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Mobile data adoption and over-the-air device management

Written by  Olivier Graëff
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Olivier GraëffIssue:Asia-Pacific I 2005
Article no.:13
Topic:Mobile data adoption and over-the-air device management
Author:Olivier Graëff
Title:co-founder and co-CEO
PDF size:44KB

About author

Olivier Graëff is a co-founder and co-CEO of Swapcom. After studying sociology and applied computer science in Lyon, Olivier gained experience in the IT sector working as New Technologies Project Manager for Prosodie, French IT and Telecoms facilitator. Mr Graëff subsequently worked in the development and sales departments of Mediaprogrès, an IT company specialised in online Videotext services. Mr Graëff was recently invited by French President Jacques Chirac to take part in an official delegation of French businesses on a presidential tour of Vietnam. When not at work, Olivier is actively involved in the electronic music scene and enjoys composing music. Mr Graëff holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Applied Computer Sciences.


Article abstract

Mobile operators in developing countries are attempting to popularise data services. SMS, multimedia, games and such play a major role familiarising users with mobile data. Once accustomed to data, users are more likely to use more serious, ‘useful’ applications. Nevertheless, the complexities and costs of serving these relatively unsophisticated users challenge operators. Device recognition software permits over-the-air troubleshooting, bug patching, service updates and service installation, reduce the costs, make usage simpler for the customer and promote usage of advanced services.


Full Article

In the telecoms industry, new technologies are emerging all the time and so are marketing opportunities, along with the hitches, the bugs and the cost-cutting guidelines. When designing end-to-end mobile solutions, one must cast a wide net and draw on experience to gain an accurate vision not only of emerging opportunities, but also of emerging headaches within the mobile technology sphere. That means listening attentively to operator needs, weighing the constraints and opportunities linked to size and demography, then trying to respond in the most effective and efficient way. The challenges facing multimedia take-up in areas of low literacy, for instance, are certainly far from those facing operators in the western world where converging technologies are calling for more profiling, more remote CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and more transmission tools to ensure seamless data delivery. From the poorest regions in the world, to the most hi-tech, delivering mobile multimedia services in the most appropriate way is an important concern. The majority of mobile networks in developing countries are attempting to make their first GSM data services popular. In these regions, SMS is playing a major role in familiarising users with mobile data. In many areas of sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific, the poor understanding of technology and the low level of literacy are major drawbacks in promoting data applications. However, strong interest in mobile phone culture is encouraging young subscribers to read and use digital information. Local mobile content providers are well aware of the constraints of cultural awareness. They are often astute in defining trends and starting fashion crazes. Even simple mobile messaging content, such as ringtones, is an exciting way for young people in regions new to mobile telephony—who have never had even landline telephones—to communicate with each other. It is a means of drawing youth towards information technology. Music festivals and roadshows are a way of drawing young people to see demonstrations of mobile services. In Kenya for instance, young music fans have been enticed to use SMS services by the opportunity to download a preview of a music clip by a popular rap artist. These are the youths who will become the prescribers of mobile culture and who will teach peers and family how to use them. Another means of raising data awareness among these communities is by running SMS voting in connection with with television programmes. Unaccustomed viewers learn how to follow a logical sequence of commands from instructions displayed on the TV screen. By selecting the keys one, two, or three and scrolling to vote, they gain confidence in their ability to use modern IT tools. What SMS is actually doing is taking the fear of technology away by making it fun to use. Mobile entertainment is a first step towards modernising daily life. Some countries exploring mobile multimedia content development are choosing to provide more useful daily services over the mobile. A mobile information portal implemeted on a network can format information services from an external server. The formatted content is delivered to profiled mobiles when requested via a short number dial-up. SMS feedback can provide useful information about pharmacy opening hours in the district, train timetables or school enrolment procedures, to name but a few. There are enthusiastic reports from service providers in the poorest parts of the world regarding the people’s eagerness to learn how to use the keypad and scroll. What we really need now is a concerted effort to help mobile coverage reach the remotest corners of the world, so everyone has a chance to ‘get digital’ with the most user-friendly applications possible. In terms of service delivery, information by text messaging is often the most reliable way of reaching the mobile user. In many countries where GSM penetration has developed faster than the infrastructure could keep up, network equipment is nearing saturation and calls often do not get through. SMS messaging not only ensures potential traffic throughput, but increases quality of service (QoS) and hence customer satisfaction. Talk to any operator in large mobile operators, from Sydney to London, about the key issues in technology rollout and the same words and same issues are invariably heard, even from the poised giants of 3G. Basically, the three issues decision makers around the world comment on are building the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) from data services, improving customer satisfaction using Customer Relations Management (CRM) and reducing the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) using streamlined CRM. The first two issues aim at ‘raising’, ‘boosting’, ‘improving’ and ‘enhancing’—you name the verb with a fast-forward feel to it; the TCO matter, though, usually puts a damper on ambitions and remains a spanner in the works as far as ensuring service satisfaction is concerned. It seems a tall order for an operator to cut customer care costs, while making sure that their valued customers are not getting seriously frustrated by yet another failed attempt to set up a multimedia or other advanced service. It would seem that the answer lies in being able to gather device and subscriber metrics automatically over the network and then use them to make life easier for the people that actually use them. Customer-care services related to configuration enquiries are often complex and time consuming. Asking a subscriber to navigate the many menus and keystrokes necessary to make a modification increases call-handling time and reduces subscriber satisfaction. It is vital to take over these device-related tasks and solve them before they even occur. To do this requires high-performance software tools with a database that recognises all the functions of every device on the market. By implementing automatic device discovery software on the server, there is no longer a need to rely upon a customer’s initiative to sort out his service requirements. With the appropriate systems, full information about the type of phone and the available settings, can be retrieved by the operator’s server. The server can then anticipate customer needs and invisibly cure device management headaches before the customer even perceives them. With the right software, we can now detect the specifications and capabilities of every single mobile device on the network—its manufacturer, its model and even the settings available on that particular model. The device detection technique is fairly revolutionary at the moment, but it has already been successfully implemented on the Wataniya Telecom network. No doubt, the use of such software will snowball, and will spread to networks worldwide, as operators realise the benefits of such capabilities. Device characteristics have many uses. Automatic device discovery, knowing what each device can do – what services can be implemented – is a valuable marketing tool; sales pitches and offers can be directed to the owners of devices that can take advantage of them. The appropriate software patches and updates can be sent over the air to enable new services, fix configuration problems, or at times provide security patches. An obvious CRM application is the automatic delivery of service settings. By adjusting device settings over the air, the customer can start using WAP, MMS or GPRS services. As a result, no time is lost delivering the new data service delivery and the quality of customer service is improved. Another key application is device diagnostics for troubleshooting; the ability to correct faulty devices with the minimum of hassle for the customer. Converging technologies pose new challenges in designing devices. We are now dealing with ever more complex device lifecycles, different operating system versions, conflicts between installed applications, frequent device changes and great amounts of personal data to be saved and restored. In the mad scramble to keep up with marketing opportunities, operators are commercialising devices that are barely off the test bed and, which more often that not, contain firmware bugs. The challenge facing mobile software architects is to design software tools that can troubleshoot problems and deliver corrective patches. To do this, the device management solution must include a comprehensive database of handset functions, constantly updated in line with commercial releases. All this takes resources and strategic integration of device criteria into the device management tool. However, the rewards for an operator who can effectively manage all customer-base devices remotely can be considerable. Automating customer care is critical for profitable mobile data marketing; effective device management will be the foundation upon which most future service provisioning, bug troubleshooting and CRM will be well administered. Ultimately, the aim is to ensure seamless multimedia access to the entire operator customer base and provide effective customer-care and self-care tools. Such systems should lead rapidly to a considerable reduction of TCO. Device management software, by anticipating customer needs, or by correcting problems over the air, should substantially reduce calls to customer care services. Such calls cost an estimated industry average of $5.50 each, so huge savings can be realised in device management related queries. In a nutshell, from a mobile operator perspective, device management is certainly not to be over looked. Operators, by quickly and easily updating end-user phones, can build customer loyalty and gain a competitive edge.

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