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It's Time for Operators to Stop Defending & Start Innovating

By Todd Carothers

The following is the third in a 3 part series by CounterPath on innovations in Operator OTT communications. Visit us at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, March 2nd – 5th, to learn how to harness the benefits of Operator OTT for your business. Read part 1 here. Read part 2 here.

In a cold school gymnasium in Portland Oregon around 1963, Dick Fosbery discovered a new way to make him competitive. With a commitment to the cause that saw him (literally) jump head first, he went on to achieve an Olympic gold and record height that knocked those half arsed scissor jumps into the history books for good.


Meanwhile, the guys that continued to straddle the bar – ignoring the results of the innovation in front of them and too scared to risk what they already had  – were quickly usurped by the new model for success.

Sound familiar?

In business, failure to evolve to market changes and retain relevance spells a death knell for brands the world over. Hardly a week goes by when the woeful story of Blockbuster isn’t wheeled out by some business guru as a scare story, while the once-loved RadioShack has become the latest in a long line of organizations to stand still, and lose out. The truth is, if telecom operators aren’t proactive in evolving to meet the consumer trends, competitor success and revenue loss in front of their faces today, they could well be next.

The growing threat from over-the-top (OTT) providers such as Netflix, YouTube, Skype and Viber has seen some operators ‘close their eyes’ to the threat and others go ‘on the defensive’. With consumers increasing their consumption of content on mobile devices, and bypassing operator plans for their communication needs, solutions and strategies need to be formed to help operators address challenges with their current business models to keep customers happy and revenue flowing.

But that’s got to be more than ‘finding a way’ or ‘keeping up’ and ‘retaining the status quo’ in the face of change; to truly evolve the telecom business model, operators need to move away from a defensive mindset to one of real innovation.

New partnering strategies and evolving pricing models are being explored today, whereby operators look to befriend their ‘internet-based’ rivals, bring them into the fold, change data tarrifs to compensate for lost revenue and allow competitive OTT apps to serve the customer on their infrastructure. But do new pricing strategies and partnering go far enough? Many would argue that these options are neither long term, scalable or particularly innovative, that they lean toward a future of the operator as “dumb pipe” rather than “service provider”. Instead, operators have a real opportunity to develop new OTT applications and other value-based services themselves and offer them directly to consumers.

With traditional lines of business facing challenges from disruptive technologies, operators should not rule out disrupting themselves. At CounterPath, we’re partnering with operators to empower them to maintain market relevance through innovation, and quickly. Our agile, quick-to-market OTT solution deployments ensure these businesses are poised to maintain a long-term competitive advantage in this ever-changing, fast moving environment.

On that damp day in Portland, Dick Fosbery innovated for the long term. Don’t get me wrong, he had to. His scissor jumps just weren’t stacking up at competitive level, it was innovate or lose out. But he also discovered that if you’re going to innovate and go over the top, you need to do it properly: go all in. Those operators successfully innovating their service strategies in the face of competition aren’t doing so by dipping a toe to test the OTT waters or straddling two business models in the hope one may win out; they are the ones committing to innovation over defence, they are backing their own OTT strategy, evolving. And it’s working.

Todd Carothers

About Todd Carothers

Todd Carothers is the Executive Vice President of Marketing and Products at CounterPath and oversees Product Management and Marketing initiatives. Growing up in Silicon Valley and having witnessed the technical marvels coming out of Xerox PARC (where his dad was a patent attorney) Todd developed a deep passion for the high-tech industry. With a particular interest in Internet and mobile applications, Todd eventually found himself within the massive Telecommunications sector and companies that were on the leading edge of new services that added significant value to operators worldwide.