Thursday, October 4, 2012

Peace between carriers and OTT players?

A recent study by Amdocs appear to hint at the possibility of a peace between wireless carriers and OTT players (like WhatsApp etc). The study has surveyed wireless carriers and OTT players about their sentiments towards collaboration and other related issues.

Not surprisingly, wireless carriers are to a large degree willing to see OTT companies as potential partners but equally unsurprising, the carriers have no plans of ceding the customer relationship to the OTT companies.

My take on the numbers presented in the survey is that a potential peace between wireless carriers and OTT players is still very far away. The high number of carriers willing to view OTT companies as potential partners is more an indication that they finally view them as a real threat than genuine partner considerations. This is backed up by the very low number of carriers willing to truly partner and consider ceding part of the customer relationship.

I think that the balance has shifted towards the OTT companies because of rapid innovation and that the carriers need them more than they need the carriers.

The counter argument to that is of course that carriers provide great monetization capabilities with direct customer billing etc. The question is how relevant that will be in the near future. If we look at what is going on in the payment industry in the developed part of the world, it is not impossible that the wireless carriers will soon be irrelevant when it comes to capturing payments for anything beyond the basic plan. 

Something is brewing in the payment industry and it still unclear what is going to "stick" (succeed), will it be Passbook, PayPal or some other solution? In my view it is unlikely that hardware (NFC) or wireless carriers will play an integral part in this.

If we on the other hand look at what is going on in the developing world, carriers have a significant presence in the payment industry and are in some nations actually leading innovators in establishing non-cash based solutions for the masses. Here you have large numbers of people, not using credit cards or even bank accounts, paying for services and transfer money, using wireless carrier payment solutions. It is not impossible that innovations in this part of the world could spread and change the game in developed nations.

At the end of the day I think OTT companies like WhatsApp and others will continue to focus on innovation and keeping up with the OTT competition rather than slow down and try and cooperate with wireless carriers.

No peace.

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