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Mobile operators attempts to increase revenues through corporate data services are doomed to failure unless they can provide more than just devices and airtime.

This is according to a new report from research firm Datamonitor which looks at how mobile operators currently address the corporate data solutions market and examines where future opportunities lie.

The study notes that mobile operators such as O2 and Vodafone are increasingly targeting business customers with corporate data solution offerings such as Blackberry devices and other PDAs. However, while Datamonitor believes that mobile email solutions present a huge opportunity for such companies, it argues that operators will need to differentiate themselves more if they wish to meet with success when introducing more advanced solutions.

Beyond mobile email, opportunities are limited, as operators will not retain customer ownership, Datamonitor says. Instead, operators will need to partner with value-added-resellers and system integrators - with their only real bargaining chip being to reduce airtime costs.

"Operators claim that they are able to differentiate according to factors such as quality of service, ease of solution implementation, solution simplicity, partner strength, innovative and competitive pricing, strong security and through the size of their network footprint," said Richard Clifford, Datamonitor analyst and author of the report.

"In reality, though, these things are taken as given by enterprises. While some may come to market with a particular solution before the competition, it tends just to be a matter of time before others respond in kind and any differentiation is quickly eroded - before a first-mover advantage can be established."

According to Datamonitor, one way to achieve a substantial differentiator and establish a significant hold in the high-value mobile solution market would be to acquire an IT services capability. This would represent a significant departure from a mobile operator's core business though, and to date there has been little inclination to do this.

The research firm argues that unless operators take dsteps such as this they will be left fighting it out for low value mobile email implementations and undercutting on price to generate channel partners for more advanced solutions.

"Mobile operators are increasingly targeting business customers, though corporate data solution offerings are not what could be termed comprehensive. Although they are all trying to move up the value chain, they simply don't have the necessary skills to do this effectively and are left competing purely on price," Clifford said. ®

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