'The network is dead - long live the network.' This is the cry of the new breed of telephone operator in our deregulated world. Just as the rail network appeared doomed in this century's early years because of the rapid development of automobiles and air transport, so today the enormous telecommunications infrastructure seems to be perilously close to extinction.
Brave words, you might think, given the might of the telecoms service providers. But as we approach the 21st century, significant, if not revolutionary, ideas are beginning to take root that will forever change telecommunications as we know it.
What is driving these changes? Information in all its forms - voice, data, and multimedia - is the main driver for a network paradigm which exists not just for the global needs of business, but for a host of opportunities that span residential and business requirements. I expect within five years my son will be able to call up the latest Hollywood hit - at a price - from his PC, or that my wife and I will enjoy shopping without leaving home.
These are the kind of business opportunities that future networks will provide. It has not gone unnoticed that Microsoft, Intel and Compaq are investing heavily in the provision of a high-speed network. These giants move to satisfy the demand for more powerful operating systems, high-powered processors and desktop computers.
Their products are like animals in a cage, unable to release their energy across the network because the carriers are intent on protecting their tariff structures and networks. They are behaving much like the early railway barons who tried to create hurdles to prevent highway developments.
Microsoft, Intel and Compaq understand that the next step in their business growth is the advent of a different type of network. Their business survival depends on it. Carriers are creating backbones that dwarf the networks we are familiar with. These backbones act like highways where traffic can enter and exit, using intelligent access devices located at strategically placed points of presence.
The principal technological breakthrough allowing this to happen is the adoption of IP as the single protocol for the network. IP provides the ability not just to handle data and local area network traffic, but also voice and video services. Never before has a single technology been able to consolidate all forms of traffic so efficiently and without deterioration.
Most dealers and resellers are already working with internet service providers (ISPs). But they should also look to the future and embrace the IP telecoms companies because they present huge opportunities. They need you to work with them to resell and distribute their services because they don't have the reach and awareness that you have.
Services to sell include virtual private networks, multimedia services and exciting applications such as voice over IP. Don't resist this revolution or it will pass you by. The railway networks built by the protectionist barons are now relics of the past which have left a scar across the countryside.
In the same way, the telecoms carriers, no longer protected by monopoly regulation, must realise that network infrastructure is no longer an asset but a burden on their ability to grow, and wonder about their future.
Their networks and business practices may soon be buried under the landscape created by a different breed of carriers and you too have to be prepared.
Bert Whyte is president of remote access vendor ACC.
Tech giant hit with second huge fine in two years
UK-based security distributor takes first steps into mainland Europe
Vendor talks up partner relationship at Inspire global conference
Firm claims that 7.2 million jobs will be created by AI over the next two decades