Asian mobile industry leaders agree that the new world of apps and smartphones offers a rare opportunity for operators to reverse declining ARPUs.
The key is to be “open-minded,” industry chiefs told their colleagues at the Mobile Asia Congress headline session in Hong Kong on Wednesday.
Peter Chou, CEO of fast-growing Taiwan handset firm HTC, said the emergence of smartphones, apps, social networking and mobile broadband had deeply impacted the way subscribers use their phones and, in turn, operators' business models.
“The computing paradigm is shifting from the PC-based desktop to a new era of mobile internet that is more self-defined and socially driven,” he said. “It’s important that our industry be open-minded to enable diverse devices and diverse applications for diverse audiences.”
China Mobile president Li Yue offered similar advice to fellow operators in tackling the new dominance of handset firms and app stores. .
“Applications are changing the mobile ecology. We need to be open-minded to explore new fields, new business models, and cooperation with new partners,” Li said.
NTT DoCoMo president and CEO Ryudi Yamada said mobile carriers “need to respond to the changes that smartphones are bringing and know how to deal with them.”
The key, he said, is to leverage unique value added functionality such as authentication and billing to create competitive services. “Carriers can offer unique value to customers and avoid the risk of becoming a dumb pipe.”
Yamada said operators could reflate their ARPUs by providing access to richer content, or working with external partners to deliver financial, public safety, education and healthcare services.
DoCoMo’s various content initiatives have boosted packet data revenues to account for nearly 50% of ARPU already, he noted, and the carrier plans to “halt the decline of aggregate ARPU in FY2011, and then help it to recover and grow in FY2012,” he said.
LTE, which DoCoMo will launch late December, will also be key in expanding the role of carriers by better enabling services like augmented reality apps and cloud-based services, Yamada noted.
Li said China Mobile was focusing its mobile internet strategy on media services like music, video and e-books, and “multi-app usage” in the form of “daily life” apps.
“In the future with mobile internet, smartphones will serve all aspects of daily life to subscribers, where the handset can serve as an ID card, navigation tool, a payment device, or a key to your house,” he said.
That will also include M2M apps such as transportation management, pollution monitoring and elderly care, Li added.