US politicians want to use crisis to increase state influence over operators

Some Democrat Senators want to make it illegal for communications service providers to disconnect their customers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley is promoting the bill, which he hopes will be part of the next mountain of public cash to be chucked at fighting the crisis, proposed by the Democrats. They seem keen to chuck another three trillion bucks at the problem and, as with all the previous coronavirus bills in the US, opportunistic politicians on both sides of the aisle will be keen to add funding for their own pet causes to the bottom of the bill.

“Now, as millions of Americans hunker down, work from home, and engage in remote learning, would be the absolute worst time for Americans to lose a critical utility like internet service,” said Merkley. “Oregonians and people across America deserve to know that as we weather the social and economic consequences of this storm together, they will still have be able to go to work, go to school, buy groceries, and stay connected to loved ones—all of which many depend on the internet to do. Congress should include this protection in the next coronavirus response bill.”

There is little sign of a plague of disconnections, however, so it’s not clear why Merkley is being kept awake at night over this issue. US citizens unable to work are being paid instead by the government, as they are in many other countries, so there shouldn’t be a time when they’re unable to pay their telecoms bills. Furthermore the FCC already got US ISPs to sign a pledge not to disconnect people.

Instead this has the feeling of a thin-ends-of-the wedge, giving the state greater powers to order communications companies around. Furthermore, if it became known that it was illegal to disconnect people, what incentive would anyone have to pay their bills. The thinking behind this bill is probably indicated by the fact that a co-sponsor is old-school socialist Bernie Sanders, who seems to think all private property is somehow immoral.

Once the dust settles on all this viral vileness we may see that a lot of the power hastily handed over to the state in the heat of the moment remains in place. It’s one thing to temporarily turn on the tap of public money, quite another for the state to commandeer companies. US politicians seem to be especially shameless about exploiting the urgency of this crisis to push through legislation that would be laughed out of the room under normal circumstances, and US telcos must be hoping this particular bill is squashed as quickly as possible.

Unlocking value in B2B at MWC periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Anders Lindblad, Communications & Media Industry Lead for Europe at Accenture, looks at unlocking value in B2B connectivity.

Growth in the communications industry has stalled and competition continues to intensify. CSPs know they must act and rethink their business models, but for too long there has been a lot of debate and very little action. We expect the buzz will continue on this topic at MWC. While some have put some form of change programs in place before, most of those have failed because they have been trying to patch up specific problems rather than taking a much bolder move to reinvent the way the whole business works.

Right now, CSPs are trapped, stuck in current operating models and the same old ways of doing things which make it hard to monetize investments and drive new growth. They are not ready yet to get rid of their legacy network and services since they still generate most of the (declining) revenue. This is preventing them to leverage their biggest asset: the capillarity and proximity to the customer. But the roll out of fibre and 5G could be the catalyst that encourages them to make drastic changes in the way they function and the products and services they provide.

The route to new growth is most likely to be in the B2B space, so expect to hear more about connected B2B possibilities and the importance of collaboration across vertical industries and value chains than ever before at the show. Discussions will be about the most efficient way to move from their legacy network and infrastructure and transition to a hybrid (cloud and on premise) software defined services portfolio, how to push the network intelligence at the edge, while embedding the OTT platform at the edge instead of being “embedded” by OTT, reinventing the device ecosystem leveraging the ‘decade of device divergence’ we are facing. Connected cars, connected health, augmented and virtual reality, is the prize of the game – the entire organisation will need to become much more agile and flexible to allow for front and back office supporting processes and technology to keep up with the possibilities.

The biggest B2B opportunity for CSPs could be in the SME segment. To succeed, they must adopt a bundling approach to services towards the customer, paired with intelligent pricing of their core services and drive simplicity through a digital-first approach and self-service capabilities. CSPs may have tried this approach in the past without success, but this time they can take a digital, platform-based approach to allow them to successfully simplify and standardize their offering portfolio, enable their own and third-party sales and services to effectively go to market and significantly bring down the cost to serve these customers. CSPs must have the courage to act now and renew their service portfolio quickly if they are going to retain and win market share.

Transforming the operating model toward customer centricity and agility, pushing the intelligence at the edge of the Network and injecting automation (Robotic Process Automation, AI) into the core culture, will provide a future-proofed foundation for communications companies to scale the value of their service portfolio for the B2B market and re-gain a central orchestration role in the device ecosystem that they currently don’t have.

The CSPs that understand the huge potential that B2B brings and move fast on new agile ways of working to adapt to these new capabilities will take the biggest share. If the opportunity is not captured NOW, using the newest and most innovative technologies available, and before the 5G ecosystem power game is settled, the market will find different winners, mostly coming for each vertical industry from over the top players.


Lindblad_300dpiAnders Lindblad is Accenture’s Communications & Media industry lead for Europe, responsible for business development and operations in the region and for helping clients form and deliver large-scale transformation programs.

Ericsson develops a cunning plan for generating IoT revenue

Networking vendor Ericsson has been having a think about how service providers can make a few quid out of IoT.

That thinking has been distilled into a report entitled Exploring IoT strategies – Insights on IoT value chain positioning from leading telecom service providers. Ericsson spoke to a 20 service providers and found that 70% of them don’t have a well-defined IoT strategy and that 80% of them “aim to create value beyond connectivity either by providing differentiating services or by becoming IoT service enablers or service creators.”

The latter finding seems to be a lead up to the bulk of the report, which aims to segment a number of different approaches service providers can take to monetising the IoT opportunity. “The report confirms the importance of IoT to the current and future business of leading service providers, no matter where they operate in the world,” said Jeff Travers, Head of IoT at Ericsson.

“Regarding IoT as a new type of business, service providers are investing in new technologies and establishing new business models for revenue sharing and increased use of indirect channels. They are also creating new delivery models for as-a-service and online services and driving innovation with partners and customers.”

The tables below show the four roles service providers see for themselves in this context. The first two are the foundational roles for CSPs, which they still expect to drive the majority of their revenues. The opportunities beyond connectivity are split into Service enabler and Service Creator and further differentiation can be achieved by following one or more of the sub-roles too.

Ericsson IoT framework 1

Ericsson IoT framework 2

Ericsson IoT framework 3

Turning small interactions into big revenue periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Dan Faulkner, SVP & GM at Nuance Communications argues that maybe it is time to start sweating the small stuff when it comes to CSP revenue streams.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. While perhaps a good mantra for life, for Communications Service Providers (CSPs) looking to differentiate themselves in the increasingly competitive market – the small things matter a lot.

CSPs are facing a wealth of new challenges: traditional revenue sources are dwindling, stagnant regulations continue to threaten market nimbleness, while new OTT (Over-The-Top) providers – whether a smaller player or a tech giant like Google and Amazon – are dividing subscribers and, revenues.

Competition is tough, but thankfully CSPs have a secret weapon up their sleeve. In the ever-more competitive market for users’ attention and business, the relationship that CSPs have with their subscribers means that they know their customers better than anyone.

As customers increasingly expect personalised services, understanding how they like to receive information, what services they use the most, and how to drive more value for them each day is a treasure trove of insight waiting to be exploited. CSPs must leverage this knowledge to deliver the best experience for subscribers – cutting out their competitors by consistently delivering what they want, when they want it and on the right channel.

With a wealth of subscriber information at their fingertips, CSPs need to tap into this opportunity and dedicate more resources to creating those small customer experiences that can add up to big revenues.

Data puts CSPs at the heart of the connected-revolution

CSPs are arguably in a unique position at the heart of today’s connected ecosystem. Powering the data that gives life to mobile devices, services and the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as providing access to content and services within the smart home. But when there’s so many different ways to slice and dice the data, it’s hard to know what to focus on, resulting in potential for lost revenue.

If harnessed in an intelligent way, this data can be incredibly valuable. A report from Analysys Mason recently found that robust analytics can help CSPs to reduce churn, increase existing subscriber sales, drive new customer acquisition, as well as reduce costs.

Personalise your offers

Once they are accessing the right data, CSPs then need to make sure it’s being used to effectively engage subscribers. One way to do this is by analysing subscriber profiles, offer conversion rates, content usage, and network activity to create and place offers that are personalised for each subscriber.

The Analysys Mason report also found that less a third of CSPs are currently offering truly personalised services to their subscribers, with 71 per cent of the service offerings based upon group segmentation.

But personalisation is key to effective upselling. Offering a prepaid subscriber, who is running out of data, the opportunity to purchase just enough data that will get them through until their next bill is a great example of a relevant and valuable offer to the customer.

Making sure that the offer is right for the individual is key to avoiding spamming customers. This is also the case for post-paid subscribers, who are likely to appreciate being sent a personalised data package that is tailored to their personal usage when running low. Or a user that frequently downloads fitness apps may be interested in a subscription that the CSP could offer to health and wellness articles – such as, “just 99p a week, and the first week is free if you sign up today”.

Time it right

A good offer comes at a time when it will increase both customer satisfaction and revenue. It’s unlikely that a subscriber will sign up for a new value-added service when they don’t have enough balance, or when it will use up the precious last bit of data that they need for everyday activities until the end of the month. This kind of offer needs to be at the beginning of the payment cycle, if subscribers are to be encouraged to splurge.

Get on the right channel

When it comes to personalisation, it’s not just ensuring the ‘what’ is tailored to the subscriber, but also the ‘how’. Some subscribers prefer to be called by a human agent, while others may prefer to receive push-notifications.

And it’s important to ensure that the offer is displayed appropriately for the channel. If it’s coming across a mobile phone, it needs to be presented as a clear “yes or no” option so that users can easily understand and accept, such as “would you like to top-up for £10?”.

Big rewards from small opportunities

While it is daunting to manage all these components – the offer, channel, data, and timing – artificial intelligence can now take on a great deal of the heavy lifting for targeted subscriber engagement, massively supporting CSPs in monetising the small opportunities.

New intelligent platforms and solutions are making it easier than ever to analyse subscriber data to deliver the most valuable and relevant services. These small upsells across an entire subscriber base can translate into millions in extra revenue, as well as driving brand differentiation and increased loyalty among customers.

Ultimately, for CSPs wanting to get the most out of their data, it’s time to sweat the small stuff.


Dan Faulkner headshotDan oversees the Communications Service Provider line of business at Nuance and has been an important part of Nuance’s business development and strategy since joining the company over a decade ago. Dan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics from the University of Manchester, and two Master’s degrees in Marketing and Speech & Language Processing.