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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Which operator app-level collaborations actually work?

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I've just been having an email exchange with a client about telco collaborations.

The net result is a question I'm struggling with - have any recent multi-telco collaborations at the app or service level actually borne fruit?

There have been plenty of trials, initiatives, and pilots. WAC, OneAPI, in-country attempts at collaborative payment platforms (eg PayForIt in the UK), API exposure (eg in Canada) or IM connectivity (various).... but I'm struggling to think of anything new that has proven substantive so far.

The possible exceptions are for M2M (which is still quite slow-moving & actually involves a lot of in-the-network techniness rather than app skills), and a few security-type things like content-filtering for kids, alerts (eg tsunami warnings), or stolen-phone disablement, which are often driven by regulators anyway.

SMS, MMS and roaming don't count as they're all old, albeit with a few modern tweaks like roaming steering or local partnerships. But that's not app/service level really anyway.

Various collaborations between operators and non-operators are successful (eg 3UK/Skype, initial AT&T/Apple, Facebook Zero + various).

Yes, there's a bunch of new stuff just starting - Joyn/RCSe, payment collaborations in various places like New Zealand, identity stuff, talk about federating telco CDNs and so on.

But are there any recent examples of these type of collaborative arrangements actually working?

(Note: this isn't a "bash the operators" post - I'm genuinely interested in hearing of examples that have worked, because off the top of my head I can't think of any. And if they've all failed... what lessons have been learned so that the new ones might succeed?)

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Patrick Lopez said...

That is agood question, Dean. On this side of the Atlantic, I can only think of Grx and messaging interconnect vendors, providing the glue between the different operators. This is mostly historical due to GSM / CDMA /TDMA and would not hold today. It is also not really an operator's initiative but the result of market inefficiencies.

In Canad, where we have more of an oligopoly, the CRTC (Canadian telecoms regulating authority) provides several examples of operator sponsored co-services, such as GSMAOne API as you mentioned.


Anonymous said...

In my experience all attempts at operator collaboration have suffered through poor execution, lack of focus and a refusal to be equals... There is always at least one participant trying to promote their own self-interest above all others. The result is always a late-to-market compromise that suits no one. I suspect WAC will turn out to be last broad attempt at collaboration. Having pissed an unimaginable amount up against the wall for zero return from WAC I doubt many will have the stomach for more of the same. They'll try to spin a way out of it, but most accept that it never gave them what they wanted. If your strategy is to become more like an OTT player then external collaboration might be the way to go.