Why OTT is A-OK

Posted by brwalsh Sep 30, 2010


All over-the-top (OTT) service providers such as Skype or Google or Hulu do NOT have to be a threat to operators’ business.


Mobile operators don’t have to sit by and watch OTT providers walk away with the revenue while they bear the infrastructure costs. Why? Because mobile providers bring a lot to the table – such as the billing relationship and knowledge of the customer – along with awareness of services, subscribers, and status of their networks, all of which makes them a powerful partner in the delivery and marketing of OTT services. Not to mention the ability to personalize applications (e.g., adding location information, bundle with other services) to make them much more accessible for users.


And that’s why leading wireless carriers are starting to change the way they look at OTT providers and other content providers. Verizon has embraced Skype. Vodafone UK partnered with Sky Broadcasting. And those are just two examples.


Here are some ways mobile operators can make money by building a business to business to consumer (B2B2C) revenue model – one where mobile operators gain revenues from both sides of the value chain – from content provider partners and subscribers:


Content subscriptions such as Mobile TV In the case of the Vodafone UK/Sky Broadcasting partnership, the two companies provide subscribers with an all-the-football-you can-watch-per-month premium streaming service for an extra fee and share the revenue. The service includes score and game alerts and is much like the addition of a premium channel in a cable TV subscription plan.


Premium Service for OTT Video – Mobile operators can offer streaming video providers a higher quality of service for a fee. This would allow video application providers to ensure that their customers get a good viewing experience over the mobile data network. Operators can bundle the OTT premium video service with higher priced tiered pricing plans, offer subscribers the option to “turbo boost” OTT video when they want, and/or even expose a API for applications providers to signal to the network to increase bandwidth for the user. 


Cloud Services – Mobile operators can partner with cloud-based OTT application providers to co-market and enhance delivery of their services in exchange for a share of the revenue. Or by deploying virtualized data center-based applications, operators can also offer their own hosted collaboration, conferencing, and other applications to enterprises and small businesses.


For more ideas on how to build revenue through innovative partnerships and new business models, please download a copy of the Cisco white paper, “Monetizing the Mobile Internet.”


For some more details on these and other service ideas, take a look at the list of monetization opportunities we’ve posted on






AsiaPac Tour: Mumbai, Day 3

Posted by twasher Sep 30, 2010



My colleague Angela pinged me this morning from Mumbai.  She’s managed to fit in a few meetings with mobile operators in between sampling curry dishes.  Some of the operators were quite interested in new and future offerings, such as one called toll-free broadband.  This has particular appeal in a region where the landline infrastructure is not the most reliable and so much communication occurs wirelessly.  In the video below, Angela shares the example of an automobile manufacturer launching a rich multimedia website to help market its new model.  The challenge is that it’s costly to their prospective customers to view the mobile site.   The car shopper has to pay for the data transfer, and thus, might not be too excited about spending money to explore Corinthian leather seats and other cool features.    But offerings such as toll-free broadband enable companies to remove that barrier and connect with the customers.


Take a look, and if you're just now tuning in, here's her intro video and video from day 2.  Oh, and try the Dosa.




Our own Angela Singhal-Whiteford is now in Kuala Lumpur to kick off her AsiaPac monetization tour with mobile operators. Her goal is to help them find ways to grow revenue and to get her fill of Asian cuisine. What's on the menu for today Angela?

"Actually had Laksa for breakfast  this morning. I cannot get enough of that curried soup. Squeezed in a little shopping (yes I bought about $500 worth of clothing for about $100.  What a deal!) and then headed to a lunch meeting with one of the other prominent mobile operators in Malaysia. One recommendation – don’t do sushi for a lunch business meeting.


We had a very interesting conversation around content developers and application providers. Right now the split between foreign applications/content and local content is about 90/10 ie. 90% /10%. This operator is trying to create incentives to have more local content developed and used by subscribers. One of things that they are doing is a sort of promotion stating that all local content based applications created over the next year, the content creator can keep 100% of the revenue generated.  This is unheard of.  Most operators will do a revenues share/spit with content creators.    It is very interesting and encouraging to see these types of efforts taking place.  I will be curious to see if Indian operators are doing something similar."



Did you miss Angela's pre-trip video blog ? Tune in for her next adventure coming soon.

I'd like to introduce everyone to a colleague of mine - Angela Singhal-Whiteford. Over the next week Angela will be traveling through Asia as she meets with mobile operators to explore the many aspects of how to monetize 3G and 4G mobile networks. Take it away Angela....


"After a lot of planning, I'm off to to the great cities of Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai and Delhi to meet several mobile operators. It will be interesting to see what data services they are looking to launch over the next 12-18 months. I love going to Asia. They were always at the fore front when it came to wireless technology. I heard there are phones in Asia that are only used for Facebook - no voice.  How wild is that? People doing all their interactions over Facebook. I lived in Singapore for a couple of years in early 2000 and now I am completely addicted to Asian food. I cannot wait to eat my way through this trip.  Bring on the Laksa, Nasi Goreng, and Aloo Paranthas!"



Biography. Angela Singhal-Whiteford.

Angela is a mobility solution manager for Cisco's service provider marketing team. She came to Cisco through the Starent Networks acquisition in December 2009. She is a 15-year telecommunications industry veteran and previously served as Director of Nortel's Municipal Wireless Solutions Officer in Asia. Ms. Whiteford is a graduate of the MIT Sloan School of Business with an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and an MBA specializing in new product and venture development.


You don’t see many mobile operator executives jumping up and down and cheering “Hurray for dumb pipes!”


But we all know that’s exactly where mobile operators are headed if they don’t take some steps away from this path. Fortunately, operators CAN avoid this fate and drive additional revenue by taking steps to make better use of the intelligence in their networks. One good way to do this is by structuring services to optimize the use of their networks – and also potentially bring in some extra revenue.


Some ideas include:


1)     Tiered pricing – Yes, I know this is the obvious one. AT&T’s doing it. O2’s doing it. And many more operators will be doing it soon. The days of all-you-can-eat service plans are numbered. And that could be a very good thing for mobile operators. In fact, a 2010 study by Network Strategy Partners found that the introduction of tiered pricing by an operator with 1.5m mobile data subscribers would grow revenues by $22.9m per month, representing a monthly ARPU increase of $6.85. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do tiered pricing. The right way combines intelligent policy management and good customer communication to let consumers know how much data they’ve used at any time, with some notification before they hit their usage limits. This will be critical in keeping customers happy and avoiding bill shock.


2)     Turbo boost, a.k.a. bandwidth on demand – I have aturbo button” on my steering wheel that lets me increase my speed when in Cruise Control…why can’t I have a similar button on my cell phone? When I’m watching a video, I can pay a small fee to “turbo boost” my network for better viewing.


3)     Family data plan – Instead of each member of the family being capped at 2 GB of data, place a shared cap of 6 GB on the whole family. That way you can charge a premium for a “Family Plan” (translation: higher ARPU) while still limiting usage.


4)     Parental controls – Would I be willing to pay an extra $4.99 a month to control my teen’s usage? Allowing parents to dynamically block access to certain Web sites or to take away my teen’s access to online games when he’s not doing well at school… well, that kind of capability would be considered priceless by many parents.


5)     Freemium – A lot of folks are hesitant to upgrade to the many new cool smartphones because they are worried about the potential monthly usage cost. Why not offer unlimited access to popular applications (e.g., Facebook) for free for a trial period, and then once the user is “hooked” and can’t live without it, offer a promotional upgrade to a data plan that will cover their usage needs.


Of course, to support such services, operators need service awareness and the ability to support policy control. They need visibility into how customers are using the network right down to what protocol they’re using – and exactly when they’re using it. Their network has to support deep packet inspection – without affecting network traffic. Fortunately, with the move to an all-IP network, this is all very doable.


Have you seen other good ideas on how operators can avoid become a dumb pipe? If so, please share.


For some more details on these and other service ideas, take a look at the list of monetization opportunities we’ve posted on

A white paper I just wrote on the transition to the 4G IP core for mobile operators that is sponsored by Cisco is now available for download here (and attached to this post). paper is about how mobile broadband requires operators to change  the way they manage data services. The transition to a 4G IP network  will give them the tools to manage traffic actively and achieve three  goals:


  • Increase network efficiency and capacity, lowering transport costs
  • Offer service plans that are more flexible, fair, and personalized
  • Maximize revenues from subscribers, applications and content providers, and vertical applications


Key topics covered in the paper:


  • More efficient use of network resources.  This is required in order to expand network capacity to meet  subscribers' demand in a cost effective way, which will enable operators  to operate profitably.
  • More flexible, fair, and personalized service plans. Mobile operators  realize they have to move beyond flat-fee unlimited plans. To improve  their subscribers' experience and differentiate their services from the  competition, they can add features that allow them to move beyond capped  plans.
  • Maximize revenues. Flat-fee unlimited plans are not effective at  segmenting the market and gaining revenues from added-value services,  because for many potential subscribers the available plans are too  expensive, or do not offer the features they want. A wider choice in  service plans can address the demand from these subscribers, and raise  data revenues. Furthermore, mobile broadband can create new revenue  streams from advertisers and content and applications providers, and  facilitate the development of new business models that make mobile data  services more attractive, easier to use, and more effective. Mobile  operators can also gain additional revenues from vertical applications,  through partnerships with MVNOs, enterprises and public agencies.


I hope you will find it interesting - and look forward to your comments and feedback



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