Interconnect and roaming might not be as sexy as OS platforms, smartphones and apps, but don't tell the carrier community " some 750 telco executives from 260 companies made their annual pilgrimage to Cebu for the four-day conference and bilateral networking event.
The event organizer, PLDT and Smart International & Carrier Business Group, reported a 30% jump in attendance from 2009. With every possible meeting room booked at hotels in the area, carriers were forced to get creative in finding space to meet with partners.
Now in its sixth year, Asian Carriers' Conference was held just three weeks after the GSMA Asia-Pacific conference in Bangkok attracted more than 300 " with many of the same faces turning up at both events.
In his keynote, PLDT and Smart chairman Manuel Pangilinan noted that the conference theme " Collaboration and cooperation: Navigating in the IP world " was a timely but complex topic.
"Cooperation has become a well-traveled path for telcos. As the internet became a global phenomenon, operators have learned to work with third-party service providers who actually account for the vast majority of services being offered through our networks," said Pangilinan.
The Wholesale Application Community (WAC), he said is another example of industry collaboration that will likely increase as telcos struggle to compete not only which each other, but also with internet giants like Google and Yahoo, and device makers like Apple.
He urged operators to work together in the area of business intelligence, specifically pointed to sharing carrier settlement records so a better credit provide can emerge.
Pangilinan noted that PLDT last year invested in the country's largest power company and is now considering prepaid electricity services to capitalize on Smart's wireless infrastructure and its prepaid billing platform. "We're also testing broadband over power lines."
Ovum research director David Kennedy told the audience the average minutes of use per user is rising and he doesn't see an end to the growth in voice before the end of this decade. For many operators, particularly incumbents, voice will be the most important source of revenue.
But there is downward pressure from regulators on interconnect rates and margins are falling. Ovum estimates the average retail revenue per minute of fixed- or mobile-originated traffic would drop from $0.065 in 2009 to $0.041 in 2014 " decreasing 8.6% per year.
He said that while voice traffic continues to grow, it's migrating from fixed connection to mobile and IP-based connections as pressure grows to move voice transport off TDM. "This could be regarded as just one more transition that the industry has to face but for one outstanding issue " that is the problem of voice interconnection."
He noted that interconnect is not as simple with IP as there are challenges with security and problems with interoperability.
He called for more sophisticated pricing structures and new interconnect regimes but said the path to new charging models would be complex and painful. He said new billing systems are required.