By now, we all know that over-the-top (OTT) apps and companies pose a serious threat to the way Communications Service Providers (CSPs) have been doing business. Operators are steadily losing revenue to communication-over-IP (CoIP) trailblazers providing their services for end users (in most cases) free of charge, using conferencing and collaboration as the lead. These advances are cutting into voice and messaging profits for operators, with an estimated $386 billion loss to the industry by 2018.* And, as we enter 2017, analysts, investors and other industry leaders are rallying around the concept of carrier disruption as a way to maintain relevancy in a highly competitive market.
On the horizon of a new year, 2017 bears the promise of change for CSPs with the help of a mobile-first approach. Rather than doing things as they've always done and expecting a different result, carriers must instead change their strategy in order to upend the status quo. Instead of competing with OTT players head-on, service providers need to leverage their unique strengths that the OTT players cannot match.
Channel Your Strengths
Instead of developing new products or services to compete with OTT offerings, operators need to focus on their core: mobility. With the number of mobile phone users expected to surpass five billion by 2019,** carriers have the unique opportunity to channel their existing strengths and captive consumer base to grow their existing network offerings.
With such high mobile-use penetration globally, mobile devices are used more and more across the enterprise, with cellphones even completely supplanting desk-phone usage for some companies. And, as unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) use becomes near-ubiquitous, leveraging existing infrastructure to drive mobility growth should become core to a carrier's strategy for growth.
With this in mind, one way carriers can increase average revenue per user (ARPU) is by offering premium services across their existing LTE networks and leveraging them at the enterprise level. As service providers build out LTE networks, understanding new ways to optimise their investment is leading to enhanced offerings like Voice over LTE (VoLTE). VoLTE, however, isn't just the latest network offering for mobile subscribers. It represents massive opportunity for service providers, particularly when it comes to audio call quality.
Though voice service revenue numbers have been trending downwards, voice remains an important offering to mobile users.*** Free OTT apps may allow voice calls, but call quality can be horrible at worst and inconsistent at best. VoLTE represents a new way to host a crystal-clear conference call on a cell phone; but only when integrated with a global audio conferencing bridging infrastructure, creating a demand for mobile-first collaboration.
And the VoLTE promise goes beyond the guarantee of high-quality conference call audio. VoLTE's wideband HD approach removes the maddening (and productivity-prohibiting) distraction of background noise. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the presence of background noise when you're trying to focus causes the release of the stress hormone cortisol in the brain, which can inhibit your brain's prefrontal cortex.**** The prefrontal cortex regulates ‘executive' functions like planning, reasoning and exhibiting impulse control, and is also linked to short-term memory storage.*****
Poor audio quality is more than just a nuisance; it is damaging to end users' ability to ideate and collaborate, and it is detrimental to service providers looking to differentiate themselves from the subpar quality associated of their OTT competitors. By embracing a mobile-first approach and offering VoLTE to their users, service providers can provide value to their mobile customers, especially those in emerging markets, and guarantee high-quality, distraction-free calling regardless of location.
Creating a Mobile-First Preference for Business Collaboration
Business travellers, especially those travelling internationally, often have to scramble to get to a landline for mission-critical calls. This offering may be particularly interesting for enterprises, as it lends a flexibility and freedom to business travelers while creating a mobile-first preference for collaboration. The VoLTE powered conferencing experience ensures a higher-quality mobile meeting compared to when users connect via PSTN in locations with poor voice infrastructure or via softphone products that are dependent on wifi.
Though some service providers might be hesitant to make the plunge into VoLTE, the good news is that there are UC&C providers out there that can make the transition seamless; rather than building a network from the ground up. Indeed, often they can help you monetise and optimise the investments that you've already made into your LTE infrastructure. By implementing this strategy on top of their existing LTE core and partnering with a global audio network provider, like PGi, operators can offer their enterprise customers a best-in-class HD audio conference experience without a major overhaul of their existing infrastructure or core offering. This can lead to accelerated and enhanced revenues and increased customer satisfaction.
By its very design, VoLTE boasts HD voice and fast call setup times. It utilises a guaranteed bitrate, while OTT voice calls rely on a non-guaranteed bitrate, which is routed on a best-effort basis and is vulnerable to errors and delays, and therefore, poor voice quality. VoLTE delivers on quality every time, without fail. Gone are the days of glitches, echoes and static amidst your business communications.
OTT companies often rely on a "good enough" mindset when it comes to their services, prioritising quick rollouts, rapid prototyping and frequent new releases over more polished apps with a dedication to high quality. A free service with mediocre quality only wins for so long; eventually better quality becomes a necessity for consistent and clear communication.
In the workplace, clear communication is essential. Especially in corporate enterprises, being heard loud and clear by colleagues is a crucial element of communication and collaboration, particularly as the workplace begins to transcend the constraints of the physical office and embrace a global, mobile workforce. And with VoLTE's dedicated global private MPLS backbone with multiple access points and dial-in options, true, high-quality audio is a guaranteed way for carriers to differentiate themselves from OTT players.
* "Telecom Firms Face $386 Billion in Lost Revenue to Skype, WhatsApp," Fortune, accessed January 26, 2017, http://fortune.com/2014/06/23/telecom-companies-count-386-billion-in-lost-revenue-to-skype-whatsapp-others/.
** "Mobile Phone Users Worldwide 2013-2019 | Statistic," Statista, accessed January 24, 2017, https://www.statista.com/statistics/274774/forecast-of-mobile-phone-users-worldwide/.
*** "Voice and Video Calling over LTE: Exploring New Voice Opportunities for Operators," Ovum, n.d.
**** Michael Rugg and Mark A. W. Andrews, "How Does Background Noise Affect Our Concentration?," Scientific American, January 1, 2010, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ask-the-brains-background-noise/.