Why Are Operators Investing in Subscriber Data Management Now?

Why Are Operators Investing in Subscriber Data Management Now? Image Credit: PCC Mobile Broadband

Operators have been deploying multiple siloes of subscriber data in their network for years. The complexity of managing these siloes is leading them to invest in Subscriber Data Management (SDM). They have been using SDM products to promote storage efficiency, data consistency, and personalization. And yet, the SDM market is now going through unprecedented growth. By 2018, SDM will be a $2.5billion industry, according to Infonetics. So why is there renewed interest in SDM now?


What is SDM Delivering?

Before we dive into the new drivers, it is worth re-capping what SDM actually delivers for operators.

SDM software gives operators a unified view of subscriber data that is traditionally stored across the operators' IT and network infrastructure. Data pertaining to subscriber profiles, billing and device details is usually fragmented and split across logical and physical architectures, and different locations. It is a huge task for the operators to converge all of this data into a single unified repository in a short period of time, even though that is the eventual goal in an ideal world. The reality for most of the operators will be more of a hybrid approach where the unified view of the subscriber data will be provided using Data Federation and Data Consolidation.

The main driver for implementing a unified repository is to reduce the operational costs and inefficiencies associated with maintaining a broad, differing set of repositories. It delivers savings in power consumption and reduces the network footprint while simplifying network operations and maintenance. The bigger goal is to provide agility in launching new services, which is how operators need to differentiate themselves.

Another goal, that operators have when consolidating subscriber data, is that they want to be able to monetize subscriber information. Consolidation of the data makes it easier to analyze subscriber data and understand the impact of subscriber churn, the value of services provided and the ability to cross-target subscribers with personalized offers in order to generate more revenue. 


LTE Changed Everything

It is no secret that LTE deployments have created back-end chaos for many operators. Operators that had been comfortable with voice, messaging and 3G data suddenly found their subscriber data and intelligence more siloed and scattered than ever. As they invest in building new infrastructure for their LTE deployments, they look for ways in which they can unify the siloed and scattered data as they need to provide seamless services to their subscribers across all the access technologies. The benefits of SDM have been around for years, yet LTE deployments brought the need for SDM into much sharper focus. 

When internal resources are already stretched, the requirement to manage a whole new set of data sources has pushed operations to breaking point. As much as LTE has eased one set of problems, it has contributed to a whole new set. SDM, with its ability to unify subscriber intelligence across access technologies, makes operation and subscriber management not just easier than before LTE was launched, but easier than they have ever been. 


VoLTE is Coming; Time to Get The House in Order

In 2015, several high-profile global operators will be rolling out their VoLTE offerings. It's an exciting time for the industry, as we will finally get to see the network implications and subscriber acceptance of a technology that has been mooted, developed, hyped and trashed in a relatively short period of time.

But it is a new means to scatter subscriber data even further. Forward-thinking operators understand this. That is why the coming VoLTE roll-outs are another reason why SDM is being pushed to the fore. Some operators are buying and implementing SDM systems along with VoLTE. It has given operators a big push to get their subscriber data "houses" in order. Just at a time when things are going to get really… interesting for network operations.


Big Data and Analytics Need a Solid Starting Point

Whether you love or hate the hype around Big Data, there is no doubting the premise of truly understanding your business and your customers' experience. Data and the resulting insight is the starting point for making positive change. You can only sympathize with those responsible for Big Data and analytics projects when information about a single subscriber is spread across twenty or even a hundred different systems. The impact is felt on real time analytics which relies on the latest information being available for the subscriber across all the siloes.

A consolidated view of the subscriber is absolutely critical for customer-focused Big Data and analytics projects. Some operators that have embarked upon ambitious projects have realized that the fundamentals were simply not there to do what they need. So again, Big Data projects have provided a big push for SDM to fly up the list of critical projects.


What to Look For in SDM Technology

For any of the applications that will rely upon SDM, the single most important aspect is the raw capability of the system where the consolidated user data is stored. Operators need to find an SDM solution that is extremely scalable. That means a system that can handle higher read and write values, as well as an ever-increasing amount of data as the repository grows. The last thing operators need to face is having to throw out their SDM tools two to five years down the line because it just won't scale. Operators also need to find an SDM solution that is extremely reliable, because so many systems and business functions will come to rely upon it.

Subscriber Data Management has its time in the sun now. But this is no flash-in-the-pan. It will grow and grow and grow. The fundamentals it provides have always reduced operational expenditure while simplifying operations. Now that the business and technology drivers are seen and felt widely, it is time for operators to reduce complexity and make the positive changes that they know will keep on delivering results for years to come.

Sekhar Banerjee is the Director of Product Management at Openwave Mobility.


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