This summer Switzerland’s incumbent carrier, Swisscom, launched a simple but revolutionary new mobile tariff, Natel Infinity. Infinity is a speed-based tariff that comes in the versions XS, S, M, L, and XL, which represent download speeds ranging from 200 kbit/s to 100 Mbit/s. Prices range from CHF59 to CHF169 per month (€49 to €139). Significantly, the tariff throws in unlimited national voice, SMS messaging services, and data usage without any additional charge (XL even comes with unlimited international calls to most destinations and SMS).
The idea is simple: The greater your urge for fast mobile services, the more you pay — irrespective of which apps you use and how you wish to communicate. All that matters is speed. In this respect, Swisscom has replicated for the mobile world a tariff approach that is already fairly common in the fixed-line world. I believe this move by Swisscom is noteworthy in two respects:
It effectively pulls the rug from under the OTT voice and messaging services like WhatsApp and Tango by removing the arbitrage potential created by time- or distance-based pricing schemes.
It brings in line capital spending on and actual demand for network infrastructure capacity.
The other day I had an interesting discussion with Google about their Fiber-to-the home (FTTH) infrastructure. Google’s reasoning behind the move into the network infrastructure space stems from the belief that online growth and technology innovation are driven by three main factors:
The cost of storage, which has fallen considerably in previous years.
Computing power, which has increased in previous years.
The price and speed of Internet access, which has been stagnant for a decade. Today, the average Internet user in the US receives 5 Mbit/s download and 1 Mbit/s upload speed.
Last week I attended Telefónica’s leadership event, which is held annually in Miami, reflecting its very strong basis in the Americas. This year’s event attracted around 700 visitors from 130 countries, comprising Telefónica’s customers, vendor partners, and analysts. There were several external keynote speakers, like the CIO of the US government, futurologist Michio Kaku, and the chief economist of the Economist Intelligence Unit, that outlined the macro context for society and the economy over the coming 10 to 20 years. Presentations by partners like Huawei, Microsoft, Nokia, amdocs, and Samsung highlighted visions of the future from a vendor angle. Telefónica itself used the opportunity to present its own vision of how technological progress will affect society and business — and how it intends to address the opportunities and challenges ahead.
Telefónica stands out from its peer group of incumbent telcos by having revamped its overall organizational structure. The firm had already announced this new structure last fall; it effectively sets up one division that focuses on global internal administration and procurement (Global Resources), one division that focuses on emerging Internet-based solutions (Digital), and two geographically focused go-to-market-facing business lines (Americas and Europe). Telefónica Multinational Solutions is part of Global Resources and is the division dedicated to delivering services to the MNC segment.
Corporate CIOs should not ignore the network-centric nature of cloud-based solutions when developing their cloud strategies and choosing their cloud providers. And end users should understand what role(s) telcos are likely to play in the evolution of the wider cloud marketplace.
Like many IT suppliers, telcos view cloud computing as a big opportunity to grow their business. Cloud computing will dramatically affect telcos — but not by generating significant additional revenues. Instead, cloud computing will alter the role of telcos in the value chain irreversibly, putting their control over usage metering and billing at risk. Alarm bells should ring for telcos as Google, Amazon, et al. put their own billing and payment relationships with customers in place.
Telcos must defend their revenue collection role at all costs; failure to do so will accelerate their decline to invisible utility status. At the same time, cloud computing offers telcos a chance to become more than bitpipe providers. Cloud solutions will increasingly be delivered by ecosystems of providers that include telcos, software, hardware, network equipment vendors, and OTT providers.
Telcos have a chance to leverage their network and financial assets to grow into the role of ecosystem manager. To start on this path, telcos will provide cloud-based solutions that are adjacent to communication services they already provide (like home area networking and machine-to-machine solutions), such as connected healthcare and smart grid solutions. Expanding from this beachhead into a broader role in cloud solutions markets is a tricky path that only some telcos will successfully navigate.
We are analyzing the potential role of telcos in cloud computing markets in the research report Telcos as Cloud Rainmakers.