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Challenges faced by the Operators and Mobile Developer Community

Date Added: December 25, 2007 03:37:05 PM
Category: Computers & Internet

The revenue generated from voice is clearly diminishing with every passing day, forcing the operators to explore new areas of growth through continuous innovation in technologies and services. Recently I had an opportunity to attend a Vodafone D2C strategy briefing which brought out Vodafone initiative for the next three years. During this briefing Vodafone significantly highlighted the fact that despite the anticipated consolidation by European operators, the operators should focus on services other than the traditional voice based services so that they can generate more revenue for themselves. In the fast moving competitive market of Europe, operators are not only facing the challenge of competing with low cost MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) but are also continuously struggling to retain their existing subscribers.

On the other side, if we take into consideration the telecom markets in developing countries, particularly Asia, we notice that besides the increased mobile growth in these areas, they still lag behind in responding to the changing market opportunities. The fastest developing Asian markets are China, Indonesia, India and Vietnam. With the increasing passage of time, Pakistan telecom market is also gaining vitality due to fierce competition by operators, immense growth potential and encouragement of FDI by government. Based on PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority) stats for Aug 2007, the total number of subscribers was 68 million, a teledensity of 42.6%. In 2007 the average growth rate has been about 2.5 million new subscribers each month. In addition to this, BMI expects Pakistan to join the small band of countries with more than 100 million mobile subscribers during 2008.

As the ARPU (average revenue per user) on voice continues to decrease, data has become the most dominant factor for operators in retaining and attracting the customers. However the growth of data services in the most developed mobile markets such as (Japan, Korea, Western Europe and to a lesser degree Northern America) has only increased from 8% in 2002 to 19% in 2007 as provided by IDATE NEWS N* 288. The key factors which have complemented the growth of data services in developed countries are the increasing capabilities of mobile phones, faster networks like 3G and mobile applications that bring a rich user experience by changing the way people live, work and play. Similarly besides few exceptions, many operators in Asia and other developing countries have still not been able to implement long term data services strategy, with the result their mobile play is still primarily focused on voice.

With the changing trends, operators are now expecting their revenues to grow, as the subscriber’s appetite for mobile based content has increased. Going beyond a ring tone or a theme, they are always on a look out for a “killer software application” that can easily become popular among the subscribers and thus create brand loyalty for them. But from the mobile content developer’s perspective it’s not a simple task to come up with such an application.

There is different challenge for the mobile software developers though. One challenge highlighted at the Google’s Open Source discussion event was the absence of standards for the developers in the industry. Optimizing these applications for different OS and broad range of mobile devices with varying screen sizes and versions remains the biggest problem for the mobile content developers. Even if the portability issues are resolved, distribution still remains a big challenge for the developers. It is the dream of every mobile content developer to get their content distributed through an operator. But the unending list of pre requisites on various issues of portability, certification and in some cases localization can turn this dream into a complete night mare.

The fast adoption of advanced phones and corresponding explosive growth in mobile software has transformed it into the buzzword of every article, publication and news around us. A new report issued by market intelligence firm iSuppli forecasts that the market for premium mobile content will exceed $44 billion by 2011, more than doubling the $20 million anticipated for 2007. The major driving force for the mobile content developer is to get an easy access to the information and APIs (application programming interface) which are held confidential by the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and OS providers of mobile devices

There should be one organization that can set guidelines and standards for content development by consulting all the stake holders in the value chain. This will facilitate the developers to focus only on the core issue, which is to develop applications for the consumers that can add value in their lives. This thing is not as simple as it seems. Due to various political, economical and competitive landscape constraints, it’s very hard to unite all the stake holders at one place and develop standards for the content developers.

An upcoming step taken in this direction is the new Android platform that unites the players of mobile ecosystem such as wireless operators, handset manufacturers and developers all at one place. Android software stack will provide developers a complete access to handset capabilities and tools that will enable them to build more compelling and innovative applications for the mobile consumers. The big question is how far Android be successful in combining the concerned parties together and to what extent they will be able to over come the unavoidable factors such as fierce competition among each other. But for the present state, we can rightly say that if the technology leaders like Google Inc., T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm and Motorola can manage to integrate successfully, they will certainly provide consumers with a far better user experience than much of what is available on today's mobile platforms.

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