Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is Mobile 2.0 making carriers redundant?

This week at OSiM 2008 in Berlin, I gave a talk about Mobile 2.0 and the role of mobile operators. It is a hot topic these days. Carriers have been totally marginalized by Apple on the iPhone: a device that could not be certified in their network, lacking most of the features they always requested, though they eventually certified it... They added MobileMe and the App Store. The carrier for Apple is just a pipe: a sales pipe, a data pipe. The same was true with RIM and the BlackBerry (and the comment was "it is a small market, not a big deal"). Now also Nokia is moving forward with OVI... And Google with Android and all their services and content. Not small markets anymore, a very BIG deal. The risk of being a (dumb) pipe is real and clear.

What can carriers do? Can they be still relevant? I believe so (despite the way I started my speech, but I was joking ;-)

However, they have to move FAST.

I suggested a few steps:
  1. Be open, open the network, devices, services and content. Walled garden will collapse eventually, and they will collaps inward (that's in your face ;-)
  2. Set up MobileMe & Appstore equivalents to get control back in services. T-Mobile is doing the App Store. Everyone should have a MobileMe solution (a.k.a. MobileWe, more in a separate post)
  3. Get developers and provide APIs for third parties to hook into your networks to leverage customer relationships, billing, services. You own the customer, you own the relationship, you own the billing, you know the profile of the user (key for mobile advertising). You are in control, until you give it away for good... And controls means a lot of money.
  4. Play greater role in helping users find relevant third party services and content (both mass market and long tail)
  5. Reduce data plan pricing, which will increase demand for and usage of data-intensive services (increase ARPU)
  6. Adopt open source methodologies and communities. There is no better model to innovate and keep up with the speed and diversity of this market.
Good luck to carriers. They have never been fast movers, but they have to move fast. I talked to a couple of mobile operators in Berlin and it seemed to me they got the message loud and clear. Therefore, I am optimistic (as usual).

Here you have the full slides, if you are interested.