In Business Model, Internet Access, Mobile, News, Spectrum

Recent history suggests that over-the-top voice and messaging has been a difficult business proposition for most suppliers–carrier or app provider–relying on a “fee for service” model, and most interesting for app providers relying on other monetization mechanisms, such as advertising.

That seems unlikely to change. Analysts at AT Kearney, for example, have argued that it is “impossible” for mobile operators to reverse the shift from carrier text messaging to social apps.

Mobile operators might be able to protect what remains of their voice revenue by bundling voice usage tightly with mobile Internet access, for example, though.

Even if they operate in different parts of the value chain, mobile service providers and app providers increasingly will partner, many now argue.

Beyond 2020 to 2025, the degree of collaboration might hinge on content services, SCF Associates has argued. “That may involve MNOs becoming much closer to the major web services players,” argued Simon Forge, SCF Associates analyst.

To be sure, the partnering recommendation is not new, nor a strategy mobile and fixed network service providers have failed to envision. Thinking–and some action–around OTT voice and messaging has been extensive.

Still, it has generally been hard for over-the-top challengers and service providers to make robust revenues or profits on OTT voice and messaging.

One analysis conducted for the International Telecommunications suggested that no OTT strategy would be able to arrest a major decline of voice roaming prices, and therefore revenue.

In that analysis, resistance to OTT voice (scenario one)r collaboration (scenarios two, three and four) all lead to vastly-lower voice roaming prices.  

Some might note that past successes or failures in the over-the-top messaging or voice areas is not a predictor of future developments, in large part because of the role content apps and services now are assuming in the “telecom” space.

For starters, content is “sticky” and “unique” in a way that voice, messaging or Internet access is not. That is why prices, profit margins and revenue for content services have not followed the almost-linear downward path seen for voice and messaging.

Uniqueness is why streaming and linear channels and services create their own unique content, and seek exclusive licensing deals. That offers lots of room for partnering between content apps or services, networks, studios and copyright owners and access providers (both mobile and fixed, but especially in the mobile realm).

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