Remember "seamless mobility," the campaign that Motorola rolled out at the NCTA Show in San Francisco in 2005? Nearly five years later, the infrastructure required to make seamless connectivity and "IP everywhere" a reality is moving into place.
Very high-speed services are becoming available in every major U.S. market. The "mobility" part of the equation is also advancing, with recent demonstrations of ultra-wideband wireless connections over LTE using commercially available equipment.
It’s not surprising to see MSOs investing in wireless extensions of their network. They know that to serve their customers, they must continuously evolve their business model.
Some analysts have predicted that the number of "connected devices" on the planet would approach one trillion within five years. Even if these projections are off by a factor of 10, service providers know they’ll need to support a wide range of applications, services, connections and experiences. Then seamless mobility — or part of what we call Tera-play — becomes real.
"Do we have the…infrastructure in place to support what lies ahead?"
Assuming that customers will expect seamless mobility to "just work" in the trillion-device era, here are four bundles of questions that technical and business leaders at all levels of a service provider’s organization should be asking themselves:
Do we have the physical and logical infrastructure in place to support what lies ahead? Are our business systems tooled around next-gen interfaces that are secure yet open? Do we operate a culture of disciplined business process?
Sooner or later, valuable customers will roam one or more of their services from our network to someone else’s. Are we prepared to partner in ways that ensure service quality when customers skate from our network assets to somewhere else? Can we effectively collaborate across internal lines of business and across external companies?
Have we considered the portable extensions, such as viewing channel lineups and configuring DVR programming from a smart-phone app? Does our architecture allow "high value" services to go with our customers?
The next stage of services evolution is going to be from content to context. Can we predict where customers are heading? Next-generation advertising to consumers is about being where they are and knowing what they are likely to want next. Do we have the intelligence in our network assets, customer care assets and applications to personalize the customer’s experience based on their current context?
A look at the mobile phone industry demonstrates how quickly things change. iPhone users, who have only existed for two years, consume 30 times the bandwidth of traditional users. Users with laptop connect cards use 450 times the bandwidth of a traditional mobile handset. The devices we’re all connecting with are increasing in sophistication demanding real-time connectivity.
In this future of decoupled network traffic volumes and related revenue streams, customers will choose what products and services they’ll consume and what device(s) they’ll use to consume them.
However, this freedom won’t add value for consumers unless it changes the limits of what is possible for them in their everyday life. The successful service provider then has one goal: deliver something worth choosing. Doing so calls for focusing on strong, profitable customer relationships; doing smart things with customer intelligence; being agile, open and consistently clever; and enabling more for less.
The trillion-device era won’t start tomorrow, or even next week, but the trends are undeniable. Success will come to those with a healthy sense of urgency and the right competencies to leverage innovation, expertise and a global understanding.
-Ray Bennet is marketing director for Amdocs broadband cable & satellite division.