I’ve argued that mobile Internet is “just another Internet access”. This used to be a controversial and provocative statement when talking to mobile operators who defended their premium network investments they made, in order to deliver pretty fast Internet connectivity.
Imagine my surprise when I recently attended a traffic management conference in London where all mobile operators in chorus surrendered to being just a bit-pipe competing with wireline broadband… What happened?
I assume they’re realizing that they don’t have the recipe for the all-resolving secret sauce, which is why it currently feels a bit hopeless. Walled gardens didn’t work, a price war has driven prices down, customers don’t pay for added-value services, and another network upgrade, this time to the fourth generation, is just around the corner.
The good thing is that this puts the spotlight on the fundamentals – production cost. You consider how you can limit OPEX by minimizing helpdesk calls, you look at how you can maximize the utilization of your network, you want to automate up-sales, and you implement cost thresholds like volume quotas and international roaming control. Oh by the way, these are all things you can do using DPI.
Once we’re past this realization we must get ourselves out of this sorrow and start looking forward. Mobile Internet certainly has added value over wireline. The growth in mobile Internet is probably the best validation of this. But speed, i.e. bandwidth, is not one of them. Maybe it’s time to take the lead on selling non-bandwidth-centric services? How can you leverage mobility? For what customers is mobile Internet the only, or the best, option? How will built-in 3G modems in laptops impact the market and the ability to sell pre-paid services?
This is putting a lot of demand on the business developement and product management people at mobile operators. It’s time to get your moneys worth guys! Every case is certainly unique. Do you provide mobile and fixed line, do you go after specific customer segments, or are you the low price option? This will impact your strategy more than ever.
So I guess I must convert to the other side and argue “Mobile Internet is more than just a bit-pipe”. It doesn’t feel as controversial, but a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.