The Next Stop, M2M: Biggest Trend of Our Time?

Posted: November 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events, Telecom Trends | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

During my recent attendance at Management World Americas, it became clear that the subject of machine-to-machine communications (M2M) had progressed from the innovative discussion stage into concepts and uses within real industry verticals.

I listened to an interesting session in which the presenters noted that M2M may well, in fact, be the biggest trend of our time; however, as it currently provides only one percent of mobile revenue, communications service provider (CSP) investment is being held back.

What the market seeks is a one-stop approach, or umbrella solution for connectivity and M2M applications—similar to the Ethernet-exchange or Cloud-broker principles currently being seen across the industry. Through this approach, there’s great potential for growth, particularly for value-added services, if CSPs can prioritize and exert discipline in M2M investments and resources.

Vendors focusing on specific vertical markets will be ideally placed to gain a seat at the table, as many verticals, such as utility, healthcare, manufacturing and retail, use some form of M2M. But as sure as death, tax and CAPEX reduction, CSPs are looking for a quick return on investment (ROI), and in order to improve time-to-market, they must first invest in the right enabling technology.

To truly succeed, they will need to build an enablement framework that includes a connectivity model, device templates, collection and data analysis—assuming that the 3G/4G network is either in place or under construction. Within this framework, a defined catalog of specific service descriptions, superior scalability and automation are all necessities, as is using collected data to make analytical assessments and provide proactive resolutions to problems. Some good examples include using smart-grid meter data for innovative pricing, or using automotive data to aid in preventative maintenance and warranty cost reduction—these, of course, are not even one percent of the potential uses of M2M technology.

A key concern related to the implementation of M2M is the massive IP scalability required for end-devices, and industry forums are already investigating how IPv6 will have a leading role to play. Another way to help address these concerns is through just-in-time device activation or dynamic SIM management, where retailers or equipment wholesalers can enable devices at the point-of-sale—bringing significant cost-efficiency. This approach could typically be welcomed in the impending introduction of new, SIM-enabled vehicles rolling off the production line.

Ultimately, initial reluctance of CSPs to make investments in M2M needs to be offset with assurances around operational efficiency and acceptable ROI dependent upon time-to-market. This coupled with an ability to automate, maintain cost control, billing models and OSS are key considerations CSPs must make in order to play in this opportunity-rich space.

Three Certainties in Life – Death, Tax and CSP Cost Reductions

Posted: November 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A trip to Orlando in November to experience the weather of an English summer had the added bonus of finding TM Forum’s Management World Americas in the wonderful Peabody Hotel and Conference Center.

Some clear positivity has been demonstrated in the telecoms IT industry over the last year. The “Cloud” has been gaining further momentum, machine-to-machine (M2M) is finding new innovative applications across enterprise verticals, and communications service providers (CSPs) are realising the value of eco-system-delivered services.

Amidst rapturous applause, Martin Creaner opened Management World Americas by acknowledging (for a change) that we all knew what challenges are facing CSPs and the market, and that vendors and OSS/BSS solution providers should be getting on with delivering innovation. He stressed that the event was all about putting competitive engagements to one side, collectively learning how peers are addressing challenges and how, by sharing ideas one or two times a year, everyone could really contribute to creating a better world—quite profound and worthy of a Nobel Prize, I think!

To summarise a relatively light-hearted introduction, Mr. Creaner recommended the following points of wisdom and focus for the coming year:

  • CSPs will be concentrating on growing new revenues to combat declining asset value, whilst maintaining customer experience to minimise subscriber churn.
  • New revenue streams will come from clever product bundling and marketing, service enhancements, such as location-based services, plus some early adopter M2M innovations (e-health etc.), which are great ideas but carry investment risk if they are not successful.
  • Over-the-top (OTT) players are here and will not be going away, so CSPs need to fight for their place in the value chain. Making a broader portfolio available in the broader market is key, such as offering diversified services within the cloud.
  • CSPs need to leverage their assets and operational experience to become cloud service brokers.
  • Death, tax and CSP CAPEX/OPEX reduction are the three certainties in life.

Customer Experience Automation: Beyond the Order, Beyond the Trouble Ticket

Posted: November 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

By: Andy Hicks, Research Manager, EMEA, Telecoms, IDC

If your job involves talking to a lot of different people, you probably find that you end up saying a few things over and over just to lay the groundwork for whatever conversation you’re having. Since I’m a telecoms analyst, for example, I often find myself saying something like this:

“As an industry, we’re entering a whole new level of complexity on the IT side. We’re seeing an explosion of services, user types, devices, quality of service (QoS) levels and service level agreement (SLA) obligations. The permutations of all those factors make for more than any service provider can manage manually, so we’ll have to make sure that all that service and network management is automated to the maximum extent possible.”

So far, this is pretty unobjectionable stuff, and that’s the point. It’s something that most people in the industry can agree on before getting into specific cases. But as with its implementation, plans for automation vary both between carriers and within each one’s IT infrastructure. There is some common ground though. In the fulfillment part of the chain, one-touch provisioning and the like are generally accepted goals.

Where the promise of automation is still not as well understood, I believe, is in the service inventory, especially as it affects customer experience. Discussions of customer experience are often limited to either the fulfillment process (Is the order filled quickly and correctly?) and customer service (Is the problem resolved satisfactorily and cheaply?). Both the order and the trouble ticket are events, which are easier to measure and address. Extending the purview of customer experience to ongoing operations requires diagnosing and averting service problems before they affect customers. This requires systems to predict network and service outages in real time, and provision new resources to proactively fix the problem. The same components can also help engineers model the consequences of any changes to the system before they affect users.

The difference between “good enough” capabilities in this area and true differentiation in customer experience will increasingly inhere in the ability to model the effects of outages and planned changes alike on individual services and the individual customers that use them. Since each of those services is aggregate of smaller elements, and since the most valuable customers are likely to use the most services, a successful extension of the service inventory must be able to analyze the effects of system changes and failures not only on the network, but also on the services provided across it, especially as they affect the “gold” customer base. The criteria for that analysis will come from SLAs as well as service providers’ service assurance goals for each category of its users.

To date, Internet service providers and enterprise network providers seem to have more advanced offerings in these areas than mobile providers and fixed-line incumbents. As markets mature and competition in services increases from over-the-top (OTT) players, every service provider will have to improve its predictive and proactive capabilities to remain competitive in customer experience.

Andy Hicks covers telecom software, services, and business strategies in EMEA, with special focus on emerging markets, at IDC. Currently, he is focussing on the IT-ification of telecoms, the increasingly complex services market they compete in, and the work of multinational groups to rationalize their operations across borders.

Management World Americas Video: Diego Becker on Show Trends

Posted: November 16th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events, Telecom Trends | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Management World Americas Video: Diego Becker on Show Trends

Between meetings, presentations and all the other happenings at Management World Americas, we managed to steal a moment of time with Comptel’s vice president of the Caribbean and Latin America (CALA), Diego Becker, to discuss his thoughts on the event. Customer experience has been a common theme at the show, and in this short video, Diego expands on this and shares some thoughts on additional trends he’s seen arise from the event. Take a look at the below video for an update from the Management World Americas floor!

More from Management World Americas: Why Attend Tradeshows?

Posted: November 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on More from Management World Americas: Why Attend Tradeshows?

This was the question TM Forum’s president and CEO, Martin Creaner, posed during Tuesday’s keynote speech at Management World Americas in Orlando. He noted that almost everyone in the industry is aware of the current challenges facing and opportunities awaiting communications service providers (CSPs), from increasing pressure on revenues and the threat of cyber security, to the potential of data mining and the impact of new regulations. With competition at every turn, Creaner believes that CSPs must transform or risk being relegated into dumb pipe status—delivering someone else’s services to someone else’s customers for a low return.

And the real value of attending tradeshows and conferences isn’t to find out about these trends, but rather to explore how our peers are addressing them. And it seems that every CSP’s strategy is centered on growing new revenues while maintaining a superior customer experience.

CSPs are looking at innovative marketing techniques, new pricing models and more, in order to grow revenue and offset the erosion of traditional income streams. They’re also looking at innovative content services to generate complimentary additional revenue, with things like smart grids, M2M and mobile payments. These all have huge potential but also pose huge risks because, as Creaner said, you don’t know what you don’t know.

In that same vein, it’s a reality that OTT players and complex value chains have a distinct presence in the market, and the only way to assume a role here is if the CSP can add value. Creaner believes that the fact that CSPs own a network, or own lots of customers is not enough—to penetrate the OTT market, they will need to prove they are adding a particular value that the whole industry needs.

Ultimately, when it comes to maintaining and growing the customer experience, a holistic view is needed. CSPs must focus on end-to-end customer experience management and be in a position to manage service quality across the key value chains.

We’re excited to continue this conversation with colleagues and peers at the show, approaching Management World Americas and the ever-changing telecom world in general with an open mind.

Management World Americas: Cocktails with Comptel and Discussions around Data

Posted: November 9th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

This year’s Management World Americas, taking place in Orlando, Florida, is buzzing with excitement and even may be the biggest yet, with a rumored 500 attendees! To kick things off, Comptel hosted a cocktail reception on Monday evening for press and analysts, which involved a lively discussion around OSS/BSS industry trends, particularly fulfillment. At the reception, Comptel’s CEO Juhani Hintikka presented the company’s strategy and described how Comptel is addressing the most pressing issues challenging communications service providers (CSPs) today.

One of the most prominent hurdles is the volume explosion – with mobile data making up 30% of traffic, and still growing, and video traffic alone expected to consume 66% by 2015. Juhani asserted that this should be seen as an opportunity rather than a challenge: if that data can be turned into information, this would create a basis to really differentiate and enhance customer experience.

This is especially true when it comes to over-the-top (OTT) players. Instead of competing with them, CSPs must begin to think of how to work with them, bringing to the table some key assets. Those assets include the control of the network, the BSS/OSS infrastructure (being able to deliver and charge for services), but also potentially the understanding of customers – which is where turning data into information comes into play. In other words, OSS plays a role in creating a reliable ecosystem that is attractive to potential partners.

However, CSPs are not there yet. What they need is to be able to turn data into actionable information, or as Juhani put it, deliver on the new paradigm: event – analysis – action, in real time.  In other words, Juhani believes the real value is to act in real time, jumping on an issue when it’s hot instead of letting it fester. If you can get the analytics right, you gain an opportunity to increase revenue – adding value rather than simply pushing a technology.

This message was well received by the press and analyst present at the event.

Stay tuned for more updates as we take in all that Management World Amercas has to offer!

Gearing Up for AfricaCom in Cape Town

Posted: November 8th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Gearing Up for AfricaCom in Cape Town

On 9 November, the 14th annual AfricaCom event kicks off in Cape Town, with the organisers expecting a record attendance, which they are predicting to be 12.5% higher than last year.

While I’m sure that the scenery and activities of Cape Town draw attendees, it is also certainly a reflection of the silver lining that Africa is to the economic cloud that hangs over many developed markets. For anybody in the telecoms industry, relatively high subscriber growth and low mobile penetration create compelling reasons to be doing business in Africa.

But, of course, Africa also has its fair share of challenges, most of which boil down to one thing: how to ensure profitability in highly competitive, price sensitive and sparsely populated markets. Most of the focus so far has been on controlling costs to enable pricing competitiveness—lean operations being something that the Comptel Dynamic OSS portfolio supports very well.

But this is only half the equation against a backdrop of high churn in Africa. As is generally recognised, it is almost always more expensive to acquire new subscribers than to keep them. Ultimately, African telecoms are entering a new battle for the ‘hearts and minds’ of their subscribers in a quest to create a ‘stickiness’ for their hard won subscribers.

So it is encouraging to see that the tagline for AfricaCom this year, “Advancing Innovation & Profitability for a Digital Africa,” is recognising this key link between innovation and profitability.

Please do come and visit Comptel at Stand F5 at AfricaCom this week to discuss how we can help operators win the ‘hearts and minds’ of their customers through innovative OSS solutions.