Last week, Alcatel-Lucent made a bold move announcing they would help bridge the gap between MNOs and application developers with the introduction of their Application Exposure Suite.The suite is essentially an application aggregation play offering developers a one-stop shop to as many MNOs as A-L can sign on. Its bold for two reasons:
1) While it is a bit afield from A-Ls core network infrastructure HW business, A-L needs to find new revenue streams. Network infrastructure players are not exactly in an enviable position these days (see Nortel, Nokia-Siemens)
2)Aggregators will be essential to the growth of mobile applications, and there are no major players in the space right now.A-L was shrewd to jump in and contend in the space which to date has seen MNOs fending for themselveswith application developers (see Vodafone, Orange, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon)
While A-L has correctly identified a significant need and barrier to mobile application growth, the company faces several challenges to becoming successful with their offering:
1) Aggregator business cases are classic chicken-egg challenges does A-L need to convince a significant MNO to sign on as a customer to attract application developers, or do they need to secure a certain amount of compelling app developers to sign on an MNO?Most likely the latter.
2) Developer business case.How do developersreach subscribers withnon A-L customers?Lets say A-L fictitiously signs with SFR in France, but not with Orange or Bouygues.An application developer must determineif SFRs subscriber base represents enough addressable market to support a French business case.If it does not, then the developer must determine how to reach other mobile subscribers in France and how much it will cost them to do so.
3) Standardized development within A-L platform. Will A-Ls platform offer standardized APIs and capabilities to an app developer across A-L's MNOs? Is it realistic to think each A-L MNO will agree to A-Ls standardized APIs? Most likely not.That meansthe product, pricing and customer experience could be vastly different by MNO, making it difficult for the developer to market it.
Other initiatives are underway that might lead to a better situation for both MNOs and application developers. GSM Associations One API initiative, mobile web standards within the W3C and the BONDI project are pursuing standards for mobile web development. Aggregators who can leverage standards coming out of these initiatives might find acceptance from both MNOs and application developers.