OPINION: Wireless carriers entrench with marketing partnerships

Sometimes in this business a story opportunity doesn’t pan out the way you thought it might. There’s no news; the news there is isn’t relevant to your audience; the angle’s really not what you thought it was.

A recent case in point: I had a briefing with the folks from Rogers regarding their new Wireless Box Office service in conjunction with music promoter Live Nation. The service allows mobile users to buy tickets from Rogers’ preferred pool from their handset, with the “ticket” — a 2-D bar code — sent to the handset as an MMS message. The phone literally becomes the ticket, which, let’s face it, is kinda cool.

However, from the network perspective, it’s a little thin. No new infrastructure. No new technology. Heck, not even a new handset. For news value, a bit of a head-scratcher.

When life hands me a lemon, I cut it into wedges and ask for an iced tea — I’m really not that big on lemonade. Chewing it over, though, the announcement really does underline a couple trends in the wireless market.

Network World Canada

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First up, there are still many new mobile application possibilities that aren’t dependent on next-gen technology. There are some great examples in Howard Solomon’s story, 10 young Canadian wireless companies worth watching.

Second, carriers are increasingly looking to marketing partnerships, not necessarily technological ones, to differentiate.

There must be some sense of urgency for the incumbents to get these deals done — now — and not just to earn share from each other. There is a wireless spectrum auction coming up, and the incumbents will be facing more competition — in, perhaps, a year or so. The more marketing deals like this, the more bundling, the more a user can do without leaving the platform they hold in their hands, the deeper entrenched and more insulated the incumbents are from the coming competition. And the harder the new entrants will have to work to gain share in a market where churn isn’t a significant factor.

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