Tablets to help carriers regain ground in the enterprise market

The boom in popularity of tablets represents an opportunity for carriers to trawl back some ground in the enterprise markets, according to John Giere, SVP at Openwave. Giere told Telecoms.com that the tablet market is shaking up the enterprise space far more than it will the consumer one – at least in the US.

“I don’t see that much of it in Asia or Europe, but in the US, people are increasingly bringing these devices to work and using them in a productive way, which means that all those conventional enterprise desktop apps are getting jumbled into the mix,” he says. “People want to use their iPad or Galaxy, and you’d better go make it work for your enterprise.”

According to Giere, this kind of disruption is good for the long-suffering mobile carriers. “A market that has traditionally been cocooned is commoditising rapidly now. If you’re clever enough to start offering enterprise-focused plans that are also carrier-friendly, there could be some real room for growth there,” he says.

A cornerstone – and, from the carrier perspective, challenge – of the explosion in tablet usage has been video. According to Openwave VP for EMEA Will Blench, video is something that carriers “absolutely have to get a handle on”, not least in terms of quality of service (QoS).”The killer app of the future is going to be video and that’s all there is to it,” says Blench. With Giere saying that video conferencing in the enterprise space is a major opportunity for carriers, optimisation is set to become a significant feature. “Video calling is going to go mainstream,” says Giere. “And the carriers have to manage QoS effectively, otherwise their networks will simply fall apart, even on 4G.”

Blench said that a number of Openwave’s customers are already saying that, even with LTE networks in the pipeline, they won’t be able to cope with the surge in demand. “The appetite for video is just huge,” he says. “The iPhone totally opened up mobile video with its YouTube app, setting very high expectations for users.” With video driving so much traffic, Blench said that carriers are going to have to look towards quality as a differentiator, especially with 3G and 4G tablets. But that kind of quality will have to come with a price tag: “In two or three years time, you’re not going to be able to do high-definition video calling on a tablet without there being some sort of premium attached to it,” says Blench.

Premium price tags call for premium treatment of carrier call plans as well, he says. “There will have to be an enhancement of the way in which carriers communicate with their customers, otherwise it’s going to be nasty and messy – a bit like it is today, where you only really get best effort. And eventually, that’s going to have to stop – you don’t expect best effort when you’re at home,” he says. In this regard, Blench believes that users are “absolutely willing to pay” for enhanced quality of service.  Giere says that Verizon’s “survival of the AT&T-Apple onslaught” based on having a better network is a case in point for people’s willingness to take a little pain in return for high QoS. “Look at the gaming market, where players will pay extra for low-latency. I think that’s just the start of QoS as a differentiator.”

According to Giere, video now accounts for around 67 per cent of all mobile data traffic in the Middle East and the UK. As carriers seek to push data-heavy traffic further out to the edge of their networks, Giere says that LTE/4G will make it easier to apply policies and smart premium service offerings for both content providers and consumers. “4G is an enabler,” he says. “We can solve a lot of these challenges with today’s technology, but LTE will make it much easier and cost effective for carriers to resolve traffic issues.”

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