Acision ponders change of direction, Mavenir follows with Cloud Platform, Synchronica goes cross-platform
Messaging equipment providers are lining up at Mobile World Congress with tools aimed at enabling operators to expand their range of messaging services, and fight back against the perceived threat of so-called over the top providers.
Historically, one of the key money makers for operators has been SMS, but there is evidence to show that not only are volumes levelling off, but that revenues are too. Often this is put down to OTT competition, but some say it’s just as much a factor of legislation and operators giving bundles away is it is a direct fact of users quitting in droves for WhatsApp, iMessaging or BBM.
In any case, the issue of what to do about SMS, and messaging as a whole, is one that the messaging community is wrestling with.
Messaging company Acision is keen to stave off the doom mongers, and often reminds the industry that SMS is thriving, not dying. Its principal refrain is that SMS offers unparalleled reach – and although consumers may like certain community-focussed offerings for their low cost of use and easy UI, they are no use to enterprises or brands that want to reach as wide a market as possible.
Indeed, Acision CEO Jorgen Nilsson told Mobile Europe that the company is repositioning itself as a company that not only provides messaging platforms to operators but one that will look to monetise those platforms itself.
Acision is considering a model where it pays the operator for access to the SMS network, and then sells on, on a revenue share basis, that network capability to large brands and enterprises. Because Acision may operate and manage the platform, it can apply intelligence, priority, full analytics and assurance to the brand or enterprise it is selling access to, Nilsson said, unlike SMS aggregators. It’s a change of business model both for the operator, who usually sells bundles of messages to aggregators and service providers, and for Acision, whose revenue line traditionally stopped when it had sold its kit or managed service deal to the operator.
Nilsson admitted that the specifics of the change of direction were still unclear — who will “own” the brand account for instance — but said that it recognised the primacy of the ubiquity and reliability of SMS. Then, as operators move to IP messaging infrastructure, Acision will deliver “SMS natively over IP”, he said, through its IP messaging platform – the Acision Broadband Messaging Service Centre.
Acision said in research, conducted by Vanson Bourne and released at Mobile World Congress, that SMS still dominates the mobile messaging market when compared to other messaging services such as ‘Over the Top’ (OTT) Instant Messaging (IM) services. 95% of all respondents questioned stated they actively use texting, significantly more than Smartphone owners actively using OTT/IM services such as Facebook Chat (37%), Skype (20%), Twitter (17%), Blackberry Messenger (17%) and WhatsApp (16%) – the five most popular OTT/IM services today.
Based on interviews with 1000 mobile device users in the UK across smartphone (63%) and feature phone (37%) owners, the research revealed that SMS proves most popular with smartphone owners – 93% of this demographic reported using SMS. In fact, smartphone owners appear to appreciate SMS the most, with 3 out of 4 stating a clear need for SMS (74%) – 51% of which say they would be lost without it, despite the ability to access different OTT/IM messaging services on a Smartphone. This highlights the immense value and dependence of text messaging in consumers’ lives today.
When asked about their preference to SMS or OTT/IM mobile messaging services, smartphone owners cited they preferred SMS because of its reach (42%); reliability (42%); price (38%), speed of delivery (37%) and the ability to send to groups (28%). Only 4% of smartphone users said that IM is more reliable and faster than SMS, with 35% saying that they find SMS to be more reliable and faster
In order to test the appetite for Rich Communication Suite (RCS and RCS-e) type services, respondents were asked to rate a service offered by their operator that would include IM, file transfer, group chat and video sharing, and allow them to exchange messages with all SMS and MMS users. Only 5% of UK Smartphone users said they would not use such a service and 68% said they would be happy to pay for such services, highlighting the revenue-generating potential messaging still has to offer, Acision said.
Nilsson concluded, “Mobile IM does have its advantages but the market is currently fragmented as services cannot communicate with each other, and relies on a smartphone or tablet device with a mobile broadband connection. As experts in delivering both SMS and IP messaging services, we are excited about the new opportunities in IP messaging services but believe SMS will still play a leading role in our messaging backbone, not only as a connectivity tool but particularly for brands wanting to reach the 5 billion consumers using SMS today.”
Another messaging company launching a core network solution and white label mobile app for operators to launch rich messaging services and compete against OTT players is Mavenir.
Mavenir Systems today announced the launch of a new Mobile Cloud Messaging (MCM) solution for mobile and converged operators – echoing Acision’s own Cloud Messaging launch of January 2012.
Mavenir’s core network solution is bundled with a white label user client for multiple smart phone ecosystems. With Mavenir’s MCM solution operators could be able to offer rich chat, multimedia sharing, group conversation, and network storage functionality across smart phones, tablets and web devices.
The idea of the MCM is that operators can maintain their reach by taking advantage of inter-working between MCM based services and the global SMS network. Mavenir sees the MCM approach as giving operators the opportunity to add value to operator service bundles, increase data penetration, target mobile advertisements and up-sell value added services, such as cloud storage and business packages.
“We are responding to our customer’s needs to deliver innovative messaging services, which can preserve and grow messaging revenues,” said Pardeep Kohli, president and chief executive officer, Mavenir Systems. “Due to the rapid change in consumer behaviour, we’re trying to help operators combat the OTT creep head-on. Our MCM solution is a risk-free investment that allows operators to launch today and migrate to Rich Communication Services when ready as part of an overall network transformation strategy.”
Another company offering cross-platform messaging, although in a slightly different manner, is Synchronica. Synchronica has ended up as the receptacle for pretty much all the operator-IM focussed busineses of the recent past, including Nokia Messaging (formerly Oz), Neustar (Followap) and Colibria. All of those businesses, representing tens, if not hundreds of millions in sunk investment, now reside in a company which is resisting a sale to rival Myriad Group for just £20 million.
So, Synchronica has now launched Unity, which it is describing delivering cross-platform unified messaging, allowing users to see and send all types of messages from a single view
With clients for Apple, WP, ANdroid, Blackberry and other platforms, Unity is “designed to help operators and device manufacturers combat predatory moves from ‘Over the Top’ (OTT) players” (sound familiar?).
“Unity’s uMail, uChat and uSocial services provide white-labelled connectivity to the most widely used email, instant messaging (IM) and social networking services, thereby enriching their value added service portfolio and reducing churn with a bouquet of ‘sticky’ messaging services,” Synchronica’s release stated.
Sychronica also recently announced RCS-e like functionality, through partnership with NewPace Technology. RCS-e is also, of course, designed to offer a cross-platform (in terms of devices and OS) messaging service to users, amongst other things.