Wednesday, June 26, 2013

LTE world summit wrap up: VoLTE, Joyn, Loons and laughs

I was this week in gray Amsterdam for the LTE World Summit, where I chaired a track on mobile data explosion.
The atmosphere at the show was pretty upbeat, with over 2000 attendees happily walking the show floor and in and out of the various tracks, ranging from the co-located Sim-posium and Connected Car summit to the various monetization and technology tracks around data, video and VoLTE. The show was well organized and the alternation between round tables (mind share sessions on Monday), presentations, and panels was well executed.

I have to confess I was surprised by the large amount of time dedicated to VoLTE, Joyn and RCS, considering how uninteresting these subjects are (to me at least).

Throughout a few interactions I had at the show, I was reflecting on how mobile telephony continues to surprise and entertain me. There are many causes for laugh, for different reasons. 

On one hand of the spectrum, you have the wonderfully peculiar and whimsical announcement from Google on project Loon. A network of stratospheric balloons beaming internet for all, is ludicrous, crazy and beautiful. It shows a capacity to think out of the box and a capacity to try and address global issues by breaking convention that is missing in many boardrooms.
Some of the operators I was speaking with had a different kind of laugh, particularly when the Loon project is juxtaposed with Google's plan to build, run and operate mobile networks in sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia... That is worth a good laugh. 

On the other hand of the spectrum, you got VoLTE and Joyn / RCS initiatives, who make me laugh twice as hard. I will admit to not being a specialist on either, but I can't fathom, why I should care about having a voice service carried over circuit switch or IP. I am a bit of a technology enthusiast and frankly, I don't get it. Particularly when vendors and some operators are touting use cases that were already making me laugh ten years ago when looking at SIP based communication / IMS.
Who cares whether you can have your call ringing on your 7 devices at the same time or whether you can have your call forwarded automatically from your tablet to your phone when you leave the room.... come on, let's be serious. If you are implementing VoLTE for infrastructure savings and scalability, that's great, but let's not have technology trying to dictate usage, that's just silly.

Sillier still is Joyn. It is kind of sad whenever operators try to compete with a content / service company on their own ground. I know that OTT messaging has hurt many operator's bottom line. This is the nature of disruption. 

You cannot compete with OTT by trying to offer and OTT-ish service, that is clunkier, awkward and that you want to "monetize". Come on, get real. First mover advantage is key in OTT service launch and there is not much room for me-too strategies. As an operator, you have two choices: innovate or collaborate. Create a new service, a new experience, or facilitate, enrich existing services even if they're not yours. Customers are not savvy technologists, they are savvy shoppers. It is about creating a better experience, stop listening to vendors trying to force-feed you new technology and start thinking new services.