The future of telecom is in brands, i.e. in mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) who have the brand, not the network.
As I investigate future applications and future directions for our Mobile Place platform, I end up talking with strategists at the major mobile operators. They're in a tough position and they know it. They want to preserve their walled gardens and the associated revenues as long as possible, and yet they can't ignore their users' desires to connect to other communities -- AOL, MSN or Yahoo instant messengers, for example.
Communities are critical, but they form around user interests and/or brands, e.g. Disney Mobile. And as communications costs continue to drop, it will be easier and easier to fund communications via brands seeking a moment of your attention, e.g. the way Internet search is funded. Again brands are more important than networks.
In this survey, Vodafone (at # 40) is the highest ranking mobile operator. There are only two mobile operators in the top 70 global brands (NTT DoCoMo is #69). Not only are Google, Yahoo, Amazon and Microsoft ahead of Vodafone, but so are handset vendors Nokia (#7) and Motorola (#30).
There's still an enormous amount of technology and government licenses required to make a mobile network, so the mobile operators are not going away. But as this speculative article about Vodafone Japan suggests,
Vodafone President Bill Morrow has already said the company is talking to as many as 30 potential MVNOs. Japanese and international entertainment companies, local retailers and established MVNOs...
the biggest long term opportunity may be to facilitate many, many MVNOs on their networks, catering to many, many communities.