How can Operators engage with the new Digital Consumers?

I was invited as an analyst to speak at Infosys CTIA event on Mobile Innovation: Understanding and Serving Today’s Digital Consumer

The event also co-incided with Infosys’s launch of the flypp platform for Mobile network Operators. I presented an overview on the state of play for Operators in the new world of Digital consumers.

Many thanks to Deepak Swamy, Latha kalainesan of Infosys and others for the invite

Below is my talk.

The traditional Telco stack could be seen as: Network + Device + Infrastructure

As the Internet and the Mobile ecosystems merge, the new stack is: Network + Device + Web/Cloud + Social networks

This trend has three direct implications:

1) The customer interacts (increasingly) with a social layer (apps, web, facebook etc all have social elements which the customer values)

2) Customers are beginning to live with imperfection in Telecoms (like they do on the Web)

3) The rate of change increases and innovation increases . On the Web, the rate of innovation is faster

Carriers have always had assets. But customers do not value Carrier assets(ex Bandwidth). Customers like services.

The question then is: How can Telecom assets be packaged as services? Obviously these services need to be making money.

Not all services will make money. We can divide the world into three simplistic segments:

a) Where mobile came first(Korea, Japan)

b) Where the Web came first(North America, Europe)

c) Where there is neither web nor mobile. Most of the emerging markets + Africa etc

The point is: services have to be seen in context of the ecosystem(that’s why services in Korea and Japan are not translatable to the West). Also, where there is no web and no mobile, ultimately the Mobile will win.

Viewed in this context, the question then is:

We have been talking of API enabling the Telecoms network/Telecoms Web services etc for a while .. What has changed?

Two things:

a) The iPhone has set a precedence for apps and services

b) Mobile data has now overtaken mobile voice in terms of revenue. Hence, Operator attention now shifts to data and to services.

We are also seeing some very unique use cases like the site Zillow whose mobile site out performs the web site

So, what should Operators do?

They should start with the one logical place: The customer.

This could take many forms: Understanding the customer profile, recommendations etc

Finally, I believe that customers trust Operators to provide a reliable service. But will customers trust Operators with their music preferences? This is far harder to achieve and will need the Operator to work with partners and to change their mindset

Finally, we also need to change our own mindset when it comes to the Operator

Consider the privacy issues of Google Buzz when they essentially made a section of the user’s social graph public

However, when Google does it, we call it ‘innovation’ but when Operators try new things, we chase them with a stick i.e. have regulation / laws that prohibit things

Finally, Macromyopia also plays an important part (over-estimating the short term effects and under-estimating the long term impact).

That world is upon us now and is being driven by the new Digital consumer