It's a great time for mobility but challenging times for mobile network operators, says Conor Carroll, senior vice president of sales for Europe, Asia, and the Americas, Tata Communication
For many people, the assumption is that the mobile industry is booming. That's certainly how it looks from the outside. However, look a little more closely and the reality is more nuanced. It's true for some parts of the mobile ecosystem – but definitely not all.
Let me put it like this – it's a great time for mobility but challenging times for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).
Regulatory changes affecting roaming, net neutrality and M&A have all had a negative impact on premium market offerings and attempts to drive economies of scale through market consolidation by these MNOs.
Revenue from core services like voice and messaging has declined with growing competition from over-the-top (OTT) players.
A new content services ecosystem has also evolved. These services leverage ubiquitous mobile access but are developed and managed independently of the MNOs themselves.
MNOs also need to keep pace with insatiable demand for bandwidth from these services. They've become the de facto internet provider in many markets, and with this comes a constant need to refresh and upgrade networks to meet their customers' expectations.
How do MNOs weather this 'perfect storm'? What steps do they need to take to meet these challenges head-on and find success in the mobile industry of the future?
- Brand and retail presence: On the whole MNOs have strong, trusted brands that marketing people can leverage. They are established, have solid customer service organisations and a high street presence that can help showcase new services in a manner that OTT solutions cannot.
- Customer ownership: MNOs must better leverage the direct customer ownership asset they possess. For example, real time updates on customer locations provide information about user behaviour to be mined for invaluable insights and marketing opportunities.
- Look to the future: MNOs need to accelerate time to market and not be afraid to fail – but fail quickly. But these days, going it alone isn't an option. Partner development programmes can quickly add complementarity to the MNO's existing service portfolio or drive new segment development. Service offerings that are re-shaping the global economy – like the industrialisation of the mobile internet – will be driven by global as well as regional players. Such players require collaboration with MNOs to be successfully deployed.
- Billing relationship: MNOs are finally seeing the opportunity for monetisation in billing assets along with third parties. Acknowledging that billing systems can be challenging to modify, the upside to open up API development is automatically enabling third party billing of new services, not only monetising a key asset but driving deeper engagement with customers.
- Explore new models: Voice and SMS were simple to price and sell but new opportunities require new business approaches to getting a return on investment on core infrastructure assets, expertise and relationships, while taking specific account of the market opportunity itself. The mobile industry is only 20 years old and has already gone through several cycles, driven by things like changes in consumer behaviour, network and device innovation, and recently the consumption of new media and associated services. The next cycles will be driven by adoption of enterprise and consumer services that reflect innovation within the global digital economy. The question to the MNO community is – can you adapt your assets and market approach quickly enough to take advantage of this new perfect storm?