Next-generation networks (2.5 & 3G) are becoming reality, with most operators set to roll out some form of advanced network during 2003. Faster bandwidths, always-on networks and next-generation handsets with color screens, embedded cameras and messaging capabilities are changing the way that people communicate. Those operators who will be ready in time with IP-based, converged voice and data networks, the supporting value-added service infrastructure and the services that drive their usage will succeed in the next-generation environment.
Cause for Optimism
While the industry is reluctant to encourage premature hype and set itself up for another WAP-like letdown, there are finally some breaks in the storm clouds. In addition to enabling picture and other forms of multimedia messaging, next-generation capabilities will unleash a visual revolution, increasing the functionality and accessibility of many familiar, mainstream applications and services. Increasing rollouts of next-generation networks and improved understanding of subscriber needs and uptake behavior are sparking renewed optimism for the future of mobile operators.
While there may be cause for this optimism, operators also face difficult challenges from new competitors in the mobile services market. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are trying to position themselves as the subscriber’s main content and communication providers, and increasingly smart handsets are slowly taking over traditional network capabilities such as messaging and storage. To avoid becoming passive bit pipes in the mobile services ecosystem, operators must assert a coherent value-added service strategy that includes rolling out exciting new applications that will increase usage of data services and add value by leveraging network-based resources and capabilities.
Strategies for Success
Faced with maturing wireless markets, operators are concentrating on maximizing obtainable revenue from each subscriber. In order to remain competitive and thrive, carriers who want to broaden the range of services they provide must be able to launch a rich variety of Total Communications and infotainment services rapidly and efficiently. Easily accessible, simple to use services presented in an attractive and intuitive fashion optimize service uptake and usage.
The Total Communications Element
Total Communications, a key element of a winning value-added service strategy, creates a borderless environment where people are free to communicate in the way that is most appropriate and convenient for them at any given moment. It encompasses a variety of real-time communications and messaging services for the many different ways that subscribers communicate — as individuals, groups and communities.
With Total Communications, talking, voice messaging, emailing, text messaging, chatting and conferencing become equally accessible options, leading users to turn instinctively to their mobile handsets for whatever form of communication they wish to initiate. It lets users decide first whom to contact and then, based on presence information (available/not available), determine the best means to do so.
For example: Joe, at the mall, sees that the movie he has been dying to go to is playing at the cinema there that evening. He opens his cross-application network-based address book, and initiates a conference call to three of his available friends. Next, he takes a picture of the promotional movie poster and adds a voice message for his friends who weren’t available, asking them if they would like to join the group for pizza and a movie tonight.
By providing services that match the many ways that subscribers communicate, operators become the hub of the subscriber’s communications universe.
The optimum value-added service environment enables operators to become “smart pipes” for infotainment services. Ideally, subscribers should be able to access their choice of infotainment services such as news, weather, sports, financial news, dating, and other interest groups, either on a pull or push basis. Converged networks in an open, IP-based environment let operators send third-party content directly to subscriber mailboxes. Network service providers thereby leverage existing billing relationships and network capabilities (including cross service: storage, address book, presence and security), adding significant value to infotainment content.
Difficult economic times have encouraged the wireless industry to make the dramatic positive shift from being technologically driven to being customer-centric. Operators have begun to realize that they must provide their customers with a suite of appealing and easily digestible services rather than a piecemeal offering of all the latest technical possibilities. Examples of this trend include the Vodafone Live! campaign that provides users with a similar basket of services across networks, and a Korean operator that gives their subscribers pre-configured CDMA2000 phones loaded with service bundles targeted to the user’s age group.
The User Experience
Operators are uniquely capable of providing subscribers with a friendly and consistent multimodal user experience over a broad range of communications, information and entertainment services. An intuitive and multimodal interface enables subscribers to move easily between different modes of interaction — from visual to voice to touch — according to changes in context or user preference. The common user interface forms a cohesive user experience that encourages service adoption and usage.
The Supporting Infrastructure
To implement a Total Communications and infotainment VAS strategy, operators require an open, IP-based architecture that is ready for the next-generation environment. A flexible and modular service environment will let operators quickly adjust service offerings to reflect the most recent killer applications or content.
In addition, the ideal infrastructure shares centralized components (such as multimedia store, network address book, notification server, presence server and subscriber profiles) across all services, saving valuable operational and capital resources. The right infrastructure makes the Total Communications vision achievable, manageable and profitable.
By providing an evolutionary migration path to an open, IP standards-based architecture, along with a rich suite of Total Communications and infotainment services united by a common multimodal user experience, Comverse InSight equips operators for success in the next-generation environment.
About the Author
Benny Einhorn is Chief Marketing Officer of Comverse, responsible for managing the global marketing activities of the company. Among his areas
of responsibility are: Product Marketing and Management, Business Development and Strategic Partnerships, Marketing Communications and the
office of the CTO.
Mr. Einhorn joined Comverse in 2001. Before that, he served as Executive Vice President of the Telecommunications Division of Discount Investment
Corporation, one of Israel's largest and most prominent holding companies in Israel, where he managed investments and strategic involvement in business ventures with the potential for high value and
growth in the telecommunication industry.
He also garnered rich Telecom experience at Pelephone, a leading cellular communications provider in Israel, where he served as an Excutive Vice President for Sales and Marketing.
Mr. Einhorn has also held executive sales and marketing positions at Indigo NV, Optrotec, Inc and Digital (DEC) Israel.
Mr. Einhorn is a graduate of Tel Aviv University from which he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering (with excellence) in 1981 and an MBA degree in 1984.