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EDITORIAL That was the show that was… World Telemedia 2018

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Sun, rain, thunder, lightning. Nothing could dampen the mood at this year’s World Telemedia Show in Marbella on 8-10 October.

More than 500 delegates crammed into the H10 hotel – and around the pool – to talk shop, do deals and learn the latest in the hottest areas of value added services (VAS), carrier billing, payments, content services, cyber security, marketing, fraud and more across two and a half days.

In this week’s newsletter you can see the highlights of the agenda-setting show, but first a look at what you should be thinking about between now and the next show on 7-9 October.

World Telemedia fills that gap in the mobile/digital world that no one else does. 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 digital services. However, World Telemedia is the only place where they can all get together and not only discuss the issues driving the value chain, but also – and more importantly – do the deals that make it all happen.

So what – in no particular order of importance – were the hottest topics at the show?

Carrier billing

Carrier billing is suddenly a hot topic. For small proportion of delegates that have been to World Telemedia for the past 29 years like I have, that raises a wry smile – but sure enough, carrier billing is taking some serious market share.

Outside the UK, carrier billing is on the up as across Europe PSD2 has seen it start to be used for interesting things like ticket purchases, parking and subscriptions to things like 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 – going gamers dedicating hours to earning coins for other people or selling them on for cash – is now 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 much work to be done on this, but give it a year and this will be a reality for many and the work needs to start now to make it a reality.

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing continues to drive vast amounts of traffic for VAS and premium rate and carrier billing is increasingly being seen as the last part of the process where affiliates can monetise rapidly.

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 do in-house and so there is the beginnings of a proliferation of security and fraud detection and prevention firms popping up to tackle rogue traffic and bots across the entire affiliate process.

Affiliates themselves are also developing better smart links to mop up waste traffic and monetise it, so there is an swell coming in traffic and clicks as that starts to kick in.

OTT and RCS

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 looking to monetise interaction through services such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber and more is an ongoing debate.

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.

Interactive media

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 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.

In conclusion

So there is a whistle stop view of the key issues at this year’s show. There is more in the newsletter and on the site, so do check it out – and look out for the next issue (and beyond!) of Telemedia magazine where we shall be taking some of these themes and more and setting the agenda for this exciting industry for the year ahead.

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Editor and content creator for Telemedia – for 18 years and counting

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