Revenue growth in the global telecom business is a story of two different types of markets. On one hand, service providers are challenged in developed markets, while subscriber and revenue growth mostly happens in “emerging” markets.

Sooner or later, many predict, the end of growth will be a problem for all service providers, in all regions, for the same reasons. Two of the huge revenue drivers–voice and messaging–are in decline, even in emerging markets (in terms of revenue per unit). One of the new revenue drivers–entertainment video–has passed maturity and is set to begin declining. One of the important newer revenue sources–internet access–does not yet face actual revenue decline, but does face rapidly-falling prices per unit sold.

All that means that in addition to hunting for, discovering and creating big new revenue sources, something big will have to happen in infrastructure and operating cost areas. If revenue is challenged, then costs also have to be controlled.

That is why innovation of all sorts is necessary. Virtualized or software-defined networks are part of the answer. Open source is part of the answer. New backhaul and access networks also must be part of the answer.