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Why the future of the telco industry will be built on customer data

Image: Adobe Stock / metamorworks

For telecoms companies, customer data is, quite rightly, a precious resource which must be kept safe. The requirements of privacy regulations such as GDPR include strict controls over how customer data is stored and used.

All too often, customer data is not only locked down within the organisation, but also within the individual department where it is handled. This siloed data remains unused, meaning that telcos miss out on crucial opportunities to improve end-user experiences and drive increased revenues by sharing data anonymously.

For telecoms companies, their data is their most unique asset. Unlocking the value of this data requires sharing and collaborating with partners. This will enable telcos to unlock and monetise new business streams, along with related applications and newly developed data. With telcos currently dealing with enormous network complexity, freeing data from silos and unlocking its value can also help with network roll-out, cost optimisation and predictive and preventative maintenance. 

Across many industries, telcos work as a central nervous system, connecting organisations together wirelessly – but due to fears over data privacy, organisations are left unable to ‘connect the dots’ and derive the benefit of managing, analysing and collecting data. This is where data clean rooms play an integral role. 

Can data clean rooms offer an answer? 

Around the world, multiple industries rely on telecom companies as the backbone of their operations. In retail, point-of-sale machines run through a telecoms company network, and in transport, the scheduling of commuter buses and trains relies on the very same technology. Yet, despite the importance of telco for society and in connecting industries, network operators are not yet fully embracing the value of the data they have at their fingertips.

Data privacy and increased regulations have prevented telcos from connecting and sharing their data with other organisations due to fears around leaking personally identifiable information (PII). However, data clean room technology is fast emerging to help companies effortlessly share data both internally and with third-parties in a secure and governed environment. Data clean rooms prevent specific identifiable information from showing to other companies when sharing data through a clean room. PII is protected, processed, and managed in a compliant way. This means that companies, or divisions of a single company, are empowered to bring data together for joint analysis under defined guidelines and restrictions.

In retail, for example, telecoms companies can collaborate with retailers confidently and safely through a data clean room using governed analytics. This typically revolves on the user’s cellular number, which can help the telco and the retailer access valuable data such as location details, shopping baskets and product purchases. By tapping into this data, retailers can focus on improving personalisation services for their customers and also in-store and virtual experiences. 

Building better connections with data

Being able to understand individual usage of a network can help networks improve their services more broadly, as seen in the success of increased next-gen network roll-outs. These networks are the first of their kind to effectively ‘slice’ the network, providing different service level agreements to consumers. When you know who is accessing services and what they are doing on the network, you can prioritise value over utilisation to deliver the best service for them at that given moment.

Yet, the inability to tap into customer data is preventing many network providers from taking advantage of this. By better understanding network data, telcos can decommission legacy networks, which can be more expensive to maintain, with faster connection and download speeds of 5G networks.

The future: digital twins and ‘TechCos’

Engaging with the potential of data unlocks new technological horizons for telcos. Moving forward, telcos will be able to capitalise on digital twins, a visualisation tool showing what is happening on the whole network in the real world. Overlaying this with useful data, such as mobility data and customer experience, will allow networks to increase customer satisfaction and improve loyalty by focusing on customer demands and personalising experiences to meet their needs. Over time, this data-driven focus on customer experience can drive an increase in profitability. 

Achieving this is the first step in the journey from being a telco to being a data-driven ‘TechCo’ – and the key to this is taking control of data and unlocking its value. Doing so is not a luxury, or an experiment: it’s essential for any forward-thinking organisation in this space. 

Telcos that engage with their data and spread their wings as fully-fledged ‘TechCos’ will gain a crucial competitive advantage over their competitors – and will build on that in the coming years. 

Fawad Qureshi
Fawad Qureshi
Industry Field CTO at Snowflake

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