Can operators compete with GAFA?

Written by on September 9, 2015 in Opinion with 0 Comments

Crazy manDisruptiveViews attended an interesting – and delicious – lunch the other day. It was hosted by AsiaInfo and it allowed a few industry luminaries (and us) a glimpse of a new piece of research the company commissioned over the summer. The aim of the research is to analyse the readiness of operators to monetise customer insights and understand how they stack up against GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple).

Although we were presented with some fairly raw data, it was still interesting material. The polished report will be with us in a few weeks.

Some of the results of the survey AsiaInfo carried out were not that surprising, other results made us wonder whether operators need to visit the ‘reality adjustment’ department.

Unsurprisingly, over half the sample believe that personalised, contextual marketing will be of high or very high importance in the next few years. The figure was actually very high at around 90 percent.

Surprising – and pushing the needle towards ‘delusional’ – was that 62 percent of operators believe it will take them over two years to reach the same level of marketing sophistication GAFA. We guessed at 92 percent. We believe we are right. If GAFA sat still for two years, closed their offices, tied each other to chairs and put themselves into a self-induced coma, then we might be persuaded. But GAFA will not sit still. GAFA will innovate until the cows come home, get milked and go back out again. The two cultures are simply too different for operators to catch up anytime soon. The good news is they may not need to, if they can find ways of innovating or adding value without going head to head.

Less than half the sample have the capability to deliver context aware campaigns. Again, not surprising that they thought this, but a result that made us wonder. Other research, from the TM Forum and others, says that the majority of operators now have real-time capabilities up and running. So, is it that the people within operators have not ‘got their heads’ round the issue or is it, as was suggested, that they are still struggling with getting the source data into a cohesive state to start analysing it? Privacy issues almost certainly play a part, as we have discussed before.

There is some excellent data here that we can look forward to, but one or two points did, we admit, make us laugh. The main one was the inevitable question about the barriers to operators building business models around customer insights. Asked to guess what the operators said, we ticked the box ‘fear of losing customer trust and loyalty.’ Once again, we were wrong, and it cost us a rather nice looking bottle of champagne. Apparently, operators actually believe that ‘regulatory restrictions on using customer data’ is the main barrier. If this is true, and again, we would argue that we are right that trust is the big issue, then operators are in greater awe of the Regulator than we thought, and this is a big problem.

Dictating that operators cannot use customer data in the way that GAFA and the gang can is a monstrous strait jacket. Add to that the pressures that the Regulator is piling on operators, from net neutrality laws, to privacy laws and cost ceilings and it leaves operators with almost nowhere to go.

An interesting, and really very good lunch, and thank you AsiaInfo, we look forward to the full report.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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