Lowenstein's View: 2014 To-Do list for key wireless players

Mark Lowenstein

With CES out of the way, it is now time to turn to the serious business of 2014. Since we all like to start the year with resolutions, goals, and objectives, here's my 2014 "To Do" for some of the wireless industry's key players.

AT&T. Effectively integrate Leap Wireless, move it slightly up-market, and have a clearer segmentation of your prepaid offerings. Develop and market a clear vision of what the "connected car" really is and what it means for consumers. Oh, and invite John Legere to your party at Mobile World Congress. 

Verizon. It will be harder to be the "premium network for a premium price," since the competitive playing field is more level. Verizon has traditionally been a pioneer in mobile ("IN", Android, LTE, Family Share). It needs a new trick in 2014 to keep its edge. LTE-A? Perhaps something in the enterprise? They are likelier to do something disruptive in pay TV content. The acquisition of Intel's OnCue is an important indication.

Sprint. The key priority is to come up with a differentiated value proposition in the market, once the network is on a better competitive footing, which will hopefully be by third quarter 2014. I expect them to stay with Unlimited. Sprint should use Spark to create differentiated offerings, including an attractive and transparent wholesale model. It should test, with Dish Networks, the viability of fixed wireless as an alternative/competitive broadband play for certain types of individuals/households, as a precursor to a potential broader partnership.

T-Mobile. Spin off an Uncarrier Solutions arm and target the cable companies and the airlines as your first client. Then trademark the terms "unlawyer," "unlobbyist," "ungovernment," and "unconsultant."

Dish. Together with Sprint, you could do something meaningful and potentially disruptive across three industries: wireless, broadband, and OTT. But this has got to be a year of action.

Europe. Shift some of the spend on high speed trains to high speed wireless networks. Seriously, it's 2014, time to accelerate the LTE rollout. You are falling further behind Asia and North America.

Google. Don't give up on Motorola. Use it as the vehicle for experimentation on new form factors and innovative Android offerings, and employ your strengths in rapid product development and analytics. Take some of the concepts around device customization you launched in 2013 and extend it to the software and UI aspects of the experience.

Ericsson. Execute an effective go-to-market with the DOT and put the small cell market on the map.

Amazon. Experiment with alternative models for delivering video content to mobile devices. Perhaps through a Kindle reader-like MVNO relationship with Sprint. You could try some level of sponsored data for Amazon Prime subscribers.

Apple. Deliver a breakthrough new product. We've seen lots of "small i" innovation on existing products the past two years, but we still look to Apple for "big i" innovation--which could be in a new category such as TV or other connected device, or a phone with a dramatically new design. Also consider a complete re-do of iTunes. It's dated and bloated.

Samsung. This is the year that will determine whether Samsung can be a more powerful player in the enterprise. It has checked the box on a lot of the core IT requirements, but needs to work with some marquee partners to deliver real solutions. Samsung could also do more with the operators that are similarly serious about the enterprise market.

Qualcomm. Three words will determine the difference between a good year and a great year for Qualcomm: China, China, China. Qualcomm will also have to find ways to keep margins up in the face of lower LTE royalty rates and the growing proportion of sales of less expensive smartphones, as smartphone growth tilts to the emerging markets.

Blackberry. Will be very tough to go it alone. Focus the consumer device and messaging business on emerging markets, possibly through a spinoff. Then unite with Microsoft/Nokia, HP, or Dell, to develop and deliver compelling, integrated devices and solutions to the enterprise market. Android still under-indexes in the enterprise. There's a window, but it's closing.

Yahoo and AOL. MERGE! You've both spent gazillions on acquisitions and building premium content, yet you've lost audience to Facebook, Google, and newer, more contemporary looking apps such as Flipboard. If the business model still relies on advertising, the audience needs to be there.

Cable companies. Now that you've deployed hundreds of thousands of outdoor Wi-Fi hotspots, it's time to more effectively market the capability and figure out how to monetize it. Make some of your care reps more knowledgeable about your Wi-Fi offerings. Improve the content search capabilities on the X1 Box (it's far worse than the previous box, but the mobile app is actually pretty good).

Mobile Payments Players. I fear this is going to get worse before it gets better. Mobile payments has stalled because the ecosystem is too fragmented and there are too many big players or consortia chasing their own unique business model. Somehow, the mobile payments experience must become more standardized and pervasive. Some of the mobile payments heavyweights are going to have to come together in some form in order to move the mobile payments needle in a big way.

Nike, Jawbone, and friends. Add GPS to wristband type devices like the Fitbit in a way that doesn't draw a lot of power, sell it for under $100, and you've at least doubled your TAM.

OTT Community. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, iTunes, and friends all need to come together to create a unified "OTT World" app, so a consumer can search for a piece of content and find out at a glance what OTT "channel" it is available on, whether streamed or downloaded, purchase/rent, etc.

Mark Lowenstein, a leading industry analyst, consultant, and commentator, is Managing Director of Mobile Ecosystem. Click here to subscribe to his free Lens on Wireless monthly newsletter, or follow him on Twitter at @marklowenstein.

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