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August 2013

Sharing Intelligence, Services, and Infrastructure across the Telecom Galaxy

Sharing Intelligence, Services, and Infrastructure across the Telecom Galaxy

The telecom industry is the most cooperative on the planet.  Only rarely does one service provider deliver a customer’s full data or voice transaction end-to-end.  The magic only happens because telecoms share with other network partners -- including direct competitors.

Neustar is a company that lives and breathes the business of telecom sharing and interoperability.  In the U.S. and Canada, Neustar is well known as the administrator of the North American Numbering Plan, the directories that manage virtually all telephone area codes and the Number Portability Administration Center (NPAC), ensuring calls are routed properly as they are ported from one carrier to another.

And here’s an interesting fact: nearly 75% of the active numbers in the U.S. are contained in the Neustar databases.  So the NPAC database which started as the exception database 15 years ago now contains the majority of the numbers!  And that includes both mobile and fixed network numbers.

Now to call Neustar an “administrator” masks the company’s considerable business savvy in expanding its portfolio.  In its 2012 fiscal year, Neustar grew revenue $211 million to $813 million -- and it earned a tidy 19% profit as well.

Even still, Neustar knows its business must continue to evolve to keep growing.  Topmost among the company’s concerns is diversifying.  For instance, in 2011, 70% to 80% of the company’s revenue came from traditional OSS/BSS and registry services.

This is why CEO Lisa Hook is spearheading the drive to take Neustar’s interoperability and information exchange prowess into the insight and analytics space.

Now joining us to talk about that strategy and the future of telecom industry sharing is Neustar’s Senior Director of Carrier Services Marketing, Gary Zimmerman.

Dan Baker: Gary, I understand that acquiring TARGUSInfo in 2011 was pivotal to Neustar moving full-scale into the marketing analytics business.

Gary Zimmerman: It’s true, Dan.  The key assets TARGUSinfo brought us were a high-powered data engine and analytics platform called ElementOne, which takes an enterprise’s information, in the Communications Service Providers‘ case, billing and usage information.  It enhances that data in real time with insights derived from our ElementOne platform, which uses aggregated demographic, survey, and other data about large groups of similar consumers.  Finally it predicts consumer interests, preferences, and propensities.

Let me explain how ElementOne adds value.

In any selling situation, service providers need the maximum intelligence on who the prospective buyer is -- but they rarely have that.  Quad play services are a special case: when Verizon sells its FiOS service to a subscriber, it can see the full range of customer usage habits: video habits, web surfing, voice calling, and mobile usage habits.

But more often than not, customers don‘t give Verizon all their business.  They may buy their smartphone service from Verizon, but they hire, say, Comcast to provide their high speed internet and Netflix to provide movie content.  And beyond that, they may live in a classic rambling ranch home in the suburbs, enjoy chocolate, have three kids, and drive a Chevy.

As you can see, each provider has a limited view of the customer.  They can only see what the customer does on their own service.  Yet if you have a more complete picture of subscribers based on predictive insights about large groups of similar consumers, you’re much better prepared to steer the prospect to services that deliver maximum customer satisfaction, network fit, and carrier profitability.

Well Neustar works with its clients to satisfy the need for real time tools that serve up web sites and call centers with the right information at the right time to provide an optimal customer experience.

So when a prospect surfs the web site or contacts the call center, we instantly provide the service provider with the particular marketing segment the prospect fits in.  We then provide the information most relevant to that segment so the web site, the call center IVRs, and call center reps are armed with the intelligence to provide the best response.  In the case of a web site, a particular ad or web page is served up.  If it’s the call center, then a particular service treatment or promotions is shown.

In addition, we also help our clients track multichannel marketing campaigns.  In doing so, we correlate prospect actions on the web with in-store purchases so that marketers can see how well those campaigns are working.

Neustar ElementOne Functions

Neustar ElementOne

Source: Neustar

Gary, how does your service actually work under the covers?

Actually the genesis of this service was a basic telephony service -- caller ID.  We provide caller identification for about 40% of the numbers in the U.S. today.  The accuracy requirements of that service demand authoritative data and that’s what a service provider gives us every time a customer turns up a new service.  Well, we use that authoritative data to corroborate our other sources of information, in essence increasing the veracity of that data.

At the core of our analytics engine are six basic identifiers that we capture from authoritative sources: name, address, email address, telephone number, mobile phone number, and IP address.  And when you combine those IDs, you can link together various sources of other data.  All told, we source from about 500 different places and locate/catalog about 12,000 unique data elements (facts) for every household in the US.

By the way, nobody ever sees the critical identifiers, and we never give back the personal details behind those segments.  So, we would never release the fact that Mary Jones bought the latest Pirates of the Caribbean DVD movie at the Target department store last week.  What we would say is “there are this many people like the person associated with this telephone number who went out and bought Pirates of the Caribbean last week”.

So whether you are a prospect or customer, you have these identifiers.  And if you walk into the store and say you want to port your service from AT&T to Verizon, and if Verizon is using our ElementOne service, a phone number dip comes back to say, “Based on demographics and buying propensities, this person has a high affinity with Verizon marketing segment XYZ.”

So, even though you have never been a Verizon customer, we make it possible for Verizon to take relevant action based on a correlation between you and one of their custom marketing segments.

OK, I can see that ElementOne is highly useful real-time service.  But tell me, is the database being used for non-real-time intelligence as well?

Yes, some CSP customers are using our predictive data for product planning, store placement, and measured advertising campaigns.

For instance, one large U.S. wireless carrier was looking to open new retail stores in underserved locations with the highest potential for growth in each of their nation-wide markets.

So we worked with them and delivered an interactive dashboard with predictive purchasing overlays that prioritize possible store sites with the highest growth potential and lowest presence of competitor saturation.  Well, that intelligence was key to selecting the right places.  And today we continue to support the carrier providing custom views and enhanced software to support their long-term growth into new markets.

So looking at this business of companies sharing things with each other, what are some of the new directions sharing is headed?

Dan, as you can imagine, being in the middle of this incredibly dynamic communications business, we are constantly dreaming up and implementing new and innovative sharing ideas.

Take customer sharing.  Ultraviolet is an example of this.  Ultraviolet is a service where content providers, retailers, and content delivery companies exchange information through the underlying coordinating functions of digital rights lockers provided by Neustar.  In this area, Neustar coordinates the customer interactions associated with content “in the cloud”.  Let’s say you purchase that Pirates DVD we talked about earlier.  You can register that purchase through Ultraviolet and watch it “from the cloud” on any device.  Or you can buy directly from an online retailer and download a copy to your device for off-line viewing and still be able to watch it on line on any other device.  Even though you are a customer of the retailer, the content provider, and the content delivery company, Ultraviolet ties those relationships together to the benefit of all.

Another place we believe sharing will become very valuable is in wireless access networks.  Carriers are building out these large network footprints of cellular networks and WiFi hotspots, but guess what?  Your Comcast credentials only work when you’re in a Comcast hotspot.  So, we are now exploring with service providers a way to create a better view of a subscriber’s identity and credentials — one that floats between the carriers and WiFi sharing consortia -- to create a more seamless experience.

Then the next logical step is to allow the subscriber to choose between cellular and WiFi.  So when you go to the airport, instead of connecting with the congested “free” WiFi there, we might be able to allow your service provider to say: “Hey, Mr.  Jones, this is Sprint and I have some excess capacity right now on my 3G network, so instead of using the free WiFi network which is overloaded, connect with our network now and we won‘t charge your data plan.”

Customer expectations of anytime, anywhere, on any device connectivity and content delivery are driving the needs for information exchange across a wide range of service providers.  Neustar intends to continue to be a key partner in those exchanges.

Copyright 2013 Black Swan Telecom Journal

Gary Zimmerman

Gary Zimmerman

Gary Zimmerman is Senior Director of Carrier Marketing at Neustar.  He and his team deliver the educational and outbound marketing efforts for Communications Service Providers.  He has over 30 years of experience in telecommunications management in both the carrier and enterprise setting.

Gary spent twenty years at AT&T where he developed ordering, billing, and international clearinghouse systems.  Gary has successfully launched and managed products including international data services for global 500 companies, a software-as-a-service offering in Japan, and data networking / security offerings for the mid-market.  Prior to joining Neustar, Gary was a Vice President and founding member of an Telecom Expense Management enterprise software company that grew into a $30 million dollar concern during his tenure.   Contact Gary via

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