If one accepts the notion that the mobile business was built on customer revenues generated by voice, then messaging, then Internet access, one might also agree that, at some point, as voice and messaging decline, so will the ability of Internet access to sustain the revenue growth model.
If so, then a fourth wave of industry growth is necessary. Precisely what that wave will entail is the question. Most observers think third party apps will play a key role, as mobile service providers move to supply third party business partners with network-based services and features.
Many observers would argue a full flowering of that strategy is impossible so long as “best effort only” access services are lawful, since the most obvious value an access provider can provide to a business partner is assured delivery and quality of service.
There are some obvious implications. Unlike revenue sources in the first three waves, it is highly likely that the discrete revenue opportunities in a fourth wave, if based on revenue earned largely from over the top app providers partnering in some way with access providers, will be highly fragmented.
Unlike the largely undifferentiated voice, text messaging and mobile Internet access revenue streams, the fourth wave might feature lots of discrete markets, none of them remotely as large as the voice, text messaging or Internet access markets.
That will put new pressure on mobile service providers to control or reduce overhead costs, and create many sophisticated new forms of value to sell to potential business partners. The over-used phrase “agile” comes to mind, but the appellation is not far from the mark. Access providers will have to be much more nimble than in the past to support the many new types of business partners.
The danger, of course, is that other providers could enter the market. Some obvious names typically bandied about include Google, Apple, Amazon, Twitter, Microsoft, Facebook, Visa or PayPal.