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Telecom operators deliver insights services -- with network and subscriber data

Forrester breaks down how telecom providers are innovating with data.

Video: MacTel warns telcos to fix problems following consumer complaints

A few years ago, I met with an incumbent telecom provider in Europe, and they came across as being from "the old country." I asked about their data strategy, and they were horrified at the thought of doing anything other than securing and protecting their data assets. Even just one year ago at Mobile World Congress 2017, telcos seemed to be missing the data opportunity. For many, concerns about reputation and regulation inhibited pursuit of data innovation.

Read also: Four telcos set up global cybersecurity group

It turns out that innovation in the telecom industry actually does exist. Operators aggregate, anonymize, and analyze network traffic to provide insights.

Here are a few examples:

  • Down under, Telstra worked with the Sydney airport to analyze its traffic congestion. Using network data, Telstra mapped out where drivers had come from and helped to identify specific patterns. Turns out, it's not the passengers causing the backups -- it's the staff. Patterns indicated that certain drivers arrived at the same time every day. That insight suggested that staggered staffing and off-site employee parking could alleviate congestion problems.
  • In Helsinki, a retail mall wanted to attract new shoppers and win back others who had defected to another mall. The mall decision makers engaged their local service provider for insights derived from subscriber mobility showing where shoppers come from, how long they stayed, and where they went next -- combined with socioeconomic and demographic data. These insights helped identify valuable segments and plan marketing outreach.
  • The city of Neuquén, Argentina and its neighboring cities have designed a mobility map based on movement flows of people in the city. They developed an organized transportation plan using Telefónica's network data, enriched with demographic and behavioral information.
  • Posterscope, an outdoor advertiser in Singapore, leverages mobility intelligence from Singtel's DataSpark to plan campaigns in specific locations. The service provides anonymous and aggregated group insights that help advertisers better understand who's passing by an advertising location and place ads that are more relevant to audiences that see them.
  • Many operators have joined GSMA's Big Data for Social Good initiative to provide insights to governments, nonprofits, and international organizations. For example, Vivo, a local mobile operator in Brazil, collaborated with the Brazilian Ministry of Health to identify human mobility patterns and devise a strategy to mitigate the spread of the Zika virus. Also, take a look at the Forrester report, The 'Data For Good' Movement Delivers Social Impact.

These examples use network data, but operators have also cracked the nut on deriving value from their individual customer data -- at the request of the subscribers themselves. Several operators offer consent-based insights services:

  • When a subscriber doesn't have credit history through a financial institution, billing history is the closest they come. That's what forms the basis of a telco credit risk scoring service offered by a consortium of O2, T-Mobile, and Vodafone in the Czech Republic -- at the subscriber's request. The consent-based service uses usage, contract, and payment data.
  • Telefónica subscribers can opt in to a fraud detection service that allows banks to verify location when the subscriber's credit card is used.

Read also: US telcos will stop selling personal data to third parties (TechRepublic)

These examples illustrate that innovative telecom operators recognize the opportunity that their data assets offer and the value they can bring to their customers. As one telecom leader said, "We harness the power of technology to help our customers do amazing things." These telecom operators have become insights service providers.

-- By Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D., Principal Analyst


Data is currency and has value, but the majority of firms have not baked data into their economics. Listen to this Forrester podcast by Principal Analyst Jennifer Belissent to learn about the dynamic world of data and how companies can use data to drive revenue.

This post originally appeared here.

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