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All posts by Arnab Mohapatra

Are you 5G Assured? 4 Game-changing Business Assurance trends to evolve with 5G

Even before we could be content with 4G and its value offerings, the 5th wave of telecom evolution is already here. Telecom giants from Middle East Asia, the Americas and the European geographies have already built their first publicly available prototypes in the 5G environment and are aggressively working towards building newer service models to drive unparalleled customer experiences. All said and done it is still in silos since the very process of conceiving the 5G ecosystem is underway. OEMs and integrators like Nokia and Qualcomm have also created enablement environments for the CSPs to progress with their 5G on-going projects.

Release 16, one of the much-hyped releases by 3GPP aims to complete the IMT 2020 vision of building a fully functional 5G working environment is in progress. This, in turn, is going to change the entire scenario of business assurance.

Here are four forecasts which are going to change the perception of looking at Business Assurance.

  1. Business Assurance practices will be services driven and customer focused.

5G is a service driven architecture. The basic objective of 5G is to develop an integrated communications environment for driving scalability of services and Man-to-Machine interactions a reality. The evolution of 5G offerings, services and niches will be around 3 major value propositions as described in the IMT Vision 2020:

  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband
  • Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications
  • Massive Machine Type Communications

More such use-cases can be seen in the diagram proposed by ITU-T for enabling IMT 2020 vision.

ITU-T

The “switch to bill” outlook towards revenue assurance will soon be replaced by revenue enhancement and monetization of these freemium models of service delivery. With the first line of controls already being built and integrated into the BSS systems, the focus of business assurance will shift towards customer experience while maintaining the required financial bandwidth for sustenance and monetization of services offered.

  1. Managed services will converge for the OSS and BSS spaces.

Managed services have evolved separately for OSS and BSS parts of the telecom ecosystem and have required special resources (manpower & machinery) for execution. However, that will no longer be the case. 5Gs service-oriented architecture with network slicing capabilities would cause business assurance functions to be staffed with professionals who have a sound understanding of networks and the business aspect of services associated with it. Strong data interpretation and the ability to co-relate, interpret and present a business outcome with a network performance measure would be in demand. Also, new areas such as Network Asset Assurance, Spectrum and Capacity Assurance, (which were previously on the edge) would now be an integral part of the overall business model.

  1. Use of Advanced Statistical Methods and Analytics for Assurance Practices

5G, with its ability to support multiple service environments, will offer a great platform for the proliferation of Machine learning (ML) practices, both in the networks as well as the business domains. For example, ML may find use in enhancing self-organization feasibility through cognitive network management while in the business domain ML’s role would be to support QoS management in highly automated slicing environments.

  1. Integrated Security Practices will drive a whole new outlook for combating fraud

Cyber-security and traditional fraud management practices, until now have had different paths of evolution. Since 5G will be an end to end IP based delivery platform, this will cause cyber security and fraud management practices in telecom to converge to counter new fraud scenarios that threaten the confidentiality, availability and security of the business.

Bottomline Question: How do I ensure business readiness for venturing into 5G?    

The readiness matrix for venturing into the 5G space can be broken into three major pillars:

  • Technology and Risk Readiness:

While venturing into the new generation of technology, it must be ensured the current network and systems are not cannibalized. One good way to start with is to ensure backward technology integration. This, in-turn, will ensure seamless onboarding. It is also required to premeditate necessary risk controls (business, operational, compliance and financial) involved in the different stages of migration to quantify the overall risk appetite to arrive at basic business decision of “to be or not to be”!

  • Business Model Readiness:

As stated earlier, the IMT – 2020 vision is to create business models best suited for the targeted customers. Depending on the existing value chain arrangements, the CSP can start identifying what kind of revenue stream partnerships can it afford to get into to roll-out services best suited to the proposed customer segment. It is suggested that in an economy that is cost-sensitive, sharing of capabilities (technology, manpower and resources) is the best way to start with.

  • Customer Readiness:
    Knowing the present capabilities, limitations, interests and desires of the customer is important and correlating these with the business model deliveries is imperative to the sustainability of the business. This not only helps the business earn more from the customer but also helps understand the changing patterns in their behavior much sooner and with visible effect.

What to look in a 5G transformation assurance partner?

To sum it up, it’s important to have an assurance partner that can support you in driving a technology transformation course that is so complex. The partner should be able to provide support at any leg of the transformation – from choosing the right model of delivery to helping realize monies out of it. The partner should be capable enough to drive decisions on risk treatment and help the business attain long term sustainability with an optimal amount of investment.

“Roam like Home”: Cost Optimization for Profitable Margins

Before I begin my story, let’s go back and revise some elementary school math concepts on profits and losses. I would often wonder why Mathematics would be right before the break and our bellies would often be rumbling with hunger and curiosity over what was packed for lunch……. Sigh! Those good old days…well coming back…

Profit = Selling Price – Cost Price

Easy wasn’t it? Well guess what, this formula does hide great secrets to being sustainable in business. Now, getting back to my story…

Last year, in September one of the larger and popular global telecom service providing giants from APAC introduced the concept of “Roam like home” where the international roaming was almost made free for incoming calls while the prices for out-going local and international calls were kept very nominal. The introduction of this concept was after the realization of the fact that international roaming was no longer a profitable revenue stream. It was a huge opportunity loss to the telco when its customers procured SIMS with local operators at the international destinations to use data or make calls. Data usage, which otherwise is quite expensive at international destinations was a dominant driving force for procuring local sims at international destinations.

This operator leveraged on its multi-national presence and introduced multiple plans with base prices of less than 10 dollars a day, which provided unlimited data usage. The plans instantly became a hit with the consumers, and the utilization of home sim-cards at international destinations grew exponentially. However, we must not forget that to have pulled off such a successful offer it did take months of planning on restructuring the costs to maintain an optimal state of profitability without compromising on the Quality of Services.

If one were to decode the CSP’s margin assurance strategy from a cost perspective, to ensure continued sustenance of the offer made, the telecom service provider must have restructured and optimized the costs under the following cost heads:

  • 1. Incremental Cost Optimization:
    This cost head includes all the fixed and the variable costs that go into the conception of a product. While not much could have been done to the fixed costs, the operator played around with the variable costs such as labor charges or the costs associated with transmission. Introduction of shared & centralized services for revenue management of international roaming for various subsidiaries can really play an effective role in optimizing the workforce-related costs which majorly contribute to the cost addition of services.
  • 2. Joint and Common Costs (JCC) Optimization:
    These costs have a compliance aspect associated with them and occur when the costed item is produced efficiently only in combination with other items. The sum of each item’s allocated JCCs cannot exceed the total of all items’ JCCs. To optimize on this aspect, on some home-like roam packs, the CSP, with consent from the end consumer, by default, deactivated some Value-added services and third-party costs like CRBTs, VOD, access to premium content and other high bandwidth services. Re-activation of these services at international locations were made on advance payment of add-on fees over and above the base pack activations.
  • 3. Fully Distributed Cost & Historically Embedded Cost Optimization:
    Services like Last mile connectivity, equitable service distribution through efficient route optimization, cost of laying of infrastructure are some of the contributors to the FDC component while all hardware maintenance and replacement costs contribute to the HEC component.

The operator took advantage of its presence at international destinations to restructure the revenue sharing model by enabling international customers to latch onto the subsidiary’s network to enjoy the full band of services available at home. For areas where the operator did not have its subsidiaries, it tied up with local internet service providers that provided public & private Wi-Fi hotspots for seamless data connectivity through Wi-Fi offloading or revenue sharing with preferred local and regional CSPs through its well-placed steering strategies.

For optimization of Historically embedded costs (HEC), the CSP planned for traffic load balancing through intelligent route optimization while simultaneously looking for technology alternatives where the cost of replacement was nominal when compared with the benefits provided. The operator indulged in asset sharing for signaling optimization. As per sources, the service provider of late has been seen entering into an agreement with vendors who could deploy SDNs and support NFVs for load balancing over the cloud infrastructure to reduce the impact of additional long-distance traffic over underlying network and systems.

While cost-optimization is one of the many techniques to maintain a healthy bottom line for sustainability, it indeed is of paramount importance. As Clive Humby rightly puts it – “data is the new oil,” we will continue to observe many such systemic changes in Telecom players regarding the perception of margins soon. For more insights on what Margin Assurance holds for telecom providers of the future, do check out our Point of View on Margin assurance.

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