Taking telco big data to the next level

Brian Hopkins/Forrester Research
03 Oct 2013

In our recently completed Q3 2013 Global State Of Enterprise Architecture Online Survey, big data for real-time analytics moved from the No. 3 most revolutionary technology to the No. 2 position, according to the 116 enterprise architects who participated.

This reflects the importance firms now place on turning vast amounts of data into immediate insight. And this trend is extremely important to telecommunication industry communication service providers (CSPs), who are sitting on a gold mine of data about what subscribers are doing on their mobile devices.

Let’s break this down a bit more -- according to the United Nations, there are about 2 billion mobile broadband subscriptions globally (that’s about 28% of the world's 7.1 billion people). That’s a huge number of perpetually connected people, using bunches of apps for both work and personal.

This is part of what we call the mobile mind shift, and it’s not about smartphones and tablets; rather, it’s about the changing expectations that pervasive mobile computing and broadband wireless have.

According to a recent report, “The Mobile Mind Shift Index,” we estimate 21% of the adult online US population now expects that any information is available on any appropriate device, in context, at their moment of need (see Josh Bernoff’s May 2013 blog Introducing The Mobile Mindshift Index). And this number is going to grow significantly over the next few years.

Firms are responding to this change in consumer attitude by implementing systems of engagement (see Ted Schadler’s February 2012 blog, 1 Billion Smartphones Require New Systems Of Engagement). Systems of engagement are built on big data concepts; that is, they need to understand mobile user behavior in real-time at a very high level of detail, and guess who is sitting on piles and piles of this? Telecom CSPs.

One of the challenges CSPs face is integrating basic subscriber data with detailed mobile app behavior data, which can be tens of billions of network events per day, in a near-instantaneous fashion. This is the biggest of big data problems, and solving it will be crucial to building the systems of engagement that every business front office is dreaming about.

This week IBM announced the acquisition of The Now Factory, which is a huge step forward in this area and a strong statement about IBM’s strategy around enabling customer engagement via big data. The Now Factory is a mobile customer insights platform that allows CSPs, via an appliance that plugs into carrier networks, to gain a real-time view of mobile app behavior and correlate it with subscriber data at extremely high data rates.

There are all kinds of uses for this -- for example, one tier 1 CSP achieved a 400% increase in marketing campaign conversion by measuring data usage by app for high-volume prepaid mobile phone customers. The CSP then created a targeted campaign to upgrade the highest-usage subscribers to longer-term post-paid contracts.

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