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Platform leadership of incumbent telecommunications operators: the case of BT 21st Century Network (BT21CN)

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 13:58 authored by Carlos Sato
This paper addresses the problem of survival and growth of incumbent telecommunication operators. In particular, this paper investigates the extent to which the platform-based approach is appropriate for the internationalisation strategy (platform leadership) of incumbent telecommunications operators in the context of the transition to the Next Generation Network (NGN). It examines the case of BT in the UK, as a large-scale first mover in this transition, exploring the major transformation project BT 21st Century Network (BT21CN). The case demonstrates how the platform-based approach can be used to promote business transformation of an incumbent telecom operator in a turbulent environment. The platform architecture integrates two main features that are usually treated in different contexts and time frames in the literature: (i) the reusability of components and sub-systems (typically in the automotive industry); and (ii) the openness of the platform to external actors in order to drive innovation in the industry (typically in the ICT industry). BT21CN emerged as an industry platform, made possible by the maturation of the Internet Protocol (IP) as a “common technology” able to transport not only data, but also real time voice and video, with an acceptable quality of service (QoS). Reusability can help reducing costs and decreasing time-to-market for new products and services. However, openness of the platform to external actors has still limited impact due to the limited success of BT (and incumbent telecom operators in general) in their process of internationalisation. Thus, in the context of BT (and of potentially other incumbent telecom operators), the limitations in their process of internationalisation have a negative impact on the evolutionary dynamics of the platform-based approach.


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  • Published

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International Journal of Innovation Management (ijim)




World Scientific Publishing





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  • SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit Publications

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