Monetizing customers’ data is fast becoming a lucrative business for communications service providers (CSPs). 451 Research forecasts that the market for ‘data as a service’ will be worth nearly $80 billion in 2020, up from about $24 billion in 2015.
CSPs like du in the United Arab Emirates are excited about the potential. “Telcos are in the privileged situation where we’re not just selling a product to a customer and the customer disappears,” says Dr. Dirk Jungnickel, Senior Vice President – Business Analytics, New Business Innovation, du. He sat down with TM Forum’s Aaron Boasman, Vice President, Research & Media, at TM Forum Live! to discuss data monetization, personalization and big data strategies.
“We can track what they’re doing with our product and how they’re experiencing it in terms of quality on the network,” he adds. “We can track that almost in real time wherever they are.”
This helps du build a 360-degree view of the customer – “a total experience picture down to the subscriber level…not just for customer segments but for individual customers, which is a fantastic opportunity to improve services and in aggregated form then to monetize the data externally,” Jungnickel explains.
Anonymizing the data
Although they have a wealth of subscriber data, when du and other CSPs sell it to third parties, they sell it in aggregate; they’re not selling an individual customer’s detailed data, such as location history or personal preferences.
“Retailers are very interested in footfall information, but they don’t necessarily want to know where an individual subscriber – a named, identifiable subscriber – is at a certain point in time. That would clearly be very questionable from a data protection point of view – customers would have to give their consent,” Jungnickel explains. “But aggregate data is far less critical because it’s anonymized by aggregation.”
But even with aggregate data, there are important considerations.
“I work in the Middle East,” Jungnickel says. “You can ask questions in principle which are aggregated: ‘Where do American citizens prefer to go shopping on a Friday afternoon between 3 and 4. It’s a question we can answer; it’s fully aggregated, no personal breach happens. However, politically it’s a very, very dangerous question, which we would never answer.”
Taking the necessary precautions
du takes customers’ privacy and the security of their data very seriously. As Jungnickel notes, “It takes ages to build up trust and it takes one negative incident to breach it and not recover from that breach for many years. So, we try to avoid that at almost any cost.”
When du set up its big data platform that allows the company to track subscribers, the company spent many months developing the right security architecture. For example, subscribers’ data is “completely tokenized so that no individual subscriber can be identified by my own resources querying the data,” he explains. “And we have a very active and strong IT security department making sure that external intrusion into the platform is almost impossible.”
In addition, du monitors for potential problems internally. “We are monitoring the users of the platform which is partially my team and partially other teams in the company,” Jungnickel explains. “They are very tightly monitored and we have very strict data privacy and protection policies in place. We make sure people don’t copy data on memory sticks or have them on their personal laptops and so on.”
He adds: “This is quite an extensive framework which has been put in place, because I think it’s widely understood that in case anything should ever go wrong, we would be in deep trouble and it would be very difficult for us to recover.”
Watch the full interview to learn more about how du is using subscribers’ data and it’s approach to big data storage.