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March - 2008 - issue > Technology
Driving Up Mobile Service Adoption, Without Driving Up Costs
Matt Bancroft
Sunday, March 2, 2008
With mobile voice services now broadly adopted across Asia, the focus throughout the region is on enabling new mobile data applications and services. However Asia is a region made up of a complex set of markets with differing levels of mobile technology and mobile data maturity.

Asia includes both developing markets and some of the most advanced mobile markets in the world. In the developing markets, the ability to manage service settings is critical to getting subscribers to adopt mobile services. Operators have learned through painful experience that setting up devices correctly for new mobile services ‘before’ the customer tries to use them is key to driving up adoption of these services.

In advanced markets where devices are becoming increasingly sophisticated, mobile device management becomes even more vital, providing a means of quickly diagnosing problems, delivering and provisioning new applications and services over-the-air, securing devices and the sensitive data on them, and ensuring a positive customer experience.

Whether the mobile market is developing or advanced, the mobile operators’ objectives are similar: Improving the customer experience, driving up data service adoption, and seamlessly and cost-effectively enabling the next generation of mobile devices and services.

Solutions such as mobile device management (MDM) and using over-the-air (OTA) technology are vital to both developing and advanced Asian markets. Mobile operators need to be able to provision, support, and secure both built-in and preinstalled services such as WAP or MMS, as well as services and applications delivered after the device ships, such as IM, VoIP, pictures, music, videos, movies, mobile payment capabilities, and sophisticated business applications that require software to be installed or upgraded on the device remotely. Through MDM, the subscriber decides which device and services to use, and each subscriber’s device is managed in the context of the services he or she uses.

Developing Markets: Getting a ‘step up’
The most common data services managed by mobile operators are those built into or supplied on the mobile device. For these services, the first issue is ensuring that when the subscriber begins using the device, the services are activated and configured correctly. If services are difficult for subscribers to configure, the vast majority will simply avoid them, which means a missed revenue opportunity for the operator and a frustrating experience for the subscriber.

The challenge of the “SIM-only” business model common in many developing markets is that handsets are acquired independently of the operator, leaving the operator with control of the SIM, but not the handset. In this instance, the key to getting a ‘step up’ in the market is to be able to seamlessly detect and correctly configure the handset in which the SIM is being used, regardless of where that handset was acquired.

MDM technologies can enable operators to provide just such a seamless subscriber experience, ensuring that all services and capabilities are available and working correctly when the device is turned on. This is not a simple task, given the number of different devices, services, and applications most providers will have to configure. It is, however, a crucial task, as it sets the tone for the future relationship between the operator and the subscriber. After getting the basics right, operators can then look at more advanced OTA activities that can help optimize the service experience, such as distributing or updating mobile applications.

As more services are made available on different devices, the time and associated cost of assisting subscribers to properly configure their devices can rise rapidly, further eating away at potential profits from these services. In high-volume markets, where the cost of providing new services must be kept low, MDM technologies can make it possible to provide these services profitably.

Advanced Markets: Growing revenues and guaranteeing a seamless experience
The challenges in more advanced Asian markets, such as those in Japan, South Korea, and parts of China and Southeast Asia, vary greatly. Mobile operators in these markets are supporting some of the most demanding subscribers in the world. In some of these high ARPU markets, smart device adoption is growing faster than anywhere else on the planet.

As mobile operators in more advanced markets launch targeted data services to expand revenues, device management can be a critical factor in the success and profitability of these offerings. An MDM system can ensure that subscriber devices always have the correct applications, firmware, and service settings. Services can be targeted and customized for different customer segments and device types. Customer care staff can quickly pinpoint and resolve any problems and send corrections to the subscriber over the air in real time. And, with the ability to monitor the actual customer experience with voice and data services, the MDM system can enable operators to quickly pinpoint and resolve performance and reliability issues. The result is higher customer satisfaction as well as increased service usage and revenues.

Enterprise subscribers are increasingly relying on their mobile devices to support mission-critical applications and data. However, enterprises are often reluctant to embark on mobilization programs without a streamlined process for installing, updating, and managing the applications and services on employee devices, along with post-deployment security, diagnostics, and support capabilities. By providing each enterprise with a customized, Web-based portal into the mobile operator’s MDM system, the operator enables each enterprise to manage its own device fleet, data services, and applications. Mobile operators can drive up enterprise adoption of a wide range of mobile data services, while reducing the overall cost of managing them.

Mobile operators in both developing and advanced Asian markets can benefit significantly from over-the-air service enablement, support, and security for both built-in and add-on data services and applications, across a diverse subscriber population and over a wide range of mobile devices. When mobile operators can ensure the best possible experience for mobile users, this drives up data service adoption, increases revenues, and reduces support costs. Furthermore, by implementing solutions such as MDM, operators can launch new services simply and quickly, enabling future generations of mobile devices, services, and applications for an increasingly sophisticated and demanding subscriber base.

The author is CMO at Mformation Technologies.

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