Overwhelming OTT: Telcos’ growth strategy in a digital world

Incumbents are now asking if digital is a threat to or an opportunity for their business model. Beyond operational efficiency, they will need to focus on excellence in execution.

As digital proliferates  the telecommunications industry, incumbent telcos find themselves in the middle of a paradox. First, “thinking digital” is deeply embedded in their business models. They are, after all, not only providers of their own digital products and services but also enablers for other sectors, by providing the essential connectivity infrastructure for functioning and growing in the digital economy, which results in a growing demand for broadband access. Also, it is forecast that the number of digital customers will skyrocket globally, and intensity, with respect to time spent using digital platforms as a means of communicating, will increase over the next few years. At the same time, consumer behavior regarding traditional communication services is changing, and the total consumer spend on these services is expected to decline even while overall communications activity grows. Finally, as technological breakthroughs accelerate, more and more new digital natives are entering the core telco market with innovative business models and technologies, leaving many incumbents to wonder if they can keep up or if they will be displaced.

There are two-and-a-half billion digital customers globally who are under 25 years of age. What characterizes this group is the fact that they are “always on” and that they show a different usage behavior compared to that of the traditional “analog” consumer. On average, these young digital users spend 315 minutes online each day (versus 126 minutes for customers over 25 years). More than two-thirds of this group is on YouTube daily, and 41 percent of 18- to 32-year-olds in the United States use video-messaging-service Snapchat for 25 to 30 minutes per day.

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