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Apple's iPad should get mobile operators and ISPs thinking twice

Strand Consult has been evaluating the impact of the Apple iPad on the mobile and ISP sectors - a development which should get mobile operators and ISPs thinking about its implications.

 Strand Consult has been evaluating the impact of the Apple iPad on the mobile and ISP sectors - a development which should get mobile operators and ISPs thinking about its implications.

The media is currently full of stories about the launch of Apple’s iPad. And yet, reading through the many stories, Strand Consult noticed that very few focus on the iPad from an operator's viewpoint - and even fewer focus on how the iPad will influence content and the VAS market in non-Apple areas outside the value chain that is controlled via the App store.

May we start by pointing out that the iPad is just one of many devices that has the possibility of being online via mobile operators’ networks. If an operator focuses on the iPad, that operator will only make money on the data traffic created by the iPad - there is no voice and SMS revenue as on traditional mobile telephones. We have no doubt that most customers will purchase their mobile traffic where it is cheapest and that their choice of operator will be based on who can offer the most inexpensive mobile data traffic.

When you examine a device like the iPad and the way that operators will be selling data, it corresponds to having a restaurant that offers an "all you can eat for a fixed price" menu. In the same way that restaurants hope people do not eat too much, operators will also hope that their customers do not use their mobile networks to send and receive data.

At this point, a smart reader would question why mobile operators and ISPs need to think twice - and how a device like the iPad could undermine the operator’s future business cases, resulting in mobile operators and ISPs becoming dumb bit-pipes?

Strand Consult has never believed that mobile operators can use a walled garden strategy to achieve a central role in developing, marketing and selling services. Neither did we ever believe that operators in the future would develop into dumb bit-pipes that only sell connectivity. If you read through the many research notes and reports we have published regarding this subject, you can see that we have always viewed operators as intelligent bit-pipes, using an open garden strategy as their foundation.

When we look at Apple’s strategy and iTunes position on the music market - and the position they are starting to achieve on part of the application market and other markets - there is no doubt that Apple would like to handle the billing relationship in an increasing number of areas. According to Apple, the mobile operators’ primary function is to deliver cheap data traffic to customers.

We believe that mobile operators around the world have many possibilities if they take advantage of their large customer bases, the billing relationships they have with their customers and the intelligence built into their networks.

This can be sold to service providers that can create, market and sell applications and services that are far more intelligent than those available today for devices like the iPad.

In fact, mobile operators and ISPs can use the launch of the iPad to enter a new market that is very close to the premium SMS market from which mobile operators around the world today earn billions. Moving from what is happening on mobile telephones today to what will happen on iPad's, portable PCs and many other online devices in the future, is only a short step.

In our report OneAPI – Next Generation Value Added Services in the Mobile Industry Strand Consult has analysed Open API and the possibilities that operators and service providers will have on the future telco market. We not only examine current standards but also put forward a number of suggestions on how operators and content providers can optimise their business models.


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