The response strategies of incumbent mobile network operators on the disruptive potential of public W-LAN in Germany
This paper examines how three incumbent mobile network operators (MNOs) in Germany responded in terms of their strategy to the emergence of the wireless local area network (W-LAN) technology and how they interpreted this potentially disruptive technology in their own strategic context. Additionally, prior empirical results and forecasts on the limited disruptive potential of W-LAN for the German MNOs lacked persuasive firm-level evidence to distinguish the real reason for the presented observations and analysis. So far it was unclear whether the observations were caused by successful response strategies of incumbent MNOs or by the inherent limited disruptive potential of the W-LAN technology. For this purpose case studies of three major MNOs in Germany were performed to assess and compare their respective response strategies. Using the theoretical framework of disruptive technology, the results were evaluated in a cross-case analysis to study how these firms interpreted and reacted to the potential disruptiveness of W-LAN. The results indicate significant differences for the respective MNOs between their perception of W-LAN as a potential disruptive technology, their strategic development processes inside the organisation to understand the potential impact of W-LAN on their respective business model, and to enforce an appropriate response strategy and structural implementation. This incumbent heterogeneity depends primarily on their idiosyncratic strategic and structural context. These findings reveal that the incumbent MNOs in Germany were aware of the disruptive technology concept but did not react in a theory-conform way. However, since W-LAN had a sustaining impact on the MNOs and their response strategies followed sustaining reaction patterns, earlier studies, which show a limited disruptive potential of W-LAN for the German MNOs, are supported.
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Volume (Year): 35 (2011)
Issue (Month): 6 (July)
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