This year, the main buzzword in the global telecoms industry has been 4G. Over the last few months, we have witnessed some interesting spectrum auctions taking place around the world. As this has developed, carriers, operators, service providers, businesses and consumers have been busy educating themselves about the benefits of what it is and what it will mean for them such as faster connectivity speeds and reliability. It’s that time of year again when all those in the Telecoms space are looking closely to see what to expect in the telco space in 2013.
Stefan Zehle, CEO of Coleago, foreseesthree top trends that will reshape the global mobile telecoms service offerings in 2013. These include an increased emphasis on the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), the beginning of the end to roaming charges and even the end of geography being a factor for mobile users.
Some operators have already introduced services based on IMS, for example in Canada the Rogers One Number service allows the seamless switching between a smartphone and computer. Services of this kind are particularly of interest to operators who are not part of a larger group. It allows mobile operators to leverage the proliferation of free WiFi connectivity to in effect extend their network coverage world-wide. This allows mobile operators to fight back against OTT services such as Skype, WhatsApp and FaceTime by in effect becoming themselves an “OTT over WiFi” player. There is therefore potentially a lot gain for some mobile operators.
The end of roaming
Services which allow users to avoid roaming charges already exist for voice (Truphone, WoldSIM and other) and data (roamline.com, in collaboration with KPN). The business model is built on exploiting the difference between lower wholesale prices paid, for example, by MVNOs and high inter-operator roaming tariffs, the input cost into roaming retail prices. Some operators, who do not have a lot of roaming margin to lose, may attack and offer their own multi-IMSI services, for, say, an additional $10 per country. In the EU downward pressure on intra-EU roaming comes from regulation and using innovative IMS based services operators may be able to maintain or even increase margins. The conventions which govern how roaming is handled are already starting to fall apart. There are now special inter-operator deals and “roamer high-jacking”. For example, when a visitor arrives in Jakarta, it is likely that he will be greeted by the Indonesian mobile network with an SMS assigning him a local number.
The end of geography
Some operators may go all the way and break the link between the mobile telephone number and geography. After all it seems somewhat archaic that in a world where distance does not matter, mobile operator tariffs are still based on location and distance. Location is not an issue with Skype or FaceTime and this is one of the reasons for the success of OTT operators. We are likely to see offerings from mobile operators where the national number can in effect be used across the whole EU as if the customer was in the home country. Incoming calls will be free and outbound calls will come out of the bundle in the normal way. Some operators are already moving towards this charging model, for example Vodafone’s EuroTraveller which for an extra £3 a day allows customers to use UK bundled minutes, texts and internet in Vodafone’s Europe zone. Three pounds a day equates to £90 a month, a huge premium that will soon be eroded since there is no link between price and input costs.
While one can only predict what will happen, these are the main topics areas in which there has been increased focus on over the last few months in the Telco space.