Telco 2.0™ Research

The Future Of Telecoms And How To Get There

New Opportunities in Online Content Distribution

Summary: as part of our new 'Broadband End-Games' report, we’ve been defining in detail the opportunities for telcos to distribute 3rd party content and digital goods in new ways.

...Members of the Telco 2.0TM Executive Briefing Subscription Service and Future Networks Stream can access the full item hereNon-Members, please see here for how to subscribe, or email contact@telco2.net or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.

Introduction


Telecoms operators have traditionally retailed their services to consumers, businesses, not-for-profit and public sector organisations. Carriers have also resold services to other operators as wholesale services (including regulated services such as interconnection).

At the Telco 2.0 initiative, we have long argued that there is an opportunity for telecoms operators to develop a new “2-sided” revenue stream, broadly divided into B2B VAS platform revenues and Distribution revenues. These services enable third party organisations in multiple vertical sectors to become much more effective and efficient in their everyday interactions and business processes. We have valued the potential to Telco’s’ at 20% of additional growth on core revenues in ten years’ time.... if they take-up the opportunity.

Figure 1: 2-sided business model framework

distribution%20chart%20one%202-sided.png

As Telco 2.0 concepts gain acceptance, we are being asked by operators to provide greater detail on both the B2B VAS Platform and Distribution opportunities. Operators are looking to quantify these in specific geographies. To this end, we have described the B2B VAS platform opportunity extensively, in particular in the 2-sided Business Model Platform Opportunity strategy report.

Also, we have modelled Distribution revenues for fixed and mobile broadband distribution and provided detailed commentary in our strategy report on Future Broadband Business Models. We have extended this work to cover Distribution using narrowband, voice and messaging. This Analyst Note provides a synthesis of this modelling work and an updated description of the Distribution revenue opportunity. A forthcoming Analyst Note will cover Sizing the 2-sided Distribution Opportunity for Telco.

Defining 2-sided distribution


Telecoms, historically focused on providing interpersonal communications, has increasingly become an electronic transport and delivery business. In defining the “distribution” element of 2-sided business opportunity, we highlight four criteria:

  • The distribution service is essentially concerned with moving electronic data from one location to another. Distribution revenues relate to this alone. The terms ‘upstream’ provider and ‘downstream’ customer relate to the commercial relationship and not to the flow of data. Distribution services can apply to moving data in either or both directions.
  • The service may include an ‘above-standard’ technical specification and quality of service to meet specific performance requirements, generally associated with the nature of the application for which the data is being sent.
  • The service is being paid for by the upstream third-party provider, but is often initiated by the downstream customer.
  • The distribution service is a minor telecoms component of the primary non-telecoms service or goods being accessed by the downstream user. Mostly, the distribution service is enabling interaction between the upstream third-party provider and downstream customer. For example, a Kindle user is paying Amazon for an e-book that is delivered over a network. Amazon pays the telecoms operator (in the US, this was Sprint and is now AT&T) for the delivery of the e-book (the main non-telecoms product).

This last criterion makes a distinction between two-sided distribution and wholesale telecoms (and carrier interconnection). This is a key distinction, as it highlights an underlying industry-level difference in business model and a move away from a closed Telco system to a more open platform. Operators that do not significantly compete in the same retail market as their wholesale customer(s) may not consider this distinction important. This is because they do not consider their wholesale customer(s) to be competition, but rather a channel. However, wholesale customers nearly always compete at some level. Furthermore, this is missing a key point: 2-sided distribution is about “growing the pie” for Telco whereas growing wholesale in a mature market, generally results in “shrinking the pie”.

There is a “grey area” between 2-sided distribution and carrier wholesale. Offloading mobile broadband onto fixed broadband networks is an example of Wholesale2.0, since it is primarily an inter-carrier arrangement intended to reduce mobile network costs. In most cases however, it is still possible to make a clear distinction, as illustrated in the final two examples in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Examples of 2-sided Telco distribution

Example

Description

Comment

Freephone

Callers use freephone services to access goods or services from upstream third-party provider.  Although they could achieve this through a retail call, the upstream third-party provider pays for the freephone call as part of their overall proposition around  their main service or product, which the downstream customer is ultimately accessing.  

The actual freephone call charges (excluding ‘B2B VAS platform' charges for number provisioning, directory listing, or any inbound call handling features) are Telco distribution revenue because they relate to enabling an interaction (by carrying a voice conversation) that has been initiated by the downstream party, but paid for by the upstream third-party party in order to deliver something else.  This ‘something else' main service could be booking a flight, ordering a pizza, calling the army recruitment centre or enquiring about installing loft insulation.

Premium SMS (carriage-only)

A premium SMS is a service offered by Telcos to upstream third-party providers that enables them to provide a service or goods to downstream users.  Although the telco may be billing for this, it is not the Telco's service that the end user is buying. This is therefore not retail (one-sided) revenue, unless the Telco is also the upstream third-party content provider.  

Premium services include a host of B2B VAS services (notably payment and collection).  The charges levied by Telcos therefore include a combination of distribution and B2B VAS.  The distribution element relates to the pure SMS transport (carriage only) at normal bulk rates, not the full or even net SMS revenues.

TwitterPeek

TwitterPeek is a dedicated device offered by Twitter through Amazon, which gives users unlimited access to their Twitter account and the associated functions (Send Tweets, subscribe to others' Tweets, Retweet, search Tweets, etc..  The service costs $99 for six months followed by $7 a month.  There is also a $199 option for lifetime use.

In this example, the main service is Twitter.  The connectivity service that supports TwitterPeek, is considered to be 2-sided distribution rather than wholesale because it does not directly compete with any core telco communications offering.   


Breaking down the opportunity


At its highest level, we have broken the types of distribution into wired or wireless. This distinction is partly technical (as it reflects the underlying network). It is also related to business model and regulatory regime (eg Net Neutrality, different rules & structures on interconnection and wholesale). Telecoms operators also still tend to be organised along these lines. Below this, we have grouped the main distribution opportunities into Voice, Messaging, Narrowband and Broadband. Again, this reflects typical Telco product line divisions. Below this, there are two broad types of distribution opportunities...

To read the full article, covering...
  • Breakdown of the types of distribution opportunities
  • Detail of the types by Wired / Wireless
  • Fixed and Mobile 0800 & Premium
  • Fixed Broadband ‘slice & dice’
  • Fixed Broadband ‘comes with’
  • Mobile Broadband ‘slice & dice’
  • Dedicated Broadband Device ‘comes with’
  • Narrowband M2M
  • Application-specific narrowband devices
  • Application-specific messaging devices
  • Bulk SMS / MMS, Short codes, Free and Premium SMS
  • Detailed potential Fixed and Mobile 'Slice and Dice' examples
  • Conclusions and recommendations

...Members of the Telco 2.0TM Executive Briefing Subscription Service and Future Networks Stream can access the full item here. Non-Members, please see here for how to subscribe, or email contact@telco2.net or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.