In Lewis Caroll’s masterpiece, Alice in Wonderland, there is a character called Cheshire Cat. The Cheshire Cat is a grinning cat who could disappear (become invisible) and reappear at will. Sometimes, the cat would disappear but would leave its “grin” behind.
I was recently in a Panel Discussion where we were debating what would be a future telco and what would be considered a good customer experience in those scenarios. I ended up speaking about Cheshire Cat…
What would be a future telco?
If the ability to provide connectivity, voice, video, messaging services besides any other value-adds to support lifestyle needs of end-users is what describes a Telco, one can argue that Facebook, WhatsApp and Google, by virtue of providing most of the above would qualify as “Almost Telco”, already.
In fact, the only element that would enable them to shed the “Almost” tag would be their ability to provide connectivity. I read recently, that Google has already announced “Project Fi”, to become an MVNO with Sprint and T-Mo. So, they are indeed a “Future Telco”.
Another example: With Microsoft investing in Submarine Cables – albeit for supporting their Cloud business – one can see that connectivity is not something that is unachieveable for these providers of lifestyle and productivity applications.
Fate of Today’s Telcos
What would be the fate of today’s telcos? In my view, one of three fates would befall today’s telcos.
Some of the telcos would not be able to stand up to the competition from these future telcos. They will get Consolidated. In other words, they will disappear – a small number into thin air and a large many eaten up by competitors, multi-market players or by the Future Telcos themselves.
Some of the telcos will take the Future Telcos head-on. They will rebrand themselves, create clones of lifestyle services & productivity services that the Future Telcos provide and, some more. They will deliver the complete value chain.
Some of the telcos will restrict themselves to connectivity and, if the Regulations support, will be able to open up their networks to potential Future Telcos through the MVNO route. This way, they will be able to create a revenue-share mechanism with the Future Telco and sustain their business. The subscriber contracts would be with the Future Telco with connectivity in the bundle.
No more disruptions?
If these scenarios play out, can we be assured that there won’t be any more disruptions? No, IMHO.
Digital ecosystems will want to become MVNOs too. For example, my fitness app provider can ensure loyalty by supporting a set of wearables and bundle communication services. Hospitals can get their patients to be loyal by becoming an MVNO and so on.
In the distant future – going by the time my son spends on online gaming and the amount of chats that go along with it, there may be gaming companies too that can come up wih this model.
In a nutshell, now that the Pandora’s box is open, as lifestyle evolves, there is a possibility that application providers who cater to the new lifestyle will emerge and become the new age telco.
No More Network Providers?
Of course, one can get carried away with this mental simulation and end up believing that there wont be any Network Providers in the future.
This is not possible at-all. Unless the whole world were to be able to realize peer-to-peer connectivity & relay mechanism in some form, compensating for the fact that there are locations on the planet where there may not be a peer for miles around. Of course, one would wonder how QoS can be assured, security can be maintained and, more importantly, what would be the kind of power / battery solution that this would need J
So, the world is always going to need a network provider; and this is where Cheshire Cat came in – they may be invisible like the Cheshire Cat and we only see the grin (the lifestyle or productivity value), but the fact is that the cat will always exist (unlike the Schroedinger variety)!