4G for the business user spells nice revenues--if operators market it right

Lynnette LunaA new report from Juniper Research concludes that the initial beneficiaries of LTE networks will be business users in developed countries led by the U.S. and Japan.

The firm forecasts that global service revenues will surpass $200 billion by 2015--from virtually zero in 2011. Juniper is placing a heavy emphasis on LTE premium services for high-end business users, saying this subscriber segment will become a critical revenue source for operators.

"Our business modeling demonstrated that high traffic enterprise subscribers using web, email and video services will be the critical early adopter segment to benefit from LTE," noted Howard Wilcox, author of the report. "There is an opportunity for premium pricing plans that will drive service revenues and the report shows this."

The report also forecasts that consumer users will typically spend at only about half the monthly rate of enterprise users.

But will operators really target the enterprise? It seems the path of least resistance lies in the consumer and a huge trend known as the consumerization of the enterprise: employees bringing their own devices into the workplace and using them for both personal and work-related functions.

As the Yankee Group points out in its predictions for 2011, this is how smartphones gained a larger foothold in the enterprise. And it predicts that operators have a long way to go in conveying 4G's value proposition to the enterprise.

"Wireless operators have mostly missed the mark when it comes to marketing 4G services for business, and as a result, enterprises will be slow to warm to 4G," the firm said. "Although operators are banking on business applications such as video conferencing, virtualization and machine-to-machine communications that will benefit from the enhanced speeds and latency improvements of 4G networks to drive adoption among corporations, business decision-makers don't see the value--yet."

Banking on the consumerization trend in the enterprise will only go so far, Yankee Group says. Operators need to step it up a notch by connecting the ecosystems of application and solution providers to business decision makers, which could mean creating white-label or jointly developed solutions that take advantage of 4G's advanced capabilities. But as we've seen in the 3G world, the path of consumerization is so much easier.--Lynnette