Cellcos that want to optimize mobile data for all users can either build their own content management platform or outsource one. US-based Motricity is banking on the latter
As the mobile internet boom continues to escalate and the mobile industry edges toward 4G, cellcos are expected to become less concerned about link speeds per se and more interested in competing on quality of experience. Network engineering is part of that, and cellcos like CSL in Hong Kong are touting network performance as the foundation for better QoE as a competitive differentiator. A bigger challenge, however, is actually getting the mobile content - whether from aggregated operator portal sites or direct from the web - to the handsets.
That's easy to type but hard to do, at least for cellcos that want to do more than just provide an access pipe to websites and apps storefronts. Optimizing that process into a one-click experience to get online and start surfing and socializing involves aggregating (and constantly refreshing) vast amounts of content and making sure it gets to the right device in the right format (OS, screen resolution, etc) - not just for smartphones but feature phones as well. To pull that off, cellcos have a couple of choices - invest in a platform that can handle all that complexity and hire the expertise to run it, or outsource it to someone who has already done it.
The latter is where companies like Motricity come in, and that's the proposition that the company is bringing to Asia.
Motricity provides a hosted managed software platform for mobile content (dubbed mCore) running on five data centers worldwide serving over 30 million users, most of them in the US. As of July, mCore hosts over 30 million media titles and apps, and over 10,000 apps providers, widget providers and content providers. It also counts the four biggest cellcos in the US - AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless - among its customer base.
"Our platform handles the majority of their data services," says Motricity CEO and founder Ryan Wuerch. "If you're on AT&T and you push that [mobile internet] button on the smartphone, that's Motricity's servers and technology handling all that."
First of many
Motricity added its first Asia-Pacific cellco in May this year when Indonesia's XL Axiata tapped the company to deliver mobile data solutions. Naturally, Wuerch hopes XL will be the first of many cellcos in Asia to use its platform. But he argues that the Asian mobile data market is ripe for such solutions, partly because of the nascent state of 3G in most markets, and partly because of the unique prevalence of mobile devices as an internet access tool.
"In the US, most people still primarily use their PCs or laptops to access the internet, whereas in Asian markets like Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia in a lot of cases the mobile handset is the internet," he told Telecom Asia. "So the usage patterns are different here and that creates a real opportunity for us."
Another difference, Wuerch adds, is that the vast majority of those handsets aren't smartphones with device-targeted apps storefronts, but feature phones.
In Asia, all the way to 2014, 75% of handsets are still going to be feature phones, he says. "Mobile operators in the region see data services as being the very next chapter in their business, not just in terms of new revenue streams, but the ability to create customer loyalty and reduce churn. XL sees this as an opportunity to lead that market and offer their users a specific, personalized mobile internet experience - not just for their two-million smartphone users, but their entire 32-million user base, whether they're using the latest smartphone or old monochrome handsets."
The mobile content delivery is based on usage patterns and profiles, Wuerch says. "Our technology is intelligence-based, because it's about what the subscriber wants on a daily basis. And the person who listens to country music is different from someone who likes hip-hop, which requires a platform that can make the distinction."
Which brings us back to the complexity management angle that Motricity is pitching at Asian carriers.
"Think about how we have millions of titles integrated into our platform, thousands of apps and content providers, multiply that by a thousand different devices out there - actually there are 13,000 different devices mapped into our platform - and over time you're adding more devices and more OSs, and it just amounts to more exponential complexity for the ecosystem," says Wuerch. "We take on all of that, which allows operators to focus on what they're good at doing - networks, marketing and customer service."