1. Increase in telco and content provider partnerships
At a recent next gen BSS conference two of the best presentations were not from operators or BSS vendors but content providers. Deezer outlined how they work with Orange group to provide their music streaming service to Orange customers. This is a good deal for Deezer in that they get access to a huge market of Orange customers. It’s good for Orange as they’ve got a new revenue stream via revenue sharing with Deezer, but also in terms of lowering churn. According to Deezer customer churn was reduced by 60% for customers using their music service.
The other presentation came from Trip Advisor. They’ve teamed up with O2 to offer O2 Travel – basically Trip Advisor on your mobile. Most people switch off data when travelling abroad and this service is designed to give people a reason to use data without having to worry about bill shock or relying on the use of Wi-Fi networks. It’s a roaming service pass – e.g. for pre pay customers its £1.99 for 50MB /day. What’s interesting here is that it’s the compelling content from TripAdvisor that is perhaps acting as the main draw in a customer using O2 Travel.
These are just two examples. Spotify have a successful mobile partnership strategy and Vodafone have their deals with Netflix. Operators know that data is not a product – it’s an enabler. In 2015 we’ll see more partnerships announced as LTE becomes mainstream in many countries with the resultant increase in data usage, and with it the competitive pressure to lower prices. Operators will need to provide and sell other services – a lot of which will be from content partners to differentiate their offers and get customers using content to enable ‘stickier’ services.
2. The Intelligent Pipe: Wholesale increases in importance
The last couple of years have been tough for the retail side of many operators. Although this seems to be starting to turn a corner, reduced retail margins have caused some senior execs in operators to have deeper look at their wholesale business. A lot less ‘glamorous’ and with a much lower profile than retail, wholesale businesses have been doing all right and cost base is certainly a lot less. In 2015 we’ll see more wholesale activity as operators look to offer BSS capabilities to third parties who carry traffic over the operators’ networks. This will include MVNOs, specialist IoT and M2M partners, such as digital lifestyle companies (e.g. home automation), mHealth, education and automotive partners. By providing these service providers with access to BSS systems to help monetize their offers will make one operator more attractive over another. But it’s more than just charging and billing capabilities. Adding policy management can enable partners to shape their traffic and when required charge accordingly. In mission critical health and security services, being able to prioritise traffic and offer SLAs can be important to guarantee service delivery at the required levels. This is moving away from the ‘dumb’ pipe approach of wholesaling towards an ‘intelligent pipe’ approach. Opening up BSS to retail partners and enabling ‘self-service’ capabilities allows much more pricing, bundling and service delivery capabilities to MVNOs, IoT and M2M partners – which can help further improve an operator’s wholesale traffic and margins.
3. Marketing becomes the main driver as NFV for BSS continues to grow
A year ago when NFV for BSS was being discussed the main driver was reduced cost. While still hugely important, cost is no longer the main driver. Time to market and ability to quickly develop and launch new products and offers is fast becoming the main reason why operators are looking at NFV when it comes to their BSS. This underlies a trend where more marketing folks in operators are getting involved in BSS decision making. IT and billing teams have long complained about marketing having their wish list of new offers they want to make. This wish list is only going to get longer and the time to implement is going to get shorter. The knock on effect will be increased BSS automation, the death of service heavy deals – operators simply won’t have the time to live with lengthy implementation, upgrade and change cycles. Those that think they do and can live with the status quo of adapting legacy systems for new services and business models could very well be blindsided by the competition and changes in customer behaviour.
4. Wi-Fi and the ABC approach to mobile
ABC stands for ‘always best connected’ and we’ll see more of this connectivity strategy as operators look to Wi-Fi to compliment cellular networks. But it’s no longer just a case of offloading to Wi-Fi, as there are huge customer experience and network quality issues to deal with. Wi-Fi networks are becoming more widespread and faster, mobile customers have an insatiable appetite for data enabled service, especially video and so it makes sense for operators to look to complement their cellular networks with Wi-Fi. Most customers won’t care what type of network is carrying their traffic – as long as the quality is good enough. This is why in 2015 we’ll start to see on device software (ANDSF - Access Network Discovery and Selection Function) automatically checking the quality of available Wi-Fi networks and making intelligent decisions to switch traffic to and from cellular and Wi-Fi based on customer and traffic type.
5. Mediation gets a new lease of life – driving real-time and automated intelligence
For many years passive mediation was solid and steady – it collected data for different network elements, made sense of this and produced a CDR for billing. Now the main use of data from mediation is no longer billing – it’s analytics and business intelligence. In 2015 we’re going to see real-time BSS data being increasingly used by operators to drive business intelligence. Traditional data warehouse and analytics companies are pushing hard on new real-time intelligence platforms that sit alongside the traditional batch based data warehouses, and we’ll see more real-time BSS data being used on these platforms to deliver real-time business intelligence that drives automated actions.