Most philosophers will point to self-awareness as the trait that distinguishes humans from all other inhabitants of the planet. High up on the list of uniquely human habits, though, has to be line-drawing.
From the get-go, humans have fenced off their fields of understanding by segmenting, segregating, grouping, pigeonholing, compartmentalizing and drawing boundaries around everything and thought we encounter.
We throw the population into a new bucket every 25 years or so and call it a generation, sometimes with a clever label like Baby Boomer or Millennial.
The telecommunications industry has long been a bastion of segregation. While silo tends to be the preferred form of segmentation, operators and their suppliers have a fondness for generation as well, when describing progressions of technology in their networks and the hardware and software that delivers services, sends out bills and handles customer relations.
Similar to its usage for differentiating groups of people, generation is most often employed by operators to isolate one type of technology from another. In fact, most carriers share a history of classifying their networks as a series of independent generations, all with their dedicated protocols, equipment, management systems and even subscribers.
When the word “generation” is mentioned in a telecommunication context, it’s almost always in the singular. Equipment makers puff up their portfolios with next-generation equipment and denigrate the competition with charges of unbreakable bonds to a previous technology generation.
In the past couple of years, of course, this way of thinking has proved antiquated and an inhibitor to competing in the 21-century communications industry.
As operators combat new waves of competitors, largely from the social networking, device and operating system community – collectively referred to as Over the Top (OTT) – they have embraced a customer-centric business model that mandates the dismantling of vertically-oriented systems across the breadth of the operator organization. In order to “humanize” their service offerings and support, operators are ripping down the miles of fencing that separate network infrastructure from IT, mobile from wireless, Apple from Android, Facebook from Skype and TDM from IP.
In the Connected Age we currently live in, subscribers crave unbounded interaction with other humans and information, regardless of device type, operating system, social network, access network or underlying technology. To compete in the Connected Age, operators are no longer segmenting their subscriber universe by type or generation of technology.
To compete in the Connected Age, operators are moving from a segregated to a contiguous mindset.
Assisting operators in bringing harmony to currently discordant networks represents the heart of the opportunity for today’s suppliers. Delivering a portfolio of software-oriented products designed to erase the bold lines of division that have inhibited subscribers from connecting in the past is driving innovation like never before. Today’s successful equipment provider brings together an operator’s entire subscriber universe – enabling a customer-centric business model – not by mandating costly upgrades to a single technology or communications protocol, but by unifying the operator’s existing network.
Generations are not about isolation but about coexistence and transition. The term “generation gap” is a generalization, an abstract. In the practical world, generations are about continuity. It’s impossible to have a deep knowledge of the next generation without a thorough familiarity of those that came before it.
The key to empowering the Connected Age is enabling operators to erase the lines of division that artificially segment their networks and create islands of isolation between subscribers.
Joe McGarvey, who serves as GENBAND’s director of Strategic Marketing, has been in the telecommunications industry for the past 20 years. McGarvey spent 10 years as a technology journalist, where he wrote for several influential trade publications, including Inter@ctive Week and The Net Economy. He joined market research firm Current Analysis in 2002, where he was responsible for launching that company’s coverage of VoIP, IMS, policy management and customer experience management. He joined GENBAND in 2012. McGarvey’s responsibilities as director of Strategic Marketing include working with industry analysts and media to communicate GENBAND’s corporate strategy and vision. McGarvey earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Diego State University.
Edited by Braden Becker