Why Telcos Don't Get Networks

I’ve posted to SSRN my paper on why most telecom companies, even though they operate networks, don’t appreciate the fundamental business dynamics of network structures. This will be a chapter in a book Wharton is publishing on network-based strategies and competencies.

In the paper, I describe two views on telecom and Internet infrastructure: the Monist and Dualist perspectives. The Monists, including most network operators, see the infrastructure as the linchpin of the communications ecosystem, which must be managed and supported above all else. The Dualists, including most Internet-based service providers, see the infrastructure as simply a means to reach the applications, content, and communications on top of the network, which are the source of real value.

The Dualist view is ultimately the superior one. However, it has problems as well, namely that it tends to ignore the real problems of funding the essential network infrastructure. The paper goes into all this in more detail, and offers thoughts on what a reformulated “modular” telecom industry could look like.