A good example is in the area of video services. Because they own the network and the customer billing relationship, operators have the opportunity to influence not only the quality of experience associated with video content, but how the delivery of the content is paid for, and by whom. This provides greater choice and flexibility across the entire value chain, from the consumer through to the content owner. For example, a consumer may choose to pay a premium for high-definition streamed video to the content provider (i.e. one of the Big Four), who in turn shares a proportion of that premium with the operator in return for providing a higher quality of service. With platforms such as Aepona’s, this process can happen on-the-fly using APIs (as opposed to requiring manual pre-provisioning), with the revenue management and settlement processes also being automated.
Another significant weapon the operators can provide is contextual relevance. Whilst the Big Four have amassed huge amounts of data about their customers, operators can augment that with real-time customer information such as location, presence, the type of device and connection a customer is using, whether they are roaming, details of their data plan, whether they are moving or stationery, and so on. Combining historical customer data (such as the type of products they like) with real-time information (such as whether they are within a 2 km radius of a particular retail outlet) will allow service providers to offer customers contextually-relevant services, delivering significant benefits to consumers and merchants alike.
There are many other examples of how operators can take advantage of the increasing competition between the Big Four, particularly in the area of Business to Business services and billing, and we will be discussing some of these areas in future postings.
It is inevitable that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are going to dominate the technology landscape for the foreseeable future, and whilst this means that the Big Four will generate significant revenues from digital services delivered on top of the operators’ networks, it does not mean that the operators will have lost relevance – provided that they re-evaluate their role and make the right investments, both in people and in platforms, that allow them to become the arms merchant in the tech war.