The collaboration between IBC and the TM Forum will give media-telco convergence projects prominence at IBC and at the TM Forum’s Digital Transformation World, writes TM Forum Chief Executive Nik Willetts.

Consumers increasingly experience watching television and using their telephone as part of the same service.

When it comes to the convergence of media and telecoms, ‘tele’, which is Greek for ‘far, far away’, isn’t ‘far, far away’ any more; it’s happening right now. More OTT providers seem to be arriving each month. The disruption to the established and regulated incumbents from both industries is huge and accelerating.

Nik Willetts

TM Forum Chief Executive: Nik Willetts

That’s why IBC and TM Forum, two long established and respected industry associations, are collaborating. IBC is well known in the global media industry while TM Forum may be less familiar to many.

TM Forum was started 30 years ago by technology architects from newly privatised telecommunication companies, including AT&T, British Telecom and Telecom Canada, and technology leaders including HP, Nortel and Unisys.

By working together, they identified common requirements for business and operational support systems and shared these requirements with the wider-market by creating a neutral not-for-profit body which software vendors and systems integrators could join.

This Forum grew rapidly with the vast majority of the world’s telecom operators and software vendors joining in to access, develop and share information architectures, business process designs and more.

Today the Forum has more than 850 members. It delivers collaborative work programmes that bring people together worldwide to address current issues including 5G, AI, open APIs, cloud management and operational automation. It also supports leadership teams managing large-scale digital transformations as more and more industries digitise and look to the telecoms industry for leadership.

“IBC and TM Forum are working together to develop a joint Catalyst programme focused on the increasing crossover between media and telecoms”

Today, the media industry faces many of the same challenges as established telecoms companies, as OTT internet companies take more and more of the available revenue. The increasing need to innovate quickly has seen engagement in the Forum’s Catalyst programme accelerate fast, with 150 large and small companies working together to deliver more than 35 Catalysts this year alone.

Catalysts are rapid-fire (4-6 month) collaborative proof-of-concept projects. IBC and TM Forum are working together to develop a joint Catalyst programme focused on the increasing cross-over between media and telecoms industries. Each Catalyst will be championed by a mainstream broadcaster and bring a handful of companies together to solve the broadcaster’s challenge.

The best challenges are those that are common to the wider industry and often demonstrate cutting-edge technology from different vendors, working in new ways. Each Catalyst will be given considerable prominence at IBC2019 and at TM Forum’s Digital Transformation World, which will take place in Nice in May next year.

The Forum manages the matchmaking and ongoing collaboration process to make sure each Catalyst is ready for prime time. With the help of the Catalyst team, the work of the team is professionally profiled and competition between the Catalysts drives the quality higher and higher, with a variety of awards on offer. For the past five years the programme has gone from strength to strength.

Broadcasters benefit from seeing the art of the possible and from working closely with potential vendors. Vendors must demonstrate that they can collaborate and work closely with broadcasters on their most pressing challenges. It creates a bit of a professional technologists’ business dating service, where collaborative, pragmatic innovation wins.