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Creating sustainable business for mobile operators through network sharing and outsourcing


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Mobile operators continue to generate innovative ideas to excite consumers and fuel growth in usage and revenues. But they face real challenges in building sustainable businesses. Growth in traditional access services has slowed, and revenue growth from new services can bypass mobile operators’ ability to add value or even charge for the services used. So does this mean mobile operators should stand by and watch margins reduce to near zero?

To secure long-term profitability mobile operators must focus on reducing network costs by lowering the cost per bit carried. Network sharing and network outsourcing present two options for achieving this.

Network sharing and outsourcing – what are the options?

Network and IT expenditure typically constitutes 75% of capital expenditure and 45% of operational cost per annum for a mature mobile operator. These figures indicate the potential scale of targeted cost efficiencies in these areas. Sourcing options to reduce the cost of the network include:

  • Site sharing: Site rental and maintenance can account for 10% of overall operational costs for mobile operators, so the relatively small step of site sharing can have significant benefits

  • Real estate outsourcing: Implemented in conjunction with site sharing, real estate outsourcing further increases savings on network costs. This approach can also have an immediate impact on the operator’s bottom line through an upfront payment from the outsourcer

  • Network outsourcing: Network outsourcing has a greater impact on profitability than site sharing and real estate outsourcing. It is not unusual for operators to save up to 20% of costs through outsourcing the network to a managed service provider

  • Network sharing: Network sharing can reduce costs even further, particularly by targeting overcapacity in low-traffic areas. Overcapacity is usually hidden by the overall profitability of a network but, in PA’s experience, up to 80% of sites have insufficient traffic to achieve payback. This tends to apply to multiple mobile operators covering the same area, making a powerful case for some form of network sharing.

Making network sharing and outsourcing a success

Ultimately the preferred network sharing or outsourcing option depends on how ambitious the mobile operator is in terms of saving costs and taking risks, as well as what is possible under local regulatory or market conditions.  In practical terms, there is a range of models that operators can use to realise these options. These include forming a joint venture with competitors, or outsourcing the network to a specialist managed services provider. To achieve successful network sharing or managed network services, operators must agree contracts that reflect the network’s continuing role as a source of strategic advantage. The mobile operator’s retained organisation that manages the network outsourcing agreement therefore has to retain control of strategic technology and quality of service decisions.

In the last five years, PA has completed over 20 successful network outsourcing and sharing projects. Our network sharing and outsourcing experience includes working with European mobile operators, from strategy to implementation, to achieve significant savings while increasing performance.

To find out how PA can help you get the best deal from network sharing or oursourcing, contact us now.

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