If you are a high-paying telecom user, you could be getting preferential treatment on your network. Your wait for a call centre representative could be lower than others, your call drops could be fewer, and your bandwidth could be better than the person sitting next to you on the train who may be an average-paying customer!

This is all part of the data mining and business intelligence that almost all telecom companies including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular are using, industry experts say.

Companies today assign each customer with a score, based on their lifetime value to the network, said Sudipta Sen, chief executive, SAS Institute - a company that has been selling business intelligence software solutions in India for near a decade. "For example, globally, a customer with a high score will have automated call collection. The wait will be less for a premium customer."

Nokia Solutions and Networks, which manages the network for Bharti Airtel and several important pieces of the network for most Indian operators, added that with its solution, operators can selectively channel network capacity to each customer if it chooses.

Sandeep Girotra, the country head for NSN, didn't name any customers for such a solution, but said it has users in India.

"Operators are being able to get insights in near real-time about customers and offering services depending on their value to the network." Vodafone said that the service is never the same for every customer, no matter which sector one looks at whether it is credit cards or financial services. "So, also it is true for telecom."

Emails to Bharti and Idea went unanswered.

NSN's Girotra said that it's not necessary that "if you are a heavy user of advanced data services, your consumption will be the same at all times. So, capacity can be dynamically allocated to another user, and if your usage rises, it is redirected to you. It is part of peak load management for operators."

The technology of data mining itself is not particularly new. It is the falling prices of storage that has prompted companies to preserve usage trends of every user and, therefore, rather than employing generic predictions from a sample of data, each customer can a get personalised service.

A Nokia Solutions survey showed that 3G customers, who typically pay more, consume 3.7 times the data of a 2G customer. Yet, high spenders account for merely 23% of heavy data service users. In India, with rationalisation in tariffs, the customer, too, is evolving and demanding coverage, internet, and voice quality from operators, said the survey conducted in May. "Advancement in big data, and lowering of storage devices has made this possible," said Seshadri Rangarajan, chief technology officer of business information management, at Capgemini.

Russia's Sistema JSFC, which operates in India under the MTS brand, generates roughly half a terabyte of data every day. The company accounts for just over 1% of the total Indian customer base. It is the ability to collect similar data that has helped Bharti Airtel to offer customised service plans, under "My Plan" to its customers, said Sen. "Once you are dealing with the whole data, your inferences are a lot sharper" and many companies also use this data to predict and prevent churn of certain customers, he added.

MTS, for example, uses the data for targeted marketing campaigns. "It has nearly doubled our realisation rate from such campaigns," said Rajiv Batra, chief information officer at MTS. While the average e-mailed and SMS campaigns yield 3-4% conversion of customers, MTS' rate is over 6%, he added.

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