Dumb Pipe, Long Tail Enabler, Happy Pipe

Back in December 2007 I wrote a post on the term 'dumb pipe' that was starting to make the round and spreading negative emotions around the topic that in the Internet world, networks are transporting data while Internet based companies are actually getting the service revenue. I can understand where this twist came from but suggested that there is another way to look at it:

In an article by Chris Anderson, he pointed out that fact that most services on the net are pretty specialized and are hence on 'a long tail' and don't really make very much money at all for the service provider. However, for those enabling the services, i.e. the networks, it very well generates money. When applied to network operators, long tail services provide the incentive in the first place for people to go online and spend money for connectivity. At the time the term 'long tail enabler' started to emerge in my mind and I have used it ever since when somebody mentioned the 'dumb pipe' to offer an alternative way to look at it.

Obviously, the term 'long tail enabler' is a bit clunky to explain to someone who's not heard of the 'long tail' concept before. Now Dean Bubley over at Disruptive Wireless has come up with the term 'happy pipe' and part of what he means with this goes in my direction. I very much like the term as it contrasts a wording with a very negative spin with a wording that has a very positive spin.

2 thoughts on “Dumb Pipe, Long Tail Enabler, Happy Pipe”

  1. Martin, I’ve read Dean’s commentary on this topic, and I’ve also not liked the term “dumb pipe” because it fails to capture the inherent benefits that are gained by investments made in facilities-based broadband infrastructure. Clearly, it’s in all service provider’s best interests to use terms that describe their assets in a more positive connotation.

  2. I agree with the sentiments.

    This is like the scene out of classic tale about Scrooge: The term ‘dumb pipe’ served a purpose because it cautioned of a future for the wireless industry that might have come about if not aware of changes (old age/maturity of an industry). While the bony finger of the ghost of the future pointed to the grave stone marked ‘dumb pipe operator’, it was in the spirit of making it clear that living the life that had seemed good up to that point would not have merit in the future.

    The change needed to shift from serving up voice and messaging as the primary banquet, rather stingy services when you get down to it, could have been treated as Scrooge initially perceived: “they have to eat and should be #$x& thankful for what I am giving them!” A glance at a possible future that awaited operators and their suppliers was shocking, change sometimes is, but opened the eyes of the beholders to ponder a different fate: ‘What if we thought about how to enable and participate in a grander reality? Hmmm… once considered, the future looks much brighter and benevolent than we once perceived… Stand aside our past, behold the dawn of a new awareness!”

    -Robert Syputa

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