Managing, Optimizing and Monetizing Mobile Data

By Vikram Shanbhag, Vice President, Mobile Messaging Solutions, Comviva

In the last 48 hours that I have been in Dubai with the purpose of attending the ME Telco event, I am hearing a lot, I must say overloaded on the topic “Mobile Data”.  It’s Data, Data, everywhere, a hot topic globally more so in the MENA region, given the proliferation of smart devices, smart networks and a smart subscriber base that is looking for change. I hosted a closed door seminar yesterday wherein my close engagement with the Mobile Operator community has resulted in me sharing the thoughts below.

Today Mobile Data occupies the highest mindshare in the operator community. The profitability of telecom service provider’s data operations depends on how they act in response to the explosive growth in mobile broadband traffic. Notwithstanding the fact that the mobile data market in the MENA region is on a steep growth trajectory, 133% in the period 2009-2014, operators need to ready themselves now for even further growth. Simply augmenting the network infrastructure is a capital intensive proposition.  As competition is fierce and there are limits to data service charges to be charged to the customer, operators are faced with a trade-off between the revenue-to-capex ratio and the quality of experience on offer — unless they handle the data traffic more intelligently.

Given this operators are looking at changing the rules of the game, they are aware that standard run-of-the-mill plans and packages are history and they must innovate on creating value for every dollar that the subscriber spends on their network. Most operators have invested in advanced and stand alone solutions to address the high growth they have experienced on mobile data.  They keeping enhancing the fat pipes and have added peripheral solutions such as optimization and acceleration to manage their networks gracefully. However the outcome of this has not been impactful as envisaged and the challenges remain the same, namely how to Manage, Optimize and Monetize.  I call it the MOM challenge for the mobile operator.

“Manage” challenges would mean to deploy an intelligent policy and charging control solution that would assure proper allocation of network resources, based on subscriber’s needs and what the network can deliver.

“Optimize” challenges centre on addressing needs for faster access speeds and consistent service quality; letting subscribers enjoy an optimized mobile internet experience.

“Monetize” challenges primarily hover around restricting excessive usage by a few users whilst driving mass adoption, flexibility to create tariff plans based on speed, services, traffic, time, device type, applications, thus moving away from conventionally unmetered flat pricing propositions.

It’s not that mobile operators have not attempted to address the above challenges.  They have in fact gone ahead and deployed specialized and niche solutions to manage data traffic.  These solution modules are typically deployed by the operators from independent best-of-breed vendors whose focus is on addressing individual problems and they sure do a great job in overcoming the challenges given to them however things fail when these individual vendors need to work together and collectively offer a seamless experience for operators and their subscribers. Subscribers complain about a suboptimal usage experience and sluggish speeds, further operators are saddled with higher Capex and Opex as they need to manage multiple vendors, solutions, and equipment. The onus thus falls on the operator to envision a comprehensive blueprint at the forefront and then orchestrate the phase wise implementation of the complete infrastructure to manage the growing MOM challenge.  Larger operators with deeper pockets and a deeper technical and project management skills could manage to pull off such a feat and meet the data demands in time however others face a daunting task.

Given this fact, today operators are looking at solutions that can seriously address their end-to-end needs to the address the MOM challenge from a single vendor, wherein they are looking at an integrated, consistent, unified, solid solution for data pipe management that delivers a hassle free and smooth experience to them and their subscribers.

The solution that addresses the MOM challenge in its simplest form would compromise:

  • An “Optimize” module addressing  user expectations for an enhanced Internet experience
  • DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) / PCEF (Policy and Charging Enforcement Function) and PCRF (Policy and Charging Rules Function) modules, which would address the “Manage” and “Monetize” challenges been faced by the operator.

It’s imperative for solution offerings to keep in mind to optimize the operators spend on these modules and thereby resulting in a faster ROI. An integrated solution would surely result in reducing the operator capex and opex at the same time offer flexibility to create differentiators in their competitive markets in a timely manner. Furthermore given the exponential growth already experienced in mobile data and expected in future, the solution offering should be scalable over time, capacity and functional dimensions with minimal disruption to service. Hence operators can greatly benefit from a mobile data platform package that starts out small and can scale effectively over time.  More and more operators are now convinced with the thought that a single integrated solution to address the MOM challenge would be the way forward for them to build, address and evolve their mobile data infrastructure.  Wishing you all an exciting time at the show and in Dubai over these next two days!

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