In previous blogs (Automation is necessary for survival - SDN and NFV will help get you there and Automate to survive and thrive), I made the case that automation is critical for carriers to thrive, and waiting for standards-based SDN could risk carrier business. Those blogs were focused on network automation, which is what SDN is all about. However, there is another direction in automation – towards the subscriber. Self-care has been in the vernacular of service providers for decades, but too few leverage automation to significantly reduce the cost of service delivery and service assurance; automation that can drive excellent subscriber experience.
How important is putting control in the hands of the subscriber? Think about your experiences in transportation, retail, and entertainment. When was the last time you booked a hotel room or flight through a travel agent? How has your life changed now that you needn’t hail a cab to get where you are going, or get in your car to rent a movie? Automation has had a giant impact on industries that use the network to connect their goods with their customers. Shouldn’t service providers also greatly benefit from self-care and automation?
Cable operators were early innovators in subscriber self-care, leveraging DOCSIS standards to empower their subscribers to purchase a modem and install the device themselves. One new trend in self-care comes from the hospitality Wi-Fi space and is a great example of the power of automation. There are carriers who are providing instant-on services in multiple dwelling units by leveraging the same capabilities hotels, airports, and stadiums, are using their Wi-Fi networks to allow subscribers to move in and get connected without ever making a phone call. So, what? Well, this means the cost of subscriber acquisition and churn is near zero.
While network automation provides a necessary pre-requisite to full-service lifecycle automation, it is only part of the story. If service providers wish to thrive in a self-care world and want to provide the highest quality service to their subscribers with the lowest cost of doing business, they are going to have to put the power of control in the hands of their customers. All the technologies needed to realize a fully automated subscriber experience are available today, and it’s just a matter of providers exploiting those technologies to their own business advantage. After all, what’s good for Expedia, Uber, AirBNB, and Amazon is also good for the service providers who enable their services.