DataSpark: Lessons on building a new telco (data) business

Data analytics as a new business

This case study looks at DataSpark, an autonomous business unit of Singtel (www.dsanalytics.com) and evaluates the benefits of creating a separate organisational structure within a telco to provide technology and support for the development of analytics, AI and automation as a new business. It is created after conversations with Shaowei Ying, Chief Operating Officer of DataSpark. The company’s activities include both the creation of internal capabilities and data monetisation capabilities for external customers.

DataSpark was formed in 2014 at a time when not many telcos were actively exploring new data business opportunities. The unit consisted of a small group of data professionals with skills around, particularly, location data. Singtel’s CEO was a strong supporter of leveraging telco data to establish competitive differentiation and therefore tasked them with looking at various location-related external monetisation opportunities. It was considered natural to create internal use cases for the data to defray the cost of the data preparation. In particular, the same mobility intelligence was of use to radio network planners optimising their network roll out using not just congestion, but now subscribers’ mobility patterns, too.

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DataSpark’s progress to date

Telcos’ external monetisation units, such as DataSpark, are not yet large enough to split out the revenues in their reports and accounts. However, in the 2018 and 2019 Management Discussion and Analysis DataSpark’s progress was reported to include:

  • Activity to bring mobility data to sectors such as transport and out-of-home media in Singapore and Australia
  • Partnership in out-of-home advertising with large players taking a data-as-a-service solution to optimise their assets
  • Provision of insights including first party enterprise data in the consumer goods sector to deliver new use cases in advertising and retail store inventory optimisation
  • Recent support for governments in predicting spread of Covid-19, including understanding the socio-economic impact of the virus.

Service example: COVID-19 insight for the Australian local government

COVID-19 data analytics innovation

Source: DataSpark

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
    • Two diverging strategies for a small, independent data unit
    • Scaling up the data business as an integrated unit
  • Introduction
    • DataSpark’s progress to date
  • DataSpark’s approach to building a data unit
    • What services does it offer?
    • Go-to-market: Different approaches for internal and external customers
    • Organisational structure: Where should a data unit go?
  • How to scale a data business?
    • The immediate growth opportunities
    • Following in others’ footsteps
    • Building new capabilities for external monetisation
  • Assessing future strategies for DataSpark
    • Scenario 1: Double down on internal data applications
    • Scenario 2: Continue building an independent business

 

Read more about STL Partners’ AI & automation research at stlpartners.com/ai-analytics-research/

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The changing consumer landscape: Telco strategies for success

Winning in the evolving “in home” consumer market

COVID-19 is accelerating significant and lasting changes in consumer behaviours as the majority of the population is being implored to stay at home. As a result, most people now work remotely and stay connected with colleagues, friends, and family via video conferencing. Consumer broadband and telco core services are therefore in extremely high demand and, coupled with the higher burden on the network, consumers have high expectations and dependencies on quality connectivity.

Furthermore, we found that people of all ages (including non-digital natives) are becoming more technically aware. This means they may be willing to purchase more services beyond core connectivity from their broadband provider. At the same time, their expectations on performance are rising. Consumers have a better understanding of the products on offer and, for example, expect Wi-Fi to deliver quoted broadband speeds throughout the house and not just in proximity to the router.

As a result of this changing landscape, there are opportunities, but also challenges that operators must overcome to better address consumers, stay relevant in the market, and win “in the home”.

This report looks at the different strategies telcos can pursue to win “in the home” and address the changing demands of consumers. It draws on an interview programme with eight operators, as well as a survey of more than 1100+ consumers globally . As well as canvassing consumers’ high level views of telcos and their services, the survey explores consumer willingness to buy cybersecurity services from telcos in some depth.

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With increasing technical maturity comes an increasingly demanding market

Consumers are increasing in technical maturity

The consumer market as a whole is becoming much more digital. Over the past decade there has been a big shift towards online and self-service models for B2C services (e.g. ecommerce, online banking, automated chatbots, video streaming). This reflects the advent of the Coordination Age – connecting people to machines, information, and things – and the growing technical maturity of the consumer market.

COVID-19 has been a recent, but significant, driver in pushing consumers towards a more digital age, forcing the use of video conferencing and contactless interactions. Even people who are not considered digitally native are becoming increasingly tech savvy and tech capable customers.

Cisco forecasts that, between 2018 and 2023, the number of Internet users globally will increase from 51% to 66% . It has also forecast an increase in data volumes per capita per month from 1.5GB in 2017 to 9.7GB in 2022 . Depending on the roll out of 5G in different markets, this number may increase significantly as demand for mobile data increases to meet the potential increases in supply.

Furthermore, in our survey of 1,100+ consumers globally, 33% of respondents considered themselves avid users and 51% considered themselves moderate users of technology. Only 16% of the population felt they were light users, using technology only when essential for a limited number of use cases and needing significant support when purchasing and implementing new technology-based solutions.

Though this did not vary significantly by region or existing spend, it did vary (as would be expected) by age – 51% of respondents aged between 25 and 30 considered themselves avid users of technology, while only 18% of respondents over 50 said the same. Nevertheless, even within the 50+ segment, 55% considered themselves moderate users of technology.

Self-proclaimed technical maturity varies significantly by age

Source: STL Partners consumer survey analysis (n=1,131)

The growing technical maturity of consumers suggests a larger slice of the market will be ready and willing to adopt digital solutions from a telco, providing an opportunity for potential growth in the consumer market.

Consumers have higher expectations on telco services

Coupled with the increasing technical maturity comes an increase in consumer expectations. This makes the increasing technical maturity a double edged sword – more consumers will be ready to adopt more digital solutions but, with a better understanding of what’s on offer, they can also be more picky about what they receive and more demanding about performance levels that can be achieved.

An example of this is in home broadband. It is no longer sufficient to deliver quoted throughput speeds only within proximity to the router. A good Wi-Fi connection must now permeate throughout the house, so that high-quality video content and video calls can be streamed from any room without any drop in quality or connection. It must also be able to handle an increasing number of connected devices – Cisco forecasts an increase from a global average of 1.2 to 1.6 connections per person between 2018 and 2023 .

Consumers are also becoming increasingly impatient. In all walks of life, whether it be dating, technology or experiences, consumers want instant gratification. Additionally, with the faster network speeds of 4G+, fibre, and eventually 5G, consumers want (and are used to) continuous video feeds, seamless streaming, and near instant downloads – buffering should be a thing of the past.

One of our interviewees, a Northern European operator, commented: “Consumers are not willing to wait, they want everything here, now, immediately. Whether it is web browsing or video conferencing or video streaming, consumers are increasingly impatient”.

However, these demands extend beyond telco core services and connectivity. In the context of digital maturity, a Mediterranean operator noted “There is increasing demand for more specialized services…there is more of a demand on value-added, rather than core, services”.

This presents new challenges and opportunities for operators seeking growth “in the home”. Telcos need to find a way to address these changing demands to stay relevant and be successful in the consumer market.

Table of Contents

  • Executive summary
  • Introduction
  • Growing demand for core broadband and value-added services
    • COVID-19 is driving significant, and likely lasting, change
    • With increasing technical maturity comes an increasingly demanding market
  • Telcos need new ways to stay relevant in B2C
    • The consumer market is both diverse and difficult to segment
    • Should telcos be looking beyond the triple play?
  • How can telcos differentiate in the consumer market?
    • Differentiate through price
    • Differentiate through new products beyond connectivity
    • Differentiate through reliability of service
  • Conclusions and key recommendations
  • Appendices
    • Appendix 1: Consumer segments used in the survey
    • Appendix 2: Cybersecurity product bundles used in the conjoint analysis

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Fighting the fakes: How telcos can help

Internet platforms need a frictionless solution to fight the fakes

On the Internet, the old adage, nobody knows you are a dog, can still ring true. All of the major Internet platforms, with the partial exception of Apple, are fighting frauds and fakes. That’s generally because these platforms either allow users to remain anonymous or because they use lax authentication systems that prioritise ease-of-use over rigour. Some people then use the cloak of anonymity in many different ways, such as writing glowing reviews of products they have never used on Amazon (in return for a payment) or enthusiastic reviews of restaurants owned by friends on Tripadvisor. Even the platforms that require users to register financial details are open to abuse. There have been reports of multiple scams on eBay, while regulators have alleged there has been widespread sharing of Uber accounts among drivers in London and other cities.

At the same time, Facebook/WhatsApp, Google/YouTube, Twitter and other social media services are experiencing a deluge of fake news, some of which can be very damaging for society. There has been a mountain of misinformation relating to COVID-19 circulating on social media, such as the notion that if you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, you don’t have the virus. Fake news is alleged to have distorted the outcome of the U.S. presidential election and the Brexit referendum in the U.K.

In essence, the popularity of the major Internet platforms has made them a target for unscrupulous people who want to propagate their world views, promote their products and services, discredit rivals and have ulterior (and potentially criminal) motives for participating in the gig economy.

Although all the leading Internet platforms use tools and reporting mechanisms to combat misuse, they are still beset with problems. In reality, these platforms are walking a tightrope – if they make authentication procedures too cumbersome, they risk losing users to rival platforms, while also incurring additional costs. But if they allow a free-for-all in which anonymity reigns, they risk a major loss of trust in their services.

In STL Partners’ view, the best way to walk this tightrope is to use invisible authentication – the background monitoring of behavioural data to detect suspicious activities. In other words, you keep the Internet platform very open and easy-to-use, but algorithms process the incoming data and learn to detect the patterns that signal potential frauds or fakes. If this idea were taken to an extreme, online interactions and transactions could become completely frictionless. Rather than asking a person to enter a username and password to access a service, they can be identified through the device they are using, their location, the pattern of keystrokes and which features they access once they are logged in. However, the effectiveness of such systems depends heavily on the quality and quantity of data they are feeding on.

In come telcos

This report explores how telcos could use their existing systems and data to help the major Internet companies to build better systems to protect the integrity of their platforms.

It also considers the extent to which telcos will need to work together to effectively fight fraud, just as they do to combat telecoms-related fraud and prevent stolen phones from being used across networks. For most use cases, the telcos in each national market will generally need to provide a common gateway through which a third party could check attributes of the user of a specific mobile phone number. As they plot their way out of the current pandemic, governments are increasingly likely to call for such gateways to help them track the spread of COVID-19 and identify people who may have become infected.

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Using big data to combat fraud

In the financial services sector, artificial intelligence (AI) is now widely used to help detect potentially fraudulent financial transactions. Learning from real-world examples, neural networks can detect the behavioural patterns associated with fraud and how they are changing over time. They can then create a dynamic set of thresholds that can be used to trigger alarms, which could prompt a bank to decline a transaction.

In a white paper published in 2019, IBM claimed its AI and cognitive solutions are having a major impact on transaction monitoring and payment fraud modelling. In one of several case studies, the paper describes how the National Payment Switch in France (STET) is using behavioural information to reduce fraud losses by US$100 million annually. Owned by a consortium of financial institutions, STET processes more than 30 billion credit and debit card, cross-border, domestic and on-us payments annually.

STET now assesses the fraud risk for every authorisation request in real time. The white paper says IBM’s Safer Payments system generates a risk score, which is then passed to banks, issuers and acquirers, which combine it with customer information to make a decision on whether to clear or decline the transaction. IBM claims the system can process up to 1,200 transactions per second, and can compute a risk score in less than 10 milliseconds. While STET itself doesn’t have any customer data or data from other payment channels, the IBM system looks across all transactions, countrywide, as well as creating “deep behavioural profiles for millions of cards and merchants.”

Telcos, or at least the connectivity they provide, are also helping banks combat fraud. If they think a transaction is suspicious, banks will increasingly send a text message or call a customer’s phone to check whether they have actually initiated the transaction. Now, some telcos, such as O2 in the UK, are making this process more robust by enabling banks to check whether the user’s SIM card has been swapped between devices recently or if any call diverts are active – criminals sometimes pose as a specific customer to request a new SIM. All calls and texts to the number are then routed to the SIM in the fraudster’s control, enabling them to activate codes or authorisations needed for online bank transfers, such as a one-time PINs or passwords.

As described below, this is one of the use cases supported by Mobile Connect, a specification developed by the GSMA, to enable mobile operators to take a consistent approach to providing third parties with identification, authentication and attribute-sharing services. The idea behind Mobile Connect is that a third party, such as a bank, can access these services regardless of which operator their customer subscribes to.

Adapting telco authentication for Amazon, Uber and Airbnb

Telcos could also provide Internet platforms, such as Amazon, Uber and Airbnb, with identification, authentication and attribute-sharing services that will help to shore up trust in their services. Building on their nascent anti-fraud offerings for the financial services industry, telcos could act as intermediaries, authenticating specific attributes of an individual without actually sharing personal data with the platform.

STL Partners has identified four broad data sets telcos could use to help combat fraud:

  1. Account activity – checking which individual owns which SIM card and that the SIM hasn’t been swapped recently;
  2. Movement patterns – tracking where people are and where they travel frequently to help identify if they are who they say they are;
  3. Contact patterns – establishing which individuals come into contact with each other regularly;
  4. Spending patterns – monitoring how much money an individual spends on telecoms services.

Table of contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Using big data to combat fraud
    • Account activity
    • Movement patterns
    • Contact patterns
    • Spending patterns
    • Caveats and considerations
  • Limited progress so far
    • Patchy adoption of Mobile Connect
    • Mobile identification in the UK
    • Turkcell employs machine learning
  • Big Internet use cases
    • Amazon – grappling with fake product reviews
    • Facebook and eBay – also need to clampdown
    • Google Maps and Tripadvisor – targets for fake reviews
    • Uber – serious safety concerns
    • Airbnb – balancing the interests of hosts and guests
  • Conclusions
  • Index

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Coordinating the care of the elderly

Are telcos ready to enable digital health?

The world has been talking about connected healthcare – the use of in-home and wearable systems to monitor people’s condition – for a long time. Although adoption to date has been piecemeal and limited, the rapid rise in the number of elderly people is fuelling demand for in-home and wearable monitoring systems. The rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus is putting the world’s healthcare systems under huge strain, further underlining the need to reform the way in which many medical conditions are diagnosed and treated.

This report explores whether telcos now have the appetite and the tools they need to serve this very challenging, but potentially rewarding market. With the advent of the Coordination Age (see STL Partners report: Telco 2030: New purpose, strategy and business models for the Coordination Age), telcos could play a pivotal role in enabling the world’s healthcare systems to become more sustainable and effective.

This report considers demographic trends, the forces changing healthcare and the case for greater use of digital technologies to monitor chronic conditions and elderly people. It explores various implementation options and some of the healthcare-related activities of Tele2, Vodafone, Telefónica and AT&T, before drawing conclusions and recommending some high-level actions for telcos looking to support healthcare for the elderly.

This executive briefing builds on previous STL Partners reports including:

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Why healthcare needs to change

During the twentieth century, life expectancy in most countries in the world rose dramatically.  This was down to advances in medical science and diagnostic technology, as well as rising awareness about personal and environmental hygiene, health, nutrition, and education. Average global life expectancy continues to rise, increasing from 65.3 years in 1990 to 71.5 years in 2013.  In some countries, the increase in lifespans has been dramatic. The life expectancy for a Chilean female has risen to 82 years today from 33 years in 1910, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Figure 1: Across the world, average life expectancy is rising towards 80

raising lift expectancy to 2050

Source: The UN

Clearly, the increase in the average lifespan is a good thing. But longer life expectancy, together with falling birth rates, means the population overall is aging rapidly, posing a major challenge for the world’s healthcare systems. According to the WHO, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years old will double from about 11% to 22% between 2000 and 2050, equivalent to a rise in the absolute number of people over 60 from 605 million to an extraordinary two billion. Between 2012 and 2050, the number of people over 80 will almost quadruple to 395 million, according to the WHO. That represents a huge increase in the number of elderly people, many of whom will require frequent care and medical attention. For both policymakers and the healthcare industry, this demographic time bomb represents a huge challenge.

Rising demand for continuous healthcare

Of particular concern is the number of people that need continuous healthcare. About 15% of the world’s population suffers from various disabilities, with between 110 million and 190 million adults having significant functional difficulties, according to the WHO. With limited mobility and independence, it can be hard for these people to get the healthcare they need.

As the population ages, this number will rise and rise. For example, the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, which results in memory loss and other symptoms of dementia, is set to rise to 16 million by 2050 from five million today, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

The growth in the number of older people, combined with an increase in sedentary lifestyles and diets high in sugars and fats, also means many more people are now living with heart disease, obesity, diabetes and asthma. Furthermore, poor air quality in many industrial and big cities is giving rise to cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases such as asthma, and lung diseases. Around 235 million people are currently suffering from asthma and about 383,000 people died from asthma in 2015, according to the WHO.

Half of all American adults have at least one chronic condition with one in three adults suffering from multiple chronic conditions, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Most other rich countries are experiencing similar trends, while middle-income countries are heading in the same direction. In cases where a patient requires medical interventions, they may have to travel to a hospital and occupy a bed, at great expense. With the growing prevalence of chronic conditions, a rising proportion of GDP is being devoted to healthcare. Only low-income countries are bucking this trend (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Spending on healthcare is rising except in low income countries

Public health as % of government spending WHO

Public health spending as % of GDP WHO

Source: The WHO

However, there is a huge difference in absolute spending levels between high-income countries and the rest of the world (see Figure 3). High-income countries, such as the U.S., spend almost ten times as much per capita as upper middle-income countries, such as Brazil. At first glance, this suggests the potential healthcare market for telcos is going to be much bigger in Europe, North America and developed Asia, than for telcos in Latin America, developing Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Yet these emerging economies could leapfrog their developed counterparts to adopt connected self-managed healthcare systems, as the only affordable alternative.

Figure 3: Absolute health spending in high income countries is far ahead of the rest

per capita health spending by country income levelSource: The WHO

The cost associated with healthcare services continues to rise due to the increasing prices of prescription drugs, diagnostic tools and in-clinic care. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90% of the nation’s US$3.3 trillion annual healthcare expenditure is spent on individuals with chronic and mental health conditions.

On top of that figure, the management of chronic conditions consumes an enormous amount of informal resources. As formal paid care services are expensive, many older people rely on the support of family, friends or volunteers calling at their homes to check on them and help them with tasks, such as laundry and shopping. In short, the societal cost of managing chronic conditions is enormous.

The particular needs of the elderly

Despite the time and money being spent on healthcare, people with chronic and age-related conditions can be vulnerable. While most elderly people want to live in their own home, there are significant risks attached to this decision, particularly if they live alone. The biggest danger is a fall, which can lead to fractures and, sometimes, lethal medical complications. In the U.S., more than one in four older people fall each year due to illness or loss of balance, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But less than half tell their doctor. One out of five falls causes a serious injury, such as broken bones or a head injury. In 2015, the total medical costs for falls was more than US$50 billion in the U.S. Beyond falls, another key risk is that older people neglect their own health. A 2016 survey of 1,000 U.K. consumers by IT solutions company Plextek, found that 42% of 35- to 44-year-olds are concerned that their relatives aren’t telling them they feel ill.

Such concerns are driving demand for in-home and wearable systems that can monitor people in real-time and then relay real-time location and mobility information to relatives or carers. If they are perceived to be reliable and comprehensive, such systems can provide peace of mind, making home-based care a more palatable alternative for both patients and their families.

Table of contents

  • Executive Summary
    • Barriers to more in-home healthcare
  • Introduction
  • Why healthcare needs to change
    • Rising demand for continuous healthcare
    • The particular needs of the elderly
    • Shift to value-based care
    • Demands for personalised healthcare and convenience
  • How healthcare is changing
    • Barriers to more in-home healthcare
  • Implementation options
    • Working with wearables
    • Cameras and motion sensors
    • The connectivity
    • Analysing the data
  • How telcos are tackling healthcare
    • KPN: Covering most of the bases
    • Tele2 and Cuviva: Working through healthcare centres
    • Vodafone and Vision: An expensive system for Alzheimer’s
    • Telefónica’s Health Moonshot
    • AT&T: Leveraging a long-standing brand
  • Conclusions and recommendations
    • Recommendations

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Cashing in on the end of cash

Introduction

As the rapid expansion of the digital economy threatens to sweep away coins and notes, telcos could be one of the major players in the transition to a cashless society. In the emerging Coordination Age (see STL Partners report: Telco 2030: New purpose, strategy and business models for the Coordination Age), telcos are well placed to help consumers and companies interact and transact far more efficiently and effectively than they have in the past.

This report explores what the global shift away from cash means for telcos and their partners. It identifies the factors driving the transition from cash payments to electronic transactions, considering the perspective of governments, banks, merchants and consumers, before explaining why cash might cling on at the margins.

The report then outlines the progress mobile operators are making in payments and financial services, drawing on examples from Africa, Asia and Europe. It also considers some of the partnerships telcos are striking with Internet players to help overcome some of the obstacles curbing greater use of mobile payment services, before drawing conclusions and making recommendations.

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This executive briefing builds on previous STL Partners reports including:

Calling time on cash

Despite the widespread adoption of the Internet and the subsequent rapid growth of online commerce, almost 90% of global retail1 still takes place at a physical point of sale in a store or at market stall. Although many traditional high streets and shopping malls are struggling, the value of point of sales transactions continues to grow, as an expanding middle class spends money at everything from coffee shops and restaurants to leisure centres and theme parks.

As you would expect, growth in developing markets tends to be markedly quicker than in developed. In India, point of sale transactions (using all payment mechanisms) are set to rise from US$893 billion in 2018 to US$1.36 trillion in value in 2022 (growth of 53%), according to leading payment processor Worldpay. Whereas in the U.S., point of sale transactions are set to grow from US$7.96 trillion in 2018 to US$10.33 trillion in value in 2022 (growth of 30%), according to Worldpay.

Even with the expansion of the digital economy, many transactions worldwide still involve the face-toface exchange of coins and/or notes. Cash is used to complete almost one third of payments (by value) at point of sale worldwide today, according to payments technology company Worldpay. But it predicts that figure will fall to 17% in 2022 – a dramatic change in just four years. Worldpay projects “that cash will be supplanted by debit cards as the leading point of sale payment method in 2019, falling to fourth place in 2022 behind debit cards, credit cards, and eWallets.”

These trends reflect the fact that using cash is expensive, cumbersome, inefficient and opaque. Cash may eventually become an anachronism. At least, that is what many large stakeholders in the public and private sectors are hoping. There are multiple drivers steering governments, banks, merchants, consumers and banks away from cash.

Why governments don’t like cash

Governments have several inter-related reasons for wanting to reduce the use of cash:

  • Tackle the black market: As cash is untraceable, it can facilitate crime, such as the trading of illegal or smuggled goods, and even terrorism. Governments periodically try and crack down on people who use large amounts of cash. In 2016, the government of India, for example, suddenly announced it was replacing 500 and 1,000 rupee notes (US$7.50 and US$15 respectively) with new notes in an effort to identify black marketers. People could exchange the old notes at banks, but those with large holdings had to account for the source of their cash. However, such measures only work up to a point: eradicating cash won’t eradicate crime. If necessary, criminals can always store and barter goods (e.g. drugs or guns), rather than hoarding cash.
  • Reduce corruption: In some countries, cash payments to and from the public sector are often vulnerable to being siphoned off by unscrupulous officials or other middlemen. Conversely, the digitisation of government benefit payments creates an electronic trail that reduces the risk of fraud and theft, and thereby ensures the money goes where it is intended. In 2010, when the Afghan National Police began using a mobile money service to pay salaries instead of cash, they discovered that 10 per cent of salaries were being paid to fictitious police officers, while some officers were not receiving their salaries in full, according to a report by CNN.
  • Greater transparency and less tax evasion: Cash-in-hand payments can result in lost tax revenue, as the recipients fail to declare their income or don’t pay VAT.
  • Reduce costs: If governments can distribute cash digitally, it can save both the public agency and the recipients both time and expenses: In Niger, converting a cash transfer programme to mobile money saved recipients over 20 hours, as they spent less time travelling and waiting for their transfers3.
  • Digital leadership: Some governments want to position their countries as digitally advanced and see the drive to get rid of cash as a means to digitise services and drive adoption of digital IDs, which are a key enabler of the digital vision.
  • Increase state control: Some authoritarian states are likely to see the digitisation of payments as an opportunity to enhance state power, or at least enhance security.

However, in many cases, governments have to distribute or accept cash because many of their citizens still lack bank accounts. More than 60 million unbanked adults globally still receive government transfers, wages or pensions in cash, while 230 million unbanked adults work in the private sector and get paid in cash only, according to the World Bank’s Global Findex Database Measuring Financial Inclusion and the Fintech Revolution 2017.

Banks and merchants find cash costly

But the biggest driver behind the decline of cash could simply be the costs of the underlying infrastructure and merchants’ growing reluctance to accept cash. For a small retailer, bar or coffee shop, cash consumes time – it needs to be counted and taken to the bank. It also poses a security risk, whereas digital payments automatically end up in the merchant’s bank account and are very unlikely to go missing.

Cash is also a burden for the financial services ecosystem, which has to make ATMs and bank branches available. In the U.K., the Access to Cash Review, a report published in March 2019, warned: “As we stand, we have a cash infrastructure which is fast becoming unsustainable, with largely fixed costs, but where income is declining fast. Britain’s cash infrastructure costs around £5 billion a year to run, paid for predominantly by the retail banks, and run mostly by commercial operators. Much of this cost is currently fixed, whether in physical cash sorting centres or ATMs. But as cash use declines, the economics of the current cash model are becoming seriously challenged.”

Consumers’ mixed feelings about cash

Although some consumers may want to use cash to avoid taxes and maintain privacy, there are several reasons why they too might favour digital payments. Every deposit, withdrawal, transfer or payment made digitally creates a recorded financial history. These transparent transaction records can help protect customers’ rights – they can help prove that they have paid for a specific product or service. Moreover, using digital payments, rather than cash, can help individuals build a credit history, which could make it easier to get a loan. Digital records should also help consumers to monitor and budget their spending, although some studies have found that some forms of digital payments, such as contactless payment cards, can result in consumers spending more than if they were solely reliant on cash.

In the developing world, where credit scores are scarce, merchants are turning to digital mechanisms to help consumers pay in instalments for appliances, such as TVs, radios, lighting, cooking stoves and solar water pumps (all of which can increase household and agricultural productivity). In Kenya, for example, SunCulture enables farmers to pay for solar-powered irrigation pumps in instalments via a mobile money service. As a result, they can improve their productivity and, ultimately, their incomes. Farmers who use SunCulture have reported an average 300% increase in crop yield per year, according to a study by the mobile trade group GSMA.

A vicious circle for cash

While Worldpay point of sale data show cash is in steady decline, there are good reasons to believe it may actually be under-estimating the speed at which other payment methods will take over. In many markets, cash is approaching a potentially decisive tipping point. With consumers ambivalent and governments, merchants and banks all favouring alternatives, cash is in the grip of a vicious circle:

  • The deregulation of the banking system is increasing competition and putting pressure on banks to cut costs and close branches.
  • Small businesses find that the closure of bank branches makes it more expensive and riskier to handle cash. In some cases, merchants stop accepting cash or give people incentives to pay digitally.
  • As fewer merchants accept cash, consumers become increasingly reliant on digital alternatives.
  • As people use cash less and less, they make fewer visits to ATMs and bank branches.
  • Banks continue to close ATMs and branches, making it increasingly hard for anyone to keep using cash. Once the cash infrastructure in a specific locality has gone, everyone living in that area really much has to go digital.

If this vicious circle kicks in, providers of mobile payment services need to be ready for a very sharp fall in the usage of cash. In practice, that will mean upgrading back-end systems so they can handle large numbers of simultaneous transactions, while also preparing for a fresh competitive onslaught from new entrants hungry for potentially valuable transaction data.

 

Table of contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Calling time on cash
    • Why governments don’t like cash
    • Banks and merchants find cash costly
    • Consumers’ mixed feelings about cash
    • The rise of the electronic wallet
    • A vicious circle for cash
    • The convenience economy
    • Why cash might persist
  • Mobile operators’ financial services
    • M-Pesa makes mixed progress in Kenya
    • The importance of interoperability
    • Telcos as banks
  • Conversational commerce
  • Partnering with Internet players
    • Learning from China’s Internet platforms
    • Other partnerships between Internet players and telcos
  • Conclusions and recommendations

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How telcos can get ahead in advertising

Introduction

Why is AT&T doubling down on becoming a new media company, while Verizon Media is retrenching? With divergent strategies at play in the U.S. telecoms market, is there a path or multiple paths to success in the advertising market that other telcos can follow, or is it too soon to tell?

Telcos’ pursuit of the digital advertising market is not a new phenomenon. Early telco-led mobile marketing and advertising initiatives pre-date the mid-2007 launch of the iPhone. The journey began with pre-iPhone primitive text-messaging marketing, moved through display advertising to an increasingly sophisticated data-driven approach. What is new is the flurry of investments the leading U.S. telcos and some others, notably SingTel, have been making over the past few years to compete more holistically and effectively in the advertising/media space.

While their core communications/connectivity services businesses are maturing and being disrupted, U.S. telcos now face the prospect of investing heavily in building out next-generation 5G networks. They are placing bets on new, potentially lucrative and high-growth opportunities in the Internet-of-things (IoT), media/content and fixed wireless, among others. Among these opportunities, brokering digital advertising offers potentially the highest operating margins. AT&T’s Xandr advertising unit reported an operating margin of 68% for the fourth quarter of 2018, compared with 33% in its core communications business.

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Going on the offensive

Telecoms networks have long been the conduits for Google, Facebook, and Amazon, among others, to deliver innovative and disruptive (and mostly free) services, which generate billions in advertising revenues. Many of these same players have also introduced services, such as messaging, voice calls and video-on-demand, which have siphoned off revenues from the telcos that provide the networks they are riding on.

It is against this backdrop that distinct and evolving telco advertising strategies are emerging. And, from a U.S. market perspective, what a difference a year makes. In 2017, it looked like Verizon and AT&T were both doubling down on their advertising/media business strategies, with the aim of growing their piece of the total advertising pie and in turn attempting to siphon off advertising revenues from Google and Facebook, among others. But 2018 proved a watershed year, and now Verizon is pulling back, while AT&T continues full steam ahead.

This report focuses on the U.S. market and specifically how the big two telcos – Verizon and AT&T – have fared in the digital advertising market and what lessons other telcos can take away from their divergent market strategies. The report builds on past STL Partners research including:

The advertising opportunity for telcos

The future of advertising is digital. While spending on traditional advertising may have peaked, investment in digital advertising continues to fuel growth in the overall market. In 2018, global digital advertising revenues reached US$273 billion, and represented 44% of total advertising spend, according to eMarketer. By 2020, the specialist research firm expects digital to represent half of total global advertising spend, and by 2021 to eclipse traditional media spend – reaching US$427 billion globally in 2022. Note, eMarketer’s definition of digital advertising excludes SMS, MMS and P2P messaging-based advertising.

The global advertising opportunity – the future is digital

advertising is moving to digital

Source: eMarketer, May 2018

Within digital advertising, the mobile medium is taking over from the desktop as smartphones ship with larger screens and faster connectivity. Advertising agency Zenith, part of the Publicis Media Group, forecasts mobile advertising will account for 30.5% of global advertising expenditure in 2020, up from 19.2% in 2017. It reckons expenditure on mobile advertising will total US$187 billion by 2020, more than twice the US$88 billion spent on desktop advertising, and not far behind the US$192 billion spent on television advertising. At the current rate of growth, mobile advertising will comfortably overtake television in 2021, Zenith believes.

Mobile and cinematic advertising are growing faster than other segments

mobile and cinematic advertising growing fast

Source: Zenith

Singtel – a pioneering advertising play

Globally, one of the most advanced telcos in the advertising sector is Singtel, which has made a series of acquisitions to build out its adtech proposition, following its first deal in 2012, which saw it acquire Amobee, an early player in mobile advertising.

By some measures, Singtel is the largest telecoms group in south east Asia. The company and its affiliates serve 700 million mobile customers in 27 countries, including its wholly-owned subsidiary in Australia (Optus) and minority stakes in India, South Asia and Africa (Bharti Airtel, 40% effective stake); Indonesia (Telkomsel, 35% effective stake); Philippines (Globe Telecom, 47% ordinary shares); and mi Thailand (Advanced Info Service, 23% ordinary shares). With that extensive reach, which extends beyond mobile and includes Internet and video/TV customers, Singtel sees advertising as a high-growth opportunity and a way to leverage its customer data assets.

Singtel’s adtech play sits in its Group Digital Life (“GDL”) unit, which focuses on using the latest Internet technologies and assets of the operating companies to develop new revenue and growth engines by entering adjacent businesses where it has a competitive advantage. GDL focuses on three key businesses – digital marketing, regional premium OTT video and advanced analytics and intelligence capabilities, while acting as Singtel’s digital innovation engine through Innov8.

Singtel has spent about a billion dollars on adtech capabilities

Singtel spends a billion dollars on advertising companies

*Purchase price not available. Source: Company reports

In the fourth quarter of 2018, GDL contributed 8% (up from 7% in the previous quarter) to the Singtel group’s operating revenue. GDL’s operating revenue for the quarter grew 17%, lifted by a full quarter’s contribution from Videology and growth in Amobee’s programmatic platform business, partially offset by lower media revenues. At an EBITDA level, GDL lost S$16 million after inclusion of Videology’s losses.

Singtel said that Amobee’s programmatic platform business continues to gain traction, while the integration of Videology will further strengthen Amobee’s capabilities in TV and video advertising. Although its advertising business isn’t yet making a major financial contribution, Singtel’s continued investments in this market suggest the Singapore-based operator remains committed and convinced that there are synergies between the telecoms and advertising sectors.

The rest of this report looks at U.S. telcos’ advertising strategies in depth, drawing conclusions and recommendations for other telcos globally.

Contents:

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • The advertising opportunity for telcos
  • Singtel – a pioneering advertising play
  • U.S. mobile market shift in full swing
  • Telcos’ strategic fits and starts
  • Google and Facebook strong, but Amazon makes gains
  • Amazon pulls commerce levers in advertising
  • Privacy, identity and security challenges and mandates
  • GDPR: A harbinger of things to come to the U.S.
  • U.S. telcos’ advertising assets
  • AT&T goes all-in on advanced advertising
  • More inventory, stronger monetisation
  • Balancing advertising and subscriptions
  • Takeaways
  • Verizon cuts its losses
  • The obstacles in the way of Oath
  • Takeaways
  • Conclusions and recommendations
  • Recommendations
  • Recommendations for major telcos

Figures:

  1. Recommendations for how AT&T can get ahead in advertising
  2. Why Verizon didn’t get ahead in advertising
  3. The global advertising opportunity – the future is digital
  4. Mobile and cinematic advertising are growing faster than other segments
  5. Singtel has spent about a billion dollars on adtech capabilities
  6. US online advertising spend – shift to mobile has already happened
  7. Examples of telcos’ investments/divestments in adtech and content
  8. Amazon gains, but still significant opportunities for telcos
  9. AT&T, Verizon and Comcast’s content and advertising assets
  10. AT&T’s advertising revenues are rising rapidly
  11. Xandr is growing rapidly, but its high margins are sliding downwards
  12. AT&T reaps rewards from Xandr, WarnerMedia, but pay TV is still a drag
  13. Verizon Media (previously Oath) fails to hit revenue growth targets
  14. As Verizon’s ad business struggles, it doubles down on 5G
  15. SWOT analysis and recommendations for big telcos in advertising

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AI on the Smartphone: What telcos should do

Introduction

Following huge advances in machine learning and the falling cost of cloud storage over the last several years, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are now affordable and accessible to almost any company. The next stage of the AI race is bringing neural networks to mobile devices. This will radically change the way people use smartphones, as voice assistants morph into proactive virtual assistants and augmented reality is integrated into everyday activities, in turn changing the way smartphones use telecoms networks.

Besides implications for data traffic, easy access to machine learning through APIs and software development kits gives telcos an opportunity to improve their smartphone apps, communications services, entertainment and financial services, by customising offers to individual customer preferences.

The leading consumer-facing AI developers – Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon – are in an arms race to attract developers and partners to their platforms, in order to further refine their algorithms with more data on user behaviours. There may be opportunities for telcos to share their data with one of these players to develop better AI models, but any partnership must be carefully weighed, as all four AI players are eyeing up communications as a valuable addition to their arsenal.

In this report we explore how Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon are adapting their AI models for smartphones, how this will change usage patterns and consumer expectations, and what this means for telcos. It is the first in a series of reports exploring what AI means for telcos and how they can leverage it to improve their services, network operations and customer experience.

Contents:

  • Executive Summary
  • Smartphones are the key to more personalised services
  • Implications for telcos
  • Introduction
  • Defining artificial intelligence
  • Moving AI from the cloud to smartphones
  • Why move AI to the smartphone?
  • How to move AI to the smartphone?
  • How much machine learning can smartphones really handle?
  • Our smartphones ‘know’ a lot about us
  • Smartphone sensors and the data they mine
  • What services will all this data power?
  • The privacy question – balancing on-device and the cloud
  • SWOT Analysis: Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon
  • Implications for telcos

Figures:

  • Figure 1: How smartphones can use and improve AI models
  • Figure 2: Explaining artificial intelligence terminology
  • Figure 3: How machine learning algorithms see images
  • Figure 4: How smartphones can use and improve AI models
  • Figure 5: Google Translate works in real-time through smartphone cameras
  • Figure 6: Google Lens in action
  • Figure 7: AR applications of Facebook’s image segmentation technology
  • Figure 8: Comparison of the leading voice assistants
  • Figure 9: Explanation of Federated Learning

Consumer IoT: How telcos can create new value

Introduction: Trust is a must for consumer IoT – but is consumer IoT a must for telcos?

Lack of trust is a major barrier to mass-market consumer IoT adoption

There was an expectation two to three years ago that take-up of consumer Internet of Things (IoT) services was set to accelerate, and that we would soon witness the success of mass market consumer IoT offers in areas such as energy management (linked to roll-outs of smart metering), home automation and security, and health and wellness applications (linked to wearables such as smart watches, fitness trackers and medical condition sensors). It was also widely expected that telcos would play a leading role in this market.

Although growth has occurred in these product areas, it has generally been below expectations. Everett M. Rogers’ diffusion of innovations theory shows how the different stages of public acceptance a new product goes through, with successive groups of consumers adopting the new technology (shown in blue), so its market share (yellow) eventually reaches saturation level. Looking at this theory, STL believes that consumer IoT is still in the “early adopter” stage.

Figure 1: Rogers’ diffusion of innovations theory

Source: Rogers, E. (1962) Diffusion of innovations, image from Wikipedia

In addition to this, telcos have tended to play a peripheral part in the market thus far, limited largely to providing the wireless and broadband connectivity supporting third-party products developed by players focused on adjacent vertical markets. Already the focus of telcos’ IoT strategies seems to have been redirected to enterprise and industrial IoT applications, along with the rapidly maturing connected car and smart cities markets, judging from the wave of new product and partnership announcements in these areas at recent trade shows, such as this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC). Despite this, we believe that consumer IoT could still represent a large addressable market for telcos, based on data presented in chapter 3.

There are many reasons for the levelling of the expected consumer IoT growth curve, some of which we will explore in this report. In terms of definitions, we are limiting the term ‘consumer IoT’ to ‘consumer-centric’ applications and services, whether these are deployed primarily in the home (such as home automation and security) or on the person (e.g. wearables, and health and wellness). We will not directly discuss connected car / autonomous vehicle and smart cities applications, even though they relate to consumer services and experiences, as the dynamics of these services and their technological challenges are quite distinct. In addition, we will only tangentially discuss healthcare IoT, as it is far from clear what sort of ‘consumer’ business model will be established in this sector (as opposed to a public service model); although it is likely that remote health and social care will play an increasingly central role in a prospective ‘second wave’ of consumer IoT services, based on trustworthy processing of intimate personal data to enable really useful services.

In addition, we make a distinction between ‘connected’ devices and homes, on the one hand, and ‘smart’ devices / homes and IoT services, on the other. A home is not smart, nor an IoT service present, until the connected devices or ‘things’ involved, and the data they generate, are integrated as part of an app that the user controls. As shown in Figure 2, in the existing IoT business model, this involves delivery of the data from multiple devices and sensors to a cloud-based service, enabling collection, aggregation and analysis of the data, and remote and automated performance of actions on those devices based on the analysis and on the user’s preferences.

Contents:

  • Executive Summary: Trust is king
  • Introduction: Trust is a must for consumer IoT – but is consumer IoT a must for telcos?
  • Lack of trust is a major barrier to mass-market consumer IoT adoption
  • Building trust with customers must be at the forefront of telcos’ consumer IoT offer and brand
  • Consumer IoT 1.0: opportunities and threats for telcos; telco strengths and weaknesses
  • Opportunities: The addressable market for telcos is potentially huge
  • Threats: do consumers buy it?
  • Established telco strengths can help offset the risks
  • Weaknesses: IoT exemplifies the challenges of digital innovation in general
  • Conclusion: consumer IoT is a huge challenge but also a huge opportunity that plays into telcos’ strengths
  • Deutsche Telekom’s consumer IoT platform and services
  • Deutsche Telekom and the Qivicon platform
  • Efforts to address the data security and privacy issues of consumer IoT 1.0
  • Avast: telcos can play a role as part of a cross-industry approach
  • Orange: transparency over use of data is key
  • Atomite: consumer consent and rewards for sharing data with third parties
  • Telefónica’s AURA: cognitive intelligence but an immature business model
  • Consumer IoT 2.0: A move to a (data) sharing economy
  • GDPR: A change in the rules that looks set to change business models
  • Databox: “privacy-aware data analytics platform”
  • IoT and the personal data economy: putting ‘me’ at the centre of my internet of things
  • Conclusion: Telcos need to be in the consumer IoT 1.0 game to win in consumer IoT 2.0
  • A massive potential market, with a large slice of the pie available to telcos…
  • … but do the risks outweigh the potential benefits?
  • Telcos need to play the consumer IoT 1.0 game to reach consumer IoT 2.0

Figures:

  • Figure 1: Rogers’ diffusion of innovations theory
  • Figure 2: Consumer IoT 1.0
  • Figure 3: Consumer concerns about connected devices
  • Figure 4: Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for telcos in consumer IoT
  • Figure 5: Connected home installed base and penetration EU and North America, 2013–19
  • Figure 6: Companies most trusted with personal data
  • Figure 7: The Qivicon consumer IoT platform
  • Figure 8: Orange ‘Trust Badge’ – what personal and usage data is collected, and why
  • Figure 9: Key functionality of the Meeco personal data portal

Trump’s Impact: Global TMT Scenarios

Predictions are difficult with Trump

On Wednesday, November 9th, Donald J. Trump won the 58th US presidential election. During his campaign Mr Trump made many statements. Now that he has won, we look beyond the rhetoric and initial political shock and uncertainty at what he might actually do and how this could affect the TMT sector.

This is a difficult task because, to date, Trump has not made many detailed statements about his policies. During the campaign he made many declarations, but these will not necessarily translate into bold policy decisions. Indeed, within one week of being elected his rhetoric has become more measured and he has already changed his stance somewhat on Obamacare and immigration.

Trump is now in the process of choosing his senior advisors and cabinet, and these choices will indicate more about what his presidency will be like than his behaviour during the campaign. At the time of writing, only two senior advisors had been chosen, Reince Priebus as White House Chief of Staff and Steve Bannon as Senior Counselor to the President. Neither of these positions require Senate approval. Priebus has served as the chair of the Republican National Committee since 2011, so is a reassuring choice for establishment Republicans, but Bannon is much more controversial. Bannon was until his appointment the executive chairman of Breitbart News, a far-right website. His appointment as Senior Counselor to the President has caused dismay among liberals, but leading Republicans have declined to criticise the appointment, calling for party unity instead.

We expect that deciding Trump’s cabinet will be a difficult and turbulent process and will take some weeks to settle, as Trump will have to put some of his own views aside in order to choose a cabinet that the broader Republican party will approve. Although Trump has indicated that he will work with the party through his choice of Priebus, his choice of Bannon indicates that he is not afraid of pushing the boundaries. We therefore expect to see some more controversial choices in the next few weeks, but whether these get approved by the Senate is another matter.

From a TMT perspective, the most important appointment will be the Attorney General, which will need Senate approval. Another position of interest to the TMT sector is the chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Trump can choose a new chair of the FTC from its commissioners, who are confirmed by the Senate. Although there should be five commissioners there are currently only three, and Trump could decide to replace the current, Democrat chair with a Republican, and also nominate more Republicans as commissioners. The Attorney General and FTC roles are important because they will influence Trump’s position on data privacy and security, consumer protection, and antitrust, which are key issues for the TMT industry.

Two potential scenarios affecting five key areas for TMT

Because of the uncertainty around how Trump will behave as president, rather than try to definitively predict what he will do, STL Partners has decided to focus on five key areas for the telco industry and developed two scenarios which may play out under a Trump presidency, as outlined in the table below.

Scenario name Description
Hardline Trump leadership Trump’s leadership decisions closely match his most extreme campaign rhetoric; he leads the US into a period of right wing, isolationist politics.
Moderate Trump leadership Trump’s leadership decisions are more moderate; he listens to advice from the wider Republican party, is moderated by Congress and the Senate, and does not follow through on extreme claims, such as the wall preventing illegal Mexican immigrants reaching the US.

Source: STL Partners

We run through the five areas below, discussing what is known about Trump’s views and what might happen under each scenario, as well as highlighting our view on the most likely outcome.

 

  • Predictions are difficult with Trump
  • Two potential scenarios affecting five key areas for TMT
  • 1. Net neutrality
  • What we know of Trump’s views
  • Potential outcomes under the scenarios
  • 2. Tech companies
  • What we know of Trump’s views
  • Potential outcomes under the scenarios
  • 3. AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner
  • What we know of Trump’s views
  • Potential outcomes under the scenarios
  • 4. Security
  • What we know of Trump’s views
  • Potential outcomes under the scenarios
  • 5. Trade
  • What we know of Trump’s views
  • Potential outcomes under the scenarios
  • Conclusion

Connecting Brands with Customers: How leading operators are building sustainable advertising businesses

Executive Summary

2015 has witnessed the turning point at which internet access on mobile devices exceeds desktops and laptops combined for the first time and, worldwide, digital advertising has followed the audience migration from desktop to smartphone and tablet.  A new ecosystem has evolved to service the needs of the mobile advertising industry. Ad exchanges and ad networks have adapted to facilitate access by brands to an ever-wider range of content on multiple devices, whilst DMPs (Data Management Platforms), DSPs & SSPs (Demand Side and Supply Side Platforms respectively) are fuelling the growth of ‘programmatic buying’ by enabling the flow of data within the ecosystem.

There is an opportunity for telcos to establish a sustainable and profitable role as an enabler within this rapidly developing market

Advertising should be an important diversification strategy for telcos as income from core communications continues to decline because they can make use of existing assets (e.g. audience reach, inventory, data), whilst maintaining subscriber trust. Telecoms operators’ ability to use their own customers’ data (with consent) to improve their own service offerings is a key advantage that provides a strong basis for developing advertising and marketing solutions for third-parties.

Walking in the footsteps of giants does not kill the opportunity for telcos

Facebook and Google will represent more than half of the $69 billion worldwide mobile-advertising market in 2015. This dominance has led some operators to question whether they can build a viable advertising business. However STL Partners believes that there has never been a better time for many operators to consider ramping-up their efforts to secure a sustainable practice through leveraging the value of their own customer data. In fact, many telcos are actively working with OTT players such as Google and Facebook to assist them in understanding territory-specific mobile behaviour.

Three telcos lead the way in advertising – Sprint, Turkcell and SingTel – and provide important lessons for others

In the main body of this report, STL Partners identifies the role that each telco has chosen to perform within the advertising ecosystem, assesses their strategy and execution, and identifies the core reasons for their success. The three case studies display several common characteristics and point to six Key Success Factors (KSFs) for a telco advertising business. The first is a ‘start-up mindset’ pre-requisite for establishing such a business and the other five are core actions and capabilities which mutually strengthen each other to produce a ‘flywheel’ that drives growth (see Figure 1).  As a telco exec, whether your organisation is just embarking on the advertising journey, if it has tried to build an advertising business and withdrawn or, indeed, if you are well on the way to building a successful business, we outline how to deliver the following six KSFs in the downloadable report:

  1. How to secure senior management support
  2. How to develop a semi-independent organisation with advertising skills and a start-up culture
  3. How to build or buy best-in-class technical capability and continuously improve
  4. Demand-side: How to build value for subscribers
  5. Supply-side: How to build value for media buyers and sellers
  6. How to pursue opportunities to scale aggressively
Figure 1: The Telco Advertising Business Flywheel

Why now is the right time for telcos to take a more prominent role within mobile advertising

After years of hype, mobile advertising is now starting to mature in terms of technical solutions, business models, and customer acceptance. The catalyst for this growing awareness of the potential of mobile advertising is the increasing demand for first-party (own customer) data to personalize and contextualize marketing communications both within telcos and more widely among enterprises as a way of improving on coarse-grained segmentation. Telcos hold more and better data than most organisations and have wonderful distribution networks (the network itself) for managing information flows, as well as delivering marketing messages and services.

 

For those within and outside telcos that are developing marketing and advertising solutions, we would love to hear your stories and facilitate discussions with your peers, so please do get in touch: contact@stlpartners.com

 

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Why is advertising important for Telcos?
  • Walking in the footsteps of Giants?
  • Case study 1: Sprint
  • Summary: Reasons for Sprint’s success
  • A track record in innovation
  • Making data matter
  • How successful is Sprint’s strategy?
  • What does the future hold for Sprint?
  • Case study 2: Turkcell
  • Summary: Reasons for Turkcell’s success
  • A heritage in mobile marketing
  • Retaining control, enabling access
  • Co-opetition from a position of strength
  • How successful is Turkcell’s strategy?
  • What does the future hold for Turkcell?
  • Case study 3: SingTel
  • Summary: Reasons for SingTel’s success
  • Assembling a digital marketing capability through acquisition
  • Retaining revenue within the value chain
  • Providing technology at scale
  • How successful is SingTel’s strategy?
  • What does the future hold for SingTel?
  • Conclusion and recommendations

 

  • Figure 1: The Telco Advertising Business Flywheel
  • Figure 2: Time Spent per Adult per Day with Digital Media, USA, 2008-2015
  • Figure 3: Mobile Internet Ad Spending, Worldwide, 2013 – 2019
  • Figure 4: Mobile Marketing Ecosystem (extract)
  • Figure 5: The “Wheel of Commerce”
  • Figure 6: The Digital Gameboard – an OTT view of the world
  • Figure 6: Sprint’s data asset overview
  • Figure 7: Sprint’s role in the mobile advertising ecosystem
  • Figure 9: Top App Widget
  • Figure 10: Visual voicemail
  • Figure 11: Turkcell’s role in the mobile advertising ecosystem
  • Figure 12: Turkcell’s mobile marketing solution portfolio
  • Figure 13: Turkcell’s permission database overview
  • Figure 14: SingTel’s role in the mobile advertising ecosystem
  • Figure 15: SingTel’s digital portfolio prioritisation
  • Figure 16: The role of first-party data
  • Figure 17: The promise of first-party data
  • Figure 18: The Telco Advertising Business Flywheel

Digital Commerce 2.0: New $50bn Disruptive Opportunities for Telcos, Banks and Technology Players

Introduction – Digital Commerce 2.0

Digital commerce is centred on the better use of the vast amounts of data created and captured in the digital world. Businesses want to use this data to make better strategic and operational decisions, and to trade more efficiently and effectively, while consumers want more convenience, better service, greater value and personalised offerings. To address these needs, Internet and technology players, payment networks, banks and telcos are vying to become digital commerce intermediaries and win a share of the tens of billions of dollars that merchants and brands spend finding and serving customers.

Mobile commerce is frequently considered in isolation from other aspects of digital commerce, yet it should be seen as a springboard to a wider digital commerce proposition based on an enduring and trusted relationship with consumers. Moreover, there are major potential benefits to giving individuals direct control over the vast amount of personal data their smartphones are generating.

We have been developing strategies in these fields for a number of years, including our engagement with the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Rethinking Personal Data project, and ongoing research into user data and privacy, digital money and payments, and digital advertising and marketing.

This report brings all of these themes together and is the first comprehensive strategic playbook on how smartphones and authenticated personal data can be combined to deliver a compelling digital commerce proposition for both merchants and consumers. It will save customers valuable time, effort and money by providing a fast-track to developing and / or benchmarking a leading edge strategy and approach in the fast-evolving new world of digital commerce.

Benefits of the Report to Telcos, Other Players, Investors and Merchants


For telcos, this strategy report:

  • Shows how to evaluate and implement a comprehensive and successful digital commerce strategy worth up to c.$50bn (5% of core revenues in 5 years)
  • Saves time and money by providing a fast-track for decision making and an outline business case
  • Rapidly challenges / validates existing strategy and services against relevant ‘best in class’, including their peers, ‘OTT players’ and other leading edge players.


For other players including Internet companies, technology vendors, banks and payment networks:

  • The report provides independent market insight on how telcos and other players will be seeking to generate $ multi-billion revenues from digital commerce
  • As a potential partner, the report will provide a fast-track to guide product and business development decisions to meet the needs of telcos (and others) that will need to make commensurate investment in technologies and partnerships to achieve their value creation goals
  • As a potential competitor, the report will save time and improve the quality of competitor insight by giving a detailed and independent picture of the rationale and strategic approach you and your competitors will need to take


For merchants building digital commerce strategies, it will:

 

  • Help to improve revenue outlook, return on investment and shareholder value by improving the quality of insight to strategic decisions, opportunities and threats lying ahead in digital commerce
  • Save vital time and effort by accelerating internal decision making and speed to market


For investors, it will:

  • Improve investment decisions and strategies returning shareholder value by improving the quality of insight on the outlook of telcos and other digital commerce players
  • Save vital time and effort by accelerating decision making and investment decisions
  • Help them better understand and evaluate the needs, goals and key strategies of key telcos and their partners / competitors

Digital Commerce 2.0: Report Content Summary

  • Executive Summary. (9 pages outlining the opportunity and key strategic options)
  • Strategy. The shape and scope of the opportunities, the convergence of personal data, mobile, digital payments and advertising, and personal cloud. The importance of giving consumers control. and the nature of the opportunity, including Amazon and Vodafone case studies.
  • The Marketplace. Cultural, commercial and regulatory factors, and strategies of the market leading players. Further analysis of Google, Facebook, Apple, eBay and PayPal, telco and financial services market plays.
  • The Value Proposition. How to build attractive customer propositions in mobile commerce and personal cloud. Solutions for banked and unbanked markets, including how to address consumers and merchants.
  • The Internal Value Network. The need for change in organisational structure in telcos and banks, including an analysis of Telefonica and Vodafone case studies.
  • The External Value Network. Where to collaborate, partner and compete in the value chain – working with telcos, retailers, banks and payment networks. Building platforms and relationships with Internet players. Case studies include Weve, Isis, and the Merchant Customer Exchange.
  • Technology. Making appropriate use of personal data in different contexts. Tools for merchants and point-of-sale transactions. Building a flexible, user-friendly digital wallet.
  • Finance. Potential revenue streams from mobile commerce, personal cloud, raw big data, professional services, and internal use.
  • Appendix – the cutting edge. An analysis of fourteen best practice and potentially disruptive plays in various areas of the market.

 

Personal Data: how to make it a viable, customer-centred industry

Content:

  • Guiding Principles
  • The Market: evolving use cases
  • Industry Structure: the Personal Data Landscape
  • Legal: creating a bridging framework
  • Technical Stream: creating a universal language
  • Personal Data Rights Language (PDRL)
  • Next Steps

 

  • Figure 1 – A Selection of Other Legal Principles and Guidelines Examined
  • Figure 2 – Updated draft of the WEF Personal Data Principles
  • Figure 3 – The emerging landscape of uses
  • Figure 4 – The Personal Data Landscape
  • Figure 5 – The ‘BLT’ Approach – Business, Legal, Technical Mapping
  • Figure 7- ’System Rules Architecture’ for Legal Frameworks
  • Figure 7 – Rough Example of PDRL ‘Mark Up’ Language
  • Figure 8 – WEF Personal Data Milestone Roadmap

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]

 

Personal Data 2.0: Industry fails Carrier IQ test

The debacle with Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile US over Carrier IQ’s phone monitoring software highlights the pitfalls and opportunities of recording user behaviour, controlling mobile broadband networks and working with personal data – a key enabler of the new digital economy and new telco business models. This is our analysis of the issues and key lessons. (December 2011, Executive Briefing Service)

Carrier IQ Smartphone Eye image Dec 2011 Telco 2.0

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Below is an extract from the 15 page Telco 2.0 Report that can be downloaded in full in PDF format by members of the Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing service here. Non-members can subscribe here or for other enquiries, please email contact@telco2.net / call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.

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Introduction

Telco 2.0 were talking to the World Economic Forum’s Re-thinking Personal Data project team – discussing the new white paper coming out for Davos which is all about putting the user in control of their personal data to unleash a new wave of innovation around this emerging asset – when we heard about the debacle with Carrier IQ.

Carrier IQ is a company which has reportedly been behind “invasive” software installed on some mobile phones, notably Android smartphones supplied by Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile in the US. A widely-seen video by researcher Travis Eckhart shows the software apparently capturing keystrokes, website details and SMS’s sent and received on his device.

Travis Eckhardt’s YouTube Video of Carrier IQ

NB Please see our User Data and Privacy research category for further analysis.

The story so far

A festival of finger-pointing

Device vendors and operators around the world have been issuing statements of clarification or denial about their use of similar capabilities – although the careful wording of many press releases hints at the complexity of unravelling what is really in today’s smartphone software, who agreed to install it – and exactly how it is configured and used.

After a false start in which Carrier IQ (CIQ) tried to suppress some of Eckhart’s early findings with an injunction, it has belatedly embarked on a PR charm-offensive to salvage its reputation. We have also seen some more measured and probing analysis of the offending software’s capabilities, after a few days of shrill – and somewhat unfair – rhetoric.

What is known is that the company has embedded its products on around 150m shipped devices, although with wide variations in actual implementation and usage. It seems that most but not all of these devices have been smartphones, sold through operator channels as tailored variants rather than “vanilla” open-retail versions. In general, the software is intended to “improve the customer experience”, by reporting to the operator on various parameters, such as network coverage, failed connections and – most controversially – the user’s behaviour and application usage. Theoretically, this type of monitoring should help the operators fix holes in their networks, or diagnose other problems when the customer calls in for support. Other benefits are possible too – watching which applications are active can help identify which are hogging battery power, for example.

(It should be noted that this on-device monitoring concept is not new – a now-defunct company called IntuWave had a broadly similar solution for Symbian handsets as far back as 2003, while Nokia’s own “360” function also monitors user behaviour of its phones, but with permission. Apple has various reporting functions on its devices, but typically with user opt-out. It is also widely suspected that various security agencies have some smartphone surveillance capabilities).

The problem is that there is a fine line between “monitoring”, “diagnosis” and “surveillance”. The semantics tend to reflect the knowledge and permission of the user, as to what data is being collected and when, and for whom. There is also a distinction between collecting information, transmitting it, storing it and actually “mining” it – and whether it is anonymised or not.

In general, the installation of CIQ has been at the behest of specific operators customising phones sold to their subscribers – typically part of the software “stack” that might also include various additional apps or functionalities. The telcos tell their device suppliers to install the software either at the factory or further down the distribution chain and define “profiles” about what information they want to receive and when. A good analysis of the architecture is given by security analyst Dan Rosenberg .

A selection of previous industry data gaffes

Monitoring of user data is not an issue confined to handsets either – use of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) capabilities for various use-cases in telco networks has been so controversial that some vendors now use euphemisms instead. The 3GPP standards body has now re-grouped and re-branded various policy and control technologies as the more benign-sounding “traffic detection function” (TDF). Various analytic solutions also exist for operators’ BSS/OSS systems – Telco 2.0 has long discussed the valuable information on subscribers collected by telcos, as well as the huge privacy issues surrounding its exploitation.

The recent Dutch implementation of some of the most draconian Net Neutrality laws in the world stemmed not from fears about the “purity” of the Internet, or even competition issues – but instead because the Dutch people resented the use of DPI to watch (and charge for) different applications in their Internet access data stream. It was the perceived invasion of privacy by KPN – perpetrated on one of the world’s most libertarian-minded populations – that was the trigger for discord. Previously telcos have fallen foul of similar concerns with the use of the notorious Phorm platform, used to deliver advertising based on an ISPs’ observations of their users’ web browsing behaviour.

What does Carrier IQ technically do that’s worrying?

It’s important to understand what people are actually objecting to about CIQ. No-one’s demonstrated that it sends back key-logger information. But they have demonstrated that it keeps everything it collects in a plain text file on the device in user-space. This means that any other application on the device can both read and write to it – and this is potentially very worrying, as explained in Appendix 1: An explanation of the technical risks.

Why the Carrier IQ issue has ‘blown up’

Although arguably exaggerated, several unfortunate issues have compounded each other in this case, to raise the current CIQ debate to public prominence and outrage:

Carrier IQ’s mistakes

While it is possible to feel a degree of sympathy with the embattled people at Carrier IQ, who were ostensibly just providing a service the operators had asked for, we believe they have made two key errors:

  • Carrier IQ’s initial response to their accuser was unnecessarily litigious – and Eckhart’s involvement of the Electronic Frontier Foundation guaranteed a much wider audience than might have otherwise occurred. Too many techno-illiterate lawyers under-estimate the power of blogs, Twitter and social media to bring issues such as this to wide awareness in a matter of hours.
  • The implementation of the software (on the Android phone in the now-infamous video) seems to be collecting far too much data for the purpose the operator seems to need. Even if the unnecessary data is just collected and then discarded, its initial all-encompassing capture looks both suspicious and poorly-conceived in terms of software security best-practice. (For instance, a cache of the logged data could be a goldmine for a handset thief, even if it doesn’t get sent to the operator).

Operators’ mistakes

  • Various operators have been using Carrier IQ (or equivalents) without clearly telling their customers what they were doing. A vague mention of “collecting data” in the fine-print of the terms and conditions is not enough.

Paranoia feeds the Media

  • Various journalists and bloggers seem to have sensationalised the story without full understanding of what the CIQ software was actually doing.
  • In these days of editorial and journalistic cut-backs, the mainstream media can be tempted to run with ‘scary’ tech stories based on stories getting attention online and via Twitter, and in timescales which make it hard to verify or unravel the technical twists and turns of complex stories.
  • Many consumers don’t read past the headline, and those that do may only read the first paragraph of an article, so any caveats or explanations that are actually carried in the detail are often lost.

The “fog of war”, industry panic and opportunism

  • The “fog of war” in terms of Carrier IQ rumours over the last few days has brought many operators and device vendors to deny publicly any involvement in using the technology. This can be seen as both a defensive response about a perceived risk to Xmas-season sales – but also as an opportunistic offensive move against some operators / vendors that are more directly embroiled in the “scandal”.
  • Android devices have software from multiple sources and in multiple layers – from Google, the handset vendor (e.g. Samsung, HTC) adding their own tweaks, operators adding customisations such as Carrier IQ or other elements and so forth. It can be difficult to work out exactly who is responsible for what functionality – hence some public statements from Carrier IQ executives expressing bemusement about the extent of data collected in this instance. (There is a suggestion that the “debug mode” of the software was the problem, not the normal usage mode). Generally, Apple and BlackBerry devices are more homogenous, although both companies do slightly-altered variants for favoured operator customers.

Result = Industry Failure

The net result is that the Carrier IQ brand is now seen as “toxic” in the eyes of many in the industry, irrespective of the benefits that some of its capabilities bring.

More worrying perhaps has been the inability of the industry as a whole to deal with these issues without panicking and resorting to a playground farce of finger-pointing.

It is at best careless, and in some cases illegal to treat personal data without appropriate care, protection and respect. But it is downright irresponsible to collectively risk the chance to develop a useful, legitimate and valuable ‘Personal Information Economy’ (PIE), which would benefit consumers, telcos, and other players alike, for the sake of some relatively minor corporate tit-for-tat in the media.

This is why we think our research on this topic, and the work we’ve been contributing to at the World Economic Forum on ‘Rethinking Personal Data’ is so important, and why consumer groups, telcos and other industry players need to get fully engaged to develop and adopt workable principles and practices on personal data.

Winners and Losers

In terms of losers, the obvious one is Carrier IQ itself, which seems to have made several poor decisions and has been overwhelmed by events – even if it has been unfortunate in the manner that everything has blown up, perhaps beyond the level which is truly proportionate.

Certain operators (notably Sprint) are likely to be doing some serious back-pedalling here. Samsung and HTC, as leading Android vendors have some questions to answer, but are likely to pass the buck to the operators and Carrier IQ itself. Huawei is also an (announced) user of Carrier IQ, notably for its mobile broadband devices such as USB dongles. The press release from February 2011 shows a strong awareness of privacy issues, as well as the notion of opt-in from individual users. Given the company’s troubles in getting its network products accepted by security authorities in the US in particular, this association might be problematic.

One beneficiary of this is likely to be Apple. Apple knows that it “owns” the whole software stack, so does not need to get embroiled in ‘finger pointing’ such as is going on between operators, Samsung, HTC and Carrier IQ. Apple is also not keen on customising the software stack for operators, and his episode will give it another excuse to push back against operators which want to be able to perform customisation.

BlackBerry is perhaps in the same situation, while Nokia/Microsoft are in a good position to take the moral high ground as well. (All this assumes, of course, that they don’t also have privacy skeletons in their closets – although both Apple and Google have dealt with such issues – much better – in the past).

To read the note in full, including the following additional analysis…

  • What should Telcos and others do?
  • Putting the user in control of their data – the World Economic Forum (WEF) guidelines
  • Dos and Don’ts of implementing software that use personal data
  • How to address and respect privacy concerns
  • Managing personal data across the business
  • Using ‘Intelligent Software’
  • An explanation of the technical risks

Members of the Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing Subscription Service can download the full 15 page report in PDF format here. Non-Members, please subscribe here or please email contact@telco2.net / call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.

Organisations, people and products referenced: 3GPP, Android, Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Carrier IQ, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Facebook, Google, HTC, Huawei, IntuWave, KPN, Microsoft, New Digital Economics, Nokia, Onavo, Openet, Phorm, Samsung, Sprint, Symbian, T-Mobile, Travis Eckhart, World Economic Forum (WEF).

Technologies and industry terms referenced: analytics, Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), Net Neutrality, personal data, smartphones, SMS, traffic detection function (TDF), WiFi.

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

Laidler_Telco2Intro_Privacy2010%202sbm.png

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

                       Laidler_Telco2Intro_Privacy2010%20data%20image.png

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

Laidler_Telco2Intro_Privacy2010%20Framework.png

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.