Poll: What Is the Hottest Buzzword in the Telecoms Industry?

Posted: June 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Telecom Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Did you have a chance to vote in last month’s poll on the biggest business priorities for communications service providers over the next 12 months? Well, the results are now in, with a three-way tie between reducing customer churn, reducing time-to-revenue and finding new ways of increasing profitability. If you missed it, Comptel’s CEO, Juhani Hintikka, recently outlined two strong approaches for facilitating these types of business performance improvements.

This month, with the telecoms industry wrapping up big tradeshows like TM Forum’s Management World in Dublin, the LTE World Summit in Barcelona and The Cable Show in Boston, we want to know what you think were the hottest terms or even the most frequently used acronyms (SPIT, anyone?) thrown about during the conferences. We welcome you to post in the “Comments” section below as always.


Poll: When Are You Most Likely to Engage with Your Customers?

Posted: April 4th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Over the years, we have surveyed communications service providers (CSPs) and consumers alike to provide deeper insight into the telecoms world. For instance, at this year’s Mobile World Congress, we revealed that a whopping two-thirds of subscribers feel neglected by their mobile operators—and that they are really looking for their CSPs to interact and engage with them.

Today, we are bringing this polling tradition to our blog, Compelling Conversations on OSS, and invite you to share your thoughts on pressing industry issues with us. We hope you will vote in our inaugural survey related to customer engagement, and welcome you to share any thoughts in the “Comments” section below, especially if you select “Other”.


Looking Forward to TELSA in Saudi Arabia

Posted: January 25th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Comptel sees a lot of potential in the Middle East and Africa (MEA), and is investing to create more opportunities for being a key stakeholder in the region for its customers and partners. One country that presents immense possibilities is Saudi Arabia, which was recently ranked as the most valuable and second largest Middle Eastern mobile market with 42.9 million subscriptions.

As such, Comptel is a silver sponsor of and looks forward to meeting industry players at the Saudi Telecoms and ICT Summit (TELSA), which is going to be held from 29 to 31 January 2012 at the Four Seasons in Riyadh. The conference and exhibition will cover themes such as infrastructure development, growth strategies and investment opportunities in the Saudi telecoms industry.

Ahmed Hamza, a cluster head in the MEA region for Comptel, is going to participate in a panel discussion on harnessing the full potential of broadband to drive increased revenue, which is going to be held on 29 January at 16:30. The panel will talk about increasing ARPU through an effective broadband strategy, attracting customers through digitisation and content development, and capitalising on mobile broadband to increase revenue by focusing on sectors such as vocational education, health and agriculture. It will also discuss developing non-voice service offerings through segmented focus and niche marketing, introducing value-added services to meet customers’ needs using data mining and other business intelligence tools, assessing pricing structure and determining an optimal tariff rate. Last but not least, Ahmed will explore how operators can leverage broadband services to increase their market share.

The next day of the summit at 11:30, Kim Molin, a director of solution management at Comptel, will present a session on intelligent bandwidth management for an optimised customer experience. The presentation will cover differentiating data services with a personalised quality of experience, introducing bandwidth management tools for proactively improving customer satisfaction and increasing ARPU through intelligently up-selling new data services.

From Saudi Airlines presenting its strategic ICT transformation initiatives to gain competitive advantage in the aviation industry to Zain Saudi Arabia giving a cost-benefit analysis and critical insights into why it chose the TD-LTE variant, this summit and exhibition should be quite an exciting event with local, regional and international telecom operators, regulators, service providers, wholesale carriers, government agencies, vendors and corporations together under one roof. It’s also interesting to note that the conference organizers have provided workshops on how telecoms can provide solutions to the public and oil and gas sectors.

We welcome you to visit and interact with Comptel experts at our TELSA exhibition stand (G 25).


Best Wishes for the Holiday Season!

Posted: December 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Best Wishes for the Holiday Season!

With the holidays and New Year just around the corner, we wanted to briefly reflect on the milestones Comptel achieved in 2011. Most notably, we celebrated our 25th anniversary, which is pretty remarkable in the telecoms software industry. Comptel was also honoured for multiple awards, announced several customer projects like the catalog-driven service fulfillment deal with NBN CO, unveiled our Next Generation Fulfillment Strategy and hosted a successful 14th annual User Group.

Each holiday season, we send our greeting cards electronically and donate the money saved from the traditional, printed cards to a charitable fund. This year, Comptel has selected Plan International to receive our donation (last year, we worked with the Kileva Foundation). It is one of the oldest and largest children’s development organisations in the world, and works to promote child rights and bring millions out of poverty.

Comptel’s donation will support Plan’s mission to achieve lasting improvements in the quality of children’s lives in at least 50 developing countries. For those who would like to get involved with Plan International, you can learn more here.

To all our customers, partners, investors and friends, we wish you a peaceful and happy holiday season and look forward to another fruitful and cooperative year in 2012!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What Can Developed Market Telcos Learn from Emerging Markets?

Posted: August 16th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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

By this point, most of us know how dramatically mobile communications have affected the emerging markets, bringing services and information to people who previously had only tenuous links to the larger world. Mobile payments have brought elementary financial capabilities to millions of people formerly dependent on cash. Newly available information on markets, agricultural practices, government services and health have also eased and enriched users’ lives. Communications service providers (CSPs) are offering discounts based on the current usage of individual base stations, stretching their customers’ money and taming network congestion.

The speed of development in emerging markets leads some commentators to proclaim that we live in an era of “reverse innovation,” where things happen first in developing markets and then are exported to mature markets. I’ve never liked that term, which both flirts with condescension and seems to ignore the fact that, from the beginning, the work that went into most of these services occurred in markets developing and developed alike. But what of the central point? Have telecoms in emerging markets produced products or practices that could improve the business of CSPs in the developed world?

At first glance, maybe not. Mobile networks in Sub-Saharan Africa can double as point of sale networks because thereias no established competition, and because regulators are willing to grant them some leeway in order to extend financial services to the unbanked masses. In the developed world, telecoms networks will never supplant the established clearinghouses. Instead, the industry is focussing on enabling Near-Field Communications (NFC), which, in turn, require a level of infrastructure rarely found in emerging markets. And probably the industry’s biggest worry—competition with over-the-top players— has been a non-issue in emerging markets, since few people can afford data subscriptions. Basic pocketbook issues have meant that in low ARPU areas, it’s a 2G revolution.

But if you break down the emerging market success stories, you start to notice that many of the best practices are found on the IT side of telecoms, whether in charging or basic service design. Here, briefly, are three lessons I think we can draw from emerging markets:

  • Compelling services are real-time services. Given the predominance of prepaid in emerging markets, it’s no surprise that real-time capabilities are so prominent. The dynamic tarriffing I referred to above relies on real-time analytics and discounts to direct users to less-trafficked cells. In developed markets, a few CSPs are experimenting with similar capabilities for their data networks, both pre- and post-paid.
  • Usability is even more important than you think. Everybody mentions Apple when they want to talk about design, but when your transport is SMS and some of your user base is illiterate, making your tasks lightweight, universal and fool proof is a necessity. Developed world users flock to well-designed functionality as well. And optimizing communication between the client and the data centre is still very much an issue in telco services.
  • Identity management is a key telco asset. If anything, it’s even more important in developed markets, where the telco has less of a natural place in payments value chains and where fraud can produce much higher damages in absolute terms. When NFC availability depends on vendors and the transaction is cleared by somebody else, the ability to certify a user is a natural capability of the CSP—until OTT players capitalize on foot-dragging to take over that function, too.

There are almost certainly others. Think of it this way: emerging market CSPs are running smart pipes over voice/SMS. Anybody in carrier IT can draw inspiration from that.

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


Introducing Juhani Hintikka to “The Dynamics of OSS”

Posted: November 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: News | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

Last week, Comptel announced that I would be taking over as CEO from January 2011. However, I didn’t want to wait that long to contribute for the first time to the blog.

I have to say, I am really excited about joining Comptel. It’s a company I know well, not least because I was on the board between 2007 and 2008. Comptel is a company with a great history and, I believe, a great future.

A few words about my background. Since 1999, I have been working in telecoms at Nokia and Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) in various roles.

At first, I was involved in an internal start-up looking at wireless broadband access. Then I moved into sales and marketing, focusing on growing Nokia’s business in emerging markets. After that, I moved to services to help fix some major problems with customer satisfaction.

Shortly after the creation of NSN, I took over the responsibility for the OSS/BSS business. This was one of the global businesses in NSN and meant heading up a unit with people across the world, mostly software R&D but also customisation services.

Finally, at the start of 2010, after a reorganisation, I became head of the newly created OSS business that included all services and third-party software. I have also been on the board of TM Forum in 2008-10.

I have had the opportunity to see and experience a lot of things in telecoms. And now, I have been given a chance to apply that experience to running one of the best known independent software vendors in the OSS business!

Comptel is a recognized player in the industry. It has a good product portfolio, especially with the acquisitions made in the last few years. I also think Comptel has solid financials, despite the challenging Q3 results. And I believe Comptel has taken positive steps towards working more with partners.  But most importantly for a business in this knowledge-intensive industry, Comptel has some very good people working for the company.

In short, I think the fundamentals are good; the right building blocks are there. So right now, I just can’t wait to get going!


What’s in Store for the Comptel User Group

Posted: October 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »
Beaumont Estate, Old Windsor, Berkshire, England

Beaumont Estate, Old Windsor, Berkshire, England

Comptel is hosting its annual User Group (CUG) this week in Windsor in the U.K.  In its 13th year, the meeting provides Comptel’s customers and partners with an opportunity to exchange information with the company’s fulfillmentmediation and policy control experts and executive management—and most importantly, with each other.

Networking and social interaction are among the key goals of this event.  Supporting this initiative, we’ve developed a dynamic agenda that includes:

We’re excited about the CUG and our ability to keep an active forum for our customers and partners.  Comptel invites both those attending and those unable to make the event to participate in discussions on the blog, as our staff posts on some of the activities.


GTB 40 under 40 Summit: Is the Way Forward Dumb or Smart?

Posted: October 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on GTB 40 under 40 Summit: Is the Way Forward Dumb or Smart?

London, September 27-28, 2010

Global Telecoms Business (GTB) hosted an invitation-only summit for 40 leading telecoms entrepreneurs under the age of 40 in 2010, drawn from operators and network, software and services suppliers (including Gareth Senior, Comptel’s CTO). Most nominees presented or participated in discussion panels. Around 35 of the 40 nominated executives attended; discussions were wide-ranging and provided an interesting barometer on the state of the industry.

The forty foresee a significantly changing role for telecoms, which unsurprisingly finds itself at yet another crossroads. What’s perhaps different—and encouraging—is that the industry is starting to look outwards rather than inward for its strategic direction, recognizing that telecoms will be less an ‘endpoint service’ but will increasingly play an enabling role inside other industries and in broader service eco-systems. Telecommunications could, for example:

–      provide monitoring and metering for advanced utilities, smart grids, fleets, road congestion management and so on;

–      be built into devices, or bundled with services (Amazon’s Kindle was often cited as a disruptive device), which could point to a similar approach with gaming and other single-or limited-use Internet devices; and

–      be at the heart of ‘vertical’ applications for business, government, public services and more.

Much was made of device connections overtaking person-to-person as a point of focus. ‘Fifty billion devices’ currently seems to be the industry’s most quoted statistic, projecting the number of devices which will be Internet-connected by 2020. By comparison, the industry has just crossed the five billion mark for connected humans. No one is prepared to make confident predictions about exactly what will result from all of this connectivity (and in particular, where the new revenue will come from), but it seems fair to say that some interesting business-to-business dynamics are likely to emerge over the next few years. The outlook for telecoms may be cloudy, but it’s far from dull.

At the same time as looking for innovation, there is evidence of real focus on ‘the plumbing’, or optimising networks for the most efficient use per subscriber, service or device, largely to disconnect ever-growing traffic volumes from the costs to which they are very closely aligned today. Nominees expressed confidence in the power of more adaptable, resilient, software-driven networks to make the network more cost-effective and scalable for future services. This was reinforced by the GSMA, which believes the capacity crunch can be overcome through a combination of:

–      Effective, variable pricing—particularly tiered- and QoS-based,

–      Spectral efficiencies,

–      New 200 and 800 MHz spectrum—and the refarmed 900 and 1800 MHz range,

–      General expansion and greater sharing of networks,

–      Traffic offload through Wi-Fi and femtocells, and

–      Better traffic management—using caching and compression techniques at the network edge.

If there was a single recurring theme, it was the question of ‘smart pipe vs. dumb pipe’. Most of the 40 are predicting some flavour of smart pipe—exploiting the capabilities of advanced networks to create sophisticated and differentiated communications services—but shading into a more enlightened approach to content than just ‘becoming a media company’. This could perhaps be best described as ‘smart business’, founded on network capabilities but selling content where real advantages exist (e.g. in location services or QoS dependency). A significant number still argue for a much closer focus on the network, however, tending towards a highly efficient ‘dumb pipe’, focusing on the wholesale provision of network services to other service providers and industries.

In the end, the most compelling analysis for me is one that looks at the argument in a less ‘polar’ way than ‘dumb vs smart’ would suggest, instead considering networks-into-content as a spectrum of value, with opportunities to capture varying lengths of the value chain depending on market position, market context and technology or business advantages.  Nothing new here? To judge from this conference, what’s new is a much more realistic weighing up of those factors than we’ve seen in recent years, which should help the market open up realistic new business and resist some very real challenges from rising Internet competitors.

These are themes that will no doubt be explored further at Comptel’s upcoming Comptel User Group (CUG) next week—watch this space.