In case you hadn't heard, Big Data is a big deal. Everyone is banging on about its potential, but, as the market stands right now, operators are simply drowning in it.
If you were to ask an operator if it has a Big Data strategy, you can bet it would say "Yes." After all, analytics tools are used to identify network issues: Executives might even tell you an anecdote about how they were able to leverage the resulting data to cut down on calls to their customer service reps.
But that's only part of the picture. Big Data goes way beyond anything that communications service providers (CSPs) have ever encountered before, and the traditional tools they have to deal with the growing volumes of data created by the network, devices and apps are no longer adequate. I would argue that no operator currently has a complete, effective strategy for making sense of the data to which they have access today. (See Telefonica Battles Big Data Hype.)
Accenture seems to agree. The firm recently surveyed 30 of its global operator customers and the majority said they are investing in network analytics tools to improve network quality, customer engagement and their operations, according to Paolo Sidoti, global managing director of Accenture’s Network Business Services group.
But they are quickly finding that the old rules no longer apply. "The pattern of traffic is changing completely, customer behavior is changing dramatically, and there is no longer a correlation between revenue and [network] coverage," Sidoti says. "There are many more variables and this is accelerating with LTE."
Indeed, LTE is turning Big Data into Humungous Data, pulling it from every device, router, customer interaction and network process. "[Operators] need to reconnect with customers, so they are willing to invest in these tools," Sidoti adds.
This is something the operators will admit, too, under the guise of anonymity. According to a separate Accenture report, only 22 percent of operators are "very satisfied" with their analytics programs, while another 34 percent say they are "dissatisfied."
The report concludes that telco analytics has arrived, but perhaps the tools are not yet adequate. These carriers have accumulated masses of data, but the majority (61 percent) say it isn't relevant to their business strategies. Of the survey's respondents, 93 percent said they needed new or improved tools to plan, design and track the traffic on their networks.
It's still early days for telco analytics. Strategies are being worked out, but the market -- the operators and the vendors hoping to serve them -- have a lot of questions to answer.
Up for discussion are questions such as:
- Should CSPs target where they apply analytics or analyze everything?
- How can CSPs break down their organizational silos to get a complete picture of customer experience?
- What's the business case for Big Data analytics? What's the expected return on investment (ROI)?
- When it comes to a Big Data strategy, is it better to develop it in-house or outsource it to a vendor partner?
I hope to report back with some answers this week, as well as a few examples of how the more innovative operators are staying afloat as they deal with the Big Data deluge.
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading