so. Enjoy.

1. SIP trunking has become off-the-shelf, and the carriers are making aggressive moves to shut down Frame Relay and ATM. On the heels of the WebRTC standard, the "real time Web" is appearing in the enterprise. All of this makes the ILECs toast, though their parents/affiliates remain important--after all, they are the largest wireless carriers.

2. Business demand for bandwidth continues to soar, even as unit prices drop. The "second tier" of network service providers--Level 3, XO, CenturyLink, TW Telecom--are now multi-billion-dollar companies, and stronger in IP-based services like SIP than TDM, which augurs well for their futures.

3. Mobile spend continues to grow fast; wireline not so much--although for enterprises, wireline spend continues to exceed wireless spend. LTE deployments are growing and the decline in POTS accelerates. In a sign of things to come, AT&T recently unveiled AT&T Wireless Home Phone for sale outside of its ILEC markets, calling it "a low-cost alternative to traditional home phone service." In other words, AT&T is showing some willingness to attack landline POTS service with its cellular, for users determined to cut the cord.

4. IT departments have waved the white flag on efforts to keep personal devices out of the workplace, turning to Mobile Device Management to protect security.

5. Either Softbank or Dish will buy Sprint, even as T-Mobile bought MetroPCS. AT&T and Verizon didn't get to swallow up anyone--and won't because No's 1 and 2 don't get to build a duopoly through acquisitions--but they are buying up swaths of spectrum.

6. Centrex has officially become CaaS (communications as a service) or "Cloud telephony." That is a lifesaver for IT folks under 40, none of whom know what Centrex was. PBXs are going the way of typewriters, as the manufacturers announced hosted offerings while Lync and UCS advance. If you are an enterprise customer, the last PBX you bought will likely be the last PBX you ever buy.

7. AT&T and its fellow telcos keep saying the PSTN is dead and should be shut down because today's networks use IP--which means, "You can stop regulating us because the 'I' in IP stands for Internet and no one wants to regulate the Internet." It's the latest chapter in the telcos' permanent campaign to escape inconvenient regulatory oversight. And no, it won't have much of impact on the services bought by enterprise customers, though it could well affect protections and terms.

8. The FCC has adopted significant reforms to USF (Universal Service Fund) and intercarrier compensation, but it has just started the long, hard process of implementing those reforms. USF reform, for example, is only half-done because contribution methodology has not been addressed. For enterprise customers that understand the changes, the cost savings should be significant. Those that don't will be lunch.

9. We haven't quite run out of IPv4 addresses, but IPv6 continues to progress...slowly. ICANN's gTLD domain initiative lurches forward.

10. In the Brave New World where everything is connected all of the time so there can be no outages, there have been an awful lot of outages. Blackberry, Verizon, Amazon--they all went down. And then there was Superstorm Sandy--which at least gave everyone an excuse. Turns out that "best efforts" isn't the same as an SLA. Who knew.

What's it all mean for large users? Connectivity is becoming more, not less, central to everyone's core business, and bandwidth demand continues to spike even as unit prices drop, generating both unprecedented opportunity and unprecedented risk. The rapid evolution of services is increasing customer choice, but it guts the notion that telecom/IT are commoditizing, and extends the importance, to large users, of network smarts. In other words, you can outsource your network services, but not your network brains.