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January 22, 2016

What Carriers Should Learn about Their Business: AKA, 'WhatsApp Lessons'

My cynical friend sent me a note about the history of WhatsApp. He was complaining that “We in the IETF presence community” missed the opportunity.

I am not sure that’s accurate, but it is a good starting point for this article.

In the past he would point to Skype as a lesson to be learned.

You see ‘presence’ only if it is accurate and contextual. However, in telecom services the detection of presence has not been a priority. SS7 was built to protect the network, not complete the call. SS7 serves the function of call completion but its history is to defend against phone hacks and manage congestion. As an add-on because of wireless power range, the use of SS7 to support SMS (aka text) was developed.

Understand that we see that What’sApp uses its presence to, in effect, do the exact opposite of SS7. The presence function gives the user choices and preferences to push to their friends rich media in various forms.

While we talk about real time, the reality is that the system enables users to do things asynchronously.

Here is the point of this article: What went wrong was the carriers did not embrace the over-the-top nature of the IM and figure out how to absorb it into something new and different. In effect the signal history made the adoption too hard to accept.

Now this same cynical friend came to the conclusion that Skype would dominate the world about ten years ago, and clearly that did not occur.

So, is it too late for the carriers to adopt an over-the-top strategy?

Yes, and no.

Yes, it was clear in the failure of cooperation with the exchange they tried to build that the carriers could not find a revenue model that allowed them to exchange messaging better than what exists with SS7.

No, because they have the opportunity to join the party and build some additional value into their services. However, it should be an over-the-top service that can be universal.

Strangely, one carrier got close to this when it worked with Blackberry to incorporate Blackberry into its signaling path. Unfortunately it stayed closed to the carrier and to Blackberry.

It is possible for the leopard to change its stripes. It just has ask, WhatsApp?

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

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