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To Avoid 'Dumb Pipe,' Enabling Services Get More Carrier Attention

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February 26, 2010

To Avoid 'Dumb Pipe,' Enabling Services Get More Carrier Attention

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

Whether mobile and fixed service providers can shift their revenue streams from 'voice' to 'broadband' without also becoming providers of 'commodity' capacity is a key strategic issue. To the extent the shift can be made, most now believe it will be on the strength of 'enabling' services.

Today's service providers will have to grow their capabilities in the area of supporting third-party business partner use of network assets and capabilities. That means acknowledging that third party firms will be the primary developers of new services, and that the access and transport networks can add value as they are able to act as providers of services to those third parties.
In the mobile advertising business, for example, mobile service providers might provide location and other information about users that is helpful to third-party advertisers and marketers. It is useful to know what sort of device a user is using, where the person is and what commerce capabilities that user presently can take advantage of (payments, especially).
Indeed, “mobile advertising and app stores are two of the key drivers behind service provider investment in service delivery platform software and services, because of their potential as significant new revenue sources, Shira Levine, Infonetics Research (News - Alert) directing analyst, said.
Operators are implementing mobile advertising solutions that include location-based advertising and SMS ad insertion, and nearly every major service provider is at least evaluating the feasibility of implementing its own app store, including a service delivery environment capable of supporting this new revenue source, Levine said.
 'However, operators must implement those strategies within the next year, or risk being left in the dust by competitors such as Apple, Google (News - Alert), and the device manufacturers,” Levine said.
 That interest is driving purchases of service delivery platform software and integration services. Sales of such platforms will double between 2008 and 2013, when they will reach $4.09 billion, Infonetics forecast.
Fixed-line operators are accelerating SDP deployments, initially for enterprise VoIP applications, and later to support IPTV and other video applications.
In the short term, operators will use SDPs to help streamline the creation and delivery of basic services, including VoIP, ringtones, and streaming video services; later, they will be used to create “mashups” and other Web-based applications to compete with those offered by Google, Yahoo, and other Web 2.0 Internet content providers.
Operators are particularly interested in deploying SDP capabilities that support app stores.
Though many operators continue to take a “walled garden” approach to content delivery strategies, a growing number are looking to deliver more innovative services and better monetize their network assets by exposing network and service enablers for use by third party developers, and charging for that access, Levine said.
SDP software and service vendors tracked: Accenture (News - Alert), Aepona, Alcatel-Lucent, Argela, Atos, CapGemini, Datatronics, Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard, Huawei, IBM, jNetX, Kabira, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia Siemens, Oracle (News - Alert), Tata Consulting, TechMahindra, Telcordia, Telenity, TietoEnator, Volantis, ZTE, and others, Levine said.
The choice here is not necessarily between becoming a 'dumb pipe' access provider and a service enabler. Every access provider already is selling services that basically are 'dumb pipe' services. Broadband Internet access is the prime example.
But every service provider also sells 'services' that build on access. That won't change in the future. But what likely will change are the 'services' sold, and the customers to whom those services are sold.
 To wit, more sales will be made to business partners, rather than end users. And a greater proportion of sales will be of the 'signaling' and 'database' sort (information about the user context) rather than 'bearer' traffic (call completion).

Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Amy Tierney

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