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Five mobile BSS trends we look forward to in 2014

By January 22, 2014 No Comments

Though no one has a crystal ball to know exactly what trends will be the most “buzzed about” this year, plenty of people have offered their two-cents on the matter. As we look forward to 2014, here are five mobile trends that are sure to impact operators’ BSS as they gain momentum:

1. Real-time Intelligence – Turning Big Data into “Right Now” Data 

While many vendors now tout their analytics solutions, data usage reports are only one piece of the real-time intelligence puzzle. For most value, the data need to be integrated with an analytics engine, a  decision support system and a campaign management system to trigger context aware events in real-time; for example, making an offer of a free music download by a certain artist when a relevant customer goes into a concert venue.  
In 2014, we look forward to mobile and cable operators improving customer satisfaction and increasing APRU/ARPA by using real-time data mapped customer’s history, value and other data (e.g. churn propensity score) to obtain a full picture of who, what, where, when and how data is being used. In terms of timeliness and relevance, customer intelligence data doesn’t get much better than this. 
Why is this important? Operators can generate revenues from “impulse” purchases, can build stronger relationships with customers, and can build stronger partner relationships.

2. Continued investment in VoLTE  

VoLTE (Voice over LTE) will be a major point of activity in 2014. Five operators have already announced VoLTE services, and with names such as AT&T, Verizon and Sprint in the U.S. looking at VoLTE launches this year, 2014 will accelerate the trend toward all IP voice services. This provides new network efficiencies as well as opportunities to offer consumer services that compete with OTT providers. 
VoLTE was first successfully launched in Korea in 2012, and operators and customers are already seeing benefits: from increased voice quality, lower set up times and an ability to run voice and data over one LTE network; as a result, freeing up both capacity and spectrum from the 2G and 3G bands.
Today there are 244 live LTE networks in 92 countries. Given the success of LTE, 2014 could well be the year that VoLTE will take off, accelerating the move to all IP networks for voice and data.

3. Shared Data Plans & Multi-Device Bundling 

I heard an advertisement the other day from a mobile operator offering a smartphone and tablet bundle for pre-paid customers for €109. Checking out the operator’s website, there were a couple of low cost smartphone/tablet bundles. Strangely enough these tablets only had Wi-Fi connectivity. The operator was not giving the customer the choice of paying extra for cellular connectivity – they were going for the lowest cost option and taking advantage of the demand for tablets to get more ‘phone’ customers to drive usage. 
While only about 10 percent of all tablets sold have cellular connectivity, lower cost LTE chipsets will see the price differential between cellular enabled and Wi-Fi-only tablets decrease. Chip manufacturers can see this differential coming down to just $25 which will make a big difference in the shopping habits of tablet purchasers. As multi-device LTE bundles were one of the major success stories of 2013, this is good news for operators. 
We look forward to this trend continuing in 2014, as many people who started using tablets in 2012 or 2013 will perhaps be looking to upgrade. This is a good opportunity to make a push on upselling bundles tied in with a new tablet. Maybe we’ll see operators running tablet amnesties – e.g. trade in your old Wi-Fi tablet for a 4G enabled tablet. This will increase data usage, leverage family/group device shared data buckets, provide additional upsell opportunities and, in general, increase revenues. As we’ve seen shared plans work, 2014 could be the year for operators to leverage consumers’ appetites for tablet upgrades and lower cost LTE chipsets, making this the ideal opportunity to take shared plans to the next level. 

4. Sponsored data and extended partnerships

When comparing the various LTE and Wi-Fi promotions of many operators, messaging about high speed is a constant, but this isn’t differentiating. With LTE and LTE-A, everyone can be superfast, and therefore no one is different. Bundled music (such as Deezer and Spotify) and TV services are heavily promoted as add-ons to base LTE offers, and are being viewed as the difference over one service provider compared to another.  
Sponsored data is the natural next step. Models that enable sponsors to pay for data usage are gaining momentum as an innovative way of growing overall mobile revenue. For content providers like YouTube or ESPN that generate revenue from showing ads on mobile phones and tablets, this new approach could ensure that carriers’ monthly data caps aren’t artificially restricting the potential of their business. 
Sponsored data isn’t about content providers, however. The technology supports a wide variety of use cases, including enterprise (employer sponsors email data, employee pays for all else), advertising (sponsored promotional videos such as movie trailers), and even connected car (sponsored diagnostic data, user pays for navigation data).
Partnership goes beyond data sponsorship. For example, Tesco in Korea offers virtual supermarket aisles in subway stations where customers can scan the ‘shelves’ with their mobile devices. As a result, Tesco has become the number one online supermarket retailer in Korea, creating a significant partnership and subsequent revenue opportunity for mobile operators. 
Other partnerships we’ll see more of include operators bundling third party services, or selling third party service passes – e.g. low cost use of WhatsApp or Viber, etc., to encourage data adoption. The impact of increased partnerships on BSS will include more revenue sharing models, increased direct operator billing, real-time revenue assurance, toll free data pricing, variable content speed, subsidised content delivery and the ability to roll out more content/partner-led offers and services with a much shorter time to market than traditional telco data services.

5. “Billing” becomes Leaner and all Real-time

Legacy billing systems are being slowly decommissioned and the collection and rating functions for data (for all customers) are moving over to real-time online charging systems. At the same time, the consumer market has been effectively educated and conditioned to a different type of billing experience over the past few years by the likes of Apple and Google – so the need for sophisticated account hierarchies, per-transaction rating features and complex receivables ledger functionality is rapidly disappearing in favor of much more agile balance management and per-service subscription bundles. 
Bill shock controls and regulations/legislation were the initial drivers for the move to real-time BSS, but now marketing is developing offers and services that are built on real-time. These include simple tiered pricing to sophisticated context-sensitive up-sells. 
If you go to the website of a billing company and look for the word ‘billing,’ it’s pretty hard to find. “Real-time charging” is the term vendors are using now, even though most telcos still have batch based billing systems that were designed for circuit switched voice services, due to the empending move to real-time revenue management that we look forward to in 2014. Great news for economically pressed operators however!
There you have it – five BSS trends we look forward to in 2014. Do you agree or disagree with any trends we have on our radar? Leave a comment below!