The GSMA’s collaborative effort to create a one-stop-shop solution delivering rich communications for every mobile operator, Joyn, is coming under increasing pressure as questions continue to be raised about its ability to address the growing threat from OTT communications players on mobile operators’ voice and messaging revenues continues to raise considerable doubts.
“Twelve months ago mobile operators would always ask us if we were Joyn accredited, but in the last six months we have stopped being asked this,” Keith Mumford, vice president of technology at Kineto Wireless told mobilesquared. “Joyn doesn’t do anything for the mobile operators. As a brand it doesn’t work for the mobile operators and as a service it is not differentiated. Until the Blackbird iteration of Joyn it didn’t offer anything for mobile operators.”
Ever since mobilesquared revealed growing consternation towards Joyn among mobile operators in the tyntec-sponsored white paper OTT blowing up the World: Operators must act now, back in September, there has been supplementary commentary highlighting growing concerns within the mobile operator community.
While Joyn is the brainchild of the GSMA, which after all exists to protect the interests and fortunes (literally) of its mobile operator members, it has to federate initiatives across its vast membership base which is considerably time consuming. As the representative of its membership, the GSMA effectively has to think and operate like its members. Joyn was originally conceived seven years ago, and has only gained reasonable traction in key developed markets such as South Korea.
For initiatives like Joyn to be successful, the GSMA must start thinking like, and acting as, a start-up in order to compete with the wave of competition emanating out of the start-up community.
Mumford says that this viewpoint on Joyn has been coalescing for a while and he has seen a clear shift in mobile operator OTT strategy. “Mobile operators are now more interested in developing a unique experience with their brand; I think Libon as a good example of this.”
Orange has updated its Libon application to operate in an RCS environment while focusing on adding value for basic services, such as with personalised voicemail greetings for a user’s contacts, and Vodafone has rolled out MessagePlus.
“These are RCS products and services that, if one didn’t know better, would appear to have little basis in RCS,” he says. “The real value is in the value-adds which will sit on top of the core services. This could come in the shape of cloud-based message or conversation storage, to not only back up conversations but to also access them across multiple devices. This is a feature that mobile operators are now looking at to monetise OTT.”
While Mumford is one of a growing number of people and companies expressing their mounting concerns of Joyn, he does have an ulterior motive, as Kineto offers a Smart Comms solution that is a Telco OTT-style app – called ello ‑ which synchronises with the native contact database. (Mobilesquared is trialling this ello now).
“It could be a branded front-end for the mobile operator. Phone calls are made and messages sent via the native services. The app offers a conversational timeline and shows when a user is online. It has pages of emoticons. RCS messaging on top of the operator’s native services. The Group feature allows up to 30 people to enter the discussion.
Mobilesquared believes this period could really be described as experimental communications, as mobile customers supplement their voice and messaging services provided by their mobile operator, with the now mainstream OTT services like Skype, Vibr, WhatsApp and WeChat, while also exploring the latest alternative offering from OTT upstarts.
But for mobile operators this period is about re-engaging with their customers to ensure that they remain their primary communications provider.
And here's what we wrote in our in-depth white paper on OTT for Tyntec called OTT Services Blow Up the Mobile Universe. Operators Must Act NOW! on Joyn based on our ongoing mobile operator research.
Is Joyn the solution that will help mobile operators tackle the threat posed by OTT players? The survey reveals that only 7% of mobile operators said “yes”, with a further 29% believing Joyn was the solution but “has taken too long to launch”. It has taken seven years from concept to commercial launch, compared to 6 months for WhatsApp. Of the remaining 64% of mobile operators, 29% believe Joyn is not the solution, with a further 35% uncertain of the impact Joyn will have on their positioning to tackle OTT services. This means only one-third of mobile operators have a positive stance towards Joyn.
Additional qualitative research by mobilesquared confirmed the uncertainty of Joyn as the mobile operator answer to challenge OTT communication. The time to commercially launch the service has clearly cast doubt over the service. What’s more, for it to truly challenge the global OTT powerhouses it would need to have a similar global offering only achievable if every mobile operator signs up. The belief across the industry, and not just among mobile operators, is that this will not happen. After all, SMS only became a core communication service when mobile operators interconnected. And given that much of the appeal of OTT services is their international connectivity; this will be a critical feature for Joyn.
But the potential frustration that has developed around the slow commercialisation of Joyn is symptomatic of mobile operators. Mobile operators are faced with a multitude of opportunities from numerous sectors, and now have teams exploring potential digital services. In doing so, a number of mobile operators believe they are spreading themselves too thinly across multiple verticals, but feel compelled to do so because this is still the betting phase. All the while, the mobile operators must protect their core voice and messaging revenues. This is placing heightened pressure on the creation of new business models. In this evolving communications space with the introduction of OTT players, mobile operators need a degree of flexibility and innovation to ensure they adapt with their environment.
As one mobile operator mentioned during the research process, they can make a decision and then instantaneously regret it. But start-ups can make one decision and commit 100% of their time to making that decision a success.
An interim solution to access innovation is through partnerships, though mobile operators fear brand dilution if they were to partner with a Google or Facebook, for example.
In the OTT communications space, mobile operators are competing with companies operating within a start-up mentality. Start-ups focus on delivering one service or product, compared to a mobile operator trying to please millions of individual customers with a portfolio of services.
Another notable factor is that OTT providers are software people, and their focus is on the data connection and not on partnering with mobile operators. Start-ups view the carrier and data as a way to drive their product forward.
To download the white paper OTT Services Blow Up the Mobile Universe. Operators Must Act NOW! please click here