APAC telcos should partner on infrastructure capabilities

Region's "robust" network infrastructure can help operators generate new revenue streams and increase customer loyalty amid challenges from digital retailers and outsourcing companies, panelists say.

SINGAPORE--Telecom operators in Asia-Pacific should not be content being mere dumb pipe providers of Internet connectivity, but should collaborate with regional partners to maximize its core strength in infrastructure capabilities and generate new revenue streams and increase customer loyalty.

Nik Willetts, senior vice president of communications at TM Forum, called on the region's operators to relook how they do business in terms of positioning, vision, and processes in order to overcome challenges from digital retailers and outsourcing companies. This includes not being content in simply providing Internet connection to consumers, he stated. The executive was speaking at the Management World Asia 2012 conference held here Tuesday.

He said the core capability of Asian telcos is the presence of robust infrastructure and this is what companies should be focusing on instead.

Adding to his point, Erik Aas, president and director of Indonesia-based mobile operator Axis, said it was important that operators collaborate on network infrastructure. This is because the company can then focus more of its time and resources to develop other business areas rather than spend it on building out its own infrastructure, he explained during a subsequent panel discussion held in conjunction with the conference.

With access to regional partners' network inftrastructure, operators can then address certain monetization issues, such as data roaming prices, noted Neil Montefiore, CEO of local telco StarHub. Speaking in the same panel session as Aas, he cited Singaporeans as examples of travelers who turn off their data roaming functions when overseas, which is a potential revenue stream for operators.

He suggested that operators should discuss how to create bundle prices that are convenient and acceptable to users, but warned overpricing these offerings could result in breaching subscribers' trust and losing their business as a result.

Additionally, operators would know their local markets well, and such collaboration would bring benefits to all involved, particularly customers as they would receive better service and pricing, said Idris Vasi, CEO of Bruneian operator DST.

"It is thus important to ensure such investments in infrastructure are worthy and users are satisfied with the level of data and broadband provided to them, as well as generating revenue for us at the same time," he said.

The DST CEO did caution against operators having a "big ego" should profits increase, as this might result in them losing sight of customers' needs and loss of business subsequently.

Telcos were previously urged by one analyst to move at the "speed of Internet" to transform their business operations to better compete with social networking operators. This is because the latter companies are functioning as one-stop shops for users to keep in touch with others, who are opting for these alternatives and shunning traditional communication packages, Jayesh Easwaramony, vice president of ICT practice at Frost & Sullivan, said in an earlier report.