Big data telcos' most valuable asset

Data is the world's new crude oil, but mobile operators have to be able to refine it and provide the right platform to extract it.
Amobee managing director for APAC Grant Watts yesterday told CommunicAsia delegates that billion-dollar businesses will be built from the crude data resource.
"Operators are the oil rigs and don't want to have a data spill,” he said. Amobee, which was recently acquired by SingTel, builds the "oil rigs", or the platform.
Watts said advertising is a fact of life, but the challenge is that most ads aren't relevant to consumers, so there is a huge opportunity for operators that can deliver customers targeted messages. To do that, carriers first need to access information by collecting the right data, then leveraging that big data.
However, while telcos like Optus now collect 120 data points, no one is sure what will be the hot data points that will drive increased returns in business. The industry will learn over time what these are.
"We do know that money will follow adoption and time spent [on a medium]", said Watts, who sees web and mobile traffic figures being combined into one aggregate metric for clients.
There are of course questions in how each operator will run its model, and each market will have different regulations. For example, regulators in Australia limit the number of times Optus can reach out to customers each week.
Watts said operators can compete if they can collect, store and decipher data. "Big data is the way to compete. It is operators' most valuable assets, if they know how to use it. You know more about your customers than anyone else.”
The careers of the future, he noted, are in data deciphering. Silicon Valley firms are paying top dollar for people who can make sense of data.
Telcos have big advantages over anyone else in the ecosystem if they can get their acts together, he said. "They have unrivalled user data, real-time location data and direct customer relationships - they have all the assets to go and win in the advertising space."
He noted that the most expensive word on Google is "insurance". Insurance companies are paying US$54 (€42.58) a click and they don't even have profile data. They are willing to pay a high price because of the potentially large return over the lifetime of a customer.