Fundamental telco differentiators… flipped on their heads

When you think about fundamental differentiators for telcos, what factors come to your mind?

Perhaps it is one of the following (with a typical description of that differentiation factor provided):

  1. Coverage: Operators with extensive coverage (ie fixed-line footprint and/or mobile coverage) may have an advantage over those with limited coverage areas
  2. Network quality: Operators with faster, more reliable networks may be more attractive to customers
  3. Customer service:  Operators with a reputation for good customer service may be more appealing to customers
  4. Pricing: Operators with competitive pricing and pricing structures may be more attractive to customers
  5. Services offered: Operators that offer a wider range of services, such as broadband internet, television, and mobile phone services, may be more attractive to customers
  6. Brand: Operators with a well-known, trusted brand may be more attractive to customers than one with a lesser-known brand

The above bullets indicate the traditional lens (Lens #1).

I’d like to look at these through a slightly different lens below (Lens #2):

  1. Coverage: This advantage is actually delivered by a combination of other advantages. Legacy investment and availability of capital are two. Others include the ability to roll out network augmentation projects faster than competitors to service new or in-fill areas. It could also include optimal designs that limit costs, thus stretching available capital further. Another could be the ability to turn capacity up/down dynamically to service coverage demand
  2. Network quality: There are also many factors that contribute to this advantage. The metrics of quality include up-time, service performance and time to recover from any degradations. Network device quality and architectures are contributors to this advantage. Another is being able to monitor a network in near real-time to allow for ongoing adaptation to changing conditions within the network. The real advantages behind these factors include advanced network automations, rapid telemetry to identify or even predict problems and quickly managing the workforce to repair physical damage
  3. Customer service: This advantage also comes from an aggregate of many other factors. These include human factors such as empathy, respect, trust, etc. They also may include avalability of preferred customer channels, responsiveness to customer demands, knowledgeable staff / systems / apps / online, ease of use and more. It also comes from awareness of customer needs (often through business insight generation),
  4. Pricing: Having a lower cost-base is one way to use pricing as a competitive advantage. A lower cost-base is largely delivered by the optimal use of resources including capital, systems and the workforce. It can also come from operational efficiencies related to economies of scale. Other factors tend to be more fleeting in nature, such as from bundling, promotions, discounts and flexible or dynamic pricing plans
  5. Services offered: Service differentiation also tends to be fleeting. With most services just being logical constructs over physical access mechanisms (coverage), if one operator creates an offering that achieves market dominance, then competitors can replicate it fairly quickly. This means that there’s a (possibly diminishing) period of arbitrage where one operator can have a service offering. You could actually argue that having the ability to deliver a rapid time to market (TTM) turnaround is a bigger competitive advantage
  6. Brand: This often intangible advantage is derived from many of the factors mentioned above that have generated a differentiated reputation, often across years of service to its customers

Do you notice the difference between those two lenses?

The first lens is the way that most people see telco differentiation. It’s completely abstracted from all of the contributions that OSS/BSS make. They’re high-level and either attributed to the network or the business processes. Systems are seen as an impediment. This is why OSS/BSS is seen as a cost centre.

The second lens shows that almost all of the competitive advantages available to network operators is directly tied to having effective OSS/BSS. The OSS/BSS is arguably one of the biggest possible differentiators a network operator has in it’s arsenal, but very few senior execs are aware of it. It’s our job to make them more aware…. through the second lens. Moreover, OSS/BSS are responsible for connecting buyer (customers) and sellers (network infrastructure / capacity) together.

If you’re struggling to build a persuasive argument for OSS/BSS investment with your clients or internal sponsors, Passionate About OSS would be delighted to help you bring lens #2 to the table.

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