How can cable providers win in the competitive 5G world?
As consumers spend their lives addicted to digital content, gaming, social media and the like, it’s blatantly obvious that connectivity is critical to service providers’ “survival” and ability to meet customer expectations for ever-increasing bandwidth.
In the home, says Paul Hughes of Netcracker Technology, the cable industry’s biggest residential draw has been a bundle of high-speed data, video and, in some cases, over-the-top (OTT) services that are easily accessible via the DVR or web and are billed together as a combined offering. Cable providers have played an instrumental role in bringing 4K content to the screen and the soon-to-be-available cloud-based DVR, which will eliminate the hard drive, create virtually unlimited amount of streaming content, enable more flexibility and be available for faster upgrades.
Yet all of this comes at a high price, which has caused many to cut the cord. To complement this challenge, telecommunications service providers are bringing 5G fixed-wireless access services to the table.
Since Mobile World Congress Americas in September 2018, wireless providers across the global have been ramping up their 5G launch announcements, offering gigabit-bandwidth capabilities and, in many cases, supporting free video. Recent announcements in the U.S. include Verizon launching 5G in four U.S. cities, AT&T in 23 cities, Sprint in nine and T-Mobile in 30 markets by the beginning of 2020.
In the U.K., EE and Vodafone are launching 5G in 2019 and Deutsche Telekom has set 2020 for its network rollout. For these operators, the bundle of free TV services from the telco creates by far the biggest threat to cable revenues.
Luckily for cable providers, coax or fibre into the home is already well established in mature markets and capex investments are already being amortised. The service delivery challenges around 5G’s spectrum creates a unique challenge for quality of service/connectivity within the dwelling, as the 5G spectrum is in a band that struggles to penetrate walls and ceilings. Thus, the implementation will require a femtocell-type approach to create consistent service inside the home.
Even with the initial technology rollout challenges, the wake-up call for cable companies is here. The large-scale 5G double-play voice/video service plans rollouts are still a few years away, and network slicing will require substantial OSS upgrades by the operators. Both give cable providers time to react and position themselves to win in the 5G world.
Cable providers must start thinking creatively about how to leverage their own networks to deliver innovation today, using technologies and services that will drive partnerships and entice customers to remain loyal. With retention becoming critical factor in fending off outside influencers, it’s important to start thinking about solutions that can help bolster market position and improve customer loyalty.
- Take advantage of the mobile backhaul opportunity
Cable network’s fibre coaxial networks are already well positioned to provide the electrical power needed to support the thousands of small cell connections that will deliver effective 5G services. This role creates new revenue potential and builds a new partner position that emboldens the longer-term role of cable in the success of 5G.
- Get creative with pricing and bundling
Because most customers pay for large-scale packages of channels and on-demand services, being able to react in real time to competitive price offerings is now more important than ever. This requires an integrated product catalogue that centralises all market options, the ability to offer unique service options that may include unique pricing and the ability to create custom pricing and discounts for loyal customers, particularly when an issue or problem arises.
- Make customer journey management a priority
As cable customers go through their individual service alignment processes, the cable provider collects vast amounts of data on the user, profile, spending habits, contact preferences, payment methods, etc. Creating a centralised process to guide the customer along the most appropriate path of their individual service lifecycle helps ensure a much more positive user experience.
- Invest in analytics and AI technologies that drive more proactive decisioning
At the customer care level, ensuring customer service representatives have a 360-degree view of the customer from their agent desktops will mitigate misguided customer interactions. Meanwhile, network and data analytics will help identify service delivery anomalies that can then be addressed in advance or tied to a more proactive notification process with the customer.
As 2018 comes to a close, time is still on the side of the cable provider—but not for long. As customers look for less expensive ways to stay connected and 5G services overcome initial implementation, delivery and experience barriers, now is the time to deliver on the promise of service creativity, customer experience and greater overall service value. Creating a service delivery strategy based on these principles will be the greatest contributors to keeping customers loyal while ensuring cable operators’ ability to capitalise on the growing demand for digital services.
The author of this blog is Paul Hughes is director of Strategy at Netcracker Technology
About the author
Paul is responsible for all aspects of Netcracker’s strategic initiatives across BSS/OSS, customer experience and cable specific business lines, including customer, product and technology management, market direction and corporate communications. He has over twenty years of telecom industry experience. Before joining Netcracker, Paul was program director for IDC’s Storage and Data Management Services practice, where he provided research, consulting and marketing support to communications, media and cloud service providers in the areas of digital transformation, customer experience, business requirements for new revenue models, and new product strategy and development. Prior to IDC, Paul was director of marketing at Oracle Communications, responsible for OSS/BSS and cloud marketing and business development activities for Oracle’s Billing and Revenue Management and Cloud Delivery Solutions. Paul has a BA in Mathematics from Middlebury College.