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Interview: Big Data for the telecom industry

T.C. Seow | June 17, 2014
In an exclusive email interview, the CTO for Telecommunications Solutions at Pivotal Inc. talks about what telecom companies are doing to harness the power of Big Data, and what they should be doing to move quickly ahead.

Recent revelations about how some governments are regularly accessing and using this information has done little to encourage service providers to accelerate their efforts for commercial exploitation.

Cellular Network Service Providers are, however starting to realise that some Big Data and fast data techniques can give them an ability to differentiate themselves from their direct competitors in the ways in which they treat their customers. Information from deep within the network can help to improve the personal experience of individual customers. Whilst it does not improve coverage or capacity, it does enable the operators to gain better insights into the real experience of their customers and put better customer relationship management at the top of the agenda.

Following from the first question, what can telcos look forward to in Big Data applications? 

Cellular Network Service Providers have some unique insights into their customer activities. Service providers need to know where their individual customers are in order to route calls and data services. Cellular technology has almost standardised across the globe. Most customers can expect their mobile phones to work exactly the same when roaming as they will when at home.

Operators are able to differentiate by offering services relevant to individual subscribers in the full knowledge of what device they have, where they are in the world, time of day, etc.

Whilst it has been possible to do some of these things using traditional BI tools, it has not been possible to do them fast enough or with enough accuracy with a cost model that makes sense. Pivotal has changed both the speed and the cost of using cellular operator "exhaust" data from network functional devices. Ingesting signal protocols from 2G, 3G and 4G, and cross correlating with "user plane" data to understand what services individual customers are consuming, when and where and on what device. Pivotal has built a Real-Time Intelligence platform to grab this information at wire speed and apply business logic to create deeper insights and respond within seconds to particular circumstances. Initial capabilities include enabling the operator to respond to dropped calls or poor page download speeds at the time the customer experiences them.

In the market where the network technology is standardised, there are only three differentiating levers:

  • Coverage—I have more cell towers then the competition
  • Price—I charge less for the same service
  • Customer care—I treat my customers better than the rest.

Pivotal is working with service providers to enable better customer care. Additionally customers are using Pivotal analytics products to understand where to place new cell towers, based on known customer demand and service quality issues. This is leading towards a more cost efficient network model in the future.


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