“Operators must aim to improve customer experience for OTT services”

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At a time when there the influence of digital world is dictating how networks behave and perform, operators face this challenge of business disruptions and disaggregation. And in order to remain successful, telcos must quickly learn to devise better ways of monetizing on their existing network investments. Zia Askari from TelecomDrive.com speaks with TM Forum’s chief strategy officer, Nik Willetts on the impact of OTT phenomenon and how operators can do more with their existing infrastructure.

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Today, there is a data deluge, and OTT players are finding it easy to funnel their data-driven services through operator networks. How can operators monetize this data more effectively?

The key to monetizing data, especially from OTT services and players, is to add value. Operators must aim to improve the customer experience for OTT services – for instance, with faster load times or better overall performance.

They should also think about how the data that they already collect about mobile users can be applied to support OTT services, further enhancing the experience. For example, if a service is location-based, operators can support it with location and geospatial data to improve accuracy, and thus, the quality of experience.

How can the digital revolution help operators gain more from their customers?

Subscribers today have very intimate relationships with their devices, and rely upon them for most daily tasks and communications. The value that these devices bring is their simplicity – they make life better and easier, streamlining functions that may have previously been quite complex. This value proposition rings especially clear for enterprise customers, who are looking for new ways to reduce IT and communications costs without sacrificing performance. There is an opportunity for operators to create stickier relationships with these customers, offering things like IT-as-a-service with a high guaranteed quality of service. In turn, they are likely to gain subscribers and improve overall customer retention.

Today’s digital battle is all about gaining customer loyalty. At the same time, operators do not want to be seen merely as infrastructure providers. What do you think is the best way for operators to create more value?

The best way for operators to create more value is to understand what customers want and need. That query shouldn’t have just one answer, though. Operators must understand that customer service is multi-faceted, and thus identify the various niches they can serve, and address each one with a specific package of services.

Operators must also look for opportunities to partner, serving as a horizontal enabler for a wide range of communications services. This will require the appropriate platform with ample multi-vendor compatibility so that operators and their networks become enablers, rather than blockers, creating value for themselves and for customers.

How can operators coexist with OTT players? Are there any best practices or standards that you can shed some light on?

Based on TM Forum’s work with its members, I believe that operators are already coexisting with OTT players. In fact, TM Forum has produced many tools to support those partnerships, including B2B2X guidelines and cross-industry APIs, which are now enabling operators to take these partnerships one step further. We’re seeing more partnerships between the two, generating bundles of OTT services with operator packages, and I predict that collaboration will continue to increase as the market matures.

What role can technologies such as WiFi play in helping operators gain more from their existing network investments?

WiFi offload is a key strategy for operators today, enabling them to free up valuable bandwidth. The problem with this technology is that it’s still too clunky – that obstacle will need to be overcome for operators to glean to most value from this approach. But, once that happens, operators will be able to greatly benefit from WiFi data as it’s very valuable for services that, say, address location.

What is the core focus of TM Forum today? How important is India for the organization? How many members do you have in India?

TM Forum’s core focus is to bring together the collective genius of our 950+ global members to collaborate to drive successful digital business transformation. The Forum has nearly 30 member companies in India, continues to grow in the region and recently held a Digital Leadership Summit in Mumbai to better understand the needs of its local members. Attracting nearly 90 senior executives representing 75% of the Indian operator market, the Summit involved a series of workshops and table exercises followed by pitch-backs. Delegates had a hand in developing TM Forum’s focus areas for India in the coming months, which include customer centricity, supply chain innovation and effectively managing cultural transformation.


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