Voice 2.0

Last week I participated in a couple of panels at the Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm event in Orlando. The first panel was on “Voice and Messaging 2.0.” Excellent stimulus presentations were provided by Thomas Howe and Irv Shapiro. Thomas introduced the concept of Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP) and Irv gave examples of how ifbyphone’s customers are implementing them.

I joined the two of them in a panel discussion. I structured my comments around three concepts:

  1. Voice 2.0 has to evolve from Voice 1.0
  2. However, that evolution requires a “leap of faith” to escape the gravitational forces of Big Bell Dogma
  3. Voice 2.0 has got to be about solutions, not technologies

Starting from the Basics
In moving to Voice 2.0, we can’t leave behind the foundational ingredient of Voice 1.0: reliable networks. It may no longer be about circuit-switched voice networks, but delivering great services still requires reliable and adaptable MPLS, scalable and flexible SIP trunking, increasingly wirelessly-connected endpoints with reliable 3G, or (in more and more places) 4G networks.

Breaking Free of Big Bell Dogma
Although, as a carrier, building great networks is what we’re about, to get to Voice 2.0, we have to move beyond the Big Bell Dogma of holding back innovation by claiming 5-9’s reliability is being threatened (when really it’s cash-cow monopoly profits that are at risk). We have to ease the interconnection of voice networks (while avoiding monopoly fees), enable convergence, and stimulate innovation in the broader ecosystem.

Delivering Solutions
But, at the end of the day, Voice 2.0 isn’t about completing phone calls or operating great networks, it’s about creating value by delivering revenue-boosting or cost-reducing solutions. As a carrier, Sprint will never be the best at developing complex solutions, which is why we partner closely with leaders like Cisco, IBM, and Microsoft (instead of trying to compete with them as some do).

However, sometimes delivering a valuable solution is as simple as helping a customer apply an existing solution to a well understood problem. I gave the example of a Sprint customer in the health insurance industry. Their goal is to improve health outcomes while reducing costs. They looked at the childbirth process as an area for improvement in both. A pregnancy resulting in normal delivery costs in the neighborhood of $1,000. A pregnancy resulting in a Caesarian section birth costs in the neighborhood of $10,000. However, a pregnancy resulting in a premature birth typically has costs exceeding $1 million – a thousand times more than a normal delivery. If there were a way to help the baby stay in the safety of the womb for 37 weeks, it would save a tremendous amount of money, but more importantly be a better health outcome for the mother and a tremendously better health outcome for the baby. Sprint worked with this company to apply Nextel Direct Connect push-to-talk technology to address this need. At risk mothers are now given a push-to-talk phone with “the button” programmed to connect directly to a health professional. Whenever she has questions, she can get immediate sound answers and advice. The result has been a meaningful reduction in premature births –

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and an easier road to a healthy, happy life for many babies.

Needless to say, I’m excited about the potential impact Voice 2.0 is already having!

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