|Voice-based value-added services: delivering on their promises
|co-Founder, Chairman and CEO
|European Computer Telecoms Group (ECT)
Marshall Kavesh is ECT’s Board Chairman, CEO and one of its three founders. Together with Hans Huber, the company’s CTO, he developed the basis for ECT’s next-generation switching technology. Dr Kavesh previously founded Red Shepherd Software GmbH, which developed, among others, a database system to administer all of Siemens’ Hicom products, as well as a Sales Administration System. He set up a translation service called Red Shepherd Translations GmbH, which specialises in technical translations and software localisation in over 20 languages and does work for a variety of companies, including Siemens, Oracle, DeTeWe and Softek. Before that, he designed system software for IBM and Siemens, and developed CTI systems based on technologies created by Natural Microsystems, Aculab und Dialogic. Marshall Kavesh earned a PhD in Social System Sciences from the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and continued with postdoctoral studies in Mathematical Logic at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich. He also has a Master of Arts (MA) degree in Germanic Languages and Literatures.
Voice-based value-added services are increasingly present in our lives. Customised ring-back tones, number portability, hotline-like service numbers are but a few of the services readily available throughout parts of Europe. Mobile office services give users many of an office’s fixed-line features – switchboard attendant services, enterprise numbering plans and call forwarding – through a mobile phone. Newer, web-driven video services include mobile video conferencing and video mail. Telecom providers expect these new services will generate a new revenue growth wave.
Voice-based value-added services are everywhere you look and anywhere you go these days. They are a major success for operators and carriers around the world. Voice-based value-added services are also increasingly omnipresent in the daily lives of both consumers and businesses. One way or another, the average consumer regularly comes into contact with voice-based value-added services. There are consumers who close their eyes to mobile telephony and its vast range of services, but for most voice-based value-added services, it would simplify and strongly enhance countless areas of their lives at home and at work. Voice-based value-added services meet crucial challenges that private customers and business-world clients alike pose to carriers and other telecom companies and to the companies that supply them. These days, consumers expect customised, individualised products and services. They want to tailor or select the hardware and software features that turn a mobile phone into their unique mobile. For consumers, the more personalised a product or service is, the better. Ring-back tones In few areas is this trend more prevalent than in mobile telephony. Services such as the ring-back tone provide consumers with customisation and individuality. Let us look at the ring-back tone. For close to 100 years, callers have heard the same monotonous ringing sound while waiting for the receiving party to pick up. With customised ring-back tones, mobile subscribers can now use just about any sound file in place of the traditional ring-back tone. Using this service, subscribers can customise the ring-back tone that a caller hears as a call is being set up. That tone can be a current chart-topping pop song, a joke or even a voice message. Moreover, ring-back tone subscribers can fine-tune their ring-back tones, customising tones for individual callers or caller groups. When discretion is important, the ring-back tone offers an important advantage – a caller cannot identify the subscriber’s location since, instead of a standard national ring-back tone that gives away the caller’s whereabouts, she or he hears the customised ring-back tone. In addition, the ring-back tone is a useful way to channel a company’s advertisements. Over the past few years, this voice-based value-added service has soared in popularity. Millions of mobile users across Europe, from Scandinavia to Turkey, are using the ring-back tone service, which has emerged as a major revenue maker for carriers across the continent. Conferencing Another voice-based value-added service, conferencing, meanwhile, erases all types of boundaries and barriers that distance and time zones used to create for international companies and their employees. These days, a company’s board can ‘convene’ via teleconferencing without having to fly around the world. Generally, voice-based services, such as mobile office and conferencing, add an entirely new, previously unimaginable, dimension of mobility and mobile availability – a key benefit in an increasingly fast-paced and fluctuating global business environment. Mobile office provides a user with a complete range of his or her office’s fixed-line features – switchboard attendant services, enterprise numbering plans and call-handling features such as call forwarding – through a mobile phone. As a result, users can, in essence, take their offices with them wherever they go. From a carrier’s or service provider’s perspective, mobile office, a fairly new service, and conferencing hold enormous potential for new business, since they can enter entirely new markets and generate business by offering this attractive service to business clients at a time when mobility and global availability are at a premium. Number portability and service numbers Two other services that may not come to mind immediately, but which strongly affect the lives of many modern-day consumers, are number portability and service numbers. Given the growing number of mobile phone users, changes in European regulations and increasing competition among operators for subscribers, the ability to switch operators while keeping the ‘old’ number is increasingly important to many mobile users. European fixed-line and mobile carriers are required to provide number portability, a service that lets the customer keep the same number when switching providers. Special number portability applications provide this service. If you have ever wondered how quickly poll results on a TV show are generated, look no further than tele voting, a voice-based value-added service that allows calls from around the country or even the continent to be computed. Tele voting uses the very same service number technology as the hotlines you call to resolve a technical problem with your PC or to book an airline flight by phone. Over the last few years, the market for intelligent service-number solutions has grown significantly, and it has now emerged as the most important revenue source for European carriers and service providers, with further growth expected down the road. Today, intelligent service-number solutions make it easier for callers to reach directly the person they actually want to reach in a company. Consequently, service-numbers have emerged as an important and effective instrument in customer relationship management. They allow users to strengthen their relationship with new and current customers. Complex and advanced technological structures are required to make such a hotline happen and make it run smoothly. 3G video mail Among the latest cutting-edge developments in the industry are 3G video mail and other related video applications. These applications offer advanced video solutions with television-like quality. Unanswered calls are directed to the video mail service, which give the caller an opportunity to record a video message. The above-mentioned conferencing is now also available with video, providing business users and individuals with an attractive new service. Using mobile video conferencing, business conference participants on the move can see each other no matter where they are located. Not too long ago, these types of applications were strictly limited to wireline communications systems. The technical possibilities and the circle of potential users were, therefore, limited. The emergence of the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) has drastically changed that. Now used in numerous countries, UMTS has generated vast new potential for mobile operators and the private and business consumers who use these services. The implementation of UMTS is just one of the major investments that carriers have made in this important upcoming market. Deregulation in most countries has helped drive the industry’s growth. As a result, numerous new services have appeared, and others will follow over the next few years as network structures and bandwidth availability improves. In addition to what is already available, there will be a host of exciting and innovative new voice-based value-added services. www All of today’s voice-based value-added services go hand-in-hand with another major technological development that is now such a crucial part of our life: the World Wide Web. So much depends upon the world of cyberspace these days, and just as the web has simplified many aspects of our life, it is also simplifying the use of voice-based services. Administration, configuration, and customisation of value-added services can all be done anywhere on the web in a few easy steps. The advent of voice-based value-added services has provided, and still provides, a great stimulus, a big push, for mobile operators, providers and the developers of solutions. The increasing maturity of the mobile market means there are less growth and less money to be made with simple telephony. Over the last decade, this has meant that mobile players need to generate new revenue streams to compensate for weaker voice revenues, and value-added services offer that potential. Private consumers and business clients in Europe and other parts of the world have responded very favourably to the vast and diverse range of voice-based value-added services made available to them. This has been true in most individual telecoms markets, especially in highly competitive regions, and to the telecoms industry as a whole. Undoubtedly, there are vast opportunities for voice-based value-added services, and they will continue to influence strongly, and simplify, our lives.