The launch of the UK’s first LTE (or 4G) network – introduced by operator EE – has prompted myriad discussions on how it can best be deployed and monetised. Assisted by actor Kevin Bacon, much of the launch hype was centred on the everyday consumer and more accurately, how much quicker their mobile network would respond to downloads and streaming of digital content services. Throughout Europe, LTE has tended to be marketed as a consumer technology, enabling better (and faster) use of streaming, on-demand content, social networking, and the uploading and sharing of user-generated content.
Yet, what has been seldom discussed is the B2B opportunity that the introduction of 4G to the UK has presented. With nearly five million businesses in the UK alone (according to the Federation of Small Businesses)employing thousands of potential connections, the size of the B2B 4G opportunity is enormous. What Communication Service Providers (CSPs) must be careful of doing is marketing 4G in the same way that is has sought to demonstrate value to the consumer market – successfully maximising the LTE opportunity and other next-generation services is nigh on impossible without an appropriate strategy to monetise the B2B sector.
Central to successful monetisation is demonstrating that 4G services are not just ‘nice to have’, but part of the revolution that is transforming the way they do business, as telecoms technologies play an increasingly important role in both the front and back offices of enterprises. Mobile technology is supporting new modes of operation – such as increased mobility, the outsourcing of business functions, collaboration and remote working – as well as new ways of selling to end customers. This helps businesses widen their opportunities by ‘flattening’ the barriers to trade globally and locally, assisting them to connect and interact more readily with their customers, and enabling them to sell in new channels (such as mobile and social channels).
Many B2B customers plan to spend more (thus becoming prime candidates to upsell and cross-sell to); others plan to start spending on telecoms services that previously haven’t (thus becoming potential new customers). In the consumer market CSPs need to create demand for 4G; whereas in the B2B market there is existing demand for certain services which CSPs can quickly help meet and monetise, by aligning their offerings to these new, unmet and evolving needs.
B2B customers are a key early adopters market for 4G and therefore a critical component of making it a commercial success. CSPs are beginning to recognise the B2B 4G opportunity and are increasingly positioning their businesses to realise the growth potential, though it would seem their strategies, business models, pricing, organisation and infrastructure are not yet sufficiently aligned to successfully take advantage. For that to happen, CSPs require next-generation integrated and dynamically intelligent business support systems that will deliver the much-needed automation and agility to drive volume, scale and most importantly, profitability.