By Shlomo Wolfman, COO and Co-Founder, Starhome
In the beginning
Not so long ago, there was a time when we sat glued to our PCs for hours on end, enjoying what we thought was the freedom of high-speed internet. Today, with the advancement of technology, high-speed internet is available wherever you are and wherever you go and can be accessed from pretty much every high-end mobile device. Even though most people still have various sources of online access at home, recent figures suggest that the majority of subscribers are now accessing the internet through their mobile devices.
Social networks are being accessed on the move. Nearly half of Facebook’s 845 million users are accessing the site via their mobile devices. It is, after all, the simplistic ease of bringing all our Facebook friends together on one mobile device that has contributed to this massive phenomenon. Following closely behind are the 55% of Twitter lovers who are accessing the site via smartphones.
Local mobile searches are growing at a rapid rate, with users seeking local information and services, such as location-based daily coupons, as well as local and national maps. A huge number of shoppers are also using their mobile devices to gain instant access in real-time to local data sources to look for availability for specific items in stores or to compare prices. Their mobile devices instantly place them in the fast lane for purchasing goods – without standing in line at the stores.
Mobile growth is also soaring to stratospheric heights – from about 9 billion wireless devices in 2011 to an estimated 24 billion in 2020, while, in 2011, tablet and smartphone deliveries already surpassed PCs sales.
The merging of Social, Local and Mobile (SoLoMo) is shaping a new mobile lifestyle, which instills subscribers with an insatiable need to stay connected. And, together with this exciting world of information at our fingertips, comes our heightened dependence on our mobile devices.
SoLoMo – meets the multi-network environment
The merging of Social, Local and Mobile has had a direct effect on mobile networks and their capacity to cope with higher data rates, wider coverage and improved mobility. Whatever way we look at the industry today, one thing is for certain, the mobile landscape is changing, and a multi-network environment is emerging.
This complex, heterogeneous network comprises multiple network domains, layers and technologies which include 3G, WiFi and islands of LTE within a growing number of networks. One of the main obstacles for operators will be to provide seamless network mobility to subscribers, which will require compatibility with new technologies and devices. Operators will need to reexamine their key strategies and solutions for supporting their subscribers’ mobile usage.
The first line of approach will be for operators to establish themselves in this new environment. Being first to launch into new areas and improve the user experience will not only gain subscriber loyalty, but also it is a sure way to undercut rival operators vying for customers.
It goes without saying that the mobile industry is fiercely competitive, and operators have faced many tough challenges. While most successfully rode out the impact of the global financial slowdown, they are still facing a head-on battle to protect their business. To boost network performance and customer ARPU and enrich the customer experience, operators know they must innovate to survive in this new environment.
Additionally, mobility has become an essential part of daily life for most subscribers, who are now demanding internet everywhere. With the rising use of smart devices, mobile applications and content, LTE, M2M and demands for extra bandwidth, operators find themselves with yet another level of complexity to add to the stack of mounting challenges. To successfully manage these new requirements, operators will have to invest in new solutions as existing solutions available today will not be able to support this new mobile way of life.
Off the hook with bill shock
SoLoMo has created a new kind of environment where all subscribers and all devices are always connected. With set pricing packages for fast data usage in a domestic environment and complete transparency for spending, subscribers feel confident of mobile phone usage – without incurring extra fees. And, in an industry where technology reigns, subscribers expect the same experience abroad.
However, once a subscriber travels abroad, they are not given the same transparency for spending and often find themselves in the dark of how much data they are actually consuming. Switching off their mobile device is one way to protect against bill shock, but this translates into a substantial revenue loss for operators.
Until now, network technology did not support similar domestic and roaming packages. However, new technology and accompanying solutions have made it possible for subscribers roaming abroad to enjoy comparable packages to those at home.
It all seems complicated, but fortunately, the transition into a new multi-network environment does not have to be difficult. Solutions designed to tackle today’s major issues, maximize the subscribers’ experience and boost operator’s earning potential are already emerging.
Meeting the challenge
To keep up with market momentum and realize new market opportunities, operators require innovative solutions that will simultaneously and dynamically adapt and react to new market demands. And, to maintain a competitive edge, it is essential for operators to prepare themselves for the challenges and opportunities of a multi-network environment.
New technology can now bring domestic and roaming usage in line. Operators can encourage fearless data roaming by empowering their subscribers to control and manage their data consumption and expenses in real time by providing better, customized, tariff packages that meet their individual needs. With complete transparency of spending, roamers will feel confident using their devices when they need them most. An increase in data usage means an increase in operator revenue.
Furthermore, in an LTE network, mobile operator roaming agreements will be expanded to include policy-based arrangements. This means that operators will be able to steer subscribers to preferred partners to ensure that individual roamers are provided with the best possible services suited to their roaming needs and packages.
A key success factor in a multi-network environment is to ensure seamless network mobility. Roamers will be unaware of network handover – until their services are lost. This can be easily prevented with solutions that support roaming in a multi-network environment. Quality of User Experience solutions that employ an innovative approach to performance monitoring will ensure roamers receive the best possible service at all times.
The mobile industry has undergone significant changes over the years. Smart devices have created a massive increase in demand for speed and support higher data rates, wider coverage and improved mobility. Multi-network environments will revolutionize the use of roaming services in general, and data, in particular. It’s all good news.