How Can Wireless Carriers Remain a Go-To Source for Mobile Business Apps?

Sep 26, 2017

Wireless carriers were the earliest champions of mobile B2E (business-to-employee) apps. How can they remain a preferred provider in a market bursting with new competitors?

Frost & Sullivan defines mobile B2E applications as software solutions that allow remote and mobile employees real-time access to -- and exchange of – information, collaboration, and/or guidance via their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. (These solutions are also called mobile worker apps.)

The first mobile-centric, cloud-based, subscription-priced mobile B2E app developers needed an affordable channel to the small and mid-sized business population they were targeting. They recognized that wireless carriers brought a unique set of strengths as resellers and mobility partners, including:

  • Carriers have both a high-touch communications and billing infrastructure already in place to serve their embedded customer bases.
  • Carriers provide the key ingredient (network) for mobile communications.
  • Carriers are able to offer customers one-stop-shop convenience (app, device, network, support).

These advantages persist today, however, the market has become significantly more competitive in recent years, especially in the mid-market space. Why?  Because larger desktop-based software developers eventually realized they had to mobilize their apps.  And now they are leveraging larger budgets and/or the relationships they established with the desktop side of customers’ IT departments to sell their own mobile B2E apps.

As a result, sentiment regarding wireless carriers as mobile app partners has been shifting, with wireless carriers being ranked farther back in the pack as preferred providers.

Carrier reaction to these evolving market dynamics has been mixed.  Their current mobile B2E app strategies can be segmented into three broad types: No Participation, Stagnant, or Dynamic.

The Dynamic carrier offers a set of mobile B2E solutions and regularly evaluates how best to adjust and promote these offerings.  Some of the issues that the Dynamic carrier proactively wrestles with include:

  • What is our strategic objective in this market?
  • What specific solutions should be added or discontinued?
  • Who is our target market?
  • Which app vendors should be selected as partners?
  • Should a custom solutions capability be made available?
  • Are we a reseller, or is our role only to promote and refer?
  • Should our carrier brand be applied?
  • What is the optimal price point and pricing model?
  • Should we offer a bill-on-behalf-of capability?

Visionary carriers are enriching the North American mobile B2E app market by innovating in select areas, one of which is verticalization.  The vast majority of mobile B2E app portfolios contain only horizontal solutions.  These horizontal apps are an excellent start, however, they can be less than optimal in certain industries and leave key worker needs unaddressed.

One historical exception to this situation has been the Canadian carriers’ strategy to include a lone worker safety app in their portfolios. This particular app is targeted at the energy extraction industry for use in the remote Canadian oil and gas fields.

A more current example can be found in the today’s Verizon portfolio.  Verizon has begun to selectively vet and select more vertical-specific apps, with its first entry being the STING solution suite for government first-responders (from Intrepid Networks).

Other high-potential verticals with unique mobile B2E app needs could include home healthcare agencies, construction firms, real estate, etc.

As one way to move to the front of the mobile B2E app pack, wireless carriers are encouraged to selectively expand and deepen their mobile B2E app portfolios by working with their customers and potential application developer partners to think vertical.

More of our thinking around wireless carriers and the mobile B2E apps market can be found in the Frost & Sullivan study, “Wireless Carrier Strategies and Growth Opportunities in Mobile Business-to-Employee (B2E) Apps: Navigating an Intensifying Mobile Worker Apps Market,” 9ABE-2B, September 2017 at www.frost.com.


Jeanine Sterling

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