Have service providers missed the boat in offering Rich Communication Services?

Once upon a time, we used to talk on the phone. (Remember those days?) Then we all started texting each other. And then, in the relative blink of an eye, everything changed.

 According to “Comics about Technology”, when it comes to communicating with each other, we now have 10 levels of intimacy, nicely summed up in the comic strip below. Which one do you think you use the most these days, by the way?

Unfortunately, if you look closely at the list, you’ll see that service providers only support us with phone (number 8) and text messaging (number 5). The rest (letters aside) is left up to OTT players – the companies who offer us additional ways to communicate on top of the service provider’s network. (And chances are high that you probably already use all of them).

Although OTT players such as Skype have already been taking away service providers’ long-distance business for a while, the OTT threat has now become much more serious:

*  Apple’s FaceTime, Skype and Tango have taken the mobile video-calling business away from mobile carriers

Apple’s iMessage is eating up service provider’s  SMS revenues (and so are WhatsApp, Facebook and a myriad of other solutions)

*  Viber, Skype and others are taking over voice calling.

In the face of such aggressive competition, is it too late for the service providers to fight back?  That’s what Mobile Industry Review’s Ewan MacLeod is wondering about regarding rich communication services, i.e. services that your provider typically deploys, manages (and charges you for):

“Have operators missed the boat with their own RCS?…

My own view is that in most cases, it’s far too late. The market has moved on. That decision has been made.”

But if it were up to me, I’d look seriously at those 10 levels of intimacy again because I think service providers can and should take action.

I think they need to do three things – and to do them fast:

1.  Offer services other than voice and SMS. Data services don’t count. Instant messaging or other options from the 10 intimacy levels do.

2.  Adopt interoperability 2.0 techniques and do something similar to what Canadian service provider Rogers have done with their great One Number initiative, which provides an application for your PC that enables you to send and receive your mobile voice calls and SMSs to and from your PC. In other words, it combines a ubiquitous service that they already had with OTT thinking.

3.  Join forces with successful OTT services so that they can find ways to generate revenues with them. GigaOm’s Stacey Higginbotham illustrates this with the example of WhatsApp and Indonesia’s Telkomsel who are working together on new unlimited data plans for a WhatsApp package.

What do you think? What options do service providers have? Do you think it’s too late?



  1. Ksheerasagar Akella
    Posted April 23, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I think service providers should define a separate communication channel for video streaming and rate/bill this separately from other data streams. Combining all forms of data into a single plan might prove to be unwieldy over the long term. Differentiated services are the way to go.

    Next step would be to combine this video streaming package with specific OTT services (like Youtube/Skype) to provide best-effort value additions to the mobile landscape.

    In the wake of 4G speeds we already see many users hesitant to use data plans the way they are marketed due to the exorbitant costs of video (example, with the new iPad).

  2. Raffi Davidow
    Posted April 23, 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I think its too late and the market has moved on.
    One idea that might somehow work would be for the service provider to somehow allow you to keep your account independent of a device (so if you logged on to your tablet or PC at home you would be able to see calls, SMS, etc) and then even make a call if the device had the right peripherals.

    This would allow you to combine profiles as well (no more work phone and home phone and personal cell phone but rather just one profile on one device). This would be a great time to do it as states in the USA are starting to release the requirement that each house have a land line ( http://usat.ly/IheKkr ) as well as to the international traveler.

    Just my 2c :))

  3. Posted April 24, 2012 at 1:03 am | Permalink

    It’s a comics but they really messed up the levels of intimacy charts.
    What you basically got is talking (as in real-life); chatting online (without video) – IM, e-mail, Facebook message, Twitter DM, text message (SMS);
    chatting online (with video) – Facetime, Skype, etc.; public status – Twitter, Facebook, etc.
    I agree that the services provided by the service providers are getting less and less popular.
    The problem is that users are already hooked on their favorite services. “Fighting” with these services, by banning apps or creating “white label” versions seems too little, too late.
    What options do service providers have other than becoming dumb pipes? Enabling more advanced services and cooperating with new tools, as you suggested in (2).

One Trackback

  • By Carriers as OTT Vendors : BlogGeek.me on October 31, 2012 at 1:10 am

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