In an industry struggling to compete with small, fast-moving competitors, KT chairman Suk-Chae Lee found a ready audience with his call for telcos to create a “global common market” for digital commerce.
It may be old wine in new bottles - essentially calling for a kind of super carrier app store - but his keynote speech also came with some warnings.
KT has suffered a 28% fall in voice revenue and 70% decline in SMS volumes over the last four years.
“Repair the window before it rains,” Lee said, quoting a Chinese proverb (in Chinese, which went down well). “When the symptoms become reality it will be too late to do anything.”
Lee urged operators to transform themselves into “producers of virtual goods,” or as “enablers" with some claim on revenue share.
He said telcos needed to think globally to enable them to compete against internet firms. “Why must telcos remain stagnant and in their home market, while Google and Amazon occupy global markets?”
The industry should heed some of the lessons of the failed WAC venture, he said. Operators needed to be light and agile and able to “compete in a unified global market for virtual goods by aggregating our segmented customers bases.”
He says KT has been trying create a global common market, like an app store, which would become a “new way of distributing virtual goods.”
Lee said he's found willing partners in Japanese and Chinese operators and has drawn interest from other operators as well.
KT has created a single all-IP network to cut costs, enabling it to integrate its entire fixed and mobile customer base, which was previously sorted into 'household' and 'individual'. With a unified base of 25m KT is now offering IPTV service over mobile.
Since upgrading to HTML 5 KT has also tried to position itself as platform for small content providers to distribute their services and content.
“We believe this new approach will allow everyone to become a distributor for virtual goods and at a higher level. It may sound like a long way from current reality but the global broadband market is on our doorstep already.”