Football is inarguably the most popular sport in the world. That’s why the viewership numbers for the recent games in Brazil kept breaking records. The Brazil vs. Chile match, for example, drew 11.5 million viewers just in the UK. According to The Mirror, that’s more than half of the total share of people watching TV at that time. The Germany v. Brazil match attracted 10.77 million viewers. The final match between Germany and Argentina drew well over 26 million viewers in the US.
Given those extremes, it shouldn’t be a surprise that social media channels become frenzied with activity, either. Individual football matches are attracting millions of tweets – the US-Portugal match saw 10 million people engaging in 20 million interactions on Facebook. On Twitter, fans tweeted about eight million times. The opening match, between Brazil and Croatia, garnered 12 million tweets.
But that’s not only what communications service providers (CSPs) are feeling. The Wall Street Journal reports that about 3.5 million viewers tuned into the Germany – US and Portugal – Ghana matches … by using the Internet. A third of those users were in North America, and a quarter watched from mobile devices.
In a way, football games are becoming a great stress test for operators. The matches in Brazil are an interesting case study in how multichannel video streaming and constant social media activity can quickly create a capacity crunch, and might help show CSPs exactly how much their networks can handle and offer insight as to how they can optimise quality of service (QoS) and the quality of experience for end users.
The Football Stress Test
The past six weeks have shown us a glimpse of the future. CSPs know that the data needs of users are increasing dramatically, but not everyone is necessarily watching the same thing from the same device. Research from video advertising company Yume shows that many viewers are planning to watch matches from computers (33 percent), tablets (22 percent) and smartphones (11 percent).
We’ve discussed the growing need to cater to end users’ unique demands, as well as creatively monetise mobile data plans in new and more flexible ways—and the matches in Brazil are one of the strongest cases yet.
What if CSPs had policy and charging tools that allowed them to create and deploy a service plan that allows for unlimited streaming of a football match, based on a user’s country or team of choice and the time of the game? That might be better than letting users reach their data cap or just force them to watch on their TV. Many may be willing to pay a bit more to view the game on a mobile device – they just don’t want to purchase a whole month’s worth of data for it.
The more insight CSPs have into mobile device usage, the more personalised mobile data plans can become. The right solutions allow operators to monitor usage in real time, and when too much traffic is straining the network, they can adjust the access and QoS for specific services and specific users to balance capacity (according to one survey, 67 percent of IT admins are experiencing IT problems and network management issues that can be directly related to employees streaming the matches from their computers).
While it may be too late to deploy these kinds of strategies for the football matches this year, perhaps, during the next big football event, CSPs will be able to offer both consumers and enterprise customers alike a real-time, dynamic plan that meets their needs.
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Last month, Sky and TalkTalk announced that they would be teaming up to build fibre-optic infrastructure across a number of cities in the UK. This is an important landmark, as more operators look ahead into architectures based entirely on IP.
As Sky and TalkTalk experiment with an architecture that can pipe broadband direct into homes and businesses, this new infrastructure will provide customers with one of the most exciting things on the horizon: 4K TV.
4K TV is about four times as high-definition as regular HD TV, but the crystal-clear picture comes with a diamond-like price. Most consumers aren’t going to adopt 4K TV until that price drops and, until then, there’s another problem – 4K movies consume anywhere from 45 to 60 gigs of bandwidth when downloaded. Still, that hasn’t stifled the enthusiasm for this kind of media. When Comptel was at Mobile World Congress, 4KTV technology figured centrally into a lot of devices on display at the show, as you can see to the left.
This data demand will have big implications for communications service providers (CSPs). Deutsche Telekom said that customers today use about 15GB to 20GB each month. The operator, among many others, is looking at capping bandwidth usage. In this case, a lower-end plan would be capped at 75 GB.
So if 4K media becomes widely used, CSPs may have to radically change bandwidth models to accommodate the sheer diversity of Internet use – some people will be using astronomically more data than others. And by taking a closer look at the situation with 4K TV, we can get a glimpse of this future.
DSL, Cable and Consumers
The current battle in the European Union is between cable and DSL connections. DSL currently makes up 74 percent of broadband connections. While 93 percent of households in the U.S. can choose between cable or DSL, only 42 percent of households in Europe can choose a cable connection.
That leaves a long way to go when you consider the bandwidth requirements of something like 4K TV. Infrastructure will have to be upgraded significantly to allow for higher speeds, or Europe will have to pursue fibre-optic connections, which may or may not be economically viable. Especially in the current climate.
That may be why Netflix’s CEO, Reed Hastings, is convinced that 4K TV will be “the first format that is Internet only.” He believes that broadcast, cable and satellite won’t be able to support the technology. Netflix has already stocked up on some ultra HD videos and even plans to shoot the second season of its self-produced, award-winning series, House of Cards, in 4K.
But which consumers will be able to afford the bandwidth these videos use, given the slow and steady implementation of new caps? Netflix is already planning ahead for this, offering most videos in four different formats and helping users skirt these data limits.
If 4K can’t be broadcast through the digital air without a specific platform on the CSP’s end, subscribers will have to instead find ultra-fast connections just to experience it. The odds are good, too, that they’ll be streaming video from different devices. And, in doing so, they’ll need more bandwidth than ever before.
More Control, More Options
As we’ve seen with the U.S.’s ruling on net neutrality, CSPs are trying to figure out the best way to price the fluctuating costs and rapidly growing requirements of bandwidth usage. With enormous and diverse audiences – and new, bandwidth-heavy innovations like 4K TV – it’s becoming apparent that CSPs need to find a different way to manage traffic. In many cases, this may be where software-defined networking (SDN) and network field virtualization (NFV) come into play, because these technologies will help create a more intelligent and seamless process when it comes to managing changing data needs.
A lot of these changes will also have to do with making the network and service fulfillment process able to deliver an excellent customer experience. It may require applying contextual intelligence to optimise connections for high-value customers. As CSPs create new plans to accommodate more people than ever before, finding a way to get the right service package to them – as fast and efficiently as possible – will become paramount.
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This week, we hosted a media event in Sofia, Bulgaria, where we have an important global service delivery site. We employ more than 70 IT professionals there and are hoping to grow this office in the coming years. Our team caters to European and Middle East and African customers—quite often in cooperation with our global service delivery team based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The theme for the event was built around the Barcelona-in-the Box concept, but this time, we wanted to highlight the Bulgarian market. Ulla Koivukoski gave a presentation entitled “Bulgaria on the Global Mobile Map,” which covered three main themes: Enriching the User Experience – Enriching the Operator, Big Data, and Business Transformation – Reshaping the Operator.
What we learned is that the Bulgarian mobile market is very similar to the markets in most European Union (EU) countries. For example, the number of post-paid customers is high when compared to the prepaid market, which accounts for just one-third of subscribers. The challenges in the Bulgarian market are also very similar to others in the EU. According to Business Monitor, the mobile average revenue per user (ARPU) in Bulgaria declined 25.3 percent in 2012, while mobile sector growth was at 5.5 percent and reaching 167.1 percent market penetration.
This means that communications service providers’ revenues are getting thinner, and at the same time, there are investment plans for bringing LTE to the market. The Bulgarian fixed broadband market is very advanced, and therefore, customers also have great expectations for mobile data.
During the event at Grand Hotel Sofia, the attendees shared their views about the Bulgarian mobile market. Most people admitted that they very seldom use mobile data, instead relying on open Wi-Fi networks that are widely available. Local operators could turn things around and monetise this traffic using LTE or operator-owned Wi-Fi. We also brought new ideas concerning how to apply our ‘Event’-‘Analysis’-‘Action’ strategy to build business and showed one use case demonstrating how we can derive value from data with operational predictive analytics.
Comptel is ‘Making Data Beautiful’ with automated decisions that drive action, and we were honored to show the attendees in Sofia just how we do that.
I was recently talking about policy management with my colleague, Ulla Koivukoski, and started thinking about how far we’ve come and how it will continue to evolve. All of the new and advanced technologies that have been introduced in the past couple of years are having a big influence on this, and will continue to shape how communications service providers (CSPs) utilise policy management capabilities.
One of the most prominent of these technologies is 4G/LTE. Because LTE enables faster data speeds, customers will inevitably want to consume more and more data. CSPs who can gain deeper insight into such data usage will have a clear advantage. For policy management specifically, this means the ability to provide different packages with different rating models that are unique to customers’ behaviours. It also means implementing bandwidth or data caps in certain instances– otherwise, we’d use all of our network capacity!
Adding to this, it’s crucial for CSPs to identify the impact of down throttling on individual customers who are likely to churn and/or cause a revenue loss. For example, if customers experience poor quality of service (QoS), CSPs need to be able to proactively offer them a higher bandwidth or data package. In this way, the risk for revenue loss and customer churn can be mitigated while simultaneously improving QoS for the right customers. Further, a predictive analytics engine can suggest which customers will be most valuable for CSPs based on pre-defined Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and which customers desire a corrective action to keep them on-board (e.g. a dedicated bandwidth prioritisation).
CSPs also can benefit by tightly coupling policy control with real-time charging. Like our recent consumer research demonstrated, financial considerations like personalised product/service promotions can influence customer behaviour. So, if CSPs can not only dynamically control the packages that are being delivered to customers and how, but also competitively price their offerings, they can increase the amount customers are willing to spend and maximise their revenue.
Linked closely with this is big data, which is giving CSPs a huge opportunity to add value. To tap into the power of big data, CSPs must first sift through and analyse the immense data volumes, both structured and unstructured, to get complete views of their customers. With this, CSPs can offer new services and bundles to customers with both efficiency and rapid time-to-market. Adding to this, a combination of advanced analytics and mediation enables CSPs to begin use cases like proactive broadband upsell for customers based on the prediction of their changed usage pattern, premium user identification, and automatically approaching customers with the right offer, in the right context.
Another technology making an impact on policy management—and one that goes hand in hand with big data—is the cloud. More and more, the cloud is one of the best options for storing and processing data. It allows for offline processing and the ability to trigger information online, to achieve real-time, personalised campaigns. Latency and security threats remain a concern, but if these can be managed properly, then I see policy making a big shift to the cloud.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg – there are many more advancements being made every day. As our world and the technologies in it continue to evolve, I look forward to seeing how policy management will grow and change to drive a better, more efficient customer experience.
It’s no secret that customer experience is a crucial element to communications service providers’ (CSPs) business growth strategies. Last year, I talked about the necessity to anticipate customer needs to help accomplish this, as highlighted by a survey conducted with research firm Vanson Bourne. This year, we worked with the company again to gain a global understanding of subscribers’ feelings toward their CSPs and found that they indeed welcome, and in fact desire, this personalised communication at every touch point. This includes from the first interaction when joining the service (35%), to when they are experiencing issues with the service (61%), to when their needs are changing (40%).
When would you like to have more personalised help/contact from your operator?
The good news for CSPs is that these interactions can help recoup the 20% of revenue that is currently being spent on churn compensation and retention, according to telecommunications industry consultant tefficient. While this number is staggering, it also means there is a huge cost-savings opportunity – if CSPs can earn customer loyalty. For one, churn prevention can be significantly reduced as, currently, more than one-third of consumers indicated that they might consider changing their mobile operators now if they could.
Would you like to change your operator now if you could?
Adding to this, there is a significant revenue opportunity to be had if CSPs personally interacted more often with customers. For instance, almost two-thirds of consumers said that they would like to download large files to their devices more often if they had a better rate plan for their mobile data, better bandwidth or a better device, and nearly half (49%) would pay for a temporary upgrade to download those files more quickly and improve their viewing experience, if offered. On average, consumers are willing to spend $3.80 for a temporary service upgrade—accounting for an increase in ARPU of 12 percent.
If your mobile operator offered you a temporary bandwidth boost / data consumption upgrade for a small charge, how much would you pay?
As I mentioned in today’s press release, the key to making this a reality and, ultimately, to earn customer loyalty, is through contextual intelligence at every touch point. As the survey results show, consistent, personalised interaction puts CSPs one step closer to winning consumers’ hearts, more efficiently utilising assets and profitably monetising their offerings.
Data for this survey was gathered from consumers in Brasil, Chile, France, Germany, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom and Vietnam. A full copy of the research report will be available at Mobile World Congress (25-28 February 2013 in Barcelona) in Hall 6 at Stand 6C30, or by contacting email@example.com. You can visit our show microsite as well, for further examples of intelligence at every touch point.
Today, we announced a joint real-time policy control and charging solution with Procera Networks, Inc. I thought this was an opportune time to sit down with Comptel’s resident policy experts, Malla Poikella and Tinakaran Ramdas, to discuss the state of policy – how it’s changed, the important elements involved, and what our partnership with Procera means for policy control and charging.
Q: How have we seen policy management mature, and how will this area continue to evolve in 2013?
Malla: Policy management will be present everywhere. Traditionally, it was just used to control network activities like bandwidth and usage. Now, it’s no longer constrained to the network and is effecting a much larger scope with charging, for instance, playing a greater role. Adding another layer to this is analytics, which enable more actionable intelligence that can be used to determine which individuals to engage, when to engage and the proper message to send to them. This type of targeting will, in turn, work to prevent churn and generate revenue.
Q: How important is real time to this?
Tinakaran: Throughout the whole cycle of policy control and charging, real time has played a huge role. But, you must understand that there’s a difference between real time and what we call ‘online’. Whereas real time can experience somewhat of a lag, online communications happen immediately. To illustrate this point, imagine streaming a video that keeps stalling. Operators can send a message in that exact moment saying that they are going to give you a boost because you’re a valued customer. This is an online communication – something that is relevant to customers while they are experiencing issues like this. It not only helps alleviate that certain problem, but drives loyalty gains in the long run. Real-time communications, on the other hand, takes a little longer, so you might receive an offer ten minutes after you’ve already finished the video – making it much less relevant.
Malla:Policy control is a key enabler of revenue generation, but data is also an important part of this – which has presented a problem for operators in the past when it comes to how to best harness and manage it. With today’s tools, though, operators can more easily do this, as analytical capabilities provide both user and network insights. This holistic view means operators have the clearest path to rate and charge intelligently.
Q: Why did Comptel and Procera decide to engage in this partnership?
Tinakaran: This partnership allows Procera further granularity into different services offered and, as a result, more opportunities to generate revenue. For instance, a user may want a special package for social services – now, with Comptel, Procera can understand user needs like this and target them accordingly with a specialised package. This granularity is enabled with both DPI and policy capabilities, allowing Procera to offer various packages, monitor that usage and then charge for them accordingly.
Maintaining the current network investment pace is becoming impossible, and therefore CSPs are actively seeking ways to capitalize on data services and co-operate with OTT players to diverge the data revenue growth curve and offload mobile data onto their own or partner’s WiFi networks. It’s obvious that video drives broadband traffic. Therefore CSPs absolutely need to understand customers’ usage patterns, how they behave in the network and what their value for the CSP, to implement efficient segmentation tools that allow prioritising the customers who need more bandwidth.
There was also a lively discussion about the tactics of creating and offering data services, touching on topics like rapid and easy service creation, data and bandwidth bundles, add-on data packages, personalisation and quality of experience. These elements are at the center of the CSP’s radar screen, contributing heavily to revenue generation and monetisation. The life time span of data packages will diminish significantly, as customers expect a broad, personalised and frequently updated service portfolio to be available. In order to fulfill this requirement, analytics capabilities have found their way into the heart of the policy control and charging offering palette, providing customer insights, predictive capabilities, churn management tools and automated marketing campaigns executed contextually at the right time to the right customers.
The ubiquitously available policy control capabilities and tools were widely recognised as the mainstream future trend, going beyond the pure network-centric approach to devices, cloud, M2M, service delivery and OTT. In short, Policy is needed everywhere in the ecosystem. The implementation is very much business-objective and use case driven, dictated by the business and service requirements and the CSP’s existing network architecture. Depending on the CSP’s set-up, the implementation scope can be fulfilled based on policy control, charging, customer management and analytics functions. Policy control is needed to protect and serve your interests.
Increasingly, there’s discussion within the telecom sector whether unlimited data is making a comeback. In fact, in Wednesday’s blog post we highlight a story asking this very question. This made us wonder how our readers are striking the balance between happy customers and manageable networks. We invite you to share your thoughts on this by voting in today’s poll — and, as always, we welcome you to post in the “Comments” section below.
A few months ago, a friend made me aware of the Afrinnovator website displaying the tagline: “Putting Africa on the map,” with the goal of “telling the stories of African startups, African innovation, African-made technology, African tech entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs.”
First, this publication is focused on technology really changing lives. We’re living in a world where seemingly everything is mobile, where there’s an “M-something” for everything. For instance, there is mobile banking, education, agriculture, trading, health, security and government. Additionally, it’s about mobile meeting the daily needs of the consumer — not just a mobile “entertain -and -share-everything” mentality as I am more accustomed to reading about.
Second, these services are not only being delivered by “sexy” data bandwidth hungry smartphone apps, but are also using low-tech solutions that will work with even the least technical phone. For example, there is mobile banking using USSD, mobile medical diagnosis using MMS to send pictures, and even mobile vehicle licensing and resume submissions for jobs using SMS.
So, you may now be asking what the OSS angle is for an OSS blog.
Well, the point is the differences I noted between the mobile service innovation in developed vs. developing countries is an example of how markets naturally work to allocate resources at an aggregate level to meet their needs. However, while most people will tolerate my generalisations of developed vs. developing markets, it is fair to say that generalised services are no longer good enough for individual subscribers within markets.
Essentially, what is needed at an aggregate level is not necessarily what is needed at an individual level within those markets. This is what Comptel’s Customer Engagement Solutions can do to ensure an operator that the appropriate services and customer experience is delivered for individual subscribers, given their personal context.
Now, as a consumer of services I am the first to admit that I don’t always know what I want until after I have experienced it – or it is taken away. So, am I suggesting empowering operators with mind-reading abilities? You bet I am…
Now, in the second and final installment, Ari and Sarah delve a bit deeper into what this actually means for service providers and explore some real-life examples of putting CIQ4T to work, such as monetisation, network resource optimisation and dynamic profiling with advanced analytics.
As I mentioned in one of my earlier blog posts, the telecommunications industry needs to increasingly predict what is important to customers rather than simply being reactive – and analytics plays a key role in helping to achieve this. Ultimately, turning all of this data into actionable information helps to bring people close together and furthers our goal of making data beautiful.
Like last week, you can listen to the full podcast of the conversation here or read the highlights below.
Ari Banerjee: Can you talk a little bit about the use cases that Comptel is addressing today that are more customer-facing?
Sarah Wallace: One of the first use cases is obvious but also very important, and that’s monetisation. This includes upselling to the customer, offering them something that might be triggered through some type of complaint, or offering them a new service. Another aspect of this is cross-selling – identifying subscribers and offering something they don’t necessarily need but that fits their usage pattern. So, for instance, service providers could offer a device with its own hot spot to a customer who may travel a lot.
Then, of course, there’s the aspect of new customer acquisition when it comes to monetisation. This entails identifying influencers in the network that might have a lot of off net relationships and making them an offer that will compel them to spread it virally – subsequently acquiring new subscribers.
Ari Banerjee: Beyond that, there’s the whole element of network resource optimisation. As we all know, when it comes to wireless, bandwidth management and resource management become extremely critical. Looking at the evolving wireless industry and all of its networks, 4G rollout is happening almost everywhere across the globe with LTE as the preferred route that most operators have taken.
With this comes another element of how to use spectrum, bandwidth and network resources better – especially when we look at services that are becoming more popular to enterprises or to consumers. These are really services that are low latency – those that revolve around video content and media. How do you provide expected quality of experience? All of that, again, needs advanced analytics or use of CIQ4T in a much broader way. Therefore, an OSS/BSS vendor already in the network can provide a lot more value additions for service providers.
One of the things that we are seeing operators challenged in is around cell-site optimisations. As we know, 4G networks are challenging because of things like traffic load balancing, handing over traffic between cells, determining where to put small cells – all of these need much more contextual information. So if OSS information is joined with contextual information, such as user experience, location and so forth, there’s a typical pattern of user-behaviour that can be mapped out.
Analytics can show that reducing power of one cell in favor of another cell might improve the overall network. Also, it can provide intelligent analysis around experience of a small set of high value customers who are typically using demanding services at a set time during the day, and how this can be handled in a better way based on load balancing across different parts of the network.
Subscriber-centric wireless offload – this becomes very important – and any operators who are providing 4G services are talking about wireless offload. This is because you cannot keep a subscriber on 4G continuously, it must instead be offloaded. Can this be done more intelligently using analytics? Can decisions be made based on the profitability of the customer lifetime value? Is there an SLA attached to the customer? Are they part of an enterprise contract? All of these different dimensions come through and are brought together via OSS/BSS systems and then intelligent decisions can be made based on which subscriber to offload. Again, use of CIQ4T and advanced analytics plays a major role here.
Service control based on subscriber profiles is another area that we think CIQ4T makes a lot of sense. By augmenting network data with subscriber data, utilising behavioural patterns, matching subscriber preferences and so forth, services can be tailored according to different users on the same subscriber account. So, for example, giving a company’s directors priority service compared to other employees, or managing a parent’s business applications in a different way than the entertainment applications used by their children.
So again, advanced analytics can also drive policies, which can drive service elements in the network and these can be programmed into things like policy servers for enforcement throughout the network in a much more soft-ticketed fashion.
Sarah Wallace: Some other use cases in addition to that include real-time churn prevention. This means being able to examine behaviours in subscribers who are obviously going to churn. Various elements to observe are multi-SIM prediction, rotational churn, and even churn location (do they reside in an area that has a propensity for high churn?)
Another use case is the concept of dynamic profiling with advanced analytics. This entails examining characteristics such as their usage, interests, location, socio-economic class, influence in their network (SNA), overall propensity to churn and their relationship to off net users.
Then, of course, there’s SNA which is a sub-set of advanced analytics. It’s really just looking at social networks in the sense of relationships – looking at family, friends and co-workers – and seeing what kind of influence the subscriber has in their sphere.
The last use case is advanced offer management – enabling service providers to confirm which promotions and service bundles are successful to offer including loyalty points, event and rule-based promotions, traffic-based promotions and management capability based on data subscriber network usage.
Personally, it makes me happy to think that Comptel’s software can be – and is – a part of the lives of so many people. And as consumers have different expectations for quality of experience, one of my personal favourite use cases is defining how to provide the experience that is right for each customer. Which use case do you find most appealing for CIQ4T?