His conclusion after comparing the wireless industry with the cable industry;
It’s too late for a mobile operator (or consortium) to buy Facebook, Google, or Twitter. But it’s not too late to buy what’s coming next – and we all know there will be a next…and a next…and a next. As a case in point, Apple just bought Chomp, an app search engine that allows users to find apps based on their functions, not just their name. The usage statistics make it clear that smartphone owners spend more time using apps than they do searching the Web. Finding your way around over half a million apps in the iStore is virtually impossible; no wonder Apple bought Chomp. But why did it have to be Apple that was looking for the next smartphone service? Why not a mobile operator?
The cable model suggests an infrastructure provider can successfully expand beyond its network roots. Some mobile operators have begun edging in that direction by starting incubators and development centers to work with early stage app and service developers. Some have invested in new apps (Deutsche Telecom’s venture arm just invested $7.5 million in Pinger, an OTT texting company, for instance). And Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are reportedly investing $100 million to create a separate company, ISIS, to work its way through the morass of mobile payments.
The most interesting evolution from network pipe to content provider is happening in South Korea. Long an innovator in mobile services, South Korea Telecom has created SK Planet, a separate company for investing in and owning the next generation of wireless services – and not just for SKT subscribers. The new company will put what it owns into the mobile ecosystem for consumers to use on anyone’s network, anywhere in the world. SK Planet has turned the mobile world upside down by making a mobile operator an over-the-top provider!
Deutsche Telecom CEO Rene Obermann told a Barcelona audience that mobile data was like chocolate, “once you start eating, you can’t stop.” The new LTE networks are going to be the data chocoholic’s dream come true. The question for mobile operators is whether they want to stay in the business of making the delivery boxes for someone else’s chocolates or whether they want to develop their own recipes.