Mobile Providers Must Tap Customer Knowledge

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Rahul Neel Mani

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Mobile services providers need to build on their intimate knowledge of their customers to differentiate themselves and create compelling, affordable packages, or risk losing customers and revenue to players such as Google, Skype and Nokia, says Kamlesh Bhatia, Principal Analyst, Gartner Inc., in a interview with Ashwani Mishra.

Q:How has IT evolved in the Indian telecommunications service provider companies, and how are they gearing up to tap the changes in the market?

A: IT was always an integral part of the telecom industry where it ran everything from CRM to billing to revenue assurance and network management. It worked till a certain point.

The perception of IT within the telecom companies has started to change. Many of these companies are not looking at IT to merely offer tools to the business but they are looking to create a differentiation that will allow them to compete better.

Competition is no longer limited to within telecom sector, as new players have emerged outside this segment who also want to capture the same consumer base. These include over-the-top players, or device manufacturers makers such as Nokia, Internet companies such as Google and Skype.

They have started to target the same customer base and wallet segment within the consumer space, which has touched off a ripple effect among operators.

Consumers too look at phone companies differently, with higher expectations of services that will enhance their mobile-phone experience, so there is immense pressure on the CIOs of telecom companies, as the operators seek to not lose revenue to the new users.

Q:In what areas can the operators provide this additional value?

A: Operators must seek areas where they can differentiate themselves and not just support their internal set up. One important area where they have an upper hand is the customer information and a direct point of contact.

So it is all about how these operators can leverage that information and create packages that will be compelling enough for users to embrace. When I say compelling, I mean that the package should be personalized and affordable – areas where IT will play major role.

Q:Can you put this in the context of exploiting information?

A: They should be looking at innovation that focuses on managing the information within their network. Some of these areas include analytics and business intelligence.

They should also be looking at device management and subscriber data management. Data in many of these telecom companies resides in pockets in Home Location Register (HLRs) or Home Subscriber Server (HSS).

Subscriber data management consolidates all the data in a single data repository and allows creating differentiation. The operator can use this data to create intelligence and applications and supply it to their customers.

We see many CIOs in the telecom companies focusing on these areas right now. This will help telecom operators earn revenues and act as enablers in the value chain, while customers get personalized services.

Q:How do you see the whole telecom ecosystem changing over the next few years?

A: We believe that there is going to be three distinct categories for service providers going forward over the next three to five years.

One category will be a diversified service provider who will focus on innovation and develop new products. The second category will play the role of an enabler who will focus on creating networks and IT systems to enable third-party providers to plug-in to their systems for delivery of products and services.

These providers will invest in business analytics and intelligence. The third category will invest and optimize their infrastructure and focus on connectivity.

This does not mean that these providers will be limited to these categories. They will also be a part of other categories and this will depend on the kind of focus, investment and strategy that these players have in mind for the next five years.

Cross-posted from CTO Forum

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