The Downloadable Client Fallacy

We can see the point – that is, that having to download and install an application might put some users off. But we fail to see how this argument can stand up when one of the rationales behind RCS deployment is often given (particularly by the GSMA) as enabling MNOs to compete with OTT providers of messaging services. Just to be clear, we don’t agree with that – we think RCS is more about enhancing messaging and staying relevant, but still.

Remind us, how do users obtain messaging applications from OTT providers? Via download, generally speaking. To suggest that users will be dissuaded from doing so by the need of installing applications via this route makes little sense. They are already doing it, just from so-called rival solutions.

If MNOs doubt their ability to encourage users to download clients, then that’s a failure of their marketing, not of the model per se. It’s nonsense to suggest that the model that has served OTTs so well cannot be applied to MNOs too. Why can’t they capitalise on delivery mechanisms that have proven so staggeringly successful? Of course, it would be marvellous were RCS to be natively deployed on each handset, but that’s not going to happen for many years. So why shouldn’t MNOs leverage the same mechanisms that have been used by OTT players?

We were reminded of this at the recent Ericsson EMEA Analyst event in Stockholm in a discussion we had regarding Wi-Fi offload and management solutions. In a discussion with Sheila Burpee Duncan, Head of Wi-Fi Marketing, we agreed that a key missing element was software on devices to enhance the management processes involved in handover and network selection, a subject about which we have written with our friends at GoS Networks. But what was surprising was to hear that RAN managers tend to be opposed to the provision of downloadable clients to address such issues.

Why? It’s how OTTs achieve success and scale so why can’t MNOs do the same? It’s really most peculiar – particularly when you consider that some MNOs are delivering high-quality and useful solutions from app stores too, as well as via HTML5.

For example, BT’s Wi-Fi application is a wonderful tool, enabling BT customers to easily register with hotspots nationally and internationally. It works, it’s free, is easy to configure, and updates directly from the BT website. They’ve promoted it very well too – with adverts on Facebook and alerts sent to their customers.

So why would MNO employees be opposed to doing the same thing, either for more effective Wi-Fi management (which brings benefits to their users) or for RCS (which brings benefits to their users), or for anything else for that matter?

It’s a mystery and we have no reason to doubt the impressions we received. But if it’s really true, then the marketing teams of MNOs really, really ought to learn a little bit more about how OTTs have successfully delivered their applications to millions of users. It seems they don’t understand the model at all.

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