Big data a complex challenge for telcos

Shagun Bali/Ovum
OvumAt the recent SDM and Data Warehousing Summit, telecoms operators and vendors discussed a range of complex issues related to telco subscriber data management (SDM).
 
SDM solutions centralize vast amounts of subscriber data from various repositories to get a unified view of each unique subscriber. Although the main focus was data warehousing, most of the operators’ presentations revolved around Big Data, analytics, and the challenges they face.
 
Operators are under immense pressure as a result of the changing competitive landscape, with over-the-top (OTT) players such as Google and Skype eating into their revenues. A key message from the conference was that operators are dissatisfied with vendors’ current offerings. Operators’ focus has shifted from reducing costs to delivering value and managing customers’ experience over their networks. They expect vendors to understand and help them deliver business value.
 
Data is digital fuel
Operators were enthusiastic in discussing the potential they see in using subscriber data in more sophisticated ways. Operators treat such data as a strategic asset – the oil that will fuel their future growth. Some take the idea so far as to see themselves transforming in five years or so into companies that primarily manage data and also provide communications services.
 
But much of the conference discussion revolved around customers’ comfort (or discomfort) about telcos mining their personal data, related security and privacy concerns, and telcos’ moral obligations. Some operators use the analogy that customer data is a form of currency, and that operators are like banks where customers deposit their personal data. In this analogy, just as banks invest their customers’ money in various assets that they expect will yield a return, operators can share customer data (in accordance with customers’ stated permissions) in order to achieve a return.
 
Operators are already considered one of the most trusted entities (after banks) with whom customers are willing to share personal data. In order to develop new services, operators need to stop playing “big brother” with this data and – carefully, to avoid harming that trust – give customers themselves more control over how the data is used and shared. For example, operators could seek customers’ permission about what kind of data operators may analyze. Also, operators often complain about being highly regulated in accessing customer data. This can be used as a key differentiator against the OTT providers. Operators can advertise themselves as trusted parties who have solid security and privacy controls in place. Relationships between service providers and subscribers could thus grow stronger and stickier.
 

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