Complexity in the Telecommunications Industry: When Integrating Infrastructure and Services Backfires
Bauhaus University; Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich - Faculty of Business Administration (Munich School of Management)
University of Southern Denmark - Strategic Organization Design Unit (SOD)
October 20, 2011
The emergence of pure Internet-based service providers has put many integrated telecommunications firms – industry incumbents that provide services on their own infrastructure – under massive pressure. While various pure service providers enjoy high performance, the products offered by the incumbents often cannot compete on either price or user experience. Conventional wisdom, however, might suggest the opposite: that coordinating both infrastructure and services might allow the incumbents to reap synergy effects and create superior products. To address this issue, this paper applies a complex systems perspective to the telecommunications industry. It conceptualizes telecommunications firms to be searching for good configurations of interdependent service and infrastructure activities that need to fit together to achieve high-performing product systems. Using a simulation model, the paper shows that integrated operators can indeed take advantage of the interdependencies between the infrastructure and the service domain, resulting in superior product performance. Integrating infrastructure and services, however, can backfire: Because learning about both domains and their interdependence requires more time, performance in the short run will be lower than that of pure service providers that can focus on adapting their service-related activities to an infrastructure that is beyond their control. The paper characterizes the conditions under which these effects can arise and concludes with implications for management and policy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 35
Keywords: Telecommunications, Complexity, Organizational Search, Organizational Learning, Integration, Performance
JEL Classification: D83, L22, L23, L96, C63working papers series
Date posted: July 27, 2011 ; Last revised: October 20, 2011
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