Service providers make Big Data the weapon in fight for customers

Over the last few years mobile operators have had to become experts in building networks that can handle extreme levels of traffic, an especially difficult task as subscribers are constantly changing devices, downloading applications and finding new ways to communicate. Instead of just transporting data, operators today are realising they can profit from it.

In order to deliver an all-round quality experience, networks must draw out information from every device, application, service and network element a subscriber touches. This yields an incredible amount of data – big data. Operators are now starting to understand how to leverage this “pipe data” to reduce churn, predict consumer behaviour and pre-empt service issues.

The business and technological challenges of mining the relevant information contained in these mountains of data may be a daunting prospect, but the smartest operators are seizing the opportunity. These early adopters are poised to enjoy the same agility and deep customer insights that underpin the most successful web, social media and merchandising companies.

Every action a customer performs with a mobile device leaves a trail. Networks carry billions of messages every second to validate subscribers, query databases, ensure interoperability, measure quality of service, access content, deliver key services, download applications and more. The inherent elements of mobile communications – devices, network elements, towers, OSS/BSS solutions, policy management systems, application servers and rich communications services –contain a rich array of information. Big data techniques for correlating and identifying patterns across these data sets will offer the insight operators need to make better informed decisions, whether at the network  control room or all the way up to the board room.

With access to so much data, it can be difficult to determine where to begin. To start, consider these examples:

Customer experience assurance

Network operations teams are responsible for ensuring 99.999% service availability. By applying predictive assurance algorithms, operators can proactively and automatically scan the entire environment for anomalies that indicate a potential service issue. These operators not only enjoy the benefits of an “early detection system,” but can also receive information regarding the root cause. For example, instead of seeing a warning light somewhere in the network, an operator would receive a notification saying that the S-CSCF cluster that serves the southeast is trending towards failure. When skilled personnel are able to start from an intelligent, informed position, issues can be resolved far quicker.

Optimising accounts

Ultimately, every subscriber’s experience is affected by bandwidth availability. Operators must guarantee that high value accounts and corporate customers are getting the service they need while managing those users who are “unfairly” monopolising resources in a way that degenerates performance for others. With in-depth analysis of multiple quality and bandwidth metrics – by customer and application – operators can effectively balance these two objectives.

Finding profits and building awareness

Offering free Wi-Fi is a powerful tool to promote an operator’s brand and access new customers, but big data offers a chance to go one step further. Consider the airport hotspot and a delayed passenger who has chosen to pass the time watching a NetFlix film. Using analytics, the operator can identify whether or not this user is a subscriber. To generate further revenue, non-subscribers could receive a message saying, for instance, “For £1.00 this film can be delivered to you in stunning in HD.” Having used real time analytics, a Wi-Fi user who is identified as a customer could get a message saying “As a valued customer, we would like to deliver this film to you in HD at no extra charge.”

Driving long-term growth

Those who refer to mobile networks as dumb pipes tend to cite erosion of profits thanks to over-the-top applications. Big data can help operators fight this issue. Equipped with detailed knowledge of which applications are most popular, how much bandwidth they consume and the quality of experience provided, operators can begin to take control of the situation.

Using analytics to predict consumer behaviour is the one of the best ways to establish which branded services will provide maximum value to consumers. This analysis can also expose how operators can fully monetise the traffic these applications generate. Mostly, the application providers themselves may pay to make certain their valued users get the speed and quality they need to ensure a great experience.

Creating revenue opportunities

Operators can use big data to discover new ways to strategically boost revenue. Consider the set of “bronze plan” subscribers that are using 90 percent of their data package to stream films. This knowledge could help operators, for example, develop a service mechanism that would display a “pop up” when one of these customer starts a film. The pop-up would mention that if the user wanted to pay an additional fee, that film – or all NetFlix films – could be displayed in HD.

Extracting the wisdom

Many operators still view big data solutions as secondary to the core systems they need to operate their businesses. In the future these tools will move from being “nice to haves” to becoming essential to an operator’s ability to get ahead of the competition and find new ways to prosper. Employees will lead with intelligence, rather than using data posthumously to justify their decisions. The mindset – big data, accessible by all – opens up an infinite set of possibilities as operators endeavour to maintain and increase revenues in today’s competitive landscape.

To get started, operators should find a partner that can help them understand what they want to accomplish. Together, they can then dive into all of the data – examine it, characterise it, correlate it – to determine how to best use it. By leveraging this powerful and strategic asset, operators can drive innovation, stifle churn and pre-emptively ensure optimal network performance. It will make every employee’s decision more effective – from those as simple as determining which WebRTC vendor’s product will integrate best with the existing infrastructure to more complicated questions, such as where new pricing structures will yield the highest revenue per cost ratios. The so-called “dumb pipes” offer remarkable wisdom – but it’s only the smartest operators who are enthusiastically seeking it.

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