Telcos' natural advantages in OTT

Sheridan Nye/Informa Telecoms and Media
Going into 2013, the communications industry will continue its campaign to be the enabler of critical functions for cities and public services. These are challenging markets that demand patient investment. Administrative systems and working practices – not to mention public policy and regulation – take time to adapt to connected environments. Citizens and consumers also need time to understand their more proactive role.
 
Yet this is perhaps the only domain where carriers enjoy real competitive advantage over OTT rivals. Simply put, the more critical the service, the greater the need for reliability, security, granularity and integration. Only carriers can span connectivity to cloud and back again with the platforms and visibility to deliver true service quality.
 
In contrast, OTT applications are both isolated and unreliable. It’s surprising just how resigned we are as consumers to software that doesn’t actually work (See fig. 1 for recent personal experience). How often do we find an app is not quite compatible with our particular hardware/OS configuration? And how many menus and options must we try to memorise before it does what we expect – only to find that the latest over-the-air update has changed everything and overwritten our treasured settings?
Developers too often lack insight into bugs and operational issues because consumers find their own workarounds (find a human being to ask!). But this won’t do when the consumer relies on a service to inform their doctor of their vital signs, control access to their home, or mediate their relationship with the tax office.
 
As Masters of the Network, carriers have an opportunity to combine applications and their unique data streams to take the consumer experience to new levels. Comprehensive device management, integrated subscriptions and billing services, inch-perfect location stats, and secure access to cloud data could deliver both ease of use and peace of mind. And for that, they should be able charge an appropriate premium.
 
Trust is the missing component today. Whereas the integration of applications, devices and data takes time and effort, popular perceptions are tougher to shift. The telecom brand today has lost its erstwhile association with reliability and security, at least in the minds of consumers. Carriers should assert their confidence in their strengths– and be willing to attack OTT on its weaknesses.
 
Sheridan Nye is a senior analyst for enterprise verticals at Informa Telecoms and Media. For more information, visit www.informatandm.com/
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