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Telecom Blue Ocean Strategy

January 16, 2013 4 comments

None of the incumbant telecom providers has put into place any Blue Ocean Strategies. Blue Ocean Strategies have made the Circus, Wine, Gaming, Airline, etc. industries exciting again, so why not apply it to the telecom market. The only telecom players, I know of, that implemented some blue ocean strategies are Free in France, GiffGaff in the UK and Freedompop in the USA. So why not do a Blue Ocean Strategy exercise in this blog post.

Here is my strategy canvas:

Telecom Blue Ocean

Traditional operators focus on charging heavily for calls and SMS although lately more and more packages with free minutes are available. International calls however are still charged extremely expensive. Mobile phones are subsidized up to 24 months and as such you need to stay with them for at least this period. Operators spend a lot of their money investing in the roll out and maintenance of their networks. They also have very complex pricing plans and as such need heavy investments in BSS.

MVNOs try to compete on price and most often do not subsidize mobiles. They do not have their own network as such they do not need to invest in it. They offer less tariff plan options. You are often free to change whenever you want. To make up for not subsidizing mobiles, you can get mobile loans which means you have some sort of permanence.

So how would Blue Ocean Mobile do it differently?

In line with Free’s example, call costs should be eliminated, including international costs. Mobiles should not be subsidized but cheap mobile loans should be offered for those that do not bring their own device [BYOD]. Blue Ocean Mobile should focus on LTE and try to win LTE licenses. However instead of doing heavy investments in installing antennas everywhere, Blue Ocean Mobile should only install antenna’s in those areas where few people live but connectivity is required, e.g. major highways. This is in line with Free’s strategy. However unlike Free, the operator’s network should not be built with unreliable WiFi hotspots. Instead specially designed “Personal Antennas” should be sold to everybody who wants one. What is a personal antenna? A personal antenna is a nanocell LTE antenna. A personal LTE antenna in your home that not only gives service to you but also to neighbours and people close to your home. The idea is that you become a sort of mini-LTE ISP to which others can connect. For every KB that gets transferred through your personal LTE antenna, you will get a revenue share. So it is in people’s interest to put the personal antenna in a place where it can service a lot of people and to have a good backbone Internet connection. People should be able to win back their investment in the Personal Antenna in a few months and make money afterwards. This should allow Blue Ocean Mobile to seriously lower their investment in rolling out an LTE network and to get free mouth-to-mouth advertising. Via a software-defined network [SDN] management system all nanocell LTE antennas are controlled by Blue Ocean Mobile.

Since Blue Ocean Mobile is focusing only on data traffic, it should work together with “over-the-top players” to offer a compelling list of services. Ideally Android Phones and the iPhone will use the data network for calling others instead of a circuit network. Customers should have a full range of BYOD management options so small and medium-sized businesses can easily manage the phones of their employees as well as push enterprise applications towards them.

Blue Ocean Mobile should also try to avoid investment in BSS. Tariff plans should be easy with the customer defining how many free megabytes they want to purchase for a fixed monthly fee and a simple extra charge for overage. So instead of operator defined tariff plans, everybody has a personalized tariff plan that they can adjust every day. Calls and SMS are charged based on data traffic not on per minute charges. VoIP solutions is the standard. Blue Ocean Mobile does not have a circuit network or SS7.

Blue Ocean Mobile is also copying the long tail support from Giff Gaff in which customers give support to other customers and are responsible for marketing. Unlike Giff Gaff not only prepaid but also subscriptions are supported. Like Giff Gaff customers get a revenue share when they participate in support or marketing.

Blue Ocean Mobile’s strategy is just very high-level and still needs in-depth analysis but it is an open invitation for innovative people to start applying Blue Ocean strategies to anything they feel in need of disruption.

Maarten Ectors is a senior executive who is an expert in applying cutting edge technologies (like Cloud, Big Data, M2M, Open Hardware, SDN, etc.) and business innovations to generate new revenues. He is currently looking for new challenges. You can contact him at maarten at telruptive dot com.

5 Ideas for Amazon AWS

Although the number of solutions Amazon AWS is offering has become very large, here are 5 ideas of what Amazon could be adding next.

API Marketplaces

There are thousands of APIs out there. However what is missing is an easy way for companies to control their costs. In line with other marketplaces Amazon runs, there could be an API marketplace. An API marketplace would allow third-party API providers to let Amazon do the charging. Companies would be able to pay one bill to Amazon AWS and use thousands of APIs. Also third-party API providers would be winning because they often can not charge small amounts to a large set of developers. Amazon already sends you a bill or charges your credit card, hence adding some dollar/euro cents for external API usage would be easy to do. The third-party API provider would avoid having to lock-in users in large monthly usage fees to offset credit card and management charges. Amazon of course would be the big winner because they could get a revenue share on these thousands of APIs. End-users would also be winning because they can easily compare different APIs and get community feedback from other developers and pick those APIs with the best reputation. The typical advantages of any online marketplace. Also cross-selling, advertisement, etc. and other areas can be reused by Amazon. A final advantage would even be to have Amazon be in the middle and offer a standard interface with third-parties offering competing implementations. This would allow developers to easily switch providers.

Language APIs

A lot of applications would be helped if they could use language APIs that are paid per request. Language APIs is a group name for text-to-speech, speech recognition, natural language processing, even mood analysis APIs. These are all APIs that are available individually but there is a clear economies of scale effect. The more speech you transcribe or text documents you process, the better your algorithms become. Also there is an over-supply of English language APIs but an under-supply of any other language in the world, except for Spanish, French and German perhaps. Another problem with existing APIs is that a high monthly volume is needed in the even the most basic subscription plan. Examples are Acapela VaaS pricing that costs a minimum of €1500. Very few applications will use this amount of voice.

M2M APIs and Services

Amazon is already working hard on Big Data solutions. M2M sensors can generate large volumes of data pretty quickly. S3 or DynamoDB would be ideal to store this data. However what is missing is an easy way to connect and manage large number of sensors and devices and their accompanying applications. There are few standards but with examples like Pachube, Amazon should be able to get inspired. Especially the end-to-end service management, provisioning, SLA management, etc. could use a big boost from a disruptive innovator like Amazon. Also M2M sensor intelligence could be offered from Amazon, see my other article about this subject.

Mobile APIs and Solutions

With billions of phones out there, mobilizing the Web will be the next challenge. Securely exposing company data, applications and processes towards mobile devices is a challenge today. BYOD, bring-your-own-device, is a headache for CIOs. We do not all have a MAC so we can not sign iPhone apps and launch them on the App Store. Ideally there would be a technical solution for enterprises to manage private app stores, deploy apps on different devices and be able to send notification to all or subsets of their employees. Also functionality like Usergrid in which developers would not have to focus on the backoffice logic would be of interest. Also tools to develop front-end for different devices would be appreciated, examples like Tiggzi come to mind. There are a lot of island solutions but few really integrated total solutions.

Support APIs and Services

Amazon is becoming more and more important in the global IT infrastructure business. This means that solutions will move more and more to the Cloud and sometimes be hybrid cloud. With these complex solution scenarios in which third-parties, Amazon and on-site enterprise services have to be combined, risks of things going wrong are high. Support services both from a technical point of view:

  • detect failures and to automatically try to solve them
  • manage support ticket distributions between different partners
  • measure SLAs
  • etc.

as well as from a functional point of view:

  • dynamic call centers with temporary agents
  • 3rd party certification programs in case small partners do not have local resources
  • 3rd party support marketplace to offer more competition and compare reputations
  • etc.

are all areas in which global solutions could disrupt local and island solutions that are currently in place.

How to be part of the mobile revolution?

There are more phones sold than PCs. In the near future there will be many, many, many more phones sold than PCs. Also most of these phones will be smartphones. Tablets are also going to surpass PC sales in the coming years.

With so many mobile phones and tablets how can the telecom industry generate new revenues?

The first thing to understand is what are people doing on their mobile. Any other industry would need to start doing surveys. However the telecom industry just needs to check their networks. This is the first possible new revenue stream. Big Data business intelligence about what mobile users are doing. Are they buying apps? From where? Are they using apps? Which ones? Are they browsing the web? Where? The data volumes are massive but the value is extremely high. Machine learning could be used to cluster different types of users. As soon as these clusters are big enough then it is possible to sell the data. The more precise the clustering, the higher the value.

If you know what customers do, then help them to do it better

Via opt-in it would be possible to actively help users. Recommendation based on similarity is possible: other users have “bought this app”, “looked at this page”, “subscribed to this service”, etc. If successful then advertisement will generate revenues.

Enable others to accelerate the mobile revolution

What would an entrepreneur need to start a mobile business? Likely 80-90% of the needs are the same:

  • Find capital
  • Register a company
  • Find employees
  • Design a winning product strategy
  • Set-up a mobile presence (mobile portal, news, blog, etc.)
  • Develop mobile application or SaaS (user management, single sign-on, reporting, analytics, code versioning, etc.)
  • Test mobile application or SaaS
  • Deploy mobile application or SaaS to different stores.
  • Charge for in-app or content
  • Advertisement
  • Sales & campaign management
  • Accounting
  • etc.

Be the restaurant, tool shop and hotel, next to the gold mine. Do not try to look for gold. Try to make money from the gold diggers. Provide enablement services.

What would an enterprise need to manage the mobile revolution?

Everybody brings their own smartphone and tablet to work. This can save the company millions in purchasing equipment but on the other hand costs a lot more money in management.

  • Enabling new devices to connect to enterprise resources.
  • Securing access (storage encryption, single sign-on, etc.).
  • Monitoring usage.
  • Mobilizing business processes.
  • Helpdesk support.
  • etc.

Bring your own device (BYODaaS) and mobile business processes as a service (MBPaaS) are areas to focus on.

What would consumers need from the mobile revolution?

Lots of things. Unfortunately consumers are already heavily catered for by Apple, Facebook and Google. Operators are likely to fail if they go in direct competition with over-the-top players. However operators also have a history of being difficult to work with, slow and greedy. There is no killer app. There are only some assets operators have that are still valuable:

  • Who calls who? (On iPhones and Androids this asset is becoming less valuable)
  • Free call forwarding (Lots of business models do not survive paid call forwarding, e.g. Voicemail in the Cloud, PBX for consumers, etc.)
  • Quality of Service (every day seems more like location. A big promise but at the end somebody else found a workaround.)
  • Micro-payments and micro-subscriptions (Visa, Google Wallet, Paypal & Square are heavily attacking this one.)
  • Identity (MSIDN is globally unique but OpenID/oAuth and other innovations are allowing Facebook and others to offer almost global identity)
  • etc.

The number of unique assets is shrinking. It is now or never to make money with them.

10 ways telecom can make money in the future a.k.a. telecom revenue 2.0

LTE roll-outs are taking place in America and Europe. Over-the-top-players are likely to start offering large-scale and free HD mobile VoIP over the next 6-18 months. Steeply declining ARPU will be the result. The telecom industry needs new revenue: telecom revenue 2.0. How can they do it?

1. Become a Telecom Venture Capitalist

Buying the number 2 o 3 player in a new market or creating a copy-cat solution has not worked. Think about Terra/Lycos/Vivendi portals, Keteque, etc. So the better option is to make sure innovative startups get partly funded by telecom operators. This assures that operators will be able to launch innovative solutions in the future. Just being a VC will not be enough. Also investment in quickly launching the new startup services and incorporating them into the existing product catalog are necessary.

2. SaaSification & Monetization

SaaS monetization is not reselling SaaS and keeping a 30-50% revenue share. SaaS monetization means offering others the development/hosting tools, sales channels, support facilities, etc. to quickly launch new SaaS solutions that are targeted at new niche or long tail segments. SaaSification means that existing license-based on-site applications can be quickly converted into subscription-based SaaS offerings. The operator is a SaaS enabler and brings together SaaS creators with SaaS customers.

3. Enterprise Mobilization, BPaaS and BYOD

There are millions of small, medium and large enterprises that have employees which bring smartphones and tablets to work [a.k.a. BYOD – bring-your-own-device]. Managing these solutions (security, provisioning, etc.) as well as mobilizing applications and internal processes [a.k.a. BPaaS – business processes as a service] will be a big opportunity. Corporate mobile app and mobile SaaS stores will be an important starting point. Solutions to quickly mobilize existing solutions, ideally without programming should come next.

4. M2M Monetization Solutions

At the moment M2M is not having big industry standards yet. Operators are ideally positioned to bring standards to quickly connect millions of devices and sensors to value added services. Most of these solutions will not be SIM-based so a pure-SIM strategy is likely to fail. Operators should think about enabling others to take advantage of the M2M revolution instead of building services themselves. Be the restaurant, tool shop and clothing store and not the gold digger during a gold rush.

5. Big Data and Data Intelligence as a Service

Operators are used to manage peta-bytes of data. However converting this data into information and knowledge is the next step towards monetizing data. At the moment big data solutions focus on storing, manipulating and reporting large volume of data. However the Big Data revolution is only just starting. We need big data apps, big data app stores, “big datafication” tools, etc.

6. All-you-can-eat HD Video-on-Demand

Global content distribution can be better done with the help of operators then without. Exporting Netflix-like business models to Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin-America, etc. is urgently necessary if Hollywood wants to avoid the next generation believing “content = free”. All-you-can-eat movies, series and music for €15/month is what should be aimed for.

7. NFC, micro-subscriptions, nano-payments, anonymous digital cash, etc.

Payment solutions are hot. Look at Paypal, Square, Dwolla, etc. Operators could play it nice and ask Visa, Mastercard, etc. how they can assist. However going a more disruptive route and helping Square and Dwolla serve a global marketplace are probably more lucrative. Except for NFC solutions also micro-subscriptions (e.g. €0.05/month) or nano-payments (e.g. €0.001/transaction) should be looked at.

Don’t forget that people will still want to buy things in a digital world which they do not want others to know about or from people or companies they do not trust. Anonymous digital cash solutions are needed when physical cash is no longer available. Unless of course you expect people to buy books about getting a divorce with the family’s credit card…

8. Build your own VAS for consumers and enterprises – iVAS.

Conference calls, PBX, etc. were the most advanced communication solutions offered by operators until recently. However creating visual drag-and-drop environments in which non-technical users can combine telecom and web assets to create new value-added-services can result in a new generation of VAS: iVAS. The VAS in which personal solutions are resolved by the people who suffer them. Especially in emerging countries where wide-spread smartphones and LTE are still some years off, iVAS can still have some good 3-5 years ahead. Examples would be personalized numbering schemas for my family & friends, distorting voices when I call somebody, etc. Let consumers and small enterprises be the creators by offering them visual  do-it-yourself tools. Combine solutions like Invox, OpenVBX, Google’s App Inventor, etc.

9. Software-defined networking solutions & Network as a Service

Networks are changing from hardware to software. This means network virtualization, outsourcing of network solutions (e.g. virtualized firewalls), etc. Operators are in a good position to offer a new generation of complex network solutions that can be very easily managed via a browser. Enterprises could substitute expensive on-site hardware for cheap monthly subscriptions of virtualized network solutions.

10. Long-Tail Solutions

Operators could be offering a large catalog of long-tail solutions that are targeted at specific industries or problem domains. Thousands of companies are building multi-device solutions. Mobile &  SmartTV virtualization and automated testing solutions would be of interest to them. Low-latency solutions could be of interest to the financial sector, e.g. automated trading. Call center and customer support services on-demand and via a subscription model. Many possible services in the collective intelligence, crowd-sourcing, gamification, computer vision, natural language processing, etc. domains.

Basically operators should create new departments that are financially and structurally independent from the main business and that look at new disruptive technologies/business ideas and how either directly or via partners new revenue can be generated with them.

What not to do?

Waste any more time. Do not focus on small or late-to-market solutions, e.g. reselling Microsoft 365, RCS like Joyn, etc. Focus on industry-changers, disruptive innovations, etc.

Yes LTE roll-out is important but without any solutions for telecom revenue 2.0, LTE will just kill ARPU. So action is required now. Action needs to be quick [forget about RFQs], agile [forget about standards – the iPhone / AppStore is a proprietary solution], well subsidized [no supplier will invest big R&D budgets to get a 15% revenue share] and independent [of red tape and corporate control so risk taking is rewarded, unless of course you predicted 5 years ago that Facebook and Angry Bird would be changing industries]…

Enough virtualization and IaaS, let’s focus on business users now…

February 24, 2012 Leave a comment

When the first television shows were made they used one camera to record a theatre play. It was only after some time that the real potential of the television became clear.

Virtualization and IaaS is like a one-camera-theatre-play-broadcast

Yes it is great to be able to put software on virtual hardware and as such save some money in hardware costs. But it will not change anybody’s life because renting a virtual server full-time is more expensive than renting a physical hosting server. Companies that focus too much on virtualization and IaaS are not seeing the full potential of Cloud Computing.

Multi-tenancy – a game changer

Cloud Computing without mult-tenant solutions is like a race car without an engine. Making one solution that fits many and installing it once and managing it in one place is the real game changer.

How much time and money is lost in a per customer install? Ordering and installing hardware (4-6 weeks); paying for base software (OS, Cluster, Database, etc.); installing the total software stack; integration with back-up, fault management, single sign-on, performance management, third-party systems, etc.; upgrading and bug fixing; data migrations; etc.

All this can be drastically reduced if the software is installed once and designed for multiple companies and customers.

Best-In-Class Solutions

Best-In-Class solutions used to be those solutions with most features from market-leading companies like SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, etc. However most of these solutions are unnecessarily complex. There is a simple rule to check if you will be overpaying for unnecessary features: Do my business users need training? The more, the worst.

Apple has demonstrated that simplicity and easy-of-use are real demand creators. The real revolution of Cloud Computing is starting now. The real revolution is that business users can ignore the legacy corporate IT systems and use alternative solutions to get things done faster and more efficiently. The Appstore concept of “There is an app for everything”, will now be translated into “There is a SaaS for everything”.

Project managers will stop asking the IT department to install a shared project management server to synchronize their MS-Projects. Instead they will simply use a SaaS solution for project management. The same will be happening for other disciplines.

IT departments can fight this trend, just like they can try to stop people from bringing smartphones and tablets to work. However smart IT departments see a clear opportunity.  Corporate systems are very expensive and often their implementation fails. This wastes a lot of time and money. By letting business users choose the SaaS solutions they want to use, IT departments will see the risk of project failures due to change management issues almost disappear. Using SaaS solutions however does not mean that IT departments are no longer necessary. Once users are over their honeymoon period they will want these SaaS solutions to use Single Sign-on and be integrated with corporate systems and other SaaS solutions.

The next steps in the Cloud Revolution

The next step in the Cloud revolution will be solutions that make easy integration between on-site systems and between different SaaS solutions possible. Project managers will love to manage projects via a best-in-class project management SaaS. However they will still need to get time reporting info, travel expenses, resource allocation, etc. The reality will be that some of these systems can be offered via other SaaS solutions and some will be local. All of them will need to be integrated if the enterprise wants to get real benefits. History has a tendency to repeat itself. Middleware  and EAIs are not death because of the Cloud. They just will become EAIaaS.

The other Cloud revolution is likely to give business users tools to create their own applications in the Cloud. This does not mean programming tools but instead drag-and-drop wizards and dynamic data storage solutions. There are millions of business critical applications stored in Excel and Access files. It is time that business users get the proper Cloud tools to convert these into social corporate solutions. Google Apps and Force.com are ahead of the rest but they are far from being the winner yet. The war has just started…

Cloud solutions for Bring Your Own Device

February 3, 2012 4 comments

From CTOs from large corporations to small business owners are seeing something completely new happening: People bring their own devices to work. People are no longer satisfied with complex enterprise software and with very restrictive hardware and software solutions. Employees want social networking, mobile apps, etc. to not stop when they get into the office. People are dissatisfied with the IT departments dominance.

Operators are uniquely positioned to help their customers handle the transition to Bring Your Own Device. Operators are the able to put software on a phone before you buy it or to push software towards your phone even if you do not ask for it. Other companies are not.

Cloud solutions for device management

What if IT could push some security settings to your iPhone,Android Phone, iPad, tablet, etc. hence you can use it but at least you have your data encrypted, a password protecting your device, remote kill capabilities, cloud-based device backups, remote configuration pushed like corporate VPN,  etc.

Cloud solutions for mobile enablement

What if any enterprise from SME to global corporation could get their own mobile app store? Companies are able to get group discounts for applications that you find in the App Store or the Android Market. Companies are able to add their own apps. A mobile app marketplace with standard clients for enterprise software: SAP, Oracle, IBM, HP, SAS, CA, Citrix, VMWare, etc. that integrates smoothly with the enterprise mobile app store.

Operators should offer solutions for enterprise data silos and legacy systems to be easily accessible from mobile devices. Mobile PaaS platforms that let you easily create mobile apps. Secure Cloud to back-office integration via secure channels.

Cloud solutions for device provisioning

Provide an operator hosted sales portal branded by each company where employees can buy devices at discounts. These devices come with corporate software pre-installed. Integrations with companies purchasing allows companies to buy more corporate-ready phone and tablets directly.

Cloud solutions for device support

A marketplace with third-party support contracts for device maintenance and remote problem troubleshooting. Tools for companies to start offering support. Get access to devices from others in a controlled manner. Bill enterprises or customers for support events.

Many more ideas can be added. The easiest way is to do nothing and to see how others will bring them to your subscribers…

2012,The Enterprise Apps revolution

2012 will be the year in which Apple’s mobile app revolution will be translated to every device (PCs, tablets, mobiles, signage, m2m, cars, TVs, etc.) and to the enterprise. Instead of a static company portal and an IT-driven software selection, 2012 will bring apps to the enterprise. Workers will be able to use their PC’s browser as well as a BYOD (bring your own device) to select apps from a company-wide or global enterprise app store. No longer will you have to pay for an annual license to edit a video, image or CAD drawing if you only use it twice a year. Software will be a lot more social. Not only IT will loose power, also marketing and upper management. Crowd-sourcing can allow employees to vote and rate and as such let content and opinions bubble up that might not always fit upper management’s strategy. However when used correctly the opinions are likely to beat any internal reporting system or dashboard in accuracy.

What is still pending?
Except for easy-to-use apps, inter-app and Backoffice integration is very important. Expect new “standards” based on innovative dotcom solutions in this area. Enterprise PaaS, a là Salesforce.com but often in private cloud, will move a lot of Excel and Access apps into SaaS apps. Employees will be the major enterprise app creators and no longer programmers.

Easy over training
This app revolution will focus on mini apps with basic functionality and no longer full enterprise solutions that do everything but in a too complex way.

Telecom’ s involvement?
What I described so far sounds like an IT platform and solution however it will span communication services as well. The link between IT and telecom will become very blurry. For this reason it is important for operators to be active in this market.

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