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C Spire Lets SPIT Percolate

Sarah Thomas
4/8/2014
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C Spire has made significant moves to become a more personalized, flexible wireless operator over the past three years, but the carrier's COO says there's opportunity in undergoing more of a SPIT transformation.

In a recent interview at the CCA Expo in San Antonio, C Spire COO Kevin Hankins told Light Reading that the regional carrier hasn't merged its IT and network operations executive roles or integrated its network and IT functions. There's some overlap in the database administration work, but there isn't a lot of integration... yet. "It's an opportunity for us."

It's an opportunity the carrier has been working toward as it has dipped its toes into service provider information technology (SPIT) since 2011, when it changed its name from Cellular South to C Spire and made its goal to become the most personalized operator known.

Since then it has tapped Openwave Mobility Inc. to build data plans based on specific app use, Tekelec for service personalization, Sandvine Inc. (London: SAND; Toronto: SVC) for policy enforcement, and Devicescape Software Inc. for WiFi offload. (See C Spire Crafts Apps-Inspired Data Plans, Tekelec Helps C Spire Get Personal With LTE, C Spire Picks AlcaLu for LTE Deployment, and C-Spire Picks Devicespace for Wi-Fi Reach.)

It has also introduced an innovative reward program, Percs, that gives its customers incentives to engage with the company and recruit new subscribers. Customers earn rewards like money for referrals or discounts on tradeins for their loyalty.

The program requires analytics to track customer participation, policy and charging updates for the monetary rewards, and personalization down to the individual user to keep track of that user's unique involvement. Interestingly, however, this is one initiative it's not leaning on a vendor to run.

C Spire's Bridge Builder?
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C Spire COO Kevin Hankins: Sees an opportunity in bridging the chasm.

Hankins said the Percs environment was custom designed by the carrier. The biggest challenge, he said, is keeping track of customer activity and their status on the backend, enabling a quick and easy redemption path for customers looking to cash in their points.

"There was no off-the-shelf rewards program. We built our own," Hankins said. "It gets fairly complicated, because there are finance and text implications of the monetary values of points."

The program is entirely mobile; customers control it via a fully integrated app or mobile website. C Spire has seen a lot of success with the program and is now in talks with other carriers about implementing it, Hankins said.

C Spire plans to continue improving its Perc programs and building more customized service around it. At the same time, the carrier, which primarily operates in the southeastern US, is keeping busy supporting unlimited data plans and working to deploy small cells to bolster its LTE network and to launch voice-over LTE and self-organizing network technologies. That said, Hankins said it's not in a big rush, because it doesn't have to be. (See C Spire Engineer: Major Concerns About VoLTE.)

"Most of our near-term coverage and capacity needs are still being addressed by macro network changes," he said. "We continue to add coverage cells and capacity cells, and we're also doing some six-sector areas. That's still obviously a more powerful way to address a larger hotspot. So far, we've needed to and been able to address things that way."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
4/11/2014 | 4:16:43 PM
Re: Organic customer growth?
I had the same thought about some of the MVNO services like Solavei, which almost sound like a pyramid scheme. C Spire is more straightforward, you get $50, $100 or $150 for referring people who stay with the carrier for at least 30 days. I think it's a good strategy as part of an overall marketing campaign. Basing the entire business on it still seems shaky to me...which reminds me I should check in Solavei and see how they've fared since their launch.
mhhf1ve
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mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/10/2014 | 3:44:04 PM
Organic customer growth?
So have operators like FreedomPop proven this social-media-driven customer acquisition tactic? When I first heard about these customer referral programs for wireless service, it struck me as almost like a multi-level-marketing MLM program -- and it sounded kinda sketchy. I'd be interested to see any analysis of how these customer referral programs work and compare to traditional marketing....
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
4/8/2014 | 9:09:33 AM
Perks of Percs
Percs seems like a smart program to me, especially for a company with an active social media presence that encourages engagement anyway. They pay for referrals, but otherwise rewards are primarily discounts, so it's not a huge setback to the company. I imagine it's complicated to manage on the backend though, so interesting that C Spire designed and is managing it all on its own.
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