But, the network technologies they deploy are merely the beginning, and will serve only as a medium for delivering the services, content, and applications that will present the real opportunity for differentiation. Once operators have invested in and deployed their next generation networks, their key to success will lie in their ability to quickly and effectively introduce innovative new services to their subscribers - services that will be in high demand and for which users will be willing to pay a premium. In addition, the innovation must extend beyond the applications themselves, to an ability to integrate these new offerings across multiple networks, devices, and geographies.
Operators that invest in LTE technologies, for instance, will have spent billions, even tens of billions of dollars, by the time they have completed their full deployments. ABI Research predicts that Verizon Wireless, for example, will spend close to $30 billion on spectrum and infrastructure, and while LTE technology will present Verizon and other operators with significant reductions in operating costs, they will still need to find new revenue streams to support their business models to compete effectively.
As Nadine Manjaro, senior analyst, wireless infrastructure at ABI Research, writes in her article, Ecosystems Help Evolution to 4G Services in the latest issue of Alcatel-Lucent's online magazine, Enriching Communications, "Delivering new services quickly will require collaboration across an entire ecosystem. Operators are turning to vendor partners and members of the mobile value chain to assist in developing new services."
The idea of collaborating with other industry participants isn't a new one, and many operators have already successfully developed and launched services driven by such relationships, but there is potential - even a necessity - for more.
That's why Alcatel-Lucent, among others, which of course is a key player in the network infrastructure space, is also pushing the idea of developing ecosystems to help spur innovation, lower time to market, and increase the value proposition of new services and applications.
The idea is founded on the principle that networks can provide valuable resources that can be leveraged by an entire ecosystem to increase the value of new services and applications. Traditionally, however, most network operators have been hesitant to open their networks up to developers and content providers. However, in order to create deeper relationships, many are realizing that, properly controlled and secured, these resources can be an effective way to deliver more enticing services, since developers will have access to data that will help them more effectively personalize services and ensure their compatibility with networks and devices.
An Alcatel-Lucent white paper, Working with Third-Party Services: An Action Plan for Network Operators, identifies several network resources that can easily be leveraged to create compelling services that users will be willing to pay for. They include:
- The ability to offer differential QoS;
- Demographic and behavioral information on end users;
- Information on subscriber devices, location and online status (presence);
- Ability to authenticate, identify, charge and bill subscribers;
- Exposure of call control and messaging platforms;
- Ability to host and maintain services;
- Ability to provide 1st line customer support.
By working with third parties to build wide-ranging, multi-industry ecosystems that include infrastructure vendors, device manufacturers, application developers, content providers, gaming and computing experts, universities, and others with relevant expertise, operators can discover best practices, new business models, and new revenue opportunities not possible on their own.
Alcatel-Lucent itself has launched the ng Connect program as a means of bringing together these very types of constituencies in a collaborative environment to develop new services that exploit their network assets to create compelling, sticky services and opportunities for subscriber retention and attraction.
"The ng Connect ecosystem has the power to create a nucleus to showcase what is actually possible when you connect all these devices in a real LTE environment that provides the bandwidth that is necessary to provide an enhanced user experience," said Volker Hirsch, EVP at ng Connect member Connect2Media.