You don’t have to be much of a fortune teller to predict that data and video traffic is going to continue to grow exponentially over the next 12 months or that the number of people enjoying LTE coverage is going to skyrocket in the next couple of years.
What’s much harder to predict are the implications of this phenomenal growth for service providers and what they should be doing to get the most out of this opportunity. But as I’m not one to shirk a challenge, here are Amdocs’ forecasts for 2013.
First off, operators will begin to realize the business opportunity that big data brings instead of just worrying about the operational challenge of managing big data. By capturing more customer data and then using analytics to offer proactive and contextual experiences, service providers will be able to offer more enhanced services relevant to the individual subscriber.
Furthermore, service providers will also be able to provide improved customer care by proactively managing their relationship with their customers.
Which neatly brings me to our second prediction -- operators are going to make omni-channel a top priority for 2013, following the example of leading retail vendors who have already made this part of their business strategy. As Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao has said, "Vodafone wants to be the Amazon of telcos," not in terms of selling but rather top-class customer service.
At present, despite an increased investment in online, self-service channels so as to improve customer care, customers are still finding these channels cumbersome and often have to phone the call center to reach a satisfactory resolution of their query or attempted purchase.
In this context, we will also see that smartphones and smartphone self-care applications will play a significant role in the way customers interact with their service providers.
Operators will integrate their different channels so that customers will be able to interact with their service provider via the channel that they prefer, and continue this interaction from one channel to another seamlessly.
For example, if I want to change my data package, I want to be able to do the research on my PC at the office, save a draft order in my shopping cart, think about it on the way home, making changes to the order on my smartphone and then make my purchase from my tablet later in the evening, without having to start all over again from scratch. It’s all about simplifying the experience for the consumer.
And if for some reason, the system fails, then at least when the subscriber calls the customer care center, the agent will have the details of the customer’s latest actions on their screen, saving the consumer the exasperation of having to explain the whole process from beginning to end, as well as reducing average call handling time for the operator.
As noted earlier, data traffic is going to continue to expand at dizzying rates, powered by the rising tide of video, and highlighted by the growing increase in cross-screen viewing.
Therefore, in 2013, we’ll start to see service providers using LTE as a means to introduce new, value-based pricing models and advanced services, and not just as a way to overcome capacity challenges and provide subscribers with faster speeds.
To really improve the customer experience, service providers will strive to ensure that their subscribers enjoy the same level of quality of service across various networks used – Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G – when they start watching a movie on their tablet at their favorite coffee shop before continuing to watch it in the car’s multi-media player. To achieve this, service providers will need to integrate all the different networks involved.
The integration between small cells, Wi-Fi and wireless networks -- heterogeneous networks or “HetNets” -- that such an experience demands raise challenges of large-scale network planning, deployment and optimization, as well as session continuity, quality of service (QoS) assurance and security. But it’s a challenge that service providers have strong incentive to address. We’ll definitely be hearing more about HetNets in 2013.
In 2013, there will be greater momentum in service providers’ penetration of new verticals such as in the case of the “connected home” and health monitoring solutions (which are often enabled by new cloud technology). The connected home solutions as well as machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions are becoming more prevalent.
Interestingly, we are even beginning to see service providers partner with one another in M2M solutions. For example, TeliaSonera, France Telecom-Orange and Deutsche Telekom have a roaming partnership to increase one another’s geographical footprint for transportation M2M solutions in Europe. In Asia, Docomo and KT have partnered to create a cross-border near field communication payment offering.
In fact, we predict that many more partnerships will be formed. By joining forces with OTT players, service providers will able to bring innovation and brand differentiation quickly to market.
However, this will demand open and effective partner management systems for revenue sharing, easy onboarding of new partners, high QoS, and a winning customer experience that is only possible with integrated IT systems that effectively leverage customer data.
For service providers, it is most certainly data that is going to make the world go round and it is this that is driving the trends predicted on both operational and business fronts for 2013.
Michal Harris is director for market insight and strategy at Amdocs