This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Andreas H.F. Olsen, vice president of platform operations, Unacast
For many years, telecommunications companies have played a significant role in society. How did we communicate with one another before social media and over-the-top solutions like WhatsApp, Zoom, etc. ? We made a phone call and, more recently, sent an SMS (better known as a text message) – both of which are telecommunications services. For years, telco companies had the market cornered, experiencing years of revenue growth with little actual competition.
However, the rise of Big Tech and smaller, agile tech startups is giving telcos a run for their money. No longer are telcos the exclusive provider of connected solutions. Services that were previously only available through telcos are now available to users via the internet at a lesser cost. This has affected not only the telecommunications industry’s place in society but also these companies’ earnings. Furthermore, Big Tech companies have experienced enormous growth by gaining a deeper understanding of customer data in the digital arena and using that knowledge to produce better and more profitable products. Telcos will never be able to win this data game if the status quo continues.
Data is needed and desired around the world, but that doesn’t mean all of it can be trusted. How can organizations get the trustworthy data they need to make the best decisions? Read on to see how telecoms can play an important role.
A foundation of trust
On both sides of the Atlantic – in the cities of New Haven, Connecticut in the United States and London in the United Kingdom – the first commercial telephone services were established in 1878 and 1879, respectively. Telcos have played a vital part in society ever since and, as a result, have earned a reputation and sense of trust over the last 150 years that few, if any, other companies can match.
The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal and Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections are just two examples that have demonstrated how quickly Big Tech may erode public trust. Providing insights into human behavior necessitates a high level of discipline and strict frameworks to ensure that no economic or political agendas can override an individual’s rights. The ability to wield such power necessitates the development of trust over time. An advantage that telcos have here – more so than the newer tech startups – is that they have a long-standing relationship with customers and organizations and have had time to really establish that trust.
Use what you’ve got
Telcos can benefit from the same types of insights that Big Tech is using – but they can approach this in a smarter way by responsibly using their own mobile network data. And we’re already seeing companies do that – some are beginning to use their inactive mobile network data to generate anonymized and aggregated human mobility insights as one of their strategies. Telcos can provide unique insights that no other type of organization can supply, thanks to the massive volume of data collected from mobile networks. A greater number of mature telecoms are realizing that bringing their data to life is beneficial not only to their business, but also to society.
Here are just three instances of what telco mobility data in action looks like:
- In Sri Lanka, Dialog Axiata is providing John Hopkins University with mobility insights to help them defeat Dengue Fever in that nation
- MTN Nigeria is using mobility data to grasp the impact that mobility has on the spread of COVID-19
- In the Nordic region, Telia is providing mobility insights to help hospitality services retailers, urban developers and others make better decisions
To succeed with data monetization, it’s important for telecommunications companies
to recognize the significance of the data they possess both for their business and for society at large. Then, they need to learn how to transform raw mobile network data into usable and intelligible mobility insights in a secure and efficient manner. Finally, they must know how to create the products and solutions that clients (be they retailers, transportation planners, urban developers, etc.) can easily consume or purchase.
Mature telcos retaining trust
For almost 150 years, telecommunications companies ruled the roost. Recent technology has threatened that supremacy, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Data can be used for good or evil; it depends on who’s using it and for what ends. Big Tech wants to promote political agendas or sell personal data, but more humanitarian-focused organizations are able to use data to help solve some of the world’s thorniest challenges. Use the tips noted above to find ways to monetize your data for good and retain the trust of those you serve.
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