I have to admit I wasn't too surprised when I heard Sprint's news about outsourcing their network operations to e///. Outsourcing is becoming a common European GSM carrier trend already done by a few Vodafone properties and other innovative carriers who recognize their futures depend on an enablement plus a services & applications strategy.
A colleague at Sprint once told me that it was "nearly impossible to run a network and innovate at the same time" and I was and still am completely sympathetic. Unlike Web properties who never speak directly, person-to-person to their 'customers', carriers have all sorts of customer facing operations like online and call center customer support centers, billing centers, and automated provisioning systems, plus a bunch of other expensive network gear to support their customers like switches, base stations, RF engineering departments, field crews, planners, mass media marketer's, direct sales folks and PR departments. No leading Web property has any of these types of overheads, and not nearly as much to manage, and that's why they can innovate - fast. Web properties build out data centers (which are inexpensive) engineer some software, market virally online (which is also inexpensive) and wait for real human users to give their non-human robots data from which to improve upon with mathematical precision.
Carriers have no such luxury, but if they want to innovate at the speed of the Web, something needs to change. And I think that's why Sprint's decision to outsource all of these expensive, resource intensive operations makes a whole lotta sense. Freeing up their smart human resources to focus on innovation vs operations is sure to change how they do business and how the tech industry perceives carriers as slow-moving, bureaucratic institutions that only get in the way of innovative progress. Things are changing.