Monday, February 19, 2007

aTCA and the Telecom Service Provider

The promise of aTCA for telecom service providers is that it will unshackle then from their current relationship with their core network vendors. Currently, the core network vendors provide multiple proprietary large boxes plus huge amounts of proprietary software which cost millions of dollars. Switching vendors involves again the expenditure of millions of dollars, which the vendor knows cannot and will not be done lightly. Once a vendor has a foot in the door of the provider’s CO, the vendor kind of has the provider by the balls.

aTCA promises to reduce the huge capitol expenditures associated with changing vendors. The process could be as simple as switching out one module for another, in which case the capitol expenditure is the cost of the module, in the ten of thousands of dollars, plus the cost of software. The process could even be simplified to loading software from a different vendor onto an already installed blade. aTCA threatens to upend the current relationship between service providers and equipment vendors and could allow new vendors onto a marketplace that was closed to so many due immense capital expenses required.

In order to maximize the promise of aTCA, the telecom providers should insist on a chassis/backplane that meets the aTCA standard. It would be even better if they bought the chassis/backplane separately and then asked vendors to supply modules for the chassis that meet the various functions needed for their network. In this way, the provider forces vendors to meet the aTCA requirements and allows them the ability to mix and match modules from different vendors. Given the opportunity, a telecom provider will sell a chassis that is only compliant to their modules, thereby locking in the provider to their products. This approach prevents that. In addition, it increases the number of vendors that the provider has to choose from.

Another step would be for the provider is to specify the hardware modules that fit into those shelves as well. They then by the modules on their own, and then ask their traditional telecom vendors to only supply the software required for those modules. This gets to the heart of what telecom vendors do best; providing robust software for off the shelf parts. This approach also allows for the new vendors on the telecom marketplace, companies that did not have the capitol to enter a hardware-software business but have the wherewithal to enter a purely software space.

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