Live from the floor on Mobile World Congress 2012…
We’re well into the swing of things at this year’s Mobile World Congress. But with all the flashy announcements and stunts – from 41MP phones launched to “ice cream sandwiches” being given away at Google’s playground – it’s easy to forget that the focus should really be on the operators. After all, it is the operators that make up the core of the GSMA and have the power to drive real change in the industry. But recently they have been pulled into a bit of a tailspin, caused by a lack of growth in voice revenues and an inability to leverage their position on top of the mobile data value chain.
But there are rumblings of change. Yesterday, one of the biggest talking points at MWC was the launch of the GSMA’s initiative “Joyn,” a rich communications service that offers consumers IM, video calling and the ability to share documents and photos simultaneously with voice calls. The aim of Joyn is to consolidate the multitude of communication apps and put them back under the control of the mobile network operators. This links to conversations we’ve been having with operators around how many are looking at machine-to-machine (M2M) data like this to drive new revenue growth. But the potential is much bigger: the real potential for operators is setting them up as players in the enterprise mobility space, providing their corporate customers with the production of M2M applications, as well as B2C and B2E apps.
A few operators have already ventured in this direction – we’re currently working with AT&T in the U.S., KT in Asia, and Swisscom in Europe, for example. On the whole though, operators have feared to tread in this space – which is surprising if you look at the latest industry stats. We recently conducted a study with Vanson Bourne which showed that on average CIOs and business unit leaders are planning to invest $926,000 (or £590,000) in employee and consumer-facing mobility projects in the next 12-18 months. That’s more than double the amount enterprises currently have invested in mobile projects ($422k/£269k). Not only this, but Global Industry Analysts Inc. recently predicted the worldwide enterprise mobility market would be worth $173.9 billion by 2017.
You can’t argue with numbers like that. And with the corporate relationships that operators hold, network operators that enable mobility for their enterprise customers through the provision of apps, web-apps, mobile websites and storefronts will not only be able to open up a highly lucrative new revenue stream, but they will also boost revenues associated with the volume of M2M data traffic.
That’s the new frontier for operators. But despite this, many operators have been unwilling to make a play for the share of the enterprise mobility space, mostly due to the deep bank of investment and resource required. However, some operators are starting to see a new solution to the issue, forming wholesale partnerships with enterprise mobility vendors, and white-labelling those vendors’ solutions for their own corporate customers. For this to work, that partner must be able to provide them with a full end-to-end solution, including the ability to build, integrate, publish, manage and analyze, while providing cross platform device support. And above all, these solutions must meet the strict enterprise SLAs and mobile asset management requirements, have full cloud hosting capabilities and integrate with back and systems.
That’s where the opportunity lies. Those are the kind of conversations we are having here in Barcelona this year. And it is those network operators which take advantage of the opportunity in the short term who will reap the biggest gains in the long term.