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EDITOR’S BLOG 01-10-15 Time for MNOs to man-up

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Skeldon2014BWsmallHello and Happy Thursday! Times are tough for telemedia. We started the year in high spirits, the networks and the L2s were all very bullish about making charge to mobile a reality and something truly mass market. 10 months later and it’s all but dead. And the MNOs killed it.

First there was the unexpected and rapidly implemented dictat that all PSMS were to be switched to Payforit. Then Payforit was changed to have a double opt in. Then, just to nail the coffin lid shut properly, the 120 day rule (see last week’s and the week before’s blog) was introduced, effectively making subscription services verboten.

All this together has pretty much shut down the telemedia industry’s bread and butter services and crushed many of the hopes around making charge to mobile mainstream.

Over the many years I have covered telemedia, there have been many occasions when a new service has come along that looks to be a great money earner for the sector – and the operators – but then it has been shut off.

Every time it happens it is because the operators get a few complaints about a few rogue services or the odd issue and then everyone suffers. It’s the ultimate in bad parenting: “I don’t care who threw that, now no one can play”.

Why are they doing this?

The reason is that networks have an over-inflated view of themselves. They see themselves as cool consumer brands, up there with the Nikes, Googles, Amazons and the Apples et al and they fear ‘brand damage’. In reality they are mass-market utilities, more in line with British Gas, Network Rail, or the sewerage system. Consumers have no brand loyalty to Vodafone or O2 or EE; they just go where the best deal is or stick with what they’ve got.

Of course, some services sometimes are misleading and some people complain, but most aren’t and most people happily use them. The MNOs’ view that any complaint is a disaster – for them, I doubt they actually care about the consumer that much – and that any disaster is a potential brand killer.

In reality they operate in a mass market world; a world where their customers – the bulk of them anyway – want subs services and adult and competitions and all those things. Instead, they are denying them this.

So then the challenge needs to be thrown back to the operators. Stop knee-jerking and shutting things down and work instead to see what the problems are and try to fix them in a sensible and measured way. No mass-market service of this sort of scale is going to come to fruition without teething troubles. Iron them out, MNOs, don’t just shut them down.

10 months ago charge to mobile was set to enter all manner of verticals where it could make a tidy revenue for everyone involved and give customers the experiences they want. It could get millions of people who aren’t iPhone 6 owners doing mobile payments. Now it could well end up as an also ran, cruelly and pointlessly removed from the market pretty much on a whim. Sure the networks think they want to work with Google and Amazon on C2M services and that is where the future lies, but these brands will eat them alive and leave them with nothing.

So come on MNOs, sort this out: stop needlessly making things difficult and rise to the challenge – the challenge of making services that consumers are crying out for, not ones you think they want.

Its like Vladimir Putin told Western leaders this week when discussing Syria: stop doing what you think looks right and do what is right… a lesson that many powerful organisations and individuals could well learn a great deal from.

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