In the middle of CommunicAsia, Asia’s preeminent annual international telecom and broadband event held in Singapore, news broke out that Singtel is yet again dropping its broadband package price for its subscribers. That sent shock waves to all broadband service providers in Singapore, who are locked in a fierce price war of late.
News of such nature is probably occurring in many places these days, albeit not always concerning price drops. Service providers do this in order to retain or gain subscribers. As one of, if not the most, advanced and competitive broadband markets in the world, Singapore probably represents the closest to what’s happening around the world to the telecom/broadband service providers: competition is fierce, existing operators and new entrants are targeting the same consumer telecom/broadband/entertainment dollar. Customer retention is the name of the game.
The network alone is no longer the determinant of success in the face of increased competition. The broadband pipe is being commoditized no matter how you reach consumers, whether it’s through traditional DSL lines, via cable modems on the fiber coax hybrid network, or through fiber all the way. It’s the services riding on the pipe that determines who will survive and thrive, and differentiates the winners from the losers. As consumers face an increasing number of choices, they can switch and leave as easily as placing a simple call. The only thing that will tie them down to a particular service provider is the value they receive in terms of service choices and the associated care from their provider. It’s the service options and the care that comes with it, stupid!
Yes, speed still matters, and it must matter. Gartner predicts that a typical family home could contain more than 500 smart devices by 2022 and this increase — as well as the proliferation of apps and video streaming — will continue to increase the strain on network bandwidth. But consumers are looking for more than just speed: they want ease of use, seamless transitions from one device to another, and access to a variety of content.
Consumers will shop for price, but even more for value. Yes, consumers will continue searching for the most economical means to surf the net, stream video, and communicate with families, friends, and co-workers, but they are increasingly also looking for the easiest access to the type of services they want in order to live their lives in the digital, social-media rich world. They want access to information and entertainment wherever they are, on whatever device they are using at the time, whenever they can. At the very basic level, they need bandwidth in the office, at home, on-the-go, and even while attending their children’s events or while doing their shopping.
More importantly, consumers are expecting more. They are increasingly demanding value-added services, such as apps that allow them to manage when, how, and what their children access the Internet. Parental control, time blocking, content access rights, and access sharing — all of these factors would help parents better monitor and manage their children’s Internet access to help their children learn and develop without being exposed to unwanted content or access the Internet during undesirable time slots.
Home management is another area of high demand. This might include remote monitoring and control of home applications, such as security alarms and temperature adjustments. With any value-added services, privacy and security is key. While we want faster speeds and ubiquitous access to the Internet, we want it securely and without our privacy being compromised.
Value-added services alone will not create customer loyalty, as more and more service providers are now starting to offer these options. The one-two combination is the customer care that goes with new services — that’s where a provider can really differentiate from the competition. As consumers add more devices, apps, and ways to consume broadband, they want the experience to be as easy as possible and for someone to be there when they need help. Whether it’s troubleshooting a device issue, informing customers of an event that will affect network service, or simply the ability to sign up for a marketing promotion, the goal is to improve subscriber quality of experience at every turn.
Standing high at this year’s CommunicAsia event location at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, one couldn’t help but think, yes, the world is becoming more and more connected; more information and content is at our fingertips with a Google search and a fast broadband connection, and we as consumers are demanding more. We want value; we want added services and apps; we want someone to help troubleshoot when we need it. And yes — we want the best price too.