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  • Boosting Telcos' Smartphone Sales in Developing Markets

    Boosting Telcos' Smartphone Sales in Developing Markets

    Smartphones could be a lucrative revenue source for telecom operators in developing markets.

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    Developing markets are a challenge for telecom operators when it comes to handsets and data plans. Roughly 95 percent of consumers use prepaid, no-contract phone plans on low-cost phones, which result in lower revenues per customer than contract plans. Telcos have traditionally avoided promoting and bundling high-end devices with their plans, largely due to fear of losing traction. Most of the efforts made to bring smartphones to developing markets have been sporadic and generally unsuccessful.

    But the market is shifting. Smartphones are proliferating rapidly in many emerging markets, with penetration expected to more than double between 2011 and 2015 in countries such as Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia, and India. Demand for data services and applications is also rising in emerging markets—particularly as operators roll out 3G speeds, and younger, more educated users flood the market. And handset makers are unveiling affordable mid-tier smartphones.

    As smartphone and data penetration rise, the next wave of growth will come with sales to low-income and rural customers. For example, in India, mobile data traffic is expected to explode, from seven megabytes per user in 2011 to 274 megabytes per user in 2016, by which time nearly one-quarter of all Indian Internet traffic will be mobile. Already, two-thirds of smartphone owners in India use their phones primarily for the Internet. Handset makers are now seeking out telecom operators that can provide access to low-income and rural customers.

    The question for telecom operators is not if or when to tap into these emerging markets—the time is now. The question is how to define coordinated smartphone retail and data strategies to capitalize on the opportunities. Done properly, our research has found that operators could increase smartphones’ share of phone sales from 2 percent today to as much as 10 percent by 2015.

  • Telecom Retail Stores: Solving the Ownership Puzzle

    Telecom Retail Stores: Solving the Ownership Puzzle

    As the role of telecom stores changes, prudent operators will review the split between owned and franchised stores.

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    The global telecom industry looks very different today than it did just a few years ago, thanks to two trends. On one hand, markets are maturing, with the developed ones experiencing high penetration of telecom services and the emerging ones seeing a flattening of the growth peak. On the other, digital is changing the way companies interact with their customers. Although the brick-and-mortar store is far from disappearing, its role is evolving: Stores can reinforce a brand and convey elements in ways that online channels cannot. 

    Branded stores are a key spending item for telecom operators, typically contributing 5 to 6 percent of total operating costs. But are they worth the expense? Can operators get more out of their branded stores? 

    In today’s environment, one of the best ways to improve store operations is to look more closely at the ownership mix, the split between owned and franchised stores—companies that revamp that mix can improve earnings by up to 2 percentage points per store. Defining the right ownership model is not a straightforward exercise, however. This paper discusses the five principles that come into play.

  • Yet Another Metamorphosis for GCC Telecom Operators

    Yet Another Metamorphosis for GCC Telecom Operators

    New industry trends are in the mix. How ready are telecom operators to adapt again?

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    After years of strong growth, Gulf Cooperation Council telecom operators have slowly adapted to the new realities of their maturing markets. Now another batch of new trends could have a profound impact on the industry, leaving GCC telecom groups to focus on redefining their service portfolios, improving the customer experience, and tapping into the opportunities that data-savvy consumers, businesses, and governments offer.

    While the challenges confronting operators are undoubtedly considerable, they have reason to be optimistic. With their consumer insights and proven ability to deliver breakthrough customer experiences, they are uniquely positioned to defend themselves and tap into the current trends. Those that act now and choose the right mix of defensive and offensive moves to limit revenue losses will have a good chance of remaining relevant and maintaining healthy growth and margins.

  • video The Mobile Economy 2013

    The Mobile Economy 2013

    Mark Page discusses
    growth and innovation in the global mobile industry in connection with the report on "The Mobile Economy 2013" by A.T. Kearney and GSMA.

  • Boosting telecom operators' eChannel performance in emerging markets

    Boosting telecom operators' eChannel performance in emerging markets

    For emerging markets, telecom operators can acquire ARPU subscribers at both lower cost-of-sales and cost-to-serve—learn how.

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  • Taxing Telecom: The Case for Reform

    Taxing Telecom: The Case for Reform

    Could overtaxing harm telecoman industry essential to economic growth and progress?

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    Increasing taxes on mobile phones is a short-term solution at best and a potential long-term inhibitor of economic growth, according to A.T. Kearney’s latest analysis of mobile sector taxation in Europe.

    Indeed, the European Commission identifies telecommunications as a driver of economic progress. Countries that increase taxes and regulatory fees on this industry—as they have with tobacco and alcohol—not only discourage use of these products but also restrict investment and threaten growth in GDP, productivity, and jobs. This is as true for telecoms as it is for adjacent sectors such as banking and energy, where growth and innovation rank high on strategic agendas.

    Telecom operators in Europe already contribute significant tax revenue to European governments—on average, 24 percent of the average price per minute (APPM). These contributions include the value-added tax (VAT), social security tax, corporate tax, regulatory fees, and telecom sector-specific taxes. Despite Europe’s fiscal crisis and the understandable search for more sources of funding, most countries have resisted sector-specific taxation on the mobile industry—just five have increased taxes on the mobile industry.

    Our findings suggest that while the telecom industry should pay appropriate taxation and regulatory fees, a balance is needed between short-term revenue schemes and long-term strategies to support industry innovation and growth.

  • A Future Policy Framework for Growth

    A Future Policy Framework for Growth

    New revenues in Europe's telecom sector will only arrive with a significant commitment to deregulation to encourage success.

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    Telecommunications is one of Europe's most important economic sectors. Its largest companies have invested in building businesses in every continent. The services it provides—in particular the broadband and wireless infrastructure underpinning the Internet—are central to many other sectors of the economy and to the daily lives of almost every citizen. Its history of innovation and growth has been trumpeted as a major achievement of the European Single Market.

    Yet financial performance has lagged of late, because of an imbalance between those investing in the Internet and those benefiting from its impressive growth; an erosion of the industry's pricing structures as over-the-top (OTT) substitutes bypass existing tariff structures that charge for voice and messaging bypassed by over-the-top (OTT) substitutes; a fragmented sector that restricts innovation and increases costs; and an adverse climate of regulatory price cuts, restrictions on commercial strategy, and high taxation of essential spectrum. On the positive side, demand for the industry's core offering—communications—is growing dramatically. The adoption of new services—from videoconferencing to social media—is accelerating in all demographic segments, powered by rapid technology evolution in network infrastructure, services, and devices.

    Against this backdrop, A.T. Kearney has researched the health of the European industry, its plans and prospects to return to growth, and the contribution that the policy framework can make. We cooperated with the industry association ETNO, interviewing many of its members (and some operators that are not members) and discussing our findings with ETNO's leadership, but this report is an independent report that does not necessarily represent the views of ETNO or its members. In this report, we offer these findings as a contribution to an important debate on the future of the industry. This discussion is active in the policy arena: the European Commission has recently demonstrated an important realignment in its thinking on fibre investment and the related wholesale price regulation, and it will shortly review key market definitions and issue recommendations on non-discrimination and costing methodologies. All governments have been debating revisions to the treaty governing international communications via the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

    Many industry players are considering how their businesses must evolve to remain competitive in the marketplace and attractive to investors. Each company will pursue its own strategy, and inevitably some will do so more successfully than others, but each of them, we believe, must address three broad strategic imperatives:

    1. Break out of the deflationary price spiral and move to pricing models that better reflect the value for the customer
    2. Raise the effectiveness of innovation and launch new services that can compete with global champions
    3. Move beyond the pursuit of incremental efficiency gains and pursue the path of consolidation and transformation common to maturing, capital-intensive industries

    For each of these, the policy framework in Europe must evolve—not to disappear nor to substitute the work of management and investors, but to eliminate roadblocks and create a level playing field.

  • Anyone Feel a Draft? The Rush for NFL Ad Dollars

    Anyone Feel a Draft? The Rush for NFL Ad Dollars, 25 April 2013 As the NFL draft kicks off tonight on ESPN and the NFL Network, advertisers must decide where to spend ad revenue and compete without further fragmenting the audience.


  • Netflix and the Culture of Creation

    Netflix and the Culture of Creation

    Forbes, 24 April 2013

    The Netflix release of "House of Cards" might change the way content is viewed and how revenue models are measured.


  • Setting Standards: A Strategy for Europe

    Setting Standards: A Strategy for Europe

    As emerging economies seek to influence global standards, Europe's role as a shaper becomes a priority.

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    Standards are the rules, guidelines, and definitions that describe repeatable ways of doing things. Standards are a crucial element in the EU's industrial strategy as Europe seeks to remain a shaper of global standards rather than a follower.

    The European Round Table of Industrialists worked with A.T. Kearney to study the issue of developing and implementing standards. We found six recommendations for establishing standards in European industry:

    • Establish performance targets to foster innovation. Standards spread collective knowledge, bringing together industry players in a working environment of sharing and collaboration. The use of standardized parts and business processes can reduce early investment costs and risks, and provide a platform from which industries can innovate.
    • Consult with experts. Involving technical and industrial experts, even when standards are initiated by governments, can help build standards on solid foundations.
    • Coordinate industry players. European standardization bodies can play a larger role in facilitating standard-setting along the value chain and across industries.
    • Balance speed and consensus. Standards must be put in place quickly in the face of accelerating technological change and market competition, and they must be built on a foundation of consensus to broadly address the requirements of all players.
    • Encourage a global approach. European companies that adopt and participate in setting global standards increase their market access to other countries.
    • Encourage SME participation. Despite their importance to the European economy, few small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are actively involved in setting standards.
  • And Action! Making Money in the Post-Production Services Industry

    And Action! Making Money in the Post-Production Services Industry

    As film production budgets shrink, visual effects and 2D-to-3D conversion services are poised to become stars.

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    The post-production services industry is at an interesting juncture. Driven by the squeeze in film production budgets in the United States, it has long faced low margins, slow growth, and operational complexity. Traditional post-production services such as audio and video editing, sound recording, and telecine have stagnated, causing overall market growth to stall in the low single digits. In the past few years, however, the industry has been thrown two lifelines: visual effects (VFX) and 2D-to-3D conversion. While the overall U.S. post-production industry is expected to grow only slightly, VFX and 2D-to-3D conversion services are poised to gain momentum.

    Investors, movie production houses, service providers, and other post-production stakeholders would be wise to pay attention to VFX and 2D-to-3D conversion as services that could make or break their fortunes. In this paper, we explore the challenges—two big names in VFX recently filed for bankruptcy—and opportunities for these services from an investment and management perspective and discuss the success factors that will define each service's future market leaders, or failures.

  • Delivering Military Software Affordably

    Delivering Military Software Affordably

    Defense AT&L magazine, March-April 2013 Issue

    The future of the military will depend more on the Department of Defense's ability to develop the best software rather than on the physical design chosen for the weapons.


  • The Mobile Economy 2013

    The Mobile Economy 2013

    Developed by GSMA and A.T. Kearney, this wide-ranging study offers critical insights into the health of the mobile communications industry and details global enablers needed to spur further investment and growth.


  • Tied in KNOTs

    Tied in KNOTs

    The right way to think about network optimization

    Networks are complicated, and managing them requires an expansive strategic imagination.

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    The conventional way of looking at a network is through the direct-value lens: How much does it cost to run the network? Networks are a great deal more complicated than that, and managing them—or, more fittingly, optimizing them—requires an expansive strategic imagination.

    No matter what kind of network one manages—hospitality, retailing, banking, leisure, telecommunications whatever it might be—once the network is built, it immediately begins its evolution. Even within a single local market, the network is evolving all the time. As the network goes through its life cycle, perspectives on sustaining it must change as well. The means for doing this are distilled in A.T. Kearney’s Network Optimization Tools, or KNOTs, comprised of eight elements, each focused on a strategic element of the network.

    The English word knots translates as les nœuds in French, or nodes. This is an apt image for thinking about the symbiosis of the local and the networked—the balance of savoir-faire métier and savoir-faire local, of the collective intelligence of the network and the specific intelligence of the individual.

    Think of KNOTs not as a laundry list of best practices used to build an optimal network but as electrons—each one discrete and at the same time interacting around the nucleus. A national bank develops financial products centrally, but the local branch manager manages the relationship with customers. The national bank maintains good relations with the regulators while the branch manager cultivates the good will of the town mayor. A manufacturer’s leverage with suppliers may be directly proportionate to its number of plants, yet procurement is not only about concentrated volume. It is also about expertise the manufacturer owns in a multitude of categories and brings to bear in the local nodes of its network.

    A sobering counterexample is the flameout of video retailer Blockbuster, which channeled its energies into adding thousands of stores and tens of thousands of employees in North America and Western Europe only to be caught off guard by competitors such as Netflix and the rapid adoption of streaming video. In hindsight, Blockbuster’s history suggests an unbalanced emphasis on its real estate network and not enough on the customer experience. The result was catastrophic.

    We organize our network nomenclature into three types: production networks, service networks, and distribution networks. La Poste, for example, is a production network in that it operates like a factory producing a product: collecting and distributing mail. Taxi companies, railroads, and airlines are other good examples of production networks. The nodes in these networks are more than just infrastructure. One must own the nodes or there is no business to manage. Closely related to the production network is the service network, typified by telecommunications and hospitality. A hotel network, for instance, cannot deliver a night’s sleep over the Internet. The consumption of its product is done at the local level even though each node in the network is supported by the expertise of the whole. The service is the network.

    A distribution network is retail in all senses of the word, especially in its tailoring of products to meet the needs of local customers. Distribution networks are high touch and in certain ways are the easiest networks to think about in terms of nodes. The most familiar example, literally the most concrete, is a brick-and-mortar retail chain. Find a Wal-Mart, and its distribution center will not be very far away.

  • The Rise of the Tower Business

    The Rise of the Tower Business

    As mobile operators spin off their towers, is this strategy creating real, sustainable value for shareholders? 

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    Captive or independent tower companies are emerging like never before as more telecommunications companies sell or spin off their tower holdings. Because towers make up the bulk of their capital investments and most of their operating costs, mobile operators are opting to share towers—renting them from other telcos or tower companies instead of making ongoing financial investments in infrastructure. In the process, these operators are searching to drastically cut costs and maximize profits.

    But has it really been a success? Are tower companies creating value for their shareholders and their mobile operator clients? In this paper, we answer these questions and examine what tower companies and mobile operators can do to create a sustainable business and increase shareholder value.


In the News

Read insights from A.T. Kearney consultants quoted in the media.

Global Leaders

Mark Page
Mark Page
Reuben Chaudhury
Reuben Chaudhury
Naveen Menon
Naveen Menon
Asia Pacific
Axel Freyberg
Axel Freyberg
Europe, Middle East, and Africa