We've all watched service providers move from offering a single service to bundles, triple play, quad play and now multi-play. Because we've personally witnessed this evolution, many of us consider ourselves multi-play experts, or at least think we have a pretty solid understanding of the concept.
But what if many of the commonly accepted multi-play tenets are actually wrong? An interesting whitepaper by independent research group Analysys Mason, "IT Infrastructure of Service Providers -- Analysis and Future Direction," contains some interesting conclusions that just might contradict what you think you know about multi-play.
Myth #1: New service types in multi-play packages are solely aimed at attracting new audiences.
Fact: It's true that M2M, for instance, is mostly aimed at new audiences. But Analysys Mason found many instances of existing bundled service being opened and enhanced with additions such as cloud storage, WiFi and over-the-top offerings, such as Netflix. Multi-play packages are great at attracting new audiences, but they also prevent churn and enhance existing customer experience.
"Mature service providers are hindered in using their established systems because they are unable to change them quickly or cheaply enough. Every project is a risk that may impact established services and require customization, the analysts write.
Myth #2: Bundled services will remain relatively static and are being used mostly in launch campaigns
Fact: Service providers in all parts of the world are implementing multi-play bundles by combining previously separate services into a single offering, with discounts for consumers who take the bundles. Service providers' bundled services not only drive up revenue, but because they are "stickier," customers are less likely to churn. Analysys Mason found service providers increasingly moving beyond traditional quad plays by adding content, including more third-party content, and new services -- such as home networking, home security, SaaS for residential and business, cloud services, and OTT services.
Also, the combination of new devices such as smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs -- and advanced, super-fast communication networks and technologies -- is providing consumers with new, endless opportunities to consume any service, on any device, anywhere, anytime. Analysys Mason expects bundled services to continue to grow, helping to counteract falling margins in traditional service offerings.
Myth #3: Mature service providers possess greater convergence due to their strong financial situations and established systems.
Fact: Actually, after analyzing the current and future direction of service providers, Analysys Mason surprisingly found that mature service providers have less convergence than newer ones, for a number of reasons.
To start, established processes are difficult to change and often become cemented into current systems. And the diversity of the underlying network tends to be greater with age.
Another factor is that mature service providers often possess a larger number of service offerings. Diverse service requires a rich set of functions to support them, but these functions are often delivered in projects where short-term goals do not include system transformations to convergent solutions, helping to drive up the use of adjunct systems.
How does convergence directly correlate to multi-play? "When convergent systems are in place at service providers, their ability to launch multi-play and other complex service types quickly is greatly improved," according to Analysys Mason.
Every service provider can benefit from greater convergence, but it's important to remember that there is no one solution that fits all.
Myth #4: Multi-play requirements for small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs) are the same as for large enterprises.
Fact: Large enterprises possess unique requirements: low volume, highly complex, customized services. The systems needed to meet these requirements have generally remained separate from the higher-volume, fully automated solutions for retail or smaller business requirements. SMB customers are supported with different systems from the large enterprise customers, and have more in common with the requirements of retail customers. Enterprises and SMBs need to make sure they work with a vendor who is experienced in offering multi-play solutions for their specific business requirements.
Myth #5: A thin layer within the CRM system is enough to provide a consolidated experience for customers.
Fact: Systems that support multi-play services must be able to provide a consolidated experience for customers. This is most often done through a thin layer within the CRM, according to Analysys, which doesn't offer deeper convergence. Deeper convergence is needed to create new service offerings faster and cheaper than can be obtained by configuring multiple systems responsible for the different services within a single bundle.
The final multi-play myth Perhaps the biggest myth of all involves the definition of multi-play. The literal definition is a bundle with additional services beyond the traditional quad play. But that's not enough.
Do service providers' multi-play bundles appear to customers as a single, integrated entity, or a collection of businesses with their own procedures and systems? Are the operations that support these services integrated? Can today's operators provide a single company view along the major customer process touch-points related to multi-play operations? Can operators launch new services and lines of business -- such as home security, SaaS, cloud services, and OTT services -- quickly and easily?
If the answer to any of these four questions is "no," then service providers still have a way to go in order to maximize their multi-play potential.
Alon Bar, Portfolio and Solutions Marketing, Amdocs,