Going over my curated feeds to check out on what opinions prevail about communication services, I came up on two seemingly unconnected news items. For me, it appeared like both the news items were about one common reality – your operator who has runs your mobile network is becoming less and less your mobile service provider!
Unless the operators take some drastic measures, they are likely to cease being addressed by the term “Service Providers” and would be referred to as “Carriers” only, in the future.
Let me explain why…
The CTIA News
I read a GigaOM article about CTIA, the eminent wireless association of North America, making format corrections to their annual tradeshow event. The article explains how CTIA, which has been providing a platform for the industry to hear out Carriers through their annual spring conference and an Enterprise IT focused event calked MobileCON, is planning to merge its two events into one event from 2014.
The article conjectures about competing events forcing this decision – MWC, Barcelona which came out of the GSM World serving carrier interests better than CTIA with its CDMA focus and the Consumer Electronics Showcase drawing more footfalls in a world that has rediscovered its romance for gadgets.
The NDTV News
The second news item was that published by NDTV, a news corporation in India. It talked about how YouTube, Instagram and Angry Birds were the most downloaded apps in 2012. Quoting a Mobile Marketing Executive, the article elaborates how 2012 was a “transformative tipping point” for the apps industry.
The article also outlines how people have started using apps for day-to-day needs and are willing to perform payment transactions too through the apps!
Emerging Mobile Services
So, what has that got to do with emerging mobile services…
If you look at business transactions, it can be seen as a series of automated business processes that flow-through interspersed with points where human engagement is required – either for exercise of choice by the customer or for a truck-roll.
The automated business processes are run on IT applications of Enterprises – something they have been investing in for over a decade, now. When we do Airline Ticket Booking, Car Rental, Taxi Booking, Hotel Booking etc., we can accomplish the tasks only if we engage with the IT Applications of the respective Organisation. Either we are blessed with a web-interface to perform these activities or we have to go to a point-of-sale, today, to engage with these applications.
It is these points where human engagement happens that are becoming the Apps that people use increasingly, nowadays. This redefining the term Mobile Services as we know it. See figure below as an illustration of the above point.
The Threat & Opportunity For Carriers
As noted in the above diagram, the new age mobile services depend on a number of things – from apps on devices to Business Intelligence applications. However, the key message for carriers is that the new age mobile services looks for “any available network” and is capable of functioning as effectively.
Operators who wish to provide more than traditional connectivity services and be a new age mobile service provider should invest in building the new value-chain components shown in the figure above. Many operators are investing in building data-centres that can be delivered as Cloud Services – but, only that. I have not heard about any operator trying to whole-heartedly create a set of apps for the smart devices – most of them are clinging on to network API based development programs.
In my view, it is important for operators to have applications for engagement, branded in their name and built for their exclusive re-distribution, available on popular app-stores pulling a range of back-end services as part of how they gear up to deliver the Emerging Mobile Services.