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What's Wrong With Telecom?

I love telecom and still argue that telecom is the place for entrepreneurs. Of course I know the old saying "love is blind" and even still in every love relationship there's always a little bit of less loving and hopefully more forgiving. With that, hopefully my criticisms are forgiven.My first gripe is the lack of drive, that seems akin to an ancient memory, of providing service to the customer. Large enterprise management can exercise their contractual power, but for the most part and in many cases you take a number, get in line and you may get help if a) you know the system, b) you know what you're talking about and c) you're lucky. The carriers have long been too shielded by the FCC and the PUC/PSC's and it's not too hard to understand why since they (the providers) pretty much write their own rules. I don't know about you but I don't see any indications of insolvency. So why is customer service so lousy?

My second complaint is directed at cellular companies and their services and practices that stink. Why? In the age of putting Martha Stewart in lock down and later being able to track her movements and position on the planet, you'd hope that your cell service was just as good. Dropped calls, poor call quality and lack of service availability needs to be a thing of the past instead of what we all deem as tolerable. The mantra that cellular companies cannot possibly design better cell networks because "costs would be too high" pretty much has everyone paying premiums for services that are too unreliable.

My last concern is just that--a concern. For the past several weeks I've been dealing with an executive that wants to get his DID calls on his cell phone when he's out traveling and visiting other factories. Trunk-to-trunk transfer doesn't always provide "acceptable" call quality and it's permissive, meaning it lacks call supervision. It's amazing how many manufacturers state they support PRI - no you don't. You support BASIC PRI and not all the features and capabilities of PRI including TBCT (2 Bearer Channel Transfer). I argue that TBCT is glue needed to not only unify communications but also get the communicators communicating. Desktop phones, no matter who argues for or against them, won't be a quick kill for the simple reason that people don't like change and the ones that do, well, they do only to a degree. Then, fixed mobile convergence (FMC) doesn't exactly glue desktop phones to cell phones.

But to really understand my last concern you need to understand my compliment. My tribute goes to Cisco for understanding details. Over many years I've read plenty of Cisco publications and documents including their call transfer and call handling of PRI calls that include advanced features such as TBCT. Long ago, I enjoyed (it's okay to laugh) reading Bell Labs documentation on echo or quantizing noise and a host of other things. Cisco understands how TBCT works and they understand a lot of other things including details in how things work in telecommunications. This and more has earned Cisco a number one standing. My theory is Cisco has taken every, or nearly every piece of telecom apart, reconstructed it for their pleasure and made a fortune. Now, if Microsoft would do the same thing to itself, well, I'd be tipping my hat to them instead.

A lot of the groundwork has been laid and built upon with developing IPT to provide better, faster, cheaper and simpler means of communicating and providing services to glue people to home or work whenever and wherever they want. Gauging the resistance of customer/user or provider/carrier -my bet is that the greatest amount of resistance to change isn't from the users but from the carriers themselves. Nortel's MEN sell off is just one significant indicator of how much change we will see in telecommunications.

A few years ago I commented on the shift of traffic from voice to IP and the move of that traffic traversing the Internet and not the PSTN. More importantly I also noted the question that is more relevant today -what happens to those Central Offices as customers abandon wireline services for the web and/or cellular? I am just as concerned about the reliability and accessibility of the PSTN, but how far and how long will the carriers be allowed to continue to hide behind the PSTN? Meaning they play public safety and the public well-being cards very well and still, not forgetting that the Telcos have done a great job in an overly legislated industry whose primary purpose for the government seems to be to raise revenue. Thinking that things will stay the same in the carrier network with huge losses in wireline business is a bit risky. So the meaning is, expect carrier contraction with loss of wireline business and not just on the staff support. Aside from all this, where are the statistics of the Telcos implementing their own hosted telephony solutions? Lastly, I question and ponder: "just how public is the PSTN anymore?" In other words, relevancy has changed.

Considering the metrics that we're held up to- keeping the systems up and running, delivering acceptable call quality, reasonable costs and the ongoing expectations of customers wanting improvements: better, faster, cheaper, simpler; well, I've got to ask, "what about telecommunications?" Is telecom's complacency and slow-to-change mentality the core reason for Cisco's success? I dunno, but I bet someone else has thought so.