Operators are making the transition into full digital service providers. Their networks are getting faster, and they're connecting and supporting an increasing number of devices, as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes a reality and a revenue driver. But for operators to properly benefit from these developments, they must include secure, agnostic personal cloud services in their strategic planning.
Many operators already offer personal cloud services to automatically back up, synchronize and store subscribers' contacts, data and personal content on customer devices, in case these are lost or damaged. But back up and storage, however critical and valuable it is to consumers, is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the functionality and opportunities that cloud can deliver for operators, their networks, their services -- and, most importantly, their customers.
Bigger, better, faster
Let's begin with networks. Around the world, Tier 1 operators are already planning to launch early versions of 5G by the end of 2018. At the same time, LTE continues to expand globally: Operators in emerging markets are building new 4G networks, while telcos in developed markets are using technologies like LTE-Advanced, LTE-Unlicensed and 4x4 MIMO to generate extra network speed and capacity.
The reason? As has been the case for the last ten years, consumers want faster, better networks with which to consume or share content -- whether they're using apps, uploading photos to social media, or, increasingly, watching their favorite films and TV shows while on the go.
Consumers' appetite for mobile content (especially video) is only going to increase as networks get faster and bigger, and operators get better at delivering data. 5G will only accelerate this trend. These users also hold more value in their user-generated content than they do in their actual device. Furthermore, they expect the operator to be the one source they can count on to have the storage capacity to keep their content safe and accessible -- regardless of the type of device, or the OS that generated it.
Easing on-device storage strain
Smartphones and tablets simply won't have the built-in memory to properly store the volume of content that we can all expect to consume using 5G. We're already seeing this today with 4G LTE.
But with 5G, will we even need on-device storage? 5G's promise of universal, ubiquitous, high-speed, low-latency connectivity for consumers everywhere they go means that they'll be able to instantly access live or stored content on their device, straight from the cloud. Why download it in advance onto your device, when you can watch it live over 5G directly from either your personal cloud, or the content provider's own cloud-based library?
Let's also consider the global trend among telcos to invest in producing their own content or striking deals with publishers. This content needs to be readily accessible across a range of devices, operating systems and platforms -- not only smartphones and tablets, but also fixed devices like laptops and smart TVs at home (and even connected cars). In this context, then, cloud becomes a flexible and scalable platform for telcos to house content for their subscribers to access and enjoy, wherever they are and on whatever screen they're watching.
But the cloud's significance to telcos and their prospects as digital service providers doesn't stop with storing and accessing content. The IoT is growing in reach and uptake as more devices get connected.
Delivering more value from the IoT
Questions remain over the role of telcos in the nascent IoT ecosystem. The simple fact is that operators must work harder to create relevance and define their own role in the IoT service delivery chain that goes beyond simple connectivity. Secure, agnostic cloud services help them do this.
Using the cloud, an operator can bring together important IoT features and functions that collectively enhance subscribers' user experience and improve their quality of service. The operator can combine quick and easy online or remote IoT device activation (including cars, in-home security systems, connected appliances etc.) for customers with secure data back-up and storage. In so doing, the subscribers gain even more access and control over their devices and their data.
But the operator can then apply analytics to this data to uncover new insights and trends that will help it take better care of its subscribers. Using analytics-based intelligence, the operator can make real-time decisions based on the data to be more responsive to its subscribers' needs and preferences. It can add value with recommendations on new content and media, or the latest and relevant features and apps that subscribers might find of use or interest.
A key revenue opportunity
Will operator personal clouds be the only cloud in a customer's life today? Absolutely not. But operators can be the key player for the customers that trust their content to their safe keeping. Just getting a portion of subscribers to use their cloud is a massive revenue opportunity for the operator. Operators will also gain more "stickiness" with their customers, as well as another means of engaging with subscribers. Furthermore, they gain an extremely rich dataset which they can use in an individual or aggregated way to push other offers.
Why would operators stand by and let all that data around their customers' journey flow through their networks that they spent hundreds of billions of dollars to build -- and not want to use valuable analytics on at least a portion of it? Personal cloud services can reduce the disintermediation that's occurring between operators and their customers regarding cloud and create insights based on cloud data to create new revenue-generating opportunities.
— Glenn Lurie, CEO, Synchronoss