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Tag Archives: Revenue Assurance

Why Telcos Need Real-Time Revenue Assurance?

Revenue leakage is one of the major worries affecting telcos around the world.  The number says it all. The 2017 Global Fraud Loss Survey by CFCA says telcos lose $29.2 Billion (USD) annually, equivalent to 1.27% of global telecom revenues, to several revenue frauds. For telcos, who are also aggrieved by the declining margins from traditional voice business, safeguarding the existing revenue sources thus becomes critical. The rising concerns over revenue loss have brought the discussion around a new approach to revenue assurance (RA). While the revenue assurance solutions in the market address some of the possible threats in revenue leakage, they lag behind in delivering a faster detection and reconciliation capabilities.

Why Real-Time Revenue Assurance?

As we see today, the main drawbacks associated with traditional RA solutions is the long gap between revenue leakage detection and revenue realization. Since these systems adopt conventional methods for data consolidation and streamlining, the process requires manual intervention in parsing and auditing. Considering the enormous volume of transaction generated in today’s customer-centric world, telcos cannot ignore such lapses in remediation. Thus, the need arises for an intelligent, automated RA platform that can reduce the gap between these processes to a minimum. Legacy systems also face challenge due to the rapid surge in user data generated from millions of transactions every day. In the wake of new challenges brought by IP networks and the sophisticated interconnection frauds, detecting and remediating the anomalies becomes even more challenging.

Real-Time Revenue Assurance: How?

Real-time revenue assurance focuses on minimizing the time gap between fault detection and reconciliation. With analytics at the core, the technology enables service providers to detect the threat as soon as it occurs and start the reconciliation process within hours of data inception. Let me elaborate the process a little. The files collected at the source will be pushed to the real-time RA system within a few minutes. The data is parsed and loaded within, say 30 minutes, and the reconciliation process starts within the next two hours, enabling the early revenue reconciliation than the traditional approaches.

Analytics plays a crucial role in ensuring real-time RA.  The complex algorithm segregates the data based on a set of parameters, so anomalies can be detected quickly and accurately. Advancements in real-time RA also promise near real-time and even real-time controls on revenue leakage. The output of RA controls can deliver additional insights on each transaction, which can be used to improve sub-optimal processes.

What Business Benefits Real-Time Revenue Assurance Bring to Telcos?

Since revenue assurance is the most crucial element in a telco business, the impact brought by real-time RA is huge. As mentioned in the beginning, the loss attributed to different types of fraud is incomparable, so a reduction in leakage exposure time results in significant savings. Also, revenue assurance in a telco business is linked to multiple processes including data collection, billing, settlement and operations. Thus real-time RA allows telcos to gain increased visibility into all aspects of subscriber data, which in turn helps them to improve Quality of Service (QoS).

Subscriber management is a key aspect of revenue assurance as it helps telcos to deal with customer attrition. The operators need to have visibility into subscriber’s usage and billing patterns. Such insights will help them to launch the right mix of services that enhance customer value and improve ARPU. Subscriber management, especially in IP-based systems, proves crucial to eliminate billing errors and disputes. Real-time revenue assurance scores in this context as it provides real-time visibility into customer behavior and capture anomalous activities before it impacts the network.

Watch this column to gain more insights on revenue assurance for telcos.

Neeraj leads digital marketing for Subex with focus on Website, Search, social media, mailer automation and MIS. In addition to this role, he also looks after product marketing for Revenue Assurance & fraud Management solutions for the company. He comes with over 8 years of experience spanning across sales, product and digital marketing.

Device Journey Management: the next frontier for Device Assurance

In recent years operators have scaled their thinking into hundreds of millions – but not in terms of data volumes, but instead in the numbers of devices now utilizing their networks.  Smart handsets have led the charge of devices, followed (and soon to be surpassed) by IoT devices, and an army of small cells that will serve to densify the upcoming 5G network rollouts around the world.

Why are these devices capturing more and more operator attention?  With over 1.5 billion smart phones shipped from manufacturers in 2017, the amount of investment by telecom operators just in this device category alone amounts to approximately 20% of their overall operational budget.  However, each year tens of millions of dollars of this opex are being written off as losses by operators due to issues with logistics (forward and reverse), fraud, and process misalignments; device journey oversight doesn’t exist as a discipline today.

Subex has invested almost two years researching this domain, including talking with operators of all sizes around the world.  What we have found is an expanding set of exploitable gaps that current systems and practices are incapable of closing.  Points of risk exist across internal processes, channel partners, distribution and supply chain, and various other areas leading to (and sometimes even originating from) the end consumers.  These risk points accumulate losses for operators that range between $500K USD to over $10M USD per month, per operator, depending on size of the operator.

The device growth area today is not only in smart handsets, but also in a wide array of small cells, sensors, and various other categories.  With already significant gaps existing in oversight, this new breed of devices puts an even greater risk on operating budgets.  Under current estimates, deployed IoT devices alone in the next 5 years will exceed 200 billion units, dwarfing the handset counts worldwide.  Can losses be sustained, or even ignored, at these levels?

Subex will be speaking about a comprehensive strategy and methodology for Device Journey Management during a presentation at the CFCA Winter Conference in Las Vegas on February 6th, 2018.  We will also be at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona later in February where we look forward to speaking with operators encountering the same problems.

Vice President – Product Management – John Brooks serves as the Vice President of Product Management in Subex. He has over 26 years of experience in Telecommunications, spanning Fixed, Mobile, Data, and Video technologies. Within the industry Mr. Brooks was a board member for the GBA, founded the TM Forum Fraud team (authoring the first International Fraud Operations and Fraud Classifications guides), and now leads the TM Forum Network Asset Management team, focusing on transformative best practices for SDN/NFV operations. Over the years Mr. Brooks has served as an Advisory Board member for a prominent technical university, and has spoken at over 50 industry events and authored numerous papers on topics spanning IoT, Digital Disruption, Big Data, and Enterprise Risk Management. With Subex (formerly Connexn/Azure) since 1999, he has directed over 40 successful Cost, Revenue, and Business Optimization engagements at over 24 top-tier carriers globally, including AT&T, America Movil, BT, Vodafone, and Verizon.

Assurance by any other name… reflections on RAG Sydney

In my role leading business solution consulting for Subex Network Analytics, I traverse a lot of time zones.  People assume I have sage advice and perhaps an elixir to cure jet lag.  Sadly, I slog through the transitions like everyone else, employing a variety of coping strategies.   I just read about an intriguing approach that some members of the US ski jumping team will use at the Winter Olympics.  They are embracing jet lag, purposefully showing up just days prior to competitions.  Why?  For them, it is best not to think too much as they soar into the abyss.  Being in a foggy state may be an asset for some, but the rest of us still need to find ways to stay on our game as we trot the globe!

Fortunately, I managed to keep my edge for the Risk and Assurance Group (RAG) conference in Sydney, after traveling 18-time zones to get there.   It was a very worthwhile event, held on the Optus campus, with a good mix of operators and vendor partners.   Anamitra Mukherjee (Optus) delivered the keynote and provided material examples of how his team is challenging the traditional boundaries of RA, branching into areas such as handset assurance and network assurance.  Members of his team, Sujith Dissanayake and Gihan Samarawickrama, provided more insights on handset assurance during their talk later in the conference.   Anamitra explained that Network Assurance enables operators to determine whether they are spending the “right dollars” on the network.  Are there opportunities for cost savings such as harvesting unused assets and redeploying them?   He went on to describe the benefits of reconciling the fixed asset register against the physical network.  Payoffs include better asset visibility, more accurate depreciation schedules and efficient tax strategies.  Calculating the profitability of cell sites is another area his team is exploring.

From Anamitra’s talk one got the sense that it is time for operators to ask: “Is there more to assurance than RA?”  The consensus at the event was a resounding “yes”.   This was a major topic of discussion.  Eric Priezkalns, one of the event organizers, expands nicely on this theme in his blog post about the event.   Jayne Hunter of Vodafone Hutchison Australia explained that her role has migrated from RA to Margin Assurance.   Darren Rinaldi of Foxtel described how his team performs “entitlement reconciliation” within the broader context of process assurance.   Geoff Ibbett from RRM Solutions chimed in with the importance of contract assurance during a panel discussion.  I could go on but you get the idea…

To the list of assurances, I joined the party and added device assurance.  Subex is observing that usage-based frauds have been in decline (although IRSF continues to be popular) and there has been a sharp uptick in device and equipment issues.  Device/equipment frauds, thefts, reverse logistics breakdowns, etc. are becoming endemic.   During my talk, I pointed out that such issues are not limited to mobile handsets.  CPEs, set top boxes and even small cells can be considered devices and all have their own risks to mitigate.  To this mix you can add vCPEs and the need to control for excess license costs.

There certainly is a new world of assurances to contemplate.  In my book, there is only one missing.  Any takers for jet lag assurance?

Director of Business Development for Network Analytics
Andy has 20+ years of experience in engineering management, business operations and IT, primarily with Tier 1 operators including Level 3, MCI and GTE. His responsibilities included leading IT development teams that built mission-critical network management, provisioning and inventory systems with thousands of users. Prior to joining Subex, Andy was a Senior Manager overseeing a Data Governance organization at a major Internet Services provider. Andy graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with degrees in Electrical Engineering and Economics (Wharton). He holds an MBA from the University of Colorado.

Subex at RAG Sydney Conference 2018

RAG Sydney Conference 2018 : G’day! The upcoming Risk and Assurance Group conference takes place next week in Sydney at the height of the Aussie Summer.  For me, it will be an excuse to trade the snowy landscape of Colorado for Bondi Beach and fun in the sun.  Only kidding—won’t be hitting the beach but am looking forward to a great opportunity to interact with industry professionals and thought leaders in the business assurance domain.

On Day 2 of the conference, there will be two-part talk on the emerging discipline of handset and device assurance.   Sujith Dissanayake and Gihan Samarawickrama from Optus will share their journey managing handsets risks, including use cases they have tackled.  I have the privilege to speak next and provide an industry perspective.  Operators have always been challenged to control costs and reduce risks related to network edge devices.  While mobile handsets are certainly top-of-mind, devices can also include customer premises equipment (e.g. routers, set top boxes, DSL modems, ONTs), small cells, connected smart devices and even virtual assets.   A comprehensive device assurance program requires controlling for revenue, fraud and complex supply chain risks.  I will cover drivers and strategies for establishing a device assurance program.

Unchecked device frauds and mismanagement cost global operators billions annually.  Our industry is just now beginning to pay proper attention.  Let us help you ride the wave (ok, a Bondi Beach inspired metaphor!) to getting your device costs under control.  If you are attending the conference, I look forward to seeing you there.

Director of Business Development for Network Analytics
Andy has 20+ years of experience in engineering management, business operations and IT, primarily with Tier 1 operators including Level 3, MCI and GTE. His responsibilities included leading IT development teams that built mission-critical network management, provisioning and inventory systems with thousands of users. Prior to joining Subex, Andy was a Senior Manager overseeing a Data Governance organization at a major Internet Services provider. Andy graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with degrees in Electrical Engineering and Economics (Wharton). He holds an MBA from the University of Colorado.

The Future Success of Telecom Lies in Revenue Assurance

As the telecommunications industry anticipates the next wave of growth triggered by digital disruption, there are a few developments that demand critical attention from telcos. These trends have had a direct impact on the way telecom services are delivered, often impacting the revenue streams of operators. Let’s look at the top trends that impacted telecom revenue and see how the telcos needs to devise a revenue assurance strategy to deal with these changes.

Revenue Assurance in OTT Era

The IP revolution that swept the telecom industry over the past decade have brought in immense opportunities for OTT players; but for telcos, it was the beginning of a cataclysm marked by cut-throat competition and revenue loss. Since then, the journey of telcos has never been easy. As OTT players took away the bigger pie, operators had to redefine their business strategies to safeguard their revenue streams. Thus, their priority shifted from traditional services to the new digital offerings that largely rely on IP networks. As the journey commenced, a series of new challenges emerged in the service delivery.

With a large bouquet of offerings encompassing voice, data and video streaming, revenue management becomes a critical concern for telcos. The complexity associated with subscriber management and invoice management has created the need for a real-time revenue assurance (RA) platform designed around analytics capabilities. The automated RA capabilities ensure that the tariffs are implemented uniformly across all subscribers and that the billing system is free from all types of errors.

Technology Integration in OSS

One of the key challenges involved in a telecom provider’s transition to a digital service provider (DSP) is to integrate the transactions from different types of networks – say 3G, 4G or IP networks – to a common operations/business support system (OSS/BSS) system. Traditional systems at most telcos were purpose-designed for circuit switched networks and their revenue assurance use cases revolved around batch processing of data. To meet the complex demands created by the new digital offerings, the OSS/BSS needs to evolve to support multiple network topologies. They need to also possess the capabilities to handle large volume of data generated from disparate channels.

The modern approach to revenue assurance allows creation and maintenance of network inventory, network fault management, and automated provisioning of services through real-time analytics. This approach goes beyond the traditional way of analyzing the basic data for billing to identify aspects that impact quality of service (QoS) and customer experience.

Telecom Fraud and Revenue Assurance

The impact of telecom frauds such as international revenue share fraud and SIMbox cloning on telcos’ revenues is huge. Global Fraud loss estimate is about $29.2 Bn annually (Source: 2017 Global Fraud Loss Survey) for instance. The risk grows multifold as the telcos move to advanced networks like LTE. Due to the high bandwidth and the advanced capabilities of the devices connected to these networks, monitoring these activities becomes a real challenge.

Real-time revenue monitoring is the only way to address the revenue loss associated with call frauds. The telco should implement a robust fraud management practice that helps them analyze both expected and historical usage pattern to proactively address revenue leakage. With real-time analytics, usage can be monitored across different types of services – voice, data and video streaming. A comprehensive fraud management strategy must also encompass other aspects of providers’ environment including the sales channels, networks and the OSS.

In a nutshell : The digital journey of telcos has just begun. Considering the future opportunities, telcos cannot slacken their pace of digital transformation. As challenges around revenue assurance grow higher in the evolving technology landscape, priority should be given to safeguard the revenue across all channels.

Neeraj leads digital marketing for Subex with focus on Website, Search, social media, mailer automation and MIS. In addition to this role, he also looks after product marketing for Revenue Assurance & fraud Management solutions for the company. He comes with over 8 years of experience spanning across sales, product and digital marketing.

Key is to ask the ‘right questions’

“In school, we’re rewarded for having the answer, not for asking a good question”

This quote from Richard Saul Wurman rightly describes how a normal human mind, as part of it’s social development process, adapts to the guidelines of “finding the answers”, rather than exploring the possibilities of asking the “right questions”.

And this mindset also reflects in our place of work. We are humanly tailored to explore satisfaction in having answers to all the questions. And in the process of being ‘answer ready’, we tend to become left brain heavy than the right. We become target driven and focus less and less on fresh set of questions which could challenge us further to drive improvement and innovation.

Fraud Management ‘function’ is no different. Being a ‘revenue protection’ function in a large ‘organization’ it is expected to act similar to a small, but important organ in human body.
Like hormone levels of an organ, health of an FM function is also measured in terms of subjective financial targets – either monthly, quarterly or yearly. And the corrective action starts when the achievements are found to be ‘less than optimum’.

But, as an experienced doctor would say – It’s the lifestyle you need to keep in check and not hormone levels to remain healthy!
Constant self-assessing questions such as – “Am I eating right ?”, “Am I sleeping right ?”, “Am I sitting right ?”, “Am I exercising right ?” etc. go a long way in guaranteeing you a healthy life. Periodic check-ups then becomes a method to confirm your good health rather than just means to detect illness or deficiencies.

Keeping healthy is a continuous process – be it human body or fraud management. It is actually a practice, than just a function.
And to setup a continuously improving fraud practice in your organization it is essential to keep asking relevant & timely questions across the following 8 pillars of this practice:

  • Influence
  • Organization
  • People
  • Process
  • Tools
  • Knowledge Management
  • Coverage
  • Continuous Improvement

While the questions could be an organization, risk or region specific, I personally always start with the following:

Influence:

  • Is our FM function on a driver seat or secondary role and working as a support function ?
  • How should we enhance the influence of our FM function ?
  • How do we keep showcasing enhanced value from FM function ?
  • How do we extend our internal & external interfacing and make the existing interfacing stronger ?

Organization:

  • How do we ensure fraud awareness keeps pace with the upgrading business dynamics ?
  • How do we enhance internal & external collaboration with FM function ?
  • How do we get higher return of investment from FM function ?
  • How to further reduce the fraud impact on the bottom line ?
  • How to make our fraud management practice more proactive ?

People:

  • Is resource acquisition better or resource development ?
  • How do we safeguard ourselves from attrition ?
  • Is our team structure agile enough while following industry standards ?
  • Do we have all the required roles and are the responsibilities clearly defined ?
  • Are we right, under or over staffed ?

Process:

  • Are my processes effective and easily exercisable ?
  • Are my processes future ready ?
  • Are my processes agile enough to adapt to any changes with acceptable TAT ?
  • Are we adopting and implementing industry best practices ?
  • What parts of my processes can be automated ?

Tools:

  • Is the Fraud Management tool adapted to my business environment ?
  • How do I ensure that the FM tool is fed accurate, complete and timely data ?
  • Are my fraud controls effective & efficient ? How do I reduce false positives ?
  • How do I ensure 100% automated fraud risk coverage ?
  • What capabilities do we need to acquire on tool front to be future ready ?
  • Are we ready against enormous data surge likely to be seen over next few years ? How do we benefit from it ?
  • Are we constantly learning from the industry in terms of fraud detection & prevention methods ?

Knowledge Management:

  • Is there sufficient attention on upgrading to the required skill sets ?
  • How do we enhance resource competency & knowledge against current & future services ?
  • Is our team keeping pace with constant fraud mutations ?
  • Is our team using the tools effectively & efficiently ?
  • Is our team knowledgeable and comfortable with processes ?
  • What are the top 5 areas of learning for the whole fraud function ?

Coverage:

  • Are we aware of all the fraud risks we are exposed to ? What is our current coverage levels ?
  • Do we know the gaps in terms of fraud risks coverage ? How can we improve ?
  • What is our strategy to become compliant to fraud risks introduced by new products and services ?
  • Are we ready for fast converging cross industry environment and the risks it introduces ?
  • What is our stand on customer and partner only risks ? How relevant they are for our business ? Is our current stand obsolete ?

Continuous Improvement:

  • What is our performance management strategy ?
  • Do we have effective KPIs ? Are these business relevant ?
  • How can we improve the fraud function’s effectiveness & maturity continuously ?
  • What metrics should I use to measure health of the overall FM function ?
  • Are we conducting sufficient & periodic RCA & decision analysis ?
  • How do we gather accumulated wisdom & actionable intelligence for improvement ?

Each of these questions can be a healthy point of discussion within your organization.
While these may give you a first hand view of health of your current fraud practice, more importantly, it may also open doors for a much detailed open table introspective sessions, enabling you to come up with much better & effective questions.

Remember, the key to remain healthy is to keep asking the ‘right’ questions.

As Albert Einstein rightly said – “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

Abhijeet Singh

Abhijeet is currently working as Principal Consultant with Subex.

He specializes in Telecom Fraud Management and his 360 degree experience in this field includes extensive exposure in Fraud Operations Management, Consulting & Advisory, Risk & Health Assessments, Business Development – Product & Managed Services and Analytics.

Out of professional life, he is a blogger, tech enthusiast and a traveler.

Factors Complicating Assurance in 4G Environments

GSMA has a vision for 2020 for Telecommunications Industry around connected living which focuses on main pillars which are expected to drive the industry forward, namely – Network 2020, Personal Data, Internet of Things and Digital Commerce.

As per my view, the single most important take away from that vision is the rise of Telco 2.0.

Telco 2.0 are those telecom operators which are expected to expand transformationally by taking risks to chase higher rewards in both known and as yet unknown new parts of the value chain. These are expected to be the most advanced & disruptive Telecom Operators.

Telco-2.0

The most important enabler of these, so called, Telco 2.0 operators would be the ‘platform’ which would allow them to explore & experiment with those unknowns and expand services while ensuring higher customer experience which will help them achieve that visionary status.

One of such platforms is 4G, which riding on the inability of 3G-3.5G networks in delivering the required quality of service, has shown tremendous adoption rate within operators over the years.

What has made 4G enabled networks so popular is its proven capability as an ideal platform for cross domain services convergence & all access technologies.

A comparison between 4G LTE & HSPA (~3G) based network and service delivery capabilities can be seen below:

consumer-content

The bitmap above also provides a crude reasoning around lower adoption rate of certain services which were also rolled out over 3G enabled networks, but did not meet the consumer expectations around quality, reliability and price.

4G based networks provide the ability to the operators to become the ‘Real’ converged service providers, which until 3G was more theory than practicality. Operators are now becoming OTT service providers including communication, social media, social network, content, advertisement etc., connected living enablers, enterprise enablers etc. which was, until now, being offered mostly by 3rd parties.

With operator owning the converged service offerings (or at-least controlling some part of the service delivery like quality etc.), the increase in traffic over its pipes has shown potential of increase in direct revenues, that too proportionately.

Factors influencing complexity in 4G environment

Yes. 4G is great! But, not without the share of complexities it injects in the area of assurance (RA & Fraud) operations.

The following variables are identified to be the main influencers with respect to complexity and uncertainty in 4G environments:

New Network Elements

4G introduces new set of network elements and O/BSS systems generally being customized in terms of design or implementation as per the operator raising concerns around interfacing, data availability or quality. This also points to increase in complexity & volume of RA & FM activities to be performed due to increased data sources and controls.

Also, a lot of components in 4G implementations are still not COTS and provide different logging & access levels which raising concerns around capability around identification of internal frauds and external access attempts/brute force attacks.

Parallel Networks

Traditional networks including certain components adopted from 2G, 3G environment and running in parallel to enable backward compatibility and interconnection leads to further increase in risk, complexity and number of controls to be managed.

Non Standard Implementations

Some areas of 4G network, O/BSS systems and interface partnerships (operator, content providers etc.) are being implemented in customized non-standard fashion to enable interconnections (including roaming approach) and support complex products and service offerings (like VoLTE or VoLTE roaming etc.). The situation is more of an experiment and working towards developing a standard rather than following one.

Lack of reference 4G RA & FM practices combined with custom implementations, RA & FM activities are expected to be driven by non standard data sets and frequencies until stability/maturity.

Initially in 4G space, RA & FM practices may be exposed to the scenario of ‘Incident induced learning’ or ‘reactive RA & FM’.

Higher Convergence

Higher convergence of ‘core’ telecom operator provided services introduces more ‘direct’ risks to the operator and an increased need to manage RA & fraud risks introduced by the new services, which in an earlier setting, was a headache of the third party service provider.

New Pricing Models

Conversion to charging policies from minutes to bytes (sessions) and bytes to service subscription & access mixed with complex bundling packs & rate plans is expected to change the traditional mindset of conducting RA & FM, especially around charging, discounting, billing & invoicing.

Disruptive roaming charging policies are also expected to be introduced which will change the perspective further.

For session based charging policy, verification of policy implementation is also expected to impose its own set of challenges.

Complex service offerings

Telecom operators are going beyond their traditional service offerings (Apart from voice and data – TV / content / cloud etc.) and venturing into the modern areas revenue generation such as content, advertisements, connected living etc.

Rich content (VoD, music, messgaging, magazines etc.) management & delivery to become the fulcrum 4G revenues. Also, with various channels of content delivery at hand, advertisement revenues will also play an important role for mature 4G operators

But, service based subscriptions, validity & dynamic delivery along with innovative & complex content and partner agreements are expected to complicate the RA & FM activities like never before.

Increase in transaction volumes

4G subscriptions is expected to increase 3.5 folds to 1.3 billion and data traffic by 6 folds to 17 Exabytes by Dec 2018. Operators will be dealing with many fold increase in data per unit of earned Revenue.

Considering revenues are tied to data sessions, transaction volume mgmt. for the purpose of RA & FM is expected to introduce a big challenges and would require advance data treatment, management & analysis techniques (e.g. Big data).

Responsiveness & Scalability is expected to be one of the main talking points with respect to volume management

Rapid Product & Services Launch

New product, package and service launch across the breath of 4G enabled service platforms are expected to see a considerable rise in throughput due to shortened development, delivery & release cycle.

The agility of RA & FM departments in terms of proactive assessment and risk readiness is expected to keep pace with the higher number of products, services and packages being launched at the breakneck speed across the breath of business offerings

Margin Management & Revenue Enhancement

With increased competition, Revenues are expected to be driven by high volumes and low margins and not high margins. Product performance measurement in terms of adoption and revenue generation against target will have to be carried out at much higher frequency.

With RA having and access to all cost items, charging, payins/payouts, usage records, quality parameters and first visibility to trends and anomalies, margin management and revenue enhancement activities are expected to take center stage

Skill set and technology within the team will have to be enhanced or absorbed to enable and handle increased cross functional interfacing , analytics and product management

Lack of Skill Set

Lack of mature reference 4G implementations is also expected to lead to lack of required skill set which is needed to manage and continuously improve the RA & FM operations. There will be focus on more laborious, reactive & risk prone approach of skill ‘creation’ rather than ‘absorption’

Updated Network Access Authentication Methods

Operators need risk readiness against newer authentication methods which are different for different services – ISIM, USIM, Single Sign On etc. Considering device authentication & security is in the hands of the manufacturer or the OS provider,  any security flaw is a direct risk to the subscriber base of the operator

Also, 3rd party firmwares & apps are readily available for the assistance of hackers. This situation increases the device or OS takeover further.

Increased UE & CPE Types

Exponential increase in multi vendor UE & CPE types has increased user exposure to IP frauds like takeovers (Accounts or UE) enhanced by ‘easy’ service access methods such as ‘single sign on’ for single or multiple services.

While user equipments are highly exposed to malicious Apps, URLs, Malwares etc., readily available custom firmware for Customer Premise Equipment are found to expose them to the same level of risks.

To top it off, high profile sensitive customer information hacking cases by external sources are on the rise both against individual subscriber and enterprise networks, calling for much more robust, secure and continuously improving infrastructure and detection capabilities.

Power user exploits

Power users or technology aware users are expected to exploit any loopholes in the implementation of service access, newer pricing models etc. through the use of various complex techniques such as URL masking etc. to bypass charging and gain free access to services

Spoofing or device configuration updates like MAC Address may also gain popularity to help divert charging to someone else in absence of adequate authentication and multi level device binding mechanisms

 

Movement to 4G or a higher capability environment is inevitable.

I believe, if traditional approach to manage RA & FM operations is continued as it is even for 4G environments, these functions are expected to attract steep investments to manage complexity factors mentioned above (including increase in network elements & O/BSS systems, data streams, data loads, controls, resourcing, technology requirements etc.).

There is an immediate need of shifting from current mindset and adopting “Smart” & “Agile” RA & FM practices across the operational spectrum (of people, process, measurement, organization & technology) to contain costs and risks much more efficiently.

Taking a cue from Game of Thrones – “Winter is coming! and this one will be long. God help us all if we’re not ready!”

Abhijeet Singh

Abhijeet is currently working as Principal Consultant with Subex.

He specializes in Telecom Fraud Management and his 360 degree experience in this field includes extensive exposure in Fraud Operations Management, Consulting & Advisory, Risk & Health Assessments, Business Development – Product & Managed Services and Analytics.

Out of professional life, he is a blogger, tech enthusiast and a traveler.

Managed Services – An important weapon in a telco’s arsenal for BSS business optimisation

While pressures on cost and margins with traditional services remain, fast emerging services are bringing in new risks and demands for new skills to manage them. Telcos are now looking for Managed Services engagements as a key differentiator in the emerging world.

 Telco’s are at the cross roads today – on one side they are pushing boundaries in a saturated and commoditized market to garner revenues and improve margins, whilst on the other they are pressurised to innovate and cater to the demands of the ubiquitous connectivity and data enabled services. Telco’s do not have a choice, but to act, to remain relevant in the market place with the changing landscape, new challenges and competition. With telco’s looking inwards for business optimisation – focusing primarily on the profitability of the business and monitoring the operational state of the business – what are the key trends shaping the industry and opportunity landscape ?

 Opportunities to remain relevant and successful in the new world order are plenty. Some of the initiatives are fairly quick to implement, while others require long term dedication and focus. Let us look at 3 key areas of opportunities in BSS for any telco.

  • OpEx control – Improving margins: The immediate and short-term opportunity for telcos is to control OpEx and improve margins on an already stressed traditional revenue streams. However, how do operators overcome the challenges facing them at two different levels – (a) skills upgrade (b) shortage of talented resources internally, and start improving their margins?
  • CapEx control – Improving RoIC: In the medium term, telcos are going to invest heavily in new and emerging technologies. The common conundrum corporate heads face are related to (a) successfully managing risks that comes with anything new (b) utilising the available critical capacity of technology & resources (c) responding timely & appropriately to market in face of competition and consumer expectations. How does Managed services help in providing the necessary capabilities to improve RoIC?
  • Economy of scale – Fuel growth: In the medium-longer term, telco leaders are going to look beyond their operating boundaries ; Industry consolidation, overseas M&A, new sources of revenue like PaaS/IaaS/SaaS for MVNOs or group op-co’s will be a key ingredient to the revenue growth. Is Managed services a viable solution to manage strategic and compliance risks?

Click here and download our latest newsletter in collaboration with Gartner for answers to the critical questions facing the industry leaders.

 

Asset Assurance: Leveraging our Experience, Maximizing the Network

Over the years we have gained a deep understanding of the culture within telcos. We are best known, through the ROC, as specialists in Revenue Assurance and Fraud Management. As such, we know how to deliver different views of the same data.

Having successfully done this in the BSS world, we have turned our attention to the networking side of the business. Controlling costs and optimizing network capital investment are priorities for the business and managed by the CFO’s office. Optimal usage of the network assets and manage traffic effectively are under the control of the CTO’s office.

Both offices need access to the same information but in different ways. With different priorities, sharing the same information without interpretation or tailored analytical choices would make communications between the two entities very difficult.

A CFO needs to know how many assets are stranded and therefore not producing revenue. Right now, the status and whereabouts of only 75 percent of a telco’s assets are known. Knowing where assets are, knowing how long an asset is in place before it is revenue producing and knowing that delaying an investment for a month makes financial sense is of huge importance to a CFO.

Understanding which assets can be re-used in other parts of the network, or which need to be retired can help the CTO with his priorities. Some assets can be effectively re-sold, so what is a retirement to the CTO becomes a possible source of revenue for the CFO.

We believe that creating a view into network assets will benefit both offices and create a better collaboration between them. Revenue Assurance can provide a financial view of IT assets, which adds a new and effective dimension to that craft. So, too, Asset Assurance adds the tools to the network capex side of the business to actively manage it. We not only believe it, we know it. Working with one of our customers we found $17 million of stranded assets in a single week. Better yet, Asset Assurance also benefits the customer.

Talk to a Telecoms Manager about what he would like from his telecoms provider and he will not say more accurate bills as a priority. He accepts that billing is complex and accepts that his comms bill will never be 100 percent accurate. What he would like more than anything is to know what inventory is in place in his organization, where it is, whether it is still live and whether he is paying for it. This can be discovered with Revenue Assurance tools, but now the communication providers can actively manage the whole inventory issue with the new Asset Assurance solution.

By leveraging our experience in Revenue Assurance and Fraud Management in the OSS world, we are now proud to be able to offer solutions and expertise to operators in all of the vital parts of their business, including network. And we are already proving that this concept of asset assurance is important in managing assets more effectively and efficiently.  We also believe, like many such solutions, that we will discover uses for Asset Assurance that we cannot quite see yet. We will keep you up to date with the story as it unfolds.

Chief Operating Officer
Vinod Kumar is the Chief Operating Officer and overall responsible for managing the Portfolio Development & Innovation, Client Acquisition & Relationships and Fulfillment teams. Prior to this, he worked in the capacity of Group President of the Company, and has previously handled the role of President and Senior Vice President – Sales at the Company, where he was directly responsible for the worldwide revenue generation efforts as well as the day-to-day operations of the Company’s sales organisation including sales, sales operations, alliances, and channels. Mr. Kumar joined the Company in October 1997 and was involved in the development and implementation of the Company’s sales strategy. Prior to joining the Company, he spent five years as a marketing executive with Crompton Greaves, and also worked at Ashok Leyland Limited. Mr. Kumar holds a bachelor of technology degree in electrical and electronics from CET, University of Kerala.

5 Questions to consider before starting RA activities

In my last post, I tried to highlight the “revenue” aspect for RA and the way KRA’s should be worked on. In continuation to that post, here are 5 questions that should be considered before starting of the RA activities:

  1. Who is responsible for RA?  It has to be a collective responsibility across the organization where every team/department has their role to play. Being in the Revenue Assurance department, is almost as good as being a Product Manager- where the individuals do not have a lot of control on the rest of the organization, yet they are suppose to own and be “solely responsible” for the role/product in the company. Hence, aiding in RA activities is as much a responsibility of Marketing and Network departments as it is for the core RA team.
  1. What should be viewed as the tactical task for the RA department?  All actions/activities that has the ability to allow the operator to generate revenue needs to be monitored to make sure there are no leakages.
  1. What is the ideal number of controls that should be worked on by the RA teams? This depends on the maturity of the organization in terms of organization, influence, people, process and tools. Hence it is always preferable to perform a quick maturity analysis, based on which primary focus areas would be identified and controls created. Not all controls would necessarily impact revenue. Understanding the maturity enables the creation of a roadmap for improvement across the organization. Typically there is NO need to have hundreds of KPIs to monitor each segment or process. This is because of the 80-20 rule. 80% leakages can be found by 20% of appropriate controls. Hence it is essential to work on controls/KPis that have maximum impact, rather than trying to monitor hundreds of them.

 

  1. 4.       Is Cost Management a part of RA activities? Only when the RA team is capable enough to secure the top-line for the organization, should they focus their activities on more strategic objectives like cost and margin assurance and management. Revenue maximization should ideally not be a part of RA department activities.  Most RA teams should venture into this area solely to ensure they provide ample Business Intelligence for marketing and sales departments to take the information to the market to generate more revenues.

 

  1. 5.       What are the most important parameters to report on?  RA departments should look to quantify the findings from data analysis to provide view of
    1. a.       leakage detected
    2. b.      leakage corrected and recovered
    3. c.       leakage corrected and recovered as percentage of detected
    4. d.      leakage detected as percentage of revenue
    5. e.      leakage detected as percentage of EBIDTA
    6. f.        time to recover from detection of leakage.

In a nutshell, RA is not rocket science, but it is an extremely important and challenging aspect of business- not only telecoms but across other industry verticals as well. The effect in telecoms is much more because of the complexity of operations.

In following articles, we would talk more on RA, scope, new horizons and verticals for RA. Stay tuned.

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