There were over 430 million mobile phones shipped worldwide in the second quarter of 2013, and more than half of them were smartphones. Last year, the average smartphone generated 342 MB of traffic every month, while tablets generated an average of 820 MB of mobile traffic per month.

What does this mobile data traffic have in common? All of it passes through one or more Communications Service Provider (CSP) networks. In a very real sense, you could say that CSPs have been in the Big Data business for years. And while CSPs have historically focused on monetizing the transport of that data rather than analyzing it, many CSPs are beginning to look at their data in a different way.

In a market where Internet-based companies and Over-The-Top (OTT) providers are competing for communications revenue, CSPs need a competitive advantage. Analyzing the vast amounts of data they collect can provide them with a big advantage.

The Big Data Advantage

CSPs have a natural information advantage because of the type and amount of data that their networks collect and create. For example, nearly all CSP networks collect real-time data related to presence, location and devices. When third-party demographic data is layered on top of this, CSPs can uncover new insights about their customers, products and services that can lead directly to higher revenue.

In a recent paper entitled “Calculating the Value of CSP Customer Data,” Gartner Group’s Charlotte Patrick outlined 45 different ways that CSPs can use data analysis to improve their financials by three percent, on average. And, for CSPs, three percent is a very big number.

Third-party demographic data can provide the missing piece that helps CSPs segment, predict and target their customers with greater accuracy. Even with the requirement of data anonymization—removing the identity of the individual from the data—CSPs can create very finely segmented customer groups based on predictive behavior patterns, marketing preferences, usage characteristics and more.

As an example, let’s look at how data analytics might help a CSP launch a new streaming video service. In order to create a successful product launch, the CSP needs to know three things:

  • Who is using video streaming today?
  • Where are the highest/lowest concentrations of video streaming users?
  • What needs to be done to successfully capture the opportunity, from pricing and marketing to network preparation?

To answer the Who part of the equation, the CSP combines external, demographic data with its own usage data to create a fuller picture of the streaming video user: age, income, number of children, etc. To identify the Where, the CSP again combines its own network data with external data to map out streaming video usage by state and finds that Californians are large consumers of streaming video.

Since the CSP services the California area, its own network data can be used to create a map indicating where video streaming usage is highest, leading them to focus on the Los Angeles area. Demographic data helps the CSP identify those zip codes in Los Angeles where the new video streaming service is most likely to be effective and even provides behavioral insights that will help them better target their marketing. For example, the CSP discovers that their ideal customer tends to use their cell phones for games, buy DVDs from a particular retail store and watch Chelsea Lately on the E! channel.

More than just the depth of insight, data analytics accelerates the time to insight. CSPs can narrow down their markets and messages in very little time using data analytics, and even make real-time adjustments to their offers and services based on specific customer events. It’s a competitive advantage that few CSPs can afford to ignore. Pay attention to your data, and it can pay you back, big time.