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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

OTT is dead... long live ACPs

Credit where credit is due - Alcatel Lucent seems to have "got it" around the inappropriateness and confrontational aspects of the term "over the top". This contrasts with many others in the telecoms industry who seem to use the term only because their PR people won't let them say "parasite" and spit on the floor during presentations.

It was actually at the pre-MWC analyst day in Barcelona, held by ALU this February, that I put some of their executives on the spot, asking if they felt "over the top" could be seen as a rather dismissive and derogatory term for a telco's hoped-for future customers. It was the first time I'd asked the question publicly to anyone. Given that ALU has probably been the most consistent big-vendor proponent of Telco 2.0 and 2-sided business models, there was a certain level of embarassment I could sense. I've since seen quite a few ALU presentations talking about "non-user revenues" and the possibility of operators partnering with "upstream" players like Internet content and services providers.

In that February blog post, I suggested the use of the term "IAP" for "Independent Application Provider", similar to ISVs in the software industry, as being a good example of a neutral, non-judgemental term that could help foster a more healthy and collaborative tone.

I've just seen a post in the FierceWireless daily newsletter, called "Customers will pay for a better mobile experience" and sponsored by ALU (I can't find a link yet, it's not yet up on the Next Gen Comms microsite) which refers to ACPs - third party Application and Content Providers. It talks about "partnership options" with network operators, "bandwidth availability", "subscriber data profiling" and "leveraging the incumbent IP assets of the new phones".

No mention at all of the OTT acronym, and a very telling comment that "network providers must find a way to monetise new apps to drive increased revenues.... without stirring the net neutrality [hornets'] nest.". Separately, I see that ALU has just bought a content delivery network, so I assume it will be helping to look for common ground and ways to generate win-win business models here.

It will be interesting to see if anyone else follows suit. If I was at NSN, Ericsson, Cisco or a few other vendors, I'd choose now to swallow my pride and establish "ACP" as an industry-wide standard term, and get on with helping "under the floor" operators grow up and partner with Skype, Google & co, rather than continue seeing them as implacable OTT enemies.

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