September 2010 - MEF prepares to launch the second phase of its Enablers Initiative
September 2010 - Build Super Apps using Smart Enablers webinar is now available
June 2010 - MEF Guide to Smart Enablers is now available
March 2010 - View archive webinar presentations from our series of Enablers Webinars.
MEF Global Enablers Initiative: Led by the BBC, mBlox and Vodafone
One of the enduring debates in the mobile industry has been whether operators are destined to become “dumb pipes”, carrying - but not sharing in - the value of mobile entertainment OR whether operators become “smart pipes”, where they add value and earn revenue by providing services to the content industry in return for money.
The global mobile entertainment industry is worth about $36 billion dollars, of which nearly half is based on the “off-portal” model. This has non-operator enterprises acting as content publishers and retailers, sourcing content and investing in services. In order to enhance and deliver their products, they can buy APIs from, for example, operators and handset manufacturers. These are increasing known as “enabling services” [such as payforit], which “enable” a third party to create, deliver and bill for their mobile content or service.
These enablers include bulk SMS, premium billing capability, shortcode number rental, and location lookups. The operators can therefore complement their downstream retail revenues from consumers with upstream revenue from third parties. They can do this either directly, such as when they sell bulk SMS, or indirectly such as when they engage in premium billing, and subtract a billing charge before passing on the payment to the third party.
Amongst content providers, there is a growing awareness that success is intimately dependent upon the quality – reliability and simplicity – of the user experience, and that these experiences can only be enhanced by enabling services, which alone can give the necessary visibility and control.
As a result of operator interest, many groups are working on defining and implementing a new generation of "smart” enabling services, both within national and international operator groups, as well as various operator industry groups. To date, the content industry has not been involved.
“Smart” enabling services are of fundamental importance to the mobile media industry because they determine the quality of the end user experience. For example, the success of retailers who used WAP Billing as a charging mechanism in their WAP storefronts proved to be critically dependent on the way that mobile phone numbers were made available to them during the course of the transaction. Therefore, the future success of the industry will be determined by the definition, cross-operator alignment, commercial model and regulation of “smart” enabling services.
At present, momentum is rapidly building amongst operators who are seeking to define such services. The issue is that these definitions are rarely – if ever – executed in collaboration with the content industry, and are often addressed at a purely technical level. There is thus a real risk that services will emerge that are:
- irrelevant or only partially address content providers’ needs
- embodiments of an unworkable or suboptimal business model
- taken up in a patchy manner, leaving key operators’ user bases uncovered in important markets
- misunderstood by the press or regulators, leading to unnecessarily negative or restrictive reactions
Such outcomes would permanently harm the mobile media industry.
This Initiative has therefore sought to give the industry its proper voice in the definition and promotion of smart enablers such as APIs for:
- handset capabilities
- user presence
- age verification
- sender-pays data
- data transmission quality of service instantiation
- data-bundle affiliate programme
- user demographic profile
- handset application control
- credit status
The Objectives of the Initiative
The MEF Enablers Initiative would have the overarching objective of promoting the most rapid implementation of a coherent, profitable and workable model for “smart” enabling services, to the benefit of the entire mobile entertainment industry. The ultimate objectives include:
- The implementation by operators of a coherent and market-focused set of smart enabling services, based on standards which fully recognise the needs of the content community
- The implementation of the “smart” enablers model by a large majority of operators, to ensure that the mobile media community can rely on complete operator coverage in its core markets
- The enthusiastic uptake of newly-available enabling services by content and service providers, so as to encourage operators to implement the broadest range of enabling services