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Frederic Martinent, Product Marketing Director at Gemalto envisions the nightmarish dilemma facing mobile network operators on how to deal with the pressing problem of monetizing, or not, their customer’s data.

A voice whispers to you, “monetize…monetize…monetize”. You’re suddenly surrounded by board members, staring at you sternly. “Why didn’t you take this opportunity?” the director of finance glowers at you, his face made up of data rather than flesh. Suddenly, they all stand up and march towards you, reaching for you and your job with outstretched hands.

You realize you’ve got nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. The finance director grabs you round the cheeks, your face starts disintegrating…

You wake up with a gasp. It was just a nightmare, the same one you’ve had for the last three weeks. In a few days, you’ll have to present your growth strategy to the Board as CEO of a major telecoms company, and you still haven’t decided your monetization strategy.

You’re faced with a dilemma. Your MNO owns lots of data on its customers, but how exactly should it be used? If you don’t deploy it in the correct way, there’s a possibility you could lose the trust of your customers and possibly revenues too. And the Board isn’t going to like that!

MNOs own valuable information, including:

  • Customer identities – all operators know who you are, where you live, your gender, and your interests. Many operators are very open about the data they hold. A good example is O2 in the UK – you can watch a video about their approach here. To get a SIM customers need to verify their personal information when opening a mobile subscription.
  • Payments – prepaid and/or postpaid customer information
  • Location – real-time knowledge and history of subscriber location
  • Mobile web browsing history and mobile app usage information

To get rid of the nightmares, you need to work out how to use this data in the best way.

You’re pondering the question on your way into work, as you stop off at Starbucks to buy breakfast and a coffee. When you’re paying at the counter, you get the feeling the person behind is staring at you. You snatch a quick glance at him; a hooded figure, you notice; but he turns away. Probably just your imagination, looks like he’s just minding his own business.

As you walk back to your car, you get the feeling you’re being followed. You hear footsteps behind you.

It makes you feel uneasy; you’re the CEO of a massive telecoms company, perhaps someone’s after you. You pick up the pace, sprinting towards your vehicle…almost there, almost there! You reach the car, fumble your keys, spill your coffee. Should have downloaded that car key smartphone app, you think to yourself. It’s too late. A hand grabs your shoulder, you struggle…and then black out.

When you wake up, you’re in a large, dank, grey room, which seems like an abandoned warehouse of some kind. A man sits opposite you. You realize it’s the same guy from the coffee shop, the one who’d been staring at you. The hooded figure.

“What is it, what do you want?” you say, your voice quivering with fear.

“I’m here to help you, to show you the way”, he replies. “Welcome to the monetization club”. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out three keys, one red, one blue, one orange. “Those nightmares you’ve been having, that important meeting you’ve got coming up. Everything can be solved, your mind put at peace. But you have a choice to make”.

He raises the red key between two bony fingers. “Choose this one for the MNO subscriber protector model. You decide not to share customer data with third parties, instead choosing to use big data only to improve the quality of your own services. You make customer personal privacy an absolute priority.

Before you get the chance to respond, he lifts the blue key. “Choose this one for a more pragmatic approach to monetization. By opening customer data to third parties, you can capitalize on additional revenue streams. Verizon, for instance, is looking to accelerate its revenues from digital advertising streams, having already taken over AOL, and is in discussions about acquiring Yahoo. Verizon’s approach is completely compatible with subscriber privacy. MNOs are in a unique place to offer relevant and tailored advertising with data rewards, as Aquto has demonstrated. He turns and mutters almost to himself, “you can check out Verizon’s new “Verizon Selects” service in the video here…”.

“And the orange key?”, you whimper.

“Then our conversation never happened. Wake up in your car and forget all the advice I’ve given you”. A sinister, crooked smile appears on his lips.

The temptation is great; you want to get away from this strange man, this peculiar building; but there’s no doubt about it – the advice is valuable. Surely, though, you can’t make the decision right here, right now?

“Would I be able to discuss the choice with someone, one of the board directors perhaps?”, you dare to ask.

The man jolts forward, his hood falling back to reveal haunting, pale eyes. “The first rule of monetization club: you don’t talk about monetization club. Unless…”

“Unless what?”…you almost don’t want to find out.

“I know of a document, written by the experts on MNO monetization. Reading it doesn’t breach our rules. It’s called the Connected Living 2025 report, and you can find it here. You may use this to help you make your choice”.

You decide to consult the document. It’s too important a choice to run away from.

One section speaks of mobile operators of the future holding a wealth of data about their customers, which enabled them to become authorized data brokers. It’s knowledge you need to banish the nightmares and make your growth strategy a success.

“OK”, you respond, “but why me? Why did you take me aside and choose to help me?”.

The man cackles loudly. “Because you are the One. The One who must deliver the most successful monetization strategy of them all!”

This post originally appeared on the Gemalto blog and is reused with kind permission.

Fred Martinent

Marketing & Product Director, Gemalto


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One Comment

  • Truly excellently presented dilemma facing MNOs which goes far beyond the proverbial $64,000 question.
    I’ve been having exactly those conversations in advising MNOs and others in the Mobile Ecosystem about monetization of their customer data, primarily in what you call your “Blue Key” area, consistent of course with data privacy laws.
    Well done in highlighting it so well.