Speed-Based Pricing Points The Way For Carriers To Respond To OTT Attacks On Communication Services

 

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.
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Ericsson's Biggest Challenge Is Complacency

At its recent analyst event, Ericsson outlined its strategy, product, and service ambitions. Ericsson remains the overall benchmark for network infrastructure vendors. The company has a leading market position in the growth segments of mobile broadband and network services and delivers a solid financial performance — despite the disappointing Q3 2012 results. Still, in my view, Ericsson has several challenges that it needs to address:

·         The cloud strategy is built on a questionable assumption.Clearly network infrastructure is becoming more, not less, important for cloud-based solutions. Ericsson therefore assumes that carriers are well positioned to be cloud providers. But CIO perceptions suggest otherwise. CIOs tell us that carriers are far from the preferred choice for cloud-solutions (see Figure 9 in the “Prepare For The Connected Enterprise Now” Forrester report). Carriers therefore need help in addressing the potential of cloud computing. For instance, Ericsson’s cloud solutions ought to help carriers cooperate with cloud partners regarding embedded connectivity in devices and applications.

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Huawei Reaches The Next Stepping Stone In Its European Market Activities

During Huawei’s 2012 EMEA Analyst Event in Amsterdam, Huawei emphasised once again its commitment to Europe and its dedication to innovation. With sales of $3.8bn, 7,300 staff, around 800 of which are in R&D, and 10 R&D centres in Europe, Huawei has positioned itself as a leading provider of network infrastructure in the region. The main themes that we picked up during the event are:

  • Its carrier activities are increasingly dominated by software. Huawei emphasises the role if IT and software as a core focus area of its carrier network infrastructure activities, which still account for 74% of sales, going forward. Softcom, Huawei’s strategy to drive software defined networking and to move towards a flatter network architecture, is central to this transformation. By 2017, Huawei aims to generate around 40% of its network infrastructure revenues from software-related activities. The central goal of Softcom is to decouple applications from hardware in the network infrastructure and to integrate multiple operating systems into one cloud-based operating system. To succeed, Huawei needs to attract top IT expertise. Its partnerships with leading universities and research organisations like Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft go some way.
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T-Systems Ought To Be More Disruptive To Tackle Growth Opportunities

Dan Bieler, Frederic Giron, Brownlee Thomas, Ph.D., Stefan Ried, Christopher Mines, Pascal Matzke, Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

T-Systems hosted its 2012 analyst and sourcing advisor event recently. To be sure, T-Systems remains one of the most advanced true ICT providers in the European market. But T-Systems ought to demonstrate more clearly how it can support and enhance business process for its customers and improve the customer experience for its customers’ customers. Of course T-Systems is not alone. The ICT industry needs to emphasize proven capabilities in delivering enterprise-grade ICT solutions ranging from co-management of infrastructure resources to full outsourcing.

T-Systems, like many of its competitors, is busy making sure that it does not bleed too much in what T-Systems calls the red ocean, i.e., the highly competitive market segment of legacy services. That's a good start. At the event, T-Systems communicated very clearly the progress at its internal production factory. This aspect is critical for streamlining and standardizing the portfolio, boosting margins, and developing products and services that the revamped sales team then can actually sell. One tangible outcome of this effort shows through in the high customer satisfaction level and deal wins like BAT, OMG, and Georg Fischer. Importantly, T-Systems also has put in place a rigorous certification framework for ensuring quality of service with suppliers.

However, T-Systems still needs to convince in areas of the blue ocean, i.e., the emerging innovative market segment. Like many of its competitors, T-Systems is not finding this easy. Why? Because T-Systems continues to prop up its legacy business: selling technology solutions.

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Google Becomes More “Tangible” By Building Its Own High-Broadband Network Into The Home

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.
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Deutsche Telekom in arranged marriage for T-Mobile USA through reverse acquisition by MetroPCS

 

Deutsche Telekom is leading its daughter T-Mobile USA down the aisle for a second time in less than two years after the previous marriage attempt with AT&T collapsed in light of regulatory objections (see http://goo.gl/hgCrm). But T-Mobile USA will not leave the house altogether. Should the deal go through, Deutsche Telekom will own 74% in the NewCo. The NewCo will operate as one company with two brands, similar to how Everything Everywhere was run. MetroPCS Shareholders will own the remaining 26%.

The financial plan is that scale effects will translate into $6-7 billion of cost synergies from enhanced scale and scope. Deutsche Telekom pitches the deal as creating a wireless value leader in the non-contract (pre-paid) segment, with the goal of targeting a growing market segment. The ambition for the NewCo is to generate compound annual growth rates of 3-5% for revenues, 7-10% for EBITDA and 15-20% for free cash flow over the next five years.

The deal raises several issues for me:

  • Targeting a market opportunity requires ongoing investments. In my view, the goal for growth looks ambitious based on the proposed value proposition. Whilst I do see a market opportunity for unlimited data plans (i.e. NewCo’s value proposition), I believe that ongoing investments beyond the existing ones are required to ensure QoS and customer experience. The completed network modernization to the tune of US$4 billion LTE investment including site upgrades and spectrum re-farming provides a good starting point. But more capex is required in the years ahead as data traffic continues to explode. In turn, this could undermine free cash flow growth ambitions.
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Changing end user behaviour undermines traditional carrier business model and forces radical change

 

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.
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Orange Business Services Underlines Its Global Capabilities At Its 2012 Analyst Event

Dan Bieler, Bryan Wang, Pascal Matzke, Jennifer Belissent

ORANGE held its annual analyst day in Paris recently. There were no major announcements, but we made several observations:

  • ORANGE is one of the few carriers with true delivery capabilities. Its global footprint is a real advantage vis-a-vis carrier competitors, in particular in Africa and Asia. Vale, the Brazilian metals and mining corporation, presented a customer case study in which Vale emphasized the importance of ORANGE’s global network infrastructure for its decision to go with ORANGE as UCC and network provider. Its global reach positions ORANGE well to address the opportunity in emerging markets, both for Western MNCs going into emerging markets and also to address intra-regional business in Africa and Asia. Another customer case study with the Chinese online retailer 360buy, focusing on a contact center solution, demonstrated ORANGE’s ability to win against local competitors in Asia.
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Telefonica Digital: Only A First Step Towards Transforming The Telco Business Model

I recently attended an event in London where Telefonica shed more light on its Digital division. Digital is the central division driving innovation at Telefonica group and was formed in September 2011. However, Telefonica, despite the creation of Digital, still is somewhat in the old telco mold of inside-out innovation.

Digitization is undoubtedly a major theme affecting both society and the economy, bringing huge implications for communication, collaboration, consumption, and production. The big focus areas for Digital are e-health, digital content distribution, security, cloud, M2M, OTT comms, financial services, and advertising. In this respect, Digital is the right answer. My main observations from the event are:

  • Digital’s product development process is not end-user-focused enough. Digital does not seem to involve the actual end users as much as other solution providers, like for instance Colt (http://goo.gl/oBCO0). What was missing during most presentations was a better demand-analysis of its customer base. Digitization has big implications for company cultures, modes of operation, and ways of life. Businesses require significant assistance in preparing for these challenges such as change management. Digital did not explain how it plans to address these either through internal capabilities or through partnerships with business consulting firms like Deloitte. This means that Telefonica risks developing solutions that do not meet demand. Moreover, detailed customer case studies were not discussed, although Digital did present its portfolio development approach.
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Impressions From Google Enterprise’s Road Show

Recently I attended one of the day-long events in Munich that Google offers as part of its atmosphere on tour road show that visits 24 cities globally in 2012. The event series is aimed at enterprise customers and aims to get them interested in Google’s enterprise solutions, including Google Apps, search, analytics and mapping services, as well as the Chrome Book and Chrome Box devices.

Google Enterprise as a division has been around for some time, but it is only fairly recently that Google started to push the enterprise solutions more actively into the market through marketing initiatives. The cloud-delivery model clearly plays a central role for Google’s enterprise pitch (my colleague Stefan Ried also held a presentation on the potential of cloud computing at the event).

Still, the event itself was a touch light on details and remained pretty high level throughout. Whilst nobody expects Google to communicate a detailed five-year plan, it would have been useful to get more insights into Google’s vision for the enterprise and how it intends to cater to these needs. Thankfully, prior to the official event, Google shared some valuable details of this vision with us. The four main themes that stuck out for us are:

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