Do you remember how it all started? How back in the days, you needed at least two phones if you traveled frequently in Europe and the US? Back when GSM, CDMA and TDMA were trying to become the dominant radio access?
You couldn't send a text (let alone a picture message) to another carrier. There was no mobile email, no social networks, no YouTube.
It was interesting that at that time, radio technologies were incompatible. Operators then were battling each other over who had the most coverage, the largest network, who had the clearer voice quality. Remember the Sprint adds with the pin drop? or the Cingular dropped call ads ? or Verizon's "can you hear me now"?
It was the 90's, it was the age of voice. Carriers were competing to get as many customers as possible, as fast as possible. The game, then, was "I have the biggest network" or "you can actually complete calls on my network".
Remember how texting then became the biggest thing? How AT&T introduced SMS to America in the second season of American Idol? Remember how you could pick an all-you-can-eat voice, data, texting plan from any carrier?
It was the '00, it was the age of messaging. Carriers were pushing messaging as a way to expand beyond voice. Texting, picture mails, visual mail, mobile email... it was the next big thing.
Now it's all about socializing, networking, updating, twitting... blogging. Underneath it all, the technology is almost the same, the services have evolved.
The main thing that is new is video.
As video grows to become the dominant part of mobile traffic, most carriers will start communicating around it. It could be the age of video. Will they be focusing on services such as mobile TV, video calls or will content providers and aggregators like Hulu and YouTube take over?
Today, most mobile strategies around video are about cost containment. It is a defensive strategy born from the fact that with the traffic growth, many networks wont be able to meet the demand before they have an operational 4G network. It leads to data caps, throttling, new data plans...
I will address in future posts what monetization strategies can be offered by the mobile video opportunity and what underlying technologies will be necessary to implement.
As carriers started as voice specialists and became messaging specialists, I believe they will need to become video specialists if they want to capture mobile video monetization opportunities .