By Jon Jackson, CEO at Mobile Posse

We are almost half way through the year, which always makes me take stock of how much we have accomplished and how much more we can get done by the end of the year.  As I think about Mobile Posse’s plans for the remainder of the year, I think about the device-centric innovations that are bringing content and subscribers closer together than ever. If there ever was a time for carrier’s to be nimble and fast, that time is now.

There are three ways to innovate: 1) organically through internal resources, 2) through partnering; and/or 3.) through acquisition. Amazon has had tremendous recent success through avenues one and three. This makes them a great case study for large companies looking for growth and expansion of offerings as part of their plans.  As I thought about the challenges ahead for wireless carriers, three things came to mind in terms of how carriers can look to Amazon as they outline their 2H 2019 and 2020 strategy.

 

Lesson 1: Invest and Partner

Simply put, carriers need to step up their investment game. For all the media coverage about their long term aspirations, their investment posture pales against their potential. The website acquiredby.com unofficially puts the total number of Amazon acquisitions at 82. The total number of acquisitions listed by any major carrier is a quarter of that. 

Top carriers have some of the largest market caps across the world! It’s possible to leverage that enviable financial position to move quickly. Consider that Salesforce, with a market cap that is half of Verizon or AT&T, recently Salesforce stepped up it’s leadership in data visualization by buying Tableau for $15.7 billion in an all-stock deal. Carriers have the ability to do similar acquisitions if they desired.

Lesson 2: Invest Looking Ahead… Not Back

Acquiredby.com also lists the “categories” that companies’ investments fall under. Below is a list of the categories of 10 recent transactions by 2 companies – a top carrier and Amazon. Can you guess which is Amazon?

 

Company A Investments Company B Investments
Search Engine IoT
Communications Infrastructure Artificial Intelligence
Internet Cloud Computing
Internet E-Commerce
Energy Security
Software Semiconductor
Publishing Virtual Reality
Digital Media Artificial Intelligence
Digital Media Cybersecurity

E-Commerce

Machine Learning

 

It was likely pretty easy for you to determine Amazon was Company B. In general, their investments have been looking forward at the technology that will shape the future. This is not the say the “Internet”, “Communications Infrastructure”, “Software”, and “Digital Media” don’t have their place in the future – but their time as disruptive forces are in the past. Investing looking backward is what ended up in Verizon’s writedown of Oath – no futurist would have had AOL or Yahoo!, for example, as big players on their 2020 list of disruptors or even 2015 and 2017 when they were respectively bought. It’s time for carriers to invest with more of an eye towards what’s ahead.

Lesson 3: Push or Be Pushed

The most recent Amazon news that should have carrier’s attention is Amazon’s interest in purchasing the Boost MVNO network. While some may rightfully argue that there likely is little chance that Amazon is planning on becoming a wireless carrier, it certainly is a push into the carrier’s “box”. Amazon is always thinking outside the box, and why not consider how it might be able to own the last mile that connects their internet service to their customers? 

Amazon has sky high customer loyalty. Spectrum and network costs likely will decrease in the future – making the competitive barrier to “own” a wireless network lower as time marches on. Amazon might not be the first giant to explore owning a network, but it’s certainly not hard to imagine a future reality where Google, Facebook, Apple, or others consider similar moves.

 

The Bottom Line

This is why the next year will be an important time for carriers to start playing more aggressively outside their box. They need to carve out their innovations that keep them relevant and necessary. While carriers have opportunities like mobile content discovery that is there for the taking, they have still failed to capitalize on finding that elusive second mobile revenue stream. Amazon, on the other hand, recently released a story of a wearable that can read human emotions. I don’t know that I want to experience that but I do know it is different.

With innovation that futuristic and powerful, it’s hard not to imagine that they aren’t already innovating towards better content discovery. We’d bet it won’t be long until the day when Alexa becomes proactive, completely revolutionizing content discovery:

As I walk into the kitchen, Alexa says, “Good Morning Jon. Is that you? If so, would you like to hear the latest news from the telecom industry?”

Well before that inevitable day, I’m hoping I’ve already heard the news that carriers have begun to invest to take what is rightfully theirs – before someone else takes it from them…