In a panel cleverly titled “Carriers: The Elephant in the Room” here at GMIC SV in the heart of Silicon Valley, representatives of Sprint, Deutsche Telekom and Swisscom laid out their respective relevance as some of the biggest players in the app ecosystem. Contrary to popular perceptions, they contend that they are not completely cut out of revenue sharing in the very rapidly emerging app markets. In fact, there might be significant advantages for app developers to partner with a carrier: infrastructure, market penetration and access to a wide customer base.
Anne-Louise Kardas, Manager of Emerging Opportunities at Sprint Nextel says that it is untrue that the app revolution is passing carriers by with no revenue opportunities. She explains that the more the use of apps, the more data used, and thus the more data plans sold by carriers. Apps also display how capable the device is and drive additional adoption of smartphone plans. Its hard for the digerati to believe, but a lot of users are new to the smartphone world. With Sprint ID, which includes a bundle of apps, ringtones and content, customers can walk into a Sprint store and buy not just the device and the service, but also get help from the store to build a set of apps that they could use.
App developers seriously desiring a relationship with Sprint might want to use the self-serve tools on their website before they actually contact them. As you get more advanced, Sprint would be very interested to talk to you (especially if you are tied into any of the services they offer). Sprint, like other carriers, is looking for innovative gaming ideas around 4G and the capabilities of devices that Sprint carries.
Thomas Neubert, VP of Business Development at Deutsche Telekom also hinted at some new partnerships (strategic) coming up with mutual revenue share. When is the right time to work with a carrier? Anytime according to Mr Neubert. Developers should not be shy to knock on the doors of a carrier as there is a lot that carriers can offer . The US market might be very homogenous, but in the EU there are multiple languages, cultures and markets. DT can help with customization and access to these customers (Currently they are No. 1 or No. 3 in 15 countries of the EU, and they have also recently announced a physical incubator in Berlin). DT is looking for apps in the SMB marketplace, music, video and social space, if you are so inclined.
Ursula Oesterle, VP of Innovation at Swisscom says that select apps to go to market with clear revenue share to carriers. Swisscom seems to be particularly interested in the security aspects of apps. Saying that Swisscom brings brand, she claims they are a brand of trust. For privacy conscious customers, your data, financial or otherwise, are treated right. You can explore and discover more because there is a physical person to help you when things go bad. Regarding the right time to approach carriers, it would be beneficial if app developers approach the carriers at an opportune time. There are certain moments when there is a high focus on a specific market, such as the e-health market. If your app happens to match the current focus, you might be on the fast track!
Overall, if you are an app developer, carriers could be one of the biggest partners you had not thought to approach. They might be more receptive than you think!