Light Reading

What OTT Can Learn From Big Telecom

Steve Leonard
8/29/2013
50%
50%

Over the last couple of years, over-the-top (OTT) voice and messaging applications have gained traction, so much so that Hollywood's own Ashton Kutcher is firing off warning shots to the wireless carrier community, telling them at CTIA they are in danger of losing business to a decentralized model of OTT players offering a better, cheaper user experience.

This is sage guidance from a person who is refreshingly well qualified to deliver it, given Kutcher's extensive and successful venture capitalist background, focusing on cutting-edge technology such as Dwolla, milk, Airbnb and others.

But let's step back. Are traditional telcos really that far behind the times? Are OTT providers really that far ahead? The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Industry experts are pointing a finger at traditional telecom suggesting they take a page from OTT, using a laundry list of critiques. But there is a flip side to that coin.

The fact is, even with the buzz around the latest OTT startups, there is a great deal to learn from traditional telecom; the things telecom providers have done to become one of the most stable and established industries in the world. Some of these lessons include:

  • Break down walls to interoperability: Ubiquitous communications -- the ability for someone in Mali to send a text message to someone in Raleigh -- depends on interoperability. Interoperability depends on standards. Standards depend on competitors getting together to agree on how they will work together. If your app only lets your users communicate with others on the exact same platform (are you listening, social networks?) your opportunity for growth ends once the walls of your garden are reached. To become ubiquitous, OTT needs to create a gate from which users can interact with the world outside.

  • A phone number is one of the most valuable things a person owns: Don't come up with an app that requires users to change their number or get a new one. Figure out a way to let them use your app while keeping the number they have.

  • 911 is the most important service you don't currently offer: Communications services are quite literally lifelines and make traditional telecom ubiquitous. To date, many OTT providers operate within a gray area of existing 9-1-1 requirements. While they can argue they follow the letter of the law, it's harder to argue they follow its spirit. Until OTT providers accept their 911 responsibility, consumers will be left with little option but to continue to keep a landline or wireless phone.

  • Trust in the value of your services and that people will pay for it: Traditional telecom providers don't do things for free, and they learned quickly that add-on services that brought value also brought revenue. Look at caller ID. Once the switch was upgraded it cost traditional telecom nothing to deliver, but they were able to charge customers $5 per month. Before you default to a model based on free services, think hard about the value you bring and don't be afraid to charge accordingly.

    Each lesson requires a nimble internal structure that is open to introspection and change as new regulations surface. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. OTTs will also need to respond to operators' network reliability, service quality and device availability -- features that are harder to simply emulate -- if they want to disrupt a crowded marketplace.

    — Steve Leonard, EVP & GM, Bandwidth.com

    (14)  | 
    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
  • Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
    Page 1 / 2   >   >>
    sarahwallace
    50%
    50%
    sarahwallace,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    9/4/2013 | 11:39:42 AM
    Re: Phone number
    With OTT, shelf life can be a concern as users are always looking for the next best thing
    MordyK
    50%
    50%
    MordyK,
    User Rank: Light Sabre
    9/2/2013 | 6:16:18 PM
    Re: Best of both worlds
    Additionally i'd like to point out the FCC's work on NextGen-911 which is looking at adding the capability for OTT apps to interface with emergency services with similar requirements to carrier phone calls. Once a solution is defined they are linkely to mandate it for apps in the US, and if it works there's no reason why other regins wouldn't join the fray.
    MordyK
    50%
    50%
    MordyK,
    User Rank: Light Sabre
    9/2/2013 | 6:12:39 PM
    Re: Phone number
    Thats a great point and with all the data collected by carriers the opportunity the carriers have to create an advetizing platform with analytics second to none that can hep monetize OTT apps and gain a share of its revenues.
    Dean Bubley
    50%
    50%
    Dean Bubley,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    8/31/2013 | 5:01:52 PM
    Services? Or just features?
    One of the problems here is that traditional telco "services" such as telephony and messaging are morphing into applications, and ultimately to features/functions of other services or websites.

    We are used to the idea that phone calls and messages are billed "services" offered to "subscribers". But delivering capabilities as a service is only one approach. Increasingly, we will see these and similar functions embedded into certain "contexts", which will displace usage of the standalone services provided by telcos or the so-called OTTs. (The false distinction between the two groups is laughable anyway).

    The way to think about it is that we have various ways to deliver words from point A to point B. In future, the web will be able to send words as "italic", "bold" or "spoken".

    We'd all laugh at the idea of having an "distant italics service" & subscription - so why do we automatically think that "distant voice services" (tele-phone) is in any way the natural or optimal state of affairs?
    F,Alpizar
    50%
    50%
    F,Alpizar,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    8/31/2013 | 1:47:42 PM
    Re: Phone number
    If the broadband service is not profitable enough, then yes, turn it off... if you don't do it is because you believe that you can get profit from that infrastructure in another way. Better business models are what we need, thats how services get better and markets get open. Here we had a monopoly for long time, when cable operators started to provide voice and internet, we started to have option and better service. Same thing happened with the music industry. New business model, now they don't sell pieces of plastic anymore, sell the sell bit streams.
    brookseven
    50%
    50%
    brookseven,
    User Rank: Light Sabre
    8/31/2013 | 11:43:49 AM
    Re: Phone number
    Its really simple....just stop offering residential broadband service.  Just turn it off.  It is not a mandatory service.

    Now that you have said in your mind...NO....they could not do that!  Look at the profit the carriers are making and ask yourself.  What the carriers are complaining about is that somebody else came up with a good or great business model.  They can NOT complain that their business model is not profitable.  If they were LOSING money then discontinue the service!

    seven

     
    F,Alpizar
    50%
    50%
    F,Alpizar,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    8/30/2013 | 10:48:52 PM
    Re: Phone number
    I believe value will come from the connectivity. OTT applications are useless without the connectivity (try to make a skype call in Mexico over 3G to see if you can...). Also, OTT is not really free... advertising is a way to get revenue from those free messaging apps, an that comes with your location, name, phone number, etc.. all that information that we like to keep private, but give away for "free" services. So, telecom operators will need to reinvent themselves to compete against OTT, as IBM did to compete in the IT business world, went from hardware to software to services.. what would a carrier do?
    Dries Plasman
    50%
    50%
    Dries Plasman,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    8/30/2013 | 5:34:52 AM
    Best of both worlds
    While all of the above is true, solutions exists that allow OTTs to add (or port in) telephone numbers, dial 911 (or 112 in Europe), etc.

    Your companies offers such services in wholesales to OTTs, ours does as well.

    It allows them to focus at what they do best : developping innovative new services (far better than what traditional service providers will ever be able to build themselves), while including the good things of the traditional telephone networks : quality of service, interoperability with other networks (OTT or traditional networks) and 911/112 reachability.

    But these features have a cost and OTT services including them will never be free...

    Cheers,

    Dries (VP Marketing & PM, Voxbone)
    R Clark
    50%
    50%
    R Clark,
    User Rank: Blogger
    8/29/2013 | 10:25:04 PM
    Partners
    Good points - telcos bring plenty to the table, including an actual revenue stream, but it's tough to compete against free. I'm watching to see if more telcos strike partnerships with the messaging firms, on the basis of the 'if you're going to get cannibalised you may as well cannabilise yourself' principle.
    Scott Fincher
    50%
    50%
    Scott Fincher,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    8/29/2013 | 3:00:19 PM
    Re: Phone number

    Great question, Sarah. I am a colleague of Steve's here at Bandwidth. RingCentral is a perfect example of a carrier that is innovating with phone numbers. The company powers talk, text and fax for end-users, all from a single phone number.  This capability has great potential for innovating in enterprise mobility. It's about decoupling a number from a specific device and moving it into the cloud.

    Page 1 / 2   >   >>
    Educational Resources
    sponsor supplied content
    Educational Resources Archive
    More Blogs from Column
    In the second part of a two-part series, Paul Robinson explains why the move to live IP production is an opportunity to significantly change the viewing experience, and more importantly, open up new revenue and business opportunities.
    One thing is certain: the coming technology changes will affect everyone to varying degrees, including content providers, service providers and equipment makers.
    It's time for our industry to call BS on the US government's position on Chinese telco manufacturers.
    There are important considerations for companies to keep in mind when moving Domain Name System (DNS) infrastructure to an NFV implementation.
    The lies, damned lies and statistics of real open access network operations.
    From The Founder
    Light Reading sits down at CES with the head of Cisco's service provider video business, Conrad Clemson, to discuss how NFV and cloud security relate to video, the challenge of managing 4K/8K traffic, the global expansion of Netflix and virtual reality.
    Flash Poll
    Live Streaming Video
    CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
    Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
    LRTV Custom TV
    Hosting in Ireland, Past & Present

    2|10|16   |   16:07   |   (0) comments


    Garry Connolly, president of Host in Ireland, presents the keynote at Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Dublin.
    Women in Comms Introduction Videos
    What's Hot in Mobile Commerce?

    2|10|16   |   12:18   |   (1) comment


    Claire Maslen, financial services relationship manager at the GSMA, talks about the development of the digital commerce sector and the types of relationships that mobile operators are developing to further their m-commerce strategies.
    LRTV Documentaries
    EANTC Tests Nokia IP Routing & Mobile Gateway VNFs for Real World Deployment

    2|9|16   |   5:08   |   (0) comments


    Nokia obtained validation of its virtualized router and virtualized mobile gateway capabilities through rigorous testing performed by EANTC. The results set a new industry benchmark for outstanding performance, scalability, resiliency and manageability. Nokia VNFs are ready for telco cloud deployment, so that service providers can accelerate mobile, business and ...
    Between the CEOs
    CEO Chat With Level 3's Jack Waters

    2|8|16   |   26:15   |   (1) comment


    Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders sits down with Level 3 Communications' CTO Jack Waters to discuss hot topics like virtualization, 4K and the future of telecom...
    LRTV Custom TV
    The Composable Telco

    2|8|16   |   24:46   |   (0) comments


    Heavy Reading's Principal Analyst Caroline Chappell presents the keynote at Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Dublin.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Join Us at the Digital Operations Transformation Summit

    2|4|16   |   03:52   |   (0) comments


    The Digital Operations Transformation Summit on February 21, 2016 at the Crowne Plaza Barcelona Fira Centre will bring together 50 senior executives to engage in a unique debate on the opportunities and challenges presented by the transformative evolving digital landscape. RSVP now at events@lightreading.com.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Making the Test: ADVA Ensemble Connector vs. Open vSwitch

    2|4|16   |   01:28   |   (0) comments


    Light Reading, in partnership with EANTC, recently tested ADVA's Ensemble Connector, which replaces open vSwitch and offers carrier-grade capability and interoperability. The test results strengthen ADVA's credibility as a provider in the virtualization space.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Bridging the Gap Between PoCs & Deployment in NFV

    2|4|16   |   31:50   |   (0) comments


    Charlie Ashton of Wind River presents the keynote at Light Reading's 2020 Vision executive summit in Dublin.
    Between the CEOs
    CEO Chat With Mike Aquino

    2|3|16   |   17:34   |   (0) comments


    The former CEO of Overture Networks, Mike Aquino, discusses why truly open virtualization solutions provide service providers with the greatest choice.
    Shades of Ray
    MWC: Buckle Up for 5G & the IIoT

    2|2|16   |   02:28   |   (0) comments


    This year's Mobile World Congress looks set to be a 5G land grab and a chance to get down and dirty with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – but what will the 5G discussions actually be about?
    LRTV Custom TV
    Case Study: Building China's Next-Gen TV Networks

    2|2|16   |   5:01   |   (0) comments


    With over 2 billion viewers worldwide, Shenzhen Media Group is one of China's largest content producers. By partnering with Huawei and Sobey, SZMG was able to modernize media operations with the Converged News Center, a production studio that is a model for next-generation workflows.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Quad Channel Modulator Driver with 46 Gbaud Capability from MACOM

    1|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


    MACOM's MAOM-003427 is the industry's first surface-mount modulator driver with 46 Gbaud capability to support next generation 200G and 400G applications.
    Upcoming Live Events
    March 10, 2016, The Cable Center, Denver, CO
    April 5, 2016, The Ritz Carlton, Charlotte, NC
    May 23, 2016, Austin, TX
    May 24-25, 2016, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
    All Upcoming Live Events
    Hot Topics
    Google's 5G Radio Ambitions Are Expanding
    Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 2/5/2016
    Cincinnati Bell Joins Weight Watchers Club
    Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 2/5/2016
    Yahoo & Verizon Sitting in a Tree...
    Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 2/8/2016
    Vodafone: Flexible Work Policies Boost Profits
    Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 2/8/2016
    It's Time to Integrate OTT Video
    Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 2/8/2016
    Like Us on Facebook
    Twitter Feed
    Webinar Archive
    BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
    Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders sits down with Level 3 Communications' CTO Jack Waters to discuss hot topics like virtualization, 4K and the future of telecom...
    The former CEO of Overture Networks, Mike Aquino, discusses why truly open virtualization solutions provide service providers with the greatest choice.
    Animals with Phones
    Retro Is the Way to Be Click Here
    Some animals are too cute for smartphones.
    Live Digital Audio

    Broadband speeds are ramping up across Europe as the continent, at its own pace, follows North America towards a gigabit society. But there are many steps to take on the road to gigabit broadband availability and a number of technology options that can meet the various requirements of Europe’s high-speed fixed broadband network operators. During this radio show we will look at some of the catalysts for broadband network investments and examine the menu of technology options on offer, including vectoring and G.fast for copper plant evolution and the various deployment possibilities for FTTH/B.