Around the World

Posted: April 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

TelecomAsia …
Take Responsibility End-to-End

In this article, reporter Joseph Waring focuses on customer experience as an especially important element contributing to both the success and growth of the telecom industry. He illustrates this by detailing the results of aTelecom Asia-Stratecast survey of operators across Asia Pacific, which found that customer experience management and customer care/self-care were the customer-oriented functions receiving the most attention, with 55-56 percent of those polled pointing to these as top priorities. Following on the heels of customer experience management and customer care/self-care were business analytics and business intelligence, with 44 percent of respondents indicating these areas as receiving the most attention. According to Stratecast’s Karl Whitelock, this prioritisation makes sense. He states that: “They are related, and a focus on one creates a need to update the other. Customer self-care and knowing the customer’s overall service experience is vital in today’s always-on environment.”

This reminded us of a recent post from Olivier Suard in which he discusses customer satisfaction as something that’s not as black and white as mobile broadband speed and capacity. He explains that customer satisfaction is often thought of in terms of smartphone users, but there are still large amounts of mobile phone users who do not own a smartphone. For these people, it’s more likely that what keeps them satisfied are things like accurate billing and how well they can make phone calls or send/receive text messages. For this reason, it’s not surprising that customer care, business analytics and business intelligence ranked high in the Telecom Asia-Stratecast survey – it’s important to think about all different types of customers and the ways they use their devices in order to ensure the best possible experience.

Pyramid Research…
Kenyans Sprint Toward a Strong Telecom Future

The future of telecom seems promising for Kenya, with analyst Majd Hosn detailing the country’s communications market achievements in 2010 and describing its likelihood for success in 2011 and beyond. 3G, number portability and service quality made major strides with the help of the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK). The CCK dramatically reduced interconnection rates as well as the levy for acquiring a 3G license. Additionally, mobile number portability was put into effect and a set of operational rules were enacted that hold operators responsible for a minimum service quality to customers. In terms of growth, Hosn states that 2010 revenue is expected at $1.42 billion—a 5.4 percent increase from 2009. And with an expected 2010 mobile penetration rate of 56 percent, Kenya is certainly looking like it will be prosperous in the telecom space!

Alan Quayle Weblog…
IMS World Forum: Quick Summary

Recently returned from the IMS World Forum earlier this month, Alan Quayle provides an overview of the event and highlights some key presentations. The Forum was a huge success with more than 250 attendees, a 20 percent increase from last year. Alan states that although IMS seems to be fairly old-hat, it’s actually more important than ever to have this sort of IMS-centric event in order to pool ideas on how best to deploy the technology as it becomes more mainstream.  In fact, a 2009 survey revealed that eight percent of operators had deployed IMS for commercial services. Alan is currently in the middle of updating the survey, but results seem to be on track with his expectations—IMS deployments in 2011 will be at roughly 17 percent.

Alan describes the Forum as a roughly equal mix of operators and vendors and a great platform for discussion.  Promising to review these presentations in more detail, Alan lists the following highlights:

  • Thomas May from Verizon presented VoLTE experimentation results.
  • Wooyong Choi from SKT presented the operator’s experiences with RCS.
  • Both Kevin Klett (Acme Packet) and Micaela Giuhat (Genband) provided strong views on the implementation options for IMS and some hints on simplification.
  • Katarina Sekaljic from Serbia Telekom presented on the challenges for implementing IMS.

We’re particularly looking forward to hearing more about Verizon’s presentation on VoLTE, as Simo Isomäki wrote a piece discussing how LTE is breathing new life into IMS and followed it up with a post on the voice problem. Simo believes that one of the key options for alleviating this pain point is VoLTE, as it is backed by all of the major network and device vendors. However, it requires an IMS back-end core and also forces all services using 2G/3G for voice to be re-implemented in IMS. VoLTE would support the handover of radio to ensure voice call continuity in a single-radio mode, but some work would still need to be done to stadardise the handover process from 3G to LTE.

Policy—An All Purpose Tool?

Posted: April 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Telecom Trends | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Policy—An All Purpose Tool?

By: Elisabeth Rainge, Research Vice President, NGN Operations, IDC

Television, the Internet and phone calls used to be very different experiences. In particular, there was a gap in the experience of fixed line networks—which happened via PCs and cable television—and the experience of mobile networks—which happened via handsets. The gap was in the applications: voice or messaging on the mobile phone versus browsing, rich content and video on the PC or TV. Smartphones blur the customer experience of fixed and mobile, but subscribers rarely understand how the network challenges and capacity of mobile networks differ from fixed line networks. This puts a lot of pressure on mobile operators to improve customer experience. Colleagues and friends often ask me why a Skype call on a PC is better quality than a mobile phone connection. This is not about the application; it is about exposing the need to build network integrity, reliability and availability into mobile networks. To do this, it requires optimization and management techniques.

The communications service providers (CSPs) that I talk to are, like everyone, looking for ways to do more with less: budget challenges, staffing challenges, shifting priorities … the list goes on. In the more than 15 years that I’ve been at IDC and working with networking professionals, the focus of conversations has always been dominated by technology. Now, in 2011, it’s different. Business goals, including customer satisfaction improvements, have emerged in the past few years as the top context for almost all of the conversations. Having a successful business means having and keeping paying customers.

One way that these two themes—customer service usage and business goals—come together is policy control. Optimizing the services and networks to address customer expectations is the key way to apply policy control technology. At the same time, policy control technology can deliver a greater return on investment because it is generally a lower price point than the kinds of network hardware that can deliver roughly equal performance improvements (in a more general way).

The key to policy control though, is that it is about imposing business rules and business logic from the network infrastructure context. It is a tool for CSPs’ networking professionals and for business people. It’s also a tool suited to many types of services and many types of networks. As subscribers look for a consistent connectivity experience across multiple devices, policy control is an increasingly useful tool in the CSP’s toolbox.

Elisabeth Rainge manages IDC’s research into telecom industry operational practices and contributes to IDC’s broad portfolio of network infrastructure market research. Currently, she is leading IDC’s research of telecom software, focusing on business value. Specific areas of coverage include OSS/BSS, SDP, NGN, IMS, mobile, and the transition to IP networks.

Q1 2011: An Update on Comptel’s Business and Strategy

Posted: April 15th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Q1 2011: An Update on Comptel’s Business and Strategy

Today we announced our Q1 2011 results. I have to admit they were disappointing on the financial side. Most notably, our net sales in Europe and the Middle East did not live up to expectations.

On the positive side, the APAC region continued to perform well. I was especially pleased about Australia’s NBN Co becoming a customer. NBN Co is doing very leading-edge things, bringing high-speed broadband to virtually every premise in the country. It’s a very high profile initiative, and I know many other countries are looking carefully at similar developments, so we are really excited about being part of this ground-breaking initiative.

From an organisational point of view, Q1 was a period of change. We continued to implement our initiative to get closer to customers and partners, chiefly by putting resources next to them. We also announced the split of our European operations into Europe West and Europe East, to take into account the very different features of the markets in terms of maturity, saturation and growth. We also got positive customer feedback about the new setup for the Inventory business.

This will be in many ways a year of building a new foundation for growth.

Around the World

Posted: April 14th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Around the World

Microsperience …
The Customer Experience—You Can’t Improve It If You Don’t Know What It Looks Like
Telesperience analyst Teresa Cottam takes a deep look at customer experience in telecoms in her recent blog post.  She explains how there are very different v

iews regarding what it involves, what the most important customer touchpoints are and how we can focus our efforts on improving the experience we offer our customers.  The analyst makes an important point when she states that customer experience is everything we do that touches the customer—not just customer service, CRM, billing, etc.—but the performance of networks by IT, marketing and the business.  Communications service providers (CSPs) have spent a considerable amount of money and effort trying to support and meet their customers’ needs, provide a better experience and even understand what exactly their customers want; so why does disappointment still prevail?  Teresa identifies eight answers to this complex question, but the ones that caught our eye are creating customer service silos and over-focusing on technology.

On the same front, Informa’s Kris Szaniawski attended the Managed Services for Growth Markets conference last week in Dubai, and as he points out, customer experience was certainly a hot topic of discussion.  Many operators are frustrated with the linkage between the measurable indicators and the customer experience—not the indicators themselves.  When it comes to measuring customer experience, should CSPs focus first on a custo

mer satisfaction index, or should they send packets into the network, collect data from OSS, probes and terminals, drive tests or analyse behaviour

in some other way? Or should they try to focus on all of them more or less equally?  And which of these measurements, if any, comes closest to representing the end-user experience?

Vendors, including Comptel, are exploring the relationship between indicators and the customer experience, as it doesn’t need to be elusive anymore.  Operators can fully leverage their data and network assets to deliver an exceptional customer experience upon end-users becoming customers and through their use and upgrade of services.

Connected Planet…
Ovum Analyst Warns LTE Is Overhyped, But Does Anyone Care?
A recent Ovum report by Matt Walker states that LTE is overhyped and that only 11 percent of mobile broadband subscribers are going to be on the 4G network by 2015.  After reading comments from a Light Reading article, which describes the report, BSS/OSS reporter Susana Schwartz says that she disagrees with Ovum’s stance.  Unlike 3G, Susana thinks the situation with 4G is more pressing and will, therefore, push things along more so than in the past.  In addition, competition now spans companies beyond telecom, and the ability to have 4G is no longer a choice, as the cycles from conceiving a service, planning, deploying and going live is very short.  Susana also points out that multi-year cycles could be the death knell for some service providers.  Only time will tell if LTE, like 3G, is overhyped.  Did you read Ovum’s report?  Do you agree or disagree that LTE is overhyped?

New Sprint Ad Campaign Hinges On Unlimited Data
North American CSP Sprint Nextel plans to continue to push its unlimited offerings with an advertising campaign centered on its new tagline, “All. Together. Now.” Sprint’s effort is in light of rivals’ actions, which limit users’ data traffic by either metered billing or throttling.  It appears that the CSP plans to use the issue of usage-based pricing to differentiate itself from competitors; for years, Sprint has been pushing its “Simply Everything” plan, which provides unlimited talking, texting and data.  However, Sprint too has suffered from the recent surge in broadband traffic—the carrier tacked on an extra $10.00 per month for its unlimited data plans.  What do you think of Sprint’s continued path of offering unlimited data in today’s smartphone-engrossed world?

Amsterdam Feels the Heat of Policy Control

Posted: April 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »

I have just returned from Informa’s Policy Control event, which was held in Amsterdam earlier this week, and where Comptel was present as an exhibitor and as a participant in a panel discussion. It was a very good event: some excellent speeches, some excellent networking.

There is no doubt that policy control is HOT at the moment. Infonetics analyst Shira Levine, who was chairing the first day of the event, stated that she expected the market to quadruple in size by 2015, and reach $1.6 billion! The event’s presentations broadly offered three reasons for this: the growth in data traffic, regulation, and the drive to differentiate and personalise services.

The growth in data traffic, and the fact that it is outstripping revenue growth, are both well documented. Many presenters offered the “Xs”. For example, T-Mobile Netherlands said that between December 2008 and December 2010, smartphone traffic grew by 6X, volume by 5X and (maybe most interesting of all) signalling by 7X. On that last point, a number of speakers identified the growth in signalling traffic as the most pressing problem concerning congestion—even though LTE is more efficient than HSPA, this is a problem that shows no sign of going away. Overall, this traffic growth is driving operators to try and “control” bandwidth usage (more about that later).

The second driver mentioned at the conference was legislation. For example, Telefonica Germany (formerly O2) explained how it had to implement roaming cost control to comply with European Union legislation. In fact, the speaker seemed to imply that the operator’s policy control solution still wasn’t live, and that to comply with the legislation, it had to find a work around: Telefonica basically does not charge for roaming data usage over €50 limit, and just reduces the quality of service for the user. This is not done in real time, as the usage calculation is done during the billing run. Clearly, though not explicitly mentioned by Telefonica, this is a source of revenue leakage (in the form of uncharged usage). Nonetheless, the communications service provider (CSP) explained that while revenue per MB went down as a result of this legislation, overall revenue for data went up, because users no longer suffered bill shock.

The final driver for the adoption of policy control is differentiation and personalisation. There was a lot of discussion in particular around the move from punitive and “blind” bandwidth control towards intelligent bandwidth management as part of tiered offerings. The BT speaker put it succinctly: “policy control is”, she said, “the last gasp of a centralised control approach.” She argued that operators should be providing what customers want, and that means Skype, Netflix, etc. The walled garden approach is dying, and over-the-top services are here to stay.

Other speakers talked about offering application-aware bandwidth (e.g. for video or gaming) and tying that closely to price plans with policy control and charging. Zain Kuwait, for example, explained how it offers two plans, eeZee for average users and e-Go for heavy users.

U.K. ISP PlusNet did sound a note of caution though: customers don’t always understand tiers. The operator shared the result of a survey it commissioned—what consumers want, in order of importance, are reliability, price, speed and multiple use. Value-added services and usage were not factors consumers cared about. For that reason, NetPlus offers just two simple price plans, with the tiered offering being an add-on rather than a plan on its own.

So what about lessons learnt in terms of implementations? Many operators talked about focusing on specific use-cases rather than tackling a generic policy control deployment. Polish operator Play also said that, when looking for a solution, “flexibility and performance” were key. The CSP also mentioned that operators need to build redundancy; as it unfortunately found out, if PCRF fails, the network goes down! The BT speaker once again put it very straight: operators should be looking for “a vendor who plays well with others” and “delivers on its promises”. A number of operators, such as the U.K.’s TalkTalk, also emphasized the importance of being open and honest with customers about what operators were doing, especially as far a “fair usage” was concerned.

Finally, I was particularly pleased to hear Comptel’s very own mobile broadband survey mentioned by three speakers, including one Comptel competitor!