This year proved to be another pivotal year in the transformation of the telecommunications landscape. In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) tackled big issues including carrier consolidation, net neutrality, universal broadband and inter-carrier billing. The operators themselves raced toward the promise of 4G. AT&T and T-Mobile announced their union and then announced it was off. Anything that could be “cloudified” was labeled as such. And, customers showed their continual love for all things mobile.
In the midst of all this, one thing is clear: communication service providers (CSPs) will be at the center of our lives for years to come. What their roles will look like, however, is still very much evolving.
The question for each CSP is not only how their business can survive, but also thrive in an environment where consumers’ appetite for bandwidth continues unabated, technology continues to evolve, budgets are being cut, and new over-the-top (OTT) services are rapidly being introduced. Added to this, consumers also want assurances that their private information will remain private.
What should CSPs do? Should they become a simple, best effort path for information to reach customers? Do they provide the best possible service to end-user customers or do they cater to the OTT providers harnessing the network? Or should they take an entirely different approach?
In 2011, many CSPs took steps toward defining their role in the new “Internet of Things” economy. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, Rogers, and others expanded their efforts to work with application developers. This changes the CSP’s role from a simple network connection to providing restricted access to the end-user’s personalized data. That comes with heavy responsibility and one that the CSPs are taking very seriously.
Trust is a key attribute for CSPs. Consumers know that their CSP has access to their personal information and, for those with a smartphone, their habits. The strong history of telecommunications in the U.S. gives us confidence that our personal information is safe with our CSP. Consumers want an experience that is tailored for their preferences, but they don’t want that information used without their permission. As an example, we want to use the GPS on our mobile phone to provide driving directions to our destination, but we then want the network to stop providing location information to the application.
This year, operators began to explore how they can harness more intelligence from the network to support their customer’s requirements. Historically, information on customers (subscriber data) has been dispersed across different systems within the CSPs environment. The growth in next-generation services makes this information more valuable not only to external parties, but also to the operators themselves. Subscriber data management (SDM) garnered increased mindshare this year, as operators understand they have a limited window to show customers how they can not only protect their interests, but also provide them with a better experience.
A word for the telecom market in 2011 might be “intelligence”. It used to be enough to provide simple connectivity to the marketplace. That is no longer the divider. CSPs across the globe know that to make themselves relevant, they need to provide services and programs that are contextually relevant. They need to utilize the network to deliver functionality, services, and protection consumers and enterprises expect in today’s environment.
In the coming year, we expect more communication service providers to reconsider their role in the telecommunications environment. At Neustar, we don’t expect the world’s operators to take a passive stance in the evolution of communications. We saw their engagement in the mobile services eco-system in 2011 and we expect to see more in the coming year.