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Guest Column

Go “Over-the-Air” to Improve Customer Care

Mark Hopper
Director of Product Marketing
Openwave Systems

As consumers become more aware of new mobile applications such as downloads and mobile messaging, and as more affordable high feature mobile phones become widely available, CDMA operators are racing to differentiate their offerings by launching new data services. In addition, operators are migrating their subscriber base to higher bandwidth networks that can support these applications. To support such sophisticated service offerings, operators need to seek ways to effectively manage their subscribers’ devices. With the mass recruitment of subscribers, a simpler and more user friendly provisioning process is required.

Typically, subscribers are forced to personally configure their own handsets or spend copious amounts of time with customer service professionals to input parameters required to access new mobile data services, resulting in poor customer experience and high cost of customer care. With the mass recruitment of subscribers, a simpler and more user friendly provisioning process is required. The optimum solution is to manage the provisioning of new services non-intrusively without requiring the customer to visit a retail center, or even make a single phone call. With the emergence of standards in providing over-the-air (OTA) provisioning, operators can now offer a solution that enhances the subscriber user experience.

Provisioning covers the services and activities related to identifying a new subscriber on the network, registering the subscriber and ensuring that their devices are configured for access to the latest services. These activities that span from the operator control center to subscribers’ remote handsets are classified as device management. Services may range from voice calling services to newer data-driven services such as downloads and photo messaging.

Traditional device management requires significant customer involvement creating a significant roadblock to new service adoption.

Consider user scenario number 1 (see graphic below). Joe gets excited about the new picture messaging service that his operator is advertising so he purchases a new camera phone. The shop attendant transfers his phone service to the new handset. Joe believes his new phone is enabled for voice calls AND all the new features and services supported by the handset. Once home, he takes a picture of his son with his new phone and tries to send the picture to his friend. He pushes the Send button and receives an error message: “Service Not Activated on the Network.” He immediately calls customer service and requests that picture messaging be added to his subscription. Customer service tells Joe his new service will be activated in 15 minutes. Joe waits patiently. After 15 minutes, he gets the same error message. Frustrated, he calls customer service again. This time, the customer service representative is perplexed because his account is already activated for Multimedia Message Service (MMS). The customer service representative asks Joe to review some of the handset settings and realizes that his phone needs to be configured with MMS parameters. Joe is given a series of parameters to enter. Joe manually configures his phone with these MMS parameters. Voila. Now Joe can finally send picture messages.

Consider the same case where over-the-air device management is deployed in user scenario number 2 (see graphic below). Joe buys a new handset and turns it on. The network automatically detects the new handset, notes its capability and immediately provisions the user for the new picture messaging service. At the same time, the system automatically transmits, over-the-air, the handset parameters into Joe’s phone. By the time Joe finishes taking his picture and clicks the send button, his handset is ready and the network recognizes him. With one click, Joe gets a message, “Would you like to initiate subscription to this picture messaging service now?” Joe answers “yes” and immediately proceeds to send his son’s picture to his friend.

In user scenario 2, the user naturally discovers the new service, and is introduced to the service at the appropriate time and is automatically signed up. The operator avoids the cost of customer support, enables its subscribers to increase their service usage, and provides an excellent user experience to their customer.

CDMA operators are starting to use OTA device management to improve the user experience for new services while at the same time, containing the cost of customer care. In the US, one of the six major operators is using OTA device management to bring to market their 3G services. By using the IP-based open IOTA standard (IP over-the-air), they are seamlessly entering service parameters onto their new 3G subscribers’ handsets for both voice and data service initiation. By streamlining these tasks to its command control, this operator found a cost effective and efficient way to migrate their subscriber base to the next generation network.

Aside from improving service initiation processes, OTA can be used by the operator to improve the overall service quality. The operator can identify problems in subscribers’ devices remotely, as well as to identify gaps in the network through collection and analysis of diagnostics data such as RF strength, logging information, etc. Such information can provide the data necessary to build out a good quality network.

OTA provisioning allows the operator to increase retail distribution channels from company-owned outlets to non-traditional points-of-sale such as online stores or superstores by offering out-of-the box provisioning of voice and data parameters. When a new user buys a new phone, the minute he turns on the phone, the network identifies the new phone activation and proceeds to provision the user.

The ability to identify a phone remotely also means that the operator can now start to build a rich database of user phone capability. By knowing each of its subscriber’s phone capability, the operator can proactively promote relevant services. Such targeted promotions can result in higher adoption of revenue generating services, while containing marketing campaign costs at the same time.

Another feature of OTA device management is its ability to upgrade handset firmware, either to deploy new services or to repair software defects in the handset. This allows operators to deploy the latest software and supported services on old handsets in the field, without requiring subscribers to undergo the burden of replacing their handsets. OTA repair of critical defects in the device helps operators to avoid expensive handset recalls, bad publicity and lost revenue due to affected services. OTA firmware upgrade promotes a quick and widely distributed solution fix. This way, end-users are oblivious to the change and they remain unaffected by any application altercations.

Lastly, with SyncML compatible OTA device management applications, subscribers can get the benefit of accessing SyncML-enabled applications such as address book, and file management. An example of this feature use is automatic file and photo back up and storage.

Fortunately, with the emergence of standards in providing over-the-air provisioning, cost effective, simple provisioning solutions can greatly improve customer care. Improved customer care and ease of use with data services will ultimately result in increased revenues for operators. End users want their service maintenance to be as automated as possible and the availability of invisible yet reliable provisioning is an important element in overall customer satisfaction.

About the Author

Mark Hopper is the Director of Product Marketing for Mobile Products for Openwave. He is currently responsible for managing the global product marketing team for all mobile product lines; mobile infrastructure including media download, provisioning and location. Mark also directs the development of company market requirements for the mobile infrastructure business unit including product strategy definition, requirements analysis, and pricing.

Mark joined Openwave in 1998 and has served in several capacities including Director of Sales, Director of Product Management, and Director of Product Marketing.

Prior to Openwave, Mark was a founding member of AuraVision Corporation, a multimedia chip and software company for video and Internet applications. He served as VP of sales and marketing for AuraVision and was instrumental in Broadlogic’s acquisition of the company. Before AuraVision, he was North America sales and marketing manager for New Media Graphics corporation.

Mark received a BSEE from Villanova University in Pennsylvania, PA.



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