You can develop many different business models to satisfy clients’ needs but each is, at its core, the result of three factors: Vision, creativity and technological development.
Let’s take the future of the Internet as an example. It has become a favorite subject now and we are able to analyze different business models developed by the various players which are now present, focusing on the “broadband frontier” and its future applications.
We now have two coexisting technologies, with different potentials:
- Inmastar and Thuaraya satellite nets take advantage of geostationary orbits (at about 36.000 km above Earth) and are used by media, armies and other subjects in international connections and to reach places where no other connection is available. On the other hand, Globalstar and Iridium use lower orbits (at about 780 km above Earth), and they need more satellites but provide better services. Iridium ensures voice communication, SMS and data exchange with a 100% coverage of the whole planet (including oceans, airspace and the Poles). The new Iridium satellites, built by Thales Alenia Space consortium, will be launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
- ADSL, 3G/4G and optical fiber land nets managed by the various players to provide coverage on continents, Nations, and cities all have different business models: some focused on transoceanic backbone optical fiber connections and on closing deals to become global players, others, like Fastweb, focused first on pervasively covering a single city (Milan) and then expanded in other Italian cities. Other players take advantage of ether for data coverage.
In our hyper-connected Internet-obsessed world, where more and more smartphones and tablets are bought and used every day while the “Internet of Things” develops at an exponential rate, the demand for broadband connection keeps growing. This is why competition in the market is getting more and more aggressive, creative and visionary.
And it really seems to have come a time where “the sky’s the limit” is no longer just an idiom. Many want to try and expand using HAPs (High Altitude Platforms) to connect about 3 billion people who still don’t have a stable access to the Internet and answer the “needs” of those who already have a connection but demand higher performances.
In the pack of contenders the giants of Internet connection are obviously present, and each has their own strategy and vision….
- Zuckerbergis thinking about drones (called Eagles): big, light unmanned drones which can fly using solar power and cover areas previously lacking coverage
- Google wants to use balloons (the Project Loons), which can float twice as higher than regular planes and reflect the signals down to Earth through their antennas. The company expects that mobile users will connect to the balloons to expand coverage in signal-less areas in the future.
But let’s forget for a moment about the “usual suspects”, we now want to examine the ambitious project of the “new American Steve Jobs”, Elon Musk. Musk is planning on launching over 4.400 low orbiting satellites – low orbits produce more powerful signals and less lag – through his SpaceX to provide a Global Internet. He could then outperform all the other contenders either for land and satellite coverage. He plans on covering first the USA and moving then to the world.
I would like to highlight here that Visionary Musk’s strength point really is his Vision, a global project designed for everyone and everything – not just for people in remote areas of the world –. He conceived a system which is adaptable, flexible and scalable in order to “follow broad- and ultra-band services demand evolution and to be interoperable with existing and future systems”.
If this project is successful, it can be a game changer for many players, so much that SpaceX reportedly expects revenues to probably exceed $ 30 billion for 2025 (source: Wall Street Journal) – six times more than what Musk earns with his rockets – and operating profits to rise above $ 20 billion.
This visionary project could give Musk the money for his SpaceX ultimate and even more ambitious goal: a Mars colony, complete with satellite Internet connection.
Satellite Internet connection could be then just the end justifying the means; Elon knows, in fact, how difficult it is for Venture Capitals to comprehend the benefits of this Mission, which reach beyond any human understanding.
Musk’s idea leads us to reflecting on how human brain functions: data, information and value offers are not enough when it comes to selling innovative products. We all know the saying “I will believe that when I see it”. But when it comes to innovation, “I will see that when I believe it” is often true. To sell your idea, you must change not only what your clients, suppliers, and investors think but how they think as well.
Each to their vision, each to their business model and each to their dream but thinking global, starting local, always wins!