Raising data

Mobile broadband is widely viewed as the major growth area for telecom operators
Mikkel Vinter,  CEO, Friendi Group
Mikkel Vinter, CEO, Friendi Group
Ahmad Tabook, Head of products and services, Nawras
Ahmad Tabook, Head of products and services, Nawras
Ghazi Atallah, Managing director, NexGen Group
Ghazi Atallah, Managing director, NexGen Group
Jeremy Foster, Head of marketing, government & industry relations, Ericsson, Middle East & East Africa
Jeremy Foster, Head of marketing, government & industry relations, Ericsson, Middle East & East Africa

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The speakers

Mikkel Vinter, CEO, Friendi Group

Jeremy Foster, head of marketing, government and industry relations, Ericsson Middle East and Africa

Ghazi Atallah, managing director, NexGen Group

Ahmad Tabook. head of products and services, Nawras

CommsMEA How should operators create mobile data packages? What metrics should they look at?

Jeremy Foster: Metrics is a good place to start. Things like where and when consumers are using mobile data. What kinds of handsets and which services are common at different times and even which web sites are most common at what times and what places. There are many interesting things with mobile broadband versus accessing broadband at home. Firstly it’s about immediacy of information that’s important because of what’s happening in the moment. It could be an interest to find some information, about a place or a person, or a need to share their status with their friends. These kinds of behaviours simply weren’t possible in the past so it’s no surprise that we’re in early stages of understanding how consumers are using mobile broadband versus fixed broadband.

Mikkel Vinter: All good propositions start with a deep understanding of the consumer, their needs and usage behaviour. Data packages should be built to ensure that the consumer gets the right service for the right price. It is critical that there is an understanding of where the package will fit in the market and how it will stack up against competing offers. Targeted offerings can be developed with key differentiators such as “data happy hours” or free access to specific sites such as Facebook, Google or Twitter, which can provide a strong appeal for some customers.

Ahmad Tabook: When Nawras creates mobile data packages, we follow the same process as we adopt for every new product or service. Metrics are important but comments and feedback from our customers take priority. In our planning we always start with customers and make sure we know what they need and want by taking into account feedback that we receive in many ways. We listen to our customers before starting to design our packages so we can provide optimal value and a great customer experience. In the case of mobile data packages we also look into the devices our customers will be using. We design and recommend different packages depending on whether a smartphone, tablet or laptop is being used.

Ghazi Atallah: For mobile data adoption to achieve similar adoption success rates as fixed broadband, and as with any new service by the way, the right price/functionality or service balance needs to be achieved. Hence operators will find that balance as they define new packages in order to attract the right customers to the right packages. So the metric of cost versus service obtained is always key.

CommsMEA What is the ideal number of mobile data packages for a single operator to offer?

Ghazi Atallah: We don’t believe there is an ideal number of packages but the simpler the better, always. Operators having multiple customer segments must have different packages to cater for the specific needs of each of their segments, having said that, they can always keep the package simple for the specific segment.

Mikkel Vinter: The key is to strive to make the purchase decision for the consumer as simple as possible. Operators should strive to understand and then split customers into segments based on consumption. Offering a portfolio of offers is important, but to define an optimal number of packages is dependent on multiple factors, such as the market conditions and the competitors. The MVNO model can help the operator alleviate this conundrum by enhancing the choice of offers in the market and improve the operator’s data portfolio, thereby driving incremental revenue and enhancing its brand.

Jeremy Foster: Simplicity and reducing ‘bill shock’ are important factors in deciding how many and what kinds of packages an operator might have. I think when it comes to ‘simplicity’ though, we’re seeing a far more savvy consumer who would understand a ‘Facebook plan’ versus a ‘Skype plan’. Even a few years ago having such plans would have been unthinkable, but now we have consumers that use the net to share files through bit torrent, they know how big a music file is versus a movie, versus an HD movie, so simplicity today will likely look different to ‘simplicity’ even two years ago.

CommsMEA Can tailored packages have a significant impact on take-up of mobile data?

Mikkel Vinter: Yes, getting the right package at the right price level can certainly drive the take-up of mobile data.

Ahmad Tabook: It is not tailored packages per se that have a significant impact on customer response but making sure that the packages are tailored to meet real needs and usage styles. As we all know, the biggest challenge is matching the tsunami of demand for data with great value plans at a competitive price. Using customer feedback and market research we can ensure mobile data bundles are delivering a service to delight our customers. It is also important to remain flexible and react quickly as needs change.

Jeremy Foster: We’ve seen operators get significant uptake by offering ‘all you can eat’ mobile broadband and this was the initial trigger to the explosion of mobile broadband subscribers in the last five years. We’ve also seen that as few as 1% of subscribers can eat up to 50% of all traffic by really straining the network, so this has created a challenge for operators to work with. We’ve also seen ‘all you can eat facebook’ be successful, particularly where a smart phone, or older ‘feature’ phone, is the only method for accessing the internet. Maintaining social networks is definitely a key driver in the modern consumers’ wish to be connected, in this case even more so that then entire internet.

CommsMEA Do you view special packages as a key way to control mobile data use?

Ghazi Atallah: Again the balance between price and service is key. Controlling mobile data use is important for operators who are struggling with bandwidth requirements on their mobile infrastructure. However, users would still like flexibility in the service they are buying. Price incentives are a good way for operators to control use as long they provide certain flexibility to the subscribers.

Mikkel Vinter: The consumer will ultimately decide how much data that they will consume based on their needs. Well designed and correctly communicated packages should allow the consumer to realise value from their purchase whilst meeting their needs.

Jeremy Foster: We need to ensure that we can sustain the ongoing investment in the equipment and the people that run that equipment or that investment won’t happen. Certainly, the ‘all you can eat’ mobile broadband data packages that have dominated our past will not help us in the years to come and we’re seeing operators phase these out of their offerings.

CommsMEA Are pre-paid data packages particularly important in many MEA markets?

Mikkel Vinter: Absolutely, consumers in emerging markets need data access but require the flexibility of a prepaid solution in order to facilitate this. The mobile handset remains the key data access enabler in these markets.

Jeremy Foster: Yes, and this isn’t easy. Whereas many of us are downloading files and email and surfing Youtube, these newer mobile broadband consumers are looking for jobs, weather information, educational information and are building their understanding of what is data heavy and what isn’t. These new users will be looking for simplicity, related to their context, and definitely affordability, so it will be critical for operators to ensure that bill shock is managed where every cent really counts.

Ghazi Atallah: This is by and large a pre-paid market, the large majority of subscribers are pre-paid. The obvious answer is yes, pre-paid data packages are very important. It is also one way to achieve the price/service balance that operators need to achieve.

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