While mobile phones are just about ubiquitous throughout society - reaching across all age and economic groups - they are particularly popular among younger consumers in their 20s and 30s. In fact, many telcos are finding that customers in this age group are particularly likely to take advantage of the attractive mobile bundles that are available and drop their wireline connections entirely. Many of these younger customers, who may be students, in the military, or starting their careers, often find it more convenient to just maintain a mobile phone and avoid dealing with roommates, re-establishing service after apartment moves, and the like.
For telcos already facing decreased (or even negative) line growth as customers drop second lines for modem and fax lines, this possibility is a major threat to the financial bottom line - even if these customers move to mobile carriers owned by the wireline telco.
Telcos who want to retain these “mobile generation” customers need to find some compelling service to keep them on the network. Verizon’s Verizon Avenue subsidiary - which provides voice and data services to the residential multi-dwelling unit (MDU) market - has recently begun a trial deployment of a new service designed expressly for this market, called Verizon ONE.
Verizon ONE, currently being deployed in the Chicago area (with plans for a rollout throughout Verizon Avenue’s service area), offers MDU dwellers a single number/single bill integrated voice service for both landline and mobile calls. Using a cordless/mobile combo phone, Verizon ONE customers can make calls over their landline connection when within a few hundred yards of their base station, and via the mobile network from other locations. Customers will have a single phone number, a single voicemail box and a single bill, which includes bundles of local, long-distance and mobile minutes. As Verizon ONE expands, we expect that it will also include data services, such as dialup or DSL, and Wi-Fi access in MDU commons areas.
The system supporting the wireline/mobile integration is BayPackets’ Agility platform. The Agility system provides a platform for call routing, voice applications (like text-to-speech and speech-to-text) and billing mediation. BayPackets also provides a Web browser interface for customers, providing them with the ability to manage their account and set up “rules” for call behavior so customers can, for example, tell the system times when calls should always be routed to the home or to the mobile, or even to work locations.
While the Verizon ONE service is designed around a specific dual mode handset, the BayPackets solution can support landline and mobile integration without any specific customer hardware requirements. The BayPackets solution is also designed to work in both TDM and IP networks, so a carrier migrating to a packet-based network could use this solution going forward.
While not part of the Verizon ONE deployment, BayPackets has some new tricks up its sleeve worth mentioning. In the MDU environment, a service like Verizon ONE could offer broadcast voicemail services. For example, a landlord could easily send out a voicemail to all residents announcing community news (like new laundry room hours, or maintenance schedules). BayPackets says it can even support Voice over Wi-Fi (in addition to landline and mobile), expanding the scope of a service offer even further.
Moving forward, a solution similar to Verizon ONE makes sense to any telco concerned about losing customers to mobile. Current approaches - which typically revolve around discounted bundle pricing - don’t really offer the customer any new or improved services, or reduce overall revenues. A service which can offer the customer something new - like a single number service, true universal e-mail and real customer control of their account - provides an opportunity to keep customers without resorting to price (and revenue) reduction.