Rows break out within operators on how to combat broadband profit gap
Operators need to open up their “behind closed doors” information, sharing with users usage and quality information. This would allow them to differentiate themselves in an open manner on quality and reliability, according to Acision’s Steven van Zanen, rather than just on unattainable speed promises, or cost.
Reacting to research Acision has commissioned from YouGov, which showed that 54% of mobile broadband users think that speed is the most frequent QoS issue, van Zanen said that operators have the opportunity to address such concerns head on, fronting up about actual service performance.
Van Zenan described a typical arc for data services, in which as uptake grows, the operator faces QoS issues. Then, as penetration reaches above 60%, operators see increased calls on profitability, as opex costs increase. Then, finally, in a mature service, ARPU itself declines. The problem for mobile operators is that in mobile broadband, operators are having to deal with all these issues simultaneously, he claimed.
This means they are experiencing huge growth, with the QoS issues and increase in capex and opex that brings. But they are also seeing competition reduce ARPUs. The answer is to change the way operators market and sell services, Acision claims.
But how? To deal with the data usage/ profit gap, operators have taken to the blunt tools of data caps, and Fair Usage Policies (FUP). Although this has generated some poor press, it hasn’t really hurt them yet in turns of overall consumer perception, according to YouGov. YouGov’s panel survey of around 2,000 users showed that allowances (FUP) rate very low down the scale of consumer concerns. Price and reliability are far higher concerns.
So there is an opportunity for operators to take a policy and rules-led approach to differentiating themselves – without necessarily exposing themselves to a massive outburst of consumer wrath.
Marek Vaygelt, Head of Consumer, Technology and Telecoms Consulting at YouGov, said that when the concept of fair usage was explained to customers in terms of ensuring that all users get fair access, rather than 80% of bandwidth being taken up by 5% of users, then they wer receptive to the concept. Indeed, YouGov’s polling showed that 75% of users would welcome far usage allowances, understood in those terms.
Acision markets its Broadband Mobility Suite, a dashboard that builds on network, customer and application information to present to operators a view of the customer experience, and then also uses that information to allow the operator to communicate with that customer.
The dashboard is not a policy engine in itself, instead it uses policy and control information, as well as charging and rating data, and content optimisation tools to present a view of the user experience to the operator and then allow the operator to take approriate action.
The tool doesn’t mean Acision is making a big move for the policy space. Van Zanen said the likes of Camiant and Cisco are partners, and “would love” to work with Acision.
The tool would compete more with the providers of customer experience tools, such as Arantech. But van Zanen said that it only did so in one regard, building that view.
“The single view only useful if you know what to apply it to,” he added.
Van Zanen described the integration of such a dashboard as “huge”, and added that winning the ROI case for the integration effort is the big battle.
Extra investment in such tools may be a bitter pill for operators to swallow, given that they have already invested unbudgeted millions in extra network capacity, and know that they will also have to make the LTE investment leap at some point.
“I’ve been in front of executive teams that are having a bust up amongst themselves in front of me, with the CFO saying that he thought all this was taken are of,” van Zanen said.
The question is, with mobile broadband booming, and at the very least a customer perception of under-performing networks, can operators afford not to act?
“The debate is not that operators need to do this, the debate is how they will do it, and who owns the stakeholder,” van Zanen added. He described a triangle of responsibility between the operator, the content or application provider, and the user.
For example, users cite that nearly all video sessions come with some sort of QoS issue. But many would also be willing to pay for a service that guaranteed an uninterrupted stream, either at lower video size or with a longer wait to load. This information would give the operator the ability to offer access based on quality and useability, rather than just a top end speed limit, or monthly capacity allowance.
EXTRA Van Zanen quote:
“I spoke to one T1 operator, and he said he didn’t want to compress video, because his users are paying per megabit”