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July 19, 2016

Telco Digital Customer Engagement Benchmark

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Customers are more educated, more empowered and have more options available to them than ever before. They are also engaging with companies through more channels than previously, as social media and search engines overtake print and television as the most effective way of reaching out to customers. In a 2015 ‘point of view’ report Deloitte stated that 45% of smartphones owners were making purchases using a mobile device every month, and in addition complaints and queries are increasingly being made online rather than in person or via the phone. This shift in the market highlights how important customers’ digital engagement and satisfaction is, as more and more customers are assessing companies’ services through their digital brand experiences.

Creating a seamless, intuitive and trusted digital experience should be at the forefront of all telecom business models, such as through innovations in omni-channel strategies. An omni-channel approach, i.e. integrating online and bricks and mortar customer experiences, can help improve the effectiveness of telecoms’ marketing as a more sophisticated ‘single-view’ picture of their customers allows for better targeting of their wants and needs. This will help reduce churn and increase ARPU.

An omni-channel focus will also bring increased conversion rates and reduce cart abandonment through a larger availability of convenient online shopping options and secure payment solutions. This can help improve customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty. Not only will omni-channel solutions increase revenue in these ways and more, it will also save companies money, through, for example, reduced time spent on resolving customer service issues. There should be no need for customers to repeat simple information or be passed around to different areas of the company as a clear and unified picture should be available rather than customer data remaining stuck in specific siloes. The need to develop omni-channel solutions should be clear, and many telco companies are some way to providing this seamless picture to their customers.

STL Partners has created a Digital Engagement Benchmarking Tool which can assess your operator’s performance in digital maturity, and highlight areas where omni-channel development would be beneficial. A free, bespoke report will be created which benchmarks your company against industry competition and ‘best-in-class’ performers outside telecoms, the metrics covering digital sales and marketing, digital customer experience and omni-channel strategy. The report will be sent to you by the end of August. If this is something you would be interested in, complete our 5-10 minute survey now. All information submitted will be treated as strictly confidential and your operator (or its data) will not be identified in any reports to send other participants in this study, or other third parties. 

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February 5, 2014

CSPs / Telcos: Join our Enterprise Mobility Programme


If you work on behalf of a Communications Service Provider (CSP) in marketing, strategy, technology, IT or product development/management, we would like to ask you to join and participate in a strategic research programme we are undertaking on Enterprise Mobility.

This programme will conduct and produce research to help key decision makers define and evaluate their Enterprise Mobility strategy. As part of the programme we will share a report detailing Enterprise customers’ needs and challenges in successfully deploying Enterprise Mobility solutions and, also, benchmark CSPs’ current offerings against those needs on a regional (non-player specific) basis. Having identified any gaps between customers’ needs and telco activities, this research will define a strategy for CSPs to establish a stronger foothold in the enterprise mobility market.

To participate and receive the research in full, please complete this anonymised 4-minute survey focused on your current Enterprise Mobility offering and portfolio. (NB It does not require you to reveal competitive or strategic information).

The survey can be found here

We’ll also be exploring Enterprise Mobility in further depth in our research and our executive brainstorms in Silicon Valley (May 20-21) and London (June 10-11).

For those who would like to know more, below is an introduction to some of the hypotheses that STL Partners is investigating:

  1. In pursuit of agility, efficiency, new revenue sources and closer customer relationships, enterprises are turning to mobility to transform the way employees work with engaging mobile apps that harness device-specific functions and capabilities. These apps generally need to connect to and exchange data with back-office systems, many of which pre-date the mobile era. As a result, organisations are looking to partners to provide the tools, technologies and skills to customise and develop apps, do the heavy lifting of deployment and lifecycle management, and accelerate business value.
  2. Telcos need to identify alternative ways to grow revenues from enterprise customers. These include:
    • Monetising the growth in data creation and consumption to offset the inevitable decline in voice services (from consumer and enterprise markets)
    • Pursuing new service offerings such as Machine-to-Machine (M2M), Cloud Services, and real-time insight from the cellular network
    • Providing infrastructure and technology services that offer flexibility and economies of scale, allowing enterprises to focus on exploring new technologies instead of maintaining and managing existing ones.

Telcos have a timely opening to take an enterprise mobility proposition to market. However, to date, deployments have been niche and opportunistic rather than part of a long-term strategy.

In our recent report: The 50bn Enterprise Mobility Opportunity: four steps for Telco to take today, STL Partners identified a four-step structured approach that telcos can embark on today, and gain competence and confidence as they move up the enterprise mobility stack to higher value offerings. The four levels of evolution involve:

  • Level 1 - mobilising their own operations and internal processes

  • Level 2 - offering a managed environment to enterprises for their apps, whether on premise or in the cloud

  • Level 3 - providing hosted mobility together with off-the-shelf enterprise apps, with the option to add “last mile” customisation to the enterprise’s specific requirements and provide an enterprise app store

  • Level 4 - providing hosted mobility and developing bespoke, highly differentiated apps that solve customers’ unique business challenges

However, building out these capabilities will require substantial commitment and investment - not only in platforms and tools but also in people, via a transfusion of talent from related industries.
STL Partners is inviting telcos to participate in a study to explore their appetite for and inhibitors to establishing a foothold in the enterprise mobility market, the findings of which will be revealed in a forthcoming report.

Access the survey here for a complementary copy of our next in-depth study on Enterprise Mobility

The survey is split into two sections and explores CSPs’ internal and external Enterprise Mobility strategy, ambition and implementation challenges.

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June 21, 2011

Guest Post: How can CSPs become Cloud Services Brokers?

Following on from our EMEA brainstorm findings that telcos can increase cloud revenues nine-fold by 2014, Verecloud describe the benefits of the ‘cloud services brokerage model’ aggregating and integrating ICT solutions and bundling them with traditional telecoms services for enterprise customers. This is a guest post by Bill Perkins, CTO, Verecloud.

Communication Service Providers (CSPs) have a significant investment in their network infrastructure and Operations Support Systems (OSS)/Business Support Systems (BSS). This investment of billions of dollars is seen as the key asset of the CSP and their strategies are primarily focused monetizing this asset. Examples of these strategies include special pricing in market areas where the network is under-utilized, and wholesale arrangements to increase network utilization by “white-labeling” the assets in a mobile virtual network operator model (MVNO).

While monetizing the network assets is an important part of a CSP revenue strategy, it is not a strong growth strategy because network connectivity is being commoditized. The CSP’s greatest asset is their customer base. Growth strategies must start with monetizing the customer. This includes strategies focused on increasing the average revenue per user (ARPU), reducing churn and providing complete solutions that address all of the information and communication technology (ICT) needs of their customers.

According to Gartner, the single biggest revenue opportunity for CSPs is as a Cloud Service Brokerage.

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May 20, 2011

Amazon: the Hidden Empire

Readers who’ve been with us for any length of time will be aware that Telco 2.0 is fascinated by Amazon.com - the masters of two-sided business models, Internet retailing, and cloud-based developer platforms, to say nothing of engineering really enormous Web sites. We’ve written about them here, on transactions and platforms, here, about content delivery networks, here, on the Amazon Kindle, and here, here, and here on Amazon’s business model in general. And it was a real honour to have CTO Werner Vogels address the Telco 2.0 events. You can watch the video here.

So we think you’ll appreciate this presentation from FaberNovel as much as we did.


Amazon.com: the Hidden Empire
View more presentations from faberNovel

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March 16, 2011

Running through the Playbook


Thomson Reuters have a rather good rundown on the BlackBerry Playbook tablet and RIM’s future. Is it a high-end device with an interesting feature set that spans the enterprise and gaming markets, or a curiosity that Apple will brush aside?

We met the Playbook at RIM’s developer day at MWC - although they’re marketing it as “the first professional grade tablet”, their demo showed one running Need for Speed: Undercover and Quake in separate windows at the same time. Our information is that RIM is internally divided about whether to play the device’s media and gaming potential up, or whether that would detract from their image with enterprise customers. However, we do think their developer services, business products, and BB Messenger make up a powerful integrated device-software-media ecosystem.

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January 2, 2011

BlueVia: Telefonica’s new global developer platform


Back in February 2009, we blogged about O2 UK’s Litmus project, a developer platform that offered more than any other. As well as a range of useful network APIs and the typical revenue-sharing element, it provided access to crowdsourced testing from Mob4Hire, hosting with Rackspace, and to an internal Telefonica venture-capital group.

Six months later, we reviewed Litmus again, finding a worryingly empty web forum, and were able to interview Jose Valles Nunez and James Parton from Telefonica and O2 respectively about it. They argued that one of the main goals Telefonica had with Litmus was to spot potential star applications that could be integrated with their mainline products in a process of “co-creation”. (An example: Sun Microsystems was eventually so pleased with the open-source community’s version of its Solaris operating system that they decided to use OpenSolaris in their commercial products and have the engineers who worked on Solaris contribute code to the community version instead.)

Developer communities are a major concern for Telco 2.0 (see our Apple vs. Nokia note) and therefore we’re following the story further, in the build up to a new research and event programme for 2011 called ‘Mobile Apps 2.0’.

A few weeks ago, just before Christmas, Telefonica launched BlueVia, a further development of Litmus that will be deployed across the whole Telefonica footprint rather than just O2 UK or Telefonica O2 Europe. Here’s the latest public presentation on Bluevia:

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November 9, 2010

Telcos in the Cloud: IBM, Orange, and Oracle @ Telco 2.0


This afternoon has been an optimistic one at the Telco 2.0 executive brainstorm - you could say our heads were in the clouds. Specifically, the Cloud Services session has been more than interesting. Speakers from IBM - Craig Wilson, VP Global Telecoms Industry - Orange - Stephan Hadinger, Chief Architect for Cloud Computing - and Oracle, with Neil Sholay, VP Cloud and Communications - gave a string of presentations that encouraged us to hope that the cloud might not be quite as airy and insubstantial as it might sound.

Wilson thinks operators have a “unique market opportunity”: they have key assets like end-to-end control of network resources, an existing enterprise customer base, name recognition, and channel marketing expertise. We’d add to this that the ex-incumbents tend to have a footprint of network and property assets that you need if you want to distribute cloud resources, for reliability, and also bring them close to the end user, for low latency and high performance.

Similarly, Stephan Hadinger pointed out that most cloud providers can only provide network infrastructure services (load-balancing, anycast DNS, spam filtering, DDOS protection, content- and applications-delivery networks) as software, when really high performance requires a presence physically located in the right place.

Wilson went on to point out that “dev/test clouds” were a key use case - that is to say, it’s just easier to do rapid-prototyping of a new idea if you can check out an Amazon EC2 machine image, or use Google App Engine, than if you have to negotiate with the IT department first.

Interestingly, Neil Sholay of Oracle said something similar. He pointed out that Oracle had started to “get” the cloud after it was discovered that their developers were in the habit of using public clouds rather than going through channels. At least, he said, this was better than some of their customers, who had discovered their critical cloud applications when they were shut down after the inventor left the company and stopped paying for them.

As a result, they had now invested in internal cloud capacity - often, applications would be prototyped in the cloud and then pushed to the traditional infrastructure.

More broadly, he pointed to a case study of a major Oracle customer - a bank - that had achieved cost savings of more than 30% in both operations and innovations. Very interestingly, only 19% of the savings came from the core “cloud” project of data-centre virtualisation - much else came from better practices in innovation, operations, maintenance, and the like.

The amusing thing about these presentations was that they track very closely with the content of an as-yet unreleased Telco 2.0 analyst note on the potential for operators in the cloud. We thought rapid prototyping and scaling of new services, IT cost control, and geographically optimised CDN/ADN were the key elements. Watch this space!

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September 1, 2010

GMail voice - nice, but no Skype Connect


So you can now make telephone calls from within Google Mail. Well, among other things this is a fine example of something we said back in 2008 in the Consumer Voice & Messaging 2.0 strategy report. Jamie Zawinski said that every program tends to expand until it can read e-mail - we said that the same was now true of telephony. Everything expands until it can place phone calls. As a result, although total minutes of use keep rising, the market is deconcentrating, with the total spread across an increasing diversity of players - games, Voice 2.0 companies, enterprise VoIP networks, mobile apps, perhaps even the odd telco.

But we actually don’t think Google’s move is enormously significant. Consider this: if you’re a telco, and you provide plain SS7 circuit-switched voice, everyone agrees you’ve got a problem. Telephony is now a software application and it’s very often free, which doesn’t leave you much scope. If you’re one of the traditional alternative voice providers - calling cards, carrier VoIP like Vonage, discount MVNO, etc - you also have problems, because you’re trying to undercut a price that’s going to zero. We recall Boris Nemsic, when he was CEO of Mobilkom, saying that their answer to “fixed-mobile convergence” was a new tariff that offered unlimited national and on-network minutes for €10. There wasn’t any point being cute, when they could just cut prices and squash the margin players like bugs.

So you need to find some way to differentiate - to offer better voice and messaging.

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May 20, 2010

KPN: Pioneer Operator

Some operators stand out as being especially far down the road to Telco 2.0. We mentioned Telenor’s machine-to-machine activities (to say nothing of Mobilt Bedriffsnett, Content Provider Access, and Telenor Fusion) recently; now, another Telco 2.0 pioneer operator has moved into this field. KPN has just announced a partnership with the specialist M2M operator Jasper Wireless, under which Jasper will resell KPN service to its enterprise customers and KPN in turn will take an equity stake in Jasper.

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May 15, 2010

WAC - latest analyst and press announcement

In case you missed it, below is the web brefing given to analysts and press on 5th May. We’re delighted that those leading WAC (the ‘Wholesale Applications Community’ - a new global alliance of mobile telcos to support developers) will be taking part in Telco 2.0 Best Practice Live! on 28-20 June - our new online virtual event. This is a global online event and will provide you with a chance to question the WAC team in more detail about aims, objectives, challenges, strategy. Register (for free) here.

WAC analyst briefing - May 2010 from Tim Haysom on Vimeo.

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May 11, 2010

Mobile Internet: Horizontal Platforms Needed (Guest Post, Qualcomm)

This guest post by Qualcomm describes what consumers, developers, OEMs, and MNOs want from the evolving ‘mobile internet’, and key factors for empowering ‘users’. It argues that ‘horizontal’ telco business models are increasingly necessary for telcos to capture value.

The article was written by Colm Healy, VP & GM EMEA Services & Xiam at Qualcomm, who was also a stimulus presenter at the 9th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm.

Introduction

One of the goals of Telco 2.0 is to discuss and formulate ways in which the telcos might address the challenges of a world where voice and SMS are no longer the main revenue streams, and how they might coexist with the increasingly powerful webcos entering the mobile space. One of the practical tenets of Telco 2.0 is that it is not just about creating new revenue opportunities from ‘upstream’ players, but also about maximising the opportunities that already exists downstream with the billions of customers that operators already serve.

The pace of change in the industry has been fast and mobile internet usage growth curves are steep, as is the proliferation of app stores launches (see below). But there are huge untapped opportunities in the mobile internet. All the indications are that people want the internet on their phones, and all the players want to be involved. In short, where the mobile internet is concerned, everyone wants in - and not just those people who currently own smartphones.

New app store launches; source - Media tracking

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April 23, 2010

Telenor’s ‘Two-Sided Business Model’ in action

See how Telenor Norway is making its API’s available, here: http://www.telenorfusion.no/. Very ‘Telco 2.0’. Frank Elter, who has led its development, will be at the Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm next week in London.

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December 16, 2009

Smartphones and App Stores: where is the Telecom Industry Being Led? (Guest Post)

Ed: This is a guest post from Cato Rasmussen of Martin Dawes Systems. Delegates at the Telco 2.0 America event were almost evenly divided about the possibilities of app stores - a large proportion (45%) didn’t expect them to add much value - as this chart shows:

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Can we find ways of delivering on their promise?

Mobile app stores are where the industry is building high hopes for customer retention and revenue growth. Frantic manoeuvring over which operator wins the developers’ attention is evidence of this, as is the rush to open application stores that sell apps and content for smart phones.

But my fear is that while the industry is being dragged along by social networking brands like Facebook and Twitter, we are not taking the time to fully comprehend the implications of building a service versus building a business.

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October 20, 2009

Latest Internet traffic stats: Google and CDNs outmuscle Tier 1 Telcos.

These may be the most important charts you see this year.

At this autumn’s NANOG in Dearborn, the twice-yearly get together for the Internet operations engineering community, Craig Labovitz gave a presentation (download here) on the latest ATLAS Internet traffic study. It deserves to be considered a seminal document. It’s already been hyped as part of the YouTube bandwidth cost wars, but it’s so much more than just the fact that Google is peering extensively.

Below, we describe the contents of the presentation, their implications for the future of the Internet and its economy, and discuss how these findings relate to Telco 2.0. If you’re involved in Internet service provision, content delivery, or investment in the TMT sector, you need to read this.

We’ll be discussing this new data, in particular during the Cloud Computing 2.0 sessions, at the upcoming Telco 2.0 EMEA (4-5 Nov, London) and Americas (9-10 Dec, Orlando) events.

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October 18, 2009

Facebook developer app stats

We’re looking forward to the sessions on ‘Monetising telco APIs’ at the upcoming EMEA (4-5 Nov, London) and America (9-10 Dec, Orlando) Telco 2.0 Exec Brainstorms, building on output from the May event. A big thank you to one of the panellists, Toby Beresford, a developer specialising in Facebook apps, who shared some latest stats with us (below). Surely an opportunity for telcos to create a platform too. Just needs a joined-up commercial strategy as we described before…. Do come along to one of the events to get the inside track with leaders from Vodafone, BT, Orange, Telefonica, Google, Verizon Wireless, etc…

Latest Facebook developer app stats:
* More than one million developers and entrepreneurs from more than 180 countries
* Every month, more than 70% of Facebook users engage with Platform applications
* More than 350,000 active applications currently on Facebook Platform
* More than 250 applications have more than one million monthly active users
* More than 15,000 websites, devices and applications have implemented Facebook Connect since its general availability in December 2008

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September 17, 2009

Apps & AppStores: Litmus vs Apple AppStore

Summary: As O2 UK’s Litmus developer proramme matures into a global corporate project for Telefonica, we analyse the business model challenges it faces in becoming a vibrant community for developers and a value driver for the company.

Back in March, we said that O2’s Litmus developer site was “better than the Apple App Store”. Quite a claim, as it turned out. We based it on the deep integration of Litmus with the range of social and business enablers it provided in addition to the O2 network APIs. As well as a generous revenue share and quick payment, Litmus offered access to O2’s billing system to help cash collection, crowdsourced testing from Mob4Hire, Web-hosting services, and the tantalising prospect of access to an internal Telefonica venture capital group.

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July 16, 2009

Voice 2.0: Beyond Unified Communications

4 Alternative Enterprise Voice 2.0 Platform Business Models

Many, many different companies are pushing into the key Telco 2.0 field of communications-enabled business processes, or CEBP, which unites both the Voice & Messaging 2.0 and Enterprise VAS elements of our thinking. It’s one of the undemarcated frontiers, or creative tension zones, where most of the value is going to be created. In this note, we’re going to examine four leading CEBP platforms, all of which have been featured on the Telco 2.0 blog before, and try to identify some key trends and commonalities that explain something about how to succeed with CEBP and Voice 2.0.

We’re publishing an extract here on the blog, while the full article is available on the Subscription Service. Members of the service can read the full article here. Non-Members, please see how to subscribe here.

No-one is quite sure where the roles of telcos, Web2.0 players, ISVs, and systems integrators begin or end, or what distinguishes the VAS and voice & messaging elements. But it’s precisely this combination of complexity and openness that gives the scope for differentiation through business model innovation.

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June 23, 2009

Developers - That’s where Telco 2.0 comes in…

Ericsson is promoting its Java SDK on YouTube:

Well, it’s good to be reminded of the fundamental need for communication. Netscape legend Jamie Zawinski said something similar in a now-classic blog post about groupware, social networks, and contacts management:

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June 4, 2009

Open APIs 2.0 - Unifying Commercial Framework Needed

Below is a summary analysis of the Open APIs 2.0 session at the May 2009 Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm which, for the first time gathered together leaders of the major telco API programmes - GSMA, TM Forum, MEF Smart Pipes, OMTP BONDI, Orange Partners, Alcatel-Lucent - and some of their potential users (BBC, Yahoo, Amazon etc).

The premise we explored was this:

Platform-based 2-sided business models need APIs to enable upstream customers to use telco assets and processes. There are a huge variety of APIs and enablers being developed in the market by industry bodies (GSMA, TM Forum, OMTP, MEF), by individual operators (Vodafone Betavine, Orange Partner, O2 Litmus), and by ad hoc consortia (such as Vodafone, China Mobile, and Softbank’s JIL). But what is the commercial strategy that underpins these programmes? What needs to be done to ensure that APIs are valuable for upstream customers (developers, merchants, advertisers, and government) and profitable for operators?

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May 28, 2009

Enterprise Services 2.0 - Output from Telco 2.0 exec brainstorm, May 09

Below is a summary analysis of the Enterprise Services 2.0 session at the May 2009 Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm. It builds on some of the issues we described before the event here.

The premise we explored was this:

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April 9, 2009

IfByPhone: Two-Sided Business Model, Comms-Enabled Business Processes, and Open Source Telephony

We recently had the chance to speak to Irv Shapiro, CEO of IfByPhone, a start-up company we featured in the Voice & Messaging 2.0 report that operates a hosted platform for voice-enabled CRM applications and which lets you integrate your Web, e-mail, and phone sales activities while maintaining common metrics across the whole company (Read more here, and note that Thomas Howe is a fan.) Irv Shapiro describes it as being “like Salesforce Force.com with phones”. A couple of interesting things….

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March 25, 2009

QQ: Quite Quality

Below is one of the case studies that our forthcoming Serving the Digital Generation report is founded on. QQ (a huge social network in China) is a key example of successfully understanding the participation needs of the digital generation, and one we should all be learning from.

QQ has claimed to be the world’s third-largest IM network (after MSN and Yahoo), based on a figure of 355 million ”active users” as at November, 2008. A further claim of 570 million ”users” exists from earlier that year.

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February 23, 2009

Rich Communications Suite: Really Considered Significantly Obsolete

It was a curious Mobile World Congress last week; half Telco 2.0 triumph, with things like the OneAPI project, O2 Litmus, and a truly impressive focus on developer communities, and half a harking back to the days when IMS was the solution, whatever the problem might be.

Take the GSMA’s ‘Rich Communications Suite’ (RCS). We’ve discussed the imperatives for voice telephony recently here. So, we’re at a loss as to the relevance of RCS to the market, as one of our analysts vociferously describes below.

But we’d value an open discussion with readers who support the initiative. Do read the analysis in the rest of this article, and tell us what you think via the ‘comments’ function on this blog…

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February 9, 2009

IntelePeer: Reverse Engineering Telco 2.0

IntelePeer is a Californian startup that should worry telcos quite a lot. It’s constitutive of Telco 2.0 that we want to identify the key telco capabilities and assets that are hard for competing over-the-top players to replicate, make them available in a useful form, and then monetise. But one of the risks here is that other players - OTT’ers, software developers, big clouds, big IT services firms, device makers - start to replicate these faster than telcos start to develop them.

What is IntelePeer and what’s important about it?

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January 14, 2009

Apple blows a hole in the Mobile Music Landscape

At its recent MacWorld conference, Apple made three key changes to its iTunes music services offering: DRM free distribution, wireless downloads and variable pricing. A year ago, iTunes looked like a business under pressure. But these changes make the mobile operators’ and Nokia’s “Comes with Music” propositions look poor in comparison. In the article below we explore why this is the case and the significant new challenges faced by telcos involved in the content business.

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December 5, 2008

What would Bank 2.0 look like? Lessons for Telco 2.0

Sometimes for inspiration in business model innovation you need to look outside your own industry. We’ve previously examined supermarkets and airlines. Once more we’ll turn to banks. Sometimes it’s easier to get the principles of a new business model when shorn of all the familiar ARPUs, churn rates and equipment subsidies.

Banks are very much in the news these days, although not always for good reasons. Return of capital has become as much an issue to depositors as returns to capital. Indeed, Willie Sutton’s famous quip would these days have to become “Why do Banks rob taxpayers? Because that’s where the money is”. Thankfully the telecoms industry lacks the solvency, honesty and transparency issues that banks face (although some might disagree strongly).

However, there are considerable structural similarities. Both are regulated capital-intensive networked industries, with mounds of under-exploited customer data. (If you want some inspiration on how banks are doing a better job of exploiting this, check out the Visa Extras program.) They are also wedded to vertically integrated models, where the end user experience is controlled and tied to the back office. “Banking mashups” don’t yet feature heavily in everyday vocabulary. They should.

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October 21, 2008

Enterprise Contact Centres - a revenue opportunity for telcos?

HTK is a specialist supplier of ‘voice 2.0’ services. They’re one of the interesting group of companies who’ll be participating in the ‘Innovators Zone’ at the Telco 2.0 event. We’ll be presenting some of our new analysis on the (significant) market opportunity for telcos to provide services to enterprise contact centres on Day One of the event. In the meantime, we asked Marlon Bowser, HTK’s Managing Director, for his thoughts on this topic:

Chasing the Rainbow

The telecom industry is going through a time of arguably unprecedented change, with more opportunity for “service innovation” than ever before. With change comes the need to adapt and many Telecom Service Providers are opening up their networks to enable integration of third-party application services. The question is whether fostering such a culture and community of innovation is a business model that makes sense, and how it can be harnessed to generate significant financial growth.

Companies like BT and Microsoft are catalysing the market for innovation, with service delivery platform vendors waiting in the wings to prove that they’re the best bet to host the next big thing. The problem is that innovators and early adopters of new technology are often driven by an agenda of “cool” rather than one of “cash” - it may create excitement, but it rarely creates significant revenue growth.

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September 26, 2008

Guest Post: Google’s First Handset - strategic implications

Both customer data and product-service systems are critical to future telco business models. Google’s Android platform puts Google in a better position to capture customer data and integrate its services with mobile handsets. This brings a powerful Internet player into direct competition with established telecoms players, such as Nokia and their Series 60 and Ovi platforms. Marek Pawlowski, a director at mobile consultancy PMN and founder of the Mobile User Experience conference, outlines the strategic implications of Google’s mobile ambitions below (this article was originally published at this link):

Google, T-Mobile and HTC this week announced the G1, the first handset powered by Google’s Android platform. The press event in New York confirmed specifications already leaked out through various fan sites over the last few weeks: a touchscreen 3G handset, with a QWERTY keyboard and trackball. Other features include GPS, a 480 × 320 screen and 3 megapixel camera.

It will debut in the US next month, followed by a UK launch in November.

The G1 device itself is already attracting considerable consumer attention: the BBC’s morning news programme picked it up on the day of launch and asked me to give an interview explaining what it meant for users and the industry (if you’re in the UK you can catch it on BBC iPlayer here until Tuesday, 30th September).

However, this is a much larger and more complex story than the single handset being announced on the T-Mobile network.

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September 17, 2008

Telco 2.0 Interview: Steve Zimba, Microsoft

Continuing our series of interviews with major industry thinkers, Steve Zimba is Microsoft’s Managing Director, Global Telecoms Business. We interviewed Steve about their ‘Telco 2.0’ strategy. This integrates their PC, IPTV and mobile offerings with a combined software and services offering, supported by telecoms-specific capabilities and a third party ecosystem.


Steve Zimba

Microsoft is a particularly interesting company to us because they are in a unique position. They bridge the consumer and enterprise markets, which places them well to create technologies and operational businesses for two-sided markets. Their Internet competitors are consumer-centric, and don’t have channels into the enterprise. Rivals such as IBM don’t have the consumer brand or media properties to run experiments on the scale Microsoft can. Furthermore, Microsoft is active across all of the B2B value-added service areas we believe will drive future telco growth: identity, advertising & marketing services, e-commerce, order fulfilment, content delivery, billing & payments, and customer care/CRM. The difficult challenge is whether Microsoft can make the whole more than sum of its software conglomerate parts.

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September 2, 2008

New Internet Video Distribution Survey - have your say

Today we launch a new survey, part of a major investigation into new business models for internet video distribution (kindly supported by the TM Forum, TelecomTV, the Mobile Entertainment Forum, and TVoverNet.)

By ‘internet video distribution’ we mean: any video material (movies, TV, infotainment, sports, UCG) distributed via internet technologies (IPTV, web streaming or P2P downloading) over any bearer (fixed or mobile broadband networks) to any device (PC, TV, handheld). We exclude traditional broadcasting and physical means of distribution, although the consequences of internet video distribution are looked at.

Do take part here. It takes 15-20 minutes to complete and you’ll get a free copy of the summary results if you invest the time to complete it properly. (The system allows you to come back to complete it if you need to take a break). Survey closes 1st October 2008.

Some of the questions are pretty challenging, so it’s well worth reading the context for it below first:

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August 31, 2008

Telco 2.0 Research Programme, Autumn/Winter 2008

Following the publication of the new Telco 2.0 Manifesto, we’ve refreshed our overall strategy research programme for the coming year. (Like the fashion industry, our products change with the seasons.) This new programme will address the key strategic challenges that lie at the heart of creating new value in Telecoms and adjacent markets. Here’s a quick preview.

5 x New “Research Practices”

We’ve organized our research into 5 Research Practices to address the key Telco 2.0™ strategic challenges.

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August 4, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 4th August 2008

In Today’s Issue: Moto splits again, makes actual money; CDMA - the edge of darkness; Nortel loses customer, 15% off shares, gains WiMAX obsession, 13% back on shares; most pointless network tech announcement?; the LTE voice problem; FCC KOs TCP RST DPI; good news shock at FT, NTT; Indian WiMAX speccy shocker; IKEA is a mobile operator; BT shareholders panic; free N810s

We’ve been following the crisis at Motorola for some time. The latest reorganisation is here. As well as selling off the failing handset division, they’re now planning to split up the rump of the firm into several chunks. The set-top box and related business goes in one, the cellular business in another, and the WiMAX operation in yet a third. (Motorola’s declared tech strategy assumes that WLAN, UMTS, and WiMAX are the default radio network technologies, and these roughly map on to this structure.)

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July 30, 2008

Case Study: Qualcomm digs itself into a (very good) hole

Qualcomm, best known for owning a lot of patents on cellular radio tech, has an interesting new product out — and it involves a large yellow backhoe loader. Not quite what you’d expect! But a regular theme in Telco 2.0 is that the real value for the telecoms industry isn’t in the consumer entertainment applications everyone loves, but in the enterprise. That means working with people and things, driving out labour, energy and working capital costs.

First we’ll go through what the product does, before diving into what it means for the business models of both Qualcomm and telcos wishing to apply the same lessons.

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June 4, 2008

Use Case: Optimising Rolls-Royce’s ‘Product-Service’ business

This is a ‘Use Case’ taken from our 2-Sided Business Models report, which is out now (10% discount to readers of this blog). We have chosen Rolls-Royce as an example of both the type of target business model (mixing services with products) and a specific B2B VAS (Value Added Service) opportunity - field service - for telcos to sell into.

A major trend of the times is the blurring of the distinction between service industries and manufacturing, creating product-service systems — in our own technology field, we can already see plenty of examples. Is IBM a manufacturer or a service provider? Ever since its early 90s crisis, it’s put a lot of effort into its services businesses (consulting, systems integration, hosted/managed service operations), but not only does it still make computers, it carries out fundamental R&D on topics like semiconductors, lasers, batteries and magnetic materials — even more hardware than the chip makers.

Similarly, everyone would agree that Ericsson manufactures telecoms equipment, but one-third of its profits come from Ericsson Professional Services. On the other hand, Google would seem to be a quintessential services company, but it actually makes its own servers. Further, some functions that are typical of tech manufacturers - R&D, design and engineering - are found in companies that outsource all their manufacturing, but whose output is still recognisably a physical product, like ARM Holdings.

But this trend is even more pronounced outside the IT/telecoms world. Many, many companies turned to integrating their products with services as a way of fighting commoditisation over the last 30 years - and it’s often cited as a way of making industry more sustainable (pdf). We’ve picked one example which offers insights into where telcos might take their business.

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June 2, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 2nd June 2008

In Today’s Issue: More spy scandal at DTAG - Ricke implicated; your insecure mobile; iPhones that look like Windows!; killer photos hack RAZRs; “Safari” browsing, not browsing with Safari; FeliCa hacked; shareholder revolt at ALU; Isenberg on teleconferencing; Google’s app store; BREWidgets; Intel - they’re back; UK WiMAX delays; it’s Christmas for Openreach; Phorm demonstrations; Virgin Media adds more limits to unlimited broadband; KPN launches mobile TV - sort of; mobile phone shipments sink in Europe

Oh dear, oh dear; the Deutsche Telekom spy scandal takes another turn for the worse, as it turns out the spy was receiving money from the firm as recently as early last month, although the company had claimed it had all ended in early 2007. DTAG management, of course, claims that they were paying for something different and entirely aboveboard…they just don’t seem clear what. Interestingly, the spying included the mapping of targets’ movements using the mobile CDR stream — now that’s what we call a location-based service.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, meanwhile, claims that the spying project’s bills were sent to the same cost centre as the then CEO Kai-Uwe Ricke’s office.

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May 29, 2008

Telco 2.0 Case Study: Mobile Signature

We first encountered Mobile Signature at this year’s Mobile World Congres with Telefonica, but the system’s big success has been with Turkcell. And we think it sums up a lot of the possibilities and challenges posed by Telco 2.0.

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May 5, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 5th May 2008

In Today’s Issue: DT/Sprint murder’n’acquisition poses world’s biggest OSS BSS MESS; shareholders scared; political egos swell; warming up by buying OTE; and a side order of Nokia Ovi content, please; Mobistar MVNO mastery; Microhoo muffed; Yahoo+Jajah; huge Brazilian mergermonster slithers out of rainforest, eats shareholders; Virgin Media intros TV-over-IP-over-TV-over-IP; Globe Tel intros TV-over-3G; Sony Ericsson offers nightmare coding turducken; all-open-source mobile dev framework Flyer

No! Don’t do it! Think of your family! It’s one of those moments where someone’s about to be very ill-advised indeed, and the rest of us can but watch in horror and incredulity. Yes, we said Deutsche Telekom was a company with a huge overseas acquisition in their future, and guess what? They want to buy…the Telco USSR, Sprint Nextel. Apparently DTAG considered a bid for Nextel way back when - so no wonder they’re interested in getting it cheap, with Sprint thrown in free (they spent $40bn on Voicestream alone - they’re now looking at $23bn for the whole Sprint empire). But you have to wonder why anyone would want this: let’s see, that’s German, British, Dutch and US GSM and UMTS, German DSL, VDSL and even some ISDN, CDMA2000 at mainline Sprint mobile, iDen at Nextel, WiMAX at Sprint XOHM, more GSM/UMTS in Central Europe, FLASH OFDM in Slovakia and UMTS TDD in the Czech Republic. To say nothing of their competing global carrier operations, and WLAN hotspots, and SprintLink US fibre, and T-Systems call centres…

It’s like a charming screwball comedy entitled Converge This!, in which we follow the exploits of two hilariously ill-matched OSS-BSS engineers, Sven and Sven, as they strive to integrate the back-office operations of a giant mobile phone company that uses literally every network protocol in existence…no wonder the Frankfurt stock market doesn’t like it at all.

What is considerably less funny is the answer to our question: basically, the German government, which owns a large chunk of DTAG, is mad keen to see them do a “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” moment in Washington (well, Overland Park, KS) by becoming the US’s biggest mobile operator. They may have forgotten that the character in Raoul Walsh’s film said that whilst standing on top of a giant tank of petrol in an oil refinery on fire, being shot at by the police….

But what is funny is that some US politicians apparently think German ownership of Sprint would be a menace to national security…

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April 22, 2008

Another Kind of Platform: Telcos as Development Environments

Another common use of the word “platform” that sometimes confuses people is the way it’s used to describe the technology that goes around individual applications in a computer system. Like Microsoft Windows, Linux, Adobe Flash in the browser, Symbian S60 in a mobile phone, or what have you. IT people spend a lot of time arguing about them, which is probably less stupid than it sounds, because the history of IT has been the history of development platforms.

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April 21, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 20th April 2008

In Today’s Issue: Online businesses crave telco capabilities (potentially…). Motorola rearranges the deckchairs. Nokia profits up 25%, but you wouldn’t want to see what went into that. Is Comes With Music a lossmaker? Nobody pays for the stuff anyway. Silverlight everywhere. And Moonlight. Is Microsoft IBM in 1993? 1,788 entries in the Android dev competition, but Google can’t keep a SIP server running. They can send a man to the moon… O2 users optimise radio network by whingeing. FTel+TeliaSonera=nightmare on Wall Street? Truphone gets a cash dump. UPS saves fuel with a platform. Pat Robertson, selfless crusader for your digital rights? AT&T fearmongering vs Andrew Odlyzko; there can only be one winner. Data centres in containers will eat the world. EBay finds giving away telephony is not a business. And there’s the day the YouTube died.

Ed Wray, CEO of Betfair, the world’s biggest betting exchange, came to last week’s Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm and told the assembled crowd of telcosians he would be delighted to pay a telco to solve his ‘digital logistics’ problems. Authentication is crucial to Betfair’s business, not just to prevent fraud but also to prevent Americans and the under-age from using the site, something which can lead to an executive jail problem. And telcos, he says, can provide it. At the moment, it’s costing him $22 to verify the identity of each new customer; with 1.5 million active customers, you could see how that might get expensive.

“There’s a tendency when building a platform business to do too much yourself - I come back to payments, I come back to authentication. People in this room can do this,” he said. A couple of telco execs came up to him afterwards to double check that he really was supporting the analysis on which the event was based.

In a keynote the day before, Sally Davies, CEO of BT Wholesale, described the 2-sided business model opportunity as “exciting and compelling”, but with many challenges in execution ahead. If there was a single theme of the conference, that was it; you couldn’t move for people who’d independently come to similar conclusions to those in the newly released the Voice & Messaging 2.0 and 2-Sided Business Model reports. The issue, of course, is how to disseminate these ideas more widely…

Much more analysis of last week’s Telco 2.0 event to come…

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March 19, 2008

Mobile Advertising and Marketing Awards: Roundup

Guest post from Mobile Enterprise CEO Tony Riley:

The first Mobile Advertising and Marketing Awards Conference was held in London on 12th/13th March 2008. The event continued many of the themes from the GSMA’s CMO Forum and the Telco 2.0 program. It added its own unique sound bites enhancing previous debate and also a few new insights into “what the industry is really facing.” Here are a few thoughts from the conference:

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Interview: TM Forum’s Chairman, Keith Willetts

As described in an article in November the work of the TM Forum is becoming more and more important to the development of new telecoms business models.

It’s been trying to simplify the interactions between telcos for years by standardising their OSS-BSS interfaces; if the Telco 2.0 vision comes to pass, what with all those third-party innovators, payments going upstream and downstream, and user data flowing through dozens of APIs, we’re really going to need answers to a whole world of questions around OSS-BSS, roaming, interconnection, and settlement. After all, arbitrarily large numbers of small services (either on their own or as part of bigger organisations) will be busy interacting with telco networks, and the complex of telco, third party developer and customers will be interacting with other telcos, other systems, and other businesses; we’d better have these things nailed down.

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As a prelude to their important Management World event on 18-22 May in Nice, we spoke to Keith Willetts, their Chairman (and one of the nicest men in telecoms), about convergence, trends in OSS/BSS and data mining - critical issues, as was re-iterated at the CMO Forum at the Mobile World Congress:

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March 17, 2008

Voice Revolution Watch

The vision of our Voice & Messaging 2.0 project is coming ever closer in reality. Two pieces of news this week underline this; first, Sony extends in-game VoIP to more PlayStation Portables. (You’ll remember, of course, that earlier this week Sony filed patents on a PSPhone.). Second, IBM pours $1bn into unified comms. In this article we explore where the telco can fit in…

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March 4, 2008

The Telecoms Transaction Platform: Seven Key Questions

Telco 2.0 is all about new business models telcos need in order to survive the crashing price of their staple product, voice. We reckon that addressing entirely different markets and needs — in particular the two-sided business model — is the answer. But sometimes it’s hard to explain this; so we came up with a new framework for it. So we’re going to try to work out what, precisely, goes into one of these “platforms” we keep talking about, how much of it there is, and eventually, how much it will cost.

To start, remember there are two things that go to make up this model: 1.) the ability for partners to re-package distribution assets (broadband networks, voice networks, etc.) independent of the telco’s own retail efforts, via rich new wholesale products; and 2.) B2B value-added services you build on top that use telco network and customer data assets to support largely non-telco business processes. In this article we’re just talking about the great big transaction platform that support the latter of these.

We assume the underlying infrastructure gets “Openreached” (for the access loops) or “Level(3)’d” (for the backbone). In other words, physical access ultimately becomes part of a multi-utility company, based off a model more like that for estate management, with 30+ year investment horizons and stable annunity rents. The core belongs to specialist wholesalers who thrive on volume. Also let’s assume telcos remain weak at feature-based product development (which seems fair). So, what is left? Quite a lot. But surely it’s now useless shorn of being an end-user services innovator? Absolutely not.

The remaining telco assets are capable of answering seven very important questions:

  1. Who are you? We’re talking authentication and identity here, based on the verified billing records in the BSS and OSS, plus security assets such as the SIM.
  2. Where are you? Mobile operators especially have a huge resource of information about location.
  3. How are you? We already see some rich presence-and-availability services, though driven by a desperate bid to compete with Web 2.0 apps. Some instant messaging addicts (think of it as “digital chocolate”) spend a surprising amount of time updating avatars and mood messages to reflect their emotional state, not just doing one-to-one messaging. Capture these behaviours and you will create major opportunities in anything that involves changes of status. Presence is to time as cell-site location and GPS are to space — we just need to figure out the business model still.
  4. Do you have credit? All the data by-products of billing; telcos can make your application aware of money. The Internet can route packets, but not payments.
  5. How can we reach you? Operators not only can reach you via their own communications services, but often can associate together multiple addresses or identifiers.
  6. Who do you know? No-one has more social graph data than a telco. Users have invested their most previous assets — time and money — in creating this data. It’s very valuable.
  7. Any questions? However good the processes, there are always problems that have to be dealt with by a human being. Telcos have massive call-centre capability, and are used to providing support to both enterprises and consumers.

Does anyone really doubt that there’s money in those capabilities if they can be packaged and promoted appropriately?

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February 18, 2008

Telco 2.0’s Private Mobile World Congress

So everyone else has done their 3GSM…sorry…Mobile World Congress round-up posts; what did Telco 2.0 think was cool? As you’ll no doubt guess, it wasn’t the shiny gadgets that got us; even at MWC, the anti-shiny goggles all Telco 2.0 team members get issued still block them out. It was a very serious conference this year; we think it may have been the first to get serious about the kinds of communication and enterprise-focused activities that will eventually make serious money for carriers. We broke them down by themes…

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February 12, 2008

Microsoft-Yahoo: What does it mean for telcos?

There’s been no shortage of analysis of what Microsoft’s proposed takeover of Yahoo means for the participants themselves or the technology industry at large. Indeed, the markets are speaking and suggest deep misgivings about the whole venture. Nonetheless, what’s been lacking so far is deep analysis of what the deal could mean for telcos.

The questions are intriguingly simple, even if the answers are not:

  • Are they in our business, and are we in theirs? In what ways are Microsoft and Yahoo in competition with telcos, and vice-versa?
  • Does a consolidation among portal/IM partners have a strategic impact?
  • Are there new opportunities to collaborate and gain mutual benefit from the combined forces?

To end the suspense, our overall conclusion is that the deal has little impact, either as a threat or opportunity. The reasons, however, may not always be the ones you expect.

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January 31, 2008

Platform businesses: Competing with Big Tech

When you’re lost in the cycle of product development, marketing and customer support it’s sometimes hard to see the big picture of the forces reshaping the structure of the telecoms industry. In particular, telcos are in an unfolding position of co-opetition with what you might call ‘Big Tech’ — the IT technology, commerce and services giants. These increasingly overlap with telco functions. Many of these companies have platform business models. These create value for end users as well as upstream suppliers, and extracting revenue from joining the two sides together. Think Google, Amazon, Sun Microsystems or Salesforce.com. Companies like IBM specialise in construction and servicing of platforms, even if they don’t always feel the need to own them.

We strongly believe that telcos need to form a platform around their own unique assets. But what drives the economics of platforms, how should the telco platform be positioned against those IT platforms, and what lessons can telcos learn from them?

Mass-produced IT processes for a mass-production world

It’s often been suggested that various so-called network industries exhibit increasing returns to scale; whether or not you accept Metcalfe’s law, it’s empirically obvious that the Internet years’ most significant companies have been ones that made their first priority to build scale and volume. For all the above examples, their businesses are all centred on very large IT platforms and their economic models often involve selling at very low prices, or even giving services away, in order to pull in more volume.

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January 28, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 28th January 2008

A very selective tech downturn: as the stock market tanked, Nokia reached its world-domination target of 40% total market share. They celebrated with a recreational acquisition, buying Norwegian mobile-Linux specialists Trolltech. This brings not only their Linux technology, but also their cross-platform development environment Qt on board; this is presumably a means of hedging against Google Android et al. The mobile development race continues.

Meanwhile, a closer look at the figures for handset market share suggests one thing. It’s not just that Nokia is doing well; Motorola is doing catastrophically.

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January 7, 2008

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 7th January 2008

BT strikes in the set-top box market; they’re the first to ship Xbox360 consoles as IPTV endpoints. And there’s more; BT Vision gets an “on-screen magazine” based on the same single platform. We’ve often said that the fixed-line world doesn’t get user equipment, and that this creates interesting opportunities; BT has just leapt right on it. See our case study on Iliad’s Freebox in the Broadband Business Models report.

PS: we’re trying out a new format for Ring! Ring!…

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December 11, 2007

IBM/Economist CEO Survey Supports Telco 2.0 messages

IBM and The Economist’s annual survey of top telecoms executives is out; it reinforces the messages we’ve been trying to convey in this blog and via the Telco 2.0 Initiative as a whole.

69% of IBM/EIU respondents thought that “business model transformation” was the most important source of value, compared to 34% in 2002. 72% of those people specified “collaboration with external partners” - and that certainly isn’t the first time you’ve seen that here - as a “critical initiative”.

Compare this result from our Broadband Business Models 2.0 report; when we asked our (rather larger) sample of telecoms types about the best commercial approach to delivering video, this is what we got:

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December 10, 2007

Ring! Ring! Hot News, 10th December

In Today’s Issue: Asia goes crazy for network sharing, plastic fibre, fixed-line videocalls (yes, really), Opera Mini conquers all, make a widget and win a Nokia N95, UMA gadget with 2GB storage, data centre heists, iFlop, BlackBerry WiFi on a plane, Nokia threatens UGC boom, new torrent tracker tech terror, free music, ads in P2P movies, and Telco 2.0 Recommends…

Broadband Connectivity

Vodafone, Bharti, Idea in monster network sharing deal.

Telco 2.0 Comment: Shared, structurally separated, and community-owned infrastructure is a major industry trend in responding to the broadband incentive problem. This deal is especially interesting due to its sheer size; India is getting a giant shared mobile infrastructure operator, which will probably draw in other carriers.

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November 12, 2007

Ring! Ring! Monday ‘Hot News’, 12th November

In this edition of Telco 2.0’s ‘Hot News’ : Viviane Reding wants the power; The iPhone fails to explode in Europe; Who needs Google Android when we’ve got LiMo?; TD-SCDMA gadgets, at last; T-Mobile Shadow under test; 900MHz 3G is here; Sprint and Clearwire fall out; Helio burns yet more cash; BT buys Sonus kit; COLT buys an IMS. Plus, ‘Telco 2.0 Recommends…’: the best from last week’s blogosphere.

Digital Politics and Regulation

Reding wants the power…the power to unbundle all Europe.

Telco 2.0 Comment: Proposed; a single regulator for everything that’s European and telecoms, with you-know-who in charge. It’s a fearful vision if you’re Telco 1.0, and pretty scary if you’re Telco 2.0, come to think of it. Expect much more structural separation if this happens.

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October 29, 2007

Ring! Ring! Monday News Analysis, 29th October

Portals, Partners, and Platforms

Apple: sorry, we don’t accept money. Seriously; you can’t buy an iPhone for cash. Unless you’re a telco, in which case Apple may be after as much as $400 in revenue-sharing for each gadget.

Telco2.0 Comment: There are a couple of interesting things here. First up, the relationship between Apple and AT&T; handset subsidies have landed in North America with a vengeance. One wonders how long AT&T will stick it; if they have any choice. Secondly, Apple’s increasingly desperate efforts to keep control of the devices - they have started refusing to sell iPhones to cash buyers, presumably so they know where their customers live. [Business idea: French law prohibits sales of locked devices. Stock up on iPhones there and re-sell them around the rest of Europe and/or re-import them to the US!]

O2 and Orange, meanwhile, plan to recoup the Apple Danegeld from data charges.

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October 17, 2007

What will those 40Gbits Grannies download?

One of the less-discussed points about the joy of muni-fibre, and for that matter commercial FTTH, is what happens in the next hop. At the moment, the last mile is the slowest hop, in terms of data rate. The backbone is usually considered to be OK, thanks to the dark fibre phenomenon, technical improvements such as DWDM, and the fact it’s easier to lay more fibre in one dig next to the highway than ten thousand digs in the city centre. Especially in L2TP/bitstream markets, the sector from the aggregation point to the ISP’s gateway router is more of a problem, but this is usually a matter of ex-incumbent pricing rather than a real shortage.

But if the access network gets replaced by fibre, what then? ISP engineers deal daily in interconnects up to Gigabit Ethernet, but if 40Gbits Granny’s in town, there’s going to be a quantum leap in demand at the next hop after the fibre access ring. In fact, it’s worse than that; Granny is a special case, but a town’s worth of 100Mbits/s Mums means you’ll rapidly reach genuinely huge demands on the pipe out to the backbone. For that matter, you wouldn’t need that many to strain your friendly local IX.

That’s the sort of thing you have to think about when you’re sitting next to Ad Ketelaars of Eindhoven’s munifibre deployment, while Chris Schoettle of Akamai is presenting. Shoettle, unsurprisingly, thinks CDNs are great, and so do we; but there’s better than that. He makes an important point about distance and speed - quite simply, going from less than 100 to 500-1000 miles’ worth of speed-of-light latency means that a file you could be pulling down at 44Mbits/s (if you have fibre) instead arrives around 4Mbits/s. If you’re constrained by the local loop, you’re unlikely to notice the difference; once the speeds go up, though, you certainly will.

No wonder, then, that Eindhoven is keen to get not just CDN capacity in their backyard, but another IX somewhere in southern Holland or Belgium to take some of the load off AMS-IX. Screaming-fast local loops will force us to invest in content-delivery networking and related problems.

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Red Hat@Telco 2.0; Re-Engineering Telco Infrastructure

Telco 2.0 Comment: We’re delighted to have the people from Red Hat’s telco business at Telco 2.0. Ivelin Ivanov, their director of product development, agreed to do a guest post for us about telcos and their JBoss Java-based comms platform; it’s like a really tiny SDP that fits into products like IP-PBXs. In fact, when Ivelin demonstrated it, it turned out it was running on his laptop. If that isn’t cool, I don’t know what is.
Who would think a few years ago that the telco industry would ever reach a pace of innovation comparable to the web world? Well, it happened. Most still wouldn’t agree, but maybe pointing out a few facts will help.

Earlier this year the web thought leaders launched amazing new online tools for web mashups - Yahoo Pipes, Microsoft Popfly and Google Mashup Editor. They took over the web developers community by storm and changed the way applications are written and deployed. A new computing environment emerged.

A series of posts followed in the telco blogosphere, proposing interesting ideas for telco mashups. Some good examples came up during the O’Reilly Emerging Telephony Conference (ETel).

It was magical for me to find out that a tier one carrier was tuned in and listening to all the cool talk in town. Not only listening but also acting on it. Last week I was presented with early access account to an online service exposing telco services in a way easily consumable by mashups. Hopefully the service will reach general availability shortly and I will be able to post more about my experience with it while creating converged online services.

While there is a lot being said about creating mashups, it is less clear how one can create services that can be converged via mashups. Recently Telco 2.0 wrote about evolving telco platforms. The article argued that while Level 1 and 2 platforms are feasible and will evolve, Level 3 platforms have no future.

We would like to challenge the latter statement. L3 platforms are proven to work well in the enterprise middleware market and are starting to take off in the telco middleware space as well. At least open source L3 platforms are.

Yesterday, on the Telco 2.0 Product and Partnership Innovation track, I demonstrated a DVD Online Store service, which will show convergence of several middleware technologies - web, SOA, process management, and call control running on an integrated Level 3 service delivery platform.

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October 8, 2007

Ring! Ring! Monday News Analysis, 8th October

As a preview to the Telco 2.0 event next week in London, here are some relevant news items from the last week to help stimulate the furious debate among the participating cognoscenti:

Ever wanted to physically wave a game controller round your head? Now you can, thanks to Nokia researcher Paul Coulson.

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October 4, 2007

Evolving Internet ‘Platforms’ - Lessons for Telcos?

Says über-geek Marc Andreessen (Co-Founder of Netscape, and ex-CTO of AOL):
“One of the hottest of hot topics these days is the topic of Internet platforms, or platforms on the Internet. Web services APIs (application programming interfaces), web services protocols like REST and SOAP, the new Facebook platform, Amazon’s web services efforts including EC2 and S3, lots of new startups talking platform (including my own company, Ning)… well, “platform” is turning into a central theme of our industry and one that a lot of people want to think about and talk about.

Indeed. Andreessen is certainly right to say that there is a lot of confusion about it, too - we mentioned this in our post on jNetX. In an attempt to clarify this, he defines a platform as any system capable of modification by the user; we broadly agree with this. What we find more interesting is his three-way typology of platforms, and the importance he attaches to them.

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September 27, 2007

How Practical is your SDP?

Members of the Telco 2.0 team went on a trip to the Italian Lakes this week, where we were stimulating and facilitating an impressively organised conference for Service Delivery Platform experts jNetX and a gaggle of telco people from most parts of Europe. We used a basic version of our interactive Mindshare approach to elicit audience feedback on the issues raised.

Some people there had a funny reaction to our use of the word “platform”, central as it is to the Telco 2.0 vision - isn’t a platform really an operating system? Or something used when drilling for oil? They’re right, of course; a Telco 2.0 platform is a sort of operating system, just as Salesforce.com or Amazon’s IT infrastructure can be seen as a sort of single huge computer. But it became increasingly clear that this cuts both ways; you need the right platform in the second sense to do a platform in the first sense right.

Where did it all go wrong, Telco 2.0?

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September 19, 2007

The Joy of ‘Functional Separation’ - Panel on Telecom TV

Following our Q&A last week with Steve Robertson, CEO of Openreach (“proud guardians of the UK’s local access network”), we organised a panel on Telecom TV to discuss the impact on business model innovation of the ‘functional separation’ of this unit from the BT Group (see vid below). Anne Heal, (MD, Openreach) and Kip Meek (Chairman, BSG) were there too. They were on opposite sides of the Ofcom-BT negotiations that led to this groundbreaking separation two year’s ago. Beware: The European Commission is very interested in how this model could be spread elsewhere…

We met the Openreach team yesterday to discuss Steve’s stimulus presentation for the Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm Plenary on the 17th Oct. Building on the Q&A and the panel, Steve is working up something new for the event: his analysis of the technical, commerical and cultural/organisational changes that could have the biggest impact on business model innovation for ‘communication providers’ in the next 3-5 years. Also, his rating and criteria for judging how easy/difficult these might be to implement. The audience will then feedback their views via the ‘Mindshare’ interactive process. This should stimulate a great panel discussion with Gord Graylish from Intel (who’ll have spoken about innovation opportunities around new device categories) and Ross Fowler from Cisco (who’ll unveil latest thinking on how to deal with OTT players). A big thank to all these guys for putting real effort into contributing something new - not the toothless corporate presentations we see so often at events… Here’s the Telecom TV panel:

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September 18, 2007

Vodafone: A “Total Communications” Company?

The Times recently interviewed Arun Sarin, CEO of Vodafone. The Newbury empire once held ambitions of global hegemony as the biggest, baddest vertically integrated telco of them all. In a more pragmatic era, they’ve been working on getting the basics of business right, with their own glasnost and perestroika programmes to re-invigorate the mobile operator model.

Sarin’s remarks are consistent with the strategic move Vodafone is making into a new phase of its business. In the last year or so they have moved away from being simply a really big mobile network operator. He says he wants Vodafone to become a “total communications company”. In pursuit of this, they’ve been investing in fixed-line DSL and PSTN activities, either as a reseller (as in the UK) or by buying up assets (as with the acquisition of Tele2), or just by integrating more closely with their once forgotten fixed assets (as with Arcor in Germany), .

There’s a clear Telco 2.0 angle here; a key point in Telco 2.0 analysis is that the connectivity is no longer special. Rather, it is becoming a commodity — something easily purchased on the open market by any entrant for a predictable price. Further, its tight coupling with other parts of the value chain is melting away. Therefore, the distinctions between mobile and fixed operators, between networks and virtual network operators, and between telcos or ISPs, content providers, IT service providers, and consumer electronics firms are increasingly irrelevant. What now matters is the assembly of elements from the horizontalised soup into attractive propositions to customers. As we said about France Telecom, this may mean that integrated fixed-mobile telcos have more life in them than you might think. (Our current Survey will help to clarify that point anyway).

Sarin spoke of “mobile plus”, and pointedly mentioned that the company is getting into mobile advertising but would not become a content producer. Could this perhaps signal that Vodafone — traditionally the most telcoish of mobile operators — is thinking of a platform strategy?

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September 14, 2007

Putting the “service” into Service Delivery Platforms

One of the things keeping us busy right now in preparing the stimulus for the Telco 2.0 brainstorm in October is the practicalities of how operators can turn themselves into platform businesses. A platform business is one that:

  • Makes money without having to define the whole end-user value proposition: that is left to third parties.
  • Is integral and value-adding to those third party products and services, beyond just product distribution or retail.

Operators already have several successful platforms, such as i-mode and premium SMS, where third parties create the content and applications. They need to develop more. The challenge going forwards is threefold:

  • What to open up to 3rd parties, beyond billing functions?
  • How to technically integrate the core real-time functions of telephony and messaging?
  • How to make money?

A key enabling technology of a platform is the Service Delivery Platform (SDP). This is a piece of software that telephony and other real-time applications can run inside. An SDP deals with the nuts and bolts stuff of failover, scalability, and monitoring. It also provides a standardised interface to that application software to the heterogeneous network and IT world beyond. They are complex and expensive to buy and deploy, so it matters if you buy one and how you use it.

However, SDPs are positioned by vendors as a technology sale, and the business model often remains fuzzy. The sales message tends to breathlessly begin “Now you can deploy hundreds of new services in weeks, not years!” Just nobody knows what they are, or how they’ll be sold or supported. (Just go tell customer care you’re launching thirty new services next week, and see what happens. I advise wearing body armour.)

So in this post we review the core ‘Telco 2.0’ business strategies and explore some of the context for SDPs and a platform business strategy.

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September 3, 2007

Ring! Ring! Monday News Analysis - 3rd September, 2007

This week we look at important stories concerning Product Innovation, Broadband Connectivity, Technology Disruption, Regulation, Partners.

Digital Product Innovation

Nokia is reconceptualising itself; it wants to be an “Internet-driven experience company,” not just a crummy old vendor. To that end, its web presence is being shuffled into a new portal called “Ovi” (it’s Finnish for “door”), which will integrate its new music shop, its Web 2.0 activities (eg Lifeblog), and a rebooted mobile games division. Even N-Gage looks like it might get a new lease of life..

Telco 2.0 Comment: Horizontalisation isn’t just for travel agents and bloggers, y’know. Nokia is probably the keenest of the vendors on trying to shunt the carriers out of the way and get a direct relationship with users; this was only to be expected.

100 million prepaid subs in the Middle East.

Telco 2.0 Comment: Note the surging growth at Iran’s two heavily prepaid networks, Taliya and Irancell (MTN Investcom); contrast the sluggish incumbent MCI. The recipe for emerging markets is still low prices, prepay, credit transfer, SMS, and autonomous distribution. These strategies also work pretty well in Germany too…

China Telecom’s business is hammered by mobile.

Telco 2.0 Comment: It’s not just in the 100% mobile penetration world that the fixed-line business model is sinking fast - it’s also in rural China.

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August 28, 2007

Music as DSL Subsidy, and Cuffware

French ADSL operator Neuf Cegetel has turned platform, recruiting Universal Media as a partner in its new music service.

For €4.99 a month over and above their usual €29.90 triple-play tariff, you can download as many songs as you want from the entirety of Universal’s back catalogue. A less extensive service is free. It’s clear what Neuf Cegetel is up to, right? Facing the usual DSL operator’s struggle to survive incumbent competiton, they’re adding new revenue-generating services that cross-subsidise the ISP operation. And, as usual, one of the simplest ways to do this is through platforms and partners.

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August 27, 2007

Ring! Ring! Monday News Analysis: 27th August

These weekly news roundups are a new Telco 2.0 service; they focus attention on news items that might not be Telco 2.0-related at first sight, or big enough to warrant a whole post to themselves, but do contain important developments. They are grouped under the same categories as the rest of the Telco 2.0 blog.

Digital Politics and Regulation

Rene Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, wants to keep some monopolist privileges; and who can blame him?

Telco 2.0 Comment: It’s curious how some of the regulations introduced to create competition in the telco market are actually profoundly anti-competitive. Network-sharing, for example, was discouraged in order to create competing physical networks. Now, of course, it’s becoming ever clearer that competition is horizontal; and requiring duplication is really a way of protecting big telcos by increasing the barriers to entry.

Viviane Reding is reportedly plotting a new, broader European regulator on the model of Ofcom.

Telco 2.0 Comment: As the competition spreads horizontally, so does the regulator.

700MHz auction set for the 18th of January.

Telco 2.0 Comment: It’s gradually coming closer; soon we’ll see the colour of Google’s money. Speaking of money, the FCC seems very keen to insist on big reserve prices, a total of $10bn. As usual, the notion of free spectrum is a long way away.

Digital Product Innovation

Microsoft Windows Live apps on your Nokia N-series phone.

Telco 2.0 Comment: It may “only” be Live Messenger, Hotmail, Contacts and Spaces, but please note that these are all communications applications. And the carriers? They’ve been disintermediated.

New MVNO offers cheap roaming rates…with an interesting twist.

Telco 2.0 Comment: Now this is interesting; we wonder what the “network” they claim to own is. Clearly they haven’t got spectrum rights in 110 countries, nor have they bought enough base stations to cover the world. Perhaps this is one of the first rogue core networks?

Damned cool idea from Hewlett-Packard: the printer that is everywhere.

Telco 2.0 Comment: Here’s a cracking idea; rather than print documents and take them with you, why not print-to-file on one of HP’s servers, which gives you an SMS shortcode in return? When you need the document, you send them the code as an SMS, and they either send you a PDF file, or route it to a publicly-available printer of your choice. There’s a Google Maps mashup to help you find them. HP is bringing in chains of copy shops as commercial partners, Google as map provider, and acting as a platform itself; so where are the telcos?

Digital Worker

Unified Communications vs End Users

Telco 2.0 Comment: Is the vision of unified enterprise communications, so dear to companies like Cisco, opposed to end-users’ freedom to organise their own communications and communities? Skype, and the Asterisk folk, seem to think so.

Digital Youth

Security expert: beware security threat. According to F-Secure there are now some 400 items of mobile malware in the wild.

Telco 2.0 Comment: It’s not malware, it’s unauthorised innovation!

Online gaming shoots past social networks

Telco 2.0 Comment: We’re talking low-investment casual games here; but even if the margins are tiny, the growth rates here show that there is real potential in this sector. Clearly, it addresses some human motivation.

Broadband Connectivity

Indonesia ; mobile network number 10 launches

Telco 2.0 Comment: No-one should need telling that the emerging markets can’t get enough telco, but this is extreme. 10 mobile operators? It’s also interesting that the new entrant, Smart, is a greenfield CDMA operator. Far from common..

Hutchison 3UK loses slightly less money.

Telco 2.0 Comment: Perhaps their new role, competing with T-Mobile as the geek’s mobile operator and throwing out partnerships with MSN, Yahoo!, Slingbox, and Skype, is beginning to help? You’d do well to remain sceptical, though. It’s not as if 3 hasn’t spent enough money being cool.

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August 15, 2007

IT Giants: Commoditise This!

Not so long ago, Indian IT services company Wipro joined the IMS Forum and announced that from now on, it would offer a range of IMS development services. There’s a whitepaper of theirs here on IMS, but this paragraph from the EE Times story interested us more..
With the evolution of the IMS technology, Wipro has matured its IMS offerings towards becoming an integral part of the converged digital media delivery ecosystem,” said Nagamani Murthy, Wipro VP, mobile and consumer electronics group.
Clearly, Wipro sees IMS as just another data transport system; “he’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty means of transporting information goods.” Of course, as far as developing applications for IMS client devices goes, this is precisely what IMS was meant to do (at least, one of the vast number of things it was meant to do) - open up applications development to a bigger community outside telco R&D groups. Traditional telcos might even be cheered by this as evidence that rather than letting just anyone develop applications, they are being developed by big companies on contract to other big companies.

But who would imagine it would stop there? At Wipro, they have a constant risk of a namespace collision with another IMS; Infrastructure Management Services. This is the line of business where they install, commission, and manage private networks, including (according to their website) high-capacity switching systems. And IMS is nothing if it’s not a high-capacity switching system. OK, so network outsourcing is not that new an idea, but the shift to IP-based networks means there’s something much more disruptive out there..

scientists prepare to experiment on a helpless telco

Scientists prepare to experiment on a helpless telco

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August 10, 2007

Why are there no mobile CDNs?

If you’ve been with us so far, you probably know that Telco 2.0 likes content-delivery networking (CDNing) a lot. So much so we invited an executive vice president from market leaders Akamai Networks to the next Telco 2.0 executive brainstorm this October. Even though a couple of CDN operators - Akamai and Limelight - recently had a bad day on the stock market, we’re still confident of this judgement. After all, when Wall Street is annoyed because your profits were only up 55 per cent, it’s probably their problem rather than yours.

A CDN, to recap, is a way of delivering bandwidth-heavy content (usually video) over the Internet efficiently. Standard methods have the downside that the same material has to be transferred out of the provider’s network, over the backbone, and into the user’s ISP network at least once for each user; peering and transit costs are incurred at each stage. Further, the load on the provider’s servers is a problem. In a CDN, Web servers are placed at strategic points inside customer ISPs and filled with content. Requests are then redirected to the CDN box, so each item only has to be transferred outside the ISP once.

It has the major advantage that everyone’s happy; you’re happy because the load on your own servers is relieved, and your stuff is delivered faster than the competition, your ISP is happy because their peers aren’t yelling any more, and the downstream ISP is happy because the weight of traffic has been moved inside their own system, where (depending on their business model) it’s either cheaper or effectively free. And none of this involves reducing other people’s quality of service or doing any other evil. It’s elegant engineering, and good economics.

The reason, deeper down, why CDNing works is that it understands where the bottlenecks are; the critical paths, the limiting factors, the maximum cuts. In this case, the bottleneck is the network edge, because it’s where the economic activity occurs. The Internet’s economic model is that interconnection is what creates value, realised either by barter (peering) or in cash (transit).

So why are there no CDNs in mobile networking?

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July 25, 2007

France Telecom, Part 2: Little Boxes, All The Same

So we mentioned Liveboxes. The box contains an ADSL modem, a four-port Ethernet/WLAN router, and some other stuff running on its kernel. Specifically, there’s a socket for a standard PSTN handset, so you can use FT’s carrier-VoIP service, and a Bluetooth radio so you can walk about with the same service. There’s also an IPTV client, so you can watch FT’s TV.

Now, I don’t know what’s actually driving the thing - but many of these boxes have a real operating system, usually a small Linux distro. (Note that if you want to DIY, there’s a Linux available for the Linksys WRT54G router.) A lot of them can be remotely managed by a system administrator over the Internet - something which has already had embarrassing consequences for at least one ISP, whose CPEs shipped with the default passwords set and were promptly hacked.

This has all been a little techie by Telco2.0 standards so far. But here is the vital upshot: this is what a platform for new services looks like. Once you have a little box in the customer’s living room with an IP address, a general-purpose OS, and remote admin access, you’re in a position to come up with new ideas and get them out to the market very quickly indeed.

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Hidden Potential: France Telecom

How do major telcos respond to the challenges of Telco 2.0? France Telecom’s experience offers some answers.

FT is perhaps the archetypal traditional PTT; still part-nationalised, with a dominant position in fixed-line, ISP, and mobile markets at home. During the .com boom, the carrier expanded heavily and ran into debt (it didn’t help that the government hit it up for some cash to meet the requirements of joining the Euro). Meanwhile, the fixed-line voice market began a steady slide as the first alt.telcos, VoIP, and fixed-mobile substitution began to bite. Although the French government was slower than some to take regulatory action, eventually the new regulator ARCEP began to hammer at the de facto monopoly.

So, what did they do about it?

FT’s acquisitions turned out to be better deals than they looked in the smouldering aftermath. Among other things, they had given the company one of the strongest brands in the industry, Orange, a strong ISP in France (Wanadoo), and stakes in global cable backbones and other world-wide presence that permitted them to build strong businesses in bulk IP networking (Opentransit) and enterprise VPNs (Equant). More recently, the company has decided to go all the way, rolling the entire consumer side into Orange.

In terms of a business model, F Tel/Orange is very keen on bundling. As an integrated full-service carrier, it can offer quad-play in France. Interestingly, it’s trying to take advantage of industry horizontalisation to expand this vertically integrated model elsewhere; in the UK, Orange Broadband is providing PSTN and DSL service over Openreach’s wires through local-loop unbundling, and selling GSM/UMTS mobile service along with it as part of a “free broadband” offer. Telco 2.0 readers are of course well aware that “free broadband” really means “compulsory old technology”.

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July 17, 2007

Behold the Data Transport Systems Project

So you’ve read about our methodology, and you understand that it’s all about the distribution of bits that the recipient considers valuable. You’ve read the map, and the essay that goes with it.

But how will all this be put into practice? For that, you need our Data Transport Systems project - think of it as Telco 2017. From here to October, Martin Geddes, Rafil Khatib, Keith McMahon and I will be inquiring into how the forces detailed in the maps will twist the telecoms industry over the next 10 years. We’ll be looking at everything from BitTorrent to cinemas and USB sticks, and drawing lessons from electricity grids and container shipping networks on how mass wholesale businesses can make very personalised, targeted ones possible.

Not just that, but we’re also interested in failure.

We’ll be looking at the differences between things that succeed and then go obsolete, and the ones that hit the trees at the edge of the airfield. MMS, this means you. There’s also going to be peering, interconnection, and the pressing question of whether telecoms is going to be a for-profit activity in 2017, rather than a huge cost centre like a corporate IT department, a government agency, or Haiti with routers. And if it is still profitable, where it will be making money.

Remember, the Map says by then we’ll see “other” passing broadband, steamphone, and NGN added together. DTS is intended to answer the question of what the other will be. It’s traditional to say that the future might be X, Y, or “something we can’t imagine yet”; but it’s also trivial. It’s abundantly clear that the traditional telco model won’t be “it”, but there are also good reasons to imagine that classic ISPs are not “the future” (so many are morphing into sizable telcolike entities, after all). So what will the synthesis be?

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June 28, 2007

Sweating the operator’s data assets

Given how we wrote about environmental causes recently, we’re going to engage in a little of our own greenery and recycle some old material on user identity whose time appears to have come. I’d like to show you a diagram I first drew up on a whiteboard over four years ago, and prompted me to believe that the real opportunity for network operators was to exploit their data assets.

The thesis is quite simple at heart: it’s not just what you know about the customer that matters. It’s what you know about what you “know” about the customer that matters. In other words, is this really your name, your address, and are these really your friends?

We’ve not been blogging recently because we’ve filled every moment of each day with client work. (You’re welcome to join the queue, however.) One of our assignments involves undersanding the real assets of operators that can be used to resist competition from Internet players, or embrace co-operation with them. Indeed, this seems to be a recurring theme, and we’ve covered it with several client engagements.

So to make up for our silence, here’s a diagram that summarises the competitive picture of identity and data assets of network operators vs. other players in the value chain:

Let’s understand the model first, and then dig into the implications. You can find some of the credits and sources in the article linked to earlier.

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May 28, 2007

Open platforms — APIs are not enough

Five years ago, everything in mobile was about the flood of innovative applications we could expect from 3G. All eyes were on the services space. The reality was that 3G data was more about driving handsets sales (feature ticklist), and the high margins were in the “dumb pipe” business of roaming mobile enterprise users (datacards and Blackberries).

The space between these two extremes is the platform business that a few telcos are only now just beginning to embark on creating. Keep yourself in the value chain by being a supplier of identity, payment, content delivery, personalisation, advertising, and adaptable wholesale connectivity capabilities. Enable a partner ecosystem which addresses the myriad niches a one-size-fits-all product strategy can’t reach.

Over the weekend I was installing some extensions for my email client, and I thought it would make a good case study in failing to drive home strategic advantage of a platform strategy because of a poor user experience and execution. In this case, Mozilla (who make the Firefox browser and Thunderbird email client) have screwed it up on an epic scale. Learn from their mistakes.

This is important. The real threat to operator cash cow services from Internet players does not come from VoIP arbitrage (e.g. Skype), or even the stagnating portal players (Yahoo!, MSN, et al) and their hybrid IM/VoIP clients. It’s from social networking and self-expression companies like Facebook, with deep relationships with their customers (far deeper than telcos or traditional nemeses like Nokia). They’re learning to open up their platforms. As one VC puts it, choosing between supporting a platform-centric partner-friendly business model, and one that isn’t (like, say, a telco) “isn’t a decision, it’s an IQ test”. You’d have to be stupid not to choose the former.

Ultimately every social networking or commerce hub will seize the user interface (via the buddy list or directory) and control who gets the revenue from communications. Today, the fight is on in every segment to become the hub for relationships — kids, teens, twentysomethings, B2B, consumer to SME and consumer to enterprise. Some of these may become “the next Microsoft” as impossible-to-bypass pinch points in the communications value chain.

From Cluetrain to Smart Mobs, to Communities Dominate Brands — the runes all spell the same thing: open up, engage others in co-creation of value, share the rewards.

Anyhow, enough of strategy. Back to execution.

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May 23, 2007

Interview: Russ McGuire & Sprint Nextel SAWS Platform

We recently had the pleasure of talking to Russ McGuire, Director of Corporate Strategy for Sprint Nextel. Russ is a fellow blogger, and also is an industry authority on pretty much any issue you choose to discuss. We asked him how how Sprint Nextel is looking at the market through a Telco 2.0 lens. He directed us to the Sprint Advanced Wireless Solutions (SAWS) as an example of applying a platform and partnership approach to the corporate market. We liked it for several reasons: customer needs focused, opening up core IT and network functions to 3rd party enterprise applications, organisational change to support delivery, and a proactive approach to partnership. Who cares about being a dumb pipe if you’re making your money from your customer support and IT capabilities?

Russ has kindly taken the time to answer some questions on the programme and share the lessons with Telco 2.0 blog readers.

What does the program offer?

SAWS is designed to be an end-to-end solution for businesses wanting to capture the power of mobility. A SAWS engagement starts with a discussion of whether the customers’ needs are well addressed by one of the SAWS solutions, which may include Advisory Services, then moves into pre-implementation preparation, implementation including integration with the business’ existing operations, and finally includes ongoing managed services to ensure that the customer continues to have Sprint’s full support in safely and reliably operating their mobile solution.

The SAWS program includes identifying and integrating the right hardware, the right software, the right network connectivity, and the right ongoing management to ensure that the solution helps our customers be more competitive and profitable.

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April 13, 2007

Guest blog: Sowing the Seeds of the Portalpocalypse

One of our speakers at the “Telco 2.0 event”, Marty Algire , VP of Platform and Products for RadialPoint shared some entertaining ideas on how operators could turn the tide of commoditization on the Web portals and search companies. We’ve invited Marty to do a guest blog post for Telco 2.0 and share those ideas with a wider audience.

The Telco 2.0 primary claim is about the separation of network connectivity from user facing applications and services, and the Web 2.0 influences on those applications and services. One of the strategies of Telco 2.0 is “partnerships and 3rd parties’ innovations are required to complete the bundle.” This platform/partner strategy was lifted directly from the Telco 2.0 blog, and has been repeated in some form or another by industry analysts and SDP vendors for at least the last 5 years.

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