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MW13: Cricket Plays in Big Data Sandbox

NICE, France -- Management World 2013 -- Cricket Communications may be a small U.S. wireless operator, but it has its fair share of big data that it's experimenting with internally ... with the ultimate goal of monetizing it externally.

As a prepaid carrier in which its 5.5 million customers can choose to walk away 12 times a year, Stefan Spaar, Cricket's director of OSS, said customer experience is everything. It has teamed up with Teoco to implemented targeted big-data analytics for its internal customers, especially in the marketing department, to help them improve the customer experience.

Spaar admitted, several times, that Cricket doesn’t yet have a clear-cut big data strategy nor has it mastered what it's implemented so far. Velocity, or acting in real time before the data becomes stale, has been one major challenge for it. (See That Big Data Sinking Feeling.)

"You want to react in real time, but real time is expensive," he said. "In your architecture and use case analysis, finding out which metrics require real-time velocity and which don’t is an important factor."

Cricket is building its big-data strategy to be one of self-service, so its employees can access and understand it on their own. It's also not giving up its data warehouse, but rather sees big data complementing its traditional processes.

"The technology is there to create a common analytics layer," Spaar said. "When it comes to the beneficiary, it's the internal marketing, accounting and operations. They are sitting on a goldmine."

In fact, Goldmine is what Cricket is calling its big data strategy. Right now it keeps tabs on its customers location, travel patterns, app usage, perceived service quality, calling habits, music tastes thanks to Muve Music, browsing patterns, interests, social circles and more. The struggle is to make this information mineable, Spaar said. Once it masters that, it'll turn toward figuring out how to monetize that data for third parties.

When that happens, Cricket will tread even more carefully as it works out privacy issues. Jim Hayden, Teoco's VP of business intelligence, who joined Spaar on stage, said that the prevailing operator attitude is, "if the value you're deriving from subscriber information can be used to drive value to subscribers, they will probably be okay with it."

That's a big gamble, however, and Cricket isn't going to jump in with both feet. Spaar said it will continue to implement its big-data platform on an incremental basis. It's a journey, and Cricket's at the beginning, he said. (See The Big Data Challenge: 10 Tips for Telcos.)

"It's better to have a platform than none at all…You don't know what you don’t know when you start these platforms, but the value of exploratory analytics is harder to quantify," he said, adding, "You are never done."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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