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Managing Growth and Fuelling Revenues: How Operators Can Reap the Rewards of New SIM Card Provisioning Model

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Stuart CochranBy Stuart Cochran

The explosion of the mobile broadband market shows little sign of slowing pace. According to analyst company Analysys Mason, mobile broadband will be one of the primary revenue drivers for European operators in the next five years and contribute almost 10 percent of total mobile service revenue by 2015.

Analysys Mason forecasts that total mobile broadband revenue in Europe will increase from €6 billion in 2009 to €17 billion in 2015, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.7 percent. Total mobile broadband connections will increase in number from 32 million in 2009 to almost 120 million in 2015, at a CAGR of 24.8 percent in 2009-2015.

Key device categories driving this growth include computing-centric devices like netbooks, notebooks and laptops together with mobile handsets, personal navigation devices (PNDs), personal media players (PMPs), MP3 players, e-readers, high-end digital cameras and smartphones.

The growth of mobile broadband and connected devices is driving related growth in prepaid subscriptions – increasingly popular because they help customers understand how much they are spending and consequently control usage costs.

Of course, from the operator’s perspective, the disadvantage of this growing trend is that it makes it difficult to engage with customers and therefore to build loyalty and drive customer retention. Typically, if they are using the traditional pre-provisioning model for SIM cards, operators have no effective way of marketing to the end user at the point of first use.

They will not be able to use SMS messages to send information to the relevant USB stick or dongle if it is switched off, for example. As a result, they effectively have to rely on post-sales registration to gather information. 

How Multiple Device Ownership Drives Confusion

Another spinoff of the growth in mobile broadband and connected devices is that multiple device ownership is becoming more common. Users today will often have a wide range of devices to choose from, typically including laptop, smartphone, personal navigational device and e-reader. 

This often leads to confusion in the marketplace. Users mistakenly think that an existing product or tariff can be transferred to a different device – e.g. a BlackBerry SIM card can be used in a smartphone or a smartphone SIM card in a Mi-Fi device. They are also often mystified by the link between products and tariffs. They may realize, for example, a generic voice/data device incorporates mobile Internet but they may not appreciate that this is charged at up to four times the cost of a mobile broadband product for the same usage.

Again, with existing approaches to SIM card provisioning, there is little opportunity to educate and assist the user in these typically complex tariffing and pricing arrangements.

Meeting the Challenge

As they seek to accommodate and manage growth in mobile broadband and SIM card usage and the associated challenges outlined above, there is now a new approach available which allows operators to address these challenges and maximize the revenue generating opportunity provided by mobile broadband.

By provisioning at the time of first use rather than pre-provisioning before cards have even been shipped, operators have an immediate opportunity for engagement and interaction. This in turn enables them to gather missing information and deliver marketing messages customized to individuals’ profiles and needs.

Critically, in the new era of mobile broadband and connected devices, this method of provisioning enables operators to be both device- and location-aware. It is a particular benefit that this approach is able to both identify and allow messages to be adapted to match different form factors. 

The emergence of sophisticated connected devices offers an opportunity to transform the way that operators market themselves to mobile subscribers by changing the nature of the user interface. For example, users of connected devices can be automatically taken to an easy-to-use Web landing page that they can personalize according to their specific requirements, allowing them to choose suitable tariffs, price plans and data limits.

This browser-based approach also opens up opportunities for the operator to promote its brand more effectively and to deliver high-impact and highly persuasive marketing campaigns. Critically too, it helps operators explain complex tariffs or confusion related to multiple device ownership. Tracking capabilities can be leveraged to monitor possible issues and outbound customer services can be triggered where appropriate to assist users and minimize the chances of later dissatisfaction.

Benefits of a New Approach

The rise of mobile broadband and mobile connected devices challenges operators to better manage rapid growth in SIM card volumes and the new distribution models and unfamiliar form factors associated with these devices, while continuing to provide quality of service to end users, resolve their issues, concerns and confusions, and engage with them proactively to deliver efficient, effective high-impact campaigns.

Provisioning SIM cards at the point of first use enables operators to better address these challenges, capitalize on new market opportunities and face the future with growing confidence.

Stuart Cochran is the chief technology officer of Evolving Systems, which provides software and services to fixed-line, wireless and IP service providers.

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