According to telecom analyst firm, Ovum, a recovery in both fixed and mobile sectors allowed service provider revenues to exceed the US$1.91 trillion mark in 2011, up from $1.79 trillion in 2010. Not surprisingly, with all those NBNs and 4G/LTE network rollouts, CapEx was also up. Maybe it’s time for everyone to start talking things up, for a change.

Oh yes, I hear some moaning in the background – but what about falling margins they cry. That can only be blamed on poor management in most economics tomes, or maybe we have just gotten too used to the way things used to be done, and not grasping the new economics our industry is being dragged kicking and screaming into.

This is, after all, the digital age we are in, and if it’s digital in nature it should fall squarely in our domain, right? Instead of grasping this booming new market space, we appear to be staring at the oncoming headlights wondering why OTT players are driving those big trucks coming at us. They are showing explosive and profitable growth while we struggle to handle the data traffic they generate.

Surely it’s time for some dramatic changes in management style. Let’s stop being transfixed by stakeholder demands to constantly reduce costs, usually by firing people, and start looking at how to attract the very people being allowed to innovate in the ‘enemy’ digital and social media camps.

But what on Earth would even inspire them to come to our rescue. Big money, attractive free-thinking work environments, minimal management layers, inspiring and insightful leadership, new world accounting thinking willing to takes risks……stop, stop, I must be hallucinating – this is the telecommunications industry we’re talking about!

We have, for the most part, driven away most of the creative blood and sold off our IT departments to outsourcers, then hired them back at higher rates. Clever accounting? We now have to pay outsiders to be creative for us. You don’t see that happening at Google, Apple and Facebook, do you?

Our industry has been around for over one hundred years and is starting to act its age – transfixed with the glory days of monopolistic voice, we sit around the exclusive club, smoking cigars and sipping cognac putting out the occasional fire with a flurry of anti-regulation hyperbole and another cost-cutting exercise. Surely we can just keep going on as we always have done.

What if we start thinking like one of today’s startups? Come up with a zany idea, attract lots of people to it then sell out for whatever someone is willing to pay. Or do the exact opposite, wait for our values to hit rock-bottom and then be bought out by stronger competitors or those OTT players that have all the money just now. But would anybody actually want to buy. Rolling out fiber and building a low-cost Wi-Fi/WiMax network is not that hard to do. Tomorrow we might see technology that requires neither, who knows?

Why worry? Remember that revenues are up, CapEx is up and all looks good in the world, right?

First published at TM Forum as The Insider, 17 April 2012