A senior Orange executive said he believes developments in Internet of Things and wearable devices on display at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona are an opportunity for operators to reclaim credibility with consumers.
Benoit Scheen, Orange's European senior executive vice president, said consumers and businesses are waking up to the need for data security as more devices and objects become connected, particularly in light of revelations of snooping by U.S. and UK authorities in 2013.
"Tomorrow we will be much more connected than today. Cars will be connected due to the e-call mandate, and well-being devices will see movement," Scheen told FierceWireless:Europe in an exclusive interview on the eve of MWC. "However, all that has to be done with full respect of your privacy"
Scheen said the furore over government snooping puts the focus of security back on operators, who can offer subscribers full transparency on where their personal data is stored, and how it is used. "We have an opportunity to develop services where…we guarantee data won't be misused. We can bring some credibility back to operators."
In terms of credibility, Scheen was referring to the rise of over-the-top (OTT) services like messaging apps, which are eroding operators' core revenues. He told FW:E Orange could assure customers their data will at least be kept in the European Union, where there are clear data protection rules. In contrast, OTT providers may store user information in "offshore" locations with less strict rules.
"People see us as a local presence. They believe they are sharing data with us," Scheen said, referring to Orange's brand in nine European countries. The tenth market is the UK, where Orange operates a joint venture with Deutsche Telekom under the EE brand.
Data security services would be another way for Orange and other operators to differentiate in a crowded European market. Scheen said the operator is defending its position well in the region, where penetration hit 127 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2013 according to recent figures from Ericsson.
"We are number one or two in most markets," Scheen said, adding that Europe is "a mature market. We are fighting with many players, more than in the U.S. or Asia."
Scheen said the company will look to cash in on a wave of mergers and acquisitions that are tipped to be sparked by European Commission approval of Telefónica's proposed acquisition of E-Plus in Germany--a move that will reduce the number of operators in the country from four to three.
"In the markets where we are active, all bar one has four players. It's not a sustainable long-term situation," Scheen said.
While approval of the E-Plus sale would be a "signal to the market" that mergers and acquisitions are acceptable, Scheen stressed Orange has "nothing on the table at the moment."
Clear regulations are another important element to help operators succeed in the region. Scheen noted operators currently have to adapt to different regulations in each country in Europe, and also various consumer protection laws, and network planning procedures.
While a set of EC regulations for the region would be welcome, Scheen said the market doesn't necessarily need a central regulator. Greater cooperation between current national authorities would improve consistency and "address the market in a more efficient way," Scheen said.
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