There’s a lot of debate about how traditional operators can interact with OTT providers. We’ve moved from fear to general understanding of their business models and their role in the ecosystem and recognition that many are a source of real service innovation, but not necessarily beyond that. New research from STL and leading policy specialists Openet highlights the current lack of clarity and vision from the traditional telco industry with respect to OTT providers. The question is, where do we go from here?
Well, while many MNOs, for example, are understandably concerned about declining voice revenues, there are plenty of opportunities for fruitful and profitable engagement with OTT providers.
Let’s consider network resources. These are scarce and operators – rightly some might say – want to make an appropriate return on their network investments. But, they also need to be able to offer access for all and this has led to a sense that they are in opposition to other providers who effectively “piggyback” as free-riders on their investments. Such a view is limiting, as it doesn’t allow for the possibility that they can monetise their network assets in new and innovative ways.
In the case of network resources, it’s one thing to offer open access, but quite another to offer enhanced service levels or guarantees that enable better, faster and richer services. For example, operators with network assets and resources can implement solutions that enable them to deliver quality of service as a service in itself: providing enhanced access to resources for a premium, not only to their own customers, but to third parties.
This is hardly a new concept – after all, many operators have been offering differentiated quality of service to their enterprise customers for years. What’s different is the ability to offer this as a service to other providers. This represents both an opportunity for all operators and an area in which differentiation can be achieved. How?
First, operators can provide exposure to attributes such as QoS via APIs from today’s generation of policy control solutions, which can be tightly integrated with network resources. But secondly, operators can go beyond this and extend policy control to client devices or gateways by deploying solutions that are embedded or downloaded directly to such devices. GoS 360° software, for example, delivers the ability to prioritise high-value data traffic in both upstream and downstream directions.
Once deployed, operators can guarantee policy delivery and control directly to end users, enabling them to differentiate their services in ways that are beyond OTT providers. And, by exposing access to PCRF and policy engines to third parties, operators can sell QoS as a service for demanding applications, enabling OTT providers to broaden their offer and deliver even more innovative services.
This is a real opportunity for engagement with the OTT community, by delivering something that is uniquely available to operators with network assets and connected customers. By doing so, they can realise revenue from their own customers and, increasingly, from OTT providers who can benefit from launching their own differentiated service offers.