History has shown how potential becomes artificially restricted with the presence of imbalance. The world we live in is forever evolving, with the old being replaced by the new.

Production and distribution models are being flipped on their heads, while the marriage of creation and consumption is being blown apart. The access networks that underpin much of this change will themselves be permanently altered by it. The good news is next generation platforms have the potential to capitalize on this new reality and shift the balance back in favor of their owners.

Symmetry: The Dominant Design in Evolution

Before we detail how symmetry can disrupt the telco industry, let’s take a closer look at its beginnings and how it’s disrupting other industries.

In his study on the reasons behind life’s symmetry, Professor Brian Cox, the famous English physicist, points out that the forces which shape our universe are symmetrical in nature.

Evolution - which drives excellence in species - has resulted in bilateral symmetry as the dominant design across a substantial portion of subspecies, indicating it is the best approach.

Drawing from the teachings of Charles Darwin, we can see each species on the planet today represent the pinnacle of evolution for that species. In fact we are continuously reminded of bilateral symmetry throughout the successful evolutionary chains throughout the animal kingdom.

Right now, the influence of symmetry is bringing disruptive influence to traditionally asymmetrical industries.

Symmetric Disruption

To give an example, think about the power industry. For generations, large combustion or nuclear based installations served as the primary source for all electrical supply. If you wanted electricity in your home you were likely to have signed up with the local power utility.

Upsetting this structure is advancements in power generation technology such as solar roofing systems. These systems can not only power an entire home but also provide electricity back to the grid when they has excess capacity. The introduction of a solar roofing system brings symmetry to what has always been an asymmetric industry.

Another example is the media industry. While it was traditionally asymmetric - the flow of content was solely from media companies to consumers - in the world of symmetric disruption we have global scale contenders all vying to become the dominant social video platform. Why? Well, with almost no entrance barriers, any company, individual, or connected camera with content that’s relevant enough can reach billions.

Massive industry names such as Nike, Coca Cola and Lego are increasingly shifting their advertising focus to social video and attracting millions of subscribers to their channels. However, despite the massive marketing budgets these franchises have in their back pockets, when compared to those heading up the leaderboard of subscribers on YouTube, these companies pale into insignificance.

PewDiePie, a Swedish comedian, is the top YouTuber in the world, with over 57 million subscribers and 16 billion views. Compare this to Nike, one of the most recognized brands in the world, which has just over 1.6 million subscribers. On this and other social video platforms, it isn’t merely the companies with the biggest budgets generating the most attention, it is those deemed most relevant by the audience.

These social video platforms are redressing the distribution imbalance and bringing the long tail of niches to everyone, from anyone.

So what does this have to do with the telecom industry?

The current commercial model in our industry focuses all monetization towards the consumer. Whether it’s residential or enterprise, it’s the consumer funding operators today. In turn it’s the network operator's aim to produce and provide all of the consumed services themselves.

Taking into account the rising use of over the top (OTT) exclusive content distribution and the cloudification of existing telco services, this is having a negative impact on average revenue per user (ARPU) growth. To worsen matters, the declining ARPU is coupled with the rising operational costs of bandwidth usage as driven higher by OTT streaming.

How can network operators get in on the action?

Network operators getting a slice of the pie is particularly pressing right now as much of the operator community is investing in the network. In using access technologies that for the first time in broadband access history will permit wide scale symmetric residential broadband, they are helping create the services that will deliver the Gigabit Society.

With modern software-defined access networks, particularly those built on the latest chipsets, the ability to classify traffic in real time exists. This, when coupled with centralized software-defined networking (SDN) control, means traffic can be handled in accordance with any third party agreement that the network owner has brokered.

Whether it’s a consumer ordering a short term bandwidth boost via an app on their smartphone, or the network detecting an Xbox Games Store premium download, these networks can react instantly in an automated fashion to ensure SLAs are met and satisfaction levels are at a maximum.

This is only one example - the use cases for an application aware network are endless, as are the opportunities for new revenue streams. Enterprise apps such as Salesforce could offer latency SLAs on specific networks, or it could be used to offer low latency access for robotic devices to access their cloud-based compute resources, or perhaps to ensure users of virtual reality and artificial reality (AR) don’t get latency and jitter induced nausea.

But what about net neutrality?

At the FTTH Conference in February, the EU Commission’s director of electronic communication networks and services, Anthony Whelan, recognised publicly that while net neutrality rules were put in place for good reason, the potential to pose an obstacle to service innovation exists, and clarified that although they want to protect against the negative discrimination of services, this is not at the expense of service providers’ ability to expedite new and improved services.

So while we can’t negatively discriminate against other traffic, current regulation allows us to apply a higher quality of service as we deem fit for different flows. In short, this platform model is compliant with net neutrality laws as they currently stand.

What does the future hold?

Many of us own computers in addition to home data storage because there is no better alternative. But when the access network allows us to leverage cloud based compute and storage resources comparable to if we had them at home, all we will need to own is a screen to render the data on. Whether that screen is in the form of a monitor, tablet, AR glasses or contact lenses.

The only thing currently getting in the way of this is the widespread availability of software-defined access networks and a shortage of operator imagination. But - like it or not - change is inevitable and the new reality is on its way. Those operators that recognise it, and use their current access investment rounds to become SDN ready, are the ones that will be around for the long haul.

Find out more information on the platform economy here: https://www.adtran.com/index.php/breakfast-on-the-platform