Asia Pacific smartphone users consume more data than their counterparts in any other region: an average of 1.1 GB per month--more than double the U.S. They have between 22 and 35 mobile apps on their phones, and use an average of nine to 10 of them per day for everything from watching television to finding the best local coffee shop.
Looking ahead, it is forecast that by 2017, 47% of global mobile data traffic will be based in this diverse and rapidly growing region. And every one of these connections offers telecommunications providers opportunities for revenue growth through mobile and data plans.
But there’s a catch.
Consumers are now so used to accessing cost-friendly services online that they’ve started replacing conventional telecommunications services, such as text messaging and voice calls, with free communications apps. So telcos not only have to meet increased costs at their data centres, they also lose out on these revenue streams.
In fact, by 2016 it is estimated that telcos will have lost more than $100 billion in revenue to Web-based communications providers, such as WeChat, KakaoTalk, and Watsapp. The figures are substantial: WeChat has 438 million active users a month, KakaoTalk has 145 million, and Watsapp has 600 million.
In an effort to capture this upswing, telcos throughout the Asia-Pacific region have been effectively reinventing themselves as customer-focused service providers–rather than simply purveyors of “data pipes.”
Indian multinational telecommunications giant Airtel, for example, has launched a music-streaming app called Wynk Music, while T-Mobile has a Web-based communications app called Bobsled. In a similar vein, Vodafone is value-adding or discounting on premium Spotify accounts and Fairfax Media subscriptions for its customers.
For its part, Telstra has embarked on a long-term repositioning that has seen it become an industry leader in customer service as it diversifies into areas such as e-health, replacing old phone booths with citywide Wi-Fi hotspots, and high-level social media strategies.
Doubtless, this is an inflection point for telcos as they adapt to the rapidly changing technology landscape. Not only do they need to create mechanisms to deliver new and engaging services constantly, but they also need to create agile systems within their traditional structures to identify and respond to opportunities as they emerge.
Doing so will enable them to provide services that engage customers through numerous channels, and aim to gain customer dependence through frequent use and exposure to their brands. The opportunities are definitely there–and what will emerge is a telecommunications sector that looks very different from the engineering empires we once knew.