Can their users’ trust save operators?

Telecom operators (mobile and Internet, forget about fixed line) are being attacked on all sides. Where Nokia used to be their worst threat, they now have Apple, with their business model that makes them pay while keeping a complete control over their users and their applications. Where they used to provde all basic services to their users, Google is proposing to do the same for free.

Basically, telecom operators are often taking the dreaded role of “pipe” operator, as they don’t really sell anything to their users beside connectivity. In the end, could this become an opportunity?

The lack of control of operators over their customers can become an advantage if operators start acting on their customer’s side, and help them build relationships with other entities, basically acting as a fourth party. Trust is an important component here, and operators are usually trusted by their customers, at least in some respects. After all, they are the ones that guarantee that we only get billed for what we consume, and they protect us against the bad guys out there on the net. And this trust can help them become a fourth party, which can bring an interesting revenue, as all lawyers know.

Of course, major operators also have a bad reputation of trying to squeeze every cent out of their customers’ pockets, and to use the ARPU as main measure of performance. The solution could be to setup a MVNO or a VISP, in order to start clean with a company that has no bad user relation history.

Of course, other actors have had problems selling advertising and connecting to partners. Microsoft, for instance, could attempt something on behalf of users. Of course, that would imply that Microsoft is able to honestly take their users’ side. Unlikely.

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