Mike Short, vice president of public affairs, Telefonica O2

Mike Short, vice president of public affairs at Telefonica O2 Europe talks about the future of the mobile network operator.

February 8, 2010

4 Min Read
Mike Short, vice president of public affairs, Telefonica O2

By Mike Short

Mike Short, vice president of public affairs at Telefonica O2 Europe talks about the future of the mobile network operator.

The role of the operator is prone to change and, in 2020, that role will be much more diverse than it is today. We used to be called network operators, but the ‘network’ bit is not really there now. Already these days we do a lot more than would be conveyed by the term ‘operator’.

Network as the primary differentiator has ceased to be the main story in town. Operators already differentiate themselves through brand, service and distribution channels. Network-based competition doesn’t take into account the fact that customers want a combination of network services; they might want mobile and wifi and television. Our iPhone users are heavily reliant on a combination of wifi and cellular. The big debate is where these services come from. Not everyone will want to live in the Apple cloud or the Amazon cloud; some people will want combinations of these services or clouds. How many clouds will there be in 2020?

In 1995, we were already witnessing the beginning of network outsourcing. And now if you look at the number of staff a licensed operator has, the proportion dedicated to network activity has also diminished in favour of customer care, and sector initiatives to support a much broader audience.

In 2020 we will have to manage different distribution channels. We do that today, but by then they will have a much broader reach. We might be selling more in wireless healthcare or smart metering for the home, and the high street might not be the best way to sell those things. We might work with specialist energy companies or third parties that sell our services.

Health, energy, transport and education will change dramatically. In education we are already seeing the move to ebooks and mobile learning. That will not just be opened up by slates or smartphones but also by the wider availability of e-libraries.

If you look at healthcare, national health services cannot deliver all the care we need. It will cost a fortune and, with the ageing population in Europe, there are not enough carers. So we need new ways of looking at healthcare and an understanding of how communications can help these evolve, We think there will be more focus on prevention rather than cure, on health rather than illness. That means wearable devices, or self measurement. It’s about taking some ideas from the sports field and making them mass market.

For energy we’ll have smart metering by 2020. Wireless broadband will play a bigger part and that leads into the areas of smart grid and smart transport, for example electric vehicles. You need infrastructure to support electric vehicles, which is where location and navigation services are important. Mapping brings in context and relevancy.

Operators will move into sectors where we can offer more help. Scale will be much more important, and will have a bigger impact internationally. Trading of databases will be much more significant. The operators are more likely to consolidate globally, and that will play a part. We don’t know what will happen with the Chinese operators; we’ll have to see how they play out as they’re only in their own country today. But they need a global presence.

The internet changes everything and by 2020 we will be living our lives on the web in an internet 3.0 world. Web 1.0 was very much about looking at the web for information. Web 2.0 is much more about social networking and communities and Web 3.0 will be far more contextual; an environment where you have suggestions sent to you based on your profile, your ideas, things you might want. Equally the word ‘search’ will diversify a lot. We have word search today, but that will change to picture search or voice search.

We support the idea that cloud computing allows for the sharing of information across network. It’s the creation of an information sphere around the individual that is shareable across boundaries. Operators will have a more sophisticated method for exchanging databases, in compliance with data protection rules.

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2020 Vision

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