By Cassidy Shield, Head of Global Solutions Marketing for Content, Cloud, and Communications, Alcatel-Lucent
When consumers start buying data where they use it, the possibilities for consumption multiply.
Mobile is the growth engine of the communications industry, yet the way consumers purchase, discover, and engage with their data plan is in a store, on a website, or, even more archaically, via calling a call center. This is fundamentally backward, but it's also a clear wireless operator opportunity.
The opportunity lies in moving the point of sale (POS) to the smartphone or tablet itself, and it starts with a mobile application. With mobile data growing by leaps and bounds, operators have been grappling with how to manage and monetize the influx. Their conversations so far have centered on real-time charging, policy control, and personalization to transform how they bill, but there's been very little action on how to make these complex processes simple for consumers.
The answer is right under our noses or, literally, in our hands. All wireless customers have a mobile device; most consume data on that device. Simply put, the POS needs to be on that device. Operators shouldn't be interacting with their customers only every two years when it's time to renew the contract, and their customers shouldn’t have to step foot into a retail outlet unless they want to.
But, this means more than just displaying how much customers consume via a mobile dashboard. In fact, if all operators do is create awareness around how much data their customers are using, this will likely cause customers to consume less. This is a lot like what power utility companies do to encourage their customers to use less! Instead, operators need a mechanism to entice customers to consume more, and it has to be simple, interactive, real-time, and maybe even fun.
Mobile data will become the carrier platform for launching new services over the next three to five years. New data sharing plans from carriers like AT&T and Verizon Wireless are a good start, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. When operators start to think about data as a platform, a huge opportunity opens up to move away from how they currently package and present it.
For example, a flexible, simple app interface could enable mobile users to:
- Buy more data if they’re near their cap
- Allocate data to different devices on their shared data plan
- Receive an offer for a free hour of mobile data usage at the moment they're about to sign up and pay for Boingo hot spot usage
- Opt to instantly turboboost their data speeds when they begin to stream a movie
- Sign up for special offers or receive data awards in exchange for ad viewing
The possibilities are myriad, but it all starts with driving engagement with end users on their devices.
The hold up, of course, is that building apps isn't something wireless operators have traditionally excelled at. It's not in their DNA. This is compounded by the fact that pricing can be a touchy subject with customers who don’t always respond well to changes - - as seen when caps were first instituted. So, operators are challenged to build an app , make it cool, and get comfortable with dynamic pricing models.
It's no small transformation, but operators have the means and tools to get there. More than anything, this isn't about building or selling an app, but evolving the POS to a place where it makes sense for their customers and ultimately improves that relationship.
If wireless operators want to think and act like a utility and only interact with their customers when a bill is due, then they'll they’re destined to be a utility. But if they want to be a powerful brand in the mobile broadband market, and beyond, they'll move the POS to the mobile device and form a personalized relationship with their customers.
The possibilities may be endless, but it all starts with an app.