Telcos and Big Data : Ride it or drown in it : What’s your gameplan ??

Big data has been a headline theme in the technology and mobile space for some time.Telcos all over the globe are seeing an unprecedented rise in volume, variety and velocity of information (“big data”) due to next generation mobile network rollouts, increased use of smart phones and rise of social media. Telco operators have historically focused on managing the network with little visibility to the impact it has on the customer’s experience. Which means the operator was forced to work with snapshots of network data in fragmented views or at a summary level in order to plan network capacity or provide information to customer care and marketing about customer transactions until now !!

Big Data technologies, and in particular their analytics abilities, offer a multitude of benefits to telecom companies including improved subscriber experience, building and maintaining smarter networks, reducing churn, and generation of new revenue streams. Mind commerce, expects the Big Data driven telecom analytics market to grow at a CAGR of nearly 50% between 2014 and 2019. By the end of 2019, the market will eventually account for $5.4 Billion in annual revenue. Mobile commerce is one particular area where operators and service providers can potentially deliver tangible benefits from the application of big data analytics.

The growth of m-commerce is creating large amounts of information on consumer behaviour and choices, which can be used to offer more personalised services and offers. SK Planet ( Division of SK Telecom ) have stated that “our Cash Bag m-commerce portal should generate $9.3 billion in revenues this year, and by using big data analysis we can provide customers with a much improved experience, and not based simply on offering the lowest price.”

Big data analytics solutions enable service providers to analyze real-time location data over time for opt-in subscribers to understand subscribe lifestyle. Combining lifestyle and mobile profiles with subscriber usage and digital behavior allows service provider to create targeted offers for opt-in subscribers. With a majority of subscribers using smart phones to access data services as well as voice, mobile network operators are seeing explosive growth in traffic levels across their networks. In addition, the mobile network operator environment is fiercely competitive, with the ability to attract, retain and grow valuable subscribers being key.

Big Data opens a vast array of applications and opportunities in multiple vertical sectors including, but not limited to, retail and hospitality, media, utilities, financial services, healthcare and pharmaceutical, telecommunications, government, homeland security, and the emerging industrial Internet vertical. In fact, according to Heavy Reading’s Big Data & Advanced Analytics in Telecom report, the industry will move from the $1.95 billion it spent on Big Data and analytics in 2013 to $9.83 billion in 2020. Thats really big business even if we are to take these projections with a pinch of salt. Ofcourse you will have to hire the right set of skills to make sense of and monetise the data deluge.

Telefonica has announced the deployment of a big data analytics project aimed at analyzing in real time its customers’ experiences and improving network quality. Telefonica said the goal is to deploy service operation centers in each country in which it operates. These centers will monitor in real time the customer quality of experience and the quality of service to proactively tackle issues.The SOC implementations are set to begin before the end of the year in Argentina and Chile, with further expansion planned for Spain and Germany. By the end of 2017, Telefonica said it plans to have rolled out the SOCs across all of its markets.

And while solutions are already present that will help you ride that wave of data, the question is: how can you profit from it? Here are some insights into how telecom companies can use the power of Big Data to their advantage.

1. Monetize it : Brands like Telefónica O2 are figuring out how to provide valuable analytical insights to customers to help them become more effective. Using mobile network data, telecoms provide valuable details into shopping habits.

2. Sell Subscriber Insight Data : Other companies like AT&T are looking at selling aggregated customer data to marketing and advertising firms.

3. Advertise Smarter on Mobile : Still other brands are using Big Data to strengthen their mobile ad campaigns. SingTel recently acquired mobile advertising platform Amobee, in an effort to help clients better reach their target audience and deliver more relevant offers.

4. Better Analyze Set Top Box Data : Using the data that today’s sophisticated set top boxes offer may provide new revenue streams from targeted ad sales and more customized and personalized content services.

Telefonica Smart Steps service uses anonymised and aggregated mobile network data from their operating brands across a number of territories, processing billions events per day.Unlike traditional data capture methods based on occasional samples, modeled or claimed behavior, Smart Steps observes real behavior based on billions of mobile events that occur on Telefonica mobile network 24/7 365 days a year. The data is extrapolated to provide insight representative of the total population in each area. Smart Steps have over one year of data stored, allowing them to identify trends and patterns over time.

The movement data is enriched with demographic and behaviour information and includes socio-demographic, home and work location, visitor reasons information, mode of transport, affluence, life stage and other attributes allowing sophisticated profiling and segmentation. This enables businesses to segment the data to only evaluate the movement of their target populations and to add valuable attributes to the Insights.

The Gurus at Strategy & believe that many types of data are potentially available to operators — and certain sets of data might be combined to open up new business opportunities in areas such as campaign marketing and fraud prevention. Operators could generate more accurate and personalized offer recommendations for existing individual subscribers by combining internal structured data, such as how and where each subscriber uses his or her phone, with external unstructured or semi-structured data from social media platforms (for example, Facebook and Twitter).

By correlating internal location, usage, and account data with external sources such as credit reports, operators could significantly increase the detection of fraudulent activity such as looping or call forwarding on hacked PBXs (private branch exchanges), or fraud involving the swapping of SIM cards, and improve the overall accuracy and efficiency of their efforts to recognize patterns of fraudulent behavior.

Imagine having the best of both worlds ? Having the tools to analyze the growing amount of data and content your business is generating, and also finding ways to make it profitable. If you are astute then this deluge of data isn’t a threat; it’s a serious opportunity to take your telecom business in a new, exciting, and yes, profitable direction !!

Sadiq Malik ( Telco Strategist )


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