Strategy is often the source of evil. Enterprises think that 'strategy' will help them conquer new markets and higher profits, but in the end it either destroys them or they gain nothing.
Landline telephony providers this year have proven that point in excellence, as Current Analysis wrote in a report.
The story goes as follows: 2005 was supposed to be the year of fixed-mobile convergence in Europe. Landline operators would introduce subscription plans that allows consumers to use a single handset both at home and in the outside world. At home the device would function like a cordless phone, using the inexpensive copper wire connection, and outside it would turn into a genuine mobile phone.
Mobile providers were getting scared because there was little that they could do to counter this low cost, single bill competition. Or were they? This year they aggressively started piloting new services that aim to pull consumer fully into the wireless world, cancelling their landline phones.
Family plans offering discounted calling rates to a few numbers became a huge success in Spain. In Germany and Belgium providers are slowly moving towards true flat fee calling plans. And also in Germany providers started introducing local plans with different rates for calls places within a caller's area or cell and long distance calls.
Other plans were less successful. One operator in Belgium for instance unsuccessfully launched a budget calling plan that tried to bring down the cost of mobile telephony by removing features.
The lesson here is one of basic instincts. These mobile operators only launched their news calling plans after they learnt about the landline operators' plans to introduce fixed-mobile convergence services. No doubt they will later claim that a stroke of genius made them do it, but in reality they only became creative after they started feeling threatened.
And the incumbents? Their convergence plans never took off. In the UK British Telecom has launched a consumer offering but is struggling to unveil its plan for small and medium businesses on time (it's promised for December but will likely slip into early 2006). Others might follow next year, but by then their competitors have sharpened their teeth.
The study of strategy is fascinating and highly amusing.
Because, as one highly successful comic writer and former strategist once phrased it to me: "We had to do strategy because our shareholders expected us to. But in reality we were just responding to what the rest of the world was doing, just like everybody else does."
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