Wipro Technologies, an India-based IT and systems integration firm, aims to help broadband providers profitably serve the low-income market with a new managed service for prepaid customers dubbed Wipro Accelerate announced this week. ­­

Steve Snyder, vice president and global head of business innovation for Wipro, told Telecompetitor that he got the idea for the new offering after talking to some service provider executives about a key challenge they were encountering with Connect2Compete or similar low-cost broadband offerings targeting the low-income market. Such offerings are priced as low as $10 a month for qualified customers and what the cable execs told Snyder was that it costs about $10 a month to bill and serve those customers after factoring in bad debt and capex costs.

Among Wipro’s clients are several Indian wireless carriers that rely heavily on prepaid offerings, and as Snyder explained, Wipro “effectively runs the back-end” for some of these carriers. As a result, Snyder believes Wipro is well positioned to support a prepaid broadband offering.

Wipro’s short-term goal is to enable broadband service providers to quickly turn up a prepaid offering in order to test different markets and fine tune service parameters.

Ultimately, the company also hopes Wipro Accelerate can serve as a platform for a broader low-income offering that will yield service providers the same margin that they make on triple play services, Snyder said.

“Cable operators or telcos can afford to serve lower end customers by changing the way they serve them,” Snyder said. Purchasing back-end functionality for the low-income offering as a managed service “takes out cost and reduces risk for operators,” he added.

Wipro envisions that broadband providers “may be the first touch point” for prepaid customers, Snyder said. But after that customer care, support, billing, and payment mechanisms would be handled by Wipro as a managed service that would be directly integrated with the service provider’s back-end for “bandwidth allocation and provisioning and financials,” Snyder said.

Before service providers wouldl be able to use Wipro Accelerate, Wipro would need to do some custom integration to interface its managed services platform with the service provider’s operations support system and business support system – an effort Snyder said shouldn’t take more than two to three months.

Wipro does not yet have any broadband providers committed to using Wipro Accelerate, but Snyder said “we’re hearing initial rumblings of an RFP process.”

Snyder noted that Wipro isn’t the only company that could provide broadband service providers with a prepaid platform. Various companies have such offerings for the wireless industry that could be adapted to meet the needs of broadband providers, he said.

“The capabilities exist but haven’t been applied as frequently to this market,” said Snyder. “What we’re proposing isn’t rocket science but . . . re-engineering.”

Snyder believes broadband providers can offer prepaid broadband to the low-income market without cannibalizing their existing base by differentiating the prepaid offering based on broadband speed, service response time or other parameters. Potentially service providers could create a “flanker brand” for the prepaid offering, he said.

He also noted that programs such as Connect2Compete are only open to households meeting certain criteria – such as having a school-age child who is eligible for the school lunch program.

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