It’s Time for Telco to Get Transparent about Data

Posted: July 25th, 2013 | Author: Special Contributor | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

For the past few months, consumers have been rocked by government and corporate scandals involving their mobile data.

It’s fair to say that people have been a little taken aback due to all the revelations of mobile activities being tracked, stored and observed.

As long as there’s that suspicion in the marketplace, it’s going to be hard for companies to achieve any success with Big Data that doesn’t come at the cost of consumer trust.

Here, we see a confluence of two factors: consumers are becoming more aware of how their data is being used, and companies are becoming more interested in using that data. The problem is that neither party wants to give up its end of the bargain.

Today, a lot of communications service providers (CSPs) know that Big Data analytics is a powerful tool to personalise marketing, reduce churn and optimise business processes. Most also know that countries have very stringent – and often very different – regulations about how telecoms data can be used. Meanwhile, consumers are sharing data across social media networks, websites and through mobile apps at all hours of the day.

So how can CSPs find a middle ground where consumers are happy, but all that data can be used in a secure way to help their businesses?

The Two Ways to Use Mobile Data

Primarily, CSPs rely on mobile data to deduce two things: general results and specific activities. That’s the difference between Big Data and “small data.”

Big Data is leveraged as market research and is usually anonymous. By monitoring huge segments of customer data, CSPs can determine how people use their mobile data, at what times and for what activities. This makes it easy to create personalised campaigns for different customer profiles.

Small data is more personal, because it is used to create a profile of an individual’s decisions and actions.

The latter can cause some uneasiness among consumers, unless they know exactly how that data is being used and that, in the long run, it’s going to benefit them somehow. A campaign offering a temporary upgrade in bandwidth to someone suffering from stuttering speeds on his/her phone is handy, but a campaign offering a temporary upgrade in bandwidth for the exact hours on a Saturday night someone watches a mobile video can be unsettling.

Companies and consumers are still struggling to find that fine line between how all of this data is used, but one thing is clear right now: there are a lot of Big Data plans that are ambitious, bold and completely ambiguous.

CSPs that have been intrigued by Big Data analytics invest a lot of time and resources to collect as much data as possible, but then are left with a flood of unfocused insights that are impossible to leverage. At the same time, consumers will get suspicious when they realize that their CSP has been tracking how they spend every moment on their phones.

The solution is that CSPs must become very transparent on how they collect and use data. That will please customers and encourage businesses to make their Big Data efforts more granular, more segmented and ultimately more actionable.

An original version of this article appeared on and

Jouko Ahvenainen is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Grow VC Group. In the 1990s, Jouko worked for Nokia in Europe and Asia, and then lead the 3G practice at Capgemini globally. Over the last 12 years, he has been an entrepreneur, investor and
founder of Xtract.

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