Operators: It’s time to think about personalised data plans & real time usage

Amdocs, the global customer experience experts have been interviewing their customers about the next generation of data services. They’ve collated the results in a recent press release that’s worth a look if you’ve any interest in the area.

Although it’s reasonably positive reading, I can only manage to consume a sentence every 10 minutes or so because each statement tends to wind me up something chronic.

The root of the problem for me is the total unwillingness of mobile operators to do anything beyond copy what “the marketplace” is doing. The received wisdom is that even in these challenging and dynamic times, keeping your head below the parapet and hoping for the best is the most reliable way of staying in a job for the next 6 months.

This, dear reader, is why — generally speaking — your mobile operator services haven’t changed for decades.

The basic premise hasn’t shifted. It’s got a bit faster but there are only a handful of operators doing anything that constitutes innovation.

Sadly, we’ve got a dearth of seriously smart, confident, capable individuals in the upper echelons of our operator organisations. Many of them deserve to be managing the interns rather than a multi-billion dollar/pound/euro behemoth. The majority couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag.

Which is why we’re all still being spoon fed cookie cutter data price plans that restrict and worry the customer.

Let me give you one example of what I’m talking about in terms of innovation. I might contract with Everything Everywhere, for example, to buy a Galaxy SIII LTE on £46/month with 3GB of inclusive 4G data. I then find that on a particular day, I need to urgently upload 10x 350mb videos via the phone for work purposes right? If for a minute you assume I can get 4mb/sec upload speeds (certainly reasonable, based on my trials of EE) that’s at least 875 seconds. Let’s be generous and call it 30 minutes in total.

So in 30 minutes I need to upload 3.5GB. I’m willing to pay for that too. It’s a business thing. I need it done.

Further, EE’s network can handle this. And they’d like the money. Remember they’ve taken something like 10-15 quid off me for the month on the basis of 3GB usage, so anything more is good news for them, that’s a healthy ARPU increase.

So wouldn’t it be nice if I could visit a webpage or app and buy a “special”? Just for that hour? Or that afternoon? And wouldn’t it be good if I could buy prioritised access or “business” access for that afternoon? Charge me £20. Charge me £40. When it comes to business requirements we usually have a completely different value definition.

Why doesn’t this happen readily around the world? Well it’s simple: The operators simply don’t have the capability. They don’t have the technology to allow this kind of personalised profile management. And despite the marketing teams and the pressure to deliver differentiation it is, I think, judged a lot easier to simply avoid any independent thought. It’s less risky from a personal career standpoint. I’d like to write that I can understand and respect that personal perspective. But actually, no, if you can’t take the heat, move. Get a job looking after some ice cream parlour or something less stressful.

This industry seriously needs some leaders with the confidence to act.

It’s not just the leaders though; this kind of wooly ‘don’t rock the Apple cart’ thinking is prevalent throughout these operators. Try this one out if you’ve got a friend working in the operator space: Ask them if their customers would be willing to pay more for services.

The standard operator viewpoint is that customers won’t pay more for data (for example). This is true when you speak to a teenager with a restricted budget or someone on a low income who’s picked a BlackBerry primarily because of their fabulous inclusive data bundles. It’s the total opposite when you speak to other types of customer. The types of customers that operators routinely and wholly ignore beyond dribbling out semi interesting priority moments or semi relevant VIP experiences. Customers will pay more for data and for a wide array of other services. The use cases, benefits and capabilities need to be defined and communicated correctly.

Sadly, without the right investment in the right kit, none of this will happen.

And so we move on.

(By the way, I need to point out that I am not specifically having a go at EE who, I think, are doing pretty well in the innovation stakes at the moment with their 4G stuff. I’d just like to see more from them — including a ‘boost’ button for when I need to buy more volume/priority/faster service.))

Which brings me to Amdocs and their global research report. Here’s the release, have a scan:

Amdocs, the leading provider of customer experience systems and services, today released a global research report that finds service providers are looking to offer personalised data plans and real-time visibility and control over data spending in order to improve the customer experience and better monetise 4G investments. The research also reveals that service providers currently lack the integrated charging and policy management capabilities required to enable this.

Key research findings reveal that:

As 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) becomes the standard network technology, service providers’ marketing departments want to launch more advanced services and price plans

- 80 percent of respondents said their companies have either launched or are trialing LTE services
- 92 percent of respondents said their IT organisations are being asked by Marketing to enable innovative data price plans
- 63 percent of respondents plan to launch VoLTE (voice over LTE) by 2013-14

IT organisations need new capabilities in order to fulfill Marketing’s wish lists

- 70 percent of respondents said their companies cannot enable innovative data price plans because of IT limitations
- 60 percent of respondents said their companies are looking to establish IT capabilities to enable personalisation of data plans and promotions
- 50 percent of respondents said their companies are looking to establish IT capabilities to enable real-time user visibility and control over data plans and spending
- Almost 60 percent of respondents said it takes their companies three to six months to launch a new service; an additional 20 percent said it takes even longer

There is overwhelming consensus among service providers that charging and policy management integration is key to enabling more advanced services and price plans

- The vast majority of respondents from Europe, North America and Asia Pacific (100, 90, and 80 percent respectively) said their companies see a need to integrate charging and policy management capabilities. Forty percent of service providers in Latin America also agreed. Integration between charging and policy management allows providers to introduce personalised services that relate to the device type, service type, network status, customer location and other customer information, across all lines of business, and with real-time user visibility and control over data plans and spending.
- 75 percent of respondents said their companies are looking to manage rules for policy and charging from one location, i.e. implement a centralised product catalog
- 40 percent of respondents said their companies have either tried or are currently trying to integrate charging and policy management systems with unsatisfactory results, compared to 10 percent last year

“Our research shows that service providers’ data services strategies are evolving in tandem with recognition that they need to fully integrate their charging and policy management capabilities in order to enable these strategies,” said Ari Banerjee, senior analyst, Heavy Reading. “Those who recognised the importance of charging and policy integration last year, have since launched tiered and family plans and are now looking to enable even more advanced services with real-time user visibility and control capabilities. Those who weren’t convinced last year about the need for policy and charging integration are much more convinced today, and therefore they are now looking to enable tiered and family plans.”

“Service providers are looking to 4G to deliver service innovation beyond higher capacity and faster speeds, but need to integrate charging and policy to enable this,” said Rebecca Prudhomme, vice president of product and solutions marketing at Amdocs. “The research shows they are seeking solutions which pre-integrate charging and policy systems, also including a single product catalog across both systems, to solve broken product management processes which cause time to market delays.”

The research is based on 70 qualitative interviews conducted between October and November, 2012, with decision makers from both IT and marketing departments of 35 service providers. Service providers interviewed included tier-one and tier-two companies based in Europe (10), North America (10), Asia Pacific (10) and Latin America (5). This is the second research report conducted for Amdocs by leading analyst firm Heavy Reading to identify service providers’ data monetisation trends and challenges year-over-year. Findings of the first survey were announced in September 2011.

Amdocs offers a pre-integrated, convergent charging and policy management solution, scalable to meet the needs of the largest service providers. The Amdocs Convergent Charging software incorporates Amdocs’ innovative, real-time charging technology – Amdocs Turbo Charging – and holds the industry record for real-time charging performance, demonstrating the ability to process 435 million busy hour call attempts (BHCA) measured for a customer base of 220 million, comprised of 184 million prepaid customers and 36 million postpaid customers.

One of the research bulletpoints that really made me choke on my cornflakes was this:

Almost 60 percent of respondents said it takes their companies three to six months to launch a new service; an additional 20 percent said it takes even longer

Yeah. Horrific. Absolutely horrific.

If you were called by Amdocs to participate in this survey and you were one of the people who had to answer “yeah it takes us EVEN LONGER than 6 months to DO ANYTHING NEW” then shame on you.

SHAME!

Fix it!

There’s absolutely no excuse. You need to be talking to the likes of Amdocs.

Will I be writing the exact same rants this time next year? Yes.

2014? Yes.

2020? Hopefully not.

(And to those executives and organisations who’re actually the exception to the rule, keep it going!)

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