Operators open to smart home opportunity - Mobile World Live

Operators open to smart home opportunity

25 OCT 2018

LIVE FROM BROADBAND WORLD FORUM 2018, BERLIN: Connected home services offer operators the potential to increase average user spend and improve customer loyalty, provided they are able to deliver a compelling alternative to top-tier rivals such as Google and Amazon, industry executives explained.

Nicolas Fortineau, director of in-home connectivity products for service provider Liberty Global (pictured, centre) said smart homes build on the company’s experience of bundling content and connectivity services.

“Are we going to create another pillar where [we] are going to charge and monetise heavily on smart home? Maybe, but actually, maybe not, because what we are going to do is sustain all of our existing customer base and hopefully more customers will stay with us with a slightly higher ARPU, because that’s basically all we need to do to live long and make money,” he said.

This concept was echoed by Rakesh Kumar, CTO of wireline networks for Airtel (pictured, second left), who noted: “Numerous studies have showed that the more services that are bundled, the churn drops significantly.”

Compared with consumer giants, operators have some attributes which make them well positioned to capitalise on consumer home growth. Central among these is the ability to bring together products and services seamlessly.

“To make the whole service orchestration simple, to bring all the partners into one place, telcos are very good at those kinds of jobs, better perhaps than the Googles and Amazons of this world. The market is very fragmented, and I think we telcos have a role to play,” Kumar said.

Jiri Laznicka, CTIO of IoT at Orange (pictured, second right), said “the internet companies today are addressing mostly the early adopters. The role of the telco is in addressing the mass market.”

“What we are trying to do from a telco perspective is build on what we have, which is the trust of the customers, even if we are not the first on the market all the time. And it’s important to keep that trust, so the services we launch have to be right, and be good and be working,” he continued.

While Laznicka said being first to market was not critical, Patrick Ribardiere, senior product manager in the connectivity business unit at Qualcomm (pictured, left), warned “the service provider needs to jump on it fast enough so they do not become bypassed and then have to catch up or be relegated”.

Matthew Evans, executive director at TechUK (pictured, right), said: “Operators can be a lot more neutral than the internet companies are, but that doesn’t mean they are passive: they can still be an active player and retain that level of trust. Interoperability is huge in the connected home and it’s going to remain a big issue in consumers’ eyes. When you look at security, you look at privacy, you look at interoperability, these are all areas that can be quite positive for operators.”

Fortineau noted: “Irrespective of the offer that you are going to bring to the end user, you need to bring value, you need to bring simplicity, and you also need to bring a delightful experience. I know that every time we use this terminology our technology partners are laughing, but I really believe that this is where you are going to get customers to stay with you: if you do it better than the guy next door, the customer has no reason to walk away from you.”

Connectivity central
For all of the potential of the smart home, it was noted this counts for nothing if operators fail to deliver on their core connectivity role.

“The number one problem that we are facing today is to effectively do our broadband job properly. I think it’s still a huge struggle, we can see it in the NPS scoring, the surveys, because we are not delivering 100 per cent connectivity,” Fortineau said.

Ribardiere noted: “First you have the increase in Wi-Fi speed: that is the baseline; you will not be able to provide some smart elements unless you have the capability to do that.”

The Qualcomm executive also highlighted the role of voice in enabling the smart home: “You have a hub in the home that gives the throughput you require to enable the smart, then it comes how do you control it. And one way to do that is voice.”

Evans added: “Voice might be a gateway to other connected home products. It’s hard to say whether it’s a chicken-and-egg scenario in that you’ve got a lot of these products and you want to tie them together, and voice at the moment is that thing, or whether once you’ve got that smart home assistant you are more likely to go and add additional things to it.”

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Steve Costello

Steve works across all of Mobile World Live’s channels and played a lead role in the launch and ongoing success of our apps and devices services. He has been a journalist...More

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