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Yahoo!, COLT and the Customer Data Revolution (CDR)

Alireza Mahmoodshahi, CTO of COLT, seems to have caught the Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm’s imagination with COLT’s plans for a carrier-grade cloud computing platform.

The fundamental principles are all about virtualisation, of literally every element in the stack, and their own patented task-scheduling software which dispatches application tasks to server instances as the load on the system rises and falls. Owning the machines, the data centre, and the fibre, they are in a position to guarantee quality of service credibly. That also applies to the planned API and SDK that provide developer access to the system’s resources.

The audience, according to the Mindshare output, immediately saw a possible application - why not use the system to do hosted telecoms billing and more radically, customer data analysis? Andrew Thomson of Infonova had already suggested a third-party aggregator model for customer data; Marc Davis, Yahoo! Connected Life chief scientist, raised the radical suggestion that the industry should create common terms of service that would recognise users’ ownership of their data and provide for relinquishing it back to them should they churn.

It’s a crucial issue of trust, but it’s not quite that new - we’ve blogged about data sovereignty before, and we’ve even blogged about it from the floor of Telco 2.0 before, not just once:
Perhaps the guiding principle should be that operators respect subscribers’ data sovereignty? That would mean subscribers would have to explicitly and effectively choose what data to release and how; it would also mean that they would have to be rewarded for uses of it that mainly benefit the operator, like ad targeting. The reward, however, doesn’t have to be money. It could be quasimonetary — lower rates — or it could be access to new and compelling applications. Carriers would have to make it easy for churners to take their data shadow with them as they go out the door. Perhaps, as someone suggested today, this is yet another reason to deploy ENUM. That sounds grim, but the flipside is that you’d need to make it easy to import data; which is all good if you consider the CDR pile to be a strategic asset.
but twice.
But at Telco 2.0 yesterday, we heard how CDRs might actually empower the users in a Telco 2.0 future. Keith Wallington of mobile SIP insurgents Truphone suggested that “in the future, this will be bigger than mobile number portability”. Wallington proposed the ability to have calls routed intelligently depending on your preferences and the patterns of use revealed by network data. And this brings us right to his point. If all your contextual services depend on the contrail of signalling data you leave behind in the operator network, the ability to take that information with you when you churn is going to be crucial. Perhaps we need a right to claim our data; however, the really important point is as always the practical implementation of such a thing, just as it was with number portability.
There must be a huge opportunity here, not least for the vendors - according to Paul Magelli of NSN, only 14% of operators have a real-time data analysis capability. Maybe this time someone will get the message?
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