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Ovum: Broadband IP&TV Asia: It’s all about services
May 18, 2012 – Julie Kunstler
Broadband IP&TV Asia, sometimes called Broadband Asia, was held May 15 and 16 in Kuala Lumpur. The meeting brought together many Asia-Pacific operators and their suppliers in the midst of FTTx network deployments in China, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. With some deployments well under way, the discussion has definitely moved past technologies, PON-based subscriber devices, or next-generation PON networks, instead focusing on sharing lessons learned around the new challenges of how to identify, develop, and market services.
Services are the toughest challenge in FTTx deployments
The mantra was that subscribers care very little about the technology behind the services. Instead, the operators discussed value-added services and improving ARPU. Subscribers want connectivity in the home, outside the home, and, ideally, seamless connectivity between the two environments. Many want the option to remain on the same device between the home and outside world, with devices being smart enough to switch automatically from one type of network to another. Beyond that, service providers are finding they have difficult choices to make as far as features and feature bundles to support on their networks and devices.
Becoming savvy about customers and customer analytics
Both vendors and service providers discussed customer knowledge bases, surveys, and analytics to support business planning. It was noted that, similar to those applied in other retail industries, some service providers developed in-house solutions, while others turned to software or consulting firms focusing on telco customer analytics.
One area that particularly benefits from customer analytics is CPE (customer premise equipment). Service providers offering FTTx-based value-added services have to specify advanced CPE designs to support advanced services such as home monitoring or remote energy control. The CPE in that case must have the ability to enable remote control from mobile devices as well as in-home routing of multimedia from device to device. Yet service providers also need to minimize the number of CPE designs in the field in order to reduce costs and improve customer support. Customer analytics translated into CPE requirements enable them to “get it right” and pick the best but fewest designs that match subscriber requirements.
No one can do it all – use multiple partners
The service providers also addressed challenges in forming win-win partnerships with content providers. As one operator stated, bundled services require multiple partnerships. Don’t expect any single partnership to increase ARPU, reduce the cost of content, and reduce churn.
Regulatory complexity is another challenge
With customer analytics, service providers can plan for tomorrow’s services, enabling sound decisions around network technology choices today. But they must keep those plans flexible, particularly as the regulatory environments can change rapidly in many Asian countries.
In some cases, regulators have required open networks but the incumbents are balking. In other cases, regulators have developed national broadband plans, but these plans could crumble if the ruling party loses control. In still other cases, regulators are considering merging back together the separate wireless and wireline companies.
Don’t forget the underserved
In Malaysia, the government regulator requires that service providers “donate” a set percentage of revenues into a government account that then funds broadband for the underserved. The government’s goal is simple: broadband penetration in rural areas should match broadband penetration in urban areas.
Mobile is the service but the power is in the fiber
There was a basic assumption among the presenting service providers that their respective FTTx networks will support mobile backhaul traffic, including cellular networks and Wi-Fi networks. As mobile traffic continues to grow rapidly, mobile operators are facing huge operating and capital expenditures. According to Ovum’s Wireless Backhaul Forecast Spreadsheet: 2012–17 (April 2012), with business-as-usual approaches, operators in 2015 will spend on an annual basis:
In other words, the current mobile traffic backhaul approaches are becoming prohibitively expensive. As one service provider stated, FTTx network operators will see tremendous revenues from serving the mobile traffic backhaul market – the power is in the fiber network.
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