CEO & Industry Blogs

We need a new perspective on our Subscriber Data


What comes to your mind when you hear the phrase Subscriber Data?

Perhaps like many in our industry you have some sense of discomfort. Maybe you imagine multiple servers across your network, using different technologies sitting in separate locations, not talking to one another. You already know that subscriber data which describes the behaviour, likes and dislikes of your paying subscribers is incredibly valuable, but it’s hard to manage, let alone monetise.

The task of managing the profile information of mobile subscribers is of course what we refer to as Subscriber Data Management (SDM). The goal of SDM then is to provide the most efficient means of managing subscriber data, to promote data consistency, consolidation, efficiency, and most importantly, to enable rapid access to this data by authorized applications. These applications may lie within the operator’s network, or increasingly, outside it. Executed well, SDM enables mobile operators to maintain cost-effective internal processes, while providing efficient and secure services to their customers, and can generate new revenues via personalised offers, targeted ads and OTT (Over The Top) partnerships.

So what’s stopping you?

Well this all sounds marvellous but of course its not that easy.

Many operators are reluctant to interfere with their SDM infrastructure in any way. SDM infrastructure is not only mission critical, it’s painfully complicated. Too often the SDM infrastructure has been built up over many years, it contains legacy hardware, software and API's some of which date back to before we can remember. And frankly, “it works – so don’t touch it!” Just steer clear of it and hope those clever techies don’t break it.

But this kind of thinking will not do. Your subscriber data is your most valuable asset. What other asset could possibly be as valuable, as sensitive, or as lucrative to a mobile operator as the data that describes the very users you serve?

Trends that drive the industry

SDM will play an increasingly centric role as telco big-data trends drive our industry in new directions. Think about it: as the Internet of Things (IoT), Virtualization (NFV), new business models, and convergence transform our technologies, re-configure the way our networks function, and re-shape even our own organisations, the one constant that cannot change is the need for subscriber knowledge. Rather than rolling out a new technology and then considering where the subscriber data fits within it, we need to place our subscriber data in the centre FIRST and then ask how any new technology fits alongside that.

Thinking that drives the revenue needle

Despite the overwhelming evidence that SDM must be centric to any discussion on data trends and monetization, in over 10 years of assisting operators to deploy SDM systems we have found that most operators still consider SDM as an operating expenditure – not a revenue generator. They focus solely on the mission-critical, operational nature of SDM in authenticating subscribers and devices before a call can be placed or a data service accessed. Thinking of SDM as an operating necessity is true, but it is not the whole truth.

To put it bluntly, if you are not monetizing your subscriber data, somebody else is. For OTT players today their subscriber data IS the business model – without intimate knowledge of subscriber preferences, location, habits, demographics etc, there is no business. To take one example, Facebook’s ARPU in the US now exceeds the ARPU of many traditional telcos in the developing world, and is growing fast. And it’s driven from Facebook’s subscriber data.

Operators don’t need to become OTT-like, and don’t need to mimic pure internet players. But we do need to retrieve our view of the subscriber and the subscriber’s data as central. We need to take hold of the view that SDM is a future-looking, revenue-generating strategy. We need to appreciate that SDM demands C-level conversation in our organisations.  We need a new perspective on SDM.


This article is extracted from the e-book New Perspectives in Subscriber Data Management, available free to all mobile operators.