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May 2010 | Volume 2/Number 3
Converged Views

A New Spirit of Co-opetition

By Marc Leclerc

In late 2009, our industry passed a critical threshold: Mobile data traffic surpassed mobile voice traffic for the first time. This is tangible proof that people want to do more with their mobile devices than just talk.

We are beginning to see massive increases in chat, music and video streaming, navigation, Web browsing, gaming and social interaction. Individuals and enterprises are now incorporating these activities as a part of everyday life, untethered to either location or specific screens or devices.

Social networking has been a key driving factor for both the massive uptake of electronically mediated communications and the new forms of expression that these communications have enabled. The arrival of high-definition television and 3D movies in mainstream media is also raising the bar for consumer expectations in terms of immersive experience sharing. People want HD voice and HD video images from all of their media devices, not just their televisions. This includes mobile phones.

Not coincidentally, the advent of HSPA and LTE is massively increasing the available bandwidth for communications services, and will continue to do so over the next few years. But how are we going to deliver on the consumer’s expectations of significantly enriched communications experiences? How are we going to turn these experiences into actual revenue streams that justify the ongoing investments? But most importantly, can we do this in a way that leverages the innovation of the Internet while enabling telecoms to evolve new commercial models and avoid becoming just bit pipe purveyors?

Here is where several key initiatives by members of the telecoms community are significantly moving forward the evolution of the commercial side of our industry as well. Specifically, these are Rich Communications Suite, OneAPI and the Wholesale Applications Community.

RCS defines a common user experience based on enriched voice and video, enhanced address book, chat, presence and inter-working across device, operator and network boundaries. Throughout 2010, RCS is actively being trialed, or scheduled for trial, with multiple operators in France, Italy, Japan, Spain and elsewhere.

OneAPI defines a standard way for third-party applications, such as Web services, to access telecoms network capabilities as enablers. This makes it possible to integrate these functions with Internet-based services and deliver added value to telecoms subscribers. OneAPI also defines mechanisms to provide for the inter-working of applications across operators. The first such trial is already in place with three operators in Canada.

The most recent addition to these efforts is WAC, announced at Mobile World Congress in this February. WAC brings together 24 leading telecommunications operators into a common applications delivery platform for all mobile phone users. For developers, this establishes a simple route to market and provides them with access to a potential customer base of more than 3 billion consumers. Again, inter-working on a global scale is a key element of WAC’s value proposition. Taken together, these three initiatives provide all the elements of a healthy value chain.

1) a constant pipeline of varied and innovative applications and services that deliver value to consumers and opportunities for differentiation among operators;

2) a global marketplace of more than 3 billion consumers where developers can sell their wares; and

3) an effective, efficient channel that can deliver value to consumers no matter where they are and where they travel.

It is also significant that all three of these initiatives are being actively supported by the GSM Association. For the first time, there exists a truly horizontal solution in the telecoms space – one that avoids repeating mistakes of the past, such as reliance on specific devices or network platforms leading to delivery silos, overly complex interfaces that multiply development costs and risks, and fragmented markets with a multiplicity of competing standards.

This “co-opetition” approach among the members our industry gives us a tool to successfully compete with over-the-top services by centering the user experience on key strengths of telecoms. This includes untethered access even while mobile, cross-platform interoperability, global coverage and inter-working and direct access to over one half of humanity.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that the mechanisms outlined above can be utilized by operators to implement a wide variety of business models. These could include the retail model being so successfully exploited by Apple, or the advertising model that has driven Google into becoming one of the most valued corporations in the world, or it could be something else entirely or even a multiplicity of these models at the same time.

Key factors are lining up to make 2010 a golden opportunity for our industry to evolve our offering beyond voice and text and continue to play a leading role in the economy and the lives of humanity. It’s up to us to seize the moment and deliver the future of communications!

Marc Leclerc is manager of the Global IMS Expert Centre at Ericsson (www.ericsson.com).

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