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CONNECT WITH: PAMELA CLARK-DICKSON

Hi Pamela, please introduce yourself.

My name is Pamela Clark-Dickson, and I’m a Principal Analyst in the Service Provider Consumer team at Omdia, which is part of the Service Provider & Communications research pillar. I’ve been covering the technology and telecommunications industries for over 20 years now, much of that time at Informa (the owner of Omdia). For most of the past 20 years I lived in Scotland, but three years ago I returned to my home town in Queensland, Australia. I have been a home worker for most of the past 20 years as well! In my role I cover Advanced Messaging and Communications, which means I track the strategies of telcos and messaging apps, application-to-person (A2P) communications service providers and vendors, and the rich communications services (RCS) ecosystem. I also cover players, strategies and developments in adjacent markets, including social media, Communications-Platform-as-a-Service (CPaaS), and WebRTC.

What are some criteria that you’ll be looking out for the awards?

When I judge awards, I tend to focus on three key criteria, although most awards have a set list of criteria by which judges are asked to evaluate award entries. What I think is most important in an awards entry is how the company demonstrates that their product or service is innovative and effective, and whether the entry is market-proven. For innovation, I’m looking for a product or service that attempts to solve a business problem in a new and creative way, or which carves out a new market niche. For effectiveness, I’m looking for a product or service that is of high value to the maximum addressable market. Finally, to assess whether a product or service is market-proven, I’m looking for KPIs that demonstrate high adoption and use.

What are some trends you’ve observed in OTT?

The three main key trends I’m observing at the moment are:

The increase in the use of video calling as a result of COVID-19.

The move towards end-to-end encryption across all communications services the apps offer, including video calling.

The increasing use of OTT messaging apps for business-to-consumer engagement and commerce.

All of the OTT messaging apps offer video and voice calling as well as messaging. COVID-19 has seen a rise in video calling across all platforms, not just Zoom and Teams. Messaging app users are becoming more accustomed to video calling as a consumer behavior, including in new cohorts such as the older generation, due to the social and travel restrictions imposed by the public health response to COVID-19.

OTT messaging apps are adding end-to-end-encryption (E2EE) for voice and video calling services, not just messaging. Of course this is a significant benefit to messaging app users, since it means that their communications remain private and secured, unlike their telco messaging and voice services, which can be legally tracked and intercepted. On the flip side, the addition of E2EE to messaging app communication services presents a significant challenge for law enforcement and national security agencies.

With regards to commerce, I generally tend to split OTTs by geography, because WeChat, KakaoTalk and Line are much more sophisticated apps for commerce, than the global apps such as iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Rakuten Viber and Signal.

WeChat, KakaoTalk and Line are platforms in which their users tend to live their daily lives, using them to access content and purchase goods and services, as well as for communications. Over the last 12-18 months in particular, we have seen that these apps have really focused on enabling commerce on their platforms. All of these apps offer payments (WeChat Pay, Kakao Pay, Line Pay), all have merchant networks at which their users can use their payments capabilities to purchase goods either online or offline, and they are all working to extend their respective payments capabilities beyond China, South Korea and Japan. For instance, WeChat already allows its users to buy goods and services in over 60 countries.

The global apps are also adding commerce to their platforms, but are moving more slowly, which is a function of them having to build services across multiple countries. But almost all of them now have a payments capability and a mechanism for enabling B2C engagement, so I would expect that as their payments services become available in more countries, that the level of commerce on these global apps will also grow.

During lockdown around the world, new apps like Houseparty and platforms like Zoom saw a humongous surge in downloads and usage. Now that lockdowns are easing, what is the future for such telecommunucations tools and how will they stay relevant?

I think that there will inevitably be a dip in use of group video-calling/conferencing apps as lockdowns ease and people resume lives with fewer social/travel restrictions. However, I think that during COVID-19, consumers have become accustomed to their use of these apps as an alternative to in-person meetings, classes or other events, and so will be happy to continue on with them for some use cases. Consumers may also find them more convenient to use than leaving the house or spending time in travelling, including in situations where they have to deal with traffic or a daily commute, and I think this factor will also promote their continued of group video-calling/conferencing. In addition, these apps became ‘battle-hardened’ during COVID-19 – Zoom in particular had to grow up quickly and invested a lot of money in shoring up its security capabilities – so there was a period of intense product development related to building robustly at scale and benchmarking features against competitors. As restrictions ease, the apps will take stock before deciding how they might further develop their platforms. But I think they will continue to remain relevant.

Will ConnecTechAsia be the first fully virtual event you’ll be attending/speaking at? How do you feel about the show going virtual?

Yes, it will be the first fully virtual event that I’ll participate in. I think it is a very worthwhile and necessary step to take ConnecTechAsia virtual, given the uncertainty around when international travel at scale will be possible again. I think people in the industry still do want to access content from speakers, and listen to panel discussions. On the pro side, I think people may appreciate not having to travel to get to such events, On the con side, people will miss the spontaneous meetings and discussions that arise during session breaks. It will be interesting to sit in my home office and chair a session from in front of my laptop – I expect it will feel a little strange to begin with. I also hope that the technology doesn’t let me down!

Finally, what do you like doing in your spare time?

In my spare time, I practice yoga, spend time with my family, cook, read, knit and garden. I am also learning to play the snare drum with our local Pipe Band.

Learn more about the awards and meet judge Pamela Clark-Dickson at ConnecTechAsia 2020, happening 29th September - 1st October. Register your visit here.