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Hold the front page – policy conference packed

By April 20, 2016 No Comments

Conferences used to be good. Then they got rubbish and the numbers dried up. Operators didn’t want to spend money paying for people to attend lots of conferences. Vendors became fed up of using their marketing budgets to go and talk to other vendors. Some specialist telecoms conferences were looking like they were an endangered species.

A couple of years ago the policy conference was dying on its feet. It consisted of vendors sitting around talking to other vendors wondering why their marketing budgets are being cut, with only a limited number of operators in attendance. In 2015 the policy conference organisers (Informa) made a smart move – they let operators in free of charge. The result – higher operator attendance – which makes for happier vendors. At this year’s event there were around 220 delegates. For a conference where people talk about policy management for two days, this is not too bad at all. This year the organisers set up one to one meetings and organised speed networking sessions where vendors have 3 minutes to chat with operators. This quid pro quo for operators seems to work. Operators get into the conference free of charge and the vendors get to meet more operators. If the operator doesn’t like what the vendor is saying, then they only have to smile and nod for three minutes. It’s not that painful. Vendors are happy and they spend more of their marketing budget with the conference producers. Hopefully other conference organisers are taking note.

As for the content of the conference itself: virtualisation is well and truly here, fixed mobile convergence, use cases and more use cases, personalised offers and letting marketing loose (sorry, giving a controlled environment for business users) on policy systems were some of the main talking points.

At least five presentations were discussing virtualisation, which, according to the presentations and, more importantly, the chats at coffee breaks, is now a given. If a vendor does not have a virtualised policy system, or, at the least, a clear road map of how and when they’re going to virtualise then many operators won’t consider them. The main driver for virtualisation is no longer cost reduction, it’s about time to market. Agility, which was most overused vendor buzzword of 2015, seems to now becoming a reality. Several operator presentations pressed home time to market and personalisation of offers and services as key issues to improve customer experience.

The best presentations of the event (in my opinion at least) came from Canadian operator Telus and Telecom Italia Mobile. Telus laid out policy use cases going forward to 2020, which shows the long term view of the evolution of policy and covering use cases for M2M/ M2C and IoT. As for the Telecom Italia presentation the options for making money from roaming were discussed. This was interesting given that in the EU roaming charges will be abolished by 2017. As a popular holiday destination, Italy will see an influx of inbound roamers over the summer. These visitors will generate a lot of data that can be used for marketing purposes. Telecom Italia can collect this data and use it with partners to provide digital travel related services to the tourists. This data can also be used to map and measure tourist activity – e.g. searches on tourist sites mapped to actual visits, by nationality, etc. By selling this type of business intelligence operators can open new revenue streams from roaming.

This conference shows just how far policy has come in a few short years. Starting off as a network control tool to manage fair usage, policy is now a service enablement and delivery system.

It was great to see a decent operator attendance at this event. Well done to the organisers for working on getting operators to attend and meet with the vendors. For years some exhibitions have been taking vendors for granted. They just expect them to turn up year after year, spend a pile of money on sponsoring an event and taking a stand, and leave them to watch the tumbleweed, and their marketing budgets, blow across the exhibition floor.

This blog first appeared in DisruptiveViews