Question & Answers

6 min read Networks & Network Services

What should the networks be doing to promote sales to and usage by business? Are any of them really getting it right?

Taylor, O2: Businesses are interest in achieving their own business goals; to increase sales and usage by business, any network must first understand their customer business aims and how their products and services can help them achieve these goals. They must demonstrate that the network can make the business customer more effective by reducing hassle, costs or “dead” time increasing revenue, satisfaction or image.

When focussing on the more advanced services such as application mobilisation, it is important that networks do not forget that “basic” services, such as voice, remain critical to business customers. They must therefore continue to invest in these services to provide a foundation on which the more value added services can be built on.

The business world is an ever changing environment so no operator will everget this completely right. However, with the investment in the Sales Academy, continued investment in GSM as well as 3G networks and customer centric ethos, O2 is best placed to ensure that it can continue to meet market needs and solutions to ensure that the business market continues to see O2 as a trusted, knowledgeable and valuable partner in helping them achieve their business goals.

Kearins, Valista:
The networks need to dramatically cut data costs. Otherwise business users are going to rely more and more on WiFi networks for data transfer, and if that continues, then eventually voice traffic will get routed over WiFi networks as well.

Recently, flat-rate pricing for wireless data services has become a big issue in Europe, and some other parts of the world, and perhaps this is the way to go. In addition to offering flat-rate data, there are other steps a mobile operator must take in order to make that mobile data ecosystem work, such as providing a consistent architecture that works offline, making it easy to discover new content and services and unlocking the user’s data.

Many operators make it very difficult for an application to access the user’s data stored on the device, such as the address book, the dialler, and the user’s current location. But many of the most interesting new mobile applications need to be able to work with this information. Users should be informed when they give an application access to this information, but it should be very easy for them to say yes.

Seaton, Airwide: Prices have been reduced to the point where discounts are ineffective in promoting sales and building sustained loyalty. The emphasis therefore falls on providing customers with a good range of services and high quality customer support.

In the short term, we will see an increasing number of operators deploying a host of SMS-based applications such as email-style functionality for SMS, auto forwarding, out of office responses, message archival and group lists, as well as interactive applications such as SMS voting. These will provide a bridge to next generation platforms and enhanced services by enabling the organic growth of SMS.

In the long term, operators will shift their focus to gain the positive attributes of next-generation networks and IMS Mobile Messaging 2.0. However, to achieve maximum benefit, operators must deploy tiered architectures that dramatically reduce operating expenses while also protecting their brand from increasing mobile security threats. Done well, this will lead to a natural and well-timed rollout of next generation messaging services that will offer greater differentiation, helping build brand loyalty and reduce subscriber churn, while at the same time offering additional revenue opportunities.

Jones, Portix: The networks ideally need to keep hardware and tariff sales separate. All the networks are really interested in is the data/voice monthly tariff and will supply heavily subsidised and regularly incorrect hardware to businesses in order to seal the deal. Businesses should be given the option to buy a tariff from a network and then an option to buy either a network branded device from another hardware focused section of the same network or a SIM free & unlocked device from another source. This would also assist in giving a true cost associated with mobile users rather than taking subsidies into the equation.

Alexander, Moco: The networks struggle to keep it simple. I don’t believe any network has the formula yet as the market is so diverse and the products and service offering are so vast.

Any network that breaks its tariff into real life business scenarios by demonstrating the efficiencies and cost savings that can be achieved will take advantage of this market. Currently the networks seem to leave it up the individual dealer and sales person to construct deals and offerings into the market. This is fine, but they are soon realising that by not structuring their offerings into the market they are getting more of what they have and less of what they want -- if one network were to achieve the sales and marketing of data products correctly, it could dominate a solutions market and deliver accurate targeted sales from the type of customers they want today and tomorrow.

Price, Avenir: We have seen a shift in focus from all five networks towards B2B. They have realised the value that still remains largely untapped within the sector and they are developing strategies to grow their B2B offerings, particularly through driving data sales and converged packages.

In our opinion success lies in the networks, distributors, clients and manufacturers working together to share information and equip dealers with the knowledge and products they needs to provide value-driven business solutions.

Incentives that are focused on attracting good quality B2B connections have provided a kick-start to driving sales. O2’s Advance programme has also equipped our clients with practical support to help them create progressive and individual mobile solutions, which will add further value to corporate customers. As education is key to long term results, O2’s mobilisation training programme has been very useful for our business development managers and will also provide some solid ground for our clients’ understanding of new technology and how to generate sales from it.
Mobile payments systems have a chequered record. If m-payments are to take off, do we need a way of integrating m-payments into existing banking systems? Or would it make more sense to create custom-built payments processing systems for mobile?

Trench, Upaid: Mobile payments history is indeed chequered. Is this because solutions are developed by technologists for theoretical transactions? In the mid ‘90s, while my industry colleagues and I were arguing over mobile authentication for payments, a quick fix to charge for simple mobile content was developed - premium SMS. While not perfect, it met the need.

Will a custom payment system be required for the future of m-payments? My guess is not. Beyond limited low value purchases, it will be hard to justify to a consumer why they should fund a purchase with anything other than the bank account or bank card they know and trust. Card based SMS top-up and bill payment services offered by companies such as ours testify to that.

Until we know what consumers will actually consume and how, determining how best to pay will be a guess. But, in my view, new doesn’t always mean different

Taylor, O2: Our aim at O2 is to provide customers with a choice of secure payment options – just as people select cash, debit or credit for high street payments. For m-payments, we do need to enable people to pay using their prepay credit or their postpay bill particularly for lower value items (e.g. ringtones). As m-commerce takes off, we will not create more payment methods, but will enable customers to pay with their existing debit & credit cards.

The banking industry is moving to contactless debit and credit cards. New technology in handsets (Near Field Communications) will allow the phone to store the debit/credit application and be used in place of a card.

Maras, OneBIP:
The m-payments system needs to expand its market share to gain credibility. If mobile payments are integrated solely into existing banking systems, they will only appeal to people who already have credit cards and bank accounts. A custom-designed system has the advantage that it doesn't rely on existing users; it opens the service up to an entirely new sector of the market. Otherwise, m-payment becomes just a new feature for customers who can already pay with a credit card.

We believe that the real opportunity for mobile payment systems lies with micropayments. The Web 2.0 phenomenon has enabled the retail of a host of digital content, such as games, social networks, dating sites, e-books and blogs. However, consumers have traditionally exhibited a reluctance to divulge their bank details or use credit cards for multiple online micropayments. Using a mobile phone based online payment service allows the consumer to essentially use their mobile phone credit as an online payment tool, ensuring convenience and alleviating their security concerns. We expect this type of model to be increasingly incorporated into online retail websites over the following months.

Jones, Portix: I think it is only a matter of time before existing banks will incorporate mobile payments into their systems, once the security breach aspect is completely removed and the whole process is as secure as it’s ever going to be the banks will be crawling over each other to offer this new service to their existing customer base as well as attempting to draw new customers in on the back of it.

Kearins, Valista: Consumers certainly value liquidity and interoperability between payment systems which indicates that banking systems will have a part to play. However, to date, banking systems have proven too cumbersome for mobile content transactions. Banks have very much been sitting on the fence when it comes to digital commerce, whilst operators and other service providers have led the way in their absence.

However, we are now seeing evidence of a real mobile banking applications sweeping across the financial services industry that will eventually fuse mobile banking and contactless commerce together. Banks, vendors and operators are starting to work out the economics in cooperative arrangements that can provide operators with highly desirable financial services content, banks with a broad distribution and servicing medium and consumers with a very efficient, secure mobile banking application.

Panel members:
Barry Nash, Director, Sales & Marketing, Elite Mobile
David Taylor, Head of Innovation and Planning, O2
Evanna Kearins, Director, Marketing Communications, Valista
Jay Seaton, CMO, Airwide Solutions
Marko Maras, CEO, OneBIP
Steve Jones General Manager, Portix
Terry Trench, Senior VP Commercial Operations, Upaid
Harvey Alexander, Director of Sales and Marketing, Moco Distribution