Are we making money yet‾

13 Jul 2009

Why can a network supplier bill for equipment down to the cent on a specific project, but on an IT project an operator never really knows how much it will cost them.

\'This really drives you mad and one thing I really can\'t understand,\' said Rai Basgeet, a senior network planning executive with Mauritius Telecom, during a roundtable discussion on \'Prospering on a shoestring\'. \'This is the kind of thing we need to change in the industry. We can\'t enter major, disruptive projects when we don\'t know when they will end or how much we can get out of them.\'

The one thing he\'d put on his wish list for its billing partners is to learn from other industries and move to out-of-the-box options for components that are working for other operators.

On the network side, suppliers are realistic about production time. \'But when it comes to software, we tend to advance the deadline for when we want the software up and running,\' said IPKO CEO Akan Ismaili. \'The expectation is that an IT product does everything required on time without major revisions. Systems have to be robust at the go-live date or we lose customers.\'
A key requirement for IPKO, a mobile operator in Kosovo, on the backend is being able to make adjustments easily and quickly without customers experiencing difficulties. \'If we don\'t like something we can take if off easily because the development process is fast, which allows us to make mistakes.\'

Disruptive Analysis founder Dean Bubley, who was the moderator, asked if the priority around innovation is more about new services or about pricing and bundling existing services.

Basgeet said he believes it\'s a mix of both. For Mauritius Telecom the focus is still on voice so the company continues to invest in expanding the network to ensure quality and optimize operations. It\'s exploring mobile TV, IPTV as well as femtocells with high-end enterprise customers such as hotels.

He said operators now have lots of services and lots of packages because the competitive landscape has \'pushed each of us to do more and more without seeing if they are bringing us money.\'

\'Sometimes you forget about the basic things, so pruning back services is important, and right now we\'re revisiting our whole internet strategy.\'

For IPKO innovation is about bringing several services together, which Ismaili said is more complex in a prepaid environment where everything has to be real-time. \'Where we want to get to is have our customers free to spend their credit on any service, with the freedom to change tariff plan or bundle at any time.\'

Glenda Akers, a senior VP for telecom at SAP, is seeing more operators attempt to create value by bundling fixed and mobile services, with value-added services that can run on both. She gave the example of being able to watch a video on your handset and PC.

As operators attempt to find the value for customer and the revenue, Akers noted that most don\'t have a set lifecycle for their new bundles and therefore can\'t evaluate the success.

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