Integrators must 'forge partnerships' with telcos

In a bid to capture a chunk of the $30 billion (US$21.3 billion) Australian telecommunications market, system integrators will need to "forge partnerships" with telcos, according to an industry expert at Carriers World Australia 2003.

While the players may go head-to-head for business, the partners will also work in a mix of cooperation and competition," said David Rampa, director of Optus Wholesale and XYZed, which belong to SingTel Optus

Rampa was speaking about the expectations for the evolution of the Australian carrier market.

"Cooperate to compete," he said, acknowledging the telco service delivery models were still being etched out.

The key question is: "Where are the growth opportunities? Where is the value add?" Rampa asked.

He highlighted overall telco market opportunities. They included: Wholesale (focusing on infrastructure), retail (offering managed services), and alternative channels (bundling to niche markets and outsourced service).

Look to utilities as another hot "emerging market," he said.

System integrators, in particular, could offer end-to-end solutions, becoming savvy in the desktop-to desktop management arena catering to the SME space, Rampa told ARN.

In addition to desktop management, other opportunities include peddling voice/data solutions, offering application support, security, full outsourcing, as well as back-up services.

"The data component in the corporate space is a main market," he said.

Overall, Rampa said the global market would segment into a few major telco players, a host of specialized service providers, two or three regional providers as well as content/application providers.

"Virtual service providers will need strong branding, available capital, telco partners and favorable regulatory conditions," he said.

But before a market upsurge and noticeable partnership success, Rampa said the sticky issue of demand and supply remained a key challenge today.

"In the rush to exploit the famous rivers of gold running over fibre, there are two major problems: the industry is estimated to be burdened by $US 1 trillion of debt (as much as half of that still needs to be written off); and there's a massive oversupply of capacity, which has a significant downward pressure on pricing," he said.

But, Rampa said, the industry was turning a corner. Several telco players — including Optus and Primus, among others — had reported increased revenues, and he expected prices to stabilize within the next 12 to 18 months.

The trend towards consolidation — IP1 was sold to Telstra, while DigiPlus scooped up B-Digital, for example — was heating things up and reshaping the industry.

Moving towards converged networks was another positive step, he said.

"We need convergence to get seamless connectivity," Rampa said.

"The telco industry continues to change at an increasing rate," he said.

This was evident in the evolving buy/sell situation with Telstra and what that meant for the telco market moving forward.

On the wireless front, globally, carriers were still to prove their capability, Rampa said. To make a mark in this category, the industry needed standardised protocols, a reduction in costs, and ubiquitous, seamless availability.

Looking ahead, he said the future of telecommunications involved a packet-based architecture, which would offer seamless service irrespective of networks, cable and PSTN.

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