Today at MWC 2015 Jeanie Han, CEO of Line Euro-Americas, announced that the mobile messaging, content, and commerce app-provider wants to be the only mobile app that consumers will ever need. Acknowledging that this is a bold mission statement, Han said that the company believes it has created a new way for mobile users to communicate by placing messaging at the center of a suite of content, services, and tools targeting consumers and enterprise customers.
So far Line’s strategy seems to be working. The company has 181 million monthly active users in 230 countries; between them they send and receive 13 billion messages daily, including 1.8 billion stickers. Stickers are an extremely successful business for Line, noted Han, who said that the company offers 40,000 sets of stickers and 6,000 emojis. In fact, between 15% and 20% of Line messages are conversations transmitted entirely in stickers and emojis. In addition, Line Creators’ Market, the user-generated sticker publishing platform that the company launched in April 2014, had generated $30m in sales by November, with 1.4 billion stickers purchased.
However, Line wants to be about much more than messaging and stickers: it wants to parlay the kind of user engagement that these services are experiencing into other monetizable services, targeting merchants and brands. The company initially launched official accounts, which allow celebrities and brands to engage with their fans and customers. Han said that Line’s research has found that these accounts typically generate 10 times the amount of engagement experienced by other social media sites: 55.8% of the followers of such accounts open and read the messages, and 31.6% redeem coupons (when offered).
More recently Line has partnered with Salesforce to deliver Business Connect, an API that enables enterprises to interact with their customers in a more targeted way. The typical use cases for this service include package redeliveries, appointment management, balance checking, flight bookings, and content provision.
The smart home is another area of focus for Line, which has partnered with consumer electronics brand LG to integrate its service with smart appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines. The company has also rolled out the Line Pay mobile payments service, a taxi-booking service, and an indoor-mapping service, although the latter two services are currently available only in Japan.
At MWC 2015 Telekom Austria (TAG) detailed how it plans to evolve its M2M and IoT capabilities. It aims to move from providing pure connectivity to offering end-to-end M2M/IoT service capabilities for vertical markets, asset tracking and fleet management, energy use cases, and connected-lifestyle gadgets.
The move is intended to position TAG as a strong player in value-added M2M connectivity, and stands a strong chance of success given the early-running the operator has made in the M2M arena. A key challenge for TAG will be to work with local and international partners to extend its M2M capability into markets where it does not operate a network.
For the energy sector TAG announced LTE-based smart meters developed by two partners, Kaifa and ZTE. The smart meters are equipped with dual-mode chipsets at GSM-900/1800 and LTE-800/2600, which TAG hopes will increase the shelf-life of the installations and minimize the need for future physical upgrades. In addition, its field operations are currently delivering and installing smart metering devices for energy suppliers.
In the connected lifestyle segment the operator introduced a trail camera, specifically targeting a niche but sizable opportunity related to the “sport” of hunting. According to TAG, 150,000 trail cameras are used by hunters in Austria every year; such devices help hunters find their targets by alerting them via sensors when an animal is passing.
TAG already has more than 1 million M2M SIM cards in service across the group and employs approximately 30 people. The operator’s plans to evolve its M2M capabilities beyond pure connectivity should enable it to increase M2M revenues in its home and foreign markets – provided it can continue to execute its strategy effectively.
AT&T’s newly extended agreement with Audi of America will see all 2016 model-year Audi vehicles equipped with Audi connect come with AT&T 4G LTE or 3G coverage. They will be delivered to Audi’s customers with AT&T SIM cards that will provide connectivity to AT&T’s wireless network and with the option of an AT&T Mobile Share data plan.
In this emerging area of connectivity the business model the companies have agreed on is likely to be received favorably by consumers because it is simple, transparent, and builds on existing pricing models. These are key elements that operators need to have in place when they launch new ways to connect to the Internet. Indeed, they should be in place for existing handset-focused plans, although this is still not always the case.
The approach the companies have decided on looks like a win-win. AT&T will gain because Audi users who sign-up to the plan will consume more of its Mobile Share data plans and in some instances will migrate to higher-priced plans. This is especially the case for drivers with families, who can be expected to stream lots of audio and video content while travelling. Audi, meanwhile, has gained access for its customers to a high-speed nationwide network that will enhance drivers’ experience of their vehicles. It is also possible that Audi might earn a share of revenues for each owner who signs up to the plan, although this is unlikely to have been the main driver for Audi striking the deal.
This partnership is another example of operators striking value-creating partnerships with players outside the telco space based on the capabilities of high-speed broadband networks. Another example is AT&T’s partnership with Royal Philips, also announced yesterday at MWC 2015; the deal will allow the health and well-being company to add connectivity to its mobile medical alert service.
High-speed broadband networks and the new applications and services being developed to run on them offer non-telco companies new possibilities to engage with their customers. These partnerships also provide operators with an excellent opportunity to increase the amount of data running on their networks – if they approach the partnership model in the right way.
At MWC 2015 Openet teamed up with Procera Networks, Red Hat, Intel, Amarus, and ETSI to give a “proof of concept” demonstration of their real-time BSS solution. The demonstration highlights the benefits of NFV, which is currently an industry hot topic. Openet’s demonstration showcased how OSS and BSS virtualization can be completed and still allow for telco-grade performance, scalability, and resilience. The technology will also come integrated with analytics.
Openet’s showcase comes at the height of the SDN/NFV discussion in the industry. As telcos search for ways to stop revenue leakage and compete with OTT players, the discussion around NFV continues to grow. Agility is the biggest roadblock for telcos looking to compete with OTT players and substitute services. By virtualizing BSS and OSS processes, telcos will be able to reduce their go-to market time, allowing the easy launch and elimination of services.
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