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Category Archives: Digital

“Empowering Business Assurance with Artificial Intelligence” at Digital Transformation World 2018

TMForum recently concluded Digital Transformation World 2018 event at Nice, France. As the name indicates the key theme of the event was on enabling telecom operators to move their business to the digital world. The event was bustling with fresh ideas, innovations and technology which have the potential to cause disruption in the telecom industry. I represented Subex at the event and we participated in one of the catalysts. Catalyst projects are rapid collaboration initiatives driven by Forum member companies. Forum members work together to create proof-of-concept demonstrations for today’s most pressing business, operational and IT challenges.

The catalyst that Subex participated was “Empowering Business Assurance with Artificial Intelligence”. The catalyst goal was to bring in Artificial Intelligence(AI), Machine Learning & Big Data Analytics to empower the assurance teams in the world of digital transformations. This catalyst had enabled Subex to collaboratively deliver not only solutions for problems that can be solved using advanced analytics but also to create best practices and standards, helping hundreds of Forum member companies reduce cost, risk, and time-to-market as they transform for success in the digital world.

The use cases we worked on for the catalyst focussed on using AI based Machine learning techniques and advanced analytics to:

  • Enable Telcos to track fraudsters faster and minimize revenue loss caused by arbitrage
  • Allow KPI tracking and anomaly detection with a minimal manual intervention
  • Help Telcos differentiate fraudsters from genuine customers by identifying important features

Telcos we interacted at the event were very impressed with how AI & Machine learning can help them  manage challenges in the digital world.

The highlight of the keynote at the event was on the open Digital architecture and open APIs which provide a platform to rapidly partner and innovate, to deliver business and technology integration between the companies. The biggest announcement at the keynote was on one of the excellence awards, Reliance Jio from India was announced for an award for ‘Business transformation’ for making greatest strides in transforming its business operation to a low cost, agile and customer-centric model.

The other topics that were covered in the catalyst initiative were Block Chain Unleashed, Blade Runner, Smart Cites, Cognitive Customer care. Most of the catalysts and their theme was around disruptive technologies such as Blockchain platforms, Internet of Things, and Machine learning. This is a clear indication that industry is moving towards using these cutting-edge technologies to solve some of key business problems Telcos are facing today.

The most exciting part of the 3-day event was the Catalyst awards. Of the 25 catalysts that were part of the catalyst program, our catalyst won an award for Outstanding Contribution to TMForum Assets. We were thrilled and excited for having got the award. For me, key take away from the event is, in the road to digital transformation Telcos are looking at OSS/BSS not only as watchdog systems to monitor revenue leakages & frauds but are exploring ways by which these systems can help them generate revenues. We as Subex need to look at delivering to value to our customers considering these business assurance needs.

Rajesh is the Director of Advanced Analytics at Subex. He has close to 11 years of experience in the IT industry and his domain expertise are Data Science, Machine Learning, Big Data and Object Oriented Programming. He is a seasoned expert in innovating and building analytics solution on Big Data Environment. He has a strong background in Machine Learning, IOT, Natural Language Processing and Social media.

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.

My tale of the Mobile World Congress 2018

I attended the recently concluded Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, representing Subex. At Hall 5 Stand 5F10, Subex had put up an elegant booth focusing on analytics, insights and IoT security, and set the stage for many back to back meetings with customers, partners, media, new connects and more, over the span of four days. The Conversations we had focused around IoT, Analytics and Insights with discussions revolving around live honeypot attacks, IoT secure stack, B2B business models, web scale applications retail billing, Capex and Opex optimization, customer experience management with edge computing, network investment modeling, innovative analytics & insights offering, telecom frauds using machine learning, big data scale stacks and many more. Overall, it was an engaging, invigorating and truly a great learning experience.

Among the various keynotes, the one which stood out was by Turkcell CEO Kaan Terzioglu, who swept the audience with his inspiring speech making a strong pitch for the optimistic Telecom future. During his keynote, he shared all the stats about what he and his team were delivering on the digital frontline over the last year – music apps, cloud services, instant messenger, TV+ apps – all topping the charts on their own turf.

There were a lot of expectations on big OEM vendors to put up a jazzy 5G show. However, with exception to Huawei, and to some extent Ericsson, most OEM vendors pulled off monotonous exhibits. The remarkable thing was that many operators had come up with exceptional messaging to market. For instance, Orange had put up many 5G demo use cases on IoT, V2N2X, Ultra low latency use cases; Vodafone launched an out-of-the-world 4G lunar project in collaboration with Nokia labs and displayed demos on connected vehicles, IoT and edge computing use cases; Docomo showcased robotic arms; and China Mobile demonstrated use case around 5G manufacturing robots. This clearly shows that operators have started driving towards innovation and digital services.

The other set of players who left a deep impression were semiconductor players. Intel showcased its autonomous car, along with its machine learning capabilities and showcased its low latency automobile use cases. At the same time, it showcased its next-generation chipsets for 5G. Qualcomm showcased its AI chipset and an array of applications on automotive use cases. But the winner among all was Huawei, who came out with all guns blazing with all possible 4G/5G/Fiber access use cases including 4K/8K video streaming, array of innovations around small cells, cloud computing, network slicing, edge computing and the attention grabber 4G connected flying taxi (drone)!

MWC-collage

One key takeaway for me, personally, is that MWC is an important networking event. You have a superb setting to meet your customers, network with potential clients, partners, media, competition and anyone who is remotely interested in your products! This opportunity is an unmatched and unbeatable one!!

If you look at this actioned packed event with an open mind you will be truly left with an assortment of emotions. The kind of competition in your space will spook you, the pace at which the technological landscape changes will awe you and the time, energy and money spent behind the bleeding edge / cutting edge technologies will simply numb you with a realization of your own relative position!

There is so much to experience here within such a limited time!!

Sai Thilak

Sai Thilak has 11+ years of experience in engineering management, product development, solution architecting and customer deliveries in Telecom OSS/BSS space. Sai currently leads product management for Network Asset Assurance & Data Integrity Management products. He’s passionate about new age products, a voracious reader, biography & history buff, financial market student, cricketer & active blogger.

GDPR – A New Road to Trust

As the May 25th deadline for the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) looms closer many organisations still haven’t made the internal changes required by the new law.  For those who haven’t yet faced up to the impact of GDPR, a good starting point is to understand how the 7 Principles of this new regulation affect their business.  The challenge many have found is that there is not ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to GDPR.  Every organisation will have different requirements.  That’s why it’s recommended that organisations urgently carry out a self-assessment to gauge their own level of compliance, which considers their own unique circumstances.  Here are some of the questions organisations should ask themselves:

  1. Has all the personal data being held, where it comes from, how it’s processed and who it has shared with been documented?
  2. Are lines of accountability clearly documented should there be a data breach?
  3. Has a lawful basis for the processing been identified and documented? If not then has consent been obtained from the data subjects?
  4. Is there a process to securely dispose of personal data that’s no longer required?
  5. Do staff receive data protection awareness training, and do they know what processes to follow to identify, report and resolve data breaches?
  6. Do we carry out internal audits to monitor our own compliance with data protection principles?
  7. Have appropriate technical and organisational measures to protect data during processing been implemented?
  8. Do key people in the organisation demonstrate support for data protection?
  9. Can we respond to a data subjects request to see the personal data we hold about them?

The ICO, the UK’s supervisory authority, are providing assistance by making a self-assessment tool available on their website.  This can help both data controllers and processors to identify compliance gaps and provides recommended actions.  After carrying out a self-assessment, organisations need to draw up a plan for tackling the compliance gaps identified.  As can be seen from the above questions, high on the list of priorities is documentation. Documentation needs to exist that details the processes and policies to be followed, and as evidence that those processes are being followed.   This is because, in the event of a data breach, auditors from the supervisory authority will be looking for documentary evidence that shows how organisation has tried to comply with GDPR.  Such evidence could significantly reduce the likely penalties.  The level of detail required will depend largely on the sensitivity of the personal data held, and likely risk of a breach.  For example, in the case of highly sensitive data, a full Data Protection impact assessment should be carried out to understand and mitigate the risks.  If companies are diligent in their efforts to protect personal data, and thereby protect the customers themselves, then Elizabeth Denham, head of the ICO, has some comforting words.

‘You will know by now that, while I am never afraid to use the stick in the cupboard, I prefer the carrot.

Education, engagement, encouragement, – they all come before enforcement.

I have said many times that we are a pragmatic regulator and that hefty fines will be reserved for those who wilfully or persistently flout the law.’

GDPR is challenging companies to put their data protection house in order, but the benefit of GDPR is that it forces companies to better understand their own processes and improve internal governance.  This can lead to greater efficiencies and transparency, which can ultimately help to restore trust in big corporations that has steadily been eroded by every new revelation about misconduct and abuse of power, not to mention poor customer service.  Organisations that are looking for ways to avoid GDPR should instead start embracing it as a way to restore customers trust.

Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years as a BI and Analytics consultant, and more recently as ROC Product Manager for Subex Ltd. He has designed and deployed solutions for global companies in many sectors including Insurance, utilities and telecommunications. Mark holds a BSc Hons in Computer Science from Manchester University (UK).

Why SIM Box Fraud is Rampant in Africa?

The second fastest-growing continent after China, Africa owes much of its recent economic growth to the use of telecommunications services. However, over the past few years, telcos in Africa have been hit by several telecom frauds. SIM box fraud, also known as the interconnect bypass fraud, is one of the major frauds affecting the dynamic telecom market in Africa. The impact is huge in terms of the loss in revenues to telcos and taxes to the government. It is estimated that Africa loses up to 150 million US dollars every year to interconnection frauds. Reports suggest that two years back SIM box fraud had brought in losses of 12 to 15 million minutes’ worth of revenue to Kenyan government and operators, and about US$5.8 million to Ghana government.

Why SIM Box Frauds Target Africa?

  • As per the industry reports, mobile subscriber growth in Africa is largely driven by the lower call prices and availability of cheaper handsets. The competition arising from over-the-top (OTT) providers has put an additional pricing pressure on telcos, forcing them to design new bundled offerings encompassing data, voice and SMS. Such bundles bring much lower per-minute revenue for the operators as compared to traditional services. Fraudsters operating the SIM boxes are taking advantage of this scenario to bypass the formal call termination systems that fetch higher tariffs to telcos.  The calls routed through the IP networks are terminated using local SIM gateways, thus compromising the formal interconnection networks and bringing heavy losses to the telcos who have invested in building the networks. Traditionally, African countries are known to have higher interconnection tariffs compared to other regions, which further explains why such frauds are prevailing in Africa.

 

  • If I were to look at data from google trends, one can also make out that Ghana in Africa seems quite buzzy about “Simbox Fraud” as a term to be searched on Google (till Nov, 2017)

 

simbox-fraud1

 

 

  • Technological advancements have also contributed for the rise in interconnection frauds. The growing sophistication around SIM box technologies has made fraud detection difficult using traditional methodologies. SIM boxes are programmed to mimic the activities of a normal call user. The equipment can have SIM cards of different operators installed, so a single SIM box can operate with several GSM gateways located in different parts of the world. The availability of SIM cards at cheaper prices and the lack of law enforcement over the sale of prepaid SIM cards have also favored the growth of SIM box fraud, further.

 

  • Globally, the difference in approaches adopted by different countries to deal with the fraud makes it difficult for operators to develop a unified strategy to fight these frauds. IP interconnection services are treated as legal in a few countries whereas they are banned in other countries due to the regulatory issues associated with such activities. For example, the Ghanaian government has declared SIM boxes illegal and made several arrests in this regard. However, SIM boxes are now available in several open markets including popular e-commerce platforms for around $1000 per unit. To make the matter worse, OTT providers like Viber are now explicitly selling their call termination capabilities to lure roaming customers to such bypass activities. Another such OTT development I recently noticed is Skype offering Free calls to mobiles and landlines in the United States and Canada from India These evolving trends convey the scale at which the SIM fraud is growing, calling for immediate action from telcos to safeguard their revenue streams.

Unified approach for addressing Sim-box fraud:

To conclude, the recent developments around SIM box fraud have further aggravated the challenges faced by African telcos. With no scope for regulatory remediation, the only way forward for them is to prevent these attacks using advanced technologies. Traditional approaches like Call Detail Record (CDR) analysis are becoming ineffective in dealing with modern SIM box strategies due to the latency and false positives associated with those methods. As the market evolves, operators are looking toward a unified approach that can help them address the crisis in a much proactive manner. The developments around machine learning and test call group (TCG) analysis have favored the growth of an integrated solution that can help telcos combat the fraud in a cost-effective manner. The approach builds the capabilities of the traditional models but integrates the advancements in artificial intelligence and self-learning rules.

Watch this space for more updates on SIM box fraud management with cognitive analytics capabilities.

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.

Strategies for Telcos to drive the digital economy Part 2

The internet waits for no one! It is changing the way businesses run and in today’s era, digital economy is not a distant dream but a reality.

As promised in my last blog, I will elaborate on the key strategies that I disclosed in my previous blog which will help CSPs in their digital transformation journey to become Digital Service providers and thus drive the economy.

Core Rediscovery – As said earlier, being digital does not always mean discovering new revenue streams of the digital world. It also means doing the basics brilliantly. Ensuring innovation can be brought with in the traditional services. It also means identification of a new way(s) of doing business to pull in more revenue, a classical example in interconnect business is Origin based billing & routing. Other ways of innovation are Direct CSP billing – MVNOs to cater to niche markets to indirectly gain customer base and revenues. SaaS models like billing-as-a-service to support smaller partners. DVBT2 – Digital Video Broadcasting, SMS based Cab booking, Toll free based calling Apps, Secure SMS/Missed Call – Mobile Banking etc. Rating and discounting models to define rating plans that can also assist in bringing in more revenue generation opportunities for existing and new traditional partners. These can be revenue share models or the new age models like pay as you go.

Discover New – There is absolutely no denial that digital world is surely opening new revenue streams for CSPs. The mantra to grab a share of this pie is to act fast. CSPs need to establish a fail fast strategy so that they can identify core area of strength early in the digitalization journey. Fail fast strategy shall enable them in continuing only with those new streams that make sense to the eco system in which they do their business. No doubt, IoT & M2M are the most fascinating areas in digital world. Other areas where CSPs can generate revenue are APIs, Analytics as a service, supporting new age MVNOs like Uber and Micheline (Tier-as-a-service), smart homes solutions provided by Qivicon founded by Deutsche Telekom. Digitalization is fueled by the capabilities of operators, and hence the outreach of the operators is now domain agonistic.

Collaboration Platform –With digitalization, difference between a partner and the end subscriber relationship is becoming blur. Partners also need attention and care like your end subscribers. CSPs will fascinatingly find innovative partners in garage companies, startups, small organization etc. Hence it is terribly essential that CSPs have a collaboration platform that addresses partner empowerment issues.

There are two ways in which operators can bring in novelty. One is by revolutionizing their own, which we see in the case of the telecom giants acquiring platform that enables the disruptive capabilities inhouse.  The Another way is to look for vendors who can provide them a converged platform to leverage the entire gamut of the partner ecosystem. The end goal is to stay ahead of the competition by providing traditional and digital services to end customers.

Customer Experience – Telecom market used to be oligopoly in nature, wherein the major players of telecom industries use to commodify the subscribers to mint money out of them.  Whereas now, in a perfectly competitive transition, we need to shift the paradigm to make customer and CSP relationship more human centric. This will help a CSP in designing the offerings to ensure consumer retention and to win new customers. The new age subscriber is demanding in nature and prefers an operator who is agile, innovative and cost effective.

Below is the survey shared by Capgemini, which shows low net promotor scores of mobile operators.

 

mobile-operators

 

This survey also talks about that 58% of customers are willing to switch to Digital only service provider and high value customers are more willing to change. Unless operators reform their customer satisfaction approach, the NPS will stay low and operators will keep losing revenue and customer base to digital players.

Operational Efficiency – Digitalization will lead to increase in number of partner relationships. Soon a CSP, during its transformation journey, will experience partner explosion. Digital services will result in plethora of data getting generated. To keep things under check, a CSP must bring in efficiency by making its operations also digital. Operations can be digitalized by automation, reducing redundancy of systems and data, seeking help from domain and system experts (consultation and managed services), empowering partners with self-care capabilities. CSPs design their partner handling capabilities both in terms of processes and solutions considering mostly trusted partners, hence the partnerships are also limited and the systems are also multi step and user dependent. In case of digitalization, CSPs need to associate with multiple entities who can bring in renovation, hence will see surge in partnerships. To handle partner explosion, processes of on-boarding and partner care should be particularly efficient. Partners are the new age customers, they are aware that they bring innovation and new revenue stream for a CSP, hence they should be treated with lot of care. Having an efficient eco-system for partner will surely bring in satisfaction and shall maintain a healthy partnership.

Expense Optimization – Expenses are inversely proportional to profit. An aspiring digital operator must form a strategy around cost reduction. Based on a research house, software industry is gradually moving towards convergent approach from siloed ecosystem. This helps in reducing overhead of investing in multiple systems. Leveraging solutions that are based on open source technologies is another way of optimizing hefty recurring costs. If a telco can bring in operational efficiency, expense optimization will happen automatically.

This transformation will be a challenging journey for both CSP and its partners, but this will surely help an operator to rediscover itself and shall bring in more agility to accept and act on whatever comes down the path. Though there are many other factors and strategies that can be adopted along with the mentioned ones, these 6 strategies are our take on the transformation journey. However, it is very important for an operator to clearly identify the purpose of its modification, but it is completely okay to move step by step instead of adopting all 6 strategies at once. To start with the transformation, CSPs should reexamine the existing offerings, existing expense optimization plan, make the current operations efficient and ensure customer satisfaction in the existing services offered. Once there is a clarity in becoming digital in current line of business, identification of new streams will automatically fall in place.

We are discussing these strategies in detail at our booth (Booth # 5F10, Hall 5) in MWC 2018. Meet us in the booth to know more about how we can help in your transformation journey to drive the digital economy.

Sunay Zelawat

Sunay currently serves as the Product Manager of Cost Analytics portfolio. He specializes in Telecom Partner Settlement, Route Optimization, Interconnect Billing and Order Management/Provisioning. He has 10 years of experience in the Telecom Industry. He is also a keynote speaker in forums like GSC and an active contributor to online forums related to partner settlement.

Strategies for Telcos to drive the digital economy Part 1

In an ever-changing state of communication, innovation has become quintessential force that is driving the digital economy. Looking at the current trends, every organization wants to go digital. Being digital holds different meaning for different organizations based on the nature of their business.

But when it comes to the telecom world, going digital is more of a catchup rather than a race to be a pioneer. A lot of non-telco players are already digitalized from day one, and that too by using CSP’s platform and customer base. Rise of OTT players and other disruptors have done a significant damage to the traditional voice and text business as well. The consulting leaders such as Ovum and McKinsey predict the success of OTT players in capturing a significant share of telco services.

 

OTT's share

 

As the number of years ascends, the revenue graph takes an inverse fall and this analysis makes it important for CSPs, who have the best of world resources in the form of capital, customer base, infrastructure and brand name, to start doing things differently by shifting their focal point from just a traditional to a mix of traditional and digital services. Now is the time for the CSPs to take the process of metamorphosis seriously.

(Based on GSMA figures,) The period starting from 2016 to 2020 will witness substantial ballooning of the data and connectivity indicating clearly that digitalization is going to play a pivotal role in service providers growth and thus will help in balancing the loss incurred due to reducing revenues from traditional services.

 

mobile-broadband-connection

 

The transition from communications service provider (CSP) to Digital Service Provider (DSP) cannot be a quarantined approach. It requires partnership with innovators/disruptors to bring in new services and experiences. Confederation of progressive vendors with digitalized vision is indispensable in providing solutions that can support this transition. CSP to DSP transformation approach cannot be concentrated around only new revenue streams. Industry experts have defined DSP as a service provider whose, not only services, but also operations are under the single umbrella of digitalization. One who provides services as well as operations, both digitalized.

We have a strong view that there are lot other areas which are still left untapped.

Looking at the current scenarios, there are 6 key strategies that are listed based on the idea of helping CSPs in increasing their revenues by bringing innovation and creativity in their existing services, acceptance of new technologies, sustaining demanding customer base and reducing operational & transformation expenses. Below is the list of our 6 key digitalization strategies that are recommended for a progressive CSP during its transformation.

In my next blog I will elaborate on these strategies in detail and discuss how it will help CSPs to transform themselves into DSPs and thus help them to drive the digital economy. Stay tuned!

 

transformation-strategies

 

Sunay Zelawat

Sunay currently serves as the Product Manager of Cost Analytics portfolio. He specializes in Telecom Partner Settlement, Route Optimization, Interconnect Billing and Order Management/Provisioning. He has 10 years of experience in the Telecom Industry. He is also a keynote speaker in forums like GSC and an active contributor to online forums related to partner settlement.

The GDPR Countdown

It’s only a few short months till May 25th when the European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) become law.  After many years of bureaucratic deliberation, the official text of the General Data Protection Regulations was finally published in May 2016.   Although the entire document is 261 pages long, the principle subject of the GDPR is stated clearly on the front page.  It is for

…the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data…

In that opening sentence are two key points.  First point is that it is for the protection of natural persons.  The phrase ‘natural persons’ makes it clear that this regulation is not for the protection of companies or organisations, but for protection of people, or data subjects in the jargon of the GDPR.    The second point is that it is about the ‘processing of personal data’.    Each of these words needs to be carefully defined, which is essentially what the remaining 260 pages of the document attempts to do.

The reason new regulations have become necessary is because the landscape of data processing has changed dramatically since the Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC) was introduced back in 1995.  In those days data storage was too expensive to store anything but essential data, and the internet was mostly just a few academic or special interest websites.  Then the corporate world woke up to the potential value of piping advertising and shopping direct into people’s homes and the internet has exploded into a vast shopping centre and ocean of general knowledge.  Behind all that surfing is also an ocean of data about what people like and dislike, their health, what they eat, their habits, what they spend and where they are doing that spending.  That data, your data, is gold dust for corporations who are trying to predict how to persuade you to spend more, but it is also invaluable for fraudsters or criminals looking for ways to steal your identity, your money, or do you harm.    That is why European regulators are now trying to put a stop to the rapidly escalating problem of data breaches by threatening extremely high penalties for companies that have data breaches.  For the worst offender’s fines of up €20 mn or 4% global annual turnover can be imposed.   There is no doubt that a great many companies and government agencies are extremely poor at data protection, but the GDPR tries to make it clear what all organisations need to do to become compliant.  Compliance comes from following what are known as the 7 Principles relating to the processing of personal data, which I’ve paraphrased below : –

  1. Only process personal data for a lawful and fair purpose
  2. Only collect and process data for an explicitly specified purpose
  3. Ensure personal data is relevant and necessary for the specified purpose
  4. Ensure personal data is kept accurate
  5. Keep data in a form that allows for identification of individuals for no longer than is necessary
  6. Keep personal data hidden in a secure environment
  7. Keep track of everything, and be prepared to show regulators what steps have been taken to protect personal data

To do this companies should first perform an audit to know what personal data they hold, where it comes from, where it’s stored, who can see it and how it’s disposed of.

The main challenge is really in deciding how to keep data hidden, and how to secure the environment.  Ideally all personal data should be encrypted in a data store which is completely isolated from the internet, or from physical intrusion.  Access to the data should be tightly controlled and only given to authorised individuals where necessary.  All access to those systems which can display personal data should be logged and the logs reviewed on a regular basis.  From an organisational stand point all the processes for storing, handling and disposing of personal data should be documented and audited on a regular basis.

GDPR is intended to protect all of us from misuse of our data.  We at Subex are dedicated to helping operators to comply with these new regulations which will ultimately lead to safer and more secure future for us all.

Watch out this space for more updates.

Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years as a BI and Analytics consultant, and more recently as ROC Product Manager for Subex Ltd. He has designed and deployed solutions for global companies in many sectors including Insurance, utilities and telecommunications. Mark holds a BSc Hons in Computer Science from Manchester University (UK).

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.

Customer Analytics: Walking in the Customers Shoes

In the first blog in this series on customer analytics, the technique of Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) was discussed as a way to follow how customers move from one touch point to the next, and track their emotional well-being during those interactions. In the last blog I described how using a persona to represent a group of customers would allow marketing to get a better understanding of customers. In this blog I will explore how Customer Journey maps can be created for persona to visualize an idealized journey for the group represented. This is now becoming a well-accepted technique for not only improving user experience in software design, but also in the design of products, digital and conventional marketing channels, architecture and many other areas.

There are two basic approaches for creating persona. One is to base the persona on in-depth research of the customers within a market segment, and the other is to base the persona on intuition, sometimes referred to as a provisional persona. In reality, it makes most sense to use a combination of research and intuition, and then verify the persona with those who have front line contact with customers. Generally customers belonging to a company’s biggest market segment would be targeted first and a primary persona is created to represent them. If the team creating the persona do not have direct knowledge of the customers in that segment then they will need to conduct research to understand the values and motivations of the group.

Once a persona has been defined then it’s possible to look at how the company would engage that persona in a sale, and the hope is that the persona would follow each engagement at every touchpoint, even long after they’ve made the purchase and are using the product. The framework for this is known as the Customer Lifecycle. There are many versions of this but they all share some basic stages, as described by Jim Sterne and Matt Cutler in a paper called “E-metrics, business metrics for the new economy

  • Reach: Trying to get the attention of the people we want to reach.
  • Acquisition: Attracting and bringing the reached person into the influence sphere of our organization. 
  • Conversion: When the people we reach or have a more established relationship with, decide to buy something from us.
  • Retention: Trying to keep the customers and trying to sell them more (cross-selling, up-selling).
  • Loyalty: We would like the customer to become more than a customer: a loyal partner and even a ‘brand advocate’ Moments of truth

This can be represented either horizontally or in a circular lifecycle type chart

The Customer Life Cycle – Source: E-Metrics Business Metrics for the New Economy by Jim Sterne and Matt Cutler

The persona journey describes how it’s anticipated that a particular persona would move through the lifecycle. It would describe the channels through which it’s expected they are made aware of a product, how it’s expected they would research the product and what would motivate them to make a decision to buy. Key points in the journey where customers decide whether to continue or abandon the process are known as ‘Moments of Truth’, a term coined by Jan Carlzon, the well-known CEO of SAS Airlines who turned the company around in just a couple of years.

Walking in the customers shoes in this way is not easy, and would normally be done as a workshop with representatives from across an organisation, but it’s an exercise that can provide many useful insights. Service quality gaps, cross channel alignment, ways to better engage customers and align internal teams are just a few of the many benefits that come from journey mapping. When idealised journey maps are compared with the actual journeys that customers take then many preconceived ideas about how customers see and engage with the company may get thrown out and fresh ways to engage, retain and acquire new customers be discovered.

In the next part of this customer analytics based series of blogs I will be looking at the security implications of big data and advanced customer profiling, and how regulators around the world are trying to protect an individual’s right to be treated equally by large corporations.

Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years as a BI and Analytics consultant, and more recently as ROC Product Manager for Subex Ltd. He has designed and deployed solutions for global companies in many sectors including Insurance, utilities and telecommunications. Mark holds a BSc Hons in Computer Science from Manchester University (UK).

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