Canadian mobile service provider Rogers Communications will offer the new BlackBerry 10 devices on its LTE network, beginning in early 2013. Rogers is the first operator to announce that it will sell the new, long-awaited smartphones made by Research In Motion (RIM).
As a Canadian company, RIM is a homegrown supplier for Rogers, and it is understandable that Rogers would want to support its fellow countrymen. Altruism aside, we think it is a good move by the operator. For despite its recent troubles, RIM has shown that it can be a world-class smartphone provider. It clearly understands the industry, including the changes that have taken place since it was the dominant player, and has, we believe, fully grasped the nature of its own shortcomings. Moreover, RIM still garners a good deal of respect among enterprises, and its popularity in emerging markets has held up quite well. All in all, we think it has a legitimate chance of making a comeback, especially if it receives the support of operators worldwide.
From our perspective, MNOs should be lining up to help RIM, for if the turnaround succeeds it could break the current duopoly of Apple (iOS) and Google (Android), which has placed operators in a subordinate position with regard to profits from mobile services. Rogers may be performing a patriotic act by partnering with RIM, but other operators should be following suit, because it is to their benefit to foster a more competitive smartphone/OS marketplace. We believe RIM represents a viable alternative to Google and Apple. It is not a startup, but instead a competitor with deep experience and many assets that can be leveraged.
One particularly efficient and effective way for MNOs to help RIM, and thereby themselves, is to offer customers attractive incentives to purchase Blackberry 10 devices. Our favorite approach is to lower the actual monthly subscription price for subscribers choosing a Blackberry, regardless of the plan selected. We also like the idea of issuing vouchers that can be used by Blackberry subscribers either to purchase accessories or as a credit to be used against any future usage charges. In effect, we are arguing for operators to institute segmentation pricing that favors the Blackberry, at least initially. And it should be done in a high profile way to make sure as many customers and prospects as possible know about these attractive deals.