Mobile service providers are going to have to fight to maintain their relevance in the applications space, a new survey sponsored by Tellabs (News
) and conducted by Nielsen suggests. In the case of 11 out of 14 applications, users expect a range of third-party providers to deliver new services such as music, mobile e-mail and location-based services within six months.
About 63 percent of respondents say they would use personalized services, incorporating their own preferences, location, time of day and social setting, within the next six months.
In contrast, mobile carriers were only deemed 'most appropriate' to provide basic voice, SMS and MMS services. Those findings are not indicative of a strict 'dumb pipe' role, since all three are managed services.
But neither do the survey findings suggest that consumers generally view service providers as the likely suppliers of new applications, either. Instead, end users (perhaps rightly) see carriers as providers of the access and some communication services, not 'applications' involving entertainment, content, news, information, music or social networking.
The global survey of 15,000 consumers across 15 countries confirms huge demand for smart, personalized mobile Internet services. But mobile carriers are risking their place in the mobile value chain by not responding to these demands quickly enough.
Survey respondents suggest that over the next six months, media organizations such as the BBC, application developers such as Facebook (News
) and service providers such as Google, will be viewed as the most appropriate providers instead of mobile carriers.
The survey also revealed some positive news for mobile carriers. Users know that today, carriers provide these new services in eight out of 11 areas, and also that users' trust in carriers is high, second only to banks.
'Clearly consumers are clamoring for smart, personalized mobile Internet services. But consumers have brought expectations from the fixed-line Internet to the mobile Internet,' said Rob Pullen, Tellabs CEO. 'If carriers want to stay in the game and avoid becoming 'dumb pipes,' they need to use the valuable assets they already have, such as location-awareness, and to make networks smarter for personalization.'
The research shows that users now more readily identify with third-party brands such as Google (News
) than with their mobile carriers, Tellabs notes.
The 14 application areas studies in the survey include short messaging services; voice calls; multimedia messaging services; applications; games; music; Internet: browsing and searching excluding news, weather and sports sites; e-mail; Internet: browsing news, weather and sports sites; Internet: social networking; location and navigation services; Internet: purchasing of goods and services; control of devices and appliances at home and mobile payment.
The survey results likely confirm what many executives already think, namely that service providers are not likely to create and bring to market many new end user applications. That suggests that to maintain and increase their value in the mobile Web ecosystem, carriers will have to explore ways to enable those applications so that they work better in a mobile setting.
If one thinks broadly about protocol conversion, normalizing of application programming interfaces across applications and networks, consolidating and simplifying the use of presence, location, availability, display and other device-specific limitations of the mobile experience, those are the sorts of things that service providers likely can build on.
Business partners including advertisers, application providers and payment and transaction services are unlikely to want to negotiate and maintain relationships with every mobile provider that potentially could be involved in getting a specific message, advertisement, widget or Web site to work flawlessly, every time, on any network, on any device.
They certainly will not want to be involved in authoring different versions of software or widgets and ads for every conceivable network, device, widget or application. A barcode should be readable no matter which barcode reader is used, by any device on any network, for example.
Services that support interoperability--not only of network protocols but also third-party applications and devices--are an area service providers can work to their advantage. Motorola's (News
) 'Motoblur' is one example, as is the Palm operating system's similar ability to organize and thread messages from people, no matter what messaging format was used to send the message.
The role of enabler--making third party applications work seamlessly, properly and ubiquitously--likely is an area ripe for carrier innovation.