According to recent industry figures, mobile content and services revenues in India will increase from $4 bn in 2010 to $10 bn in 2015 (Juniper Research). A study by IMRB and IAMAI suggests that about 2 mn users are accessing internet through their mobile phones and other mobile devices actively. Whilst data services such as mobile e-mail and mobile internet provide a basic means of communication and a source of information for individuals across the world, many people in the market have never experienced these services. Cellular internet usage will be important in those countries where the affordability and ubiquity of the mobile phone has made it a popular alternative to expensive PC access. Relatively low bandwidth, limited coverage, and the constraints imposed by the handsets have held back the development of data applications and slowed the consumer adoption in India and other growth markets. Now that mobile communications are extending to all sectors of the society, previously under served segments will have their first experience of the internet via a mobile phone. The transition from limited WAP browsing that once defined the mobile web experience to delivering a full web experience on the mobile will change the dynamics of the internet usage across India-changing the way people communicate and share information.
To be able to meet the demand for extensive use of mobile internet, operators would normally need to invest in upgrading bandwidth. Yet the cost of bandwidth across India is high compared to other growth and mature markets. The economics of investing in the necessary bandwidth to deliver a high speed internet experience compared with the mobile data revenue projections do not currently stack up. Operators in mature and growth markets across the world are wrestling with the data conundrum-how to meet the user expectations of high speed access to rich content and a 'real' web experience, when revenues are not increasing in proportion to growth in data volumes. This is where the technology must play a role.
Technologies will enable operators to solve the data conundrum and deliver an enhanced user experience while ensuring that the revenues grow in sync with an increased data usage.
As per our experience deploying platforms that exploit such technologies, operators are able to reduce bandwidth and capex investment by over 40%. At the same time, the increased ease of user experience has driven data usage by more than 30%. Importantly, this translates into an increase in the data ARPU, an essential area to grow, given the constant pressure on voice revenues. Implementing a data solution that incorporates key technologies enables the cost-efficient delivery of internet and data traffic, whilst enhancing the end user's service experience. As data usage will continue to grow, operators need to ensure that their data solution is future proof and can scale cost-effectively to handle increased traffic volumes.
Content presentation is an integral part of delivering an enhanced service experience. To ensure an engaging experience, operators must deliver tailored content and subscriptions, enable personalized workflows, and provide essential functionality-without requiring an upgrade in the handset device. Whilst caching, compression and acceleration techniques also help enhance the user experience in terms of response times. Operators also need to consider how to further improve the service experience
A key issue with the current set of browsers despite significant advances in making the 'mobile web' possible, is that they fall short of what 'users' really want to do. Personalization addresses this issue by taking into account a digital consumer's context, behaviour, and content interests and is essential to enhance usability and uptake of mobile internet services.
A significant number of component-specific factors is the user's handset device, which influences the quality of service experience and are outside the purview of the operator's immediate control. These factors include characteristics of the connecting device such as the form factor, screen display, the user interface, browser functionality, as well as the web content visualization and layout. In this environment, it is a challenge to pinpoint any single technique, protocol or device to improve the performance characteristics of the mobile internet. Nevertheless the operator can optimize the user experience by deploying widgets that enable the optimal content delivery. Concerted efforts are required by all the players in the value chain to provide a seamless user experience.
Keeping an Eye on the Bottom Line
Operators can exploit technological advancements in terms of data solutions as well as innovations in the type of retail pricing models they offer to exploit the mobile web opportunity. Efforts are being made by service providers to attract the users by migrating from 'legacy per minute' pricing models to flat 'all you can eat' data tariffs to stimulate data services uptake. In many growth markets including India, operators are offering time-bound internet access for a flat fee, enabling users to control browsing costs in line with their budgetary outlay.
While this approach will help drive usage of mobile data, operators also need to keep an eye on the bottom line. The feasibility of offering 'all you can eat' model may not hold up in the medium to long term. Operators will need to charge differentially for premium services and ensure quality of service for such offerings, which is where deep packet inspection technology comes in.
It is clear that mobile data is here to stay and represents a major opportunity for operators to grow revenues, and improve data profitability by cost-effectively managing traffic volumes and deploying differential pricing strategies.
The author is CEO, Comviva
The author is CEO, Comviva