Battle between OTT players and the telcos!

  May 16, 2013 8:21:15 AM

How many of us send SMS nowadays? Those who have Smartphones can download myriad of applications (i.e. Whats App, Hike, Skype, ..) from the respective appstores  through which one can send messages to buddies, using the data connection. These applications and services are provided by Over The Top (OTT) players and are complete substitutes to SMSs that go through the mobile networks of the telcos. Until recently, telcos did not bother much about the OTT players. However, today, the data connectivity being provided by the telcos itself is a cause for worry as these messaging services completely by pass telcos’ billing systems (except for the few Kbytes of monetization) and yield tremendous value to the end user. However, there is a glitch!

You need to subscribe to the application platform (i.e. facebook, Skype) and most of them do primitive messaging and are not amenable for services such as video calling, conferencing,.. Even if they are, the quality is often bad due to poor network connectivity!

First, regarding the application platform, web based Real Time Communication (WebRTC) services are appearing that promise to provide an open, free form, peer-to-peer communication across parties. This is a move away from the client-server paradigm used in the OTT messaging services (refer to Venkatesh, G., Sridhar, V. (16 Nov 2012). Real time disruption. Business Line). This frees up both the users and developers alike in building future communication services, not being tied to a specific platform.

Telcos, though nonchalant about OTTs, have slowly realized that it is better to adopt a variation of their services for survival. The GSM Association (GSMA - the largest professional body supported by the mobile operators worldwide) started the initiative and standardization of Rich Communication Services (RCS) – brand named “JOYN” -  including enhanced messaging and enriched call experience (including video, multimedia) over the operators’ IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) platform. The unique differentiating factor of this offering compared to the traditional OTT offering is that RCS provides guaranteed Quality of Service (QoS) since it is offered over the managed IP network of the operators and hence is carrier-grade (refer to Jayasuriya, Vanitha, Bhashyam, Narasimha & Sridhar, V. (25 January 2013)  Rich Communication Services: An opportunity for Telcos.  Business Line).

The next question for the telcos is how to invite the developer community to build new and rich applications for RCS? Again GSMA has taken the lead in formulating the OneAPI initiative. The OneAPI initiative is aimed at providing a standardized platform with APIs (i.e. Application Program Interfaces through which applications can be glued in to) through which the rich data that exists with the operators such as location, subscriber plan, network status can be made available to applications. It provides a new avenue for applications developers to develop a set of rich applications that use these data and operator network capabilities and intelligence to provide enhanced user experience (refer to Sridhar, V., & Raja, S.R. (5 May 2013). The app store battle. Business Standard).

However, the moot question is who will survive? The Internet giants such as Google, Facebook and the smart OTT players such as Skype and Whats App have created such compulsive offerings with innovative subscription plans (Whats App is free for use for the initial 12 months), revenue models (i.e. advertising of Google), and creative applications (i.e. Google’s integrated one authentication entry in to personalized iGoogle, Google+, Gmail) that they have outwitted the elephantine telcos who are still struggling to find their feet in the ever changing world of the Internet and data services refer to Sridhar, V. (17 May 2013). Paisa-fication of data. Business Line).

Can the elephant dance?

Authored by: Dr. V Sridhar

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