Cloud Computing - An Obvious Opportunity for Telcos

by Viktor Kovács, Founder of CE On-Demand and Sophie Papasavva, Partner at EMFC Loan Syndications
As published in Teletimes International, June 2012

Essentially conservative in nature, telecom operators make steady cashflows from a heavy reliance on voice and messaging, including data. Some telcos admit they have a poor track record in successfully deploying new value added services. For many the cloud presents an attractive proposition, with new services that offer the opportunity to stem voice revenue declines and competition from Over-The-Top players. Telcos should look to take advantage of cloud service providers’ expertise in cloud enablement services and go-to-market know-how. Strategic partnerships with players that can quickly establish the telco as a cloud provider in its markets are key. The benefits of partnership are clear: lower capital commitments, faster time to market and much reduced risk.

1.    Positive Market Dynamics

Ubiquitous broadband availability in the business, home and on mobile handsets has provided an opportunity for companies and individuals to change the way they communicate and measure productivity. Communication tools such as e-mail, voice and video communications, which have long been considered the domain of corporate IT, are today considered to be fundamental competitive tools for any company. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 1.8 billion people access the internet today.[1] As penetration continues to grow, industry experts such as Intel forecast that the data centre build outs that are required in order to satisfy future demand can only be achieved with the increased efficiency, performance and flexibility of cloud architectures.

Table 1: Cloud and Software-as-a-Service (“SaaS”) Market Forecasts

Analysys Mason [2]

global market for enterprise cloud services to grow from US$12.1 bn in 2010 to US$35.6 bn in 2015, of which 70% to be from SaaS

Cisco [3]

cloud computing market worldwide (measured by spend) to reach US$60 bn by 2012
Software-as-a-Service (“SaaS”) US$10 bn spend in 2008 to reach US$35 bn by 2012

Deloitte [4]

SaaS market to value US$17.8 bn in 2013, representing a cumulative annual growth rate (“CAGR”) of 17.2% for the five-year period from 2008

Forrester Research [5]

global cloud computing market forecast to grow 22% pa to US$241 bn by 2020

Gartner [6]

worldwide SaaS enterprise market revenue to have grown 15.7% between 2009 and 2010
by 2013, content-accessing cloud services to be integrated into 90% of connected devices

IDC [7]

by 2012, less than 15% of net new software firms will ship a packaged CD product and by 2014, 34% of all new business software will be delivered exclusively via SaaS
by 2014 SaaS revenues will have grown to US$40.5 bn, representing a CAGR of 25.3%

2.    The Obvious Opportunity

While the market anticipates strong growth in cloud services and therefore broadband connections across the globe, telecom operators have pushed broadband as a solution to reversing ARPU declines. Wireless Intelligence reports European blended mobile monthly ARPU fell by €5 between 2007 and 2010, due to declining voice call prices. For blended fixed and mobile ARPU, market analysts note that voice ARPU is declining by 23% to 60%, while mobile data traffic continues to grow dramatically, reaching over 25% of total ARPU for many operators, with others seeing data’s share at over 30%.[8] While some of the larger telecom operators are focusing on balancing declining voice ARPUs with improved data revenues, to-date they remain the exception.

Pyramid Research expect voice ARPU declines to continue for some time. Conversely, data ARPU expectations are positive, driven by higher broadband penetration. With mobile penetration exceeding 100% in many developed markets and fixed broadband being largely bypassed in emerging markets, mobile data revenues continue to grow; consumers are accessing communication and collaboration tools previously unavailable to them.

Figure 1: Voice and Data ARPU Forecasts

Voice and Data ARPU Forecasts

Source: Pyramid, Africa and Middle East Fixed Forecast Pack; Ovum, Europe (country basis) forecast to 2015

The opportunity is particularly clear for users to access productivity-enhancing applications, such as e-mail and for telecom operators to ensure customer satisfaction and retention by delivering such within a data bundle. Small businesses and large enterprises have begun to adopt IT as a competitive tool; in turn, telecoms operators have begun to appreciate that with the commoditisation of voice, they need to focus more and more on value added services (“VAS”) to enhance their product offering and specifically focus on data as a service. While the connectivity is there, VAS have been slow to hit the market, primarily due to the focus by telecom operators on network build-out and lack of experience in selling ancillary services other than SMS.

Domain penetration amongst Small Office Home Office and Small & Medium Sized Enterprises (collectively “SMEs”) remains painfully low in emerging markets, where telecom operators have a need to drive the internet as the game-changer it already is in developed markets. With 2.3 million domain registrations[9] Poland still only reports 37% of its SMEs have a web presence.[10] A study of Saudi Arabia’s tourist industry reports ⅓ of SMEs active in the sector do not have a website.[11] The fact that SME domain penetration is so low is testament to the fact that telecom operators in such markets have yet to identify the means by which to simplify the process of entering internet commerce. Market analysts concur that the enormous potential for SaaS has yet to be realised in the SME segment. Often SMEs may not be aware of the potential and value that cloud services could bring to their business yet it is SMEs that are most likely to value a trusted advisor to steer them through the hype and into the cloud. Most telecom operators have a significant SME subscriber base, which has increasingly been demanding more advanced IT solutions. It is obvious therefore, that the greatest strategic fit for telecom operators is the ability to offer SMEs communications and collaboration solutions from the cloud.

Many companies across the emerged and the emerging world have developed well-defined and clearly expressed cloud strategies. Several of these are telecom operators or systems integrators and others are large enterprises with an apparent view as to the benefits of moving IT to the cloud. However, whereas many may have a clear strategy, few have been successful in deploying their cloud vision to the market. Fewer still have effectively captured a significant portion of cloud revenues that market analysts tell us on a daily basis are there to be made.

In a recently published report, Informa Telecom & Media states that using cloud services, telecom operators have a multi-billion dollar opportunity to change the dynamics of ICT wallet share. However, whilst US$14 billion was spent by telecom operators on cloud pursuits in 2011, only a handful generate more than 5% of revenues from cloud services. The report recommends that through strategic partnership with expert cloud enablers who can offer a lifecycle of services to them, telecoms operators can absolutely expedite their success in the cloud.[12]

3.    Partnerships - The Business Rationale

Telecom operators make ideal candidates to successfully deploy a cloud provider business model; this is due to:

  • having direct access to and relationship with end users;
  • owning extensive broadband network infrastructure;
  • consistently experiencing loss of voice revenues;
  • in the mobile context, trying to find ways of pushing subscribers towards smartphones;
  • seeking to augment data revenues with VAS;
  • having significant sales and marketing resources; and
  • having dedicated channels to launch VAS to their subscribers.

The above imply that each and every telecom operator has the basic elements of becoming a successful cloud provider offering value added services, to help keep ‘stickier’ subscribers and stemming revenue declines. However, several costs (both in terms of money and time) have been associated with deploying a cloud strategy, thus impeding the wide implementation by prospective telco cloud providers. Some of these include:

  • the capital investment associated with building the platform;
  • the cost of platform deployment versus short term uptake of service;
  • the costs associated with launching cloud services to market in a timely manner;
  • an inability to achieve volumes required to drive economies of scale;
  • the time of platform deployment (on average 9 to 18 months) versus services time to market; and
  • the focus on technology deployment rather than time to market.

On average, a hosted platform provisioning for 10,000 cloud users implemented in-house by a telecoms operator could bear a capital investment of €2.25 million. In addition, the telecoms operator would have overheads to facilitate the provision of services as their own IT resources are geared for internal service delivery, not for external subscribers. The service delivery would require additional headcount that is often a complete replica of their internal IT messaging staff. Further go-to-market challenges include a primary focus on technology versus product development and marketing, a long time to market and, as often seen, extremely low success with respect to market penetration.

Partnerships with cloud service enablers can address all of these challenges. Such cloud experts are able to:

  • use economies of scale and multi-tenancy to significantly reduce infrastructure costs to a minimum;
  • deploy IT solutions extremely quickly and manage, maintain, patch and upgrade software remotely;
  • successfully execute OSS and BSS integration for any number of cloud services in a flexible manner;
  • easily and quickly create customer environments with minimal disruption to the telco’s operations;
  • technically support on a 24/7 basis, thus reducing the burden on the telco’s in-house IT staff;
  • offer experienced and dedicated channel marketing resources that offer specific knowledge and expertise in marketing software applications; and
  • offer the flexibility of managed, bespoke and local subscriptions.

The time to assist emerging markets SMEs to grow and manage their business on the cloud is here and who best to enable them to do so, than their trusted telecoms operator? Between the software provider and the telecom operator, specialist cloud enablers such as CE On-Demand effectively act as a reseller of SaaS subscriptions, but provide so much more. These partners offer additional value with crucial services related to integration with the telecom operator’s core systems, white-labelling of the cloud services and seamless customization for the end user. The right cloud enabler has both the data integration solutions and the expertise to work through technical issues. The right cloud enabler assists the telco to monetise the cloud by implementing the best solution and launching white-labelled cloud services to market in an effective and timely manner.

 

About Viktor Kovács

Viktor is co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer of CE On-Demand (www.ceondemand.com), a company active in cloud services enablement since 2008. CE On-Demand creates cloud providers by assisting white-label partners and direct end-users to realise and implement their cloud strategies. Since inception, CE On-Demand has supported 27 partners in deploying their cloud strategy, 17 of which have been telecom operators. The Company’s footprint spans 15 countries across Europe. Viktor is a board member of EuroCloud Hungary, the pan-European cloud computing association; he also enjoys sharing his invaluable experience by speaking at cloud and telecom conferences. Viktor’s expertise in the cloud is unprecedented, especially in emerging markets, where the sector has been slower to penetrate and few innovative cloud companies have emerged. Prior to CE On-Demand, Viktor held executive roles with EDS Corporation, Octel Communications Corporation (acquired by Lucent), Portal Software (acquired by Oracle) and Cisco, and thus benefits from more than 20 years of experience in the ICT sector, both in the US and Europe. Viktor may be contacted directly on vkovacs@ceondemand.com and followed on Twitter at @VKovacs_CEOD.


[2] quoted in Forbes magazine, Jul 2010

[3] "Transforming Enterprise IT Services with a Secure, Compliant Private Cloud Environment;” Cisco Systems, 2010

[4]Defining the Cloud” Deloitte, Oct 2009

[5] “Sizing the Cloud, Understanding And Quantifying The Future Of Cloud Computing” Forrester Research, Inc. April 21, 2011

[6]Forecast Analysis: Software as a Service, Worldwide, 2009-2014, Update” Gartner, November 2010

[8]Why is Mobile ARPU Declining?” The Strategy Analytics Tariff and Revenue Strategies (TRS) Insight, Sep 2010

[9].pl Domain Name Market: NASK’s Report for the Fourth Quarter 2011” NASK, Jan 2011

[10]The CEE Outlook for SMB Cloud Services” Parallels, Oct 2011

[11]Factors critical to the success of small-medium sized business marketing: A view from the tourism industry in Saudi Arabia” Muhammad Asad Sadi and Qamar Iftikhar, African Journal of Marketing Management Vol. 3(9), pp. 226-232, Sep 2011

[12]Navigating the Telco Cloud” Informa Telecom & Media, May 2012

Sophie Papasavva

Sophie Papasavva

Sophie Papasavva is the Founding Partner of EMFC Loan Syndications (“EMFC”), a boutique firm assisting companies seeking to raise bank debt. EMFC offers Loan Execution Support, acting as an additional ‘in-house’ resource to time-constrained finance teams. Prior to establishing EMFC, Sophie was a loans banker for 12 years, first as telecoms, media & technology relationship manager and later in loan syndications and sales, where she gained experience in multiple sectors such as oil & gas, mining, infrastructure, agribusiness and others. Sophie has originated, structured, executed, sold, restructured and syndicated loan financings ranging from simple bespoke bilaterals to complex multi-billion dollar, multi-currency syndicated transactions. Her expertise lies in arranging structured, bespoke financings for corporate borrowers operating in the emerging markets. To contact Sophie, please e-mail her directly at sophie@emfc-loans.com or follow her on Twitter at @Sophie_EMFC.