When is mobile not mobile?

Written by on April 30, 2015 in BillingViews, Opinion with 0 Comments

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The answer to this seemingly simple question is constantly under debate. The most frequent, and perhaps obvious answer, is that mobile is simply an access mechanism which is evolving into a window onto the digital world that is as complex and rich as our physical one. Underneath that answer lie several others and they are coming to light by the day.

One is that ‘mobile’ operators now face competition from fixed line operators, and, more alarmingly, from cable operators, because of the wonders of Wi-Fi. Cable operators have realised that ‘cable’ does not ‘cut it’ any longer and so they need to find ways of going ‘mobile.’ Thus ‘mobile’ operators are now head to head in competition with the cable guys. Take the case of Vodafone and Liberty Global.

So important is the threat – and the opportunity – presented by Liberty that Vodafone is prepared to sell important (but in their press language ‘far flung’) assets in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. You can almost see the nervous sweat on CEO Vittorio Caleo’ upper lip as he said that a combination of Vodafone and Liberty – who own a strong portfolio of cable companies across Northern Europe, including Virgin Media – are on paths that “tend to go to the same end point.” That means competition. Either they buy them or they will end up head to head as Wi-Fi becomes more and more ubiquitous.

While Vodafone and other mobile operators are trying to stop huge potential competitors before they fully realise the potential of Wi-Fi, the cable guys have come to the same conclusion. Wi-Fi is the way forward. So far the business model is not clear, but the enormity of the opportunity and the possibility of being left out is crystal clear.

One clear opportunity that cable operators are embracing is the digital service provider or DSP (formerly known as OTT) opportunity. Their business is content, and they have always known this, unlike mobile operators who are just beginning to understand that their business, too, is content. The cable guys are also moving. And the analysts are now seeing Wi-Fi as a primary channel for cable. Thus the clash, or potential clash, with ‘mobile’ operators.

The real answer to the question, then, is that Wi-Fi (and possibly LTE and 5G) becomes the battleground for content and how it is delivered.

Meanwhile, an interesting snippet, courtesy of Telecoms.com yesterday illustrates how some companies and countries are already innovating to prioritise and deliver – and bill for – content. Tigo – Millicom’s brand in Latin America –  has teamed up with Dutch Media company Momac, to deliver a portfolio of games, music and other content to customers and have paved the way by opening up their BSS to DSPs so that customers can pay via their phone bills or prepaid accounts.

This is smart in a region where the penetration of bank accounts, and therefore debit cards – and credit cards is low. Tigo has already rolled out the service in some minor regions and is accelerating the roll out to cover all its Latin American properties this year. Others have seen this opportunity and yesterday Telefonica announced that Netcracker had been chosen to implement a “large-scale, multi-phase BSS and customer experience transformation program [which] encompasses replacing existing billing systems and implementing new product catalog, ordering and omni-channel CRM platforms.” That sounds like a company gearing up for personalized content delivery, with Carrier Billing capabilities built in.

In a world of increasingly urgent questions for operators of all types, one answer remains the same. Content is king – the question is how best to deliver it!

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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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