By Thomas Vasen,
Being in between jobs gives time for reflection and by recently taking a position at Procera Networks, I’ve gained the great opportunity to see things in different lights. The industry is on the move, more than ever now. OTT players are becoming increasingly threatening with public scorecards such as “the Netflix ISP index” and daring initiatives such as the “Apple SIM” which enables consumers to switch carriers with a swipe - left to right (or right to left…). Communication Service Providers (CSP) are under attack and that they're hurting shows in the revenue trends. Things are changing, but not fast enough. To me it is amazing that CSPs are still rated the lowest on customer satisfaction compared to other industries and yet there is so moderate focus on fixing the Experience. Successful CSPs focus on the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to retain customers and ensure their service satisfaction. But this is not easy - generally for every customer complaining, 26 other unhappy customers remain silent. And a dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about his/her experience, while a happy customer who gets his/her issue resolved generally only tells 4-6 people. Also Experience is not only technology, it’s pricing, billing, corporate communications, as well as service delivery. The mix needs to be great and to manage that operators need to think BIG(er). The focus will shift from “churn management” to not even giving the customers a reason to churn at all, by managing the subscribers’ services in an intelligent way, with the subscriber’s perspective in mind. To manage this challenge I see the following trends foremost in 2015:
#1: FIXED AND MOBILE CONSOLIDATION WILL CONTINUE, THE NEED FOR SMALL CELLS DRIVING QUAD PLAY INITIATIVES!
Communication is a package. We have seen multiple quad play driven acquisitions (Vodafone – Kabel Deutschland being one of the more recent ones) and I believe it will continue. Let’s face it; the majority of your “mobile data” experience is actually carried through your Wi-Fi at home or at the office, and not through the mobile network. Wi-Fi’s rapid expansion is a threat and opportunity at the same time, providing much lower costs with offload strategies
Subscriber Experience Evangelist,
#2: THE RAN PERSPECTIVE WILL MAKE THE POLICY DIFFERENCE
Policy Controllers are Lean Billing engines. They enable data packages and with that market differentiation. But in the long term, everybody needs data, enough data to satisfy their behavioral needs. The problem is that the Radio Network is a scarce resource – no matter what. This means that with the increase of usage by everybody, in the “end” when over-subscribed, everybody will receive a horrible experience. And that is NOT acceptable. Instead of using policies to cut customers’ off because they exceeded their quota, focus will shift to providing intelligent shaping strategies, enhancing the customer experience. Only when cells or a mobile region shows signs of congestion, action needs to be taken - Service aware, and Subscriber aware action, not to limit but to enhance the experience that the subscriber values most. On an individual basis.
Today’s network focused RAN quality tools will shift to be subscriber and service aware. Detection to Action, in real-time.
#3: ACCELERATION OF VIRTUALIZATION, BECAUSE EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE FAST!
Network Function Virtualization (NFV) is taking off at a higher pace than anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s only just over 2 years ago the standard got launched! However, it’s not surprising when you think about it. Operators are becoming more cost aware, and virtualization has it’s obvious benefits... already proven in the IT side of the house! Much more importantly, NFV provides a huge opportunity to change the game in the speed-to-market for new services. For example, scaling out 'policy control enforcement points' for advanced shaping will be a matter of spinning up a few more virtual machines. Deploying VPN services for a customer across geographies and network equipment vendors/flavors as well as versions will be a laugh. 2015 will be the year of NFV, and I don’t mean 'hype', I mean 'deployments'.
#4: SPONSORED / TOLL-FREE DATA – IT’S SHOW-TIME (or die)
In 2014 there was a lot of talk about sponsored data. AT&T publicly launched it at the CES in January, while Verizon had already been talking about the concept a year of so prior. Still real consumer offerings have yet to roll into the marketplace. Instead a global debate emerged in the press on net-neutrality. Gosh, Holland already imposed rules against net-neutrality in 2013, but governing agencies in the US, the market which has been driving the concept, has not made a clear statement. 2015 will be the year where Sponsored data either Flips or Flops. Either way managing the customer experience will be a challenge. Transparency is needed when split billing becomes a practice and quality will be the only differentiator left if net neutrality is enforced in full.