Operators that invest to improve reliability and protect consumers from privacy violations could see revenues grow faster than those that focus on opening up their networks to content providers, selling services or relying solely on connectivity, according to new research.

France-based think-tank IDATE Digiworld made the suggestion as it unveiled its latest yearbook at BT’s HQ in London on Thursday. Its 2015 report revealed that the global telecom services market rose just 1.1 percent last year.

Europe registered a decline of 0.6 percent as it continued to improve on reverses of 1.9 percent and 3.8 percent in 2014 and 2013 respectively.

However, the telecom industry’s performance last year was well behind the 3.1 percent growth recorded by TV and video services and internet services, which registered growth of 18.8 percent.

IDATE Digiworld presented four new business models that this entire “digital ecosystem” could move towards by 2025 as it continues to evolve.

Stressing the hypothetical nature of its forward-looking work, it said the telecoms services market could expect average revenue growth of 2.4 percent per year if operators give content and application partners access to their networks – a so-called Open scenario.

This is more than the anticipated growth of 1.4 percent under an Automated scenario, in which operators focus on selling low-cost connectivity.

Both scenarios are trumped by the Mall business model, in which operators turn themselves into sales-focused business where services are king. IDATE Digiworld predicts this will lead to annual growth of 3.6 percent.

However, operators who focus on privacy by creating walled gardens that demand security guarantees from partners in exchange for access could see growth of 4.2 percent.

In reality, most telcos are placing their bets on the Mall and Automated business models.

Several, notably BT in the UK and Telefónica in Spain, have gone down the content route while France’s Free Mobile has been the most eye-catching proponent of a price-centric offering.

[Read more: Do not focus on single segment of internet value chain, warns study]

Whichever open is chosen, the various players – telco, internet and a long tail of other digital providers – must get used to working more closely with each other.

Sven Heistermann, Director of Telecoms and EMEA Strategic relationships at Google, said success would happen based on how much trust the players were able to place in each other.

Gary Heffernan, Senior Managing Director of TMT at Accenture agreed, but warned that “collaboration by design is a very very tall order”.

He added: “The industry doesn't spend enough time on this.”

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