It would be fair to say that when we talk about data analytics for telcos the conversation tends to center around the customer. And while customer profiling, customization and personalization might be hot topics for improving the customer experience, it takes attention away from another analytics efforts that also have a considerable impact on the client.
For example, smart operators have always used information from network management systems and network operations centers (NOCs) to keep a close eye on network performance. Clever, dedicated systems to determine where best to place base stations and microwave links to take most advantage of terrain, buildings, fiber backhaul access points, power access, to name a few, have been in use for years.
But when it comes to optimizing those network resources to ensure the best possible service to customers they need to take into account customer usage and behavior, that involves data from business systems – and that means having to work with another department or silo – not always an easy task.
How else can the network planners determine where the most value can be gleaned by equipment purchases and their placement? It’s not just about filling holes in coverage; it’s also about getting the best ‘bang for the buck!’ Adding a base station in a remote location may not translate into revenues that even cover the cost, whereas placing the extra resource in a built-up area where there is constant overloading by high volume, high value customers may bring a better ‘financial’ result.
One growing example is the trend in deploying small cells in buildings, offices and households where standard base station reception may be compromised. More than 10 million small cells have been deployed globally, with over 75 operators using the technology. Being able to install a low cost small cell connected to the clients fixed line broadband connection makes eminent sense, but determining which customer to offer the service to needs to include analysis of what volumes and revenues they are actually generating and network traffic alone cannot provide this.
Just like investment in business systems and back-office transformation projects need to show a valid return on investment (ROI), the same now applies to network investment. Being able to generate reports based on existing usage data and trending information from business systems is the missing link in effective investment and real cost management.
It doesn’t stop there. Clever operators have also been combining network and business data to determine what assets are performing and even to locate stranded assets – those that have been acquired and implemented but have not been provisioned or optimized.
Cost-cutting measures, over a long period of time, may have made fast and dramatic improvements to bottom lines but some, like staff cuts and reductions in capital expenditure, have had a negative effect on growth and are simply not sustainable. What is of more value is determining, with then use of data from network and business systems, exactly what elements generate what revenue and whether the margin warrants further investment.
Finding stranded or unoptimized assets saves buying more equipment but if the assets no longer generate profitable revenue then questions need to asked about whether even continuing with them makes sense.
The very same data analytics exercise, non-customer centric, could be used for predictive analytics for new product development, catalog development, targeted marketing and forecasting. Being able to examine profitability at tariff plan, customer segment and even customer level, must be the goal of every business. How else can educated decisions on capital, and marketing spend be arrived at?
We are moving from an era of cost cutting to serious cost management, and the best tool for that will be utilizing ALL data available regardless of where it comes from and who in the organization ‘owns’ it.