The word “angst” gets used too often. That said, one place where it is very applicable, since we live and breathe on our mobile devices these days, is wondering where you are on your mobile data plan. Whether you are a road warrior, the bill payer of a multi-user household, or just someone that loves watching streamed or interactive video on your smartphone or tablet, you're probably like me, i.e., get those 'end of the billing period' jitters.
How much to I have left? What if my kids decide to watch movies on the data plan instead of on Wi-Fi? These and a host of other questions are enough to make even the sanest amongst us crazy. We feel like if we could just have some better information and a bit of warning we’d get a better handle on what can become an unnerving case of “sticker shock.”
Thanks to Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert), help is on the way in the form of its new “Smart Plan” solution.
It is called SMART for good reason
Let’s start with the basics. The new Smart Plan solution allows mobile service providers (MSPs) to drastically reduce the time, cost and effort involved in developing and charging for multiple offers while a mobile app allows subscribers to pick and choose the services that meet their personal usage needs and budgets. This is a case of satisfying the needs of not just one but two worlds, the buyer and the seller. Now that is smart.
Under the tagline, “Mobilize the Data Plan” the deliverables of the Smart Plan solution are simple and are already resonating with mobile service providers:
Image via Alcatel-Lucent
In terms of the user experience, as Lisa Ciangiulli, Director of Marketing, Mobile Commerce Solutions at Alcatel-Lucent told me that, “At the end of the day we get information we can use in real time, control, increasing access to new features, and ultimately options, a reduction in cost if that is our desire and most of all a reduction in stress.”
The challenge Smart Plan solution is tackling is that when it comes to mobile data plans and services, it is clear that not only do service providers need to define competitive data-centric packages that attract and keep customers, but that clearly one size does not fit all. In fact, the need to cater to the seemingly infinite variety of ways users would like to have their services personalized, with the flexibility to customize them as needs change, and service providers requirement to meet or exceed those needs or risk high churn rates and lost revenues means agility is paramount. The problem has been that introducing and managing multiple plans can be difficult, costly and time consuming for mobile MSPs and potentially confusing for customers.
How it works
There is a lot of technology under the hood that has gone into marking the Smart Plan solution capable of removing the complexity and greatly shortening the time needed to create new offers. Plus, while the user is getting control, so is the mobile service provider over the process of service orchestration and hence the reliance on third-party expertise and billing systems.
It is useful to look at the architecture being employed for the Smart Plan solution.
Image via Alcatel-Lucent
As Ciangiulli explained, and as is show in the graphic, plugins are employed to integrate easily into a service provider’s existing network and IT infrastructure. This then becomes an orchestration layer that manages the necessary interactions between various elements such as policy control and billing. The fact that it also enables the service provider to respond to subscribers’ requests to initiate or change services in real-time is going to bring smiles to MSPs and customers alike.
Agile (News - Alert) is a good word for what is at work in the solution and is a bit of a double entendre. The power to deliver all of the functionality, and adaptability required to satisfy MSPs and customers rests on Alcatel-Lucent’s unique Agile Rules Technology (A.R.T.) In fact, there are 150 patents pending for A.R.T. It gives the solution the dexterity to leverage network intelligence and customers’ opt-in approval so that MSPs can do things like recommend products and offers based on information such as usage patterns, real-time location data and loyalty.
Andrew McDonald, President of Alcatel-Lucent’s Platforms division, said, “Analysis of 4G LTE (News - Alert) network usage shows a four-fold increase in people watching videos on their mobile devices compared to 3G. As more service providers move to LTE to deliver mobile broadband services, they need to adapt their data plans to subscriber behavior. The flexibility of Alcatel-Lucent’s Smart Plan solution allows service providers to quickly react to changing market conditions and competitors’ offers to ensure they retain the loyalty of their customers and grow their business.”
Another pull out from the solution is in the shared data plan area which is increasingly the market sweet spot and critical for MSPs to create and sustain loyalty, Smart Plan lets them create offers for each person in the plan. And, the thing that caught my interest was when Ciangiulli walked me through how the solution will help MSPs expand their reach and engage third parties in a way that we have not seen before. “With data consumption going up, price is going to become a gating factor for many people. However, Smart Plan will allow retailers to work with MSPs to create data purchase allowances and use other type of loyalty incentives which creates stickiness for the SP and tremendous brand visibility and business for the retailer.”
She also noted that, “What is interesting and unique is also the fact that once you have mobile app with customers you can use it to compliment your mobile broadband strategy by doing things such as putting your entire catalog in the app.”
A scenario discussed in the release of Smart Plan was the following. “Smart Plan’s mobile app can be used by a service provider to enhance its retail strategy, allowing customers to browse and buy all products and services offered by the service provider. It also lets customers track spending and data usage and will alert them to approaching limits. These alerts meet data roaming regulatory requirements in the EU, as well as the growing awareness in the US and other parts of the world, while giving service providers the opportunity to propose alternative offers to customers. The solution can be further tailored to incorporate country-specific data regulations.”
Given the growing concerns over privacy and the disparate rules that are being promulgated around the world, this latter capability is going to be important to any vendor with solutions for this market. This important obviously to MSPs but as a user, knowing that my usage, permissions and privacy as defined and approved by me are under my control and can be dynamically altered based on my volition and context is something to look forward to that is of value. Smart Plan will enable not just the MSPs but entire ecosystems to establish a level of trust that is also likely to prove extremely attractive.
Check out the white paper that describes the Smart Plan solution in more detail. And, for those going to Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress (News - Alert) at the end of this month, you will have a chance to kick the Smart Plan tires at the Alcatel-Lucent booth. They will be demonstrating Smart Plan from the service provider perspective and letting you enjoy the user experience. This is not a bad booth to put on your list as you get ready for the show.
Edited by Braden Becker