How Telcos Will Play A Larger Role In Cloud Computing

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.

Deutsche Telekom Demonstrates Willingness For Cultural Change As Part Of Innovation Drive

I attended Trend Forum 2012 last week in Bonn, effectively an analyst day where Deutsche Telekom presented its innovation strategy. There was no focus on overall group strategy. Still, innovation matters greatly as part of the repositioning efforts of telcos. As the role of telcos in the value chain is weakening, largely due to increasing competition by over-the-top providers (OTTPs), telcos need to differentiate themselves increasingly via service provision and their ability to innovate quickly and prolifically. Failure to do so will cement their status as transport utilities for OTTPs.

Deutsche Telekom’s Core Beliefs focus on: a) building its platform business by partnering with software firms; b) leveraging the cloud by providing high QoS and secure connectivity; and c) leverage differentiating terminals through device management and customer experience provision. These Core Beliefs form the basis for pursuing its focus growth segments in digital media distribution, cloud storage, cross-device digital advertising, classified marketplaces, and mobile payment in addition to the core telco business. These targets match up well against our evaluation of best cloud markets for telcos.

A defining characteristic of next-generation network (NGN) infrastructure and the move towards cloud-based business models is openness. As a consequence, OTTPs increasingly deal directly with end customers across the network. Relationships between telcos and other members of value chain become more complex. Emerging cloud services by telcos need to become network agnostic to deliver cross-network solutions and ensure cloud interoperability. Deutsche Telekom has made significant progress in the recent past to adapt its strategy to these new telco realities.

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A Dropped Call: AT&T And Deutsche Telekom Put US Merger Plan To Rest

It does not come as a real surprise that the deal aimed at merging AT&T's and Deutsche Telekom's US wireless operations got nowhere. We were expecting as much back in autumn. In our view, there are no winners as a result of this dropped deal, not even the US consumer. The US consumer can look forward to poorer network infrastructure and a weakened T-Mobile as the low-end market provider. Hence, the Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department attained somewhat of a Pyrrhic victory.

Whilst the collapsed deal is a major irritant for AT&T, it is a disaster for Deutsche Telekom, as it leaves T-Mobile US in a very difficult position. With about 10% of the US wireless subscribers, T-Mobile US remains subscale. Its image is increasingly trending toward cheap rather than good value, given its patchy network coverage, especially in rural areas.

The reluctance by Deutsche Telekom to prepare for a "no-deal scenario" leaves T-Mobile without a clear strategy. This lack of direction is very risky and only pushes T-Mobile further down a slippery slope toward increasing churn and revenue and margin challenges. Deutsche Telekom needs to communicate its plans for 4G roll-out, spectrum purchases, partnerships for network sharing, and device portfolio. Above all, Deutsche Telekom needs to decide soon whether to pursue an IPO, a sale to another operator or a financial investor, or target a merger with the likes of Dish, Leap, Clearwire, Sprint, or even LightSquared. Ultimately, we expect Deutsche Telekom to opt for a merger scenario.

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Nokia Siemens Networks Outlines More Details Of Strategy At Analyst Event

At its 2011 Analyst Event in Boston, Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) outlined more details of its recently announced strategy review. In our view, the new focus NSN is taking is right. NSN is focusing on growth segments of the infrastructure market and will generate large savings from operating expenses and production overheads. In addition to its focus on providing the most efficient mobile broadband network infrastructure, NSN also highlighted the importance of customer experience management (CEM) as an integral part of its strategy.

NSN also provided more guidance on which market segments it no longer considers core. These include wireline, microwave, Wimax, perfect voice, and business support systems. Some of these, microwave and Wimax, it already spun off. NSN estimates that the overall revenue impact of its non-core disposals will total 10% of its current revenue base. The impact on profit will be less than 10%, as these non-core disposals are low-margin operations.

NSN believes that telcos increasingly demand end-to-end solutions from their equipment vendor partners. No equipment vendors can credibly deliver such end-to-end solutions on their own. Hence, NSN is positioning itself as an ecosystems manager for end-to-end solutions. As part of its innovation drive, NSN increasingly focuses on devising concepts for solutions rather than simply focusing on product upgrades. For instance, Liquid Net is a concept for network infrastructure design that supports a more efficient usage of underutilized infrastructure capacity based on a range of NSN products. Similarly, NSN places great emphasis on its CEM solution, which helps telcos to transform their services offerings by enhancing network-related features that affect customer experience and satisfaction.

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Nokia Siemens Networks Announces Radical Strategy Review

Nokia Seimens Networks’ top management has finally pulled the emergency brakes, after months of unsuccessful attempts to find a buyer. Going forward, NSN will focus on mobile network infrastructure and the services market. All other areas are non-core and subject to disposal. We estimate that about two-thirds of NSN’s current portfolio will remain in this new focus area. NSN will retain an attractive product and services portfolio and innovative solutions, as for instance its Liquid Net offering. However, some elements, like convergence offerings, will be difficult to pursue credibly in the future.

In our view, the new focus NSN is taking is right:

  • NSN is focusing on growth segments of the infrastructure market. NSN aims to provide the most efficient mobile networks (including network outsourcing and sharing) to extract maximum value for telcos’ operations by developing intelligent network solutions and boost customer experience management.
  • NSN will generate large savings from operating expenses and production overheads. NSN targets savings of €1 billion annually by the end of 2013. NSN tries to achieve this goal be focusing on organizational streamlining, real estate, information technology, product and service procurement costs, G&A, and supplier consolidation. Despite good revenue growth in recent quarters, NSN’s revenues per employee remain well below that of Ericsson’s in 2010 and even lags Huawei’s. NSN’s plans to reduce its global workforce by 17,000, or 23%, will go some way to address this imbalance.
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T-Systems’ Analyst Summit 2011: Getting Past A Lost Year

T-Systems’ Analyst Summit 2011 in Frankfurt was dominated by updates on the progress the company made regarding its restructuring projects. As a result of these efforts, T-Systems has created the basis to become a more efficient and agile ICT services provider going forward. Still, in our view, the period between mid-2010 to mid-2011 was a lost year for T-Systems — despite the obvious progress T-Systems made in addressing its past challenges.

In some respects, T-Systems had become a victim of its own success in 2009 and 2010. T-Systems was clearly overwhelmed by its multibillion deals (with clients including Linde, BP, Shell, E.ON, MAN, Continental, etc). Delivery capacities were stretched to the limit, manifesting in serious transition and transformation challenges. T-Systems was forced to allocate more capacities to big deals, thus depressing margins to just over 2% in Q3 2011 (see chart below). T-Systems still aims to reach the peer-group average EBIT margin.

Source: company reports

About a year ago, T-Systems began to restructure its entire operations in a mammoth project, effectively redrawing the entire organisational structure and reshuffling the top management team, except for the CEO and CFO. The Analyst Summit provided some insights that these efforts are beginning to bear fruit:

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Fujitsu Forum 2011 In Munich: A Global Reset

During its Fujitsu Forum, which was attended by over 10,000 customers and partners, Fujitsu presented itself as a company in transformation from a fairly disjointed business to a more streamlined international business. Fujitsu’s new strategy has three main components:

  • Focus on organic growth: Fujitsu is investing more in its sales and services structure as well as its internal IT systems. It aims to get better in what it has already been doing, such as exploiting its large software and hardware portfolio, including smartphones, thin clients, handsets, tablets, mainframes, laptops, and super computers. In terms of services, Fujitsu is pushing its multivendor maintenance capabilities and its IT outsourcing experience. Fujitsu considers its product knowledge and near- and offshore mix a key, unique selling point vis-à-vis its competitors. Given Fujitsu's weak marketing and sales structures of the past, we would believe that it is high-time to improve its go-to-market approach.
  • Target emerging markets: The main focus is on Russia, India, and the Middle East. Fujitsu is ramping up local operations and also adapting its go-to-market approaches. For instance, in India it is using its promotion campaign via auto rickshaw on “see-try-buy” basis. Fujitsu’s goal is to double emerging markets sales by 2015 from €800 in 2010. Given its Asian roots, it is astonishing how long it took Fujitsu to realise the opportunities at its doorstep.
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Huawei Analyst Summit 2011: Extending The Competition To Mobile Devices And Enterprise Solutions

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.

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Nokia World 2011: Back From The Brink But Not Yet Fully Out Of The Woods

Dan Bieler and Katyayan Gupta

This was possibly the most important Nokia World event ever. Nokia had to demonstrate that it can deliver against its plans. In February 2011, Nokia communicated its intention to team up with Microsoft to develop its new platform and to “entrust” its Symbian operating system to Accenture. In total, 3,000 visitors from 70 countries attended Nokia World 2011 in London to hear and see what the “new Nokia” looks like.

In essence, it was clear what Nokia World 2011 would be all about before the actual event had even started. Nokia had to produce a device that can take on the iPhone and the Galaxy. At the event, Nokia announced the launch of the first “real Windows phone” in the form of the Lumia 800. The result is an impressive device that certainly secured Nokia a seat at the table of the tripartite of leading smartphones platforms.

At a price point of €420, the Lumia 800 impresses through a very intuitive and refreshing interface. And yes, the choice of Microsoft as a partner has certainly produced the best ever Nokia device. It will give Apple and Samsung a run for their money. It was all the more noticeable that Microsoft was absent during the key note address. Nokia also unveiled its emerging market flagship "Asha" device series, which sits somewhere between feature and smartphones. The Asha family comprises four models that target the youth segment in emerging markets. These devices are priced between €60 to €115, feature touch and QWERTY, games like Angry Birds, and one of them is also dual SIM.

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Sprint’s Headache Equals Deutsche Telekom’s Migraine

In recent weeks, Sprint’s shares have been hammered. The share price has fallen by 40% since the beginning of the year, reflecting investors’ concerns about the long-term position of Sprint in the US wireless market. Not surprisingly, Sprint has been the most vocal opponent of the planned $39B acquisition of T-Mobile US by AT&T, which was announced in March 2011. Sprint argues that the deal would manifest itself in a loss of competition in the US wireless market if the fourth- and second-largest wireless carriers in the US merge (Sprint is No. 3). The US Department of Justice (DoJ) seems to share this concern and blocked the acquisition in August 2011 in order to preserve a vibrant and competitive marketplace.

Despite the DoJ’s opposition, most observers expected some form of compromise to emerge, even if it took a court fight to do so. Both AT&T and Deutsche Telekom (DT) reiterated their eagerness to pursue the deal as the DoJ announced its decision. However, in our view, Sprint’s challenging situation increases the likelihood that the deal will not go through as planned: Sprint looks weaker now than several months ago. Its announcement in October 2011 that it will take on additional debt to fund the rollout of its LTE network only increases liquidity concerns. This will sway the DOJ’s position further toward rejecting the deal for good in an effort to support a healthy US wireless market.

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