Fail to prepare; prepare to fail

Mobile User AfricaThe number of smartphone users in emerging markets is set to rise and may prove to be problematic for African CSPs, stressed Oracle Communications' Gordon Rawling. (Image source: kiwanja)Oracle Communications’ Gordon Rawling discusses the change needed to ensure African CSPs take full advantage of the smartphone revolution

In recent years it’s possible to argue that no industry has undergone as much change as in telecoms.

Alongside the rapid emergence of connected devices such as smartphones and tablets, we have seen the rollout of next generation mobile networks, including LTE.

We all know the raft of opportunities this has created for communications service providers (CSPs), including optimising and generating new revenue streams while enhancing the customer experience.

Yet, it has also led to a significant challenge: how can CSPs effectively manage the increasing number of devices connecting to the network while maintaining performance?

It’s an issue we’ve seen CSPs in developed markets working to address with the rollout of 4G networks and the implementation of efficient policy management solutions aimed at better managing mobile networks.

For CSPs in emerging markets, however, such as those in Africa, the opportunities and challenges created by the changing telecoms landscape remain largely untapped and unaddressed.

Remaining relevant

The number of smartphone users in emerging markets will increase exponentially over the coming years, and failure to act now could have significant consequences for African CSPs.

Recent research from Ovum found that changing consumption patterns around mobile content and applications mean that business models based on value-added services will have to change if organisations are to survive in a world filled with 3G and 4G services and smartphone .

Simply put, CSPs must take advantage of all the assets at their disposal and effectively partner with third party manufacturers, such as handset and application developers, to remain relevant. For instance, Nokia’s range of low-cost smartphones aimed at developing economies, which were released at Mobile World Congress this year, highlight both the opportunity for CSPs in the region and the importance of providing an accessible and affordable service which goes above and beyond traditional offerings.

However, taking this affordable approach would only deliver a handful of the benefits available in the telecoms space. Today, CSPs have a plethora of data at their fingertips, empowering them to deliver a more personalised customer experience aimed at increasing revenue and brand loyalty. Bearing this in mind, the CSPs in emerging markets making the biggest gains will be those prepared to innovate in service offerings and customer experience, making the most of the information at their disposal. As such, in the current climate African CSPs need to be:

Better managing their networks – The proliferation of smartphones and tablets means that CSPs will have to manage unprecedented volumes of mobile data. While this creates an opportunity to deliver an improved customer service, it places CSPs under increasing strain as they work to manage the demands being placed on their networks.

To combat this – and take advantage of it rather than be hindered by it – African CSPs need to deploy network policy management solutions, similar to those used by CSPs in developed economies, enabling them to better control networks by expanding or contracting bandwidth for individual users to meet demand.

This will allow CSPs to optimise network performance and provide a consistent level of network availability, all of which helps to enhance the customer experience and so increase customer loyalty and reduce churn.

A great example of this in action is when customers download data heavy content, such as music, video, or mobile games. By being able to identify customers looking to download such content at peak times, CSPs can offer the chance to download it for a reduced rate at a later time, helping to increase customer satisfaction while ensuring network availability for other customers

LTE ready – According to Ovum, 2012 was the year LTE became a reality in emerging markets . Through using the insight generated by the growing use of connected devices, CSPs can stand out in a crowded market place and lay the foundations for comprehensive and successful customer service strategies. By analysing the wealth of data collected over mobile networks, CSPs can offer personalised services tailored to individual needs, such as tariffs designed for customers who regularly download large volumes of data or for users who frequently use their mobile overseas.

Rapidly launching new services and products – Traditionally, the telecoms market has been slow to launch new products and services designed to take advantage of changing market conditions.

The detailed insight delivered by next generation networks has the potential to change this, however. As such, African CSPs should look to deploy technology, including rapid offer design and order delivery solutions, enabling them to make better informed business decisions and rapidly launch services so that they can take full advantage of evolving market conditions. This will ensure CSPs continue to deliver a superior customer experience, as well as remaining relevant to their customer base.

Becoming a dominant force

If 2012 really was the year LTE became reality in emerging markets, 2013 needs to be the year African CSPs began to take advantage of it. The rapid uptake of smartphones in the region and the challenges that it brings are almost inevitable, yet the opportunities are unprecedented.

By following the path already taken by many CSPs in developed markets, or in some cases acting first, African providers will be well placed to reap the huge financial gains available and become an increasingly dominant force in the telecoms market.

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