A recent and well researched project from Telecoms.com focused on the impetus that is driving partnerships between operators and OTT players. Part of the research pointed to a feeling that both camps are having a reality check.
Many involved on both sides are beginning to see difficulties – and 38 percent in each camp believe there is not enough willingness on the other to get things done. Some observers, such as our friend @disruptivedean, will tell you that the integration issues are much greater than you think. Web sites are complex places and not getting any simpler and sponsored data is tough to do.
This may be true, but soon to be published research points firmly to operators believing that partnerships are the practical way forward. As revenues from other sources such as SMS diminish, revenues from other sources need to be found. And are being found.
Whilst SMS is a tricky example, with news that German messaging traffic increased dramatically, but operators lost another piece of the pie, there is hope. And, even though two thirds of operators will have launched RCS services by the end of next year – according to research sponsored by BICS – it does not lie there.
The answer lies in real time functionality, linked to policy management.
Right now, we are at a tipping point. The driver for the implementation of real time charging was control driven by the Regulator. Billshock stories made the Regulator demand that customers be told when they had reached their data limits. So operators told them, and stopped them or throttled them.
Over the next two years we will see a huge increase in the roll out of marketing and customer lead initiatives. Whilst control of data limits will still be a big part of the equation, the new research shows that operators are now truly understanding the potential of the rich combination of real time charging (convergent of course) with policy management, analytics and business intelligence.
And they will use it – to a large extent – to manage relationships and partnerships with a range of OTT players. ‘OTT collaboration’ is the most popular use of real time functionality in two years’ time. Across a range of services from which respondents can choose multiple answers, the only choice that scored less than 40 percent was Carrier Billing – and then only just.
While Carrier, or Direct Operator, Billing may not be to everyone’s taste – presumably because of the extra scrutiny and regulation that governs the financial world, almost everything else is.
In just a few short years, OTT players have gone from foe to friend. Indeed, it would not be putting it too delicately to say that operators see them as their saviours in the digital world. We are about to enter a era of innovation, and for a change, operators are going to be a part of it.
Already we are seeing the ‘mind sets’ of operators change to grab this new inclusive thinking. As operators themselves become the OTT threat (or partner) in other territories such as TV, they are offering customers this or some other service free if they sign up to voice and data services at a certain level.
All of which is good news for the industry. The operators are unlocking new sources of revenue, rather than just talking about it, conference organisers will have a host of new case studies to discuss and vendors will be talking to a lot of operators about when they will be implementing real time – not if they will be.
For the next – big – trick, let us see if we cannot outlaw the word ‘data.’ No-one understands it and it will push operators back down the road to commodity if they do not avoid using it.