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Top 10 telecom predictions for 2009: Deloitte

March 28, 2009

Deloitte recently came out with its TMT (telecom, media and technology) predictions for 2009. Here are some bits from the telecom predictions for 2009. May I also take this opportunity to thank V. Srikumar, partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells, for sharing this study. Thank you, sir!

1. Smartphones: how to stay clever in the downturn.
Mobile phone manufacturers should focus on developing smart phones features consumers want to use and are willing to pay for. They should work closely with operators to create easy-to-use services based on specific functionality that users value, says Deloitte. Smart phone manufacturers could also consider selling devices as price-competitive replacements for laptops. For some workers a smart phone may address all their communications, connectivity and applications requirements.

2. Data ascends from the basement to the boardroom.
Indeed! Data on customer information has been residing with telcos since ages. It is time now for the telcos to recognize that the data or information assets could become as significant to value creation as physical assets. Deloitte recommends that this customer information be integrated, and not appended or archived. It suggests that telcos should consider how to structure their activities to utilize their full spectrum of information. Having a CIO on the top management team and further, implementing a data governance framework, may become essential.

3. Digital communication loses its message.
In 2009, employees are likely to communicate digitally with each other in more ways, and in greater volumes, than ever before, says Deloitte. However, email may become obscure. The success of instant messaging was based on its greater immediacy and lesser formality. Growth of services like text messaging, has been driven by similar benefits. Companies should consider discouraging email for one day a week. Even not making indiscriminate use of the ‘reply-all’ function could save them time and money. Also, social networks may find that the best approach is to offer ‘white-label’ solutions to corporations, advises Deloitte.

4. The joys of disintermediation: why operators should embrace the application store.
According to Deloitte, in 2009, mobile phone users are likely to download over 10 billion applications to their mobile phones. A majority of applications are likely to be sourced from sites managed by mobile device manufacturers, consumer electronics firms and software houses. Although some operators may launch their own application stores38, the majority are likely to see no alternative to allowing their customers to access third parties’ stores. As the consumer awareness of mobile applications increases, the number of voice subscribers that add data subscriptions may well rise, boosting revenues. Applications could be used to drive operator loyalty and reduce retention costs.

5. Integration unleashes mobile phone convergence, finally.
Deloitte advises that while mobile handset manufacturers are getting better at convergence, they would still need to proceed with care. They should not assume that the mere addition of more features would guarantee success. Operators should study the consumers’ use of converged products in detail. It may help them identify revenue opportunities relating to converged functionality. The mobile phone may soon come to be regarded as the most successful converged product of all time.

6. Farewell mobile phone, welcome the wireless device.
All players in the mobile industry should understand how they are affected, for better or worse, by the emergence of the low-cost, multiple-standard chipset. The business case for the integration of wireless technology into a range of devices may be stronger. Mobile operators should consider their positioning — whether to remain focused on the provision of long-range cellular mobile standards, or to become the aggregators of multiple wireless standards. Similarly, companies in other sectors should consider what low-cost integrated chipsets could enable.

7. The mobile broadband accident in slow motion.
As per Deloitte’s study, data now exceeds voice volume on some mobile networks68, and with data traffic growing by several hundred percent on others, the cost of carrying data traffic could rapidly erode margins. Where possible, operators should try to divert heavy data traffic from cellular networks, and route it via other networks, such as WiFi-hotspots or home-broadband connections, at structured data tariffs. The operators need to focus marketing attention on managing customer expectations. They should examine the business model for mobile broadband carefully as well. With PC manufacturers increasingly integrating mobile broadband connectivity into their devices, diversification may soon be necessary.

8. The third screen goes dark: mobile television loses its reception
Deloite’s study points out that everyone involved in the mobile TV industry — an operator, a handset developer or a creative — should take a long, hard, look at the demand for mobile television so far. The downturn could be a perfect opportunity to call time on a format that has too many fundamental challenges to work. It does not mean there’s no space for mobile TV! Mobile telephony could provide an efficient payment mechanism for VoD — delivered to the home set-top box, particularly for smaller VoD players. They can also be used to control the DVR. TV broadcasters can use mobile as part of their CRM strategies. Lots can be done, actually!

9. One for all and all for one: fiber networks change the shape of competition.
Shared ownership may reduce fiber’s cost and risk, but may also require a new, unfamiliar approach to competition. Telcos and other companies should determine which skills they may need to hire to be able to compete on basis of services, or service levels, alone. Also, fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) or street-side cabinets may provide more than enough capacity for consumer and small business broadband, at a quarter of the cost of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH). Further, governments should complement their commitment to fiber deployment with campaigns to encourage adoption.

10. Mobile termination rates in Europe: a cut too far or a cut too fast?
Mobile operators in Europe, especially, have acknowledged that mobile termination rates (MTRs) must decline. However, 2009 is likely to see them push for a less drastic descent than the EC proposes. Consumer groups should monitor progress very carefully. Operators’ knee-jerk reactions to sudden cuts could disadvantage millions of consumers, particularly those on low incomes. It may be better to call for a more moderate approach, from both operators and regulators. The local regulators should consider developing MTR glide paths that respect operators’ costs and market conditions.

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