By Stuart Kelly, business development director at Telsis

Operators who offer their own network-branded apps to push back against third party OTT messaging players are pursuing a strategy that is fundamentally flawed and ineffective.

Many operators are viewing the emergence of such players with trepidation, mourning the dilution of their close relationship with subscribers and fearing the loss of highly profitable messaging revenue.

The threat comes from two different types of application: plain vanilla messaging that uses subscribers’ data allowances to provide an alternative to SMS, and multiple dedicated apps that each try to do something useful with messaging.

However, what’s required is a more committed approach that uses a hybrid model to provide trans-device and multi-functional smart messaging that no third party providers can ever hope to match.

The hybrid model is built around a core of network/cloud-based smart SMS services, supplemented by the later selective use of handset apps.

The model delivers six distinct wins for operators.

Just three of the top 42 smartphone-using countries have a penetration of more than 50 percent, which means in the other 39 countries even the most extravagant apps-only strategy, with software for every operating system, will fail to reach at least half of the subscriber-base.

In contrast, hybrid smart messaging is platform agnostic and can be accessed via every one of the six billion mobile phones in use in the world.

The hybrid model reaches all subscribers – not just some of them.

The hybrid model also wins on the grounds of continuity because it is always available from the network/cloud.

It wins on grounds of ease of use too; irrespective of which operating system exists on the handset, customers are required to carry out little or no configuration and can expect commonality of user interface across the different services that an operator might choose to offer them.

In contrast, smart messaging applications on handsets present to users differently, dependent upon software vendor, handset operating system and application type.

Critically, the hybrid model wins on the grounds of value creation.

Delivered from the network/cloud, smart services strengthen the relationship between phone users and their operator because the network brand is providing the value, not a third party vendor.

In some markets, certain services will support premium pricing.

Again, delivered from the network/cloud, they benefit the operator and its customers, not a third party software vendor.

The hybrid model wins on the grounds of availability.

Because the service logic resides within the network or cloud, actions take place whether or not the target handset is switched on or in coverage.

In contrast, such services delivered by handset apps require target handsets to be reachable.

Finally, the hybrid model gives operators the ability to differentiate while delivering a consistent level of service to those who want and choose to download network branded applications.

The network subscriber with a simple text-and-talk handset can exchange messaging with a smartphone user, and even with tech-hungry customers who have multiple devices such as tablets and smartphones.

Meanwhile, the same core set of smart services is available on every device, delivered from the operator direct to its subscribers.

Hybrid smart messaging gives operators more certainties and more control.

It gives them the tools needed to differentiate more effectively, to allow subscribers to choose how they communicate and to offer subscribers a consistent user experience no matter what device they happen to have to hand.

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