Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Pitfalls and the mystery of femtocell deployments

Reporting from Avren's Femtocell World Summit, Light Reading's Michelle Donegan captured some of the pitfalls of femtocell deployments.
"Thilo Kirchinger, Vodafone's principal connected home manager, said that the need for indoor voice coverage is the trigger for most customers to buy a femtocell."
It remains a mystery why a consumer would 'buy' a femtocell. But as long as they are being sold, femtocells will be relegated to a 1% solution.
Mr. Kirchinger also commented that "data offload is not a proposition that can be sold to customers."
No surprise here, customers don't care about offload, that's strictly an operational benefit. The trick is creating incentives that change user behavior. T-Mobile US now offers free calls over Wi-Fi as incentive to get subscribers to use Wi-Fi and reap the benefits of offload.
"Vodafone Greece's new products, innovation and wholesale group product manager, Polychronis Tzerefos, said that femtocells are a customer-retention tool, not an acquisition tool, and that operators should expect to subsidize them heavily."
I think the consensus in many other markets is that femtos work best for retention - as a tool for the 'save queue'. Complain you plan to leave your operator, and they overnight a femtocell to your house. The math is easy.

Putting a femto in a pre-sales retail environment raises some uncomfortable questions. If your coverage is so great, why do you have a femtocell product? If I have coverage problems, will you give me a femto?
"Among the technical challenges the operator encountered, Tzerefos said there is lot of integration to be done with existing business systems, customer relationship management, business intelligence and customer self-care portals."
This is a story we've heard time and time again. Many focus on the cost of the femtocell as the key item, but there is a tremendous amount of back-end integration and cost associated with deploying them.
"And as for marketing the femto service, Tzerefos shared that there was much internal debate about, "How do you sell the customer coverage when you're supposed to have the best coverage in Greece? How do we explain they need a solution?"

And this is the beauty of a Smart Wi-Fi solution. It's an application that puts the customer in charge. If they have coverage problems, they can use their Wi-Fi to fix it. In today's self-service environment, this is one message which resonates clearly.

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