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Thursday, November 03, 2005

IMS Services - what Marketing functions really think

This week my friends at IMS Insider's sister consulting practice - STL Partners (www.stlpartners.com) - were talking to senior marketing managers in two major operators about fixed-mobile convergence (FMC), IP-based services and IMS. One was a pure-play mobile operator, the other a full-service fixed/mobile operator.

Below is an edited transcript of what they said.

The most striking thing is how limited their company's focus is on 'value added services' (IMS-enabled or otherwise).

This supports the key theme of this month's blog about the importance of getting the Marketing and Technical functions much closer together to create greater understanding of the unique and tangile opportunities for growth that IMS brings. This quote sums it up:

"The [IMS] tecchies just think about creating neat technology. In the commercial functions there's probably only 2 people in the whole organisation who are even thinking about converged multimedia services. In practice no one has these services on their development roadmap. This obviously needs to change...and fast. That's why I was so impressed by your IMS Services Roadmap/Prioritisation Methodology..." [NB: This is described in depth in the October edition of the IMS Insider monthly report. You can subscribe at www.ims-insider.com].

What's your position on 'FMC'?

Major Mobile Operator: “With no fixed network, we see FMC as a clear threat to our business since converged operators can offer things we can’t at present. We are currently seeing this most on the Business side and are looking for creative solutions to negate this threat.

Essentially, we see lower prices plus higher bandwidth plus, over time, increased mobile functionality (presence, IP-Pbx etc.) as the tools to ensure that fixed connectivity becomes less relevant. For example, HSDPA offers 8MBS bandwidth which means that we can offer basic broadband connectivity for laptops and PC’s and so attack this market.”

Full Service Fixed/Mobile Operator: “We are only just starting to scratch the surface of this. It clearly gives us a big advantage over fixed-only or wireless-only players. Currently, most of our development in this area is simple pricing bundles – for example, discounts for mobile taken with fixed internet access.

However, going forward we believe that the real interest for consumers is in FMC services. Clearly, communications will be the starting point – like BT’s Fusion offering (
http://www.btfusion.bt.com/), but over time we see other ways in which we bring the fixed and mobile world’s closer together.

Take music, for example, why not have the mobile handset being the tool whereby you download or stream songs which are then played on your handset OR by your home hi-fi equipment? You could download over-the-air (HSDPA/3G) or via Wi-Fi – the bearer wouldn’t matter. What makes this appealing to consumers is (1) the personalisation associated with mobile (we can log preferences and push relevant music to them), (2) the convenience of anytime, anywhere music, (3) the bandwidth and quality associated with the traditional fixed network. The same could easily be true for TV.”

What's your current thinking around converged IP-based Services?

Major Mobile Operator: “At the moment, to be brutally honest, this is not the priority for us. We are on 3-6 month time horizons in marketing. IP services that leverage presence and SIP are not top-of-mind because we don’t see them as something that will be widely deployed for 18+ months.”

Full Service Fixed/Mobile Operator: “Internally I have painted a very bold picture about the future but sometimes I feel that I am a lone voice in thinking 24 months out. We have dabbled with IP-services but really the focus of the business at the moment is cost-saving.

Management believe, perhaps justifiably, that there is more money to be made in getting our handset supply-chain sorted than in worrying about “peripheral” services. What is likely to happen is that in 12 months time we will all be told that the time has come for us to make a bold statement and we will need to rush out some exciting services in 6 months. Given that our development cycle is 12+ months, this should be interesting!

I liked the services prioritisation [in IMS Insider, October edition - www.ims-insider.com] because it gives us a simple framework to start thinking about IP/IMS-enabled services NOW.”

And, how is IMS seen generally in your organisation?

Major Mobile Operator: “We are making all the right noises about IMS. However, it is being driven exclusively out of Technology and R&D – there is little interest in Marketing. Why? Because we don’t see the need. We believe, rightly or wrongly, that most of the things IMS offers can be done without it and any new capabilities are hardly justified by the required investment. The numbers don’t seem to add up. So we have a situation where the Technology and Marketing roadmaps are largely produced independently of each other. Crazy, but similar to most operators, I think.”

Full Service Fixed/Mobile Operator: “There is wide split between the technical functions and marketing on this. Technical are working hard to deploy IMS and ensure that we have the functionality in the network for FMC and the next generation of IP-Services. We are looking to deploy SIP-enabled devices across the business from next year.

However, if you ask anyone in Marketing about IMS they will either look blankly at you or give you a hundred reasons why it is not relevant! I think this is a wider symptom of the problems we have of managing the interface between Technical and Marketing.”

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