Friday, March 23, 2012

Succeeding in the New Mobile World Order

As we have seen in  the three earlier articles, I believe that there are Eight Core Industry Disruptors that are driving key tipping points – The Mobile Seesawthat are ultimately redefining the mobile ecosystem into one of two plausible New Worlds.  The Mobile Segments scenario is much a continuation of the world today – large players dominate each segment of the value chain, focusing on their core strengths and capabilities and cooperating with their fellow segment giants.  Conversely, Mobile Explosion is a world where most things are wireless, interoperable and cloud based, increasing competition and the blurring of the lines between the value chain segments. 
While it is impossible to predict the future, some of the current trends and early indicators suggest that the tipping points, or industry drivers, are pushing the industry in the direction of the world of Mobile Explosion.  Given this trend, players in the mobile value chain are rightly asking themselves what are the solutions to the key challenges and business choices that this new world presents?   And, most importantly what are the key strategies and considerations to ensure success in this new mobile world order?
The following are my thoughts on the top strategic considerations to ensure future success for each of the six key segments of the mobile value chain.

1.  Content Providers (e.g., Sony, Disney, New Corp.)
  • Multi-Platform – ensure all content works on all devices, platforms and networks
  • Multi- Rights Ownership – link content ownership to the person, not device or network
  • Cloud Based Lockers- create protected cloud lockers to store and access owned content
  • Alternative Business Models –e.g., targeted advertising, subsidized devices or connectivity
  • New Distribution Models – e.g., direct to users, through internet service companies
2.  Mobile Service Providers (e.g., AT&T, T-Mobile, Orange, Verizon Wireless)
  • Wi-Fi Integration – embrace Wi-Fi as an integral part of the mobile network architecture
  • Advanced Pricing – using pricing/bundling to optimize network use and increase revenues
  • OTT Collaboration – open up APIs,etc. to benefit from improving  the OTT offering
  • Big Data – use advanced data analytics as a business tool and new source of revenue
  • Network Costs and Performance Optimization – e.g., CDNs, cloud, IP consolidation
  • Mobile Cloud – develop and sell new, innovative cloud offerings
  • Vertical Solutions – incorporating M2M and other capabilities – e.g., healthcare, retail
3.  Equipment Providers (e.g., Ericson, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, EMC)
  • Cost Reduction- e.g.,  reducing features, lower overheads, development, manufacturing
  • Network-Data Center Integration – integrated products, operations and management
  • Small Cell – future of radio access : need low price, innovative products
  • Multi-Network Access- integrated network access in single products
  • Lower Price – combat Asian competition and changing business and GTM models
4.   Software (e.g., Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle)
  • Mobile Enablement – easily accessible and usable on all mobile devices/platforms
  • Mobile Cloud – new services combining device capabilities, app and cloud delivery
  • Security – beyond software – network, device, content access
  • Vertical Solutions – solutions created from software plus other components 

 5.  Internet Services (e.g., Google, eBay, Amazon, OTTs)
  • SP Collaboration – partner/pay MNOs to enhance offer through network capabilities
  • Cloud – fundamental delivery model and new customer opportunities
  • Value-Chain Integrators – become the “glue” between networks, content, devices and apps
  • Innovation – new services, business and operating models, routes to customers
6.   Devices (e.g., Samsung, Apple, Nokia, RIM)
  • Innovation – devices, form-factors and beyond – e.g., cloud, business models
  • Beyond Handsets –non-human centric – e.g., M2M, sensors
  • Connected Home – integration of devices, cloud , content and services
  • Cloud Extension – cloud services integral part of device –e.g., services, storage
  • Alternative Networks -  seamless optimization across heterogeneous networks
Future articles will explore these different strategies in more detail.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Observations from Mobile World Congress 2012

I attended the 2012 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The following are my personal observations and extrapolations from the show based on my conversations with operators, customer meetings, colleagues and walking the floor.  I thought that you might find it of interest? 

1. LTE- Where’s the Party? – Last year was the year of LTE.  Vendors were flouting it and operators were demonstrating how it would change the world.  Even Verizon Wireless (an operator which never shows up at these things) had a big display showcasing LTE.  I think that this year the cold reality is kicking in – now that we have built it (or building it) will people actually use it?  What is the killer app?  Will all of that projected mobile video really go over LTE or will it be accessed from Wi-Fi powered tablets?  And of course, the elephant in the room – what will Apple do?  Will it bless the industry with its next iPads and iPhones running LTE?  That one decision will probably shape the payback curve more than anything.  The growing consensus may be that LTE makes sense but it is going to be a much slower burn than the vendors and technology prophets trumpeted.
2. Wi-Fi Comes In From the Cold – The new buzz was definitely Wi-Fi.  A technology that might at best have been found lurking in the far corners of a remote hall at past MWCs is now being viewed as something that operators really need to understand and embrace.  Of particular interest is how it can help mobile operators offload traffic from their congested networks.  However, the discussion is rapidly evolving with many operators asking what are the business models for Wi-Fi.  They are also beginning to explore how they not only integrate Wi-Fi into their network architectures but their overall business model and value proposition.
3. Mobile Payments… Again and Again – Once again, more promise and more solutions for providing mobile payments.  While these solutions hold promise, many think that the future of mobile payments will now be very different than we know it.  Look for the banks and the credit card companies to finally come out on top, doing what they do best, with tried and true systems and business architectures, to collect and transfer money.
4. Mobile Cloud – More than Just Words – Last year mobile cloud seemed to be mentioned just in passing – the concatenation of 2 hot words.  This year there was definitely more meat on the bone.  Key note presentations explained how it was the future, not just of mobility, but of everything.  Vendors proudly displayed mobile cloud solutions and showed off how they were really much more than just apps.  Judging by the packed room of people who came to attend  the mobile cloud panel, in which I participated, mobile cloud has definitely come of age and people are looking for answers… and opportunities.
5. Dumb Pipe or Smart Pipe? .. that is the Question Where the wireline industry grappled with this age at the turn of the century, this is now the issue of the decade for the mobile industry.  Operators are increasingly fearing becoming the mobile equivalent of the dumb pipe.  Many of the talks and discussions focused on explaining why mobile operators are critical to the mobile ecosystem and on how their networks are more than just conduits for Facebook and Youtube.
6. Not a Good Place for a Regulator – I wouldn’t want to wander around the convention floor with the word “regulator” emblazoned on my badge.  They were numerous swipes and references from participants to the challenges that unsympathetic views that regulators had on spectrum, pricing, caps and of course, net-neutrality.
7. Pricing and Policy to the Rescue – Cisco’s graph of exponential mobile data growth has become de rigueur in key note presentations, combined with a revenue line trending in the opposite direction to show that operators are struggling to justify further network investments.  There was talk of the end of unlimited data plans and paying for what you use, like electricity (a utility?), capping heavy users and slowing down certain traffic and usage behaviours.  AT&T made an interesting announcement around creating the “1-800” number for data, with the content provider paying for the access to be included with the application.  Is that like buying a TV with the electricity included in the selling price?  At the same time Vonage and other OTTs were launching services to make free calls and messaging over mobile networks.
8. M2M - The Rise of the Machines – As usual, operators and vendors were showcasing lots of M2M solutions and, of course, mobile interactions with vending machines.  But there seems to finally be enough of a critical  growing to tip M2M into the mainstream.  Mobile operators are starting to aggressively push this as a partial solution to issues identified above – filling LTE networks and smarter pipes.  And, machines are much more grateful than their human customers whose true loyalty increasingly lies with the OTT providers.
9. What’s The New Thing? – 3-D televisions and gaming devices have gone.  The world of devices seems to have converged to iPhone and iPad clones.  There was an interesting revival of the old Palm Pilot with Samsung’s Galaxy Note, that lets you write and draw with a stylus taking from a hiding place in the device (everything old is new again).  Cool, but I am not sure if it will ever become mainstream?  For a company given up as dead, Nokia had an exciting booth with lots of buzz.  And it’s new Windows based device is nice and very different than the clones.  But knocking Apple off its perch will be one monumental task?
10. Small Cells – Is Femto Bigger than Small? – Femto vendors last year seemed to be relegated to the dark corners of the floor and never spoken of.   However, they have now been officially re-labeled “small cells.”  But unlike the femto cells of old, small cells seem to be about data, less voice, and providing access in public locations as a fill-in strategy for macro cell networks, rather than being located in the corner of someone’s basement.  Also, unlike femto, mobile operators are very interested in small cells, realizing that they are reaching the limits on placement of macro cell towers and need small cells to increase coverage and capacity.