For operators, innovation is mandatory and BSS is the key

Written by on July 13, 2017 in Opinion with 0 Comments

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Andrew Penn, the CEO of Telstra, said that the price of data will be zero in five years’ time. He didn’t say this in private, or at a small breakfast meeting, but during his keynote speech at the recent GSMA event in Shanghai.

It was a real wake up call to the industry.

Innovation, therefore, is no longer a nice, interesting thing to do. It means survival.

The good news, according to a new paper from Openet, is that operators are beginning to do just that. In fact, they are quickly moving beyond bundling music or sports with subscriptions and the new use cases cited in ‘Beyond Bundling: new ways to monetise content and partnerships’ make compelling reading.

While some of the innovation strategies are quite straight forward for the biggest operators – buy content companies, partner exclusively or launch your own content provider – they are beyond the means of many.

Partnering is key, according to the paper, and an opportunity to begin to use personalisation intelligently. While common sense dictates that you would not offer Manchester United TV to a Liverpool fan, managing the new strategic business model is not straightforward.

Now that we have moved beyond the initial partnership experiments, where brands partnered with operators to see whether loyalty increased and churn reduced (it did), the basis of new models is now about revenue sharing. Making it possible for partners to access the BSS of the operator will allow greater pricing flexibility for both parties and this will drive innovation.

As the paper says, ‘service providers can make partner services (such as streaming video) more attractive to certain customer segments by offering flexibility in how they are charged. This could include:

  • Options for zero rated delivery
  • Ad funded models for particular content
  • Sponsored services – such as football games courtesy of a sportswear company’

As we have discussed in the past, even free service usage need to be collected, rated and wholesale relationships managed.

One technique is via an Interaction Gateway (IG) which enables a two way flow of relevant information between partners. This access to elements such as the product catalogue and operational data store not only makes this process more flexible but allows more efficient and effective sharing of data, which in turn can lead to better and better personalisation and product maturity.

This is not just a nice idea. 3GPP has been working on standards for a while.

‘The Service Capability Exposure Function (SCEF) standard has been designed in the 3GPP network architecture as the architectural component which exposes network functions to external applications in a secure and accountable fashion’.

This sharing of data – let’s start calling it intelligence – on customers will have huge benefits, if used sensibly. A better understanding of viewing habits can produce advertising opportunities beyond the shot gun approach of the past. Openet have coined the term ‘content intelligence’ to describe this better understanding of habits and the opportunities that flow from that.

No-one pretends that the technical challenges are small. But allow non-technical managers to communicate and create compelling products with partners and great things will happen. Examples, such as affinity marketing and loyalty programmes, that were described here are the starting point for this new wave of innovation.

Add the ability to identify a customer’s location and, of course, the range of offers increases dramatically. Free data at a football match to encourage social media ‘chat’, discounts on drinks, tokens for pubs are all in play.

A good example is Digi in Malaysia, which has launched Music Freedom. This gives free music streaming to their customers, but only if you have been with Digi for six months. Digi also offers similar packages for video viewers and gamers.

There are several examples of operators innovating in similar ways in the paper.

Personalisation is clearly a goal for operators and a recent survey from research house Ovum shows that the desire to offer personalized services and to get offers to market are the biggest factors in how operators are changing the way they use their BSS.

Ultimately operators need to be able sell anything. Some will choose financial services, others TV, music, games or messaging apps.

The message is clear and the race to replace the plummeting price of data is on. The key will be how operators manage their BSS and related systems to allow effective partnerships to prosper.

The Openet paper is free (very short registration) and available here. We recommend you read it.

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Alex Leslie

About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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