Research Notes

UK mobile operators should work together for the same reason banks do!

Competition between banks is fierce. Still, they work together. Why? Because it benefits them.

It benefits their customers and it benefits retailers. This is also true for UK mobile operators. Here too competition is fierce. Still, working together would benefit them, their customers and content providers. It would for example, help prevent having to operate four different numbers for the same service.

When banks work together, it helps promote the use of electronic payment systems. It means that customers can draw money from banks other than their own. And it means that retailers will only have to service a limited number of credit cards.

If UK mobile operators should work together it would significantly help promote the use of 2. and 3. generation mobile services. The very services and revenue needed to pay for the huge investments in UMTS licenses and infrastructure. Not working together will damage not only individual operators, but the business as a whole, and premium SMS services is an obvious example of this:

Any content provider looking to offer content and services though all four UK mobile operators, will have to operate four different SMS numbers – one for each of the mobile operators. Different users will have to use different numbers – depending on choice of operator.

This effectively excludes the content provider from developing the SMS number into a brand. Marketing becomes difficult because of the need to list four numbers rather than just one. An example of this is television based real-time competitions and programme selection using premium SMS. These are not possible when having to list four different SMS numbers.

The hurdles for both content providers and users will mean a loss of revenue for the mobile operators. But most importantly, these hurdles will obstruct the important learning process that is needed to prepare customers for 3. generation mobile services. This is where UK mobile operators are shooting themselves in the foot. When they obstruct that learning process, they are effectively obstructing their ability to ensure a return on their UMTS investment.

UK mobile operators should study their counterparts in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Here operators have realised the need to work together, while remaining competitors. This change in strategy and attitude has meant that SMS based services now account for up to 15% of their total revenue.

In a recent report we have documented the drivers behind this success. Through examples and cases, we show how a closer relationship between mobile operators and content providers, has ensured a very profitable win-win situation. It has ensured a level of use, which will again ensure the all important and ongoing learning process amongst users.

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