The just-concluded annual event of the GSM mobile industry in Barcelona threw up a number of interesting trends, some of which could be particularly useful for Indian operators and companies creating content and solutions in the mobile space.
Dominance of Voice and SMS: The mobile can do many things, but for a mobile operator it is voice and SMS which generates, in most countries, 90-95% of the revenue. This is likely to go down as new services emerge, but for now, the mobile is used for, as someone put it, “calling, texting, and as an alarm clock.”
Operators as Customer Relationship Managers: Mobile operators are in a unique position given the data they have on consumers. They can graph our social networks, identify our likes and dislikes based on what we do on the mobile, and also integrate this with the information they collect on us when we register. All of this puts operators in an excellent position to manage – and monetise – the customer relationship they have. But for this, they will need to look beyond the pipes business – never an easy transition to make. This market transition will create opportunities and challenges for not just mobile operators, but also the entire ecosystem.
Mobile as Internet Machine: That is how Masayoshi Son of Softbank thinks of the mobile. As mobiles become more powerful and networks become faster, it opens up the vast world of the Internet – on the go. The same sentiment was echoed by Vodafone’s Arun Sarin. But this will mean investing not just in 3G networks but going to 3.5G and beyond. India needs to think hard creating the regulatory environment to facilitate the creation of the next-generation wireless infrastructure and service.
Hot Topics: On the mobile services side, perhaps the two areas that elicited the maximum interest and discussion were mobile advertising and mobile payments. Just as the advertising model has had a deep impact on the Internet, there is a growing belief that the mobile is becoming a medium and advertising will create value for customers, operators and businesses. The models are still emerging. On the payments side, there is great interest on enabling money transfers, facilitating banking and driving transactions. There was also recognition for “mChek on Airtel” which won the award for the Best Customer Care and Billing Solution.
Importance of Communities: As John Chambers of Cisco put it, the market is shifting from “You to Us.” People want to connect to other people, new sources of information and with the communities they are already part of. The mobile is becoming an integral part of this connected life, with the desire to share photos, videos – and moments. As tomorrow’s world is shaped by convergence, the mobile will be the real-time window to our family and friends.
Importance of Emerging Markets: The fulcrum of innovation is also starting to shift from the developed markets to emerging countries like India. One of the keynote speakers pointed out that while big companies are good at evolutionary innovations, it is the smaller companies which drive revolutionary innovation. Indian companies and entrepreneurs have the opportunity to create the next big models in the mobile space – leveraging a large domestic market to expand internationally.