I recently attended the Tata Communications Analyst event in central London, and fascinating it was too. Tata Communications is a domestic Indian, South African and International communications service provider comprising the former businesses known as VSNL, Teleglobe, Tyco, Neotel and DishnetDSL. All were acquired in the past few years. Tata Communications is part of the Tata IT and Communications division (ITC) that also includes Tata Consultancy Services (TCS – the systems integration, applications, and outsourcing business) which in turn is part of the Tata Group conglomerate.
So what? What makes Tata Communications interesting is they are part of the ITC division alongside TCS. If anything symbolizes the fusing of IT and communications into ICT (Information and Communications Technology) over the past decade in one business then this is it. This is important because the traditional telecoms cascade supply-chain is being replaced by an integrated ecosystem (see Forrester research Farewell to the Traditional Telecom Ecosystem). As a consequence Tata can play multiple roles (rather than predominantly one as is the case for many of their rivals) and so is a new type of player.
But Tata are not alone. Late last year I spent some time with Huawei – the Chinese Network Equipment Provider (NEP)- at their EMEA H.Q. in Germany. Apart from posting spectacular revenue growth figures (in contrast to their established western-based NEP rivals) it is also busy creating a systems integration business too. They have seen the parallel growth of the IT Services sector and have decided they want a slice of this pie too. With the resources and determination they have it would take a brave person to bet against them succeeding.
The implications of these new types of players on the ICT market should not be underestimated. Not only are they active at different levels of the ecosystem, they are also paying as much attention to growth markets (such as the BRIC countries and Africa) as to the mature markets (such as Western Europe). Both Tata and Huawei are global suppliers and important change agents making the ecosystems a reality today.
But what do you think? I'd be happy to discuss as ever.