By Beau Atwater
The more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s one way of summing up the challenges and opportunities that communications service providers (CSPs) will face in 2013.
Case in point: In 2013, consumers will continue to flock to over-the-top (OTT) voice, video and data services. What’s changing is that instead of sleepless nights pondering a future as a dumb pipe, CSPs will start turning OTT from a problem into an opportunity.
In 2013, many CSPs will partner with OTT players. For example, a mobile operator could provide a certain amount of bandwidth and prioritization to a video OTT provider that agrees to share revenue because the QoS would help differentiate its service. The video OTT provider’s brand also could help the mobile operator attract customers. Both companies also could market to each other’s customer base.
CSPs will have to optimize their OSS/BSS infrastructure to execute this “if you can’t beat ’em, ’join em" strategy. In fact, the OTT opportunity is just one example of why many CSPs will rethink their OSS/BSS in 2013. OTT or not, services are becoming increasingly complex. Billing and service assurance will become more important for delivering an optimal mobile customer experience. As more services are introduced, and as the underlying network technologies become more complex, CSPs will focus on their OSS/BSS infrastructure as the centerpiece for ensuring a great customer experience.
After all, a reputation for poor service is expensive to overcome, and if the problem is chronic enough, it limits access to capital because investors don’t want to bet on the No. 3 or No. 4 operator in a market. In 2013, customer experience becomes even more important as CSPs experiment with rate plans. For example, if they want to offer business customers a premium experience at a premium price, they first must have the tools in place to assess that experience every step of the way.
OSS/BSS overhauls also will enable the trend toward tiered pricing, which will take off in 2013. One size no longer fits all. Not every mobile customer, for example, needs or can afford 1 GB per month or 20 Mbps. Time Warner Cable is among the MSOs that are not just experimenting with usage-based billing, but rolling it out widely. With any technology, tiered pricing appeals to a wider range of needs and budgets, enabling CSPs to cater to all demographics while ensuring profitability.