YOU ARE AT:BSS OSSReality Check: Get the most out of your network

Reality Check: Get the most out of your network

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our weekly Reality Check column. We’ve gathered a group of visionaries and veterans in the mobile industry to give their insights into the marketplace.

Is your network providing maximum value for you and your customers? It’s not an academic question, considering that in 2013, ABI Research estimates that North American mobile operators will spend a collective $10.5 billion on LTE and other network upgrades.

It’s also a timely question. Between number portability, the growing number of low-cost mobile virtual network operators and the slow death of subsidy lock, it’s easier than ever for customers to churn.

Policy control and performance are two ideal ways for operators to differentiate themselves, minimize churn and create new revenue streams. For example, most operators are phasing out flat-rate, unlimited-use buckets in favor of tiered plans. The next step is à la carte pricing, which also is an opportunity for operators to co-opt the over-the-top threat.

For instance, an operator could partner with an OTT video provider so that customers can stream a movie for a flat fee – say, $1.99 – that includes the data usage, instead of having it count against their prepaid or postpaid bucket. The operator could afford to do that if the OTT provider agrees, for example, to share some of its revenue, because in return, the operator provides higher quality of service for its videos. That way, it’s the operator getting the most out of its network, instead of someone else: OTT providers.

The same business model and customer offering could be applied to other OTT services, such as Voice over Internet Protocol. Either way, the operator benefits because it has turned OTT from a problem – revenue leakage – into an opportunity. If the operator is the OTT provider’s exclusive partner in that market, that relationship also could help it attract customers who are fans of the OTT provider.

Déjà vu or really new?

If that scenario sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the kind of vision that vendors and operators have been discussing and attempting for years. But those strategies typically haven’t panned out, largely because OSS/BSS and other systems are incapable of providing operators with the tools necessary to facilitate them. For example, policy charging and rules function nodes aren’t granular enough to distinguish between individual users and services.

Hence the need for a new solution, one that can provide deep, actionable insights into each of the device’s usage of network services, all in real time. To do that, the solution must span both the network and the devices, whether they’re a smartphone, tablet or machine-to-machine module. The device-side aspect is key, because it provides the operator with visibility even when the device is roaming on Wi-Fi or on another mobile network. By comparison, PCRF is limited to the operator’s home mobile network.

Wi-Fi visibility is valuable because most operators worldwide are increasing their reliance on Wi-Fi offload, whether that’s a home network, an enterprise WLAN, a public hotspot or all of the above. Offload typically means no visibility into usage and the customer experience, and no policy enforcement. Extending that visibility and policy control to any network, regardless of ownership or technology, extends the operator’s ability to increase the value it provides its customers.

Operators can add value by leveraging their customers’ awareness – particularly among enterprises – about mobile malware and other security risks. Many operators provide customers with free security apps, just as many enterprises equip their smartphones and tablets with security software. But providing them is one thing; ensuring that people actually use them is quite another.

A network-based security solution avoids the risk and expense that come when customers don’t know about or don’t use mobile security solutions, and when employees bypass company-required solutions because they’re a hassle. For example, a network-based security system can detect malware as it begins to move across the network, and stop it before it reaches employee or customer devices.

That solution helps maximize capacity and performance by nipping malware in the bud, before it can clog the network and undermine the user experience. The operator also saves money because it doesn’t have to staff up its contact centers to field calls regarding malware-related problems. At the same time, the IT staff is free to focus on other projects instead of helping employees troubleshoot infected devices. A network-based approach also gives operators and their enterprise customers a way to secure older devices, such as those that lack the memory and processing power necessary to run security applications without slowing down.

Finally, when considering a solution like this, operators should consider how they want to deploy, whether it be cloud-based or on-premise. Typically, a cloud-based solution will give the operator more flexibility and scalability. This approach enables faster deployment, too – as little as three months – because the operator and its vendor don’t have to spend the better part of a year making the architecture work within the operator’s infrastructure.

In future columns, we’ll take a deeper dive into how operators can make their networks more efficient. We’ll also look at how operators can utilize network management and optimization solutions to manage growing trends such as BYOD and vertical-specific requirements like CIPA and HIPAA. What are the common denominators? If you aren’t getting the most out of your network, your customers probably aren’t, either.

Vaughan Emery is the founder and CEO. He works closely with technology partners to deliver the company’s mobile solutions to its customers. Throughout his career, Emery has developed key business relationships with mobile operators, phone manufacturers and technology partners within the Untied States, Asia and Europe. Previously, he founded a mobile security technology company, which developed an advanced malware security solution for mobile phones and embedded devices. He has over 20 years of leadership experience in commercial product development, technology services and business development.

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