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China Mobile: Making call waiting profitable with video

How can innovative B2B services such as video CRBT will emerge in future help operators evolve from dumb pipes to integrated service providers?

By Jiang Junmu

Video can breathe new life into the gradually declining color ring back tone service, especially when integrated into an industry business model. China Mobile Yunnan and Huawei recently did just that with a new video CRBT service, offering promotional short videos during the “golden 15-second” call waiting interval when users are hyper-focused.

Beauty in the palm of your hand

Located in the southwest of China, the province of Yunnan benefits from abundant tourist resources, including gorges, forests, snowcapped mountains, and historic towns. Advances in ICT have enabled local authorities and businesses to promote Yunnan’s stunning scenery and rich history and culture to far more people than ever before.

Video CRBT has the potential to become a new foothold for operators in the B2B space and create new revenue streams from advertising. Recognizing this, Yunnan’s provincial government decided to use CRBT as a key facet of its E-Travel in Yunnan project. In just three months after its launch in July 2018, China Mobile Yunnan had gained over 350,000 video CRBT customers, who collectively have watched 1.67 million short videos featuring Yunnan’s highlights.

Revitalizing telecom services

The success of the Internet and latterly the mobile Internet is due to connected global telecommunications networks built by telcos and their huge investments in network design and deployment. The rise of ubiquitous connectivity has in turn enabled new business models that have been adopted by increasingly prominent, asset-light OTT companies.

In contrast, telcos have tended to remain behind-the scenes, with returns from conventional CT services, like voice and SMS, on a continued downward spiral. Nevertheless, many pioneering operators have explored new paths to growth based on strategic transformation, new technologies, and new business models, including streamlined traffic operations and low-latency models. Some, for example, are already seeing returns – or soon will do – from cloud services and IoT.

However, when migrating to new value chains, operators can’t just abandon their original positions. Maintaining and even discovering new value from traditional CT services has remained the focus of the entire industry chain as a problem in urgent need of a solution.

The value of video

Upgrading CRBT from a music to video service has proven to be a move in the right direction for China Mobile Yunnan, bringing a better service experience for customers. For the telco, it’s been a shot in the arm for market competitiveness and income; for Yunnan, it’s created a promotional tool for local attractions and delivered an uptick in tourism.

Innovating to stay ahead

A customizable customer experience and a simple, transparent billing method have resulted in strong customer loyalty, with CRBT accounting for 10 percent of China Mobile Yunnan’s service revenue.

This particular service has also been impacted by the evolving times and increased competition, making further innovation imperative. In this case, combining the service with the region’s tourism drive was an inspired move.

A 4G/IMS video playback capability module coupled with a robust management function module were added on top of the existing 2G/3G audio CRBT platform, enabling the personalized streaming of short video content preset by the called party in a VoLTE network environment. The content itself comprises 16 different professionally shot scenes from Yunnan, including seagulls soaring over Kunming Green Lake and the stunning Jade Dragon Snow Mountain framed by cloud.

CRBT but not as you know it

Video CRBT has redefined the CRBT service, substantially expanding its significance and scope.

While OTT companies have dominated the short video market with apps like TikTok, video CRBT has gifted operators with a platform to participate in the market. China Mobile Yunnan uses high-quality Migu Music video content, including music videos and concert clips, on its CRBT service, as well as outstanding short videos from new Internet media and user-generated media.

As the consumer market is becoming saturated and revenues are fading, video CRBT will become a breakthrough for operators in developing B2B services. The video CRBT service is a platform naturally suited for enterprises to promote their brands via mobile advertising using their employees’ social networks. In the video CRBT advertising scenario, customers see ads when making calls, increasing advertising reach. When waiting for a call, user attention is most focused. This is known as the “golden 15 seconds” and can improve ad engagement.

Video CRBT also fits in with the telco shift from focusing from B2C to B2B as a new blue ocean.

Empowering customers, both individuals and enterprises, and making services more inclusive are core strategies for telcos. Service innovation is essential – the previous boom in CRBT gave rise to a market with a considerable customer base. Reactivating it will take less effort and yield increased results.

China Mobile has achieved initial success, providing a new direction and workable ideas for other telcos to follow. According to forecasts, China Mobile Yunnan will surpass 10 million video CRBT customers by 2019. We predict that more innovative B2B services such as video CRBT will emerge in future. This will help operators evolve from dumb pipes to integrated service providers.