What comes to mind when you read the phrase "Subscriber Data?"

Perhaps like many in the telecommunications industry, you have some sense of discomfort. You imagine multiple servers across your network, using different technologies sitting in separate locations, not talking to one another. You already know that this data which describes the behaviour, likes and dislikes of your paying subscribers is incredibly valuable, but it’s hard to get to, let alone monetize.

The task of managing the profile information of mobile subscribers is referred to as Subscriber Data Management (SDM). The goal of SDM is to provide the most efficient means of managing subscriber data, to promote data consistency, consolidation, efficiency, and most importantly, rapid access to this data by authorized applications. These applications may lie within the operator’s network, or increasingly, outside it. Executed well, SDM enables mobile operators to maintain cost-effective internal processes, while providing efficient and secure services to their customers, and can generate new revenues via personalized offers, targeted ads, and Over-the-Top (OTT) partnerships.

SDM will play an increasingly centric role as telco big-data trends drive the industry in new directions. Think about it: as the Internet of Things (IoT), Virtualization (NFV), new business models, and convergence transform technologies, the way networks function and even organizations themselves, the one constant that cannot change is the need for subscriber knowledge. Rather than rolling out a new technology and considering where the subscriber data fits within it, telcos need to place subscriber data in the center and then ask how any new technology fits alongside that.

Here are a few examples of upcoming trends and the subscriber data perspective:

  1. Virtualization

    When it comes to visualizing network components, some operators take the operations-led approach, which is to first move applications that need additional capacity or new applications to the cloud. Other operators, however, are taking a strategic approach – seeing NFV as the opportunity to re-architect their data network the right way. This latter group see the strategic and operational value of centralizing and virtualizing their Subscriber Data Management systems first.

    Of course virtualization of stateful entities such as a Subscriber Data Management User Data Repository (UDR) is complex because such systems need to scale in and out while maintaining data integrity, resiliency, and other telco-grade requirements. However, taking a centralized view – or “SDM as a service” – which can then be offered to all network applications, multi-screen offers, TV, OTTs, etc., will reap rewards in the longer term.

  2. IoT

    Everyone has seen the numbers from analysts on the reach, scale and eventual monetary value of IoT. SDM provides the scalable backbone needed for effective IoT deployment.  Specifically, a high-speed, low-latency data aggregation UDR provides the IoT Directory, Proxy Store, and Message Bus. Furthermore, an SDM with a high-performance data-federation solution provides the IoT Gateway, and SDM Identity Management software enables the Authentication and Authorization component for the IoT. IoT is all about SDM.

  3. Increasing use of Mobile Identity and partnership with OTTs

    Mobile identity management is a huge area of growth for both mobile operators and OTT service providers. It provides the link in the value chain between subscribers within the mobile network and OTT service providers. As operators evolve to enable strategic partnerships with OTT services, those who can quickly and easily provide the subscriber’s mobile identity can also offer specific niche services, targeted offers, single-sign-on, micro billing for small purchases, loyalty schemes, and so on.

    Forward-thinking mobile operators must examine SDM identity management solutions in their networks to protect and extend their role in the value chain.

Thinking that drives the revenue needle

Most operators still consider SDM as an operating expenditure – not a revenue generator. They focus solely on the mission-critical, operational nature of SDM in authenticating subscribers and devices before a call can be placed or a data service accessed. Thinking of SDM as an operating necessity is true, but it is not the whole truth.

To put it bluntly, if telcos don’t monetizeing their subscriber data, somebody else will. For OTT players today their subscriber data is the business model – without intimate knowledge of subscriber preferences, location, habits, demographics etc., there is no business. To take one example, Facebook’s ARPU in the United States now exceeds the ARPU of many traditional telcos in the developing world, and is growing fast. And it’s driven by Facebook’s subscriber data.

Operators don’t need to become OTT-like, and don’t need to mimic pure internet players. But they do need to refine their view to see both the subscriber and the data they generate as central to revenue generation.


This article is extracted from the e-book New Perspectives in Subscriber Data Management from Openwave Mobility. Chris Goswami is Director of Marketing and Communications at Openwave Mobility, a company that helps operators manage and monetize video consumption.