What is Ericsson really up to?

Written by on December 2, 2014 in Opinion with 4 Comments

Digital service providers (DSPs), aka OTT players, have known for some time that in order to keep their customers happy what they are selling needs to be delivered in the best possible condition and working optimally, especially video content.

They also know that although they can ‘rent’, build, or operate high-capacity fiber links between their own data centers and cloud infrastructure they can’t do the same for the so-called ‘last mile’ to their customers that is controlled by communications and internet service providers, i.e. network operators.

Customers having problems with the quality of content they are downloading or viewing will want to blame somebody and the DSPs don’t want it to be them. Short of running massive advertising campaigns pointing the blame for poor network quality at the network operators they have to hope their customers are savvy enough to know who is to blame. Neither scenario looks good for them so they are having to resort to new tactics to keep their market positions.

There has been some reticence in the past to approach the CSPs and ISPs directly for fear of being charged for advantageous peering agreements or prioritized traffic arrangements for their customers. And rightfully so, the network operators would prefer reserve such preferential treatment for their own customers so they can either offer them better service or be able to them charge them more for premium plans. How this will work post net neutrality is anyone’s guess.

According to a recent report in Rethink Wireless, Facebook, like Google, “is starting to take an interest in underlying network technologies and how it might harness them to enhance its services. Recently it has shown a keen interest in certain LTE capabilities, particularly LTE Direct and Multicast. And in some cases it is working closely with the mobile operators which have so often seen it as a rival, and delving deep into their networks to improve performance on both sides.”

In order to take advantage of enhanced network capabilities they need to work closely with mobile operators in particular and some interesting new partnership models are emerging. In February this year Ericsson and Facebook announced the creation of a joint innovation lab supporting the Internet.org initiative to provide an environment and expertise for optimizing applications, networks, devices and services for the next five billion Internet users.

Those early efforts are now coming to fruition with the announcement of a partnership with Indonesia’s XL Axiata that aims to not only improve customer experience for both the Facebook social app and the network operator, but it shows Facebook willingness to work with mobile operators to get the best out of the mobile web for its users.

It makes sense for Facebook to target Indonesia that has the fourth largest Facebook user base in the world, even though 75 percent of its mobile subscribers are on GSM/EDGE networks. It was Axiata that first realized the potential of working with Facebook many years ago that made it the obvious choice to work with for enhanced service delivery at app level.

This all bodes well for future strategic partnerships to get the masses using mobile access to the Internet and may even lead to stronger economic ties if the network operators manage payments on behalf of their DSP partners, especially for pre-paid customers. However, one major stumbling block exists, and it’s the same one raised by TripAdvisor in a previous posting.

The major DSPs such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. that operate in very broad international, almost borderless markets find the task of having to deal with fractured and largely disjointed mobile markets that require multiple agreements and engineering arrangements very hard to address. They simply don’t have the infrastructure or desire to deal with anything less than large multi-market conglomerates or dominant national carriers.

Unless, of course, someone steps up to be a trusted broker with strong relationships already in place and the technical know-how to seamlessly connect them to almost any network. I could be wrong, but it seems Ericsson may be eyeing this role and extending its dominance of the telco managed services market to the broader OTT or digital services market. Touché Ericsson!

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About the Author

About the Author: Tony is a freelance writer, regular speaker, MC and chairman for the telecoms and digital services industries worldwide. He has founded and managed software and services companies, acts a market strategist and is now Editor of DisruptiveViews. In June 2011, Tony was recognized as one of the 25 most influential people in telecom software worldwide. .


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  1. Amol Kulkarni says:

    Excellent points Tony, as always. Especially, the observation about the potential role of Ericsson in the new normal. This kind of proverbially opens the floor or the pandora’s box for others if they so wish.

  2. Dean Bubley (@disruptivedean) says:

    The issue here – and wherever the concept of QoS gets raised, is that in many cases much or most of the usage will occur over 3rd-party WiFi, typically linked to a fixed-broadband provider and a specific venue-owner.

    Obviously for some users, especially consumers in rural areas in developing markets, the propensity to connect to WiFi is lower. But increasingly urban users will exploit the technology wherever possible, such as schools, friends’ houses, workplaces, cafes, transport locations, shops and so forth.

    In that scenario, such efforts will only optimise behaviour *part* of the time – and usually in a way to minimise the problems associated with “thin” cellular networks. It is unlikely to shift the overall balance of use away from WiFi, which in 99% of cases is free at the point of use. (And in most countries, WiFi is nothing to do with cellular operators – and won’t be in future either)

    Dean Bubley
    Disruptive Analysis

  3. Kenny Fraser says:

    Excellent article. Your view of Ericsson’s role makes sense although they need to be careful not to get tied to Facebook alone.

  4. Ehtisham Rao says:

    Great topic Tony and a great spin on where Ericsson might be heading with managed services. However, going beyond a few extra bytes per second, there is a case for good enough network for the DSPs and I think telecoms should now stop worrying about network speeds alone and concentrate on aggregating local services which the large global DSPs cannot provide. This makes the CSPs local DSPs and there is a great case for more diversified content, more security, better customer services and revenues.

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