Asia Pacific has been the biggest contributor to global subscriber growth in recent years, and has room for yet more growth. Some markets in the region are at the forefront of global innovation, and others still have millions of people waiting to take their first steps online.
But no matter where you might be in the region, telecoms operators are faced with the same problem: The move to digital will leave many organizations facing uncertainty. The options for Asian operator reinvention are endless and there are almost too many choices and decisions to make—new potential content partnerships, the introduction of new digital services to create new revenue streams, and the opportunities created by the Internet of Things (IoT). How can operators across Asia really know which is the best approach to take, both for their business, and for their customers—current and potential?
Also worrying operators, as ever, is the threat of disintermediation from the over-the-top (OTTs) players such as WeChat, Line and Weibo. Operators are not only faced with the threat of more competition, they also face a demanding user base. Typically, the Asian user knows what they want, and they want it now. If they don’t get it, then these demanding customers are happy to jump ship to a better service.
But providers do not have the systems in place to keep up with the OTTs. The best route to success for OTTs has been to adopt a fail-fast mentality: devise something, build something, launch something—almost anything—and test it in the market to see if it flies. OTTs that can apply this approach can use the benefits of virtualization to launch a raft of new services quickly and ‘virtually’. In the past, they have left it to fate to see what sticks—and this approach has been successful so far. Operators simply don’t have the flexibility to follow suit.
While the region continues to thrive and satisfy their consumers needs, the rest of the world is looking to Asian brands as they make further advances, creating a path that others can follow.
Machine learning comes into play
How can Asian operators keep up the pace and learn quickly from their own experiences to improve the market, and future markets of the world?
One answer lies in machine learning. Machine learning has been around a long time – the term was first coined by artificial intelligence pioneer Arthur Samuel back in 1959 – but it is only now that we are beginning to see it really infiltrate our homes. We have seen Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent (collectively known as BAT) make extraordinary gains in the artificial intelligence space in Asia, helped by the support and investment of the Chinese government. The country aims to become the most dominant AI player in the world, with plans to build a $1 trillion AI industry by 2030.
With the growth from government investment in machine learning, Asian providers are now also in a unique position to take advantage of this growing technology. In fact, operators already have the volume and variety of reliable data necessary to fully reap the rewards and flourish alongside OTTs, instead of falling behind.
By embracing machine learning and business analytics, operators can gain a greater understanding of their customers, who they already have data on. With this, operators can actually gain many benefits from observing their customers behaviors as the online and offline worlds continue to become more and more blurred. For instance, in Vietnam, over half (57%) of smartphone users visited a store after first seeing a relevant message from the company on their smartphone.
With the power of data collected from individuals’ devices, providers can gather intelligence to approach new service offerings for their customers with confidence as well as validate and optimize existing business services with significantly more insight and confidence. This could include the number of customers clicking through to promotions or purchasing items through their device. The analysis can not only help protect existing revenues but also help informing new opportunities.
APAC could lead the way
Asia Pacific is the biggest contributor to global subscriber growth in recent years and there is still more room to grow. By 2025, the GSMA have estimated that 424 million new subscribers will be connected across the region. Operators can use machine learning capabilities to zero-in on a customer segment to understand the network conditions that could be causing churn. By analyzing data from multiple sources right across all the operations of the business—the network itself, customer data plans, and typical account activity—operators can highlight patterns that emerged just before a subscriber decided to jump ship.
When it comes to developing and introducing new services, advanced techniques in analytics and machine learning can be used to help operators optimize their offerings and applications to keep up with the fast pace of the market. No matter what sector, machine learning can inform advanced network performance management, automation and orchestration functionalities, giving the operators the ability to plan ahead.
The Asian providers that are equipped will be best placed to manage the challenges of the future. They will better understand their business and be able to achieve the competitive edge that they need to not only survive against OTTs, but in fact thrive during this digital transformation - paving the way for the rest of the world.
Jurie Roux is product marketing manager of business analytics at TEOCO