Of course, all this was bound together with some of the most lavish networking events that I have ever seen at trade show! Every single delegate was invited to a the Gold and Platinum Sponsor parties – which featured, live “blue-man” style drummers, Cirque du Soleil high wire acts, fire breathing, award winning mixologists, top DJs, luminous violins, carnival dancers and a Mirror Man! Check out some of the video on our Facebook page for a flavour of why World Telemedia entertains like no other show in town.
But now on to business…..
World Telemedia now fills that gap in the mobile/digital world that no one else seems to do. Hall 8.1 at Mobile World Congress attempts to do it, while a host of other events cover elements of the complex value chain of customer acquisition, monetisation and protection around premium billable digital services. Marbella in October is clearly the only place where all stakeholders get together and not only discuss the issues driving their value chain, but also – and more importantly – do the deals that create its commercial dynamics.
So what – in no particular order of importance – were the hottest topics at the show?
Carrier billing is suddenly a hot topic. For small proportion of delegates that have been to World Telemedia for the past 29 years, that raises a wry smile – but sure enough, carrier billing is now taking some serious market share. Outside the UK, carrier billing is on the up as across Europe PSD2 has seen a range of applications from ticket purchases, parking and subscriptions to Spotify, Netflix and Microsoft games and software.
In Asia it is moving even faster, and in Japan it can be used to buy physical goods from Amazon.
As a result, Nick Lane from Mobile Squared suggests that the global carrier billing marketing is set to be worth some $14bn this year – rising to some $30bn by 2022, driven mainly by this Asian explosion, but also by increasing consumer use for easy subscription payments in Europe.
In the UK, things are moving more slowly. While carrier billing has lost some of its “scammy” image, especially among younger consumers, operators are still moving very slowly on making it happen. Pay out rates are low, regulation high and reluctance intrenched. Rob Weisz, CEO of Fonix, was vocal in calling for this to change. He thinks that unless operators make it easier to implement carrier billing, it will lose out to the likes of PayPal. He says that it takes at least three months to set up carrier billing for a merchant. It takes under a minute to do PayPal. A model akin to the Norwegian market, where Strex – a company set up by all three Norwegian MNOs – handles all carrier billing set up and will see merchants set up with it in an hour, or less.
Crypto and blockchain
Building on the payments theme, there were several sessions looking at crypto currencies and blockchain. The importance of these two ‘new’ technologies to Telemedia and the VAS ecosystem can’t be stressed enough.
Blockchain will come to underpin everything. It’s ability to prove provenance will be crucial in managing transactions and in tackling fraud (more of which shortly). It is the world of “trust-less trust”.
But it is cryptocurrencies that I think are the most interesting thing talked about at the show. We are moving towards a world where everything has value – if you can guarantee it is what it says it is, which is why blockchain is so important – and anything of value can be used to ‘pay’ for things.
Coins in games are already being traded for money with dedicated gamers spending hours earning coins for other people or selling them on for cash – so here crypto economies are already a reality. Soon, it will start to move out into the world of loyalty points and so on. VAS providers need to be ready – they need to start to think about how they take ‘payments’ in cryptocurrencies – not just Bitcoin, but pretty much anything of value – and how to take money out the other end. There is of course much work to be done on this but give it a year and this will be a reality for many – but the work needs to start now.
Affiliate marketing continues to drive vast amounts of traffic for VAS and premium content / apps and again carrier billing is increasingly being seen as the last part of the process – where affiliates can benefit from effective monetisation through the ease of use to the consumer.
But much of the debate around affiliate marketing centred squarely on fraud. The sector has been troubled by fraud for some time, but the fight back has been swift. Many affiliates have disappeared and the networks that are left are largely reputable, large, tech-driven operations that have invested heavily in AI to fight fraud.
Of course, there is only so much that they can be done “in-house” and so there’s a proliferation of security and fraud detection / prevention firms popping up to tackle rogue traffic and bots across the affiliate world. Affiliates themselves are also developing better smart links to mop up waste traffic and monetise it, so we expect to see a real increase in global traffic and clicks as these mechanisms starts to kick in.
OTT & RCS Messaging
Messaging has always played a key role in Telemedia, with PSMS having rebuilt the industry in the late 90s and early 2000s when the mobile explosion happened. Now OTT messaging is rife among users and opportunities to monetise interaction through services such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber and more is an ongoing discussion.
Of course, SMS is still very much in the running – and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It is so ubiquitous that all messaging services coming down the pipe tend to default to SMS at some point when networks are flaky. And users still use SMS in increasing numbers.
Why, then, do we need a more advanced form of messaging such as Google’s Rich Communications Service (RCS)? A good question and one that seems to be being answered by the market. Of the 800-odd MNOs around the world, 55 have pledged support for RCS, according to data from Mobile Squared. This almost total lack of buy-in from operators not only means that RCS isn’t going to happen any time soon – to be a success it needs to work across all operators – but also shows that perhaps it isn’t needed!? While RCS is ‘big’ in LatAm – where most of the 55 RCS-friendly operators are – it isn’t elsewhere. And as, Andreas Constantides from Yuboto pointed out, even Google isn’t pushing it much and no-one has started to talk to the retailers and brands that will essentially be paying for it as a marketing tool.
The rise of PSMS back in the day was largely driven by its use to interact with TV shows in the early part of the 21st Century and that world of interactive media is still very much part of VAS ecosystem and a core area for Telemedia deployment. Interestingly, where once the mobile was seen as the ‘second screen’ behind TV, these days many content providers see it as the other way round. There is a proliferation of content that is in all but name TV content on the web and these days TV brands are just as likely to be online, on apps and on the box as they were to be just on TV. This all makes interaction much more practical and is a growing part of how the TV model works these days. “Off air” content almost always now has an interactive element and the addition of games and gambling is seeing strong revenues.
So that was my whistle stop tour of the key issues at this year’s show. There is of course so much more in the newsletter and on the site, so do check out www.telemediaonline.co.uk and make sure you’ve signed up for your FREE copy of Telemedia Magazine – where we shall be taking putting all of these issue on the agenda for the year ahead.
PS World Telemedia 2019 has already been booked for 14-16 October … same time same place. Last year the expo, meet market and the hotel all sold out weeks before the show, so if you want to get involved – why wait?
Visit www.wtevent.com or email ku.oc1635184001.aide1635184001melet1635184001dlrow1635184001@sivr1635184001aj1635184001 and make sure you’re in Marbella next year – to see what all the fuss was about.