SOURCE: The Boston Consulting Group

The Boston Consulting Group

April 15, 2013 00:01 ET

BCG Report Assesses Mobile's Transformative Impact and Potential

A Mobile "Health Check" for Companies

BOSTON, MA--(Marketwired - Apr 15, 2013) - In the year that mobile access will overtake fixed-line access as the world's primary way of going online, multiple technological, economic, and demographic factors are converging to give mobile the capabilities, scale, and reach achieved by few other technological advances, according to a new report by The Boston Consulting Group. In "Through the Mobile Looking Glass: The Transformative Potential of Mobile Technologies," BCG argues that the realization of this scale and reach is beginning to drive new waves of innovation in companies and economies around the world.

The BCG report outlines three main models of mobile's development. The operator-centric "collaborative" model is best exemplified in Japan, where mobile use is most advanced and has had the broadest consumer impact, driven substantially by aggressive partnership building by telco leader NTT Docomo. More than 500,000 merchants now participate in Docomo's mobile-payment service, for example.

The "competitive" model is most evident in the United States, where players at all levels of the mobile "stack" compete to provide products and services to other industry participants as well as to consumers. Although this model has created thousands of application entrepreneurs and driven mobile's penetration of many traditional industries, its impact is limited to some degree by fear of "frenemies." Many companies see the potential of mobile; they also fear that other players will use it to invade their turf.

A third, "greenfield" model is unfolding in many developing markets, such as India and several African nations, which have seen a big increase in the use of mobile phones over the past decade. In these countries, most consumers' experience with the Internet will be entirely through mobile devices and technologies.

"Forty years after the first mobile phone call, the playing field is uneven, but this does not necessarily benefit rich countries or nations with extensive telecommunications networks, as some might suppose," said David Dean, a BCG senior partner and coauthor of the report. "Innovation can come from anywhere and in fact may be more likely to come from places without legacy business models to protect. Perhaps more than any previous technological phenomenon, particularly an advance of such radical proportions, mobile has the potential to be a hard-hitting economic leveler."

Mobile's effect on different industries has thus far varied, and this will probably continue to be the case, although the principal difference ultimately is likely to be in speed of adoption rather than extent of impact. In the media and retail sectors, for example, mobile is hastening and deepening the disruption wrought by the Internet. By contrast, in health care, industry complexity and entrenched interests have thus far limited mobile's sway, even though consumers, providers, insurers, and other participants all recognize its potential to improve care and lower costs.

The BCG report argues that mobile's rapid development presents both policymakers and business leaders with a host of complex, rapidly evolving challenges. Governments are hampered by their inability to assess change and address its implications at anywhere near the speed of technological advancement. Companies can simplify the nature of the issues they face by putting their businesses through a "mobile health check" -- a roster of questions that clarify their readiness to operate in an increasingly mobile age.

"The overriding question that CEOs need to ask themselves is whether consumers and employees can engage with the company through the device of their choosing, at a time and place of their determination, and come away from the experience satisfied and having accomplished what they set out to do," said report coauthor Sampath Sowmyanarayan, a BCG partner and global leader of the telecom sector of the firm's Technology, Media & Telecommunications practice.

"The answer for most companies today is no. Those businesses that are first to be able to give an affirmative response will have a decided advantage as some 80 million Millennial consumers in the United States alone mature into full-fledged economic participants and the next billion consumers come online in developing markets. For these groups, their online experience is going to be 100 percent mobile."

A copy of the report can be downloaded at

To arrange an interview with one of the authors, please contact Eric Gregoire at +1 617 850 3783 or

About The Boston Consulting Group
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global management consulting firm and the world's leading advisor on business strategy. We partner with clients from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors in all regions to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their most critical challenges, and transform their enterprises. Our customized approach combines deep insight into the dynamics of companies and markets with close collaboration at all levels of the client organization. This ensures that our clients achieve sustainable competitive advantage, build more capable organizations, and secure lasting results. Founded in 1963, BCG is a private company with 78 offices in 43 countries. For more information, please visit

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