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Recent results have shown just how tough times are for mobile operators, writes Rob Bamforth, of Bloor Research. Not only a market increasingly saturated with existing customers, competitive pressures from overseas, but also the 3G-license millstone they'd expected to be a milestone. No wonder there are so many proclaiming they have the solution the operators need.

The problem for operators is this. Do they go for a short-term solution that gives them a quick fix to the problem of Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)? Or do they go for a time-consuming re-architecture to create an open service delivery platform (SDP) to tackle the longer-term challenge of Average Profit Per User (APPU)?

The problem with building an open SDP is, if starting from scratch, it could take longer than your finances allow. There are so many pieces and players to bring together. There are also precious few standards.

So how about if a number of the companies got together and did some of the work in advance by pre-integrating around a software architecture from one major player?

This is precisely what BEA has done with their announcement this week at SUPERCOMM 2003 of their SDP WebLogic Service Delivery Solution.

What BEA actually announced is a virtual solution or 'market-ecture' based on BEA WebLogic Platform 8.1. The main part of the solution from BEA is essentially their current product, but they've spent engineering time and effort with partners to do the bulk of the pre-integration work. This should enable a homogenous and extensible application infrastructure for mobile operators to evolve their SDP as new requirements arise.

The benefit to the mobile operator is this. Reduced time to build a service delivery solution around an open framework of co-operative partners. Reduced costs for ongoing management. Better APPU.

Partner relations are a key part in any open model. The immediate challenge for BEA is how they manage these relationships. Too many will bring too much competition and complexity whilst too few will limit the scalability and effectiveness of their SDP solution.

There are the usual raft of big names in the announcement - Intel, HP and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young all add weight and credibility to the plan. However it's the lesser-known names, with important specialisation and products - Appium, Elata, Incomit, MobileAware, Open Cloud, Ubiquity, Ulticom, Volantis, and Wysdom - who provide the spice.

There is another challenge for BEA or anyone offering a complete service delivery platform.

There are a number of simpler solutions from other vendors which operators could employ to increase ARPU from a subset of the data services spectrum. So why build a sophisticated, all embracing open SDP?

Long term the reason might be the growing costs if a broad portfolio of services necessitates managing a growing number of service delivery platforms.

However, if revenues from wireless data services are expected to grow to over $120 billion by 2006, as some predict, it's very likely that operators will have to deploy a range of platforms in order to offer a range of services. The more the vendors of SDPs work together in the meantime, the better the prospect of lower costs and reduced time to market for the operators.

© IT-Analysis.com

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