Big data flagged as crucial in 2013

If anything was made clear at our inaugural Telecom Asia Insight Summit last Thursday, it’s that 2013 is going to be a year of bountiful opportunities for telecoms operators, and that at least two elements will be key to cashing in on them: Big Data and skill set acquisition.

Both came up repeatedly during the day-long event, in which participants (including the audience) brainstormed about strategy options for 2013 as telecoms undergoes a major shift – core service margins are being squeezed, voice and SMS are competing with OTT versions of those services, consumer behavior is changing quickly and the fabled “Internet of things” is becoming a reality.
 
Again and again, Big Data – rated by the audience in a flash poll as a fancy term for analytics and BI – came up as a crucial element for operators in 2013.
 
Cheryl Lim, senior engagement manager for Value Partners, for example, advised participants to use Big Data in their decision-making about both improving internal efficiencies and as a revenue generator.
 
Huawei’s Paul Scanlan (VP of the South Pacific region) said that understanding Big Data would be the key to customer intelligence, service intelligence, network intelligence and operational intelligence, and would also be key in things like connected homes and smart TVs leveraging social media to deliver true personalized services.
 
Indeed, look at the various upcoming trends that you hear about constantly – the necessity of becoming a smart pipe, delivering the optimum customer experience, or even just tracking churn and knowing which customers you’re losing and how to replace them or bring them back – will rely on Big Data analytics to be of any practical use.
 
Naturally, there will be serious challenges involved. There are customer silos to overcome, both within telcos and in partner situations. For example, telcos and OTT players like Google, Facebook and Twitter are all sitting on gold mines of customer data – but how do you leverage all of them to create the most accurate picture of the customer? And if customer data is regarded as gold, what impact will that have on the negotiation process? Will we see the same kind of brinksmanship we’ve seen between telcos and content owners over who deserves the biggest percentage of revenue sharing?
 
Privacy is another issue, in terms of both local regulations and customer trust, that could limit the extent to which Big Data can be leveraged. As Ali Tabassi, COO of YTL Communications, pointed out: “You have to make sure they don’t feel we’re looking over their shoulders.”
 
Meanwhile, skill sets was another hot topic, particularly in relation to the various value-added OTT services that telcos must deliver one way or another, whether by in-house development, partnerships or acquisitions (i.e. SingTel buying Amobee to leverage the possibilities of mobile advertising).
 
This will also be a key issue for M2M – another hot topic for operators in 2013, according to participants – as telcos try to figure out their role in that ecosystem.
 
“With M2M, it still comes down to skills sets,” observed Farid Yunus, CEO of RedTone Mobile. “If I have no M2M skills and no SI skills, I can’t do it, so I have to outsource. But I don’t want to be just a pipe either.”
 
Meanwhile, Cheryl Lim offered two other pieces of advice for mobile operators to focus on in 2013 that are worth passing on:
 
1. Seize the LTE opportunity to reprice data and build a foundation for better profitability.
 
2. Embrace third-party and OTT partners.

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