Every year, Mobile World Congress attracts thousands of technology enthusiasts to Amsterdam to witness the latest developments in the communication markets. This brings the best brains in various fields related to mobile industry making it the best platform to launch new mobiles into the market at a global scale. The latest Mobile Global Congress saw the release of various swanky gadgets from mobiles to wearable devices into the markets by some of the leading mobile solution providers. Although, there is a lot of development in the market, release of 4G mobile phones from multiple vendors has caught our attention.
It is but very common to see release of new mobiles in the MWC, but this year saw mobile operators’ inclination to keep the spotlight on LTE. Over the past year, LTE has gained momentum in all the regions across the world. Driven by a clear market need for higher speeds and better availability, LTE deployment has gained momentum. In emerging market like Africa and APAC, operators are increasingly deploying LTE services in their countries. In addition to this, last MWC witnessed an agreement being signed between TD-LTE promoter, GTI and WiMAX Forum which allows TD-LTE operators to deploy LTE services on their WiMAX spectrum. This started an industry level exodus towards TD-LTE operations.
This year, we have a lot of technocrats speaking about the next version of LTE, the “5G”. However, they also stated that the industry can expect 5G operational only in 2020, which in turn means that 4G will continue to grow for the next 5 years. GSMA stated in its last year reports that by 2017, you will have 500 LTE operators across the world. Given the current operator base of 250+, the number seems possible. Growing number of operators mean more users and hence more phones among other things. It also means competitive markets and lesser ARPUs for the operators going ahead. There are some aspects that the LTE operators can do to make sure their revenue streams and hence ROI on their network are safe.
While most operators are introducing 4G services as they see opportunity to sell the services, users might be skeptical about why they should be migrating to 4G. After all they might end up paying more for the service, availability of LTE everywhere is a huge question and the higher data speeds might not be a WOW! Factor right away as they have been using internet at much lesser speeds. However, with right business strategy and effective product positioning coupled with flexible product packaging, LTE is a gold mine for the operators.
LTE with its speeds and all IP platform allows operators to provide a bigger array of services at a better quality over many devices. Convergence in terms of service delivery has been around for a long time but implementing it had its own hassles as the services were delivered from multiple technologies and delivering all the service in convergence meant talking to multiple platforms in real time. However, if you consider the case of delivery triple play on LTE, you have IPTV (or OTT), Telephony and Data Services to be delivered. Over the past years, media and entertainment segment has evolved to a stage where they have fused the boundaries between online and traditional delivery technologies. Although this was done to embrace new technologies like HD content delivery, 4K and 5K pixel depth, it also mandated that the operator needs to have a platform that can eventually deliver content on OTT or IPTV platforms. On the other hand, VoIP has been around for quite some time now and has its own set of fan base. With LTE, all the services which can be delivered on IP can be delivered with much more flexibility. Aspects like effective and customized real time balance management, delivering multiple services simultaneously over a single balance, having multiple users linked to a single account becomes much easier. Given these are some of the most important features to the users; they can lead to better customer satisfaction and hence better ARPUs.
Another aspect associated with successful promotion of a service is the positioning. LTE speeds are not for everyone. People with fast paced lives, who live on the road, who travel frequently, watch movies on the go, video conference from airport lounges, social media geeks, youngsters with a huge social circle are typical the target customers for LTE services. The operator should position the product according to the needs of the target customer group. This demands operators to embrace a flexible business process and workflow to make the services relevant to a varied set of customers. Another aspect of positioning the product is the exclusivity. Retail users might pass an opportunity to have a high speed mobile connection but they can never give up an opportunity to certain contents like online movies, trailers, music, etc. This also makes sense to the customer as movies and music are increasingly being released as HD content, making them exclusive on a high speed broadband makes the delivery of the content effective. However, to execute such customized workflows like handling media assets and rights management, operators need to have relevant systems in place.
With apt support systems in place and effectively leveraging on the market drivers, operators have a scope to grow leaps and bounds. Emerging marketing Africa and APAC are increasingly being treated as the blue markets for LTE operations as increase in green field investment and supporting policies are allowing operators to skip technologies to catch up with the rest of the world. In contrary to their rivals in advanced countries who are stuck with older technologies, they are increasingly embracing new technologies. However, these operators also face a challenge in terms of acquiring world class support systems as they are designed for the cash strapped operators and using them would drain the operators in emerging markets of cash. Hence, cost factor is another aspect of LTE which will be playing a critical role in the success story of the LTE in the next few years.