Operator Predictions for 2017

I recently made my own predictions for 2017, so I thought it would be interesting to hear what some of my peers on the operator side had to say. Here’s what I found.

Who I Talked to and My Methodology

I asked 10 senior leaders about their views on the hottest technology or innovation in 2017. Here are the demographics:

Geography: 7 US, 3 Europe (2 in APAC wanted to participate but we couldn’t work out the timing)

  • Industry: 9 telco, 1 cable
  • Role: 8 technical, 2 sales/marketing
  • Level: VP, director, group CTO

The Predictions

I asked each of my correspondents, “What is your prediction for the hot trend or technology for 2017?”

There were mentions of a number of technologies you might expect, including:

  • SD-WAN: Software-defined WAN
  • IoT: Internet of Things
  • CORD: Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center
  • LSO: Lifecycle Service Orchestration
  • TIP: Telecom Infrastructure Project
  • OCP: Open Compute Project

Here are the actual predictions.

  • “Soft NIDs, CORD, LSO APIs.”
  • “SD-WAN. It will rock the telco world. There is a lot of smoke and mirrors now, but it will become more standard next year.”
  • “IoT. We will see a lot of churn and development, and not necessarily a lot of money. IoT will require new business models and 5G infrastructure.”
  • “Software-defined applications with a focus on security.”
  • “Fixed wireless in the 3.5 GHz band. This could open up the market to webscale players. By the way, people think that Google is so much smarter than everyone else, especially telco operators. This is not necessarily true, but they do work faster. CSPs can also play the game, and attack the cloud market.”
  • “Deep learning or machine learning is a possibility. We are looking at this now, and it’s like black magic in a box. You can get good results without necessarily understanding how it works.”
  • “SD-WAN.”
  • “My hope is that the community R&D model (e.g., TIP and OCP) is gaining traction. The old model has reached its limits. In the 80s and 90s, innovation was driven by telcos. Since then, innovation has been driven by vendors. That approach is not sufficient any more, and it is not disruptive. The disruptive innovation is coming from the cloud. The beauty of TIP is that it brings together webscale players, telcos, suppliers, and startups.”
  • “Machine learning will be moving into networks, at least from a research standpoint and early products. We use machine learning now but haven’t publicly talked about it.”
  • “The growth will be in connected devices AKA IoT. Key application will include telemedicine and smart metering.”

Big Change Is on the Way

Many of the predictions included technologies that are predicated on a move to software, open systems and an overhaul of the access network. These are big changes, and telcos don’t make big changes quickly. Will they take place next year? I believe that the winning operators will need to drive to quick adoption of these innovations in order to thrive in the new cloud-centric mobile-powered world.

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