Mobile operators face a daunting double challenge. On the access side, they're trying to figure out how their networks can keep up with soaring demand with the optimum investment in infrastructure. Data usage is a moving target that is next to impossible for them to pin down with any accuracy.
According to Ericsson's 2012 Mobility Report, mobile data traffic doubled between Q3 2011 and Q3 2012. The company expects mobile data traffic to expand at a CAGR of almost 50% over the next six years.
At the same time, telcos face a flood of data they need to make sense of and use to their advantage to stem the decline in their traditional voice and SMS revenues.
On the network side, there are CDRs, performance monitoring data, fault monitoring data and call management data, while on the customer care side there are hundreds of metrics to monitor, analyze and react to.
Carlos Pinto from Analysys Mason said in a report last year that the large-scale use of internal data is becoming critical to telcos. "We believe that, of all industries, mobile telecom has the most to gain from this evolution" because of their large subscriber base and the amount and diversity of their customer data.
In the increasingly competitive communications industry, it's widely understood that the ability to shape a product offering to better match customers' needs is becoming a key differentiator. Oracle Communications' Christopher King says the first step is to gain a better understanding of customers, using big data and data warehousing technologies, to offer personalized promotions.
"The integration of data across the entire business - for example blending network reliability and customer data - will allow CSPs to better understand the customer's usage experience and respond much more effectively."
Eric Bourland, director of BI strategic services, Teradata, says telcos need to understand customer behavior and manage that information in a proactive way.
"It is becoming increasingly important to identify influential customers who are promoting or disfavoring their services either directly or through social media."
He expects brand differentiation and customer experience to be a key source of competition for operators. "With more and more European telcos sharing networks, maintaining brand identity and good customer relationships is something that they must work particularly hard at, as only in these areas can they show true differentiation."