Now that WeChat has more than 100 million overseas subscribers, Tencent, China’s leading web content provider, faces a new challenge: improving the experience of its customers outside of China. Steep rises in content consumption — largely driven by the increasing use of mobile devices to access services and information — represent a significant opportunity for content companies like WeChat to go global. To achieve this, Tencent has made positive steps in boosting its investment in data centers and networking outside of China.
To improve its user experience in the rest of Asia, Tencent recently announced that it will colocate one data center in Hong Kong and has chosen Equinix to operate it. This is already the second node that Tencent has built outside of mainland China; the first was implemented in Canada to serve North American users.
As an Internet company that operates its own large data centers in mainland China, Tencent has deep experience in data center construction and management and has leveraged this experience to develop best practices and key criteria for data center provider selection. These include:
Networking and interconnection options. As Tencent intends to rapidly expand its business into more countries, it needs carrier-neutral data center providers to offer the necessary connectivity options. For its Hong Kong implementation, Tencent used Equinix to optimize transit routes to achieve lower latency and better connect users inside and outside of mainland China; the data center provider can access multiple networks and peer with members of the Equinix Internet Exchange.
Telstra’s recent FY13 earnings announcement recorded a strong showing of its Network Application and Services (NAS) division, which saw a 17.7 per cent increase in revenue to A$1.5 billion from the previous year. Its international business delivered a combined Global Connectivity and NAS revenue of A$566 million, or a growth of 11.4 per cent from the previous year. Telstra also plans to continue to build out its NAS division, particularly in Asia.
What It Means
A beneficiary of the NAS investment is Telstra Global, nestled under its International division, offering network connectivity and services to enterprises in Asia. In my recent report, I argued that Telstra Global is a well-placed partner for medium-size to large companies in sectors like transportation and logistics, shipping, manufacturing, and professional services looking to expand their operations out from Hong Kong, Australia, and Singapore into Southeast Asia and China. While this looks rosy, there are areas that require closer attention:
Recently we attended a Colt Technology Services analyst day in London. It was great to see a technology services provider who is trying to embrace both disruptive ICT trends and challenges facing enterprise IT. Here is a high level summary of our views from the event:
Dan: Colt views its network assets not as its key differentiators - but its IT services. Although IT services today account for only a small fraction of Colt revenues, Colt views its network infrastructure assets as a means to an end to support IT services. Whilst we agree that network infrastructure runs the risk of commoditisation, Colt’s network helps to differentiate Colt’s offering from both IT service providers without network infrastructure and carriers with a less impressive network footprint. Quality network infrastructure is the basis for developing reliable, secure, and compliant ICT solutions. Maybe Colt ought to view itself more as a communications integrator than an IT Services provider.
John: Colt’s provides a strong European IaaS offering. One of the presentations focussed on Colt’s European datacenter footprint. At Forrester we get many inquiries on hosting and IaaS-specific options for Europe as many clients have to address regulatory and business requirements for data to reside in specific countries. Colt has a substantial number of data centers in European countries including the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Switzerland.
Carriers have lost a great deal of their relevance for end users. People of all shades, individuals, employees, information workers, etc, are looking for solutions that meet their demand, not connectivity per se.
In our view, four trends matter significantly for carriers since they strike at the heart of their customer facing relationships in the shape of changing end-user behaviour:
Applications have become the focal point for end-users. Phone or connectivity features are less interesting. The carrier brand is not seen as the destination to turn to for app-demand. Merely 18% of business users would turn to a carrier for apps compared to 49% who go directly to the classic app stores. Carriers ought to get closely involved in HTML5 development as it paves the way for OS-independent Web-based apps, thus potentially limiting the influence of operating systems like iOS or Android over the ecosystem. Carries must strive to accommodate where possible app developers to remain somewhat influential ecosystems players.
Users buy devices directly. There is an increasing push by device manufactures (traditional like Samsung and Apple and emerging such as Google, Amazon etc) to sell devices directly to the customer, both business and consumer, and outside the carrier channel. This robs carriers of their main service distribution channel and undermines their potential to monetise value added services.
Carrier-selection is becoming more ad-hoc and temporary. The emergence of embedded software SIMs “interrupts” the relationship between user and carrier. End-users will increasingly be able to select carriers after they purchase a device and for certain circumstances like content consumption or for international roaming. As a result price wars for basic connectivity will increase once again.