Mobile Operators Now Destined to Die
The past month has been an exciting month as the Apple loyalist enjoy the pre-holiday season onslaught of new gadgets, tech and funky new services. Along with the advent of Apple Pay, the iPhone 6 and the stunning update to the iPad line up, Apple snuck in an advancement that shows a deep desire to disrupt one of the most embedded industries in our daily lives.
Quietly coupled into Apple’s new iPad line (iPad Mini 3 & iPad Air 2) was the Apple Sim. A purpose built SIM that allows the user to switch between mobile operators on the fly. What appears like a clever little invention has deep impacts into the future of mobile operators. You see today your mobile operator holds somewhat of a ransom, as we hungrily seek constant connectivity. Apple’s new SIM removes the last physical connection we have with mobile operators, the SIM.
Let’s think this through for a second. If you no longer need the only physical artifact from the mobile operators, and can switch between providers at will - What real value do they contribute individually other than price competitiveness?
One of the key enablers for ongoing mobile operator success is that switching requires an investment of time. Remove that barrier, and the marker becomes a free for all. This is great for driving cost effective digital inclusion, as operators will be forced to lower service costs through the power of fluid and completion. But could the disruption go deeper?
The first simple way forward is the step away from over indulgent roaming charges. The Apple SIM works seamlessly across the US and the UK, granting the consumer direct access to services at local costs.
But the quantum leap comes when we apply the model to the SIM we carry in our smart phones. In a world where our MSISDN (phone number) is becoming less relevant, we suddenly stand on the cups of a new era in communications technology. Already the broad adoption of the OTA messaging platforms such as WeChat, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, even iMessage means the need for MSISDN based services like SMS/MMS falls away. Coupled with the advancement of 5G connectivity and OTA voice players, we edge closer to a world where the voice and SMS networks are no longer needed. Could we soon live in a world where the MSISDN is no longer needed?
If this is the case, the mobile operators lose their most critical connection with the consumer. Opening the door for an Apple SIM for the phone.
Imagine that; a world where you can switch operators in all countries based on your connectivity needs and pricing. A pure software based relationship with our connectivity provider.
If your mind likes to think into the future, you would have already drawn the obvious conclusion; a software relationship negates the need for the SIM entirely. Opening the door for companies like Apple to build the SIM technology into their devices, making signing up for a mobile connection as easy as creating an iCloud account. And then comes the nail in coffin for mobile operators.
In the not too distant future, the value of having a customer constantly connected will be higher than the cost of subsidising their connection costs. Shift the power to the likes of Apple, Google and Facebook. Killing the mobile operators entirely.