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Author's profile photo Achim Hebestreit

Telcos: Horse-breeders of the new mobile age?

Following the invention of the car in 1884, Kaiser Wilhelm II famously said, „I regard the automobile as a temporary phenomenon. I prefer to bet on a horse”. Take a look into your garage to see how this bet has turned out.  The automobile shaped business and people’s lives alike for more than a century, defining the term mobility in the minds of millions of consumers. Today, the meaning of „mobility“ shifts again as we face a technological revolution of equal scope. The internet, mobile computing and apps have changed the way we live and work. So, take a look into your pocket to see how this bet will turn out. Mobility of the 21st century is not knocking on the door – it is already standing in the middle of the room. And for business, it is not going from horse to car, but from horse to interstellar space traveling.

When game-changing innovations arise, new industries emerge while traditional ones fade away. We see the rise of OTT-players, giving network operators a hard time. Keeping the image of the car and the horse, it was after all not the horse breeders who built cars. So are telcos destined to become the horse breeders of the digital age?  Not at all. In fact, the telco industry has got four wheels, engine and fuel in its stable. Now they need to get their new business rolling. There are a whole lot of business opportunities to do just that.

In early 2012 for example, location-based-promotion was heralded as the next huge thing. As it turned out, not big enough for expectations. After the initial hype, premature offerings and incomplete business models have led to disillusionment within the industry. Today, we are seeing backlash and resistance on the subject. But context-related offerings have still a lot of potential – if it’s done the right way. And at this point, telcos enter the stage.

Telcos have a unique position at the market and a direct relationship to consumers. If consumers opt in to context-related offerings, telcos can provide this service more effectively and efficiently than most other industries.  Context also includes location and in many cases GPS does not work sufficiently, which results in consumers receiving random offers. Telcos have the capabilities and information to send keen consumers meaningful offerings, based on their actual location. I mean, no use in getting a restaurant coupon for Greta’s Schnitzelhaus in Walldorf, Germany, when I am at Silicon Valley?! But telcos would not only be able to provide this better service better, they could also provide this better service to more consumers.  Namely, customers who do not own a smartphone – and that’s still half of all mobile phone users in the US.

I have recently read a blog which asked “What if Steve Jobs was a Telco-CEO?”. But unless your CEO is Kaiser Wilhelm, telcos do not need to pray for a savior. Instead, they should start to believe in their own business. They have got the assets to make a stand in the new mobile age. Make use of it.  In this way, people might say at the end of this century, mobile business without telcos leading it, was just a temporary phenomenon – it was the onetime horse-breeders  who elevated mobility of the 21st century .

Interested in mobility and/or telcos – Follow me on Twitter @AHebestreit

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