Informa senior analyst Tony Brown discusses why operators will have to offer a whole range of new content and applications within their bundled products to keep subscribers happy.
Eurocomms.com: Why do you believe the days of the old-style triple- or quad-play bundles are numbered?
Tony Brown: Although operators will continue to offer triple-play and quad-play services, they can no longer rely on simply offering these access-based services for fixed-voice, fixed-broadband and mobile voice and broadband.
They will have to add much more to these bundles in terms of new content, service and applications to satisfy their customers’ needs.
What should operators be looking to offer specifically?
The thing that most operators have focused on is multiscreen, and that's a good start.
Multiscreen offers subscribers a much more compelling product - even if they are not always willing to pay extra for it.
The other thing that we see some operators doing - and we expect to see much more of it - is striking deals with popular OTT content providers such as Netflix and Spotify, and bringing their content to subscribers as part of bundled offerings.
Outside of this, the next 'big thing' that operators should be looking at is including cloud-delivered products in their multi-play offerings.
Some are already doing this with simple services such as cloud-storage, and more advanced cloud-delivered services are a great opportunity for operators to enhance the value of their multi-play services.
How should they decide exactly what types of services they need to focus on?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution: operators need to be savvy about the opportunities present in their own markets.
For example, the success of iTunes and the iPhone have rightly dissuaded many western operators from launching music services, but Qtel in Qatar recognised that iTunes was not servicing the Arabic music market very well and launched their own Backstage music download service.
Similarly, KT in Korea capitalised on their country's focus on education and now offers pay-based online educational content right across the spectrum, from pre-schoolers to post-graduates, and is making education services a major part of its content business strategy.
Operators also need to look at what services they can launch themselves and where they need partnerships.
For example, many operators have deployed huge capex on launching IPTV services - but for many it has been a poor investment.
Many of them would have been better off forming deals with existing pay TV players, instead of trying to become pay TV operators themselves.
What specific benefits could operators see if they begin to offer what you suggest?
The biggest benefit to operators from adding new services to their bundled products is that it makes the offerings ‘stickier’ - that is, more difficult for subscribers to abandon for another, usually cheaper, service provider’s.
For example, if I am a subscriber using an operator for my cloud-storage, and they have an exclusive deal with my favourite OTT player - let's say Netflix - it is more difficult for me to justify moving to another operator just because they are marginally cheaper.
Adding new services can also help save operators from becoming merely access - ‘dumb pipe’ - providers.
Once this happens, the only way operators can increase revenues is by hiking their subscription charges - a very bad position to be in.
By creating new vehicles for revenue growth, operators not only avoid the 'dumb pipe' trap but also generate ways to extend their relationships with their subscribers, and monetise the opportunities offered by a range of services - even non-telecoms services such as insurance, which some operators are already selling.
What other changes will operators need to make to their business to ensure they can deliver these services?
To offer the kinds of flexible and innovative services that we are talking about, operators need to have strong back office solutions in place, particularly on the billing side of the equation.
Operators must also respond quickly and efficiently to their subscribers’ needs, especially in matters like facilitating changes to subscriber accounts and plans online, rather than their having to go via a call center.
This kind of investment in billing and payment technology does not come cheap, but will be essential for operators seeking to offer the 'personalised' bundled services that they are going to need in the future.