Prepare for the smart enabler push

There was a lot of talk about the potential opportunities for operators adopting a smart enabler strategy, but actual implementation has been thin on the ground. We expect this to change in 2010.

Operators are in a difficult position as they are under pressure to move quickly but at the same time have to have the right framework to make a success of the smart enabler role. There is a tendency to think of it as some sort of tweak to an operator's existing way of doing business but this is absolutely not the case.

Implementing a smart enabler strategy involves profound changes, some of which will be painful, and not all operators will be able to make the transition.

To become a successful smart enabler, operators need to view their network assets, communications expertise, customer intelligence and other capabilities as resources that can be marketed to third parties. They will also need to invest in a strong supporting framework, such as best in class developer programs. 

One element of the smart enabler role that generates a lot of excitement is the prospect of operators opening their network APIs to third parties. But API exposure will only be successful if it is underpinned by a consistent commercial framework and at the moment there is no consensus. 

Operators are not the only players that want to be the smart enabler of choice and 2010 will see competition intensify. There are a wide range of partners and platforms that application developers and content providers can turn to, and mobile operators are ultimately just one of many options.

Device platform vendors and online players are appealing partners and can offer a number of benefits such as excellent developer programs, an area where operators are typically weak.

Moreover, some such as Google are offering free APIs to developers. Operators need to think strategically and identify which enablers offer them the best opportunity to differentiate and generate new revenues, not just in terms of network APIs, but all their assets.

Eden Zoller is principal analyst with Ovum

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