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The Rise of Subscriber Data Management?

A few weeks ago, my colleague Stan Hubbard published an article in which he identified that carriers have substantial fiber networks that are far from "dumb pipes" -- and if correctly leveraged, can be used strategically to launch innovative services both now and in the future. (See Value Your Bit Pipes.)

I recently had a briefing with a vendor concerning its plans for the delivery of a comprehensive subscriber data management (SDM) solution, and during this session, it struck me that carriers are sitting on a second important untapped asset -- namely the ability to internalize and define subscriber profile preferences.

I would be the first to admit that I viewed SDM early on as constrained to the basic services provided by wireless nodes such as home location registers (HLRs) and home subscriber servers (HSS) to support authentication and network access. Since then, however, SDM has quietly evolved, is no longer a wireless-only consideration, and presents some appealing business opportunities.

For example, with a full-blown SDM solution, it is now conceptually possible to capture a great deal of information for a subscriber, not only from a basic-access perspective, but also from a personalized-content standpoint based on geographic location and preferences, including personae that can be segregated into distinct business and personal profiles.

Given the relative maturity of the technology for carrier networks, there are limited tangible examples (if any) of the overall market appeal that end-user customers associate with SDM, so it will be important to monitor some of the first deployments. These include deployments for the Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) XOHM WiMax network and by T-Mobile Austria . (See Sprint Picks Nokia Siemens and NSN Wins Unified Database Deal.)

Nevertheless, if SDM can truly deliver meaningful personalization opportunities and intuitive targeted content for end users, then it has a bright future in replacing the bundled "cookie-cutter" content services strategy that is commonly implemented by many large network operators today. Perhaps it is time to finally throw in the towel, acknowledge that there is no single universal killer app, and instead accept that each subscriber has their own unique killer app that needs to be addressed. In this model, tools such as SDM provide the means to make this a reality, while interweaving content with Web 2.0 mashups would only serve to boost the overall value proposition.

But if SDM is relegated to an internal telco exercise to build a single and massive distributed intelligent database to replace aging "silos," then it will become yet another example of technology that once showed great promise, but failed to reach the desired trajectory because it was never placed in the hands of the subscriber for validation.

— Jim Hodges, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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