Mobile Operator Grapples with Challenges and Opportunities of New Technology

Situation Analysis:

A leading mobile operator was preparing to rollout next-generation network technology and associated new services and handsets. Significant investment would be required, however, and early experiences of other regional operators suggested that revenue upside might be limited. The CEO had made bullish public statements, but the CFO was concerned about affordability.

The company issued an RFP for consultancy assistance to determine how quickly to roll out and how to stage/sequence coverage build-outs across the country. SDG responded suggesting that – in addition – the operator take a critical look at which technology (or technologies) to deploy, where to offer coverage with each new technology, and what specific new or enhanced services to prioritize. A divided leadership team was intrigued by a broader exploration of alternatives and chose SDG to help.

Discovery & Solutions:

SDG devised a strategy-development initiative that incorporated four main elements:

  • Systematic development and analysis of the alternative rollout strategies to learn from the pros and cons of each;
  • Establishment of the company’s C-suite as a Decision Team where assumptions, ideas, and insights would be collectively discussed and developed;
  • Utilization of historic data on service adoption (e.g., MMS) as function of geography, customer segment, and price to develop new models for services “take rates;” and
  • Analysis of the experiences of other operators and markets across the globe – taking into account their similarities and differences – to better forecast what might happen.

In addition, the “planning” process was broken into two stages. The first strategy-development phase answered the questions of which technologies and services, where and how quickly, and at what price points. Then, the planning phase dealt with more detailed implementation planning, comprising elements such as number of towers required, timeline for systems upgrades, and detailed services specification.

Results & Impact:

In less than one year from commencing the initiative, the operator successfully debuted both a new network technology and a suite of enhanced services unique in their country. A formerly contentious executive team came into full alignment as both the company’s strategic and financial aspirations were met. A staged expansion of coverage would not tax capital-investment constraints, while prioritization of key markets and services would yield a meaningful uptick in revenues within two years. SDG continued to work with the company during implementation to provide program management, strategic marketing, and ecosystem-development support. The implementation plan established was inherently dynamic. Both timing elements and services offerings were “engineered” to adjust in coordinated response to market learnings.

Being first to market with important innovations has since allowed the operator to maintain market share among the most desirable customer segments, even in the face of a leading global brand acquiring a competitor in the region and investing heavily. That continuing success confirms that, in telecom, the days of being able to treat all customers and all regions as equivalent have past. Increasing costs to play, combined with saturation of usage of core services, have made it essential for operators to understand, target, and win the right mix of customers with the right blend of services. Rather than solely a product of number of customers and breadth of services offered, profitability depends on who you have as customers and how economically you can service them.