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Posts Tagged ‘freemium’

OpenRate – Charge like Vodafone, American Airlines, Amazon AWS or Salesforce for free…

July 23, 2012 4 comments

Ever wondered how it is that two people make a similar call, fly next to one another on a plane, rent the same type of virtual server or use the same SaaS application but end up paying totally different bills. Big companies have understood since a long time that rating and charging is the key to making more money for the same service. As long as the user can be convinced that they are paying more because of some valid reason (e.g. prepaid contract, same-day return flight, on-demand vs reserved instance, monthly vs yearly subscription, etc.), a similar service can be sold at different prices.

For a long time it was expensive to do advanced rating and charging. Licensing could easily be millions. That day has changed. After a very productive discussion, OpenRate has decided to offer again a free GPL version of their open source rating and mediation solution.

Why is an open source rating and mediation solution so important?

Online charging, rating and mediation used to be something that only the most diehard telecom experts could really grasp. There was no need for it outside of the telecom and some other major industries.

However P2P, Mobile Apps, Cloud Computing, M2M, Social Networks, Online Games, Big Data, etc. have brought us VoIP for P2P, In-App Micro Payments & Subscriptions, mCommerce, IaaS, SaaS, PaaS, sensor network event subscription, social commerce, fire hose subscriptions, virtual goods purchases, data set per-event access fees, etc. All of these technologies are exploring new ways of generating money. Unfortunately none is able to afford a €1-€5/license per user per month for a professional solution. At least not from day one. With OpenRate developers, marketers, product managers, etc. are able to explore new frontiers in monetization without any upfront risk. Subscriptions, one-time-fees, pre-paid, real-time charging, discounts, etc. it is all possible now. OpenRate is a very flexible framework in which developers can use what they need.

So if you are incubating a SaaS offering that wants to push the limits of prepaid and subscriptions, an online game with a catalogue of virtual goods, a social network with a cashflow problem, an M2M platform in need of money, an IaaS seller with a large set of configurable parameters, etc. you should be looking at how rating and charging can make you more money…

Of course if you are new to the rating and charging market and want training, consultancy or need a support contract, be sure to check out the OpenRate Commercial Offering. OpenRate is a freemium company that wants to understand your specific needs in order to offer the best possible solutions, so get in contact with them on the OpenRate Linkedin Community Site.

It would be good to see OpenRate be integrated with other Open Source and Freemium solutions, e.g. open source commerce solutions, like OpenCart, could use an advanced SaaS subscriptions and discount management extension, etc. This is an open invitation for developers to let their imagination flow and share it with the rest of us…

Can an operator give away 1GB/month or more for free? This MVNO believes it can…

After Free.fr in France, the US is also getting its “Enfant Terrible” of the telecom market. Just when everybody thought becoming Bitpipes would be the way forward, this US MVNO is going to give away broadband for free. We are talking about FreedomPop. FreedomPoP will give subscribers 1GB/month for free. Except for Freemium, it will also copy other dotcom techniques like Social Marketing & Sales. For every subscriber you bring, you get more bandwidth. Additionally you can swap the bandwidth that you do not use with others. FreedomPop will also provide some Wimax-iPhone-shell that allows multiple users to connect.

How are they going to make money?

The short answer: still unknown. The long answer: Skype founders are behind the company so VoIP is probably charged. People that spend more than 1GB will have to pay $0.01/MB or $10/GB. There is also talk about making money with value-added services.

Conclusion

It is still too early to understand the impact of what FreedomPop will have on the 4G mobile market in the US. However the fact that Freemium, Social Marketing & Sales, etc. are used means that finally some operator is doing their homework and translating Web practices into Telecom practices…

Disruptive Innovations that can Kill the Telecom Industry

February 14, 2012 1 comment

Killing the mobile broadband oligopoly

For years operators have paid billions for spectrum. Millions of man-years have been spent on building standards like GSM, GPRS, CDMA, 3G, LTE, etc. Can disruptive innovation kill this in a few years?

Yes, it can. The FCC is finding out that large parts of the USA are still not covered by mobile broadband. After years of lobbying by groups like the New American Foundation, the FCC has finally decided to start with White Spaces. White Spaces are also being rolled out in the UK.  White Spaces allows spectrum to be opened for public usage, which was previously used by analog television or to separate different adjacent channels. White Spaces have been referred to as “WiFi on Steroids”.

Another disruptive technology is software-radio networks in which mobile devices use software-driven radio technology instead of hardware-driven radio technology. This allows a mobile device to be compatible with different standards and to switch and evolve quickly. Putting software-radio in a mobile phone will make it possible to use dynamic white spaces, in-door networks, etc.

A final disruptive technology is Openflow. Openflow, is part of software-driven networks, in which routers, bridges, firewalls, loadbalancers, etc. are implemented on software-level. Networks can be virtualized and used with different QoS and configurations at the same time.

Google and Microsoft are major backers of the White Spaces initiative. They also control two important mobile operating systems. Google is also running pilots with fiber-to-the-home. Google has its own routers and other network technology.

Google could easily be the first White Space operator and use a Fon-like way to roll out their network.

Killing ARPU

SMS is already death, and it will be just a matter of months before operators will see deep dives in revenue. Apple could make the iMessage protocol public and Android could come with a standard iMessage-enabled solution and people would no longer send SMSes but would not even realize it.

Next one on the list are calls. Roaming is already seriously being challenged for years by Skype and others. Operators are planning for VoLTE, or voice over LTE, only by 2013-2014. However most will start rolling out LTE in 2012. This is the ideal situation for Voxtrot, and others, to use the vacuum to get people accustomed to free calls. By the time VoLTE will be available there might just be one market price for it: FREE.

Other value-added services, are already being substituted. MMS is called Twitter & Facebook mobile app now. PBX are now on the Cloud. Call centers are now offered as a service.

Killing ROI

Operators are pushed by the market to invest in LTE roll-outs. However why would you need LTE? There is not a single operator service at this moment that will make people queue up in front of their stores to get an LTE subscription. There are a million and one reasons in the form of mobile apps, mobile video streaming, social networks, HD Video-calls, etc. that can push customers towards the over-the-top-players.

So network investment is only going to rise and revenues from the new technologies will be meager at best, if not cannibalizing high-ARPU services.

With Mega Upload and other sharing sites being disabled, illegal file-sharing is not going to go away. P2P is likely to come back with a vengeance. It is easy to shut down large sites. However what if special encrypted P2P apps are used to distribute the location of content and botnets for distribution. There are a lot of computers that are connected to the Internet but are badly secured. Instead of using them for spamming, Mega Upload 2.0 services can use them to store and distribute content. As long as these “hacked” computers use HTTP(S), it will be very hard for operators to distinguish regular do-it-your-self websites from illegal content hubs.

Killing the operator’s established business model

Operators have educated subscribers that everything that comes from them has to be paid for. Disruptive operators like Free.fr are undoing this education by giving a lot of services for free when you pay the monthly subscription fee.

The Freemium business model is likely to find its way into the telecom industry. The model in which 90-98% of the users get the service for free and 2-10% generate the revenue by purchasing premium services. Combined with advertisement, this is the model of big successes like Zynga, Linkedin, etc. Disruptive players that adopt Freemium are likely to start offering services outside of their country borders since the more people participate, the better. With a winner-takes-it-all business model expect roll-outs to be very aggressive.

What can the telecom industry do?

The first thing operators should do it to tell their providers that their top problem is the lack of new revenues that will sustain the industry. Not LTE roll-outs, not fiber-to-the-home, not customer experience management, etc.

Telling telecom providers that new revenue solutions will be a top priority for 2012 will shift R&D budgets into the right direction.

The second thing operators should do is to stop using their existing purchasing techniques to try to generate new revenues. Nobody will be able to invest 5 months into an innovative solution, spend 3 months doing business development, pass 3 months on filling out RFIs, pass another 4 months filling out RFPs, 2 months on contract negotiations and 6-8 months on delivery. The industry can not wait 2 years to launch the first solution. Especially the herding nature of operators is making any introduction of new innovative services difficult because everybody wants a market leading solution but nobody is willing to be the early adopter.

The response should be different. Joint innovation teams that are able to break the “established rules”; that are able to launch “beta-quality” services to early adopters; that are able to innovate with both technology, business model and go-to-market strategy, etc. Operators should be embracing innovation and learn from the IT industry and even better the dotcom industry on how innovation is done quickly, efficiently and successfully…

Thinking differently about monetizing telecom services

January 12, 2012 2 comments

Free, the disruptive French telecom operator and ISV, is changing the rules. Via Femtocell and via controlling the WiFi access points of its customers, Free is planning to offload a lot of mobile traffic via its fiber network. This is translated into very sharply priced mobile calling and data plans. Free’s Founder is telling the telecom industry they should no longer try to make money with communication but focus on identity and payment services.

Free is right to change the rules of the game instead of waiting for non-telecom disruptive players to do so. However what else could Free do to generate extra revenues?

Social Mobile Graph

Facebook is talking about social commerce in which friends, family and colleagues are taking an active role in your buying behaviour. At the moment social networks are either for business reasons, e.g. LinkedIn, or for pleasure, e.g. Facebook. However both need a lot of maintenance effort in which you need to send or accept invites from people who you might have known 20 years ago.

What if your calling and messaging behaviour could take away a lot of this burden? If you call somebody mostly during business hours then this person is likely to be a business contact, especially if other business contacts of yours have the same behaviour. Your addressbook and linkedin could be automatically updated. However you could go a lot further and see which restaurants your direct business contacts call more often. Anonymizing this information and creating public APIs and a marketplace for app developers could lead to a lot of innovative services that can be monetized.

Numbering Plan Apps

The numbering plan is probably one of the most under-used operator assets. However everybody knows how to dial a number. Why not let other people make new numbers, e.g. based on non-existing country codes or using the # or * combinations? People would be able to make premium services for everything from voting, surveys, competitions, money transfers, etc. Putting *120* in front of your number could mean that the caller is paying you 1,20 euros per minute to call you. It is up to you to redirect your number to an application that makes people want to call you. You might have a large numbering app market to choose from. Add a # and a number at the end and you could have thousands of applications behind one number. The operator would get a revenue share.

Call Center as a Service

Call centers are mainly used by large corporations. However small groups of ad-hoc people could benefit from them as well. Ad-hoc software support hot lines in which experts can be freelancers could be of interest to some. But it could even be as simple as housewives that can help you with recipes. As long as rating the participant’s value, dynamic joining and leaving of participants, paying participants a revenue share, configurable participant selection rules, etc. are provided, the applications are limitless.

A lot more

These are just ideas but there are a lot more possibilities that you can implemented. Especially if you can control both the mobile device as well as people’s access point. However the past has shown that trying to get a few people pay a lot of money for a service and operator’s trying to do it all by themselves, have not been successful. Innovation is not only needed in the product domain but also in the business domain. Models that should be explored are:

  • Freemium, whereby most do not pay but get the traffic to your service and only a minority pay for advanced usage. Many examples in the web 2.0, e.g. LinkedIn, Zynga, etc.
  • Long Tail, whereby not only a couple of high paying  groups are targeted but instead thousands of niches are targeted via the use of a general platform or third-party eco-system, e.g. Google Adwords, Facebook Apps, etc.
  • Revenue Share, whereby others get the bulk of the revenue because they take the risk and the operator gets a small share but gets it from a large group of revenue sharers, e.g. Apple’s App Store

Hurray SMS is death…

October 13, 2011 1 comment

October 12th 2011 Techcrunch declared the day SMS began to die. Why? 10-12 is the day that iOS5 was made available to the general public. In this update there is a new functionality called iMessage. iMessage will check if the person you are sending an SMS to is also using iMessage. If this is the case then the SMS will be sent as an instant message and not as an SMS. The technology is not new (e.g. Whatsapp, Blackberry Messenger). However it is the first time that users will no longer have to install a separate application and choose if they want to send an instant message or an SMS. Android is likely to follow shortly. Also interconnection between iMessage and other platforms is still necessary. However this is clearly an example of the Innovator’s Dilemma, disrupting an industry via the use of disruptive technology.

So why the Hurray? This is very bad news because thousands or even millions of jobs might be at stake in mobile operators all over the world.

The hurray is because innovation will finally come back to the telecom industry. The beginning of the end of the CFO promoted to COO promoted to CEO a.k.a. CFEO [FEO in Spanish means ugly]. The bean counters that were warned years ago that disruptive technology would destroy the mobile industry as we know it. However they choose to ignore the message and put into place RFP processes that kill any innovation, make investments based on short-term business cases, substitute vision & strategy for ROI, etc.

With major risk of disruption, it is time for mobile operators to embrace new ideas. To invest in innovative solutions. To try out new unproven business models. Or face the consequences. Me2-strategies are no longer enough.

At last long-tail partnership management (LTPM), Telco PaaS, Mobile PaaS, Big Data Analytics in the Cloud, Nanopayments, Mobile Graphs, Freemium, Telco Gamification, etc. it can all be proposed. For once the big question will not be, “Show me a business case with ROI in 3 months” but instead “Let’s set-up a tiger team and see how we can be successful”.

Don’t understand the message as if this is a return to the nineties where venture capital kept even the most rediculous dotcom alive (e.g. pets.com, webvan.com).

The next ten years will be the age of the commercially skilled visionaries leading the most successful companies. The CEOs that can look futher ahead then next quarter but that do not focus on research for research but on the next big business. CFO’s and COO’s will be still milking the cashcows. However the CEO will be worried about next year and no longer about  next quarter. The tragedy in life is that the one person that knew this period was going to come, passed away before it even started. This article is in memory of the greatest visionary of modern times: Steve Jobs…

What is your next move? Moving free to telecom or paid to the mobile Internet?

December 12, 2010 2 comments

At the moment teenagers are accustomed to paying for SMS (bulk tariffs) and voice calls (if they use them at all). However since mom and dad pay, they are just worried about staying below their parents ‘ anger limit.

Everything else in the digital world is free to them. Either legally free from the likes of Facebook or Twitter or illegally free from the likes of eMule.

We are at the doorstep of most teenagers switching from SMS enabled phones to smartphones and tablets. This means that there are two possibilities: telecom becomes free or mobile Internet becomes paid.

My guess: telecom becomes free. SMS will be substituted by Twitter and Instant Messaging. A 100-300MB of data traffic can easily pay for thousands of instant messages and social network updates. Likely free mobile apps that optimize data exchanges will be very popular with teens. The net effect will be that teens will no longer see the relationship between sending a message and paying for it. This will prompt them to move massively to the free mobile Internet.

However is there a way to move paid to the mobile Internet?

Not at the current prices. History would repeat itself like in the music industry. A digital technology comes but Hollywood tries to maintain an artificial high price even if distribution prices fall close to zero. CDs cost cents. Digital distribution even less. However you still find CDs that cost more than €15-€25. The result is that teenagers find ways not to pay.

How to do it differently? Move from micropayments (5-15 cents/SMS) to nanopayments (0.01 or 1 cents/event), micro-subscriptions (5-15 cents/month) or freemium. If mobile app designers could have access to a simple interface to charge nanopayments on your phone bill in a uniform matter, then they would not give you an article for free but they would want you to pay 0.05 eurocents for it. You wouldn’t mind such a small fee but lots of nano-cents convert to real money for a successful site. Also micro-subscriptions would allow teenagers to subscribe to a premium service without having any parents worried about phone bills. The last business model (freemium) has been described in another article.

Failure to teach today’s teenagers to pay for the Mobile Internet will mean that free will be tomorrow’s only Digital business model. This is not necessarily bad for site owners that can find ways around it via advertisement or selling customer’s data. However telecom operators will see their only income come from monthly subscription fees that will only go downwards…

Freemium in telecom

September 9, 2010 2 comments

In recent years there has been a lot of startups that have successfully adopted the freemium business model. The freemium business model focuses on giving for free the basic service and charging for the usage of premium features. The basic service should be understood in a wide perspective. It can be a web application but also digital content like software, games, etc.

Telecom services tend to be paid for all the time by everybody. There is nothing like a free lunch in telecom. However Google has chosen the freemium business model for its Google Voice. You get a free voicemail application with voice transcription, visual voicemail, etc. If you want to make international calls then you pay.

Why is freemium better than premium?

More and more internet offerings rely on high volumes of users that use them. Even if you would get a copy of the Facebook platform, you would never be able to compete with them because they already have the established user base and all the social graphs that are linked to this user base.

If you launch a new service and you charge only €0.01 to use it, then the uptake is drastically lower than if it would be free. Imagine that you had a great business idea but the service uptake is going slow due to the initial signup charge, then this gives competitors a window of opportunity to copy the service. If the initial service is free then your uptake will probably not allow competitors to copy the service before it becomes mainstream.

If your new free service is successful then you can launch premium features and get advertisement revenues, hence converting it into a freemium service.

Where does freemium apply?

Freemium is not a hammer and all services are nails. Freemium applies best for innovative services that people are not familiar with. If it does not cost anything, you are willing to try.

Imagine a hypothetical service for improved “network quality of service – QoS” on demand called BoostMe. All users that have a slow ADSL connection (e.g. 1-3Mb) would be able to install a PC client that allows them to decide which applications or down/uploads they want to boost the network speed for.  The normal telecom thinking would be: “if you want to have faster ADSL why don´t you contract the 10MB or 20MB plan and pay extra?”. So this new application would cost money the moment you press the “Turbo Boost Me” button.

The freemium entrepreneur would think differently. If I have to develop an application to boost QoS and make necessary changes in my network, then this service is only profitable if at least 20% of the users download it. To make sure I get to the 20%, I can make the application usage free. Free at least until you reach certain limits. Limits could be hours per month or megabytes per month.

What would be the net effect? In the beginning, some early adopters would download BoostMe and see that it really works when they are uploading their heavy Youtube video. They would tell their friends and quickly viral marketing would do its work. However speed is addictive so pretty quickly people would get used to the faster speeds and either pay for extra BoostMe credits or switch to a premium ADSL plan. Additionally having a service with a mass adoption would mean that advertisers  become interested. Special advertising deals could be offered whereby you get BoostMe credits if you sign up for a music services, game services, social networks, etc. or if you buy new devices like WiFi routers, etc. The net effect will be that advertisers will pay a large chunk of the free services and the premium services guarantee the profits.

If you would have launched the BoostMe application as a pay as you go, then probably you would never have reached mass adoption and the service would be killed some months later.

From the cost side things look similar. In both cases you would have all the development, marketing and operation costs. If the service is not successful when it is free then it is definitely not successful if you have to pay for it. You would have lost your investment either way.

If the service is successful then after some time you can still convert it to a pay-as-you-go model. The trick is to call the initial service “beta” and to tell people that while in “beta” the service is free. This gives you the option to make the service paid when getting out of beta or to keep it as a freemium service if the model works…

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