Customer loyalty anchored on customized service

David Sharpley, Bridgewater Systems
21 Aug 2009
00:00

The days when the mobile phone was only used for voice calls are rapidly coming to an end in Asia. With 3G starting this year in countries like China, India, Vietnam and Thailand, data services will become just as essential as voice for significant segments of the mobile market and are a major factor in their choice of operator, tariff plans and device.

This is good news for mobile operators, but it also creates some challenges. While billing for traditional voice and text services on a time and distance basis is well understood by customers, things get a little more problematic when it comes to offering high bandwidth services oriented around content.

Mobile operators need far more flexibility and control when it comes to these types of service. Additionally, they also need tools to help them fulfil and successfully manage government initiatives to drastically cut roaming fees such as those introduced in India and Australia.Customers will always prefer an operator that offers a transparent, consistent relationship with a high degree of personalization and control.

Without the ability to manage access to services, content and applications at ever-finer levels of detail, customers face the risk of experiencing the mobile data equivalent of electricity brownouts or suddenly receiving unexpectedly huge bills for content downloads.

At the heart of the problem lies the increasing demand on network and air-path capacity by users that take advantage of the new generations of data-centric devices and services now available. It’s estimated that a smartphone uses around 30 times the bandwidth of an ordinary handset, while a laptop pushes this to a massive 450 times. It’s also expected that mobile data traffic will roughly double each year through to 2012.

According to a Frost & Sullivan report, it’s expected that by 2014 around 47% of Asia’s mobile devices will be internet-capable.

By contrast, revenues from voice services remain largely static, pushing mobile data to center stage in any mobile operator’s plans for growth and innovation.While mobile operators can respond to this by increasing network capacity, this not only takes time and money but also runs up against some inconvenient laws of physics in terms of wireless spectrum capacity.

Some Asian operator alliances have introduced flat-rate data roaming fees, but if they impose blanket bandwidth and download limits -- or just offer best-effort connectivity -- they may run the risk of alienating some of their potentially most profitable and high-spending customers with brownout scenarios.

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