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.

Around the World

Posted: August 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Around the World

Computer Business Review…

Mobile Network Operators Face Surging Data Delivery Costs: Study

According to Juniper Research, mobile data delivery costs could go up to $370 billion by 2016—a sevenfold jump from $53 billion in 2010. The analyst firm reported that mobile network operators can reduce costs with Wi-Fi network build-out, femtocells and network sharing initiatives.  Juniper also suggested that mobile network operators in developing countries transition to renewable energy for off-grid networks.

The bottom line though: data usage is outpacing operators’ revenues. This only continues to underscore the need to strike a balance between encouraging service use, controlling resources like bandwidth and ensuring maximum payback. Policy control gives operators the levers to manage mobile data delivery and monetise the services.

Alcatel-Lucent Blog

Customer Experience Management and the Thieves of Time

Did you know that it costs about five to ten times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to retain an existing customer? As Alcatel-Lucent’s Vincent Kavanagh notes, unfortunately, “money talks”— and most companies typically end up incorrectly distributing their marketing spend. They’ve also ignored the fact that happy customers have proven to stay longer and spend more, and not made customer experience management (CEM) a priority.

Luckily, operators are paying greater attention to CEM. They are being increasingly conscious of customers’ time and interacting with them more over multiple channels including social media. One important area that they have yet to tap into though is their OSS and network data, to gain a holistic view of subscriber activity. By doing so, operators can open up a myriad of possibilities and turn them into something that can be monetised.

TYN…

Cloud Computing: Latin American Market Will Be 69% in Five Years

IDC recently conducted its Cloud Solutions Roadshow in Argentina, and after meeting with various Latin American company executives, one of the research firm’s vice presidents, Ricardo Villate, has dubbed 2011 as “the year of the cloud.”

IDC survey results have shown that 14.5 percent of Latin American companies with more than 100 employees have implemented cloud services. This is nearly three times more than in January 2010, and the market is expected to continue this steady growth pattern, reaching 69 percent in five years.

It’s exciting to see barriers to enterprise cloud adoption like security and performance management being broken down, much like Comptel demonstrated through several TM Forum Catalyst initiatives.


Around the World

Posted: July 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Around the World

CommsMEA
Customer Acquisition
Consumer demand is forcing operators to look for new and creative ways to expand their businesses and generate profit. Some operators are increasing their network capacity to capitalize on the growing popularity of smart devices, such as the iPhone and iPad, and uptake of data services, while others are rethinking how to create loyalty and reduce churn through close customer focus.

As journalist Nithyasree Trivikram writes, in the Middle East, “where there are low-end subscribers and high penetration levels, there is more of a focus on strong distribution and active promotions” that target different customer segments. In comparison, with higher-end, mobile broadband services, operators will brand dongles and bundle them with value added services; for example, Vodafone Qatar offered free Facebook access to acquire customers and are also enhancing customer service by speaking over five languages in their call centres.

Moving forward, Nithyasree predicts that telcos will veer away from the primary role of network operators, and instead increase their focus on developing partnerships, digitizing the economy, and improving customer experience.

Total Telecom…
India May Auction More Wireless Broadband Spectrum
India’s Department of Telecommunications stated that it may auction more bandwidth for wireless broadband services. The main goal may be to boost the government’s finances; last year, the auctioning of two slots of wireless broadband brought in $8.23 billion. But, the operator benefits include the ability to provide high-speed Internet access as well as Internet telephony and television services. Auction winners can eventually use the bandwidth for voice and high-speed data services, as well. This is perhaps even more important as the future of more 2G and 3G bandwidth remains uncertain.

It will be interesting to see how this plan unfolds throughout the coming months. In a previous Around the World blog post, we highlighted India’s telecom landscape and the country’s insatiable demand for mobile communications services. This article is proof that legislation will play a big role in India’s future growth.

Computerworld…
Telco Cloud Providers Must Partner with IT Services Players: Ovum
According to a new report from analyst firm Ovum, telcos face operational challenges when it comes to offering cloud services. Ovum analyst and report author Mark Giles believes that operators have focused on getting cloud services to market quickly rather than on the complex and timely process of adapting their existing OSS/BSS to fit a cloud delivery model. But, the analyst notes, telcos can truly make their mark in the cloud by bringing internal network and IT teams together and collaborating with IT providers.

However, not everyone agrees with Ovum’s views. Alex Leslie of Connected Planet thinks that the analyst firm “missed the mark” and over-generalised in its report. He argues that telcos have invested in OSS/BSS technologies like real-time charging and policy control in order to support cloud’s on-demand service delivery model. Which opinion do you agree with?


Viva Las Vegas! Comptel Goes to Cisco Live!

Posted: July 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Viva Las Vegas! Comptel Goes to Cisco Live!

Comptel is attending Cisco Live!, taking place 10-14 July in Las Vegas. In 2010, our partner’s U.S. event had 12,700 registrants; this year, Cisco is expecting to have more IT and communications professionals travel to Las Vegas (four of which will be from Comptel) than ever before.

For those of us not attending the actual show, we can always follow the event virtually. In 2010, the virtual event had more than 4000 visitors—it will be interesting to see if these figures will surpass those of last year as well.

Whether in Las Vegas or in front of their computers, attendees can choose from more than 500 technical sessions or attend several keynote sessions, the first of which CEO John Chambers will lead today. Then tomorrow, two dynamic ladies, CTO Padmasree Warrior and CIO Rebecca Jacoby, will take the stage and give their views on Cisco’s technology vision, including the impact on Cisco’s IT and business strategy.

Comptel is exhibiting (booth #2080—next to the Cisco Live! Lounge), and is available to demonstrate our fulfillment and cloud chargeback (based on Comptel Convergent Mediation) solutions, which are key to our Cisco partnership.

If Cisco Live!’s technical sessions, keynotes or World of Solutions expo hall, as well as the event’s evening entertainment, are not enough, and you are not keen on gambling, why not dive with the sharks! Dive-certified Mandalay Bay guests will now have the opportunity to scuba dive in the 1.3 million gallon, 22-foot deep Shipwreck Exhibit, surrounded by sharks, rays, sawfish, green sea turtles and schools of fish. Viva Las Vegas!


Wrapping Up in Dublin

Posted: May 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Wrapping Up in Dublin

The third day of Management World is always much slower than the first two. Many delegates have either headed back home or have opted for a lie in for whatever reason (yes, the Comptel party was great! Pictures from Dublin will be posted to our Facebook page).

It’s time to take stock of the event. Overall, I would say this year’s conference has been a success. I have been locked in press and analyst meetings for most of it, but I was told that the standard of the presentations has been very high. To quote Nancee Ruzicka of Stratecast whom I bumped into this morning: “It’s so good to see case studies of operators actually DOING the things that we in the industry have been chatting about for years.” (My colleague, Steve Hateley, who attended quite a few presentations, also seemed to concur with this.) And cloud and customer experience were again prominent buzzwords at Management World. It will be interesting to see how these areas continue to develop, as the industry is looking for more real-world examples.

For Comptel, the prime objective for this event was to connect with customers, prospects and partners—and much to our delight, there have been plenty of good people to meet. The demographics of the event seem to have changed though. We saw far fewer delegates from Eastern Europe, Russia and CIS, and even from the Middle East and North Africa, than we used to at Nice. One contact at TM Forum explained to me that the ash cloud and political situation were to blame, but anecdotal evidence from our own customers suggest the event’s location also influenced their decision.

And that leads us once again to one of the biggest topics of conversation here: Dublin. Despite TM Forum pulling off the most successful event ever, people are still curious to know when we are going back to Nice. Rumours abound that it might be next year, or the year after. But TM Forum is remaining very tight lipped on that subject, maybe in the hope that we will grow to like Dublin. From Comptel’s perspective, as long as delegates come to the event, we are not too bothered about the location. Dublin has proved to be an adequate, if unexciting, location and TM Forum has demonstrated its ability to bring people to the event. If it can convince people to return next year, and delegates from the regions mentioned earlier to join, then we will be happy.

What did you think of the three days in Dublin for Management World 2011?


Readying for Management World 2011 in Dublin

Posted: May 19th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Readying for Management World 2011 in Dublin

Time has flown by since I wrote about the stress of moving—we’re now only a few days away from traveling to Management World 2011’s new home of Dublin. And yet again Comptel is pleased to have such a packed agenda! Here’s a snapshot of what we’ll be up to in the convention centre next week.

CTO Gareth Senior and Stratecast’s Nancee Ruzicka will be presenting a TeliaSonera case study as part of TM Forum’s Enabling Service Innovation Summit on Wednesday, May 25 from 12:15 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. It’s a worthwhile presentation that will discuss the operator’s unique “you get what you pay for” approach and use of policy control, to better manage its customers’ mobile Internet usage and meet the European Union’s data roaming regulations.

As my colleague Greg Scullard mentioned, we’ll also be giving live demonstrations of the Enhanced Cloud Service Management Catalyst in Forumville. Comptel’s mediation and policy control solutions were used in the proof-of-concept, which explores how communications service providers can develop, monetise, and assure access to new revenue streams and markets with hosted unified communications and collaboration services.

Lastly, Comptelians will be manning booth #49 in the expo hall and are on hand for demos of the Comptel Dynamic OSS, covering catalog-driven service fulfillment, dynamic SIM management, mediation, charging and policy control. We’re particularly looking forward to showing how our solutions can help operators deliver a superior customer experience, from customer acquisition through to service delivery, and to customer retention.

Should you wish to share any thoughts from the event, Comptel invites you to leave a comment here. We look forward to seeing you in Dublin!


Around the World

Posted: May 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Around the World

Cellular News…
Canadians Annoyed with Increasing Cell Phone Bills
J.D. Power and Associates conducted a survey that examined Canadian wireless customers’ perceptions of their service, mobile phone and retail experience. The study revealed an average of 648 for overall satisfaction (on a 1,000-point scale) and an average of only 551 for satisfaction with cost of service. This could be attributed to rising monthly wireless costs, which have increased from an average of $71 in 2009 to $78 in 2011—and are being driven by the bump in smartphones and, consequently, larger data plans. According to the article, 39 percent of Canadian customersown a smartphone, a 25 percent increase from 2009, while the number of those who have a data package has increased to 60 percent from 15 percent in 2009.

To provide a superior customer experience and balance profitability, operators should offer progressive pricing options based on demand for speed and data consumption, for example. This is especially important because, according to Adrian Chung, senior manager at J.D. Power and Associates, the low satisfaction levels with cost of service have led to a high potential churn rate. In fact, 28 percent of customers strongly agree that they would consider switching to a new wireless service provider with offerings that better met their needs.

Billing & OSS World…
Subscriber Data Management Exploding, Critical in Europe
Infonetics Research recently found that the market for subscriber data management (SDM) tools for wireless networks is growing worldwide, particularly in Europe. The SDM market is seeing significant growth with mobile operators viewing the tools as critical for their wireless infrastructure-sharing initiatives; SDM allows them to identify which subscribers are using their networks. The article also notes that the machine-to-machine (M2M) market is important for SDM investment in Europe, and predicts that this too will become the case in North America over the next few years.

Analyst Shira Levine believes that, “as SDM strategies mature, operators will  better leverage their subscriber data for functions such as customer care, campaign management, churn management, revenue assurance and marketing, and possibly to expand subscriber data sources to include IT systems, including CRM, billing and fulfillment.”

As Simo Isomäki previously noted, we too are seeing growing interest in using subscriber data for active decision-making in OSS/BSS. And while data management is still a challenge, there is no doubt that this intelligence will help operators improve customer loyalty and safeguard profitability.

Light Reading…
It’ll Be Cloudy in Dublin
Ray Le Maistre dwells on the location change from Nice to Dublin for this year’s Management World 2011, but looks forward to the event’s discussions around the deployment and support of cloud services. He states that, to play in this space, the first step will be building the physical infrastructure to support hosted applications and capabilities. Following this is the greater challenge of provisioning, activation, tracking, managing, guaranteeing and billing for those services against a service level agreement.  This is a topic we’ll be exploring at Management World – both on the expo floor and in Forumville with the Enhanced Cloud Service Management Catalyst.


TM Forum Catalyst Explores the Monetisation of Cloud-Based Collaboration Services

Posted: May 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Behind the Scenes, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Over the past several years, Comptel has participated in a number of TM Forum Catalyst projects (most notably, the Product and Service Assembly initiative). And in the run up to Management World 2011, we’ve decided to team up with BT, Cisco and Progress Software again and build upon the Inter-Cloud Service Management Catalyst. A press release was distributed today announcing the latest proof-of-concept and the addition of Amartus, InfoVista and MetraTech to it.

I am particularly excited about the Enhanced Cloud Service Management Catalyst, as it is the first to involve Comptel’s mediation and policy control solutions. Last year, we were primarily focused on fulfillment, with being responsible for orchestrating the delivery of hosted unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) services. Now, in the second phase, we’re also taking a key role in the monetisation of these services by capturing and rating usage and performance data from the infrastructure. It’s great to have this year’s project leveraging most of our software assets, and thus completing the Comptel Dynamic OSS loop.

What’s also interesting to note about this Catalyst—the same core set of applications traditionally used to manage mobile networks is being applied to UC&C in the cloud. For instance, just like the mobile world has gone through many changes in terms of the way subscribers pay for services, customers of UC&C solutions will be looking for pricing that accurately represents their usage levels—whether its billing for video and call usage per minute or per second, blended pricing where video usage doesn’t incur charges for the audio that accompanies it or different pricing for the host and participants. To achieve this service differentiation, operators of UC&C services can exercise flexible policy control and charging capabilities.

Management World 2011 attendees, if you’d like to demo the project, email comptel.marketing@comptel.com or visit the Enhanced Cloud Service Management Catalyst booth in Forumville.

For those unable to make it to Dublin, a whitepaper with more information on “The Criticality of Effective Service Management in Monetising Cloud-Based Collaboration Services,” is available for download.


Una perspectiva Latinoamericana del Mobile World Congress

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

(Scroll down for an English version of the following blog post.)

Otro Mobile World Congress ha terminado. Fue muy interesante poder observar que tantos operadores latinoamericanos habían realizado el viaje hasta Barcelona (y que me mantuvieron muy ocupados con muchas reuniones!) Mientras me preparaba para realizar mi viaje de regreso a Buenos Aires, pensaba respecto de cuales habían sido los temas y discusiones claves del evento y que significa esto para la región de CALA, hoy y a futuro.

Primero, la rápida adopción de Smartphones y Tablets en CALA, con certeza, está impulsando un crecimiento explosivo del tráfico de datos y está teniendo un impacto significativo en la manera que los operadores administran el ancho de banda, las suscripciones y combinan los planes tarifarios. Fue muy satisfactorio poder confirmar (nuevamente) que los usuarios desean pagar por nuevos y avanzados servicios como juegos, música, video-on-demand como así también la alta calidad de experiencia de usuario – obligando a los operadores a desplegar soluciones de Control de Políticas (Policy Control). Al menos la mitad de las más de 120 reuniones que habíamos mantenido durante los cuatro días el evento cubrían este tópico de soluciones OSS.

Latinoamérica todavía se encuentra en crecimiento a un muy buen ritmo en lo que respecta a penetración celular, de acuerdo al Sr. Daniel Hash, CEO de América Móvil (quien utiliza las soluciones de Comptel en cinco operaciones), hay unos 30 millones de personas por sobre los 15 años de edad que van a ingresar al mercado, impulsando el crecimiento hasta los 150 millones de abonados y duplicando la penetración de banda ancha en los próximos cinco años. Administrar todos estos nuevos clientes (y los servicios que se encontrarán disponibles para ese momento) puede definir o cambiar el rumbo de la carrera para ser el operador de servicios líder en la región. La buena noticia es que nosotros estamos más que en condiciones de ayudar a los operadores a alcanzar su meta.

Por último, mientras mi avión se está preparando para salir, me quede pensando sobre la nube (no la del cielo, sino la de cloud computing), que sin duda ya está aquí entre nosotros, y como despegaría en Latinoamérica. Muchas personas de los 20 países al sur del Rio Grande ya están accediendo al contenido utilizando una gran variedad de dispositivos y sistemas operativos distintos. El desafío de maximizar el control operativo y la confianza del usuario sigue sin embargo vigente. Afortunadamente Comptel ya está enfocado en permitir que los proveedores de servicios de comunicaciones puedan gestionar la nube de servicios, no solo haciéndolos posibles, sino también rentables.

Ahora que el Mobile World Congress ha terminado existen algunos pensamientos adicionales que nos hemos traído de regreso a nuestros hogares y que todavía no hemos compartido? Puedes dejar un comentario aquí.

A Latin American Perspective on Mobile World Congress

Another Mobile World Congress is over. It was great to see so many Latin American operators make the trip to Barcelona (and keep me very busy with meetings!). As I was getting ready to travel the 16 hours back to Buenos Aires, I was thinking about the key tradeshow themes and discussions, and what these mean for the CALA region today and in the future.

First, the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets in CALA is certainly driving explosive growth in data traffic, and having a significant impact on the way mobile operators are managing their bandwidth, subscriptions and tiered service/price plans. It was nice to confirm (again) that consumers are willing to pay for advanced services like games, music and video-on-demand, as well as for a high Quality of Experience—revealing operators’ need to roll out policy control. At least half of the 120+ meetings we had over the four days at Mobile World Congress covered this OSS solution.

Latin America is also still growing at a very good pace in terms of wireless penetration; according to Mr. Daniel Hash, CEO of America Movil (full disclosure: the operator uses Comptel’s solutions in five countries), there are 30 million people over the age of 15 that will enter the market, driving growth to 150 million subscribers and doubling broadband penetration in the next five years. Managing all of those new customers (and the services that will be available by that time) will make or break the race for the top communications service provider in the region. The good news is that we are more than capable of helping operators meet this goal.

Lastly, as my flight was readying to leave, I pondered on Cloud, which is certainly here and taking off (no pun intended) in Latin America. People across the 20 countries south of the Rio Grande are accessing content on a variety of devices and operating systems. The key challenge of maximizing operational control and customer confidence remains. But Comptel has already been focused on enabling communications service providers to closely manage cloud services—not only making them possible, but profitable.

Now that Mobile World Congress has been wrapped up for a couple of weeks, are there any additional thoughts you took home but haven’t yet shared? Leave a comment here.


Around the World

Posted: February 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Around the World

CommsMEA… Around the World
Taking a Lead
Many countries in the Middle East are often criticised for the slow pace of reform in the telecom sector, but as editor Roger Field points out, the Gulf appears to be leading the way in one important aspect of telecom—roaming.  At last month’s Roaming MENA Conference, one of the main discussion points concerned the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) roaming regulations, which intend to reduce the cost of roaming charges by placing a cap on the wholesale and retail roaming fees that can be charged between operators in the Gulf.  The regulation has drawn some criticism from operators, and some have suggested that self regulation has already been achieved by simplifying roaming tariffs and giving end-users a clear indication of roaming fees.  With more consumers using mobile data services, the issue of ‘bill shock’, especially as a result of roaming charges, has become of greater concern not just to regulators but also to operators themselves who are aware of the importance of quality of experience, which of course includes billing.   Do you believe self-regulation is enough?

TM Forum Inside Leadership…
Cloud Services: The Next Big Thing for Telcos
Keith Willetts, chairman and CEO of TM Forum, shares his thoughts on cloud services and the challenges telcos face with it.  As he points out, many of today’s early cloud providers are product companies that are learning how to deliver complicated services.  One would think that that telcos have the upper hand when it comes to delivering services because of their brand recognition, large volume of customers and resources to deliver services; however, according to Willetts, with those attributes comes a poor reputation of customer service, a history of exposing technical complexity (rather than hiding it), a tendency to be slow to make decisions, and the weight of regulations and government.  The opportunity for telcos in the cloud is huge if they move quickly—not building the whole offering themselves—but rather putting in place delivery systems, customer support, etc.  Cloud is a two-sided business model, where telcos can partner with cloud providers and act as a go-to-market service enabler.  The example Keith uses in his article is that the telco could just provide the managed bandwidth that the cloud service needs. But it could also provide a lot of value—for example, providing the cloud store ‘front window’ (catalogs, etc.), security and authentication, and billing and customer care.  What do you think of this kind of model / partnering?  Do you see cloud being an opportunity for telcos?

Light Reading…
Reflections on Barcelona: Decision Time for 4G
From a network perspective, the most striking thing emerging from this year’s Mobile World Congress was just how much the industry’s mindset has shifted from a 3G-oriented, hierarchical network architecture to a flat, all-IP architecture. But as analyst Patrick Donegan points out, the daunting scale of this upcoming architectural transformation cannot be overestimated. To keep the cost of running the network at a sustainable level, operators’ network planning, engineering and operations teams will have to design and deliver a network-wide transformation unlike anything they have ever been asked to deliver on before.  Patrick compares this transformation to a house being refurbished.  Previously, transformations of the mobile network were discrete, like redoing the bathroom or building an extension.  The 4G transformation won’t allow anything like that.  IP makes network boundaries and domains more porous, so that what you do in one domain necessarily impacts all other domains (not just adjacent ones).  And it drives feature distribution, which in turn drives demand for new product types.  This kind of transformation more closely resembles refurbishing an entire house while you’re still living in it.  The need for coordination and alignment between work undertaken in one “room” and another is so much greater.  Do you see this network transformation impacting quality of service, especially with more mobile data traffic?