I was recently talking to STL Partners / Telco 2.0 and we had a discussion about service providers now facing the similar disruption from over-the-top (OTT) players in enterprise communications as they saw with consumers. It’s an interesting issue. The “bring your own” app phenomenon has started, and enterprises are starting to see their employees bringing WhatsApp and WeChat to the office to use for work, similar to how I brought non-enterprise Skype to the office to use. WhatsApp has even announced business integration plans.
OTT disruption even goes beyond messaging services. The service providers also provide basic communication services to enterprises such as off-premise PBX services and conferencing. But companies such as RingCentral and Fone.do can offer these services easily.
So what’s a service provider to do, other than throw in the towel and just become the best bit-pipe there is? Enterprises are profitable customers for the service providers, so just supplying a pipe is not a great option because you can easily switch from one bit-pipe to another.
First of all, a service provider could become a reseller of these services. If one of these services can be offered easily, and doesn’t have the same regulatory shackles, the service provider could resell these services and make money. Maybe even OEM’ing these services in could be in play.
Additionally, the service provider could find a way to offer value over what the basic offering can do, such as better offnet and interoperability. Security is typically an issue that IT departments worry about with any kind of alien organism, so providing some security with the OTT application would be a big value-add. Another one could be integration with business processes – for example analytics on usage.
Change has been a constant the last many years with telecom. And it’s going to continue. Service providers, and those that sell to service providers, need to continue to figure out the changing landscape.