Wednesday, March 18, 2015

OTT as MVNO… or MNOs

This is an excerpt from my latest report "Video monetization 2015" .

OTT providers on their side might have some slightly different plans and views from mobile network operators. Most of them have built a business predominantly digital, based on internet-based delivery and had had to navigate the intricacies of creating an ecosystem (content creation, aggregation, distribution,…) and a business model (free, freemium, ad sponsored, hybrid, subscription, sponsored…) for the internet. 

This effort has resulted in partnerships and value chains, where content delivery is a little part of the value and when third parties like CDN can’t provide suitable or economical service levels, they are replaced by homegrown solutions, as illustrated by Netflix and Google’s caching strategy.

As a result, I believe that Google’s SVP products Sundar Pichai’s announcement at mobile world congress 2015 is likely to be a sea change. The company has decided to put rumors of becoming an MVNO to bed by integrating vertically the value chain one step further. The company will launch a MVNO service in the US, probably on Sprint and/or T-Mobile networks, blending cellular and wi-fi coverage. It starts to look increasingly like the dystopian future described here.

It is very likely that Google being who they are, will be looking at extending their services to mobile in a very different fashion than a mobile network operator. One can muse that in all likeliness, a Google subscriber (!?) with an Android device on YouTube or G+ is unlikely to pay for minutes of voice or Megabytes of data. It is likely that this first attempt to translate the very basics of mobile network economics into an ad sponsored model will have a very disruptive and durable effect on the whole value chain.

If you remember, this is not the only initiative that Google has with mobile networks. Since 2013, the company has been exploring the possibility to build and operate wireless networks in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. If you put this with the recent announcement that Telstra in Australia, Vodafone in New Zealand and Telefonica in South America have all agreed to participate in live trials of the Loon project, it is likely that Google will look at being increasingly involve in cellular networks. The project now supports LTE and balloons can stay up for about 6 months. 

Driving the nail farther in operator’s coffins, Mark Zuckergerg at the same show was advocating for Facebook’s initiative that is promoting free mobile internet access in emerging countries. The rationale here is that free internet promotes usage, which promotes engagement, which promotes new revenues. Current experiments in Millicom Paraguay or Tanzania, saw increases of data users by the tune of 30% and 10x increase in smartphone sales.

All in all, OTT providers have fundamentally different view of services and value different things than mobile network operators. The reconciliation of these views and the emergence of a new coherent business model will be painful but necessary.

More on the subject, as well as strategies from OTT and mobile network operators to monetize video in "Video monetization 2015". 

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