Predicting the Next Big Thing in the Bulgarian Telco Market

Posted: June 6th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World, Events, Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Predicting the Next Big Thing in the Bulgarian Telco Market

Tram in Sofia City CentreThis 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.


What Technologies Are Impacting Policy Management?

Posted: February 22nd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on What Technologies Are Impacting Policy Management?

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.


Survey: Customers Yearn for the Personal Touch from Mobile Operators

Posted: February 12th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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 comptel.marketing@comptel.com. You can visit our show microsite as well, for further examples of intelligence at every touch point.


More on the Catalog Conundrum

Posted: October 2nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on More on the Catalog Conundrum

While some are still a bit hesitant to adopt a service-layer catalog, we’re seeing communications service providers (CSPs) use it more and more as a driver for their overall business operations. This is especially true as service portfolios become broader, and as CSPs realise that simple commercial product catalogs can’t deliver the agility and rapid deployment needed to help them effectively compete. I recently wrote about this and the various benefits catalog can bring to CSPs, especially in terms of making product lifecycle management more efficient. Now, I’d like to dive a bit deeper into why catalog initiatives are a must for service provider IT (SPIT).

Catalog has traditionally played a role in many proof-of-concept exercises, as it can make product development and deployment easier, faster and less expensive. However, most CSPs haven’t followed these ideas through to operational adoption. This is starting to change as emerging technologies are fuelling the need for new tools to manage product lifecycles, and increasing organisational complexity only adds to this need. Meaning, CSPs must manage converging technologies and dispersed capabilities across departmental and service boundaries, which demand that formal management of the service lifecycle be a key part of the OSS/BSS architecture – cue catalog.

While CSPs realise the need for progress, one of the biggest obstacles they face in shifting to a catalog-driven approach is fear of transformation and the subsequent impact on existing processes. Alleviating these fears may be as simple as introducing catalog in phases to various departments rather than to the entire organisation at once. It’s important to think about the longer term benefits, too. CSPs can realise substantial architecture paybacks by integrating a system that wraps and re-uses its legacy infrastructure with new catalog-driven models.

When considering the investments being made in various technologies like 4G, coupled with the demand for personalised product delivery, catalog initiatives seem essential for management and have the potential to ensure true differentiation in the market. There is a very real possibility that the traditional OSS/BSS boundaries and architectures of the past will be completely redrawn, with service catalogs at the centre of the new SPIT platform.  Do you agree?


Conversation on CIQ4T with Heavy Reading, Part 1

Posted: July 17th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

At Comptel, making data beautiful means transforming the voluminous amounts of information that service providers have on hand into contextual – and digestible – insight. This entails moving beyond the simple collection of data and discovering the true applications of the information.

Heavy Reading analysts Ari Banerjee and Sarah Wallace recently discussed this very topic, exploring how contextual intelligence for telecoms (CIQ4T) can elevate the customer experience through many dimensions. In this conversation, they consider how, in order to fully maximise business opportunities, communications service providers require a holistic understanding of an individual subscriber’s usage patterns, behaviours and circumstances – and the benefits this provides. You can listen to the full podcast of the conversation here or read the highlights, from part one of our two-part series, below.

Ari Banerjee: Sarah, how do you define CIQ4T especially when it comes to dealing with the communications industry and telcos?

Sarah Wallace: CIQ4T is defined as being able to understand the uniqueness of a person, circumstance or object and converting that understanding into an opportunity. That translates very well into telecoms because providers are really trying to get a better understanding of their subscribers and then translate this into an opportunity to retain customers and further monetise their opportunities with them.

Ari Banerjee: Obviously advanced analytics plays a major catalyst role here. In our opinion, advanced analytics is a key enabler for CIQ4T. It helps to navigate through the huge amounts of data that operators gather to get a more in-depth profile of the subscriber and understand factors, like their preferences and usage patterns. Then, service providers can use that data with advanced algorithms to predict future behavior patterns.

Advanced analytics implementation typically involves the creation of architecture that enables the collection, storage and integration of data sets from a variety of systems. Then, applying correlation and analytic techniques to identify patterns of significance across these data sets. Obviously, this helps to provide a root-cause analysis and to become more predictive.  On top of that, all of these different processes or ways of handling Big Data help to facilitate the delivery of actionable intelligence and provide context-specific insight for end-users.

So Sarah, now that you’ve defined CIQ4T, can you talk about its key characteristics that you see in your research with service providers today?

Sarah Wallace: Sure. So in telecoms, one key aspect is the real-time capability – or being able to take all the data, process it and turn that into analysis to make offerings in real-time. And then you have the characteristic of prediction – or being able to predict subscriber behavior and allowing for optimal decision-making, when it comes to planning and designing for future offers. There’s also connecting with the customer at all touch points and having a contextual or deeper, granular understanding of those touch points to determine which action should take place next.

Of course, there’s also the ability to handle large volumes of data – for instance, combining the data from the network with other sources, such as CRM and OSS and other network elements. Then, being able to apply that data for real-time decision-making. There’s also the operational aspect of advanced analytics and CIQ4T, which based on the analytics, determines the need for action toward the customer, network and the feedback loop for machine learning.

Ari Banerjee: So what you’re talking about is being able to navigate through Big Data to provide a more predictive pattern of how someone, a network, or the subscriber will behave in the future and to understand the different parameters that make up a subscriber profile. This includes things, like his location, his action patters, and business life, how he’s using services during office hours, non-peak hours, family time – and how to basically provide more offers that are very focused on his day-to-day needs. This is a shift away from mass-market approach of campaign management to more of a focused, one-to-one approach.

Stay tuned for part two, in which Ari Banerjee and Sarah Wallace put analytics into action and discuss compelling CIQ4T use-cases that illustrate just how effective the approach can be.


A New Life for the Policy Control Box

Posted: July 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

There is a huge mindset change going on within the mobile operator community.   They are now primarily thinking of themselves as broadband data operators, and not so much as providers of voice connections anymore.

I’m not saying that it has just happened, but now this change is the primary driver in all decisions and plans—the focus of operations, investments and business models is rapidly shifting towards data.  Even though operators are still getting most of their revenue from voice traffic, the overwhelming majority of new initiatives, including exciting product launches, are coming from fulfilling the growing data-service expectations of their customers.

But it means that there are also new challenges, and in that respect, there are many things where OSS and BSS can help.

One big change is in the role of policy control.  Traditionally, policy control has been tightly tied to the network.  It has been the PCRF (Policy and Charging Rules Function), an entity that originally emerged as a 3GGP-defined data transmission controls unit that worked in unison with the PCEF (Policy Control Enforcement Function).  Here the keyword is “control”. It was used to guarantee the health of the network—and of course—save when it came to network investments.  It was about punishing P2P hoarders, video streamers and other “over-users”,  squeezing the throttle when quotas had been exceeded.

That is why network managers have been eager to invest in policy control, and they traditionally have been the driving force behind its adoption.

Now with the phenomenal success of mobile broadband, there are new things happening.  It is not enough to manage only the cost and resource-usage anymore.  Ever increasing competition is driving the need to find new ways of encouraging customers to spend more on broadband—to buy services, capacity enhancements, service upgrades and content.  Policy control has now been expanded to manage solution offering and charging options.  And these needs have nothing to do with network issues; they are in the interest of IT or marketing people.

At Comptel, we have been finding an increasing amount of interest in policy control by customers coming from the IT and business side: it seems that all have now grasped the value of policy control in helping to balance operations between revenue, cost of network resources and customer satisfaction.

IT people, for example, see policy control more like an extension of charging, a way to apply charging policies and implement prepaid & postpaid convergence, and they see policy control as a means to introduce specific tiered charging models.

There are several reasons why policy control is now understood more as an IT- and business-level solution rather than a network solution:

  • It needs to be easily programmable to create the flexibility needed in business rules.
  • It needs to understand service- and customer-specific issues to manage priorities, quality of service and promotions.
  • It needs to manage multi-vendor networks.
  • It needs to manage multiple network technologies (like LTE, 3G, Wi-Fi, WiMAX, DOCSIS, etc.) to create a true end-to-end experience.
  • It needs to interface with application servers to be able perform service-specific policies.
  • It needs to handle migration from 2G/3G to 4G through several phases, while providing the same perceived end-to-end experience.
  • In addition to charging and control issues, it needs to manage network configurations (fulfillment).

So it seems that old network hardware policy control box is finding its new life as elegant and flexible business policy control software.


AT&T: Taking Charge of Its Mobile Broadband Services?

Posted: June 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on AT&T: Taking Charge of Its Mobile Broadband Services?

While I was painting something in my garage (and waiting for it to dry) this past week, I was surfing the Web on my E90 Communicator and reading about AT&T’s recent announcement.  I think the communications service provider’s (CSP) move to pricing ‘bucket plans’ for its mobile broadband offerings is a very interesting one—compelling me to write a blog post…

What AT&T announced was that consumers with smartphones can choose a DataPlus package, pay USD $15 a month and get to download 200 MB of data.  They will also receive a notification when they near the quota limit and a warning about additional charges for exceeding the 200 MB.  Alternatively, consumers can go with the CSP’s DataPro package, pay USD $25 a month and get to download 2 GB of data.  Otherwise, this package principally works in the same way as the former.

After digesting this a bit, I saw many similarities between these plans—with a monthly subscription, an online quota management and a selective bucket, extra usage pay as more is charged and a notification of nearing the quota—and the type of capabilities offered by Comptel Control and Charge, which are currently being explored by CSPs worldwide.  But that’s not all… With Comptel’s solution, CSPs can, for example, offer fixed-mobile convergent quotas and service-specific quotas or exclusions, such as streaming music or downloading it from iTunes or Spotify, so that it does not consume the entire limit.

It is becoming more and more evident that ‘all-you-can-eat’ types of mobile broadband propositions are being converted into something more value-based and limited.  Although the limit may be large—like AT&T’s offering, where 200 MB is enough for 65% of users and only 2% exceed 2 GB—it is still there, preventing excessive usage or charging for high usage, and thus either creating new revenue opportunities or limiting (and guiding) customers’ behaviours in some way.

AT&T’s case is not the only example around, but it seems to be quite clearly well-defined and focused on a classic issue associated with mobile broadband.  I think it is a fairly fair policy and definitely a case where the CSP is taking charge of its services.


Q&A: Gareth Senior on Comptel's Cloud Strategy

Posted: May 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Behind the Scenes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Q&A: Gareth Senior on Comptel's Cloud Strategy

Cloud services have the potential to create a whole new line of business for communications service providers (CSPs).  Technology advances, particularly in virtualization and remote communications, are making these new offerings ever more credible, and customers are increasingly intrigued by the potential not only to save costs but also to reduce risk and increase business flexibility.  Meanwhile, businesses and enterprises are looking beyond software as a service (SaaS) and evaluating the benefits of outsourcing substantial parts of their IT environment to the cloud.

But, cloud services are not all bright new dawn and silver lining.  Hear what CTO Gareth Senior has to say on the issues these offerings create and how Comptel is applying its OSS solutions to help CSPs cash in on the cloud.

Q: What challenges do CSPs need to overcome, not only to deliver cloud services efficiently—but also to make some profit from them?

A: Moving into cloud services is not just an incremental change to the CSPs’ portfolios; they bring real challenges. Cloud services have much more in common with IT services and outsourcing than traditional communications services, and customers will view their providers rather differently, too.  For example, enterprises will need demonstrable reassurance that the CSPs can deliver quality of service, performance, security and regulatory compliance.  And of course, since cost reduction is a big driver, they will be extremely price sensitive.  So in order to succeed, CSPs will need to deliver services at least as effectively as their customers could—and definitely more cost effectively.  A tough challenge!

Q: What impact does Comptel see the sale of cloud services having on OSS/BSS?

A: As the services to be delivered are different than traditional services, it will have an impact on traditional OSS/BSS.  Resource management is going to be more IT-orientated than network-focused.  Service management will have to take place in a distributed environment, with services being bundled together from different sources and likely to include communications elements and components from third parties.  In terms of charging for these services, variants on ‘pay as you go’, combined with ‘pay as you grow’ models, are likely, even in business and enterprise propositions.  All of this means that even so-called convergent OSS/BSS could struggle to handle cloud services.

Q: How does the Comptel Dynamic OSS portfolio support CSPs and their end-customers in ‘catching the cloud’?

A: Comptel believes that cloud service providers require a comprehensive ‘concept-to-cash’ and probably even dedicated platform that can handle this very different kind of business.  Comptel Dynamic OSS is well suited to this.  Our products let CSPs:

  • Catalog and manage cloud products and services;
  • Manage the resources needed to provide cloud-based services, from servers to communication lines, to applications and more;
  • Fulfill customer orders, using automated order management processes;
  • Monitor and respond to customer activity using pre-defined policy;
  • Collect usage information;
  • Rate and charge for usage and events; and
  • Provide customer and operational visibility of cloud environments.

Comptel is partaking in a number of cloud activities at Management World 2010 in Nice next week, and invites you to join in the industry-wide discussion on making cloud service possible and profitable.  Leave a comment or swing by the company’s tradeshow booth (#21)!


Welcome to "The Dynamics of OSS"

Posted: May 11th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: News | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Welcome to "The Dynamics of OSS"

These are interesting times for the telecom industry, but when have they ever not been?  More phones have been sold, the number of subscribers has grown and the use of services has increased.  Happy days!

However, many challenges have arisen with this success.  For example, as customers worldwide continue to demand more data-intensive offerings, brought on by devices like the iPhone, communications service providers (CSPs) must be focused on keeping customer satisfaction high (due to lifestyle services’ impact on bandwidth) and costs in check, while realizing an acceptable level of profitability.

And, where do we go from here?

Comptel is excited to introduce its new blog and forum for discussing such issues facing CSPs worldwide.  Our team will share their thoughts on the most impactful telecom trends, expand on the latest global and regional industry news, as well as highlight some of Comptel’s very own announcements.  We look forward to exploring “The Dynamics of OSS” with you.

Feel free to leave a comment, or drop us a line at comptel.marketing@comptel.com.  Happy reading!