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Bringing customers closer: Six degrees of mobile data plan innovation

By Rich Crowe, Marketing Director, Alcatel-Lucent IP Platforms

We’ve all heard about the dramatic rise of mobile data traffic, spurred on by expanding 3G and LTE networks, smart device use, compelling apps and mobile video consumption. We know that mobile network operators face shrinking voice and messaging revenues and growing competition from over-the-top (OTT) providers. Operators know the pressure is on. Can they transform network investment and data traffic demand into data revenue growth? Where will this growth come from?

In this eight-part blog series, Alcatel-Lucent’s Rich Crowe answers these questions by presenting six degrees of mobile data plan innovation that can help operators build closer relationships with customers and grow data revenues.

Mobile Gets Straight to the Point (of Sale)

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 Big Deal about Big Data Analytics

By Greg Owens, Senior Director Customer Experience Solutions Marketing, Alcatel-Lucent

 

The rise of big data is causing service providers to ask some big questions: How should we store our data? How long should we keep it? What parts of it are relevant to our business? Most importantly, how do we get value from it? To turn big data into a big deal, service providers need to extract insights that can help them make smart business decisions and improve the customer experience.

 

The value of big data is all in what useful and actionable information it can provide. I find it exciting to see how service providers use big data analytics to gain new insights and solve complex problems. With this post, I’ll look at some new research by industry analysts and three key opportunities that big data analytics presents to service providers.
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WebRTC: Where Telecom Meets the Web

By Ed Elkin, Marketing Director, Advanced Communication Solutions, Alcatel-Lucent

WebRTC is giving apps a voice and operators new revenue opportunities.

I communicate all day long, but it’s always bifurcated between voice and the web. Last December's Consumer Electronics Show, however, showed me these two worlds will soon be merging thanks to a new technology called Web Real Time Communications (WebRTC).

Technically, WebRTC equips a browser with a standardized structure for communications clients, consisting of native functions for audio, video, and data exchange -- and that’s cool for the side of me that enjoys technology.  Appealing to my business side, WebRTC is a catalyst for innovation because it reduces the heavy work of interworking clients between devices and browsers, and because it avoids the tedious download and installation of thick, heavy clients.  That combination of technical and business niceties explains why fast movers in the industry are excited by WebRTC.  

The Big Challenge: Extracting Value from Big Data

Knowing what to do — and what can be done — with big data are important key to success. But these things are easier said than done. For its special report on big data, European Communications asked respondents to name the biggest barrier to operators seeking to execute a successful big data strategy. A lack of understanding of the potential that big data presents topped the list, getting the nod from 27% of respondents.

This response highlights the real challenge for service providers: finding ways to extract value and create tangible benefits from big data. Providers have vast amounts of information about customers, networks, services and operations. So how can they monetize it?

Facebook's Signaling Chatter Grows Louder

By Lindsay Newell, VP, Marketing Networks & Platforms Group, Alcatel-Lucent

Our last few blog posts on mobile intelligence focused on how changes to devices and their operating systems can affect both the user experience and the network in positive and negative ways as detected using the 9900 Wireless Network Guardian. Today we will explore the impact of changes introduced by a new version of a popular application.

Last year, Facebook released new versions of their mobile app for Android and iOS. Prior to the new release, Facebook signaling and airtime already accounted for 10% and 15% of the overall load on 2G/3G networks, respectively.  As users around the world updated and started to use this new version, we quickly noticed a dramatic increase of almost 60% in the signaling load and 25% in the airtime consumed by the Facebook application.  During the same period, the number of Facebook users increased by only 4%.   Clearly, it is not the swelling of Facebook’s community that intensified the load, but rather the introduction of new Facebook features for mobile users and underlying platform changes.

Proactive Care Puts Operators One Step Ahead

By Thomas Fuerst, Senior Director, Multimedia Solutions MarketingAlcatel-Lucent

Monitoring and analyzing network data proactively saves operators time, money, and customers.

When a network service fails, it makes headlines, ticks off customers, and costs that network operator money. When a failure is headed off in advance, on the other hand, there might not be praise-laden headlines, but it's newsworthy nonetheless.

The traditional approach to customer care has typically been: a disgruntled customer calls customer service and complains of a service interruption or problem; the rep, learning of it for the first time, sends out a technician the next day, and eventually finds a resolution. Often, customers are left feeling put out, and the operator has spent significant time and money resolving the problem. Even worse is the customer who doesn’t call and just feels this is ‘typical’ of their network experience.  That is a customer at risk of leaving.

Proactive care flips this dynamic on its head by using predictive analytics to identify potential outages or errors in the network and stop them before they occur. It consists of three main parts: one, constantly monitoring and measuring data on the network; two, real-time analysis of the data; and three, the most important, acting on that analysis to fix the problem.

Alcatel-Lucent and World Education Program Help Young Adults Obtain Skills Needed in Workplace

By Mae Kowalke

Equipping young people with the skills to succeed in the work world is important, but without self-confidence no skill set will help a person rise out of poverty or change the world with a breathtaking idea.

That’s one of the lessons that’s been so obvious to Estelle Day as she helps guide Alcatel-Lucent’s global signature program, ConnectEd, as its program director. ConnectEd helps participants, mainly young adults, enter the work world with the education and tools they need to succeed.

“It often strikes me that across all the different contexts that ConnectEd works in, and all the different types and backgrounds of youth, one of the most commonly cited changes brought by the program is self-confidence,” she noted in a recent interview with Bishalakhi Ghosh, the director of the Alcatel-Lucent Foundation that is posted on the Alcatel-Lucent blog site. The Foundation started ConnectEd two years ago with World Education.

Service Providers Cut Costs and Boost Agility by Taking a Cloud Approach to Operations

By Mae Kowalke

The cloud is one of the hottest trends in computing, and communication service providers (CSPs) have an edge when it comes to cloud services. That’s because unlike IT and internet companies, CSPs also control their own network. This gives CSP’s a unique advantage and the carrier cloud a leg up on other offerings.

But the carrier cloud is only one way that CSPs can benefit from the cloud. They also can apply the same technique used with the cloud, namely virtualization, to evolve their own operations.

Motive Machine-to-Machine Platform Helps Deliver on the Promise of M2M

It is fashionable to talk about the Internet of Things, also known as machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. And for all its hype, M2M is growing and starting to reach some of its promise.

But only a little of its promise.

The most futuristic M2M scenarios remain largely limited to intranets of things, ranging from the home to the intelligent city, production systems such as electricity, or just stand-alone intelligent objects intended to provide dedicated services.

“Such cases are still relatively simple, with a limited range of objects and behaviors which are generally designed and calibrated in advance,” noted Mathieu Boussard of Bell Labs recently in an interesting posting, The Internet of Things, a natural (r)evolution.

Pennsylvania Healthcare Provider UPMC Upgrading Infrastructure based on Alcatel-Lucent 7950 XRS

By Susan J. Campbell

The need for better business intelligence is the driving force behind the momentum in businesses around the world to look at adoption of “big data” solutions.  However, not all big data solutions are the same, and their applications in various markets must be customized since data capture and management in areas like healthcare must adhere to strict rules and regulations.

With this as context of its consideration of how best move to next generation communications capabilities, UPMC, a Western Pennsylvania healthcare provider, turned to Alcatel-Lucent to upgrade its IP and optical networking capabilities, starting at its core, so it could better accommodate and leverage the large data sets that are gathered on a regular basis.  And, at the HIMSS event in the U.S., the annual conference and exposition for healthcare information technology professionals and their suppliers, UPMC’s selection of Alcatel-Lucent to better enable critical communications services to doctors’ offices, hospitals and other sites throughout Western Pennsylvania was announced.

The Operational Imperative in the New Era of Mobile Data Personalization

By Patrick McCabe

The growth of mobile data is driving significant revenue at various Internet and Over-the-The Top (OTT) companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook not to mention with various VOIP, video and content providers.  The mobile service provider, who provides mobile Internet user’s connectivity to these companies, has yet to capitalize on this growth.  To make this situation even more challenging the service provider’s voice and SMS revenues, historically representing over 70% of their total revenue, are flattening and are being slowly replaced with OTT versions of these services as found by mobiThinking.

However, there is a clear market demand to empower mobile users with a simplification of the mobile broadband experience while offering data usage transparency.  There is also a demand to provide data services that are specifically tailored to the individual and their particular lifestyles and usage patterns.  This is where the opportunity lies for the service provider.  They need to “transform” their business to take advantage of this new ”mobile data frontier” by meeting consumer driven requirements while creating new and innovative streams of revenue.

Innovation Allows Broadband to Get to Fast Faster

By Susan Campbell

Demands on broadband providers have been nothing short of intense the last few years. The predicted “data storm” has arrived and users now expect more flexibility, capability, quality performance, and access to rich applications and features. This can be a challenge for service providers trying to meet the need, but is also creating new opportunities and revenue streams when challenges are overcome to improve service delivery overall.

A recent Alcatel-Lucent blog, Connecting the World – from Innovation to Reality, highlights these opportunities. Author Dave Geary, President Alcatel-Lucent Wireline, points out the socio-economic benefits of broadband. And, while we’re aware of the increase in mobility and growing demand for access, there are also a few other stats that may be surprising for some vendors, including that wirelines still mater.

EARTH Consortium Shows the Way to 70 Percent Energy Savings on Wireless Networks

By Mae Kowalke

They wanted to reduce the energy consumption of mobile networks by half. Instead, they developed a framework that cut nearly three quarters of energy consumption.

Led by Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson over the course of two and a half years, the EARTH (Energy Aware Radio and neTwork tecHnologies) consortium of 15 telecommunications providers, vendors and academic institutions developed everything from more efficient components in radio base stations to solutions on the radio network level, according to a press release from Alcatel-Lucent. The research was partially funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7).

In the process, the consortium demonstrated how operators could save up to 70 percent of energy consumed in their networks using a holistic energy efficiency approach for 4G radio communications.

Motive Mobile Device Manager Key to Better and More Cost-Effective Customer Experiences

By Mae Kowalke

The customer service challenge for cellular providers is clear.

Numerous research firms have recently published studies estimating that smartphones currently make up half of all mobile phone purchases globally and that number is expected to reach 75 percent by 2013. This is context for what is a vexing industry challenge. It turns out that more than half of all customer service calls to mobile service operators now deal with the difficult technical problems that can come from smartphones, such as mobile internet, and 63 percent of returned phones are not actually faulty.

In fact, a recent Yankee Group study notes that technical difficulties now represent a bigger percentage of call center volume than billing issues. They also represent a huge financial drain on operators.  A single support call, for example, can cost a provider roughly a month’s worth of customer profit.  This means finding ways to effectively address device configuration and service provisioning is more crucial than ever.

Bell Labs Celebrates TELSTAR Anniversary

By Susan J. Campbell

It is hard to believe but July 10 marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of TELSTAR I.  This was the first active communications satellite and its placement into orbit is considered the birth of modern multimedia global communications.

Developed and built by Bell Labs with funding from AT&T in conjunction with NASA, TELSTAR I, which was a 34 inch sphere, was a true marvel of its time.  It transformed communications. It rightfully is considered not just one of the Alcatel-Lucent research arm’s greatest historical achievements, but as President John F. Kennedy noted at the time it really was a turning point in the history of communications.

It is something worthy of a significant celebration.  

The new era TELSTAR I NASA ushered in we now take for granted — high-speed (for the time) data communications, real-time global telephone service and TV broadcasting.  
Delta launches Telstar.jpg 

Wi-Fi Roaming Takes the Stage --Get Ready for ANDSF and Hotspot 2.0 Capabilities

Mae Kowalke

The next major cellular technology advancement is on its way. Here comes Wi-Fi roaming.

Cellular users often switch between 3G or 4G networks to Wi-Fi to access the internet, especially as cloud services continue to grow in importance. The switch from a cellular service to a Wi-Fi network is not always seamless, especially when it requires first finding a network and then getting through a login screen.

But a group of new cellular technologies, in particular the 3GPP Access Network Discovery and Selection Function (ANDSF) and Hotspot 2.0, will change that with what amounts to Wi-Fi roaming, according to a white paper, “Wi-Fi Roaming – Building on ANDSF and Hotspot2.0,” jointly produced by Alcatel-Lucent and BT.

The War Will be Won over Customer Experience

By Mae Kowalke

The battle for the best mobile device portfolio steals the headlines with its flashy array of smartphone offerings. However, increasingly it appears that the war will be won by the mobile broadband operator who provides the best customer experience as enabled by overall quality of experience (QoE) on their network.

“To thrive in today’s competitive mobile broadband market, service providers must deliver superior QoE and enrich the customer experience,” noted Greg Owens, director of marketing for customer experience at Alcatel-Lucent, in a recent Enriching Communications article, “Customer Insights Improve Business Performance, stated that, “With growing pressure to reduce churn and increase revenues, service providers need to have a better understanding of how customers use their services.”

The Mobile Customer Experience Imperative

By: Susan Campbell

Mobile service providers throughout the world are in an interesting competitive situation. The service provided is becoming a commodity by consumers. This means that true differentiation in this market going forward will be driven by customer experience transformations, such as those enabled by Alcatel-Lucent’s portfolio of Motive Customer Experience Solutions, as traditional approaches prove to be increasingly ineffective.

Market realities today are that consumers tend to avoid brand loyalty when considering services delivered and even price points when there is little differentiation. As a result, mobile service providers by competitive necessity must pay particular attention to establishing exceptional customer experiences if they hope to achieve business success. The focus must be on building trust with customers over time and increasing customer perceptions of the value of the customer experience, rather than leveraging services and products.

Alcatel-Lucent s recently shared its view on this in a piece entitled, “Customer Experience Transformation: The Mobile Customer Experience Imperative.” It  highlights these market changes and what service providers need to be thinking about in order to be correctly positioned for success.

Alcatel-Lucent States Position on Corporate Responsibility, Sustainability

By: Susan J. Campbell

Increasingly, corporations around the world have recognized that they have a responsibility to be good stewards of the earth’s resources and to act in an ethical manner that promotes sustainability. Alcatel-Lucent considers corporate responsibility to be an important business imperative, and also believes that doing well and doing good can and should be mutually inclusive.

A recent Alcatel-Lucent 2011 Corporate Responsibility Report explores the company’s commitment to playing a key role in being a good steward. Alcatel-Lucent intends to continue its focus on not only making the communications solutions it produces eco-friendly, but doing so in a manner that also ensures they are accessible and affordable so that the full potential of a connected world can be realized.

A bold new direction in sustainability was initiated in 2011 with a focus on three core priorities:

  • Green innovation
  • Digital inclusion
  • People

Customer Experience in the Spotlight

Greg Owens, Director, Customer Experience Solutions Marketing, Alcatel-Lucent

Customers have growing expectations for mobile broadband services. Better networks, broader device support, ubiquitous connectivity and competitive prices remain essential, but they’re no longer enough to keep customers coming back for more. Today’s mobile customers demand a superior customer experience, one that focuses on making it easy to discover, use and enjoy applications, devices and services.

Service providers are feeling the pressure to deliver on these expectations.

A renewed focus on QoE

Rising smartphone use is thrusting quality of experience (QoE) back into the spotlight. Smartphones appeal to users because they promise easy access to e-mail, apps, social networking and video. But smartphones have hidden complexities. Many users struggle with smartphone setup, app configuration, usage tracking and connectivity.

The end result is that smartphone users are turning to service providers more often — with problems that take more time to resolve.

'Main-Streaming' Changing Video Game in Content Delivery Networking

By Mae Kowalke

As traditional TV collides with the internet, unprecedented changes are taking place in the video industry. The biggest trend is what Alcatel-Lucent calls ‘main-streaming:’ video streaming as the new normal mass market model for how consumers get their video.

In short, consumers want video content anywhere, anytime, on any device. In an early 2011 report, Neilson said U.S. consumers spent 34.5 percent more time watching video on the internet, and 20 percent more time watching mobile video, than they did in early 2010. No doubt that number has grown since—and will continue to grow.

Online video is popular with consumers because it satisfies an appetite for flexible consumption. Plus, the success of online services like Hulu+ and Netflix indicate customers are willing to pay for that flexibility.

Content delivery industry players like Netflix and Hulu offer video using ad-funded or direct-subscription business models. These content providers pay traditional content delivery networks (CDNs) like Amazon and Limelight to publish video content online, because doing so theoretically helps ensure quality of service (QoS).

Trouble is, CDNs are making promises they can’t keep. The structure of their platforms—where caches are located at the edge of ISP networks—simply can’t provide guaranteed adequate QoS for end users. This presents a significant opportunity for network service providers.

Customer Experience Management Key to Mobile Services Differentiation

By Susan Campbell

The mobile broadband services market has become almost hyper-competitive globally. And, it has become increasingly clear that providing superior quality of experience (QoE) to customers, end users as well as third parties, will likely be a (if not the most) critical element in creating sustainable and profitable differentiated value. As a result, mobile service provider investment attention needs to be focused not just on delivering speeds and feeds but also on all aspects of QoE. A holistic approach for concentration on customer care¸ such as the Alcatel-Lucent portfolio of Motive Customer Experience solutions, fits the needs for making sure the best possible user experiences can be provided, monitored and constantly improved.  

Why customer care, and why a comprehensive approach?

The reason is that a holistic approach to customer care is a fundamental tool for reducing vital churn rates. The bottom line is the bottom line here. Service providers (SPs) have the opportunity to make better use of the subscriber and network data to help not only make customers more loyal but also improve average revenue per user (ARPU) based on establishing a relationship that customers view as more “trusted.”  In fact, if done correctly, they can leverage the provisioning of compelling customer experiences into a powerful tool for making satisfied customers enthusiastic brand advocates.

Growing the Pay-TV Industry: It's Time for Disruptive Thinking!

By: Wim Van Daele, PMP
Director, Communications – Motive CxS Portfolio, mCommerce & IP Video Solutions

For far too long, the pay-TV industry has been hanging on to legacy infrastructures and traditional business models. Few people are raising the one question that really matters: will today’s practices allow us to face the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow?

Guess what? They won’t. To secure growth in this established market, a more disruptive and unbiased thinking is required. Alcatel-Lucent embraces this new, open mindset - while marrying it to a staged and economically viable migration scenario.

As a starting point, three key thoughts/questions for your consideration:

LTE Wireless Networks -- Time to Deploy

By Mae Kowalke

Wireless operators and those who supply them infrastructure spend a lot of time focusing on the ‘data storm’ and what they are doing to stay one step ahead of it. The goal is to deliver more data, faster, with a better customer experience and greater economies of scale than in the past. Thanks to Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, these goals are now within reach.

“According to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), 4G LTE is the fastest developing mobile system technology ever,” said Maniam Palanivelu, director of global 4G LTE solutions marketing at Alcatel-Lucent, in an Enriching Communications article, “LTE: The Best Thing to Happen to Wireless Networks.”

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