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Commitments to improving customer service levels are more important than offering extra product incentives, according to an independent survey of customer service requirements of over 4,000 European telecoms subscribers, announced today.

The survey charts sentiment toward customer service among telecoms consumers in key European economies and also reveals how changing consumer preference and behaviour is redefining the rules for telecoms customer service operations. The survey was undertaken online by YouGov Plc and commissioned by eGain Communications Corporation. 

In contrast to previous research into the sector, overall, customer service experiences of telecom providers were rated very positively, with less than 5% of respondents citing their most recent experience as poor. Among a range of many other specific findings, the research also found ‘talking to a human being' (18.9%) as only the 5th most important customer service priority, and recorded  a high degree of preference for online communications methods such as live web chat.

Key findings:

-          Customer loyalty can be better won through commitment to service levels than by introducing special offers/incentives on products.

o    Respondents stated that commitments to faster (53.7%), more consistent and personal (38.1%) and multichannel (41.2%) customer service would make the most difference to them. Only 24% placed ‘more special offers' among their top three preferences (only 14% in Germany).

o    Providing access to customer service via ‘any conceivable communications method' such as online self-service, telephone, chat, email and SMS was more important to French (47.3%) and German (44.4%) respondents than British (35.5%).

-          Talking to a human being is less important than getting a fast, accurate or personalised and consistent response.

o    When asked ‘What do you feel is most important to your own customer experience when dealing with your telecoms service providers?', just under 1 in 5 rated ‘access to a contact centre agent' in their top two preferences.

o    Getting a knowledgeable response to a query was most important to respondents, with 41.6% citing this requirement in their top two preferences.

o    24/7 service availability (34.57%), a quick response to a query (33.1%), and a personalised and consistent service (30.88%) also scored well amongst respondents' top two preferences.

-          The vast majority of respondents rated their last customer service experience as positive, although UK respondents were less optimistic than French and German subscribers about future service levels. 

o    55.3% of respondents who have a communications provider cited their last telecoms customer service interaction as positive, with 15% calling it ‘excellent'. 

o    Customer experiences were less positive in older age groups. 50.35% of 55+ year olds had a ‘good' or ‘excellent' experience, compared to 57.9% of 18-24 year olds.

o    Consumers are more optimistic (22%) than pessimistic (9.5%) about the development of their telecoms customer service levels over the next 12 months.

o    Only 2.75% of respondents thought that service levels would worsen significantly over the next 12 months.

o    French (36%) and German (25%) customers were the most optimistic about the prospect of future service improvement. Only 13% of UK respondents anticipate that service levels will improve in the next 12 months, with over two thirds (68%) of them expecting to see 'business as usual'.

-          The survey suggests consumer preferences for online customer service vary according to situation.

o    The sample was asked which e-communications channel they would choose in two different service scenarios: 1) resolving a problem with a communication service or handset, and 2) changing/upgrading a product or service.

o    Customers are happiest to serve themselves in an upgrade scenario (with 34.4% placing web self-service as their preferred contact method) yet want some level of interaction during in a problem scenario (with 27.7% and18.8% of respondents citing email and web chat respectively, as their preferred contact methods).

o    Respondents preferred to use web chat more for solving problems than for upgrading. While 18.8% (23% in the UK) chose it as their preferred channel of e-communication in the problem scenario, less than half this number (8.26%) would chose it when looking to upgrade.

o    Email and web self-service are the most popular interaction channels across both scenarios.

o    French consumers expressed the highest overall preference for the listed e-communication channels. In the problem scenario, 81% of French respondents highlighted preferences for e-communications methods, compared to 77% in the UK and 63% in Germany.

-          Demand for customer service delivery through social media and mobile devices was ranked low in respondents' service priorities, although younger respondents expressed twice the interest.

o    Few respondents agreed that commitments to extending customer service options through social media tools like Facebook and Twitter (5.3%), and supporting mobile device interfaces (9.6%) would make a significant difference to them. Demand for customer service delivered through mobile devices was highest among the youngest respondents (12.3% of 18-24 year olds); almost twice that of the oldest (6.8% of 55+year olds)

o    French consumers are more predisposed to innovative service delivery than the rest of Europe, with over 15% prioritising mobile device service delivery (compared to only 6% in the UK) in their top three choices, and over twice as many French respondents citing social media as important (8%) than in the UK (4%) and Germany (4%)

"These positive results confirm the acceleration in telecoms customer service innovation and investment over the past two years. However, many telcos still have some way to go in successfully meeting the fast-paced change of consumer demand," commented Andrew Mennie, General Manager, eGain EMEA."The telecoms sector is highly competitive," continued Mennie. "With handsets and price plans becoming less meaningful as market differentiators, the ability to deliver accurate and rapid multichannel customer service has clearly cemented itself as a key factor in retaining customers and increasing Average Margin Per User (AMPU). Telcos should take note of the migration toward online service resolution that is already well underway; as these subscribers increasingly communicate more through electronic channels, providing top-notch eService and integrating it seamlessly with the phone is critical for success."

Telekom Austria Group has today announced that its domestic mobile subsidiary, mobilkom austria, will launch two new full service packages. ‘A1 DSL', which will be available starting from March 15, 2010, provides fixed net high-speed Internet with a fixed IP address, unshared bandwidth and unlimited data volume in two versions for both residential and business customers for a monthly flat rate starting from only EUR 20. In addition to this attractive pricing, installation will be free-of-charge during the initial promotional campaign. ‘A1 Internet Services', which will be available straight away in four package versions (starter, small, medium and large), offers customers - for the first time in Austria - a personal email and domain address, unlimited emails on the mobile phone and the PC for a fixed monthly rate of EUR 3 up to 17 according to the selected package.

Hannes Ametsreiter, CEO Telekom Austria Group, said: "We offer our customers all-in-one solutions, in which convergent products play a central role. ‘A1 DSL' and ‘A1 Internet Services' are an important offering for integrated telecommunications products. With our integrated service and product portfolio under one brand, we provide our customers with one transparent bill and one user interface for all of their telecommunications concerns."

Mimecast, an email management specialist, today announced that it has formed an alliance with Telefónica O2 Ireland, provider of mobile services in the Irish marketplace.  The partnership will allow Telefónica O2 Ireland to resell Mimecast's Cloud-based email management services to business customers to complement their in-house email resources.

Julian Martin, Business Development Director at Mimecast, said: "Telefónica O2 Ireland's decision to offer business customers cloud services for email archiving, continuity, security and policy enforcement is a natural progression from a mobile email services offering, as customers' requirements continue to evolve beyond traditional telecommunications services. We are delighted that Telefónica O2 Ireland has recognised Mimecast as a company that has the technology to help it meet the evolving needs of its business customers".

Alan Brown, Business Sales Director, Telefónica O2 Ireland said: "As companies become ever more reliant on email, it is imperative that always available, cost effective email management solutions are introduced. Mimecast provides a great alternative and with it we are now well positioned to co-ordinate and manage the information flow across the enterprise.  We see this as another key differentiator between ourselves and the pure voice and data providers".

Mimecast is said to be a cost-effective alternative for companies currently managing a variety of solutions in-house to secure, archive and provide continuous access to email.  IT staff responsible for managing email benefit from the ease of use and productivity benefits of Mimecast.  Users can instantly search 10 years of archived or deleted email without needing support from IT staff.  In the event of an outage, users are unaffected as Mimecast guarantees seamless ‘always-on' access to email.  In addition, Mimecast provides spam and virus protection and data leak prevention controls, which guarantees the security and safety of all data in emails.

There are now 59 operators committed to LTE network deployments in 28 countries, according to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), as confirmed in the latest update of its Evolution to LTE report. This compares to 39 network commitments in 19 countries reported by GSA in a similar study published six months ago.

The report lists all network commitments and each deployment status.  GSA forecasts that up to 22 LTE networks will have entered commercial service by end 2010, and 37 LTE networks will be commercially launched by end 2012. The first 2 commercial LTE networks were launched in December 2009 in Sweden and Norway.

The report also references 16 additional operators currently engaged in technology tests or trials of LTE, from which additional commitments to deploy are expected to follow in due course.

Updates are included in the report on LTE device certification, interoperability testing, Voice over LTE, and regulatory developments - including progress on new spectrum allocations.

LTE was a major theme at GSMA Mobile World Congress 2010, where a number of new user devices supporting LTE were shown and announced, thus confirming the rapidly building eco-system, which is detailed in the report.

TeliaSonera is upgrading its fixed broadband access network to offer businesses and consumers media-rich services such as high-definition TV, live video streaming and online gaming, with Ericsson providing the broadband access network of one million lines based on VDSL2 technology.

Mikael Bäckström, Head of Ericsson Nordic and Baltics, said: "Operators' decision to move from ADSL to VDSL2 is in line with consumers' need to get more bandwidth at home. Combining the strength of its fiber access with existing copper access is an effective and fast way to deliver nationwide high-speed broadband."

Internet use in Sweden is widespread, and according to Swedish statistics, almost 90 percent of households have home access. The goal for Swedish authorities is to secure access to even higher broadband speeds of up to 100 Mbit/s.

Ove Alm, Senior Vice President of TeliaSonera Networks, says: "Enhancing our fixed broadband network will meet the booming demand for bandwidth. By boosting the speeds in both our fixed and mobile networks, our customers will be able to reach their personalized services irrespective of where they are and what device they are using."

Under the agreement Ericsson will deliver EDA 1200 based on VDSL2 technology and related installation services. The contract includes Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Deployment starts in Sweden and will run over the next 12 months.

The VDSL2-based technology offers unprecedented speeds on existing copper lines, opening up new opportunities for operators to provide customers with high-speed broadband services. By using VDSL2, operators can extend its fiber connections into existing copper lines in the last mile, and thereby maximize the reuse of the existing infrastructure.

Exclusive Marketing Opportunity- Booking Deadline 15th March
                              

European Communications and Mobile Europe are joining forces to offer exhibitors an unrivalled package of compelling promotions targeting your potential customers at Management World.

                               
Maximise your impact at this event by taking advantage of this special opportunity.
                                

The key benefits are detailed below:

Executive Interview - benefit from a filmed interview with the Editor of European Communications at Management World.  This half hour meeting and filmed interview offers an opportunity to promote your new and upcoming products and services to the wider comms audience of Mobile Europe and European Communications database of 65,000 + unique visitors. The edited interview will be hosted online following the event on a dedicated webpage  and will be promoted actively for two months following the event and will remain live for 12 months. The output is available to you to host on your own website following release. (value £7,500)

PR support - Place a maximum of 5 press releases on the dedicated Press Release section of the European Communications and Mobile Europe websites, previewing your new products and news which will be on show at Management World. (value £1,250) 

Magazine Interview - benefit from a two page print interview with a senior figure from your organization to appear in the Spring issue of European Communications magazine.  Dispatched prior to the event to 18,979 readers (BPA audited). As media partners for Management World an additional 2,000 copies of the magazines will be distributed at the event to delegates, containing your interview and full page advert. (value £12,250)

White Papers - Place you latest White Paper on the dedicated section of the European Communications and Mobile Europe websites. (value £3,250) 

Weekly E-newsletter - have your Press Releases and White Paper delivered directly to the desktop of 23,200 telecoms professionals via our weekly e-newsletter for a period of two weeks, prior to and following Management World. (value £5,850)

Print Advertising - receive a full colour page advertisement in the Spring issue of European Communications magazine (which contains our Management World event preview and OSS special report) and also the April/May issue of Mobile Europe, offering a combined reach of over 40,000 telecoms professionals across Europe (value £13,840)

Digital Advertising - Your advert will be viewed in the digital edition of each magazine, offering a further reach to over 40,000 recipients by email. All links on your advert are made live to generate maximum response

Online advertising - Receive a banner advert on both websites for a period of one month leading up to the event promoting your company and stand number at Management World. This presence will be seen by of 65,000 visitors to the Mobile Europe and European Communications site (value £2,300)

Database activity - Access to a one off mailing from our database of over 19,000 telecoms professionals who have opted-in to receive further information from our partners. (value £5850)

Response generation - European Communications operates a response mechanism to allow our readers to request more information from companies associated with the brand.

Management World Review - this digital show guide will be sent to 20,000 email addresses on the last day of the show. It will detail the highlights of the show including your announcements. With all links made live this will drive additional traffic to your website. 
                                

Total commercial value of the above package £52,090

Cost of the above package £14,950

The number of the above exceptional packages available is strictly limited and will be confirmed on a first come basis. To confirm your activity please contact Justyn.gidley@eurocomms.com or +44 (0)207 933 8979.

Occam Networks, a broadband access supplier offering multiservice access platform (MSAP) solutions based on pure packet technologies, announced today that it has signed FCA as a reseller for the market in Poland, and for select other countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The move is part of Occam's EMEA growth strategy announced last year, with other new partners are helping Occam's expansion in Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Switzerland and the Middle East. 

Occam offers a wide range of Gigabit Ethernet and GPON optical line terminals (OLTs) from its BLC 6000 MSAP.  Occam also offers comprehensive service management solutions that simplify the migration to packet based services. The solutions will be offered, installed and serviced by FCA, a leading system integrator in the optical communications sector based in Poland.

"Occam Networks is implementing a strategic expansion program in EMEA and Poland is a market with tremendous potential for growth in broadband. We are delighted to be working with FCA as part of our EMEA-wide reseller network. FCA's background and expertise makes it a natural partner to grow that part of our European footprint," remarked Russ Sharer, Occam Networks Vice President of Marketing. 

FCA is headquartered in Niepolomice, near Krakow, and specializes in integrating complete optical networking solutions. Its portfolio extends from plastic fiber and optical components, through optical distribution frames to WDM systems and, now, MSAPs.  FCA has a diverse range of existing clients that include electric utilities, cable MSOs and alternative broadband providers.

"We supply a complete range of optical components, subsystems and platforms to our extended Polish customer base," said the FCA's Marketing and Development Manager, Prosper Biernacki. "We have unparalleled experience in the Polish market, and have built an enviable reputation based on the quality and range of the products we offer, the speed of our response to customer needs, and the level of service we provide.  

"In terms of its complementary product offer, we believe our partnership with Occam will be very successful," continued Mr. Biernacki. "And the Polish broadband market presents major opportunities. Thanks to the launch of several national ICT initiatives, and a commitment by Polish service providers to increase levels of investment, we see the broadband market growing very strongly in the coming years."

"Operators worldwide are in the midst of a transition to fiber based broadband as consumer appetites for interactive, high bandwidth services continues to grow," added Russ Sharer.  "High performance, intelligent broadband solutions supplied by Occam Networks combined with FCAs expertise in optical networking, local presence and attention to customer service will simplify the transition for Polish broadband operators."

RAD Data Communications has unveiled the Optimux-108L, the new entry-level product in its Optimux family of fiber optic multiplexers. The Optimux-108L is said to be the first of RAD's new generation of "green" energy saving devices, whose low power consumption reduces operating expenses (OpEx).

The Optimux-108L features four E1 ports, a 10/100 Mbps data service port, a Fast Ethernet management port, and simple "plug and play" installation.

"This new addition to our Optimux product line will better position our fiber optic multiplexers for applications where no redundancy required and in price sensitive markets," said Elad Harf, Product Line Manager at RAD Data Communications.

The Optimux-108L consumes only 5W with the DC power supply option and 18VA with the AC option, far less than other solutions in the market. It reduces the cost per link over fiber when working opposite Optimux-108/108L standalone units or RAD's LRS-102/Megaplex-4100 central site solution. Typical applications include point-to-point and star topologies that transparently carry TDM and data over fiber.

The Optimux-108L is said to be specially designed for three related market segments. It is said to be ideal for connecting a mobile operator's remote BTS to a central site in order to backhaul E1s and Ethernet over fiber. It also can be deployed by carriers and service providers to extend their TDM and Ethernet flows from PDH/SDH and IP networks over fiber to rural areas. And it can be used by enterprise, utility and transportation networks to carry TDM and Ethernet traffic in a point-to-point star topology over dark fiber.

Wants to compete in "larger TOMS solutions space"

NEC subsidiary NetCracker has outlined ambitious plans to become a major player right across the OSS-BSS and service delivery markets.

NEC is taking all its element management, network management, service delivery platform, CRM, billing and SaaS provision capability, and merging it with Netcracker's OSS capabilities to create one telecoms software entity.

The aim is that the new unit will compete with the major OSS and service platform players such as HP, Oracle and Amdocs, across a portfolio that NetCracker CEO Andrew Feinberg said would include customer management, product management, revenue management, device management, service fulfillment and assurance, IT platforms, resource management and network management.

Feinberg said the elements "have been, or will be, productised, and natively integrated into the NetCracker platform."

"We are not about to bring slideware to the market," Feinberg said. "We will provide true end to end solutions, not a bunch of acquisitions bunched together at the last minute."

Feinberg will head up the new unit which will be an autonomous P&L unit with NEC, and although he was unable to say how many people would staff the new unit, he said that it "tap very heavily" into NEC's global workforce of 150,000.

Feinberg said the move is a response to customer demands for an end to end provider that can help service providers manage and introduce new services more quickly, and then monitor and manage users and services more efficiently.

He added that there would be further M&A activity driven by NEC, as gaps in the portfolio emerge.

So is NetCracker ready to take on the other players in this market? One area of focus will be its ability to compete in the service delivery and management space - a strategically crucial area for operators who need to be able to compete with over the top providers, and meet growing demands for cloud-based services and SaaS..

Feinberg said that NEC's existing SDP is proven by its deployment with NTT DoCoMo, where it has been "battle-tested" and is one of the "biggest implementations"of an SDP in the world.

He also said that NEC's billing capabilities were well advanced, and currently support 50k transactions a second in its Japanese implementation.

NEPs have increasingly attempted to move more into the OSS and service delivery space, as the equipment market becomes ever more competitive. NEC is hoping to use its Japanese experience as a proof point of its capability to become a service enabler and operations partner for operators and service providers.

NEC told Mobile Europe in a private briefing at Mobile World Congress that it wanted to be able to act in an end to end manner, helping service providers become providers of cloud services and SaaS. This NetCracker announcement appears to be a critical element of that, bundling up the vendor's TOMS (Telecoms Operations and Management Software) capabilities into one place.

 

Juniper Networks today announced the Junos Innovation Fund, a new corporate venture capital initiative that will invest in groundbreaking companies focused on improving the experience and economics of networking. The $50 million fund expands Juniper's efforts to create and deliver an ecosystem of technologies, software and applications built on the open and secure Junos software platform, which allows companies to directly program multiple layers of their networks and quickly and efficiently create new services while enabling rich user experiences, revolutionary economics and fast time to market.

Primarily targeting early- and growth-stage venture backed companies, the Junos Innovation Fund will invest in companies over the next two years that complement Juniper's growth strategy. Key investment areas will include networking technologies, applications, and services that foster the development and deployment of security infrastructure, advanced mobility and video solutions, virtualization, network automation, optical technology, and green networking.

'Junos already offers our customers, partners and developers a powerful platform to drive innovation for the network, from the core to the client, without having to build from scratch. With the Junos Innovation Fund, we'll expand that ecosystem with capital resources in addition to SDKs and support services that will accelerate the velocity and variety of 'new network' solutions reaching our customers,' said Kevin Johnson, CEO of Juniper Networks. 'These investments will also enhance Juniper's R&D roadmap and ensure that the company is continuing to lead in bringing transformational technologies to market.'

Juniper has a history of backing innovative technology companies and currently has investments in 11 companies, including Ankeena Networks, Blade Network Technologies, Cyan Optics, FireEye and Packet Design.

Andrew Solutions, a specialist in wireless communication systems and products, has teamed up with Turkey's three mobile operators to ensure reliable wireless signals reach 2G and 3G subscribers throughout Istanbul's new Sabiha Gokcen Airport.

The three operators-AVEA, Turkcell and Vodafone-led the project, Andrew supplied its ION-M optical distributed antenna system (DAS), and Mikom Microwave, Andrew's business partner in Turkey, assisted with system design and commissioning. Andrew's ION-M is a multi-operator coverage and capacity solution, supporting the operators' 2G and 3G subscribers in the airport. ION-M transmits wireless signals across both fiber optic and coaxial cables to remote antennas from a master unit. The result is clear wireless coverage for travelers and employees throughout the Sabiha Gokcen Airport campus.

"Andrew's DAS solution is the first Turkish installation to support three frequency bands and three wireless operators with one dynamic system," said Andrea Casini, Andrew's vice president of sales and marketing, Europe, Middle East, North Africa. "We are pleased to bring the coverage and capacity solution deployed in airports, subway systems, sports stadiums, and other large structures around the globe to Turkey's new airport."

Andrew's ION-M system supports both GSM and UMTS frequency bands in the Sabiha Gokcen Airport, and plans are underway to install a similar wireless coverage solution in Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, as well. Because the ION-M supports multiple operators with one network infrastructure, installation time and aesthetic impact inside the airport are limited

"Andrew's ION system was chosen by the mobile operators because its superior performance for providing multi-operator, multi-band mobile indoor networks has been proven in many demanding projects in the field," said Engin Arikan, chief executive officer of Mikom. "Andrew's extensive experience with such projects also made the entire process run smoothly."

    

@eurocomms