Over-The-Top – play, an opportunity for communications service providers?

Posted: November 9th, 2012 | Author: Ulla Koivukoski | Filed under: Industry Insights, Telecom Trends | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Over-the-top-players (OTT) have been seen as a big threat to the traditional Communications service Providers (CSP).  In short, the traffic generated by the OTT players is congesting the communications networks in which the CSPs have invested hundreds of millions of Euros, while the same OTT players also bring home most of the revenue streams. The Telco industry has been discussing the topic already for quite a while now, and – as often – the market and business disruptions have been seen as a threat rather than an opportunity.

As an example, CSP executives around Europe and the Middle East gathered at a conference in January 2011 to share experiences on how to compete with Google, Skype and others, that is, the dreaded, revenue-hoarding global OTT players. (Source: Global Telecom Business). Other commentaries, such as this from Ovum,  remind the CSPs that they should rethink their business model and become a part of the OTT value chain. The list of similar examples just goes on.

Let’s recall some of the earlier disruptions to see if there is anything we could learn.  Although the Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) phenomenon was more or less a local disruption while the OTT players of today are truly global, there might be something worth noticing from those days. Many of the MVNOs in the early phase were established in an opportunistic manner to cash in on the disruption quickly, while trusting that the traditional CSPs will buy them out simply because CSPs should see them as a competitive threat. This also happened in many markets.  After attempting to fight against the grain, many CSPs started to see the MVNO business model as an opportunity, although with the strong encouragement of regulatory bodies . Some CSPs have taken the role of selling the network assets to the MVNOs and some have built their own MVNO business to differentiate within specific customer segments. A good example of the differentiation strategy is E-Plus, who still in June 2012 was the jewel in KPN’s crown. E-Plus established its own MVNO, Ay Yildiz, with a segmented offering to several million (statistic vary from 2.5 to 4 million depending on the definition) Turkish people in Germany, who communicate with their relatives inside the country and between Turkey and Germany.

Some of the leading CSPs have taken similar steps in capturing the OTT opportunity rather than seeing it as a threat. Naturally, there are multiple approaches. One good example is Telefonica whose Jose Valles explains how Telco’s are in a unique position to take advantage of opportunities to facilitate OTT services through their relationship with users. The example by Zain Deputy CEO and COO, Hisham Akbar, is another instance of the CSP leveraging their competences and assets to build a whole sale service.  Zain sells network infrastructure to other players to deliver a wider variety of OTT-type of services and applications to Zain’s customers.

Where there is a threat, there is also an opportunity. However, it often requires the courage to go for the opportunity instead of fighting the inevitable change.

Q2 2012: An Update on Comptel’s Business and Strategy

Posted: July 18th, 2012 | Author: Juhani Hintikka | Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Today, we announced Comptel’s financials for the second quarter of 2012 and for the first half of the year as a whole. This is a personal milestone for me, as it marks my second year fully immersed as CEO — and as you’ll see from our mid-year highlights, I’m confident in the direction the company is moving.

This past quarter, our order backlog rose to a record high, as we won a significant EUR 5.4 million project to consolidate the mediation systems of a leading operator in Western Europe.

The upfront investments in the customer interface have yielded results in our largest regions, Europe and Asia, and we won seven new customers globally. Although our net sales have not yet met expected levels, they stayed on par with last year’s numbers, EUR 20.3 million (EUR 20.0 million). And we are optimistic our investments will grow our 2012 net sales approximately 10 per cent from the previous year. Integration of the advanced analytics expertise acquired in February 2012 has proceeded exceptionally well, resulting in winning our first deal for Comptel Social Links software.

We continued to bring new products to the market as key strategic initiatives. The major launch of Next Generation Comptel Fulfillment 8 software this quarter was received remarkably favourably by the OSS/BSS industry.  We also unveiled our Contextual Intelligence for Telco (CIQ4T) concept this quarter, providing communications service providers a framework for bringing customer experience to the next level. This innovative approach truly differentiates Comptel in the market.

Our business mix of licence and services sales was impaired by the personnel, project delivery and marketing costs, causing lower operative results than expected. To remedy this, we initiated first productivity action by streamlining R&D in Norway and further cost saving initiatives will bring us approximately EUR 10 million on annual level. During the second half of 2012, we will realise EUR 3-4 million savings. These initiatives will secure our competitiveness, sustain the execution of our strategy, and deliver an estimated 0 – 5 per cent operating profit of net sales, excluding one-off items.

Beyond the figures, we also concentrated the first half of the year on executing our new strategy. We opened new offices in Istanbul and Cairo  and announced several major customer wins around the world. These included, Telefónica Central America’s mediation consolidation that enabled the efficient management of more than half a billion daily transactions, Thai mobile operator Real Move’s deployment of Comptel’s Fulfilment solution to gain customers from the 3G market,  Kcell Kazakhstan’s replacement of its provisioning and activation system with Comptel’s Fulfilment suite to support its 3G rollout, and Kuwaiti’s  Watanya Telecom improvement of its customers’ first use experience with Comptel’s Dynamic SIM solution.

We also launched a new portfolio approach with our Customer Engagement solutions and Comptel Services Portfolio, in addition to a refreshed Comptel brand identity at Mobile World Congress Barcelona in February. We shared a white paper regarding Contextual Intelligence for Telcoms at Management World Dublin and organised our annual Comptel User Group in Copenhagen with more than 100 participants from leading service providers and industry analysts. On top of this, our customer engagement solutions were honoured in Pipeline’s Innovation Awards and the 2012 IBM Beacon Awards as the best communications industry solutions — reinforcing our capability to bring innovative products and solutions to the market.

Overall, the first half of 2012 has been largely focused on executing our strategy, investing in bringing new products to market, winning new customers and developing our Services Business. As we move into this next quarter, we’ll continue onwards building on our stated strategy and remain confident the productivity programme will secure our competitiveness. And I’m honoured to convey, on behalf of Comptel, that we are looking forward to continuing to deliver on our promises to the market in the second half of 2012.

Around the World

Posted: March 22nd, 2012 | Author: OSS Team | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

RCR Wireless News…
Latin America Counts 32 HSPA+, 5 LTE Networks
According to a 4G Americas report, Latin America is increasingly deploying HSPA technology and rolling out LTE. Currently, the region has 72 commercial deployments of HSPA technology in 31 countries, with five commercial LTE networks and 300,000 LTE connections expected by the end of 2012.

Along the same lines, the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) recently published a report showing that 300 operators worldwide have committed to commercial LTE network deployments or are engaged in trials, technology testing or studies. This is a significant increase—50 percent, in fact—over the previous year.

The LTE evolution is clearly catching on in Latin America, just in time for the region’s networks to be ready for the data boom expected during the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

CEE Operators on the Ball in OTT and Connected TV
Over the past year, there has been an explosion of activity in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) online video sector, with operators jumping head first into new market opportunities by offering a variety of new services.

Informa Telecoms & Media forecasts that online video Internet traffic in the region will account for 27 percent of total Internet traffic by 2015. Additionally, the number of connected devices is set to dramatically increase, and the growth of such devices will continue to fuel over-the-top (OTT) service launches. However, operators are increasingly adapting when it comes to OTT services by investing in the development of full multi-screen services to attract subscribers and, in some cases, by teaming up with OTT providers.

The boom in OTT offerings provides an opportunity for operators to embrace innovation and introduce new value-added services. Do you think operators are able to effectively collaborate with OTT players to create mutually beneficial offerings that will appeal to customers?

A Busy Agenda
In 2011, the telecom industry came to terms with two major global shocks—the global economic downturn and the disruption caused by mass digitisation. The downturn accelerated the commoditisation of traditional telecom services, pushing operators to cut costs and increase efficiency. The digital boom encouraged operators to boost network capacity and connectivity, and introduce new services that take advantage of mobile payment platforms and cloud computing.

Due to these global changes, the telecom ecosystem is becoming much more competitive as new players from adjacent industries and technological innovation challenge operators. This year, operators will spend more on infrastructure as 4G/ LTE goes mainstream, and make strategic choices by leveraging existing capabilities and building new ones.

With the unprecedented choice of services and devices, customers will likely emerge as the winners of the drastically changing telecom landscape—do you agree with this prediction?

Around the World

Posted: October 14th, 2011 | Author: OSS Team | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

India Unveils Draft Telecom Policy
This past Monday, India unveiled a draft of new policy meant to “facilitate consolidation in the converged telecom service sector, while ensuring sufficient competition.” A major change will be the removal of roaming fees within the country. Policy makers are hoping this move will encourage customers to make more calls outside their home territory.

Amid corruption over the allocation of the telecom spectrum, this new policy also focuses on transparency by issuing telecom licenses and spectrum bandwidth separately rather than bundling them. Do you think this proposed plan will ultimately benefit CSPs and subscribers, and revitalize India’s telecom industry?

Time to Rethink Data Roaming
Informa Telecoms & Media’s Paul Lambert asserts that the European Commission (EC) regulation for the data roaming market is out of step with the way smartphones interact with the network and how smartphone data is used while roaming.

Paul believes EC regulations should guide operators to charge for usage rather than the number of kilobytes a device consumes. Many smartphones consume data by constantly interacting with the network to update data applications, even when they are not being accessed by users. Thus, data is unwittingly consumed much faster.

Do you agree that it’s time to rethink data roaming?

Bloomberg Businessweek…
FCC to Revamp Phone Subsidy to Spur Expanded Internet Access
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski recently revealed plans to overhaul the U.S. phone subsidy program, the Universal Service Fund, by extending broadband Internet connections in rural areas. The plan will bring wireline and wireless high-speed Internet connections to 18 million homes that don’t have access, increasing the number of people who use high-speed Internet from 65 to 90 percent.

The FCC also plans to revamp fees paid to rural carriers for connecting calls, which chairman Genachowski says could result in significant consumer benefits. We’re looking forward to hearing more details when the final version of the plan is unveiled on October 27th for the FCC vote.

Q2 2011: An Update on Comptel’s Business and Strategy

Posted: July 20th, 2011 | Author: Juhani Hintikka | Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Today, we announced our results for the second quarter of 2011 and the first half of this financial year.

This past quarter has been a decent one for Comptel. Our order flow improved from the previous year, and our business developed favourably in the Middle East and Africa, where the measures initiated late last year, such as investments in customer service and consulting resources, have yielded results. In our largest market, Europe, the net sales remained low, which was the main reason for a decreased Group net sales. However, we are optimistic that the decision to split Europe into East and West, and to reorganise our operations to get closer to customers, will help improve the situation. Overall, Comptel’s financial position remained strong during this period.

Looking beyond the figures, the first half of 2011 has been a busy one for Comptel. We attended a number of large events, including Mobile World Congress (Barcelona, February) and Management World (Dublin, May), and held our very own Comptel User Group – CUG (Helsinki, June). All of these were excellent showcases for us, and we had many successful business meetings. We also closed 10 deals of over €500K in value (compared to eight in the same period last year), including four that we consider strategic (NBN CO and three Comptel Control & Charge) deals. Also, as mentioned above, we reorganised to bring our sales and services capabilities closer to our customers and prospects. In particular, we grew our sales force in Australia, Germany, Italy, Russia and the UK. We also made a number of new appointments to the board.

Going forward, Comptel will continue to invest further in the development of our sales and service channels, as well as in our products.

So all in all, it was a busy first half of the year, and we have an even busier second half ahead of us!

Around the World

Posted: May 12th, 2011 | Author: OSS Team | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Cellular News…
Canadians Annoyed with Increasing Cell Phone Bills
J.D. Power and Associates conducted a survey that examined Canadian wireless customers’ perceptions of their service, mobile phone and retail experience. The study revealed an average of 648 for overall satisfaction (on a 1,000-point scale) and an average of only 551 for satisfaction with cost of service. This could be attributed to rising monthly wireless costs, which have increased from an average of $71 in 2009 to $78 in 2011—and are being driven by the bump in smartphones and, consequently, larger data plans. According to the article, 39 percent of Canadian customersown a smartphone, a 25 percent increase from 2009, while the number of those who have a data package has increased to 60 percent from 15 percent in 2009.

To provide a superior customer experience and balance profitability, operators should offer progressive pricing options based on demand for speed and data consumption, for example. This is especially important because, according to Adrian Chung, senior manager at J.D. Power and Associates, the low satisfaction levels with cost of service have led to a high potential churn rate. In fact, 28 percent of customers strongly agree that they would consider switching to a new wireless service provider with offerings that better met their needs.

Billing & OSS World…
Subscriber Data Management Exploding, Critical in Europe
Infonetics Research recently found that the market for subscriber data management (SDM) tools for wireless networks is growing worldwide, particularly in Europe. The SDM market is seeing significant growth with mobile operators viewing the tools as critical for their wireless infrastructure-sharing initiatives; SDM allows them to identify which subscribers are using their networks. The article also notes that the machine-to-machine (M2M) market is important for SDM investment in Europe, and predicts that this too will become the case in North America over the next few years.

Analyst Shira Levine believes that, “as SDM strategies mature, operators will  better leverage their subscriber data for functions such as customer care, campaign management, churn management, revenue assurance and marketing, and possibly to expand subscriber data sources to include IT systems, including CRM, billing and fulfillment.”

As Simo Isomäki previously noted, we too are seeing growing interest in using subscriber data for active decision-making in OSS/BSS. And while data management is still a challenge, there is no doubt that this intelligence will help operators improve customer loyalty and safeguard profitability.

Light Reading…
It’ll Be Cloudy in Dublin
Ray Le Maistre dwells on the location change from Nice to Dublin for this year’s Management World 2011, but looks forward to the event’s discussions around the deployment and support of cloud services. He states that, to play in this space, the first step will be building the physical infrastructure to support hosted applications and capabilities. Following this is the greater challenge of provisioning, activation, tracking, managing, guaranteeing and billing for those services against a service level agreement.  This is a topic we’ll be exploring at Management World – both on the expo floor and in Forumville with the Enhanced Cloud Service Management Catalyst.

Q1 2011: An Update on Comptel’s Business and Strategy

Posted: April 15th, 2011 | Author: Juhani Hintikka | Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Today we announced our Q1 2011 results. I have to admit they were disappointing on the financial side. Most notably, our net sales in Europe and the Middle East did not live up to expectations.

On the positive side, the APAC region continued to perform well. I was especially pleased about Australia’s NBN Co becoming a customer. NBN Co is doing very leading-edge things, bringing high-speed broadband to virtually every premise in the country. It’s a very high profile initiative, and I know many other countries are looking carefully at similar developments, so we are really excited about being part of this ground-breaking initiative.

From an organisational point of view, Q1 was a period of change. We continued to implement our initiative to get closer to customers and partners, chiefly by putting resources next to them. We also announced the split of our European operations into Europe West and Europe East, to take into account the very different features of the markets in terms of maturity, saturation and growth. We also got positive customer feedback about the new setup for the Inventory business.

This will be in many ways a year of building a new foundation for growth.