According to an Ovum research, users have been heavily influenced by the richer experiences associated with over-the-top (OTT) messaging services, and now expect traditional operators to provide similar features around content, presence status, and history within their own services, irrespective of device or access method.
Ovum suggests that the period 2013-2015 will be crucial in terms of the relationship between telcos and OTT players in the communications space. The research firm also expects to see partnerships in this area intensify during the course of 2013.
In the Asia Pacific region, WhatsApp already has a number of operator partnerships, including a roaming pass with 3 in Hong Kong and GSM-based service offered by Reliance Communications in India.
In Singapore, StarHub and SingTel recently announced that they are launching their own OTT applications and alternative IP-based messaging service. This move demonstrates operators are working to provide their own richer messaging experience to compete with some of the OTT messaging players in today's landscape. The operator specific OTT messaging app, will enable the service to work between subscribers in the same network and potentially across other network operators.
There has been a similar approach by other operators across the world, one example being Telefonica's TuMe service, which is an operator-owned OTT service. While these types of messaging applications will provide a better user experience, it's really only half way to providing seamless messaging between any users on any network.
The GSMA's Rich Communication Suite (RCS) of services, branded joynTM, is an initiative working towards this model of seamless messaging for all and across all mobile communities. SK Telecom announced at Mobile World Congress that its Joyn.T service had become the first RCS offering to pass the one million subscriber mark. RCS services are also being launched throughout Europe, and we expect more announcements on the progress of this initiative to be made over the next year. By enabling SMS/MMS interworking, RCS platforms will ensure that users can communicate across any network, anytime and with any handset, delivering messages on SMS when a handset is not RCS enabled.
These new OTT services created by the operators will address the following:
o Provide IP Messaging alternatives to OTT players incorporating SMS/Social Networking interoperability in the near term. This could be extended to Off-Net users in order to drive mobile messaging, terminating traffic as being planned by other regional mobile operators.
o With operator specific OTT applications, the subscribers' address book and usage profile (e.g. Telephony, Messaging and Data consumption patterns) can be mined for either internal or external promotions and marketing efforts.
o The operator specific OTT applications is an avenue for them to drive mobile VAS as part of their digital life programme, which include services like mWallet, TV, advertising and gaming/commerce ecosystems
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