Why ISPs are Like PC Manufacturers

Four are the main reasons why every legacy access provider (satellite, cable TV, telco, fixed wireless, independent Internet access provider) must constantly and seriously engage in an effort to discover and create big new revenue sources.

New competitors are crossing traditional industry boundaries; policy supports more competition; technology itself enables new forms of competition; and all apps and services now essentially are part of a single “computing industry.”

First, all legacy revenue sources are diminishing, under direct and indirect product substitution (over the top apps and services) as well as changing consumer preferences (on demand services displacing linear; apps replacing carrier services).

Second, both technology and policy now allow a much-wider range of competitors to enter any market (Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Travelocity, Netflix, Skype, Hangouts, Messenger, WhatsApp).

Third, Moore’s Law enables everything from cheaper devices to new delivery modes to use of resources that could not, in the past, be tapped.

Fourth, with the fundamental separation of apps from access, and with the rise of cloud-based app sourcing, every supplier now is, more or less, part of a bigger computing industry. That Google and Facebook--both technology companies--have business models based on advertising provides one clear example.

On that last point, consider what personal computer manufacturers have faced, namely a relative devaluing of hardware in favor of software. Computing operations now are “commoditized,” with resultant lower profit margins and gross revenue.

“Our historical industry categories obscure a bigger reality: we are all just part of a distributed computing industry,” says consultant Martin Geddes.

If access providers now are akin to hardware suppliers in the computing industry (they enable apps and computing resources to be used), then both revenue diminution and profit pressures are to be expected.

And that is why the discovery of big new replacement revenue sources is so important.
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