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Friday, November 18, 2005

IP-based Converged Services - how to build and launch them?

Below is a preview of November’s IMS Insider Report (published on 30th November, subscribe at http://www.ims-insider.com/).

In it, we build on the IP-based converged services prioritisation method we described in the October edition, and explore what Operators need to do to launch a specific high value new service type. The example we use is a full-service IPTV/film rental/purchase proposition that is:

- Personalised
- Device-agnostic
- Bearer-agnostic
- Integrated with communications (voice, IM etc.)
- DVD-quality

In the report, we describe the proposition in great detail, outlining the end-to-end customer experience. Our sister consulting company, STL (
http://www.stlpartners.com/), also helped us to determine what an Operator needs to do to build and launch such a service. They identified 3 x Technology Building-Blocks ("TBBs") and 3 x Process & Organisation Elements ("POE's") – see the chart below.

Commenting on how well operators are addressing the 6 requirements, Chris Barraclough from STL says:

“It is clear from our client work and wider analysis that most Operators are progressing well with regards to developing the core technology building-blocks. They are all moving at different speeds and focusing in slightly different areas, but essentially the roadmaps for technology are in place.

Where we believe there is a clear weakness is around the supporting process and organisation capabilities. The Marketing and Commercial functions need to be working much more closely with the technology areas to (a) develop propositions and (b) deliver them. Currently, there is a short-termist attitude in most organisations. This is natural because companies need to hit their near-term numbers. However, these companies will lose out in the medium-term, as IP-convergence develops, because more nimble companies with a clearer view of how marketing, technology, financial, customer, commercial and partner forces need to be harnessed to create great services will begin to invade this space.” [chris.barraclough@stlpartners.com].

We work through each of the requirements for sucess in detail in the November IMS Insider report (www.ims-insider.com), but here is a quick summary:

1.) Technology Building-Blocks – the basic functionality that must be in place to deliver the service:

Bandwidth. An IPTV/film rental/purchase service, which is independent of bearer or device, requires omnipresent bandwidth. We believe that this service needs to be supported by fixed internet, Wi-Fi/Wi-Max and, from a mobile perspective, HSDPA, so that the customer can be guaranteed fast download speeds. This is particularly important if the service provider plans to stream free preview clips to the customer since this cannot happen in the background.

IMS functionality. Clearly, IMS is required to enable seamless roaming across networks and devices (enabling, for example, a customer to download a film to a TV from their handset). Such a service requires excellent identity and authentication management and session control. Similarly, if friends wish to share and talk about video previews then the multimedia aspects of IMS are important. However, IMS is also required to deliver seamless billing across network domains so that customers can pay for the film/service from any device or network.

HSDPA/SIP/IMS-enabled devices. Exciting propositions (involving converged services) require widespread availability and adoption of IMS-enabled devices. Without this, customers will simply not be able to take advantage of things like multimedia sharing, presence etc. (Remember the problems with MMS – nobody to send the message to). If this is achieved then, ironically, over time, device dependency will reduce because increasingly information (telephone numbers, calendar), functionality (presence, conferencing) and services (IP-TV, Games) will be in the network and accessible from ANY device.

2.) Process and Organisation Elements – the ability to leverage functionality to develop and launch compelling propositions:

Compelling differentiated propositions. The IP-world opens up a myriad of opportunities for new services. However, the open nature of IP also means that the application layer is open to new competitors. Telco operators have historically focused on price-, rather than value-based, propositions (they have, after all, been dealing with a commodity product). IP changes this because service providers can now provide value-added services. The winners in this market will be those companies that can leverage skilled AND IP-knowledgeable marketing and product development departments to produce exciting offerings.

Integrated development/delivery processes. The IP-converged world is more complex that the circuit-switched world. Technology elements can no longer be seen in isolation – instead organisations need to be able to develop propositions in response to the combined interactions of the bearer, platform and device elements. Things are complicated by the increasingly important role of 3rd party content providers who also need to be considered in the development and delivery process.

Marketing skills and organisation structures. Underpinning required changes in proposition composition and development delivery processes is the need for new skills and structures. We feel this is particularly important in the marketing function where a group who are proposition-focused AND working to a longer time-horizon than other marketers (say 12-24 months) will be increasingly important.

The detail behind each of these points can be found in our November issue of IMS Insider (
http://www.ims-insider.com/). In it, we outline the key steps that operators should take (and vendors should assist with) to develop the key technology building-blocks and the process and organisation elements.

Let me know if you have any comments/ideas or would like to contribute to future editions of IMS Insider and/or this blog.

The Editor, IMS Insider


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