South African cellular operators continue to be placed under the microscope when it comes to the quality of their networks and the services they provide. Consumers are becoming increasingly vocal about elements that previously would not have been an issue, which includes delayed sms receipt, quality of the network and dropped calls.
In addition to the above challenges, network operators are faced with a need to reduce costs, in light of the recent announcements on interconnect rates and are being forced to reduce energy consumption as a result of increasing electricity prices as well as a more conscious focus on driving down their carbon footprints. Furthermore, consumers are becoming more technology savvy, demanding increased solutions and applications that meet their needs and enhance user experience. This is the view of Gustavo Fuchs – Business Solutions in MEA at Nokia Siemens Networks.
“This, as well as the need to move with the changing times and provide even more advanced services to consumers, is increasingly putting pressure on network operators to find ways of improving efficiencies on their networks,” says Fuchs. “Churn remains a major concern for networks as well, particularly in light of RICA and Value Added Services (VAS) go a long way in assisting in this regard.” RICA or the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act requires that all South Africans register their SIM cards before the end of October 2010 to comply. This has been met with a mixture of acceptance and apprehension by South Africans.
According to Fuchs, the real value in VAS is not in selecting a single platform for services such as SMS, MMS, Browsing, Video-Messaging and more, but rather in simplifying, harmonising and optimising the VAS ecosystem. “There is immediate tangible advantage in the simplification of your VAS with a unique supplier, and this includes a huge reduction in both CAPEX and OPEX,” he says. Savings can be made on hardware investment, internal costs, external OPEX and reduced management overhead by harmonising VAS external interfaces. Today’s heterogeneous VAS environment does not provide the capability to act as flexible and agile as needed in service creation to respond quickly to new customer demands. “Other opportunities around savings in this context include the possibility of using cloud computing or virtualised services instead of having on site platforms and a huge reduction in the cost of launching new applications as they can be plugged into an already operational environment,” says Fuchs.
With VAS as a Service (VaaS) up to 50% reduction in time to market for new services can be achieved.
Fuchs says the biggest opportunity around VAS is to provide users with services that they want to use, enhancing loyalty to the operator and reducing churn. “We know that mobile users are increasingly using their handsets to access the web and they want to see deep integration between web services and their mobile services, with the opportunity to switch between mobile and PC whenever they want to,” he says.
Web interface to mobile services creases immediate opportunities for operators. “It provides the opportunity for advertising, promotion of new services and content recommendation as well as the integration of web 2.0 applications,” says Fuchs. “It is also an immediate opportunity for churn reduction as the consumer is less likely to change mobile operators if they are able to utilise this kind of web functionality.” Leveraging VAS the operators can play an active role in controlling and enriching the end-user experience and avoiding the risk of becoming a pure bit-pipe, cooperating with the Internet players.
Finally it creates strong interaction with users around configuration of services, their profile and their preferences. “As these users have more direct control on the usage of services, it will ultimately result in less calls to customer care as they will have tools they need to effectively manage their profiles,” says Fuchs.
He adds that mobile operators have a tremendous asset, which is the knowledge about their users, their profile, their habits and their preferences. “This is as a result of strong CRM systems, but also because it is possible to learn dynamically from user behaviour,” he says. In addition to that, the NSN Insight and Experience Framework assists operators in analysing user patters to derive actionable insights on customers’ needs. “This knowledge can be used to customise services for each user, providing them with relevant content and customised offers that even further enhance their experience,” Fuchs concludes.