Mobile in 2020: seismic shifts heading this way

Jeremy Green, Ovum
09 Jun 2009

The value chain and the customer relationship will increasingly be dominated by a new kind of entity, which we are calling the SMART player - an acronym that stands for Services, Management, Applications, Relationships and Technology, and reflects the way these players take responsibility for the end-to-end customer experience.

This role builds on, but radically extends, the way some device vendors such as Apple and Google began to provide a managed experience on the basis of internet and cloud-based services.

There will be relatively few SMART players. Some will be device or consumer electronics vendors; others will be software or applications vendors, especially those with a strong web presence. A small number of them will be network operators.

SMART players will own the majority of customers through the provision of managed device platforms. This will enable them to dominate the content and applications markets through tightly controlled, semi-open "service hubs" combining the functions of applications stores, content stores, and device management.

What is the operator\'s role‾

There will be increasing differentiation between mobile network operators, with several distinct roles emerging. There will primarily be:

"¢ operators that provide the SMART role themselves;

"¢ operators that act as connectivity providers to the SMART vendors;

"¢ operators selling low-cost voice and/or data and/or simple transaction-oriented Internet services directly to end users.

We have called the MNOs acting as suppliers to SMART players\' LEAN operators, which stands for Low-cost Enablers of Agnostic Networks. They will compete on price, performance (including coverage, capacity and speed) and flexibility to become the capacity and connectivity provider of choice.

The agnosticism refers to both applications and devices, implying that these players are enabling others\' devices and services to function most effectively, rather than taking a vested interest in one platform.

The critical success factor for LEAN players will be to facilitate services to others, enabling developers to have deep access to their networks for the timely and efficient provisioning of mobile services.

There will be a number of other big changes in the industry\'s landscape.

Consolidation will continue

A greater proportion of operators will become part of large, international groups. While many of the familiar operator brands will survive, they will be joined by powerful new cross-regional players from the emerging markets, which may also buy their way into the mature markets. In a few markets there will be consolidation between competitors, though this will remain unusual.

Operators will compete via service provision and cooperate in network operation. In some markets, particularly the most mature and competitive, the number of physical network operators may reduce to one.

Network-sharing deals will make the distinction between MVNOs and "

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