In the last few weeks I’ve read a few articles about how mobile operators are doomed. While these articles make good headlines they are also just a bit sensationalist. Make no mistake, the market is changing massively and some operators who don’t foresee the change and act accordingly will go out of business.
Google seem determined to roll out free Wi-Fi wherever possible. In the last month the LinkNYC consortium (of which Google is a member) launched free 1GB/s, advertiser-funded municipal Wi-Fi in New York. In the last week Google has also announced plans for free Wi-Fi in India. From Facebook’s planes to Google’s balloons, and free Wi-Fi kiosks emerging where phone booths once stood, data connectivity is becoming an increasingly free commodity. And why wouldn’t Google and Facebook want to provide free Wi-Fi, as it means more people using their services, which means more revenue for them?
As Google, Facebook, Spotify and Amazon know, people don’t buy and use data as a product. They buy and use data to enable the use of other products – be it video, music, communications, social, health, security and so on.
The reason why I think all the headlines of doom and gloom are wrong is that operators know they need to change. Many are undergoing massive change to transform from communication service providers to digital service providers. Sure, there will be some who continue to sell data as a vanilla product and keep adding more data to a bundle and cutting prices. But most operators know that this route is unsustainable. This was borne by research findings from an Openet survey of 101 operators in September 2015 ("On the Move to Digital"). The main findings of this study were as follows:
- A strong possibility that mobile data will be commoditised in the next two years
- The main challenge for operators in 2016 will be the need to become more agile, reduce product lifecycles and get more products and services to market in a shorter time period
- Time to market should be measured in days, not months
- The fiercest competition in 2016 will come from OTTs (Google, Facebook, etc.)
- Operators need to increase frequency and scope of customer engagement
- Operator apps need to offer more functions than real-time alerts and self-care
- When it comes to customer engagement operators are worse than OTTs
- In BSS the main hindrances in the move to digital are lengthy billing transformation projects and legacy system limitations.
Let’s look at the last point. Legacy billing systems and a traditional approach to charging could seriously derail operators in their plans to move to digital. The days of lengthy billing transformation projects are numbered. While this may be unpalatable for the large stack BSS vendors, fast-track BSS transformation using adjunct best-of-breed systems that enable fast time to value are the way forward. Innovative operators are already taking this route to transform their BSS to cater for digital services. The fast track to delivering value from IT systems is the norm. This is how Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix run their business. It’s how the operators that are successfully transforming into Digital Service Providers are running their business.
Martin Morgan, VP Marketing, Openet
With 25 years’ experience in mobile communications software, Martin has worked in mobile billing software since the early days of the industry. At Openet Martin is responsible for marketing thought leadership and demand creation.
Published as part of BossFest16