Openet recently ran a survey of 101 operators on the move to digital. On the question about who’s going to be your most fierce competition, the answer was clear – OTTs. Operators see Google, Facebook et al eating their lunch with an eye on their supper as well. When I discussed these points at the BSS conference, the Facebook speaker quite rightly pointed out that it’s a bit strange that the companies whose services are driving mobile data usage (and thus operator revenues) should be seen as competitors. And he’s right – the OTTs drive data traffic, but several operators worry about voice and messaging services being usurped by WhatsApp and Skype. But it’s not the clear cut, us and them, picture that the mobile industry was getting itself into a lather about back in 2007/8. OTT and content partnerships are now becoming mainstream. In the same survey operators see content and OTT partnerships as providing the 3rd most valuable source of new revenue in 2016. So we’ll see more partnerships while operators keep one eye on new revenue opportunities and the other on potential revenue cannibalisation from their new partners.
Going back to the new competition. When asked how ready they are to deal with this new competition, operators were optimistic. Most feel they are well prepared. The reason for this optimism? Well, the majority of operators feel that their biggest asset to compete with the new competition is their network. Ahead of customers, ahead of customer trust and brand.
This I found a bit strange. Sure, networks are vital – but more important than customers? And this leads me back to solar powered planes. Facebook have built a solar powered plane that will beam Wi-Fi signals from heights of between 60,000 and 90,000 feet. Called the Aquila, this plane has the wingspan of a Boeing 737 and weighs in at about a quarter the weight of an average family car. It will be able to stay airborne for up to 90 days at a time beaming free internet connectivity.
Wi-Fi is improving all the time. New business models are being rolled out to support public Wi-Fi. I would argue that the biggest asset an operator has is not their network. It’s their customer base.
Operators need to become fully customer centric. Otherwise it could be a bit like the taxi firm whose pride and joy is their fleet of cars. Next thing they know they’re losing business to Uber.