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Reader Forum: Containing the content explosion – the case for cloud

Synchronoss discusses the cloud opportunity for wireless carriers looking to help consumers manage content

During the past 20 years, the mobile industry has connected billions of people worldwide and the smartphone has become an essential part of our lives. People use them to communicate with others, but also to create, consume, store and share all types of media content: video, music, photos, apps, games and more. The introduction of the iPhone in 2007 was the catalyst for the global mobile data tsunami. U.S. operators joined global counterparts to invest heavily in “4G” technology in order to support the network capacity needed for this content. But surprisingly, little has addressed the impact of this content explosion on smartphones themselves.

According to a recent study from 451 Research, the average U.S. subscriber today stores 10.8 gigabytes of data on their smartphone, enough to challenge the capacity of the majority of smartphones. This amount will increase exponentially as the technical capabilities of devices improve.

Recent analysis of data from more than 30 million Synchronoss customers revealed over a 10-month period between April 2015 and January 2016, the average amount of user content created and stored per subscriber increased by a staggering 55%. This represents an average month-over-month increase of more than 6%. The average number of videos created and stored per subscriber increased by 62%, an average of 14 videos per person increased to 22 videos; the average number of images created and stored per subscriber also increased 48%, which increased from an average of 518 images to 769 images per person. This rate of increase will prove too great for the trending smartphones that boast just 16 GB of capacity.

Storage is more than just a capacity issue for users. Keeping important content on a smartphone greatly increases the risk of losing data; smartphones are fragile and easily lost or stolen, yet consumers trust them with the most meaningful memories.

Consumers must find alternative storage options or delete files at two points in the mobile content lifecycle. The first is when their local files grow larger than local storage capacity. The second is when a user upgrades to a new device that has less storage than their previous device. This is an acute problem because users are at risk of losing personal data, critical apps, contacts and more when transferring content to new devices. In both cases, transferring content proves to be time consuming and costly for consumers, retailers and carriers involved; it takes approximately 66 minutes to transfer 10.8 GB of data via Wi-Fi, assuming the use of a 5 GHz Wi-Fi router.

The content explosion: carrier impact

Carriers have invested billions of dollars to win subscribers through network upgrades and smartphone promotions. However, carriers will need to be cognizant of the mobile content explosion and the impact it will have on subscribers in order to maintain customer loyalty. Carriers will be expected to support smartphone sales by providing a secure way to move and manage large amount of subscriber data, which will greatly improve the user experience across carrier channels.

The content conundrum

Because users are highly engaged with their smartphones, they prefer to immediately purchase new devices in-store; in fact, 59% of all U.S. smartphone sales occurred inside a store in 2015, and retail remains the dominant revenue-generating force for U.S. operators. This trend is expected to continue at optimal level until the end of 2019.
As a result of this preference, transferring customers’ content to their new devices presents a colossal conundrum for users and retail outlets alike. The problem was prevalent over the 2015 holiday season when U.S. operators sold more than 33.3 million smartphones, 19.6 million of them at a retail location. The U.S. consumers purchasing these devices lost 4.5 million hours waiting while sales reps transferred content from their device to another. This process represents a huge cost for retail outlets, as sales reps are spending valuable time performing nonrevenue impacting tasks like content transfers. With consumers relying more on the retail channel to transfer data, carriers need to deploy a solution that promotes self services. This will help carriers reduce costs and drive growth.

Consequently, carriers are rolling out more changes making it appealing year round for consumers to acquire new smartphones. With subsidized two-year contracts in the U.S. replaced by device financing, leasing and frequent device upgrade programs, customers are exceeding their device limits in less than a few months and opting for upgrades. This is generating more content transfer loads than ever before and consumers, retailers and carriers alike must be prepared to address the mobile content explosion. With consumers relying more on the retail channel to transfer data, carriers need to deploy a solution that promotes self services. This will help carriers reduce costs and drive growth.

The answer is in the cloud

To retain customers, carriers need to offer “sticky” content storage self services. The positive news is that only 32% of consumers store content exclusively on their phones, and another 21% store content on both their phones and their personal computers. This means 53% of consumers have not selected a third-party storage service. Mobile carriers and independent retailers thus have a significant opportunity to offer their customers a mobile content transfer solution that reduces in-store transfer wait time from 60 minutes to five minutes. A cloud solution also reduces nonrevenue online traffic while supporting online retail sales and improves the customer in-store experience.

While it is important for customers to have access to storage beyond the mobile device, they also need tools and assistance to help them move content between devices. This access becomes more important as device upgrades become more frequent. Today, 47% of mobile users back up their data to a cloud service and restore it to their new phone. Another 23% have an in-store sales rep assist with the content transfer process. Both cases potentially put carriers at the center of the mobile content and transfer equation to provide a self-service solution that is most cost effective and efficient for both subscribers and retailers.

Editor’s Note: In an attempt to broaden our interaction with our readers we have created this Reader Forum for those with something meaningful to say to the wireless industry. We want to keep this as open as possible, but we maintain some editorial control to keep it free of commercials or attacks. Please send along submissions for this section to our editors at: [email protected]

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