One of the interesting outcomes of the Mobile World Congress this year was the interest shown by mobile operators in social networking. Operators appear to be continuing their strategy of driving non-voice service dependence even at the expense of commoditizing bandwidth for mobile, a kind of “rob-the-future” risk balancing act.
Social networks draw on the same demography as heavy mobile users—youth. Social networks are also “viral” in that their success is self-perpetuating, socialized by the very community that makes up the audience. However, the push for non-voice customers through accepting over-the-top data drivers, smartphones or open handsets all create the problem of validating a pure transport/connection model for the operator, which admits to disintermediation.
This is interesting because the “sink-to-the-bottom” model is the one that seems most comfortable to operators, but it’s also the one most problematic for equipment vendors. Commodity services admit to no equipment differentiation either. We wonder if the rapidly increasing operator frustration in equipment vendor support for more service-related monetization strategies (now finally driving vendors to make at least strategic commitments to services) may be overtaking events.
Could operators be giving up on “intermediation” and services? If so, that will dramatically reshape the industry. A surrender to the OTT players would also rob the network operators of mobile advertising, which could well replace most forms of local advertising over time. But mobile operators are even advocating better rapport with developers and OTT players.