When Will Wireless Carriers Wake Up And Smell The Opportunity?

When Will Wireless Carriers Wake Up And Smell The OpportunityIt’s no secret that the mobile ecosystem has shifted indefinitely from the days of providing simple voice and text capabilities to a new world immersed in mobile data, full Web functionality, advanced devices and endless possibilities.  With innovative startups and third-party mobile providers already hitting the ground running in terms of utilizing mobile’s bright future, the backbone of the ecosystem — the wireless carriers — remain hopelessly in the dark.

With Google’s release of the Nexus One, there was a lot of discussion about how Google could “disrupt the wireless ecosystem,” by not only distributing the device itself, but by having complete control of one device from hardware development to the software it runs.  This kind of control would give Google something the wireless carriers have never had- mainly numerous revenue streams from device sales to OS-based advertising revenue and more.

Though the launch of the Nexus One and Google’s purposed “shake-up” of the wireless landscape has yet to prove itself, it has shown once and for all that consumers are ready for a change in how they sign-up, access and utilize their wireless service.  Wireless carriers could follow the same path, but with one extraordinary advantage- complete access and control over the pipe that fuels any and all mobile innovation.

It continues to amaze me that startups and advertising companies are creating advanced mobile marketing and advertising solutions that take into account audience demographics, location-targeting and numerous other user-specific data points to fuel innovation in the fast-moving mobile advertising segment, while the wireless carriers — who have uninterrupted access to an endless supply of unique user-data — sit idle doing absolutely nothing while sitting on a goldmine of potential.

There isn’t a mobile-ad startup around that wouldn’t do just about anything for access to wireless carrier location data and user-preference and consumer data to improve their software and solutions.  Still, these startups seem to make it work by acquiring location data in ’round-about ways, such as cell-tower triangulation and other marginally accurate methods.  We’ve seen what mobile-ad startups can accomplish without such access, just think what could be possible with it, or what wireless carriers could do themselves.

This is why carriers need to wake up and smell the opportunity that’s before them.  In all fairness, it’s likely that they already have, but are scared to travel down the rough road of consumer privacy and opt-in that can be unforgiving if not traveled properly.  Still, carriers must realize that by developing a well thought out mobile advertising and marketing solution based of the mounds of data it continues to acquire about its subscribers, it would not only help them realize new revenue potential, but also flip the mobile landscape and especially the mobile advertising ecosystem on its back.

The reason Google has the potential to alter the mobile landscape is based solely on its immense reach and virtually endless supply of resources.  Wireless carriers are blessed with the same situation, and even more so in many regards.  What’s stopping them from developing a simple SaaS-based solution that gives mobile advertisers full-access to the data needed to fully realize their potential?  Furthermore, what’s stopping carriers from providing a simple set of APIs to allow startups and third-parties to access their pipe of data to shed new light on what’s possible with the right information.

In doing so, carriers could realize revenue potential like never before, even rivaling that of subscriber fees that keeps them afloat today.  Besides making their data available for developers and mobile advertising companies, they themselves could capitalize on mobile advertising to one day be able to subsidize the growing cost for subscribers, for example.  If wireless service is cheaper with company A because they offer ad-based subsidies, subscribers would flock.

I realize there’s many hurdles to wireless carriers getting in on the mobile advertising game, but those hurdles are rapidly being overcome.  Carriers becoming more open and allowing better access to their data is a shift that’s needed to realize the true potential mobile advertising is already showing us.  Maybe I’m off base here, but carriers need to finally wake up and realize the truly unique situation they’re in.  Let me know what you think- do you agree, disagree?  Am I missing something here?