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Bournemouth top but the rest of the UK is still straggling, says Viatel

A new survey by comparison website Top 10 Broadband has placed Bournemouth at number one in its list of the fastest broadband towns and cities in the UK. The seaside town in Dorset, reknowned as one of the UK's top retirement locations, was reported to have an average download speed of 8.06Mbps - almost double Ofcom's July 2009 national UK average of 4.1Mbps.

Steve Powell, product manager for connectivity services at Viatel, stated: "While it is great to see some positive news about broadband speeds, there is still some way to go before the rest of the UK has such fast connections. The high speeds recorded in Bournemouth only serve to highlight the disparity in broadband performance currently exhibited in the UK, the lowest of which still come in well under the Government's 2Mbps goal."

Unfortunately as we begin to transition to Next Generation Access (NGA) technologies the UK looks set to continue in the slow lane. Powell continued:

"The UK is currently ranked outside of the European Fibre-To-The-Home (FTTH) Council's top ten fibre nations and looks set to stay there. This is due in part to efforts being made to wring the last drop of performance from first generation access technologies - DSL services. While these traditional solutions can currently deliver relatively fast connection speeds to users close to the serving exchange, FTTP (Fibre to the premises) can help the rest of us that are not so fortunate. Plus, with more and more applications being run over the internet, it is vitally important we begin to step up the move to these new services as legacy networks won't cope with these increases. FTTP can also provide significant economic and social benefits, and with the UK still waiting to exit the recession, superfast broadband could provide local enterprise with the means to succeed in challenging times."

Mobile operator 3 has launched the first mobile TV subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service, giving subscribers on-demand access to entire episodes of hit TV shows.

The SVOD service, called ‘TV on Demand', is fully managed and enabled by Mobix Interactive, now part of On Demand Group, a three-screen enabler for premier content and operations brands.  3's TV on Demand fulfills the industry's anytime, anywhere personal TV vision to provide programs to any handset with complete on-demand control. 

TV on Demand is said to establishe a major competitive differentiation among mobile television services.  Leveraging Mobix's Adrenalin technology and numerous partner studios and programmer relationships, TV on Demand presents a mobile viewing experience that correlates to television and broadband PC viewing.  It offers a variety of top-rated television shows (comedy, drama, etc.), enabling subscribers to extend their enjoyment of complete programs while they're on the go, away from their TV and broadband connections.  Adrenalin now ensures subscribers on any 3 handset can enjoy the new personalised functionality, including play, pause and resume of all programs at anytime.

Subscribers will pay either £5 per month or £1.49 per day for unlimited access to all shows in the service. Full content details of the service will be launched shortly.

Charlotte Blanchard, Director of Products and Services at 3 UK, said, "This platform gives us the ability to offer true on-demand TV, bringing one of the most popular types of internet service to our mobile customers.  The TV on Demand service will allow our customers to watch their favourite programmes when and where they want to."

Damian Mulcock, CEO of Mobix Interactive, said, "The introduction of subscription video-on-demand with full length programming to the mobile environment heralds a new era in the growth of mobile video. Our experience shows that penetration and viewing rates are enhanced by subscription on demand services, and Adrenalin's capability to deliver this new experience fits with the convergence strategies of our customers and consumers' increasing desire for multi-screen access and on-demand viewing."

Mobix Interactive is now located in On Demand Group's recently launched London headquarters that provides 3 UK and other customers with access to an integrated suite of services and technologies, including the Adrenalin video delivery platform and the VZ content management platform, to develop and manage on-demand services to any consumer platform.  The organization today supplies telco, cable and mobile operators with movies, programmes and promotions in English, German, Greek, Turkish and Arabic.

There are now 302 HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) mobile broadband networks in commercial service, according to new research by the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA). It means that the number of HSPA networks in service has tripled in less than three years, making it the fastest adoption of any mobile broadband system, says GSA.

HSPA is now commercially available in 128 countries and territories, and emerging growth markets featured highly in recent HSPA service launches, particularly in Africa and parts of Asia.

Alan Hadden, President of GSA, stated: "The milestone of 300 commercial HSPA networks is hugely significant, and was achieved in only 4 years. The HSPA eco-system is very robust with more than 1750 user devices launched in the market by 190 suppliers. Network operators across the world are reporting significant traffic and revenue growth with HSPA-enabled data and Internet services, and are confidently investing to further enhance performance and capacity."

HSPA is the first evolution of WCDMA systems. According to GSA there are 314 commercial WCDMA systems in 131 countries, which means that over 96% of WCDMA operators have launched HSPA on their networks.

With the number of HSPA subscribers worldwide closing in on 200 million by year end, operators are investing in enhanced network capacity, efficiencies, and system capabilities including higher data speeds for mobile broadband services. Sixty-two operators have committed to HSPA Evolution (HSPA+), including 36 HSPA networks now commercially launched in
23 countries. Thirty-three HSPA+ networks support a peak downlink speed of
21 Mbps, and 3 networks have deployed MIMO and support 28 Mbps.

In July 2009, GSA revealed that more than 50% of commercial HSPA networks support a peak downlink data speed of 7.2 Mbps or higher, with almost 600 hundred compatible user devices in the market. GSA recently released the results of its unique survey of industry opinion on the expectation for the next baseline for mobile broadband. The survey results showed that most people believe that the next baseline for mobile broadband peak downlink data speed will be 21 Mbps HSPA+, and that this new baseline would be achieved during 2010.

Industry support for the next evolutionary step - LTE - is also firmly established as the key global trend, with 45 LTE network commitments secured, with several more expected to be announced soon following trials activities in all regions, and actions to secure appropriate spectrum to support LTE introduction. GSA says it expects 16 LTE networks will be in commercial service within the next year.

South Yorkshire is today said to have become one of the leading European regions for broadband deployment as Thales and Digital Region announced the "Go-live" of the superfast "Digital Region" broadband network. 

The multi-million pound project is said to have the potential to create thousands of new jobs and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who wish to sign up to use the Digital Region network can now do so, and the first residents and businesses could be using the service by early 2010.

The network is being delivered through the Digital Region programme, a public/private partnership between South Yorkshire's local councils (Yorkshire, Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster), the European Regional Development Fund and Thales UK, a leading international electronics and systems group.  Thales UK's technology partners in the consortium include Alcatel-Lucent and KCOM.

Around 97% of businesses and homes in the region will be able to connect to Thales's network, boasting guaranteed speeds of 25Mbps and above.  When the network is fully-complete, it will reach 1.2m people in 500,000 homes and 40,000 businesses, boosting the social and economic regeneration South Yorkshire.  With the core of the network ‘going live', South Yorkshire is said to be on track to become a flagship region for broadband services in Europe.

The open-access broadband platform, sold by Thales on a wholesale basis, will allow internet service providers (IPSs) and telecoms operators across the region to deliver some of the highest broadband speeds currently available in the UK, and much of Europe.  The network has been designed to foster applications that improve social cohesion, improve public services and help create high-value jobs in the region.  Home users will benefit from a raft of new content-rich services including HDTV, voice over internet protocol (VoIP), whilst businesses will be able to access affordable high bandwidth to support a wider range of online business tools, such as flexible working, video-conferencing and cloud computing services as well as more efficient day-to-day services.  

The public sector will be able to offer a greater variety of online services to residents of South Yorkshire, including healthcare applications and online interactive services with Local Authorities, whilst schools will benefit from near-instant download/upload times. 

The carrier-class network runs on VDSL2 carried over fibre-to-the-cabinet, with quality of service controls to support real-time applications, business services and broadband services.  The network has been designed to reduce barriers to entry for third-party ISPs wishing to resell network services through a single interconnect, in order to access 500,000 premises and an industry-standard B2B O&M interface.  ISPs offering the service will be able to provide users with world-class broadband services, thereby reducing customer churn.  In addition, Thales's competitively priced wholesale model provides equal opportunities for all ISPs, creating a healthy broadband market for local, national and international ISPs. South Yorkshire offers the ideal digital environment for application and content providers to develop, trial and rollout new and innovative products and services.

Thales UK CEO Alex Dorrian says: "The "Go-live" of our core network marks a step-change for businesses, local authorities and homes alike, throughout the whole of South Yorkshire.  It is no overstatement to say that the entire community stands to benefit from this super-fast broadband network, which catapults South Yorkshire to the forefront of European broadband deployments.  By bringing fibre to the curb, we are also confident that the region is well placed to face future developments in the evolution of broadband and will continue to lead the way in the UK and beyond."

David Holt, Chief Executive Officer, Digital Region, says: "The launch of the Network Operation Centre is a very significant milestone in delivering ‘Superfast Broadband' across South Yorkshire. This is a truly groundbreaking project that will provide a major boost to South Yorkshire's economy, encouraging inward investment and providing a wealth of opportunities for businesses, local residents and public sector organisations."

Andrew Solutions, a global specialist in wireless communication systems and products, has launched a new microwave antenna solution said to offer high performance in a smaller antenna size.

The Andrew ValuLine Vision one-meter microwave backhaul antenna, with its 'robust' electrical design, enables radiation pattern performance and gain levels that are similar to a 1.2 meter antenna and compliant to the highest regulatory standards. According to Andrew, this means that: substantial CapEx and OpEx reductions should materialize; many 1.2m antenna links can now be closed with the new 1m antenna, and; high gain is achievable with a smaller size antenna. 
 

The antenna's smaller size and improved physical design translate into the following: Lower freight and storage costs; less tower loading; lower tower leasing costs; easier installation; lower price.
 
"Overwhelmingly positive enthusiasm-that's the reaction from the largest microwave antenna customers with whom we have discussed this new one-meter antenna," said Andrew's John Cole, director of product line management, Microwave Products. "One of the selling points of microwave backhaul is cost-effectiveness, and offering high gain and superior performance in a smaller antenna size is definitely cost-effective."

The Andrew ValuLine Vision one-meter antenna's mount design gives unencumbered access to the rear of the antenna, making radio equipment and waveguide cable installation easier. The mount allows for gradual adjustments, simplifying antenna alignment even under adverse conditions. Andrew's design include a lower volume shipping package that also helps reduce freight and storage costs.

The antenna is made to withstand winds up to 250 kilometers per hour and boasts radiation pattern performance that exceeds ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) Class 3 performance.

The ValuLine Vision one-meter antenna will be available from the company's four microwave manufacturing facilities worldwide. Single and dual polarized models are available. The new antenna will support customer radios and couplers, as required.

A new report from Juniper Research is said to have found that the market for mobile augmented reality (AR) services is expected to reach $732 million by 2014, with revenues derived from a combination of paid-for app downloads, subscription based services and advertising.

The Mobile Augmented Reality report found that annual revenues from AR are unlikely to exceed even $2 million during 2010, due to the fact that only a small minority of smartphones will be AR-enabled.  However, this proportion will rise dramatically in the medium term, the result of increasing adoption of Android handsets and iPhones, along with greater deployment of AR enablers such as digital compasses and accelerometers by other leading vendors.

Although initial service adoption will be driven by AR location-based search, Juniper Research says it expects the first substantial revenues to be derived from AR-enabled games, bolstered by revenues from mobile enterprise solutions from 2012-3 onwards. Meanwhile, AR advertising is expected to be increasingly attractive to brands and retailers as the potential user base increases, with AR ad networks able to charge higher CPC and CPM rates because of location relevance.

However, the report cautioned that while AR geotagging presents a wealth of opportunities, providers and enablers must carefully consider the potential legal implications of enabling such services. According to report author Dr Windsor Holden, "The problem is that the embryonic nature of the technology means that we have no legal or regulatory framework in place which specifically covers augmented reality. For example, can a house-owner legitimately demand that a geotag of his or her property be removed? Would that third party require prior permission before creating a tag?"

Other findings include:

  • Incremental revenues from subscriptions, upsold content and licences will together comprise the largest AR revenue stream by 2014, overhauling point of sale revenues
  • 350 million handsets expected to be AR enabled by 2014

Occam Networks, a  broadband access supplier offering multi-service access platform (MSAP) solutions based on pure packet technologies, announced today that it has signed Maribor, Slovenia based Optisis d.o.o. as a system integrator and reseller for Slovenia and Adriatic countries including Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania and Hungary. The move is part of Occam's EMEA growth strategy targeting select regions with growth in FTTP broadband.

As demand for increased bandwidth-from both residential and enterprise users- escalates, European network operators are selecting fibre technologies such as Ethernet and GPON as the infrastructure solution. This applies both to incumbents and alternative service providers in the region.

This demand is said to fit with Occam's wide range of Gigabit Ethernet and GPON optical line terminals (OLTs) and DSL products from its BLC 6000 MSAP.  Complementing the broadband access platform, Occam also provides a comprehensive service management solution that simplifies network operations and subscriber activation.  The systems will be offered, installed and serviced by Optisis, a specialist in the region for systems integration of fibre optic based broadband solutions.

"We are delighted that Optisis, a regional expert in FTTP system integration, is joining our growing EMEA reseller network," said Russ Sharer, VP of Marketing at Occam Networks.  "With established partners like Optisis, Occam can offer the Adriatic region the choice of world-class FTTP technology at a time when broadband is seen as a key to stimulating the region's economic growth."

"We see the partnership with Occam as very strategic for our FTTx business going forward," said Optisis Technical Director and Chief Technology Officer Bojan Bozic.  "Together with Occam and our other partners we can completely integrate systems incorporating fibre optic technology and give organisations throughout our region the opportunity to leap forward in terms of the services they can offer."

The news follows Occam Networks' announcement last week that its FTTP equipment is at the heart of the European flagship 100Mbps OAN -  Scarborough Business Park - after Occam's launch into the EMEA region earlier last month at the ITU World Telecom event in Geneva.

Ciena has today announced that it has been selected as the successful bidder in the auction of substantially all of the optical networking and carrier Ethernet assets of Nortel's Metro Ethernet Networks (MEN) business. Ciena has agreed to pay US $530 million in cash and issue US $239 million in aggregate principal amount of 6% Senior Convertible notes due 2017 for a total consideration of US $769 million for the assets.

A motion to approve Ciena as the acquirer will be heard by bankruptcy courts in the U.S. and Canada on December 2, 2009.

"These optical and carrier Ethernet assets bring exceptional technologies, talent and scale that will accelerate Ciena's current strategy to deliver innovative network solutions to customers worldwide," said Gary Smith, Ciena's CEO and president. "With this combination, we are bringing together complementary technologies in switching and transport to create an innovative powerhouse with the scale to challenge the industry status quo and offer customers a practical path for transitioning to automated, optical Ethernet-based networking. We will be intently focused on integration as we work together to deliver the benefits of this transaction to customers, employees and shareholders."

"Ciena provides a natural fit for Nortel's Optical and Carrier Ethernet assets, providing an environment where our businesses' expertise and technology can be grown and leveraged," said Philippe Morin, president, Metro Ethernet Networks for Nortel. "The combination of our two organizations creates an industry powerhouse with a heritage of innovation and a shared commitment to building and maintaining reliable networks.  With today's agreement, Nortel customers can be assured that they will be working with a known, trusted and experienced partner who can ensure continuity of supply and continue Nortel's heritage of innovation."

The assets to be acquired generated approximately $1.36 billion in revenue for Nortel in 2008 and $556 million (unaudited) in the first six months of 2009. Ciena expects the transaction to be significantly accretive to Ciena's results of operations in fiscal 2011. Ciena is also expected to make employment offers to at least 2,000 Nortel employees to become part of Ciena's global team of network specialists.

The transaction is expected to close in the first calendar quarter of 2010. Ciena has been granted early termination of the antitrust waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act and also has received notification from the Canadian Competition Bureau terminating the applicable waiting period for the proposed transaction under the Competition Act. The transaction remains subject to additional regional regulatory clearances and customary closing conditions.

Reliance Globalcom, a global provider of managed network and application delivery services for multinational enterprises, carriers and service providers, has signed a five year agreement with Süd-Chemie. The contract sees Reliance Globalcom, design, implement and manage a new global Wide-Area Network (WAN) for the German specialty chemicals manufacturer.

Süd-Chemie - the listed, Munich headquartered, international producer of specialty chemicals - required an IP VPN and MPLS solution, including Managed Internet Access and Remote Access Services, connecting 74 office and manufacturing sites across 20 countries worldwide. These included challenging emerging market locations in Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Thailand and China as well as more established markets across Europe, US, South Africa, Australia, and Singapore.

In September 2008 Süd-Chemie, approached Reliance Globalcom to investigate the cost and network management efficiencies that could be achieved by creating a globally outsourced network that would have the flexibility to provide best-of-breed in-country solutions, while also creating a consistent set of service level agreements (SLAs) and management processes. Reliance Globalcom completed a fully vendor-independent consultation of all the markets in which Süd-Chemie needed to operate, and presented a network design which incorporated significant increases in bandwidth to most of the sites including the Munich headquarter and the hosting centre, to enable increased redundancy and allow new high bandwidth IP applications to be shared internationally.  In addition Reliance Globalcom consolidated numerous local service providers in each market, under one single point of global management, maintaining the local service flexibility and cost advantages, but reducing network management expectations on local IT teams.

"Operating in the diverse international markets that we do, network availability and the highest service standards in each country are critical for us to maintain our credibility and service with our local customers and partners," said Dr. Walter Grüner, CIO Süd-Chemie. "It took us only 6 months from agreement to roll-out completion. Since then we have seen our global network costs reduced by 20%, as Reliance Globalcom's flexible, Hybrid VNO sourcing means we no longer have to negotiate and manage contracts with the multiple, in-country carrier and service providers and can concentrate on our key business deliverables. Having Reliance Globalcom as a single point of contact for all WAN services has really proved to be a huge benefit for us."

Süd-Chemie realised significant business advantages by separating, standardising and out- and re-sourcing the network management. Reliance Globalcom were in a unique position to provide an informed, consultative approach to network management through established relationships with over 700 carriers and service providers globally, which has meant Süd-Chemie benefited from a seamless integration of the new services into existing processes.

"We are very pleased that Süd-Chemie has been able to realise the real business value of our global network design expertise and local carrier relationships," commented Jürgen Keller, Managing Director Central Europe at Reliance Globalcom.  "We have over 20 years of experience in designing multi-carrier, global networks, and the processes and expertise that this brings to our customers today cannot be found anywhere else in the market."

Equinix, a provider of global data centre services, today announced that European-based carriers Exponential-e, Hibernia Atlantic and Tinet have signed up to participate in the recently announced Equinix Carrier Ethernet Exchange platform, a development programme to define enhanced solutions for the exchange of data traffic between carriers providing Ethernet services.

The new European-based participants bring the total number of carriers involved in the global programme up to nine.

The Equinix Carrier Ethernet Exchange programme will establish a platform for multi-provider carrier Ethernet interconnection that meets Metro Ethernet Forum standards.  The project focuses on Ethernet Network to Network Interconnection (E-NNI) as well as complementary features to enable a variety of benefits to participants.  The initial deployment locations include London, New York, Chicago and Silicon Valley at Equinix International Business Exchange (IBX) data centres.

"In order to offer Ethernet WAN solutions outside of our own geographical service area we currently need to establish separate interconnection relationships with other carriers on an individual basis; this process is both complex and time-consuming," said Mukesh Bavisi, VP of Engineering at Exponential-e.  "Equinix already plays a strategic role in our peering relationships with other Tier 1 service providers, so it is a natural choice that we leverage its carrier-rich interconnection hubs to develop an Ethernet interconnection infrastructure."

"At Tinet, we are focused on helping local and regional service providers fulfill their global networking requirements and deliver international VPN services to their corporate customers," said Paolo Gambini, Chief Marketing Officer of Tinet.  "In particular, we are seeing an uplift in demand for our global Ethernet Extension services.  Traditionally, we have leveraged our vast network footprint and a number of Ethernet Network to Network Interconnection (E-NNI) agreements we have developed with various providers worldwide for fast and secure Ethernet delivery. Now with Equinix's new carrier Ethernet platform, we can further remove the technical complexities, making interconnections both quicker and easier to facilitate.  This in turn means we are better able to support the growing network demands of our wholesale customers."

Demand for carrier Ethernet services is forecast to double within five years, according to Infonetics Research.  Additionally, in the past 12 months, Equinix has seen a significant increase in customer inquiries for a platform within Equinix that would enable carriers to easily interconnect their Ethernet networks.

"With more than 360 networks, Equinix's data centres are some of the most carrier-dense in the world; this makes them the ideal location for us to interconnect with complementary Ethernet service providers that operate beyond our Trans-Atlantic footprint," said Fergus Innes, VP of Sales EMEA at Hibernia Atlantic.  "Based on the feedback from our customers, we believe that this new platform will enable us to expand our Ethernet offerings into multiple communities."

Tesco Telecoms and Cable&Wireless Worldwide today announced a new five year deal engaging Cable&Wireless as the retailer's Wholesale Broadband Network provider.

Cable&Wireless will supply Wholesale Broadband services to support Tesco's broadband propositions, assisting the business in becoming one of the UK's leading providers of consumer broadband and phone services.

The partnership will enable Tesco Telecoms to develop propositions with 'very competitive pricing, attractive services and best in class customer service'.  It will also allow for the provision of bundled broadband and home phone services from Tesco for the first time.

The broadband market continues to grow with a million new connections in 2008.  However, there is significant customer dissatisfaction with service and experience resulting in churn rates of around 20% per annum. 

This is said to provide Tesco Telecoms with a huge opportunity to develop its services within this market place and bring simplicity, service and value to the consumer telecoms' market to make it the number one broadband and home phone choice for Tesco shoppers. 

Lance Batchelor, Chief Executive Officer of Tesco Telecoms and Tesco Mobile said: "We're delighted to be partnering with Cable&Wireless for our broadband and home phone services.  We share a commitment to providing excellent customer service and the new network capabilities will allow Tesco Broadband to offer enhanced services for our customers across the UK.

Jim Marsh, Chief Executive Officer, Cable&Wireless Worldwide, commented: "This is a landmark contract. We're delighted to be helping one of the most powerful brands in the UK to enhance its broadband offerings and we're thrilled to be providing the service. We're absolutely focused on putting our customers' requirements at the heart of our business and delivering great service - clearly, this is an approach that resonates with Tesco."

Oracle has today released research which is said to show that a lack of integration between departments and business systems is hampering the ability of communications companies to serve and retain customers effectively.  The study, entitled "Fostering Customer Intimacy for Communications Service Providers in Europe and the Middle East" and conducted by research house Vanson Bourne, involved a survey of 46 senior customer management executives for various communications service providers (CSPs) and 3,750 consumers across Western and Eastern Europe and the Middle East (EMEA).

Key findings are said to include:

    a.. Two-thirds of CSPs (65 percent) admitted that customers are unable to resolve queries by calling just one number
    b.. More than three-quarters of CSPs (80 percent) currently don't have the systems and processes to identify and retain customers reaching the end of their contracts
    c.. Only one-third of CSPs are able to make context-based recommendations to customers both online and in call centres
    d.. CSPs are failing to capitalise on an overwhelming consumer preference for Web-based customer service

Bhaskar Gorti, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Communications, said "With technology and communications at the heart of their businesses, communications service providers want to be adept at capitalising on new modes of delivering personalised service. What the research shows, however, is that the industry faces a number of challenges in delivering a seamless and consistent experience across its customer service channels."

Fragmented systems and processes
The survey revealed a surprising lack of integration between customer-facing departments and their business systems.  Respondents at two-thirds of CSPs (65 percent) admit that customers are unable to resolve queries by calling just one number.

Only one in six (17 percent) respondents stated that all teams work from the same system and are directed to follow the same strategies for customer service, retention and recruitment across all channels.  Just a quarter (26 percent) were in the process of developing systems and processes to fulfill this goal.  The remaining half (56 percent) simply stated that there was some or little integration between customer-facing teams.

"With this lack of coordination between departments, providing a consistent brand and customer experience across retail, online and call centre channels is extremely difficult," said Gorti. "Today's consumers expect a seamless brand and customer experience irrespective of the channel serving them - whether they browse online before going into a shop or investigate in-store before ordering through a call centre, they expect to be able to pick up where they left off."

Inability to retain customers
Given the intense competition in markets across EMEA, retaining existing customers is widely acknowledged as a key priority for CSPs, especially since the cost of attracting a new customer is five to seven times more than retaining an existing one. 

And yet, the survey reveals that the systems in place at the vast majority of CSPs leave them unable to meet this fundamental requirement.  Just one-fifth (20 percent) of respondents confirmed that their organisations actively monitor customers reaching the end of their contracts with systems and processes in place to retain them.  One-third (30 percent) stated that although they could identify end-of-contract customers, they couldn't actively manage customer retention in this way, while 46 percent were looking to develop this capability as a priority.

This neglect was borne out by the public.  More than half (53 percent) of the 2,673 respondents with contracts stated that their mobile providers had never contacted them at the end of their contract to entice them into a new one.

Assuming average revenue per user (ARPU) of €20 each month, the total cost to European CSPs in lost revenue from customer churn could be as much as €46billion per year.

"CSPs spend millions on marketing in a bid to attract new customers, but this does not matter if their existing ones continue to leave," said Tim Vaughan, business development lead for self-service applications, Oracle EMEA.  "There are various options available to help CSPs reduce customer churn.  One is the ability to empower customers through social CRM tools; another is through technology that flags customers reaching the end of their contracts.  These options give CSPs the opportunity to contact customers with new offers."

Inability to meet demand for personalised, interactive services
Across EMEA, the public indicated a clear preference for Web-based customer service.  Asked to rank the various service channels in order of preference, 83 percent chose the Internet as their first or second choice, 62 percent chose e-mail, while just 32 percent selected a call centre and 16 percent a visit to a store. 

However, the survey reveals that consumers don't only want a static Web page; they want their Internet experience to be personalised and interactive.  When customers were asked what would encourage them to use the Internet instead of ringing a call centre:


    a.. 47 percent identified the ability to view account trends and ways of saving money
    b.. 45 percent selected a personalised online service with tailored offers
    c.. 44 percent were keen on access to support services, such as live chats with agents

In comparison, only just under half of CSPs (46 percent) offered the ability to view account trends and ways of saving money online, while a mere 13 percent provided online support agents with instant messaging facilities. 

More fundamental than these points however, was the CSPs' basic inability to meet customer demands for a personalised service due to the limitations of their systems: just one-third of CSPs surveyed were able to make recommendations to customers based on the context of each interaction both online and in call centres; 38 percent could only offer this in call centres, 11 percent only on the Web, while almost one-fifth (18 percent) were unable to provide this through either channel.

Gordon Rawling, senior marketing director, EMEA, Oracle, said "Whether we're talking iPhone applications, Facebook or Twitter, the technologies customers use in their personal lives have changed their expectations about how they want to engage with businesses.  They want a service that's tailored to their lives, preferences and habits. The vital first step in being able to deliver this level of personalised service is to connect the systems and processes across all the channels."

Excessive call centre resource spent on low value queries
The survey also found that CSPs spent a disproportionate amount of call centre time dealing with queries that brought little value to the business and that they could easily and more cost effectively handle online.  Half of the customer management professionals stated that between 40 percent and 80 percent of inbound calls concern billing queries.

However, although CSPs have attempted to drive these calls to the Web, with 96 percent stating that answers to common billing, product and service questions were available online, when they were asked to rate the level of success of their online self-service functionality (1 being unsuccessful and 5 very successful), the average score was 2.65 - demonstrating the failure of online self-service functionality.  By providing customers with online, self-service tools, CSPs can also experience immense cost savings, for example, they can reduce a single customer interaction from $4.50 on the phone to $0.10 online.   

Gorti concludes, "There is certainly an appetite among the public to deal with these queries online and the advantages delivered to businesses that provide such services are huge. Operators across Europe and the Middle East need to find better ways to draw customers into the Web experience, but this is only possible if customers feel confident that the self-service tools online are able to address and solve their queries appropriately."

    

@eurocomms