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.
Like millions of Americans who live along the Eastern seaboard, my family got hit by Hurricane Sandy.
Now don’t get me wrong: Compared with residents of New York, New Jersey, and several other states, we had it easy in our little suburb north of Boston. Even so, there were a few exciting episodes, like this tree that fell on my neighbor’s house.
And then there was this power line that came down on the sidewalk across the street from our home, about 4 feet from where I had been standing 20 minutes earlier (I had been talking to a firefighter).
What fascinated me, however, was what came after all the excitement: service recovery by our electrical utility and telecom provider.
Let’s start with our local electric utility, NSTAR. As you can probably guess from the above, our power had to be cut. To restore it, NSTAR needed to coordinate with both our local fire department and our local public works department in order to get that giant tree off the power lines before it could repair them.
When I looked at the job ahead for the utility, I guessed that we would be without power for at least a day. But exactly 12 hours after NSTAR cut power so that the burning lines wouldn’t pose a hazard, the tree was gone and our electricity was restored. In fact, NSTAR beat its own estimate by about 90 minutes.
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.
Around 60,000 global movers and shakers of all things mobile once again descended upon Barcelona to attend the leading annual mobility event, the Mobile World Congress (MWC). This year’s main themes centered on metadata analytics, the customer experience, and over-the top business models:
The big data opportunity fueled the fantasies of almost all MWC attendees. In the case of telcos, data analytics is seen as the driver for improving the customer experience and developing new markets. Telcos talked a lot about the opportunities of analysing user behavior and turning user data into the new operator currency. The context- and location-aware nature of mobile solutions makes the big data opportunity particularly attractive. However, despite the talk, there were practically no case studies of operators that have succeeded in monetizing data on a large scale. Progress regarding data monetization is slowed down by a lack of clear business models, but also by an OSS/BSS infrastructure that does not support real-time or near real-time analytics. Moreover, privacy concerns also act as a drag on the uptake of data analytics. Equipment vendors such as Nokia Siemens Networks, meanwhile, showcased their customer experience management and analytics solutions for telcos. The solution combines analytics and the actions that operators must take to correct or improve the end user experience, such as a level one call handler pushing the correct settings to a phone or a marketing manager setting up a marketing campaign.
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.
During its European Analyst Summit in London, Huawei provided details regarding two crucial elements of its expanding market positioning: It outlined its intention to launch mobile devices and enterprise solutions. Although Huawei has been engaged in these activities in China for some time, it is a new and exciting step for its European strategy. Competitors should not underestimate Huawei’s ability to take business away from them in these areas.
Huawei’s mobile device range for Europe is small, but very effective. The company targets the low-end smartphone segment with a €100 device (Blaze), the mid-market (Vision), and high-end (Honour), in addition to a tablet (Media Pad). The marketing strategy is to position these devices as affordable, easy-to-use, and reliable (i.e., the “Volkswagen of the mobile devices”). All devices are touch, have fast processors, crisp screens, and retail at about €100 below competitors’ offerings. Timing is good for Huawei, given the relative weakness of the competitive landscape, especially RIM and Sony Ericsson. Initial customer feedback on sites such as Amazon.com reflects positive customer experiences.
The fact that Huawei has no consumer brand in many European countries should not be a great obstacle. Rather, Huawei could use this factor in order to involve its emerging customer base to build a brand using social networking and viral marketing. Traditional big-board advertising campaigns would be pointless: Nokia will dominate the traditional channels with its Lumia campaign in the coming months. The main channels for Huawei will be MVNOs like Fonic, consumer electronics outlets like Phone4U, as well as selected larger operators.