Those expecting major announcements from operators on new approaches they’ve devised to react to the fast-changing landscape of the telecoms industry would have been disappointed at Mobile World Congress 2013.
But despite the absence of a major announcement from any of the big operating groups, something that has come to be a hallmark of MWC, some of the major players did provide some detailed insight into their broad strategic near-term goals. Telefonica, Vodafone and DoCoMo this week each communicated how they see their businesses evolving to meet the new challenges they face in identifying new capabilities and opportunities, and how they are reviewing their core businesses. But how much of it was new thinking?
Operators revisit old concepts at MWC ‘13 to sketch out new objectives
Cesar Alierta, CEO of Telefonica, kicked the MWC week off by saying that the mobile industry needs to re-position in the mobile services value chain. On the face of it, these comments would no doubt have been met with another roll of the eyes by companies that have created the services people want to use on their smartphones, using what Alierta referred to as an unlevel playing field. Alierta’s comments could have been made any time in the past five years, and his suggestions that operators should now focus on offering enhanced connectivity embodies a strategy that has been emerging among telcos during this time.
Looking more closely, that Alierta suggested operators should focus on offering simplified tariffs built around an “enhanced customer experience”, which actually shows how far operators have already gone in losing the battle to provide services consumers want to use. The fact is that mobile operators have already sunk significant resources into building applications and environments for mobile consumers, who have overwhelmingly chosen not to use them. Twitter, Facebook, Google’s suite of services, the Android and Apple app stores are probably some of the main reasons people actually buy smartphones – not for any service developed by telecoms operators.
So what’s operators’ latest thinking on how to meet these challenges? Operators, Alierta says, now need to compete by offering the best quality experience of services. So the question that arises is: when will the mobile industry listen to Alierta’s often-sounded battle cry? The answer is, it’s already happening. Some operators, including Telefonica with its Telefonica Digital unit, are well advanced into looking at how they can use their networks in new ways to differentiate and add value to end users, a strategy based around new organizational structures that is gradually finding favor with other major telcos.