Dealing with the ‘Disruptors’: Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft/Skype and Amazon (Updated Extract)

Executive Summary (Extract)

This report analyses the strategies behind the success of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Skype, before going on to consider the key risks they face and how telcos and their partners should deal with these highly-disruptive Internet giants.

As the global economy increasingly goes digital, these five companies are using the Internet to create global brands with much broader followings than those of the traditional telecoms elite, such as Vodafone, AT&T and Nokia. However, the five have markedly different business models that offer important insights into how to create world-beating companies in the digital economy:

  • Amazon: Amazon’s business-to-business Marketplace and Cloud offerings are text-book examples of how to repurpose assets and infrastructure developed to serve consumers to open up new upstream markets. As the digital economy goes mobile, Amazon’s highly-efficient two-sided commerce platform is enabling it to compete effectively with rivals that control the leading smartphone and tablet platforms – Apple and Google.
  • Apple: Apple has demonstrated that, with enough vision and staying power, an individual company can single-handedly build an entire ecosystem. By combining intuitive and very desirable products, with a highly-standardised platform for software developers, Apple has managed to create an overall customer experience that is significantly better than that offered by more open ecosystems. But Apple’s strategy depends heavily on it continuing to produce the very best devices on the market, which will be difficult to sustain over the long-term.
  • Facebook: A compelling example of how to build a business on network effects. It took Facebook four years of hard work to reach a tipping point of 100 million users, but the social networking service has been growing easily and rapidly ever since. Facebook has the potential to attract 1.4 billion users worldwide, but only if it continues to sidestep rising privacy concerns, consumer fatigue or a sudden shift to a more fashionable service.
  • Google: The search giant’s virtuous circle keeps on spinning to great effect – Google develops scores of free, and often-compelling, Internet services, software platforms and apps, which attract consumers and advertisers, enabling it to create yet more free services. But Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility risks destabilising the Android ecosystem on which a big chunk of its future growth depends.
  • Skype: Like Facebook and Google, Skype sought users first and revenues second. By creating a low-cost, yet feature-rich, product, Skype has attracted more than 660 million users and created sufficient strategic value to persuade Microsoft to hand over $8.5bn. Skype’s share of telephony traffic is rising inexorably, but Google and Apple may go to great lengths to prevent a Microsoft asset gaining a dominant position in peer-to-peer communications.

The strategic challenge

There is a clear and growing risk that consumers’ fixation on the products and services provided by the five leading disruptors could leave telcos providing commoditised connectivity and struggling to make a respectable return on their massive investment in network infrastructure and spectrum.

In developed countries, telcos’ longstanding cash-cows – mobile voice calls and SMS – are already being undermined by Internet-based alternatives offered by Skype, Google, Facebook and others. Competition from these services could see telcos lose as much as one third of their messaging and voice revenues within five years (see Figure 1) based on projections from our global survey, carried out in September 2011.

Figure 1 – The potential combined impact of the disruptors on telcos’ core services

Impact of Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft/Skype, Amaxon on telco services

Source: Telco 2.0 online survey, September 2011, 301 respondents

Moreover, most individual telcos lack the scale and the software savvy to compete effectively in other key emerging mobile Internet segments, such as local search, location-based services, digital content, apps distribution/retailing and social-networking.

The challenge for telecoms and media companies is to figure out how to deal with the Internet giants in a strategic manner that both protects their core revenues and enables them to expand into new markets. Realistically, that means a complex, and sometimes nuanced, co-opetition strategy, which we characterise as the “Great Game”.

In Figure 3 below, we’ve mapped the players’ roles and objectives against the markets they operate in, giving an indication of the potential market revenue at stake, and telcos’ generic strategies.

Figure 3- The Great Game – Positions, Roles and Strategies

The Great Game - Telcos, Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, Skype/Microsoft

Our in-depth analysis, presented in this report, describes the ‘Great Game’ and the strategies that we recommend telcos and others can adopt in summary and in detail. [END OF FIRST EXTRACT]

Report contents

  • Executive Summary [5 pages – including partial extract above]
  • Key Recommendations for telcos and others [20 pages]
  • Introduction [10 pages – including further extract below]


The report then contains c.50 page sections with detailed analysis of objectives, business model, strategy, and options for co-opetition for:

  • Google
  • Apple
  • Facebook
  • Microsoft/Skype
  • Amazon

Followed by:

  • Conclusions and recommendations [10 pages]
  • Index

The report includes 124 charts and tables.

The rest of this page comprises an extract from the report’s introduction, covering the ‘new world order’, investor views, the impact of disruptors on telcos, and how telcos are currently fighting back (including pricing, RCS and WAC), and further details of the report’s contents. 

 

Introduction

The new world order

The onward march of the Internet into daily life, aided and abetted by the phenomenal demand for smartphones since the launch of the first iPhone in 2007, has created a new world order in the telecoms, media and technology (TMT) industry.

Apple, Google and Facebook are making their way to the top of that order, pushing aside some of the world’s biggest telcos, equipment makers and media companies. This trio, together with Amazon and Skype (soon to be a unit of Microsoft), are fundamentally changing consumers’ behaviour and dismantling longstanding TMT value chains, while opening up new markets and building new ecosystems.

Supported by hundreds of thousands of software developers, Apple, Google and Facebook’s platforms are fuelling innovation in consumer and, increasingly, business services on both the fixed and mobile Internet. Amazon has set the benchmark for online retailing and cloud computing services, while Skype is reinventing telephony, using IP technology to provide compelling new functionality and features, as well as low-cost calls.

On their current trajectory, these five companies are set to suck much of the value out of the telecoms services market, substituting relatively expensive and traditional voice and messaging services with low-cost, feature-rich alternatives and leaving telcos simply providing data connectivity. At the same time, Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook have become major conduits for software applications, games, music and other digital content, rewriting the rules of engagement for the media industry.

In a Telco2.0 online survey of industry executives conducted in September 2011, respondents said they expect Apple, Google, Facebook and Skype together to have a major impact on telcos’ voice and messaging revenues in the next three to five years . Although these declines will be partially compensated for by rising revenues from mobile data services, the respondents in the survey anticipate that telcos will see a major rise in data carriage costs (see Figure 1 – The potential combined impact of the disruptors on telcos’ core services).

In essence, we consider Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Skype-Microsoft to be the most disruptive players in the TMT ecosystem right now and, to keep this report manageable, we have focused on these five giants. Still, we acknowledge that other companies, such as RIM, Twitter and Baidu, are also shaping consumers’ online behaviour and we will cover these players in more depth in future research.

The Internet is, of course, evolving rapidly and we fully expect new disruptors to emerge, taking advantage of the so-called Social, Local, Mobile (SoLoMo) forces, sweeping through the TMT landscape. At the same time, the big five will surely disrupt each other. Google is increasingly in head-to-head competition with Facebook, as well as Microsoft, in the online advertising market, while squaring up to Apple and Microsoft in the smartphone platform segment. In the digital entertainment space, Amazon and Google are trying to challenge Apple’s supremacy, while also attacking the cloud services market.

Investor trust

Unlike telcos, the disruptors are generally growing quickly and are under little, or no, pressure from shareholders to pay dividends. That means they can accumulate large war chests and reinvest their profits in new staff, R&D, more data centres and acquisitions without any major constraints. Investors’ confidence and trust enables the disruptors to spend money freely, keep innovating and outflank dividend-paying telcos, media companies and telecoms equipment suppliers.

By contrast, investors generally don’t expect telcos to reinvest all their profits in their businesses, as they don’t believe telcos can earn a sufficiently high return on capital. Figure 16 shows the dividend yields of the leading telcos (marked in blue). Of the disruptors, only Microsoft (marked in green) pays a dividend to shareholders.

Figure 16: Investors expect dividends, not growth, from telcos

Figure 1 Chart Google Apple Facebook Microsoft Skype Amazon Sep 2011 Telco 2.0

Source: Google Finance 2/9/2011

The top telcos’ turnover and net income is comparable, or superior, to that of the leading disruptors, but this isn’t reflected in their respective market capitalisations. AT&T’s turnover is approximately four times that of Google and its net income twice as great, yet their market cap is similar. Even accounting for their different capital structures, investors clearly expect Google to grow much faster than AT&T and syphon off more of the value in the TMT sector.

More broadly, the disparity in the market value between the leading disruptors and the leading telcos’ market capitalisations suggest that investors expect Apple, Microsoft and Google’s revenues and profits to keep rising, while they believe telcos’ will be stable or go into decline. Figure 17 shows how the market capitalisation of the disruptors (marked in green) compares with that of the most valuable telcos (marked in blue) at the beginning of September 2011.

Figure 17: Investors value the disruptors highly

Figure 2 Chart Google Apple Facebook Microsoft Skype Amazon Market Capitalisation Sep 2011 Telco 2.0

Source: Google Finance 2/9/2011 (Facebook valued at Facebook $66bn based on IPG sale in August 2011)

Impact of disruptors on telcos

It has taken longer than many commentators expected, but Internet-based messaging and social networking services are finally eroding telcos’ SMS revenues in developed markets. KPN, for example, has admitted that smartphones, equipped with data communications apps (and Whatsapp in particular), are impacting its voice and SMS revenues in its consumer wireless business in its home market of The Netherlands (see Figure 18). Reporting its Q2 2011 results, KPN said that changing consumer behaviour cut its consumer wireless service revenues in Holland by 2% year-on-year.

Figure 18: KPN reveals falling SMS usage

Figure 3 Chart Google Apple Facebook Microsoft Skype Amazon KPN Trends Sep 2011 Telco 2.0

Source: KPN Q2 results

In the second quarter, Vodafone also reported a fall in messaging revenue in Spain and southern Africa, while Orange saw its average revenue per user from data and SMS services fall in Poland.

How telcos are fighting back

Big bundles

Carefully-designed bundles are the most common tactic telcos are using to try and protect their voice and messaging business. Most postpaid monthly contracts now come with hundreds of SMS messages and voice minutes, along with a limited volume of data, bundled into the overall tariff package. This mix encourages consumers to keep using the telcos’ voice and SMS services, which they are paying for anyway, rather than having Skype or another VOIP service soak up their precious data allowance.

To further deter usage of VOIP services, KPN and some other telcos are also creating tiered data tariffs offering different throughput speeds. The lower-priced tariffs tend to have slow uplink speeds, making them unsuitable for VOIP (see Figure 19 below). If consumers want to use VOIP, they will need to purchase a higher-priced data tariff, earning the telco back the lost voice revenue.

Figure 19: How KPN is trying to defend its revenues

Figure 4 Chart Google Apple Facebook Microsoft Skype Amazon KPN Defence Sep 2011 Telco 2.0

Source: KPN’s Q2 results presentation

Of course, such tactics can be undermined by competition – if one mobile operator in a market begins offering generous data-only tariffs, consumers may well gravitate towards that operator, forcing the others to adjust their tariff plans.

Moreover, bundling voice, SMS and data will generally only work for contract customers. Prepaid customers, who only want to pay for what they are use, are naturally charged for each minute of calls they make and each message they send. These customers, therefore, have a stronger financial incentive to find a free WiFi network and use that to send messages via Facebook or make calls via Skype.

The Rich Communications Suite (RCS)

To fend off the threat posed by Skype, Facebook, Google and Apple’s multimedia communications services, telcos are also trying to improve their own voice and messaging offerings. Overseen by mobile operator trade association the GSMA, the Rich Communications Suite is a set of standards and protocols designed to enable mobile phones to exchange presence information, instant messages, live video footage and files across any mobile network.

In an echo of social networks, the GSMA says RCS will enable consumers to create their own personal community and share content in real time using their mobile device.

From a technical perspective, RCS uses the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) to manage presence information and relay real-time information to the consumer about which service features they can use with a specific contact. The actual RCS services are carried over an IP-Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), which telcos are using to support a shift to all-IP fixed and mobile networks.

Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefonica and Vodafone have publically committed to deploy RCS services, indicating that the concept has momentum in Europe, in particular. The GSMA says that interoperable RCS services will initially be launched by these operators in Spain, Germany, France and Italy in late 2011 and 2012. [NB We’ll be discussing RCSe with some of the operators at our EMEA event in London in November 2011.]

In theory, at least, RCS will have some advantages over many of the communications services offered by the disruptors. Firstly, it will be interoperable across networks, so you’ll be able to reach people using different service providers. Secondly, the GSMA says RCS service features will be automatically available on mobile devices from late 2011 without the need to download and install software or create an account (by contrast, Apple’s iMessage service, for example, will only be installed on Apple devices).

But questions remain over whether RCS devices will arrive in commercial quantities fast enough, whether RCS services will be priced in an attractive way and will be packaged and marketed effectively. Moreover, it isn’t yet clear whether IMS will be able to handle the huge signalling load that would arise from widespread usage of RCS.

Internet messaging protocols, such as XMPP, require the data channel to remain active continuously. Tearing down and reconnecting generates lots of signalling traffic, but the alternative – maintaining a packet data session – will quickly drain the device’s battery.
By 2012, Facebook and Skype may be even more entrenched than they are today and their fans may see no need to use telcos’ RCS services.

Competing head-on

Some of the largest mobile operators have tried, and mostly failed, to take on the disruptors at their own game. Vodafone 360, for example, was Vodafone’s much-promoted, but ultimately, unsuccessful €500 million attempt to insert itself between its customers and social networking and messaging services from the likes of Facebook, Windows Live, Google and Twitter.

As well as aggregating contacts and feeds from several social networks, Vodafone 360 also served as a gateway to the telco’s app and music store. But most Vodafone customers didn’t appear to see the need to have an aggregator sit between them and their Facebook feed. During 2011, the service was stripped back to be just the app and music store. In essence, Vodafone 360 didn’t add enough value to what the disruptors are already offering. We understand, from discussions with executives at Vodafone, that the service is now being mothballed.

A small number of large telcos, mostly in emerging markets where smartphones are not yet commonplace, have successfully built up a portfolio of value-added consumer services that go far beyond voice and messaging. One of the best examples is China Mobile, which claims more than 82 million users for its Fetion instant messaging service, for example (see Figure 20 – China Mobile’s Internet Services).

Figure 20 – China Mobile’s Internet Services

China Mobile Services, Google, Apple, Facebook Report, Telco 2.0

Source: China Mobile’s Q2 2011 results

However, it remains to be seen whether China Mobile will be able to continue to attract so many customers for its (mostly paid-for) Internet services once smartphones with full web access go mass-market in China, making it easier for consumers to access third-parties’ services, such as the popular QQ social network.

Some telcos have tried to compete with the disruptors by buying innovative start-ups. A good example is Telefonica’s acquisition of VOIP provider Jajah for US$207 million in January 2010. Telefonica has since used Jajah’s systems and expertise to launch low-cost international calling services in competition with Skype and companies offering calling cards. Telefonica expects Jajah’s products to generate $280 million of revenue in 2011, primarily from low-cost international calls offered by its German and UK mobile businesses, according to a report in the FT.

The Wholesale Applications Community (WAC)

Concerned about their growing dependence on the leading smartphone platforms, such as Android and Apple’s iOS, many of the world’s leading telcos have banded together to form the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC).

WAC’s goal is to create a platform developers can use to create apps that will run across different device operating systems, while tapping the capabilities of telcos’ networks and messaging and billing systems.

At the Mobile World Congress in February 2011, WAC said that China Mobile, MTS, Orange, Smart, Telefónica, Telenor, Verizon and Vodafone are “connected to the WAC platform”, while adding that Samsung and LG will ensure “that all devices produced by the two companies that are capable of supporting the WAC runtime will do so.”

It also announced the availability of the WAC 2.0 specification, which supports HTML5 web applications, while WAC 3.0, which is designed to enable developers to tap network assets, such as in-app billing and user authentication, is scheduled to be available in September 2011.

Ericsson, the leading supplier of mobile networks, is a particularly active supporter of WAC, which also counts leading Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei, LG Electronics, Qualcomm, Research in Motion, Samsung and ZTE, among its members.

In theory, at least, apps developers should also throw their weight behind WAC, which promises the so far unrealised dream of “write once, run anywhere.” But, in reality, games developers, in particular, will probably still want to build specific apps for specific platforms, to give their software a performance and functionality edge over rivals.

Still, the ultimate success or failure of WAC will likely depend on how enthusiastically Apple and Google, in particular, embrace HTML5 and actively support it in their respective smartphone platforms. We discuss this question further in the Apple and Google chapters of this report.

Summarising current telcos’ response to disruptors

 

Telcos, and their close allies in the equipment market, are clearly alert to the threat posed by the major disruptors, but they have yet to develop a comprehensive game plan that will enable them to protect their voice and messaging revenue, while expanding into new markets.

Collective activities, such as RCS and WAC, are certainly necessary and worthwhile, but are not enough. Telcos, and companies across the broader TMT ecosystem, need to also adapt their individual strategies to the rise of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Skype-Microsoft. This report is designed to help them do that.

[END OF EXTRACT]

 

Cloud 2.0: Report and analysis of the event

Cloud 2.0: Event Summary Analysis. A summary of the findings of the Cloud 2.0 Executive Brainstorm, 10th November 2011, held in the Gouman Tower Hotel, London. The Brainstorm explored telcos’ strategic options to grow in the fast changing digital economy. It also considered how telcos can defend their core voice and messaging business, while also examining the steps they can take to improve the customer experience. (November 2012, Executive Briefing Service, Cloud & Enterprise ICT Stream) Cloud 2.0: Event Summary Analysis Presentation

 

 

Part of the New Digital Economics Executive Brainstorm series, the Cloud 2.0 event took place at the Guoman Hotel, London on the 10th November and looked at telcos’ strategic options, the future of the core communications products telcos rely on for much of their revenue and how they can improve the customer experience both to reduce churn and attract new customers.

Using a widely acclaimed interactive format called ‘Mindshare’ the event enabled 80 specially-invited senior executives from across the communications, media, banking and technology sectors to.

This note summarises some of the high-level findings and includes the verbatim output of the brainstorm.

More information: email contact@stlpartners.com, or phone: +44 (0) 207 247 5003.

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Extracted example slide:

 

Cloud 2.0: Event Summary Analysis Presentation

Your Text is on Fire: OTT’s to burn 40% SMS revenue by 2015

Introduction

Background

STL Partners’ New Digital Economics Executive Brainstorm EMEA, took place from 8-10 November in London, and brought together 5 events in 1 venue, co-locating the Telco 2.0, M-Commerce, 2.0 Cloud 2.0, M2M 2.0 and Digital Entertainment 2.0 brainstorms, using a unique and widely acclaimed interactive format called ‘Mindshare’ to help clarify the important ‘next steps’ for both individual companies and industries.

Building on output from previous brainstorms and new market research and analysis from STL Partners, it focuses on new growth opportunities at the intersection of Telecoms, Media and Technology. The keynote Strategy Report Dealing with the ‘Disruptors’: Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft/Skype and Amazon was launched at the brainstorm, and a similar agenda will be discussed at the New Digital Economics – APAC Brainstorm, Accelerating New Growth Opportunities in Telecoms, Media and Tech, 30 November – 1 December, Capella Resort, Singapore.

This note provides an extract of key take-outs and votes on the ‘Voice and Messaging 2.0’ sessions from the EMEA brainstorm for Telco 2.0 readers and subscribers.

Brainstorm participants will also receive detailed write-ups and analysis from the event sessions they registered for, and we will be using the input from all the sessions of the EMEA, Americas and APAC brainstorms as input to new analysis across all of the topics covered in the coming months.

The telco business model challenge is getting acute in EMEA

Your text platform is on fire

Telco SMS revenue will decline on average by around 40% across the Europe and Middle East region by 2015 according to the senior execs at this month’s Telco 2.0 brainstorm in London. The main cause is competitive pressure from so-called ‘Over-The-Top’ (OTT) alternatives (Facebook, Skype, Google, BBM, etc).

Figure 1 – Predicted decline of mobile telco messaging revenues

EMEA 2011 Messaging Decline Chart 40% Telco 2.0

 

The cause of this predicted decline was unambiguous – the impact of so-called Over The Top (OTT) players’ messaging services like iMessage, BlackBerry Messenger, Whatsapp, Skype and Facebook.

Figure 2 – Causes of predicted mobile messaging decline

EMEA 2011 Messaging Decline Chart OTT Causes Telco 2.0

This is similar to the impact of the new services that we saw predicted in the survey conducted across 300 senior execs in the research for our latest report Dealing with the ‘Disruptors’: Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft/Skype and Amazon.

Indeed, KPN and some Middle-Eastern operators have reported even higher percentage declines among users of certain devices and applications.

The Voice platform is smoking too

While not as pressing as the impact on Messaging revenues, delegates had a pessimistic view of the prospects for voice revenues.

Figure 3 – Predicted decline of mobile carrier voice revenues

EMEA 2011 Voice Decline Chart 20% Telco 2.0

The causes behind the voice declines were seen as somewhat broader, with competition and regulation taking up 56% compared to 16% for Messaging, although ‘Responding to price pressures from OTT alternatives’ was still the main choice with 44% of the vote.

Figure 4 – Causes of predicted mobile voice revenue decline

EMEA 2011 Voice Decline Chart 20% reasons Telco 2.0

All in all, it looks as if the pressures on voice and messaging revenues are beginning to bite as we originally predicted in our 2008 strategy report Lessons from Internet Communications Services – Skype, Facebook, and others: how Telcos can adapt and compete – although the options for adaptation and competition have narrowed somewhat due to the success of the so-called OTT players and the relative lack of action by telcos.

Who should telcos fear most?

Delegates did not have an entirely consistent view of the threats and opportunities presented by the OTT players as shown below.

Figure 5 – Who should telcos support / fear most in voice and messaging?

EMEA 2011 Voice and Messaging Decline Chart OTT Fears Telco 2.0

This is not entirely surprising given the relative attractions and perils presented in different scenarios as we describe in Dealing with the ‘Disruptors’: Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft/Skype and Amazon.

However, what is consistent for operators is that:

  • There is most to gain, in the short-term at least, in supporting Microsoft as a counterweight to Apple and Google;
  • RIM / Blackberry is perceived to have the least power – and also presents a opportunity as a counterweight to Apple and Google, albeit a weakened one;
  • Facebook is indeed a ‘double-edged sword’ – as a threat in terms of its potential to enter communications and an opportunity in driving data use;
  • Apple and Google are the established players with the most current power, and hence threat.

Will RCS-e help?

At the November 2011 EMEA Brainstorm, Cenk Serdar, Director, Data & Communications Service, Vodafone, and Rainer Deutschmann, SVP Core Telco Products, DTAG, carried out a live demonstration of RCS-e, the GSMA-backed future voice & messaging solution using IMS. Morten Sorby, EVP of Strategy & Regulatory Affairs, Telenor, and Andreas Bernstrom, CEO, Rebtel, joined the vibrant subsequent debate with the audience and Simon Torrance, CEO STL Partners.

The following is an anonymised top-level summary of the resulting discussions and the votes.

Getting to market

Instant messaging, video, and file-sharing are the key features in RCS-e, and are being introduced as a refined set compared to the original specifications in order to bring applications to market as quickly as possible. This refinement was lead by the E5 Group of top European operators.

The most important item on the future roadmap is service discovery. Beyond that, contacts transfer, location sharing, and multi-device operation are on the to-do list.

Interestingly, it seems that some of the RCS-e use cases focus on supporting enterprise applications such as trying to provide a platform for better CRM and person-to-organisation applications (for example, an enhanced helpdesk for a furniture company). This has consequences for the design of APIs and business relationships facing upstream towards enterprises and developers.

Arguments for success or failure

Arguments put forward at the Brainstorm for RCS-e included:

  • While Apple’s iMessenger and RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger are impressive products, they aren’t ubiquitious or necessarily deeply integrated with other applications in the way that SMS, MMS, and telephony could be.
  • RCS-e doesn’t require the user to download any new apps – the vast majority of users aren’t already using sophisticated communications tools like smartphones.
  • RCS-e ‘is a service for mass-market users’ rather than just smartphones.
  • Seven of the major device makers are committed, and the RCS-e standard is an open standard, so nothing prevents Apple iOS or RIM BBX developers implementing it independently.
  • RCS-e is building its global footprint. Spain, France, and Germany will launch sequentially between now and the first half of 2012. South Korea is committed to deploying RCS-e, and discussions were going on with other Asian countries.

Arguments put forward against RCS-e included:

  • Smartphones will change customer behaviour and catalyse change as more people get them. Horace Dediu, Associate Analyst at STL Partners, predicts that Western Europe and North America will go 100% smartphone within 18 months – so control will be further ceded to the Smartphone OS owners.
  • Cost is the main reason users move to Skype and similar services, and RCS-e doesn’t reduce costs.
  • The feature set just isn’t that convincing compared to what else can be done using VOIP services and other smartphone apps.

Delegates were split in their views on the likely efficacy of RCS.

Figure 6 – Will RCS-e offer an attractive alternative to OTT services?

EMEA 2011 RCS-e attractive vs OTT Telco 2.0 chart

Telco 2.0’s questions

The value of RCS-e is a subject that stirs strong opinions from across the industry, and it was intriguing to see the extreme polarity of delegate views at the Brainstorm.

Figure 7 – Is RCS-e ‘too little too late’?

EMEA 2011 RCS-e too little too late Telco 2.0 chart

Telco 2.0 will be conducting an in-depth analysis of Messaging and Voice 2.0 strategies, including RCS-e and its prospects in coming months.

Our questions on RCS-e at this point are as follows.

How many Christmas 2012 handsets will have RCS-e?

An critical factor is whether the wave of cheap smartphones will support RCS-e and if so, whether they support it well or only half-heartedly. The great bulk of them will be Android devices, and therefore the key vendors will be HTC and Samsung.
HTC are signed up, but their device line-up is concentrated on the high end, and they are very much second to Samsung in terms of volume.

Samsung is shipping more Androids than any other vendor, and indeed more smartphones than any other vendor, and they have a portfolio of products from the Ace to the Galaxy S II rather than a single top-end hero product. A key question is to what extent across their handset range they will sign up to RCS-e.

Are the features really convincing?

It is notoriously difficult to accurately predict the appeal of features in advance of consumer trials. However, a challenge for operators will be that, unlike Apple, they will have limited control of the design and implementation of the end-to-end customer experience.
How quickly can RCS-e evolve?

An important issue regarding services “embedded” in the core network or the device operating system is that they are unlikely to get upgrades anywhere near as quickly as either standalone applications or Web services. Operators tend to be slow to push out OTA upgrades to device OS, even after the manufacturers release them, and software iterations in the core network are taken slowly for very good reasons. App developers and Web 2.0 players tend to have much faster development cycles, so in terms of both user experience design control and release iteration operators are at a disadvantage.

What is RCS-e realistically intended to achieve now?

Opinions vary on what RCS-e is meant to achieve for operators, though few people we’ve spoken to in private recently believe that RCS-e is a ‘silver-bullet’ to combat so-called ‘OTT’ revenue erosion. Indeed, there appears to be a growing minority who appear to have ‘given up’ on voice and messaging revenues.

A more tenable position perhaps is that RCS-e may help a little, and that extending the life of the Messaging and Voice revenue streams by only a few months would justify the business case. One argument we’ve heard is that RCS-e is about enhancing and protecting the telco services bundle of minutes, texts, and data.

In a wider sense, it is a move by operators to provide something new to consumers, and it may at least be a small step to revitalise their relevance to consumers. In our view, it is far from the only strategy that operators should explore.

Content

  • What else can be done?
  • A new strategy framework for Messaging and Voice 2.0 Strategies
  • Developing alternative sources of value

 

  • Figure 1 – Predicted decline of mobile telco messaging revenues
  • Figure 2 – Causes of predicted mobile messaging decline
  • Figure 3 – Predicted decline of mobile carrier voice revenues
  • Figure 4 – Causes of predicted mobile voice revenue decline
  • Figure 5 – Who should telcos support / fear most in voice and messaging?
  • Figure 6 – Will RCS-e offer an attractive alternative to OTT services?
  • Figure 7 – Is RCS-e ‘too little too late’?
  • Figure 8 – Strategic Messaging and Voice options for operators

 

Can Telcos Unlock the Value of their Consumer Data?

Summary: telcos have a significant market opportunity to act as custodians of ‘digital personas’, giving consumers the power to exploit their own data. This is an extract from a special 100 page report containing expert contributions and detailed analysis on privacy issues, legal and regulatory frameworks, technological solutions, adjacent competition, and including ‘best and next practice’ and scenario analysis, from the 1st Telco 2.0 International Summit on Consumer Data and Privacy. (Special Report, April 2010, Executive Briefing Service)

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The richness of the consumer data that flows through telco networks is far greater than anything Google has. The potential social and economic benefits from mining this ‘analytic super-food’ are enormous. What is the role of telcos in enabling this and what do they need to get right to realise the opportunity?

Telco Consumer Data is core to many new business model opportunities

Telco 2.0 has analysed a number of opportunities for telcos to develop new ‘two-sided’ or ‘platform’ business models that support B2B and B2C processes, and has set out the general theory and strategic approach in the Two-Sided Telecoms Market Opportunity Strategy Report. The use of consumer data to improve operational performance and create the ‘Personal Information Economy’ is an ongoing theme in the ‘User Data and Privacy’ research stream and will be a major theme at the 2011 Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorms in Americas, EMEA, and APAC, and online at Best Practice Live! on 2-3 Feb.

Many of these opportunities reuse telco consumer data in some way, whether directly, e.g. to identify the consumer for the purposes of authenticating a transaction, or indirectly, using individual consumer data to build up anonymised sets of analytical infomation. Yet the diversity and complexity of the information, the consumers’ privacy needs, and patchy regulation present potential hurdles to the potential use of the data.

The Challenges of the ‘Consumer Data Explosion’

Laidler_Telco2Intro_Privacy2010%20intro%20slide.png

Source: Telco 2.0

This new 100 page Special Report analyses the provision of consumer data from telcos to other processes and parties, and assesses the key challenges of empowering change in the industry, maintaining appropriate privacy, gaining consumer trust and acceptance, and establishing viable legal and regulatory frameworks, as well as previewing potential technology solutions. It contains expert contributions and detailed analysis on the key issues, including ‘best and next practice’ and scenario analysis, from the 1st Privacy 2.0 International Summit in Boston, February 2010.

The rest of this article comprises an extract of the key findings, a Telco 2.0 analytical framework for consumer data, the detailed contents of the report, how to get it, and a special offer on this plus related analysis. You can also see a further extract of a chapter of this report in the recently published Consumer Data and Privacy 2.0: Give Customers the Power. [Ed. We will also feature more on the potential value and uses of telco consumer data at the 9th Telco 2.0 Brainsrorm in London, April 28-29, 2010.]

– Start of Report Extract –

Report Objectives

  • To identify and clarify the commercial opportunities and risks related to proactively managing consumer data, identity and privacy.
  • To understand how best to align the interests of the key stakeholder groups: consumers, merchants, legislators, tech companies, and telcos.
  • To define the parameters and next steps for the creation of a common international policy and strategy for the telecommunications industry in relation to consumer data governance.

Top Level Findings

There is shared recognition of the potential value of customers’ data, and also of the potential risks involved in attempting to monetise it inappropriately:

  • Telcos are in a great position to be the custodians of customer data in the developing ‘Digital Economy’
  • The subject is of significant interest among the world’s leading telcos with recognition that the existing ‘one-sided’ business model is reaching maturity and that ‘2-sided’ business models represents the single biggest opportunity.
  • There is also recognition (cited from recent World Economic Forum) that Telco CEOs fear a ‘3 Mile Island’ scenario, where a poor strategy or operation to tackle privacy risks openly, could destroy or retard this nascent information services opportunity for Telcos.  However, to address this, the industry should be much bolder and pro-active in advocating and trialling solutions rather than waiting for others to act.
  • The area is also being targeted by other adjacent industry players such as Google and Facebook, so there is a finite window of opportunity for Telcos. There is also a significant risk of unnecessarily restrictive regulatory intervention driven by concentrated fears of privacy abuse, if not balanced by the understanding of possible benefits to individuals, organisations and the wider economy of functional, fair and legitimate digital business.
  • Overall, while the Telecoms Industry is ‘waking up late’ to this opportunity, there is a significant imperative and growing interest, to make up for lost time – and the opportunity needs to be taken now.

(NB. The above is an extract from Report’s Executive Summary, and the following is an extract from the opening section of the report, describing an analytical framework for telco consumer data.)

The Commercial and Social Challenges of exploiting Consumer Data in the ‘Digital Economy’

Phil Laidler, Director, Telco 2.0 Initiative, presented an overall perspective on Privacy including a new descriptive and analytical Framework.

Introduction -Telecoms and customer data

Communications service providers have traditionally been very cautious about exploiting their data assets. This is partly because they have not had much need to, partly because of the technical challenges in doing so and partly down to concerns around privacy and security.

In Western Europe and to a lesser extent North America and some advanced Asia-Pac economies, telcos have reached a saturation point in core services: voice and messing revenues are stable or shrinking and set to decline further.

Although broadband services are providing new sources of revenues, these require significant capital investment and challenging returns. Furthermore, broadband access opens the door to new forms of service competition, often from players with broader commercial objectives than taking a slice of telco revenues. This only exacerbates the feared drift into becoming utility providers of “commodity bit pipe”.

Need for a new business model

New value lies in addressing the friction that exists in everyday interactions between businesses and consumers, and between governments and citizens. Typical examples include: authenticating users; market research; targeting promotions; distributing goods and content; collecting payments; and providing customer care. Today, these processes are often slow, inefficient and ineffective. They waste money and affect customer satisfaction.

Collectively, telcos have assets that can address this situation: real-time user data; secure distribution networks; sophisticated payment processing capabilities; trusted brands; a near universal subscriber base; and core voice and messaging products.

To realise a new business model opportunity based on Telco 2.0, these assets must be reorganised. A ‘two-sided’ telecoms market structure is required in which telcos facilitate improved interactions and transactions between people (‘downstream customers’) and organisations (‘upstream customers’). Telcos must continue to attract retail consumers and satisfy their needs, but in addition, they should extend the capabilities of their traditional consumer products to explicitly support enterprise business processes.

The ‘Two-Sided’ Telecoms Business Model

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Source: Telco 2.0 Customer Data and Privacy Report

To do this, telcos will need to create open and standardised platforms that third-party organisations can plug their enterprise IT and communications systems into, just as they plug into the telephone and internet networks today.

The Telco 2.0 Initiative estimates this opportunity could be worth $375bn of new revenue to telcos in 10 years’ time, equivalent to around 20% of total telecoms revenues at that time in mature markets alone. The value to the wider digital economy – industry and consumers – will be many times greater.

There is a sense of urgency. This revenue is not guaranteed and large-scale ‘over the top’ players are also interested in capturing value by re-engineering the value chains of other industries – witness what Google has done with the advertising industry. Operators cannot afford to sit and wait. They must act soon if this opportunity is not to pass them by and this means co-ordinated, cross-industry collaboration to develop the market opportunity. Failure to do this will lead to inevitable decline.

The situation – Personal data explosion

The advent of the digital economy has led to massive growth in the volume of data generated, captured and stored. This is partly because – in more advanced economies at least – we conduct so much more of our life through digital media: work, play, buy, sell, learn, opine, meet, bank, watch, vote, give, protect. It is also because there are many more connected devices to generate and retrieve data, much of it automatically. Finally, the cost of transmitting, storing and then extracting meaning from all this data has fallen dramatically and is set to continue falling according to Nielsen’s, Kryder’s and Moore’s Laws respectively.

Consumers and authorities struggle to keep up with the pace of change. Much regulation is an uneven patchwork of sector and geographic rules and policy. Consumers scroll down to click on “I agree” with routine abandon. For most, the practical reality of “notice and consent” is that it achieves neither. This represents a new potential role for telcos.

Telco data: Buried gold

Telecoms operators process vast quantities of data related to their users

Critically, telcos are in a relatively good position to authenticate user identities. Furthermore, they can draw on multiple & rich levels of data to provide increasingly rigorous levels of authentication process. This is key as it provides so much of a secure basis for undertaking other processes.

Very few elements of data held by telcos are unique and most of these are losing their uniqueness (e.g. location). Furthermore, telco data sets are not as complete or accurate as they could be. However, taken together, telcos have an exceptional broad base of data which can be added-to and refined to support a plethora of third-party services.

Telcos have a unique relationship with the consumer and hold the key to helping consumers, organizations and enterprises in all sectors take advantage of the ‘analytic super-food’ flowing across their networks. There is a significant commercial opportunity for telcos to act as trusted guardians of this data, but also significant risks.

Other potential future custodians of our digital personae are retail financial institutions, internet players (Google, Facebook), device manufacturers (Apple, Nokia) and Government. There may be some surprises from unexpected quarters (e.g. credit rating agencies). To succeed they will need to build trust, and deliver value and convenience to customers.

Telco Consumer Data Map

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Source: Telco 2.0 Customer Data and Privacy Report

Making sense of personal data

In seeking to drive the debate for the 1st Privacy 2.0 International Summit in Boston, we have attempted to map out potential consumer data activities along two dimensions: how the data was obtained; and how it was used.

Telco 2.0’s Consumer Data Analysis Framework

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Source: Telco 2.0 Customer Data and Privacy Report

Based on categorisation presented at the Telco 2.0 brainstorm in Orlando last year, by Marc Davis of Invention Arts, we have split the sources of personal data into 3 groups: declared by customers, observed, and inferred. This last group includes many lifestyle characteristics, interests, tastes, communication and relationship preferences, attitudes, beliefs and behavioural patterns.

We then consider how the data is used and have split this into four groups: internally by the entity collecting the data; externally for services that do not actually share the data, but make use of it for supporting third party organizations (Google search is an example of this); externally as aggregate, anonymised data that cannot be attributed to an individual; and sharing PII data externally with third parties.

Any given organization looking to exploit customer data will operate across this map at different points in the customer lifecycle, for different business processes and in different ways. They will also operate with varying degrees of customer awareness and varying degrees of implicit or explicit accord. Building consensus across telcos on where and how the industry should operate will be key to meeting the industry’s aspirations.

By using this framework, we hope to bring clarity and understanding to the debate and help to answer the key questions that the conference is looking to address:

  • How can the industry profitably enable upstream players to benefit from consumers’ data that we hold, while still effectively empowering consumers to share/trade their data in an informed, “safe” and “fair” manner?
  • What do we do in each area of the data map, how do we need to do it, both individually and collectively.
– End of Report Extract –

Report Contents

  • The Commercial and Social Challenges of exploiting Consumer Data in the ‘Digital Economy’
  • The framework for Analysing Consumer Data and its uses
  • Stakeholder Problem Statements
  • Understanding the ‘Consumer’ – highlights of global consumer research and eTrust Framework
  • Examples of current ‘Best Practice’ in key areas: Online Identity Management, Regulation and Behavioural Advertising, Google and Disruption, Mobile Data Analytics
  • Examples of ‘Next Practice’: Supporting the ‘Currency’ of the Information Economy, Enabling Multiple IDs, Personal ID Management, Privacy By Design
  • Participant Survey – Challenges and Barriers
  • Moving Forward – Future Scenarios
  • Moving forwards – towards an International Policy and Commercial Strategy
  • Brainstorm responses for scenario 1 – Telco Trustmark
  • Brainstorm responses for scenario 2 – Let the Market Decide
  • Brainstorm responses Scenario X – Telcos do not participate
  • Panel Review of Proposals
  • Next Steps for the telco industry, organizations & individuals
  • Appendix 1 – Group Brainstorm Outputs
  • Appendix 2 – Summit Agenda

To Get the Report

Members of the Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing Subscription Service and the Telco 2.0 Transformation Stream can download the full 100 page report in PDF format here. Non-Members, please see here for how to subscribe, here to buy a single user license for for £995, and here to buy a license for up to 5 people for £1,450. Corporate-wide licenses are also available – please email contact@telco2.net or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.

[NB There will be more on the value and uses of consumer data at the 9th Telco 2.0 Brainsrorm in London, April 28-29, 2010.]

Special Offer

We reommend that non-member readers looking for a comprehensive overview of new Telco Business Models enabling advertising and marketing also consider the Telco 2.0 Briefing report Mobile Advertising and Marketing: Text-based Local Search Use Case and the special report  Mobile Advertising and Marketing: Operator and Market Growth Strategies 2010. Each report is available individually for single, group and corporate users, and a also in a package of all three reports at a 33% discount – £1,900 for a single user and £2,900 for all three reports for 5 users. Please email contact@telco2.net or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003 for more on these packages and interest in corporate-wide licenses.

Full Article: Telenor’s Voice 2.0 Strategy – ‘Mobilt Bedriftsnett’ Case Study

Summary: Telenor’s new ‘Mobile Business Network’ integrates SME’s mobile and fixed phone systems via managed APIs, providing added functionality and delivering greater business efficiency. It uses a ‘two-sided’ business model strategy and targets the market via developers.

Members can download a PDF of this Note here.

Introduction

The enterprise is the key field for new forms of voice and messaging; it’s where the social and economic value of bits exceeds their quantity by the greatest margin, and where the problems of bad voice & messaging are most severe.

People spend hours answering phone calls and typing information into computers – calls they take from people sitting behind computers that are internetworked with the ones they sit behind. Quite often, the answer is to send the caller on to someone else. Meanwhile, other people struggle to avoid calls from enterprises.

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It’s got to change, and here’s a start: Mobilt Bedriftsnett or the ‘Mobile Business Network’ from Telenor.

‘Telenor 2.0’

Telenor are a large, Norwegian integrated telecoms operator, and a pioneer and early adopter of some Telco 2.0 ideas. As long ago as 2001, their head of strategy Lars Godell, was working on an early implementation of some of the ideas we’ve been promoting. They also have an active ‘Telenor 2.0′ strategic transformation programme.

Content Provider Access – CPA – established a standard interface for the ingestion, delivery, billing, and settlement of mobile content of any description that would be delivered to Telenor subscribers, and was the first service of this kind to share revenue from content sales with third parties and to interwork with other mobile and fixed line operators, years before the iPhone or even NTT’s pioneering i-Mode. Later, they added a developer sandbox (Playground) as well.

So, what would they do when they encountered the need for better voice & messaging? The importance of this line of business, and its focus on enterprises, has been part and parcel of Telco 2.0 since its inception (here’s a note on “digital workers” from the spring of 2007, and another on better telephony from the same period), and we’ve only become more convinced of its importance as a wave of disruptive innovators have entered the field.

We spoke to Telenor’s product manager for charging APIs, Elisabeth Falck, and strategy director Frank Elter; they think MB is “our latest move towards Telco 2.0”.

Voice 2.0: despite the changing value proposition…

In the Voice & Messaging 2.0 strategy report, we identified a fundamental shift in the value proposition of telephony; in the past, telephony was scarce relative to labour. That stopped being true between 1986 and 2001 in the US, when the price per minute of telephony fell below that of people’s time (the exact crossover points are 1986 for unskilled workers and landline calls, 1998 for graduates and mobile calls, and finally 2001 for unskilled workers and mobile calls).

Now, telephony is relatively plentiful; this is why there are now call-centre help desks and repair centres rather than service engineers and local repair shops. It’s no longer worth employing workers to avoid telephone calls; rather, it’s worth delivering services to the customer by phone rather than having a field sales or service force. The chart below visualises this relationship.

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…and changing position in the value chain…

We also identified two other major trends in voice – commoditisation and fragmentation.

Voice is increasingly commoditised – that is to say, it’s a bulk product, cheap, and largely homeogenous. These are also the classic conditions of a product in perfect competition; despite the name and the ideological baggage, this isn’t a good thing, as in this situation economic theory predicts that profit margins will be competed away down to the absolute minimum required to keep the participants from giving up.

The provision of Voice is also increasingly fragmented and diverse – there are more and more producers, and more and more different applications, networks, and hardware devices incorporate some form of telephony. For example, games consoles like the Xbox have a voice chat capability, and CRM systems like Salesforce.com can be integrated with click-to-call services.

As a result, there’s less and less value in the telephone call itself – the period between the ringing tone and the click, when the circuit is established and bearer traffic is flowing. This bit is now cheap or free, and although Skype hasn’t eaten the world as it seemed it might in 2005, this is largely because the industry has reacted by bundling – i.e. slashing prices. Of course, neither the disruptors nor the traditional telcos can base a business on a permanent price war – eventually, prices go to zero. We’ve seen the results of this; several VoIP carriers whose business was based on offering the same features as the PSTN, but cheaper, have already gone under.

The outlook of Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm delegates as far back as 2007 demonstrates the widespread acceptance of these trends in the industry, and the increasing proliferation of diverse means of delivery of voice as show in the following chart.

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… Voice is still the biggest game in Telcotown…

So why bother with voice? The short answer is that there are three communications products the public gladly pays for – voice, SMS, and IP access.

Telenor’s CPA, one of the most successful and longest-running mobile content plays, is proud of $100m in revenues. In comparison, the business voice market in Norway is NOK6.9bn – $1.22bn. Even in 10 years’ time, voice will comprise the bulk of Telco revenue streams. However grim the prospects, defending Voice is only optional in the sense that survival is optional.

Moreover the emergence of the first wave of internet voice players – Skype, Vonage, etc., and the subsequent fight back by Operators, demonstrates that there is still much scope for innovation in voice and messaging, and that the option of better voice and messaging is still open.

…although the rules are changing…

Specifically, the possible zone of value is now adjacent to the call – features like presence-and-availability, dynamic call routing, speech-to-text, collaboration, history, and integration with the field of CEBP (Communications-Enabled Business Processes). There may also be some scope for improving the bearer quality – HD voice is currently gaining buzz – although the challenge there is that the Internet Players can use better voice codecs as well (Skype already does).

…and the Enterprise market is where the smart money is

The crucial market for better voice & messaging is the enterprise, because that’s where the money is. Nowhere else does the economic value of bits exceed their quantity and cost so much.

For large enterprises, the answer will almost certainly come from custom developments. They are already extensive users of VoIP internally, and increasingly externally as well. They tend to have large customised IT and unified communications installations, and the money and infrastructure to either do their own development or hire software/systems integration firms to do it for them. The appropriate telco play is something like BT Global Services – the systems integration/managed services wing of BT.

But using the toolkit of Voice 2.0 is technically challenging. It’s been said that free software is usually only free if you value your time at zero; small and medium-sized businesses can never afford to do that.

Telenor’s ‘Mobile Enterprise Network’: Mobilt Bedriftsnett

Mobilt Bedriftsnett (MB) is Telenor’s response to this situation, aimed at Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Its primary benefit is to improve business efficiency by extending the functions of an internal PBX and/or unified communications system to include all the companies’ mobile phones.

Telenor’s internal business modelling estimates the cost of CRM failures – missed appointments, rework of mistakes, complaints, lost sales – to a potential SME customer at between $500 and $2,000 a year. This is the economic ‘friction’ that the product is designed to address.

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The Core Product is based on Telenor APIs…

The product is based on a suite of APIs into Telenor infrastructure, one of which replicates a hosted IP-PBX, i.e. IP Centrex, solution. It’s aimed at SMEs, and in particular, at integrating with their existing PBX, unified communications, and CRM installations. There’s a browser-based end user interface, which lets nontechnical customers manage their services.

There is also considerable scope for further development, and MB also provides four other APIs, which provide a click-to-call capability, bulk or programmatic SMS, location information, and “Status Push”. This last one provides information on whether a user is currently in coverage, power level, bandwidth, etc, and will be extended to carry presence-and-availability information and integrate with groupware and CRM systems in Q1 2010.

…and integrated with PBX/UC Vendor Client Solutions

Extensive work has been carried out with PBX/UC vendors, notably Alcatel-Lucent and Microsoft, to ensure integration. For example, one of the current use cases for the click-to-call API permits a user to launch a conference call from within MS Outlook or a CRM application. The voice switch receives an event from the SOAP API, initiates a call to the user’s mobile device, then bridges in the target number.

The ‘two-sided’ Enterprise ‘App Store’

MB is also the gateway to a business-focused app store, which markets the work of third-party software developers using the MB API to their base of SME customers. This element qualifies it as a two-sided business model. Telenor is thereby facilitating trade that wouldn’t otherwise occur, by sharing revenue from its customers with upstream producers and also by bringing SMEs that might not otherwise attract any interest from the developer community into contact with it. Developers either pay per use or receive a 70% revenue share depending on the APIs in use.

Telenor are using the existing infrastructure created for CPA to pay out the revenue share and carry out the digital logistics, and targeting the developer community they’re already building under their iLabs project. So far, third-party applications include integration with Microsoft’s Office Communication Server line of products, integration with Alcatel-Lucent and some other proprietary IP-PBXs, and a mobile-based CRM solution, WebOfficeOne.

Route to Market: Enterprise ICT Specialists

In a twist on the two-sided business model, MB services are primarily marketed to systems integrators, independent software developers, and CRM and IP telephony vendors, who act as a channel to market for core Telenor products such as voice, messaging, presence & availability, and location. This differs quite sharply from their experience with CPA, whose business is dominated by content providers.

Pricing is based on a freemium model; some API usage is free, businesses that choose to use the CPA payments system pay through the revenue sharing mechanism, and ones that don’t but do use the APIs heavily pay by usage.

Technical Architecture: migrating to industry standards

Telco 2.0 has previously articulated the seven questions concept – seven key customer questions that can be answered using telecom’s operator’s data assets as shown in the following diagram.

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Telenor’s API layer consists of Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Web service interfaces between the customer needs on the left of the diagram, and a bank of service gateways which communicate with various elements of in the core network on the right.

At the moment, the click-to-call and status push interfaces are implemented using the proprietary Computer-Support Telecoms Applications (CSTA) standard, in order to integrate more easily with the Alcatel-Lucent range of PBXs. So far, they don’t implement Parlay-X (or OneAPI as the GSMA calls it), but they intend to migrate to the standard in the future. Like Microsoft OCS, Asterisk, and much else, the industry standard IETF SIP is used for the core voice, messaging, and availability functions.

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Early days, high hopes…

Telenor is unwilling to describe what it would consider to constitute success with Mobilt Bedriftsnett; however, they do say that they expect it to be a “great source of income”. MB has only been live since June 2009, and traffic to CPA inevitably dwarfs that to the MB APIs at present.

…and part of a bigger strategic plan

Mobilt Bedriftsnett makes up the Voice & Messaging 2.0 element of Telenor’s transformation towards Telco 2.0. The other components of ‘Telenor 2.0’ are:

  • CPA, the platform enabling 3rd party mobile content transactions
  • the iLabs/Playground developer community
  • increasing strategic interest in M2M applications
  • a recently launched Content Delivery Network (or CDN – a subject gaining salience again, after the recent Arbor Networks study that showed them accounting for 10-15% of global Internet traffic )
  • Mobile Payments, Money transfer and Banking at Grameenphone in Bangladesh.

Lessons from Telenor 2.0

With Mobilt Bedriftsnett, Telenor has carried on its tradition of pioneering Telco 2.0 style business model innovations, though it is relatively early to judge the success of the ‘Telenor 2.0′ strategy.

At this stage of market development, Telenor’s approach therefore shows three important lessons to other industry players.

1)     They are taking serious steps to create and try ‘two-sided’ telecoms business models.

2)     The repeated mentions of CPA’s role in MB point to an important truth about Telco 2.0 – the elements of it are mutually supporting. It becomes dramatically easier to create a developer community, bill for sender-pays data, operate an app store, etc, if you already have an effective payments and revenue-sharing solution. Similarly, an effective identification/authorisation capability underlies billing and payments. Telenor understands and is acting on this network principle.