TechZine – Alcatel-Lucent

Business

Needed: A New Conversation Experience

Highlights

  • A new conversation experience: more personal, social, secure and mobile than ever
  • Network intelligence enables the new conversation experience
  • Open innovation enhances experience and encourages service uptake and loyalty

Experience will drive technology

Now is the right time to deliver a new conversation experience focused on human interactions rather than technology. Conversations are no longer limited to voice and text. They occur in the form of a video call, clicking “like” and “share” buttons on the Internet or a social network status update or posting on Facebook or Twitter.

The new conversation experience provides a unified experience across devices, screens, applications and networks. People can easily connect and share when, where and how it’s best for them — without thinking about the technology they’re using or who’s providing it. And the service provider is ideally placed to make this a service for which users are willing to pay.

Today, technology drives our conversation experience. It’s time to turn that around and let the user experience drive technology. With this approach, service providers can deliver a new conversation experience: one that encourages customers to use more services, spend more time on the network and leverages network intelligence to deliver a user experience that application and content providers (ACPs) struggle to achieve.

Too much of a good thing

As technology has progressed, we’ve happily adopted smartphones, tablets, instant messaging, Internet video and social networks. Now we’re challenged to deal with too much of a good thing. We struggle to juggle conversations across different types of providers, devices, services and applications. We have more options. But we also have more communications islands where conversations become stranded. We’ve all experienced the frustrations of:

  • Figuring out which device, application and address book combination we need at a particular time.
  • Remembering how we last communicated with someone so we can pick up a conversation thread.
  • Sifting through e-mails, text, voice and video conversations to find the right information when we need it.
  • Trying to share across incompatible applications.

Conversations have become too complicated. It’s clear that more isn’t always better.

Harmonize and simplify

The new conversation experience harmonizes and simplifies communications. It ties together devices, screens, applications and networks to provide more personal, social, secure and mobile communications than ever. There’s no struggling, juggling and conversations are not stranded. Services interwork seamlessly across service provider and ACP services.

In the new conversation experience:

  • Mobile messaging conversations can be sent to anyone, even friends who use Google Talk™ or Apple iMessage®.
  • A single service provider application can extend the social conversations to and from Facebook®, LinkedIn® and other social networking sites.
  • Excellent video calling experiences are available to anyone and on any device.
  • Legacy SMS services can work with new IM services.

Integrated services are key

Fully integrated services that allow easy communications to anyone, anywhere, on any device take people well beyond today’s offerings (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The new conversation experience

When the services incorporate network intelligence and subscriber knowledge, more personalized and immersive experiences are possible. For example:

  • Intuitive messaging with 1 inbox and 1 address book for all conversations — voice, video, text and social sharing. Because conversations are stored in the cloud, they can be accessed anytime, anywhere, on any device. People can control how they want to be reached, when, where and by whom.
  • Living video that brings conversations into high definition. People can share their lives, share content and strengthen relationships with friends, family and colleagues. They can easily switch between text conversations and HD video conversations, join video conference calls and stream live video on any device, regardless of provider.
  • Enriched voice conversations with HD audio for clarity and 1 number for all devices. People can select the best medium for every conversation and have simultaneous conversations in different media, seamlessly switching across screens from voice, to video, to text conversations. Enriched voice also allows users to share live or recorded video, pictures and files during voice calls. In addition HD audio provides voice features true to their original form. For example, on-hold and ring-back music sounds like what you would hear from a music player. It also helps reduce background noise during voice calls, especially for mobile (hear the difference).

Deliver the new conversation experience

Service provider network assets are essential to deliver the new conversation experience and provide services that others can’t. As service providers evolve to 4G LTE for mobility and all-IP networks they can support more advanced services. In addition, IMS (IP multimedia subsystem) lets providers take full advantage of the mobile IP network to effectively deliver the new conversation experience. The key is to think of network technology as the enabler. With this shift in mindset service providers can:

  • Enable people to connect, share and organize conversations across devices, screens, applications and networks by bundling voice, video and data services.
  • Eliminate communication islands by collaborating with other types of providers.
  • Enhance the customer experience by partnering with ACPs to increase their relevance in the application and content value chain.

Unified offerings have value

People spend more time on the network when service providers make it easy and intuitive to connect, share and organize conversations. More time on the network translates into more revenue and stronger brand loyalty. Consider:

  • A single offering that combines intuitive messaging, living video and enriched voice. Bundled offerings that unify and simplify conversations help service providers compete against free services that typically don’t interoperate. A business modeling tool can also help service providers analyze the financial return.
  • Smarter services that combine text, video and voice capabilities with network intelligence. For example, at low network traffic times, a smart charging service could automatically send a text message to people who are far from home, offering discounted rates and a URL to instantly start a living video conversation with family members. The customer context — location, calling patterns and frequent contacts — would come from the network.

Global communities are a must

Global service interoperability is crucial to the new conversation experience. Every customer will have address books from different providers. And they will travel into other providers’ regions. If all contacts can’t be combined into a single address book and services don’t interwork everywhere, the conversation experience will remain fragmented.

The challenge is for all provider types to follow standard technology approaches and create agreements that allow businesses to benefit from the new conversation experience. A secure, scalable platform such as IMS , gives service providers and their partners a standardized platform for service innovation and experimentation.

Today, we’re seeing the beginnings of collaboration between service providers and ACPs. Sprint and Google have announced a formal partnership. Verizon and Skype have also joined forces. But it will take more collaboration — happening faster — to create the new conversation experience.

As service providers seek collaborators to build global communities, it’s crucial that they look beyond simply developing relationships with other service providers. They must collaborate with ACPs as well. This is the only way for service providers to become true aggregators of communications services and deliver the new conversation experience. With this approach, customers will enjoy access to all services through their service provider.

Open innovation increases relevance

Giving trusted ACPs secure access to key network capabilities will help service providers innovate faster and enhance the customer experience. Open innovation also increases the service provider’s importance to ACPs. Access to key network capabilities will help to ensure ACP applications provide the intelligence, simplicity and quality of service people expect. For example:

  • With access to core communications capabilities, ACPs can create applications that provide an immersive video experience or that reflect social presence. They can incorporate voice and video call processing and IP message routing capabilities. And they can use their industry-specific expertise to create applications that help service providers expand in vertical markets.
  • With access to billing, payment and other systems, ACPs can tie their offerings into the service provider’s back office. Service provider customers enjoy a single bill and simplified payment for all applications and services.

Mindset is everything

The right partner can help service providers develop a strategy and make the decisions to grow with the new conversation experience. However, the path to the new conversation experience raises a number of questions. Such as:

  • What investments should I make and when?
  • How should I frame collaboration agreements?
  • Which partners should I work with?

Determining the answers to these questions and finding success in the new conversation experience will come down to mindset. Those who are most willing to think about the user experience before technology, to turn competitors into collaborators and to open their networks to new partners will realize the greatest rewards.

To contact the author or request additional information, please send email to techzine.editor@alcatel-lucent.com.