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The controversy over “data throttling” has drawn attention to the way mobile carriers manage their networks: they target heavy users—the ones with unlimited data plans—by slowing down data-transfer speeds after they hit a certain threshold.

But carriers worldwide are also using sophisticated data analysis to give other customers—the ones with high-priced plans—gold-plated customer service to keep them happy, industry players say.

Carriers increasingly have access to huge quantities of data about their users, and they are mining this information for all sorts of insights. This is part of a broader trend across many industries; the practice of collecting and analyzing this information is often referred to as “big data.”

Carriers use the big data they collect to detect whether customers enrolled in profitable data plans are experiencing problems or complaining. If so, the carriers then pamper those people selectively, says Chris Lynch, CEO of Vertica, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, firm that provides data analytics to many mobile carriers, and which was recently purchased by HP.

Carriers merge data about network problems—such as how many dropped calls a consumer experienced—with unstructured data such as the transcripts of complaints to customer-service representatives, deciphered by voice-recognition software and searched for angry keywords, Lynch says.

For customers enrolled in expensive “tiered” data plans, the carriers are vigilant to respond with refunds or discounts on reënrollments; they tend not to be so generous to customers with resource-guzzling unlimited data plans, Lynch says.

Lynch and other industry officials discussed such mobile-data-mining trends at a conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, today.

Lynch did not name carriers, but says selective customer-service treatment is common industry practice in the United States. Representatives for the main industry trade group, the Communications and Telecommunications Industry Association, and from AT&T declined to comment.

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Tagged: Communications, data analysis, mobile data plans

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