Individual Customers: Traffic Operation and Individual Converged Communications
The volume of data being transported across communications networks is rising at an exponential rate. This is positive news for data services providers and those involved at every step in the value chain. Traditionally, in the business of telecoms service provision, there existed a direct correlation between rising traffic volumes and rising revenues, which meant carriers could reinvest some of those revenues into building and maintaining effective networks. In recent times, however, the exponential rise in traffic has not been met with an exponential rise in revenue, which presents carriers with a challenge of how to maintain investment levels in networks that match customer demand.
Traffic Operations and Segregation
In order to solve the issue presented by the decoupling of traffic and revenue generation, service providers are having to consider providing different data traffic services for individuals and enterprises that have different levels of needs. There is nothing particularly revolutionary about this idea in telecoms. It is analogous with the notion of providing different consumers with different tariffs. Heavy users pay more, but per minute of voice they pay less. In data transport, those customers willing to pay more, could be provided with faster connectivity.
The primary consideration for operators is the need to meet the basic traffic requirements of common customer types. For customers who have higher service quality requirements, the operators could launch, and charge a premium rate for, upgraded products that benefit from higher quality of service guarantees. In addition to offering standard data packages operators are also well-placed to target enterprise customers with cloud services. Operators could provide capability development services for enterprises that support enterprise-level app development, incubation, and operation, which would then boost enterprises’ data traffic consumption. A third piece of the data delivery revenue pie could come from specific types of premium content, such as English Premier League football, with those customers again receiving faster throughput rates.
Aside from developing new tariffs that innovate on different types of data usage and requirements, operators should look towards constructing an internet-based traffic operation system that includes the following:
- Internet-based product design concepts: By fully exploring the seven attributes of data traffic – time, location, traffic volume, direction, speed, quality, and content – operators can develop flexible packages and attract more users. By allowing users to flexibly combine the seven attributes based on their needs, carriers can implement the customisation of traffic packages.
- Internet-based business modes: By using innovative business modes such as forward-charging, backward-charging, free-of-charge, and transaction dividend, operators could expand sources of revenue and increase the revenues derived from traffic consumption.
- Internet-based marketing modes: Carriers have the ability to develop personalised packages for individuals. Packages could be marketed and shared via social media channels, drawing on the retail marketing methods that shop owners use to give away free gifts to attract customers, to launch targeted traffic packages, or using event marketing on special dates.
- Internet-based ordering modes: By allowing users to order different traffic products through online retailers anytime and anywhere, and accurately pushing traffic products based on users’ behaviour analysis, carriers could maximise the reach of their campaigns.
- Internet-based traffic experiences: By providing transparent and accurate traffic use details including a traffic used reminder function for subscribers, and allowing users to give their traffic away as a gift or share it with other people, operators could empower subscribers and improve the overall data user experience.
Individual Converged Communication
Carriers’ traditional voice and messaging services are being marginalised the world over by data-only over-the-top (OTT) applications such as Skype, WhatsApp and WeChat. With the popularity of intelligent terminals and the increase of mobile bandwidth, the OTT user base is growing rapidly, and increasing its impact on carriers.
Traditional communication modes will inevitably be replaced by the new converged communication modes. Telecom operators’ basic voice and messaging services have remained unchanged almost since their inception. Services with such limited functionality cannot meet the growing demand for rich communications particularly in comparison to innovative OTT players. But the operator community is fighting back.
The GSMA’s Rich Communications Suite (RCS) Initiative establishes an industry alliance which encompasses telecom operators, telecom equipment providers, terminal manufacturers, and application providers. It promotes the commercial use of RCS services around the world, allows users under different carriers to communicate with each other, and provides users with interoperable, integrated, and enriched communication experience. Currently, nearly 100 companies around the world, including main-stream carriers and equipment manufacturers, have joined the GSMA RCS Initiative.
RCS offers carriers a next generation converged communication solution. By upgrading the three communications channels of voice, SMS/MMS, and contacts on terminals, carriers are then equipped to provide communication services with greatly ‘enriched’ functionality. The core features of the services are “enriched call”, “enriched messaging”, and “enhanced phonebook”.
The “enriched call” feature with its focus on Voice over LTE (VoLTE) improves the quality of conversation and user experience, and provides the video call function. The “enriched messaging” feature is seamlessly integrated with multiple media and messaging formats, and achieves seamless interworking with traditional SMS/MMS. The enhanced phonebook feature establishes a new access to social and public information through subscribers’ mobile phone numbers.
These services inherit the worldwide accessibility and carrier-level service quality features of the carriers’ basic communication services while protecting the original communication habits of users.
The advantage of RCS-enabled converged communications over OTT applications is that native access is obtained after integration with original calls, messages, and contacts without any app download. Furthermore, unlike with OTT apps, the next generation of operator-converged communications solutions inherit carrier-specific features, such as real subscriber names, secure information, reliable quality, interoperability, and wide service coverage.
With the popularity of 4G networks and the inevitable maturity of 5G networks, carriers ensure a simplified and unified user experience by integrating the native access of converged communications with native apps on terminals. Users can directly use functions such as voice over network, image transmission, and messaging on mobile phones.
When compared to existing OTT applications, an RCS solution can be more quickly applied to all users. In addition, such a solution breaks down barriers among mobile network accounts marked with hidden mobile phone numbers, and allows users around the world to communicate with each other.