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Thursday, December 08, 2011

Telco-OTT Strategies & Case Studies: Pre-publication discount on forthcoming Disruptive Analysis report


I've discussed for several years (via private advisory work and this blog) the prospect of operators running their own "access independent" services. This means mimicking the major Internet players' role by offering what I'm calling "Telco-OTT" services. In other words, decoupling the network from the application - something which is highly controversial, especially for telecom traditionalists.

Google, Facebook, Skype and others have shown the power and value of standalone applications and services. Finally, operators are exploiting the scale of the multi-billion user Internet, the flexibilty of PCs, and the ease and virality of the smartphone app paradigm, to go beyond the narrow confines of their own access customer base. In other words, they are embracing the doctrine of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em". But while compelling, it is not easy - there will be failures as well as successes.

I'm now in the final stages of putting together a landmark Disruptive Analysis strategy report on Telco-OTT services. It will span both fixed and mobile operators, and a broad set of applications and case-studies. It will be published in January, but I'm giving advance notice here, a taster of some of the thinking in the report, and offering this blog's readers a promotional discount for pre-orders.

This will be the first analyst report to focus on, describe and identify the trend - and "give it a name".

There are two broad strategies I see emerging for operators' own inhouse OTT activities:
  • Add value to existing access subscribers, by adding service "accessibility" via 3rd-party networks and devices
  • Extend brand and service/content reach to non-access subscribers
A prime example in the first category is fixed-broadband IPTV or cable providers, which are increasingly offering their subscribers a mobile app to watch content while "on the go" - typically on smartphones or tablets connected via other operators' networks. In the communications arena, Telefonica is trialling its O2 Connect VoIP service (based on Jajah) with an initial focus on existing O2 subscribers connecting via WiFi. Even RCSe believers see value in a "broadband access" option for OTT linkage into a user's service, via a PC client and generic Internet connection.

The second class is a more "full" vision of OTT-style services by operators, reaching new users who do not have a "subscription" at all. Orange's ON Voicefeed (a third-party visual voicemail) is a good example, as is T-Mobile US Bobsled (a Facebook-based communications app). Many operators also have traditional web portal or video/audio businesses, selling or delivering content to the Internet at large.

The first strategy is generally lower-risk and easier to monetise; the second is much more difficult (essentially on a par with any other Internet startup) but ultimately could generate more value. The report considers both paths, as well as the different options for organic development and acquisition. It also looks at strategic pitfalls and mistakes for Telco-OTT services, such as the creation of custom hardware (eg Vodafone 360 handsets).

There are also various other offerings that fall into the Telco-OTT envelope - classical enterprise VPN remote access services, femtocells connected over another operator's broadband lines, even WiFi "onload" used as a way for one operator to gain a service "pipe" onto another operator's smartphone fleet. New markets as diverse as M2M and social networking also yield opportunities and examples.


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