Not too far into the past, most people in most places on Earth would crib: not enough bandwidth, not enough bandwidth, not enough bandwidth…
Those were the days when the big daddies of telecom were either laying down fibre or in the process of provisioning services for next-generation of networks. But users were already growing their appetite for data by the megabyte.
So, one change I have noticed in the past few months, at least going by the conversations with fellow data guzzlers and industry folks, is that nobody mouths the erstwhile B-word any more. That bandwidth is available is taken as a given.
No wonder data is increasingly filling up the pipes and bringing in pesos for telcos.
In the US, mobile data service revenue reached $90 billion last year and accounted for over 50% of revenues for wireless companies in the OND quarter of 2013, according a report on Reuters.com.
Even in poor India (let’s not talk of those rising dollar millionaires for the moment), the average data consumption is growing like the potatoes for McDonald’s fries. As per industry estimates, the average 3G subscriber consumed about 530MB of data during 2013, a 23% increase over 2012.
India is not going to see data revenues overtaking voice anytime soon. But given that neither the talk times nor the monetary realisation from voice are growing, it is data that will drive most telcos’ business in the country.
This shift in focus from voice to data requires certain key changes at the telcos too.
For one, telcos will need to ramp up their 3G networks and improve coverage (currently, the network keeps on hopping between 2G, 2.5G and 3G when users move across areas). Unfortunately, not many are talking about 4G yet in India.
Another thing will be to revamp their IT systems (at both Operations Support System and Business Support System (OSS/BSS) levels) to better serve the convergent needs of consumers for voice as well as data services.
Here, the role of analytics and convergent billing solutions is of prime importance. With increasingly intelligent and real-time analytics, they can come up with personalised solutions at ever-greater speeds. And convergent billing will allow them to reduce the payment and tracking hassles for subscribers of various plans and make life easier for them (and tougher for competitors that continue to use separate solutions for pre-paid and post-paid).
At every point of their existing operations, wherever there is an opportunity for integration and synergy, the telcos will need to exploit that opportunity for faster time-to-market, better customer experience and, of course, improved RoI.
The role of IT is going to be more and more embedded into the operations of telcos if they are to successfully ride the data wave.