The Innovation session at MWC 2012 showcased a fantastic array of innovations in the telecom industry. However, as with all discussions around telecom innovation, the greatest financial beneficiaries may not be the telcos – at least not directly.
An array of examples was presented from both large and small players, demonstrating that the telecom industry and the internet are still evolving rapidly. Most were too far along the development curve to be considered “weak signals”, with the majority of innovations on display near to production. Overall, they session provided a good indication of what to expect in the industry over the next couple of years.
One particularly impactful demonstration was Audience’s EarSmart voice processing technology, which noticeably cancels background noise for voice calls and voice recognition. Another was Blipper’s augmented reality application, which projected a recipe book onto a ketchup bottle. Unsurprisingly, it won a trip to AT&T’s Innovation Foundry as the audience’s choice for best innovation.
However, it is difficult to see how any of the examples on display will help telcos to increase their revenues. Audience’s EarSmart fits into the same category as HD voice services – while it may offer differentiation, it will not necessarily provide incremental revenues. Blipper’s app is a great marketing tool, but it is hard to see the revenue benefits for a specific telco. Instead, it will need cross-telco support to proliferate and become more valuable to marketers.
Of course, telco innovation isn’t just about making money. There are also customer experience, loyalty, and churn considerations that can help operators to save money. However, we left today’s session with the opinion that a great deal of money will need to be saved if all of these efforts are to pay off.
Stephen Hartley is practice leader of Ovum's telco strategy practice. For more information visit www.ovum.com/