With the global app store frenzy, content is one key piece in the operators' food chain that is today more relevant than it has ever been. "With the introduction of the app stores, customers now have a choice to bypass the operator for getting applications and content," says Han Willem Kotterman, CSL's chief strategy officer.
"That means that operators have to make sure that their content is more relevant and can hold its own on the external application battlefield.
" That means personalization and localization are the key differentiating weapons the operator can use, he said. Some operators will seek to be a happy pipe delivering data and access as efficiently as possible, says Nathan Burly from Ovum.
On the other hand, other operators are attempting to capture new parts of the content value chain, he says. For instance, some cellcos are opening up their billing platforms in the hope of gaining small transactional revenues.
Burley says Android, RIM and Ovi Store allow and encourage carrier billing on their platforms. Operators have various strategic advantages over other application providers, says Kotterman.
"For one, the operators have the customer billing relationships. OEMs have tried to break into that value chain but customers are generally reluctant to provide their payment details over the phone.
"Apple is one of the few OEMs that have managed to circumvent much of that issue since many customers already had iTunes accounts and hence did not need to provide additional information to purchase apps.
Most other OEMs are starting to realize that if they want to compete with Apple from an application perspective, they will need the help of operators to provide operator billing, he said.
In addition, operators have the advantage that most of the applications they provide are operating system agnostic.