What's next for Asia's mobile operators

Telecom Asia staff writers and industry analysts
21 Dec 2010
00:00
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Define an OS platform strategy

As mobile handsets become smarter, product and service differentiation are increasingly based on the user experience of multimedia content, wireless apps and always-on connectivity. In this new landscape, successful business models will have to be built around solid technology platforms and ecosystems, where the device features and capabilities are tightly integrated with applications, networks and services.

The days of mobile operators' walled-garden services are nearly over. Operators are trying to decide whether to build their own platforms or accept that internet and OS players will dominate. The popularity of Android and iPhone devices has led mobile operators, developers and handset manufacturers alike to re-focus on the smartphone platform.

Some operators are attempting to build open developer communities. Many have thrown their weight behind a global initiative called the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC). Pitted against these ventures are not only the open-developer initiatives, such as the LiMo Foundation and the Open Handset Alliance, led by Google (Android), but also closed systems such as iOS and BlackBerry OS.

While the Android platform offers mobile operators the opportunity to provide differentiation, initiatives such as WAC probably represents their last trump card to influence mobile content development. Failure in this will reduce (although we would argue it could potentially elevate) operators' role to that of a smart pipe.

The problem for operators is that there isn't just one major battle over platforms they need to engage in, but two. Operators not only need to take a position on where they sit in relation to smartphone platform development, they also need to create the best delivery mechanism - the network - for content, regardless of who has created it.

The outcome of this positioning will determine who the winners and losers are in the battle to derive maximum value from the development and penetration of the smartphone platform.

- Dave McQueen, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media

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