The expected expansion of the mobile workforce will provide a growing market for communications service providers (CSPs) for the next three to five years. Mobility is forecast to become one of the most fertile fields for the development of new opportunities, new revenue sources, new business models – and new challenges.
Despite the current global economic constriction, the demand for wireless connectivity is expected to grow. Mobile workers are already clamouring for faster anytime/anywhere access with seamless connectivity, higher definition, and richer content. Increased sales of mobile devices, such as smartphones and their bandwidth-hungry applications, are expected to create demand for new services that could result in new revenue streams. Employers, eager to capitalise on mobile worker productivity gains, are pressuring CSPs to lower the cost and complexity of mobility. Such pressures are starting to drive innovation and new business models.
Partnering for success
The challenge for CSPs lies in innovation. They need to be at the forefront, creating the next wave of innovative technologies. But they also need to be prepared to take advantage of the coming wave of innovation from other sources. Many new opportunities are being driven by the convergence of communications and computing technologies. For example, advanced mobile telephones (smartphones) and mobile PCs (both laptops and handheld personal desktop assistant devices) are increasingly addressing the same customer needs – with size now defining the difference of the form factors.
The advances that are helping carriers build their next-generation networks are enabling similar enhancements in the virtual private networks of corporations and other large enterprises. Applications for everything from online collaboration to extracting complex business intelligence from disparate reporting engines are advancing at a rapid pace.
CSPs that try to go it alone could find themselves struggling to compete with yesterday’s technology and expertise. Working in collaboration with the leaders in computing technology is increasingly seen as a course for success.
A growing mobility market
The concept of the mobile, connected worker – able to access information and collaborate with colleagues effectively from any location at any time – is a vision many organisations aspire to.
The appeal for employers lies in flexibility, improved worker productivity, and the ability to reduce costs. The potential to reduce costs spans IT, telecommunications, real estate, and travel expenses. Perhaps as important is the prospect of breaking down the barriers to communication and enabling an increasingly dispersed workforce to connect more easily. The appeal to employees is the convenience, personal freedom, and flexibility in life choices that mobile working facilitates.
Unpredictable, rising costs
As the number of mobile workers increases, so does the need for more devices, more connectivity, and more robust infrastructure. Unforeseen mobility requirements could also result in rising communications costs. Current mobility strategies are often inefficient, driving up both capital (CAPEX) and operational expenses (OPEX) without supporting corporate social responsibility agendas – including flexible working and device management and disposal.
Connectivity on its own is not enough. Security is more important than ever as additional services, such as mail, search, and collaboration are conducted over the Internet and on the go. The mobile workforce needs seamless connectivity to a broad spectrum of mobile applications, ranging from business-sensitive to everyday search engines; however, multiple entry points for mobile, fixed line, data, and voicemail systems create additional concerns about protecting corporate assets from hacker attacks and employees from identity theft.
Today’s hyper-connected working practices require staff to communicate more and use voice and data communication services in new ways. It is not just email anymore. Anytime/anywhere access to all types of corporate data is a necessity, whether the connections are made through traditional fixed line, Internet, or mobile interfaces.
Managing complexity is costly
The mobility and computing services portfolio for any large corporation, particularly multinational enterprises, is often fragmented and nonstandard, frequently resulting in multiple contracts per user.
In addition, contract management is dispersed across multiple internal organisations; measurement or control of global expenditures is limited. Communications costs are rising, but transparency of spend is declining. As a consequence, managing mobility – operationally and financially – is becoming increasingly complex.
Simply adding more devices and subscriptions is a costly and inefficient way to address the IT and communications needs of the enterprise. Corporate customers are looking to their service providers to help them manage this complexity from an enterprise-wide viewpoint.
A highly distributed model in which each business unit acquires, operates, and maintains mobility assets on a local basis is unlikely to deliver either an optimal price point or optimal service levels. This situation not only yields a loss of economies of scale for high-volume users; it also limits the potential to explore the possible upside from a better connected flexible and/or global workforce.
CSPs’ mobility challenges
Large enterprise customers, in particular, are demanding new strategies to help them meet their mobility-related business objectives effectively. This would enable their workers to reach their maximum productivity potential at the lowest possible price point. To compete in this market, CSPs need to develop and deploy new strategies to meet their customers’ business challenges head-on.
To create innovative customer solutions, CSPs need to take advantage of the communications, collaboration, and computing technologies already available in the market and use them more effectively. Such improvements are not only possible but are already yielding successful business outcomes.
Mobile workers with a need for anywhere/anytime, secure connectivity are creating significant new opportunities for the communications, media, entertainment (CME), and information technology industries. The convergence of technologies from these related fields is driving innovation, but the nature and scale of the mobility market require CME and IT leaders to work together to serve this market cost effectively.
CSPs and IT companies stand at the brink of an unprecedented opportunity to develop new business models that will drive revenue and margin growth for the near and medium term.
Keith Bothma, HP South Africa’s Technology Sales Lead