Proximus’ new DIY big data project is ‘a trigger’ for more traditional sales

Proximus, big data

Proximus’ new MyAnalytics portal will not generate huge revenues, the company’s Head of Enterprise Innovation has said, and will instead serve as a gateway to sell more traditional telecoms services to businesses.

The Belgian-based operator announced last week that it was selling reports containing anonymous, aggregated customer data via a new online platform.

MyAnalytics provides location-based mobile phone data that enables businesses to see how many people were at a certain location for how long, where people come from, where they go after visiting a particular place and how many visit on a regular basis.

Jan Sonck, Head of Enterprise Innovation at Proximus, says its 40 percent share of the Belgian mobile market means it can extrapolate the data to provide a much more accurate picture compared to traditional surveys, which is what the portal is looking to replace.

Depending on the parameters requested, the reports cost upwards on €700 each and are delivered within 48 hours.

A subscription-based model is in the pipeline, Sonck says.

He claims the reports are “10, 20, up to 50 times cheaper” than if companies organised the research themselves.

The tourism sector is the vertical Proximus is targeting with the new service initially, but Sonck says it is possible to build use cases for others sectors such as retail.

The operator will continue to work on more “complex” mobile data-based projects that require “manual” work for the likes of big transport companies.

In common with many other telcos, Proximus has found that the oft-talked about pot of gold at the end of the big data rainbow may not really exist.

“Three years ago, all operators saw some interesting studies about opportunities to monetise mobile network data,” Sonck tells European Communications.

“We were approached by a couple of companies who worked on [Telefónica’s Smart Steps initiative], but they only want to sell you something expensive that you don’t know if you can sell yourself.”

[Read more: Telefónica takes leap of faith as Smart Steps heads to China]

Rather than spend “tonnes of money” like their counterparts in Spain, Sonck says Proximus chose a DIY approach.

“We decided to do everything ourselves and to send out our people to learn,” Sonck says.

“We do a lot of information exchange, we work with startups and universities... we use open-source tools.”

He adds that his team works closely with the wider enterprise division at Proximus to ensure services are tailored to the needs of customers.

“We don’t do ‘throw over the fence’ inventions – they don’t work, Sonck says.

MyAnalytics is the result of all these collaborations, but Sonck denies its strategy was a purely financial decision.

Citing the ability to work with a range of partners on the fly, he says: “We wanted to be more agile when it came to IT.”

Since a beta launch in May, Sonck claims to have converted “some” companies into paying customers.

He adds: “In terms of revenues, the portal will not generate a huge amount but at the same time you can sell fibre, Wi-Fi, security services...it’s a trigger to generate other types of revenue.”

Proximus saw sales to enterprises rise 2.3 percent to €1 billion in the nine months to September.

By contrast, its consumer division reported revenue growth of just 0.1 percent.

The company remains wary of what its retail subscribers think of its big data efforts.

Subscribers to its mobile services are automatically opted-in to MyAnalytics as part of their general terms and conditions.

“If you explain it they get scared very quickly,” Sonck says.

“If you say it's anonymised [and] aggregated most people don’t understand what this means.”

Perhaps it is no bad thing that the revenues it generates are not expected to grab the headlines.

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