In the always-connected world, anyone can become a communications service provider
The digital economy has brought significant change to the way businesses and people function and interact. Today’s mobile platforms offer a rich experience that includes social networks, proximity and location services, instant messaging, rich media, authentication services, and payment tools. This always-connected world has opened up opportunities for businesses that have previously been focused on ‘making things’, to generate new revenues from different mobile-enabled added services.
For example, a company like Philips that is known for making light bulbs can now offer additional lighting-as-a-service solutions that combines its lighting expertise with ubiquitous connectivity. The end result is a connected service that gives its customers greater control over lighting remotely, and new insights on energy consumption—saving money and energy.
This trend of organisations shifting from a product sales to services model opens up fresh opportunities for all kinds of businesses. Instead of competing on price, they can launch new propositions, enhance services and create commercial models that add value for customers—without the cost of building new mobile infrastructure or developing software.
Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) providers, which are cloud-based platforms for developing and maintaining communications applications, have pushed virtualised telecom functionality. CPaaS providers offer services via APIs, which developers use to create IP-based communications services that are integrated with online applications and made available ‘over-the-top’ of broadband connection.
The next step is Mobile Network as a Service (MNaaS), offering a platform for managing mobile communications applications via APIs, without investing in infrastructure, but integrating with traditional network to provide greater security, reliability and control to the customer. This ‘anything as a service’ trend, which analysts predicted will grow at a CAGR of 38% during 2016-20, isn’t the preserve of enterprise applications. The digital economy, combined with on-demand commercial models associated with MNaaS, will bring about seismic changes—and not just in the way MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) interact with their host operators.
Patterns of mobile usage will evolve, as will the way providers create value—with that come new models for mobile communications. Together, the MVNO model and digital platform economy will shape the structure of mobile over the next decade. The new generation of MVNOs—like Philips—want to launch and maintain value-added service capabilities that differentiate them in the market. They want to do this by using a combination of a cloud-based model, communications service integration via APIs and mostly web-based self-care options—all requiring relatively little physical communications infrastructure.
Here, MNaaS is a perfect fit. With it, MVNOs benefit from a mobile virtual network enablement model, so they don’t have to invest in infrastructure or software. Instead, they can scale up or down as they need to—so they can viably launch a new proposition to serve from just a few hundred through to several million subscribers. This mobile platform-based approach brings big advantages. By enabling an international mobile market structure, it ensures global voice and data connectivity across multiple international networks.
Not only that, API integration makes it easier to develop new applications and customer portals—so as an MVNO, you’re able to maintain control and enforce policy, security and visibility. The result is far greater operational efficiency and faster speed to market. In other words, you end up fitter, leaner, and with a competitive edge.
If you thought becoming a virtual communications service provider meant significant investment, think again. Times are changing. The new digital economy and MVNO models have disrupted the industry—so much so that it’s now possible, thanks to innovative mobility platforms, for almost any organisation to enter the market as an MVNO, without crippling capital investments.
Author is Vice-president, Business Development, Mobility & IoT Solutions, Tata Communications