Astellia bought RAN optimisation specialist Ingenia two years ago. Although the main driver for the acquisition was to add Ingenia’s RAN visibility to Astellia’s core network probes, one aspect of the company’s RAN optimisation technology – its ability to locate users very accurately within a cell – offers another business opportunity for operators.
By using radio call traces – measurements from different cells which are reported by the handset to the network – Astellia’s can build up RF fingerprints of specific locations that are then correlated with a geographic position provided by drive-tests or from handsets with GPS. It can then create a “map” made of these fingerprints to locate users to about 50m accuracy.
This level of location info can, in theory, be used in different ways. Astellia has been arguing for a while that customer care, network operations and marketing teams could benefit.
Vodafone has been running a trial of Astellia’s geo marketing technology and services in central Madrid. As user devices moved through this area, they have been sent marketing offers and the like that are very specific to their location. A dashboard built within Astellia’s NovaExplorer product can show users moving through an area, and which offers are available to be served and so on.
As Astellia also has a load of dashboards which let operators generate quite detailed segmentations of their subscriber base, you can see the potential for a mash-up between highly accurate location and the customer profile.
For the Vodafone trial in Madrid, the operator said it took 2-3 weeks to generate the RF fingerprint data for an area controlled by one RNC, and the trial was conducted based on reported GPS positions of 1% of the customer base during a predefined period. The operator was also using another, un-named location provider during the trial and said that vendor too had achieved similar results to Astellia’s RF characterisation technique.
Of course, there’s nothing new about location-based or proximity marketing. O2 UK was trying something similar years ago, based on cruder location and customer segmentation techniques. But Astellia says the benefit of its technology is the 50m accuracy, allied to the “smart segmentation” of the customer base. One potential drawback, that TMN can see, is the requirement for customers’ GPS data. How many customers have their location turned on as default?
UPDATE FROM ASTELLIA:
Astellia has asked us to state that users do not need to have GPS positions activated on an ongoing basis. GPS positions of 1% of consumers were initially used to create a database needed to construct the RF fingerprint with a 50m accuracy. It is the RF fingerprint which locates the user, so there is no longer a need for GPS activation.