Is the time right for operators to leverage consumer trust?

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Who do consumers trust with their data? Compared with many OTTs, mobile operators are trusted by their customers and there are opportunities to build on this to increase engagement, relevance and loyalty.

The industry is in a state of flux, and it has become hard to know who can be trusted. From Huawei to Facebook, the industry has taken a knock when it comes to the reputation of some of its heavyweights.

In the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, consequent news about Facebook being put under criminal investigation has left consumers more concerned about the safety of their data more than ever before. Likewise, the “Huawei threat” between major countries creates significant repercussions for the global telecoms network equipment market. So, the real question is, who can subscribers really trust?

Laying the foundations for change

Consumers use their smartphones more than ever before. Today, our mobiles act as the gatekeepers to our digital lives. One simple look at the data stored within it reveals where we work, where we live, how much we exercise and even, what our spending pattern looks like. The mobile apps that we now use on a day to day basis have made access to essential services easier, and more convenient. But more convenience has also brought about security and privacy concerns. Misuse of data by OTT providers such as Facebook has seen consumers become increasingly wary about what data they are happy to share, and how said data is reshared and monetised. The aftermath of Cambridge Analytica has seen an increasing number of consumers switch off from services such as Facebook to limit the damage already done by the company.

Unfortunately, switching off from these services isn’t easy. They penetrate all aspects of our lives, and for many of us, shape our mobile usage habits. But fortunately for consumers, in this dark cloud of data misuse and consumer mistrust, lies an operator-coloured silver lining. Indeed, recent research found that more than half (53 per cent) of US consumers surveyed now trust their mobile operator more than digital service companies due to data protection worries. This is good news for operators starting out on their transformation from communication service providers (CSPs) to digital service providers (DSPs).

Operators have long vied for consumer attention amid OTT popularity. The old, legacy operator has become uncool besides the agile OTT provider that can launch new services in days, and with little difficulty. But now the tide is turning. Unlike OTTs, operators have been careful not to use and abuse consumer data at the risk of falling foul of the law. While this has put operators at a disadvantage with regards to personalisation, contextualisation and customer engagement, today it makes them the ideal candidate to offer digital services. But it’s not just as simple as launching these new services and calling it a job well done. Operators have their work cut out if they are to deliver the services that have made OTTs so successful and popular over the last couple of years.

What does change look like?

Operators have traditionally been criticised for their inability to move quickly and react correctly to changing consumer trends and habits. Operator technology and infrastructure has been branded as “prehistoric” and incapable of delivering the agility and nimbleness that OTTs possess. Thankfully, digital transformation is allowing these perceptions to change.

Indeed, if operators are to take full advantage of the opportunities that present themselves with regards to launching digital services, there is one crucial change they must make: moving to digital BSS.

Traditional BSS has become ill fit for purpose in a 4G to 5G world. These large, expensive monolithic stacks no longer meet the demands of consumers and make launching new services a difficult and painstaking task.

What’s more, when it comes to BSS transformation, many operators today adopt a ‘big bang’ approach whereby projects take months, if not years to complete. The reality is simple, operators cannot afford to continue with lengthy, expensive BSS transformation projects that lead only to one thing: a broken vendor/operator relationship.

Instead, operators must embrace digital BSS. This should see them move towards open, collaborative ways of working. These approaches encourage innovation, promote partnerships and encourage agile, platform-based services that enable fast time to market. Digital BSS will allow operators to launch services in days, as opposed to weeks or months, and give them the ability to respond to quickly evolving industry and consumer trends. In turn, operators will facilitate the monetisation of new services and creation of new revenue streams.

Ultimately, it is only by embracing the technologies and approaches that have made OTT providers so successful, that operators will be able to deliver the digital services consumers so desperately crave. Digital BSS, DevOps, microservices and open APIs will all contribute to operators’ ability to create and launch compelling services, that successfully rival OTT services, all the while protecting and upholding the principles of data privacy and security. The end result? Greater subscriber engagement, new revenues from digital services, and consumers who are confident that their data isn’t being mishandled.

So, operators, what’s not to love about all that?

Jonathan Plant is the Senior Marketing Manager in Openet where he develops and manages thought leadership content.

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