Alcatel-Lucent has launched a new Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) product, dubbed Smart Plan, which is designed to help mobile operators more quickly build new, targeted service offerings for customers and also enable those customers to gain greater personal control over, and more real-time information about, their account and services via a smartphone app.
The concept isn't new, but the AlcaLu team believes its system, which includes its patent-pending Agile Rules Technology (ART), enables service providers to develop new mobile service offers more quickly, efficiently and accurately by giving them greater control over the process using a single system.
The system comprises the Smart Plan Builder, built on the vendor's Policy and Charging Rules Function (PCRF) (the 5780 Dynamic Services Controller) and incorporating the ART rules engine and various software tools (for service orchestration, notifications, customer care) that enable the service provider to create personalized offers and charge for them.
That communicates with the smartphone app, which enables customers (if they choose to opt in) to choose the services and applications they want, check their usage, set thresholds and alerts, and generally personalize their user experience. The service provider, meanwhile, can use information about opt-in customers (location, usage patterns) to offer relevant services and provide personalized alerts. The platform also allows service providers to team up with third-party companies, such as retailers, to offer targeted services.
Lisa Ciangiulli, Alcatel-Lucent's director of Marketing, Mobile Commerce & Payment Solutions, says the rules engine enables service providers to "very quickly segment the customer base and create new offers on-the-fly ... with no need to call in a vendor consultant to write new code or re-architect the system."
She notes also that the Builder, while developed to work with AlcaLu's PCRF and Surepay charging system, can also be deployed with other policy and billing/charging platforms, for which plug-ins/interfaces can be developed.
Ciangiulli declined to comment on whether Smart Pay, which will be demonstrated at Mobile World Congress, is in trials with any service providers.
Why this matters
Mobile customers need, and are due, more help with their mobile accounts, and service providers should be doing more to help them, as it should (in theory) lead to a better customer experience and lower churn. In addition, operators need to find any way they can to create new services and packages that can generate more revenue.
This new product, if it does what it says on the tin, certainly incorporates the kind of functionality needed to achieve those goals.
So this should attract some attention from operators as it hits some hot buttons, according to Heavy Reading Chief Analyst Graham Finnie. He says the desire to develop more personalized services and provide more power and control to users of policy engines is "a strong trend among service providers and one we predicted following our 2012 operator survey." (See Policy Train Still Rolling, But to Where?)
Finnie adds: "Most vendors are seeing greater demand for capabilities that can enable use cases of this type, especially in emerging markets where there appears to be greater pressure to personalize services and add extra layers to service packages. This definitely fits in with service provider requirements and Alcatel-Lucent is on track with the market. A lot of other vendors have taken the same approach but Alcatel-Lucent has packaged and presented it in a different way."
"The key point [about Smart Plan] is that it's easy to adapt and has an analytics aspect with use case catalogs, enabling service providers to adapt their offerings based on market conditions," says Finnie.
â€” Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading