Convergence is inevitable and is happening! Earlier, there used to be distinct demarcations between telecom operators and IT solutions companies, but all this is overlapping now. The emergence of the IT applications and services are now coming from a telecom operator too. Take the instance of OTTs and many of the communications services are coming from IT companies.
For example, Skype or Whatsapp are IT applications, but in the communications space JioChat is an IT application, developed by an operator. With IoT, OTT and ‘Smartization’ of several segments like energy, transport, city, villages, etc, taking place, we are going to see this convergence often.
In this changing scenario, MVNO is happening in India at a very opportune time. Though, at present, we see at it more from resource augmentation point of view, where the state-run telcos MTNL and BSNL can ‘lease’ out their capacities to private parties which can probably better utilize them and help in achieving Digital India. But, the more important use case of MVNO is to introduce very niche applications and services for specified user groups defined by socio-economic profile, geography, organization, profession, etc.
For MVNOs to be successful the critical factor is the use case and as unique the offering is, the more successful the MVNO would be. With such characteristics, the IT application solutioning is the core to an MVNO. This is where I feel IT giants have a role to play.
Surprisingly in recent publicly shared names by the Telecom Secretary, where he mentioned that around 70 applications have been received for MVNO license, none of the IT giant figures in that list. MVNO route is the best route for IT giants like Infosys, IBM, Cognizant, TCS and the likes to foray into the era of convergence and leverage from their mastered IT solutioning and servicing skills by offering niche applications in the areas of IoT, Smart Solutions, etc. Even the historically hardware people like Dell and HP which are now trying to reorient as solutions’ companies could explore MVNO. Through these MVNOs, these IT companies could position themselves strongly in the domains of healthcare, digitalization, entertainment, education and many more. Even in enterprise communications, they could emerge successfully.
Definitely, their absence is a surprising one. Not only from the point of view of losing potential business opportunities, but also lack of focus for the future. All the telecom operators across the country and in many other global markets have relied heavily on these names to offer services to their subscribers. With MVNO, they could now have only come to the forefront and stood in competition to their client base in telecom domain. This would have meant more applications and services for user groups, more choice to choose from, but, importantly, could help the IT companies grow at a time when we are seeing IT sector as such looking for that next opportunity. This should have been on their roadmap and after virtualizing the desktops, applications, servers, cloud; it is should have been their turn to virtualize the mobile network for IT companies.