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Category Archives: General

“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.

Arnab Mohapatra

Arnab started his career with Subex, almost a year back as a consultant and is a part of the MS Consulting and Advisory services team. He has been instrumental in setting up consultative services for the function and researching on newer fraud and business assurance areas. Arnab enjoys reading new articles and writing fiction at times of leisure.

Boost your Campaign ROI through Promotion Assurance

“Why do you love your service provider?”

At the end of the day, this is the billion-dollar question which drives the entire telecom industry. When one ponders the answers, quite a few would emerge – flawless connectivity which helps my business flourish, a well-priced model which keeps families closer than ever, providing a backbone that keeps a country productive, etc. But in most surveys (and in my personal experience), it is the attempt at focused engagement that keeps most of us linked to the same Telco. Giving me freebies on my birthday, suggesting I change my plan to one which suits my business travel (even though the rental might be lesser) or even the act of proactively passing me some benefit during a network downtime adds that human element which tends to create brand loyalty.

From the above, it is clear that successful promotional campaigns can do wonders in terms of customer retention as well as acquisition. With the plethora of analytics tools powering the marketing departments across most Telcos, differentiated, qualified, and value-driven campaigns are a reality. Of course, some have gone farther than others in this regard. But the question which I will explore in this blog is whether this practice creates risks and brings in more issues than it solves.

Now, I look at Promotions and Campaigns from a more general perspective. It’s like eating at Dominos. While Dominos makes some decent pizzas and has a large customer base, it faces the same issue as all other eateries – consumer fatigue. This is not just caused by the limited choices (assuming a market where you could only eat Dominos pizzas), but also the sheer banality of the process. In this environment, if one offers a package deal (drink + pizza + lava cake) at 50% of its list price pursuant to a customer also purchasing a premium feast pizza, the break from the monotony of the pizza ordering process itself drives a sense of “anticipatory need.” Now, this is the easiest level. Going beyond, if Dominos were to use analytics to understand and anticipate my ordering behaviour and suggests a ready cart with one click check-out, I would be delighted. Too much to ask? Well, the reality is, this is what subscribers expect from their service providers today.

The Inside-Out of Promotions

With promotions emerging as a major business strategy in today’s competitive telecom environment, targeted campaigns can help Telcos increase revenue, margin, customer retention, customer satisfaction, and overall brand stickiness. However, the differentiation comes with its own challenges, and so does the ROI. The returns from the campaign greatly depend on how the Telco addresses each one of the challenges. Globally Telcos have allocated a significant portion (around 8%) of their budget for promotions and advertisements, but the results, in terms of campaign ROI, are not as expected. The ineffectiveness of campaigns could occur due to several reasons including lack of planning, improper budget allocation, incorrect metric measurement, wrong promotion qualifiers, incorrect target list, and many more.

Let’s examine some of the challenges associated with driving successful campaigns and see how Telcos can mitigate them to gain maximum return from their campaign investments. I will broadly classify them as:

  1. Data Access and Integrity – Each stage in the promotion launch process is critically dependent on the accuracy of the facts from the previous stage. It is of paramount importance to ensure that the raw datasets are accurate, complete, and integral. Unfortunately, most marketing teams do not have access to a comprehensive data integrity engine.
  2. Promotion Complexity – Promotions can widely vary in nature (i.e. the device, vouchers, services, etc.), and most operators do not have a ready-to-use promotion risk matrix or checklist. This leaves assurance teams at a disadvantage to deal with the volume and velocity of new promotions.
  3. Time to Market – Competitor pressure in most regions leads to a very short release/launch time for new promotions. In the absence of automation, this means pre-launch testing is usually sample based, and the test results are contaminated by confirmation bias.
  4. Lack of Automation – Many of the checks required to ensure high ROI on promotions require a high level of automation as manual interventions usually introduce errors.
  5. Regulatory Hurdles: Regulators may apply a cap on certain promotional offers announced by Telcos. For example, In India, there is a 90-day cap on such offers, so the Telcos find it difficult to optimize the market spend and achieve the target within the short span of time.

So, why invest in a Promotion Assurance program?

Having the right product does not always guarantee revenue. Telcos may be losing out to competition due to lack of visibility into how efficiently promotions are rolled out. Promotion assurance programs, which build around modern analytics and intelligent automation techniques, emerge as a winning solution in this context because it helps the Telcos define the campaign KPIs and measure ROI from each on a near real-time basis, so they can take corrective measures appropriately.

Challenges inherent in the current approaches and the evolving marketing conditions pose higher risks to campaign ROIs, and more importantly, might impact the customer experience. It is the need of the hour for Telcos to implement a promotion assurance strategy that focuses on the business, system, process and customer aspects of the campaign.

Product Line Manager, Revenue Assurance – Ashwin joined Subex in 2006 as a part of the Implementation team for Revenue Assurance & Fraud Management. Over the years he has worked with cross-geographical teams to drive value discovery and creation for telecom operators across Middle East, Africa and APAC as a delivery SME and a Business Solutions Consultanct. Beyond his work in Subex, he has been involved in some of the most seminal Revenue Assurance public domain centers (both in terms of his work on popular RA blogs as well as his co-authored work on Revenue Assurance for Telecom Operators). He regularly speaks at various industry events on areas pertaining to Business Optimization.

The Trifecta Effect for Telco Analytics –Anomaly Detection

Subex recently participated in the Monetising Big Data in Telecoms World Summit 2018, Singapore, where we demonstrated our expertise of 25+ years in the Telecom domain handling data at a massive scale. We did this by presenting on the topic: The Trifecta Effect for Telco Analytics –Anomaly Detection

To take a step back, Subex has partnered with 250+ telcos across 100 countries. We have been handling big data and have an understanding of the business of telcos working in different contexts, demographics and geographies, and at different stages of their growth. We have been leveraging analytics for 10+ years in the assurance portfolio, and have made a foray into analytics across all domains in the telecom sector. While starting on this journey, we did a survey across many operators and what came out was unexpected albeit not exactly surprising, based on our experience.

We saw that, while the telecom domain today is at the forefront of innovation, the industry can be considered as a relative laggard in adopting analytics, when compared with other industries. Around 60-70% of the executives still lack relevant data for decision making. To top it all, where analytics is being used, around 60% of the organizations are still not very confident about their analytics insights.

Based on our market research and after multiple interviews we believe that the reason for these above problems can be classified along the following categories:

  1. Poor ROI
  2. Multiple and Complex Dashboards
  3. Long Development Cycles
  4. Data quality issues
  5. Short Supply of Data Scientists
  6. Lack of Agility

To cater to these problems, we at Subex have designed a way to address these issues. Our solution, ROC Insights stands on three pillars which we call the Trifecta of Analytics: Agility, Cost & Consumption. Subex does this by

  • Delivering insights in less than 8 weeks
  • Following a pure OPEX model which takes care of the cost
  • Most importantly ROC Insights simplifies consumption of analytics insights tremendously through the use of storyboards

At the Monetising Big Data in Telecoms World Summit 2018, we explain how the Trifecta can be leveraged by using a simple example of Anomaly Analytics. For a telecom, with massive volumes of data, it is more difficult to detect anomalies in data than finding a needle in a haystack. In case of the latter we know that we are looking for a needle. In this case, we don’t even know what exactly one is looking for. However, it is extremely important for a telco to manage anomalies to mitigate risk and to prevent missing out on opportunities.

There is a very fine line between the definition of an anomaly and outlier. Rather the distinction is rather fuzzy as anomalies and outliers are intersecting but certainly not subsets. Take for instance, a queen bee in a bee hive. She is an outlier but not an anomaly. Anomalies usually remain undetected. They are unknown problems with unknown solutions. Our work detects, curates and qualifies these problems to move it from the unknown-unknown realm to the known-known realm by breaking it into parts, analyzing them using various ML/DL algorithms and as well doing causal analysis to find the root factors.

We talk of two examples where we work with Telcos to solve their anomaly problems using advanced analytics. In the first case, our solution of anomaly detection required modification as the client was based out of East Africa with pockets of high population density in vast open areas. We developed anomaly for cell sites using algorithms such as time series, manifold learning, LSTM etc. We did anomaly detection for different KPIs such as call duration, data and customer latching. This was further qualified along the dimensions of 2G/3G/4G, on-net/offnet and so on. Anomaly analysis generally suffers from the problem of ‘too many’ and difficulty in prioritization. Our solution gives revenue numbers to the anomaly and prioritizes them. Most importantly it looks also at the long term business impact of high value customers, churn etc. and also considers the factors whether load balancing is done by nearby cell sites and the customers were really impacted or not.

Our second use case was regarding our work for a client based out of N. America. They were having difficulty in detecting lost handset on time. This was causing them huge monetary loses. With the help of algorithms like probabilistic graphical model, Markov chain etc. we created algorithm to detect whether a handset was stolen or not. Our algorithm helped in improving the client’s solution 9 times in detecting the algorithm. As well in 80% of the cases, the instances were detected within 24 hours, thereby improving the customer’s bottom line.

All in all, the presentation provided for a good opportunity for attendees to understand how Subex is working with big data, and how ROC Insights can help telcos by pinpointing upon a very specific problem. At large, we enjoyed presenting at the event and meeting with telcos from across the APAC region. Hope to see you there next year!

Dr. Sumit Singh is Senior Data Scientist at Subex Digital LLP. He has a PhD in Decision Science and is a Machine Learning researcher, practitioner and educator with over 10 years’ experience in academia and the industry. At Subex, he is responsible for statistical modelling and algorithm design for business requirements. As well he is involved in doing research activities to implement new ideas into telecom domain. His areas of interests are – Reinforcement Learning, Optimization and Stochastic Modeling. He can be reached at sumith.singh@subex.com

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).

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).

Smart NetEx decisions for improved Capital Efficiency and Customer Experience

There’s an interesting story playing out between U.S. state governments and city municipalities over the expansion of small cells. There is a significant push from the US government to expand small cells installation base and thereby increase the investments in this space. Many operators in the US are more than ever focused on getting the small cells deployment strategy correct as well as get it rapidly implemented.

Small cells are nothing new. We have been hearing for more than 7 years now, on the potential benefits of microcells – small cells, femtocells, picocells and how they can alleviate the capacity/coverage problems. Only in the last 2 – 3 years, small cells trend has picked up, with the uptick in mobile broadband and massive video consumption.

Market Reality

As the need for network capacity is constantly increasing, Telcos cannot afford to wait for long, till new technology standards are completely finalized and hence, it has prompted many prominent big names to announce 5G fixed wireless offering and 5G trails with vendors. In what looks like proactive initiative or in some cases the must-have network features, many Telcos have started to take incremental advantages and gains from 4G LTE-A/LAA with advanced features like Massive MIMO, 256QAM, Carrier aggregation etc. Despite all these, the coverage and capacity problems plague in extremely dense urban settings. Festive events or public aggregation pose challenging problems, especially when the traffic demand becomes quite unpredictable, forcing Telcos to deploy super buffered capacities. For example, look at some few stats related to last year’s Super Bowl at NRG Stadium, Houston. It probably created history of sorts on data transfer –

  • Verizon’s network transmitted 11 terabytes up 57% from the last year
  • AT&T data transmission is 9.8 terabytes, nearly double from the last year
  • Sprint’s network carried 5 TB data transfer
  • Super Bowl Live at Discovery Green the week prior to the Super Bowl, there were 59.9 TB of data, or 171 million social media posts with photos, used on the AT&T network in Houston

High voltage events like these, are becoming of strategic importance for the operators to keep the network up and for keeping the customer experience top-notch for obvious reasons. Customer perception – the potential brand establishment, is highest during these events. Telcos don’t want to take any sort of chance in such events and thus opt to deploy microcells with high-speed backhaul to support such events.

There’s another easily relatable trend – the indoor consumption of data is significantly high compared to mobile users, in the ratio of 80:20. This is especially true in urban areas, at homes and offices. Not only capacity is a concern, even coverage becomes challenging in high rise concrete zones. Small cells perfectly fit in this category to improve coverage & capacity to keep up the customer satisfaction. On the contrary, few Telcos operating in the densest telecom market in terms of user density, like in India, where the hotspots, coverage holes become the key decision points for capacity enhancements and optimization, do install new macro cells. In such cases macro cells are cost effective and addresses the issues effectively.

With 5G, we will see an increasing number of HetNets – small cells operating in tandem with macro cells thus handling offloading, higher throughput, greater coverage and in the process enables superior customer experience. Next evolution of investment planning is moving in the direction to cater to network densification trend.

Network Investment planning

Network capacity expansion cycle has shrunk, given the fact that the rate at which the traffic growth forecast exercises are done at every few months. This cycle is going to shrink further, due to dynamics of the data demand on the network, new business models, and technology changes. Network Planners and Capital allocators at CSPs, now require greater insights to address the high impact zones where Capex investment or capacity expansion provides maximum business outcomes.

Unfortunately, the processes for network investments still carry age old practices in this new paradigm! For instance, in one of our discussions with Telcos in India, we understood the yearly network Capex budget is decided based on competition strength or weakness in various circles (sub-regions) and based on simple extrapolation of traffic forecasts. Once these projections are agreed upon by various internal teams, network planning team go through series of technical negotiations with vendors and orders are placed. Of course, this is high level description of the entire laborious and time-consuming process. But you get the drift – there’s no rigor in understanding the insights that Telco’s own data can throw upon, for better network investments decisions.

Capital Allocation

For capital allocators inside Telcos, aka CFO vertical, it is important to understand the optimal use of capital on network investment. Investment in network capacity expansion can be done intelligently, keeping in view of key business metrics like maximizing ARPU, targeting high revenue sites, tackling competition presense etc, which ultimately helps in achieving business goals – maximize revenue, efficient usage of resources (cost center), optimize opex, learn lessons for next capex cycle etc. A data analytics approach reinforces and propagates this methodology of crunching data from various sources, understand the different moving parts and provides decision models and corresponding outcome scores for capital allocators to make appropriate network investment decisions, backed up by data.

Customer Experience

In the other end of the spectrum, the network planners and network managers are really focused on customer experience around the existing sites and at times around newly commissioned sites (new investments), to understand the factors impacting the quality of user experience. Some of these factors could be – no services due to coverage holes, poor connections due to capacity hotspots etc. These factors are crucial, as they provide clues about the network coverage or capacity bottlenecks that need to be fine-tuned through further investments or capacity augments.

Ultimate goals for network teams is to reduce customer churn, keep up customer experience and reduce network downtimes. With advent of newer technologies like 5G, these goals will be stretched due to increased complexity of the networks and super high load demand expected. Network planners are looking for advanced yet locally adpatable solutions to address network investment strategies to meet increasing expectations on great customer experience.

Conclusion

Therefore, it has become more important than ever that Telcos need to take a holistic perspective about many factors like the network capacity elasticities, everchanging user demand dynamics, quality of experience, financially lucrative regions, subscriber demographic profiles, marketing expansions, competitive presence and accordingly influence the network investment decisions to maximize both customer delight and achieve business objectives.

References:

  1. https://www.techrepublic.com/article/super-bowl-51-makes-digital-history-with-record-breaking-data-usage/
  2. https://blog.mobile-network-testing.com/capacity-enhancements/hetnets-small-cells-indoor-deployments/
  3. http://www.telecompetitor.com/indoor-mobile-forecast-six-fold-increase-by-2020/

Don’t Be In the News for Wrong Reasons: Stay Ahead of Cyber Attacks

It is a well-known fact that, every time a security threat occurs in any organization, it makes it to the media and thus causing reputation damage and loss of business. We have seen many instances of such cases in the recent past.

In fact a very recent case, which was reported in the beginning of the year was with Vermont utility. According to news reports, which later proved to be false, Burlington Electric had found malicious software on a computer that was not connected to its grid control systems. Moreover, the malicious software found on Burlington Electric Company laptop matched with those on malware found in the Democratic National Committee computers that the US government has blamed on a specific country.[i]

Though the news was later debunked to being ‘erroneous’[ii], the news was initially covered in a multitude of news outlets. The fact remains that cybersecurity attacks continue to make news, negatively attack your business and brand reputation.

Unfortunately, the ground reality is that Hacking attempts are becoming more common, and the rollout of new technologies has created further vulnerabilities. It is important that businesses safeguard themselves in order to ensure that they stay out of negative limelight. In January 2014, Target admitted that hackers used malicious software to break into its networks and access credit and debit card information directly from Target’s checkout lanes through the holiday shopping season. News of the breach drastically affected the retail giant diminishing holiday sales causing Target to eventually fire its CEO in the breach’s wake. The hackers responsible for the 2013 Target data breach that exposed payment information on 40 million customers had nothing to stop them from accessing every cash register in every Target store.[iii]

Today with the world going ‘digital’, the number of potential devices, just waiting to be hacked are increasing. Experts predict that by 2020 there will be 200 billion connected devices, which in turn could result into increased probability of devices being vulnerable to such attacks.

We are also witnessing the rise of smart cities. For Instance, Saudi Arabia is investing $70 million to build four new smart cities, while in South Africa, a $7.4 billion smart city project is already underway. By 2020, the market for smart cities is predicted to reach $1 trillion, according to Frost & Sullivan, a consulting firm.[iv]

In such a scenario, imagine the magnitude of an attack on smart cities or connected infrastructure, which has implications on citizens. The negative impact this could have on brand reputation of state governments could be devastating. But an attack is indeed, possible. Last year, Cesar Cerrudo, an Argentine security researcher and chief technology officer at IOActive Labs, demonstrated how 200,000 traffic control sensors installed in major hubs like Washington; New York; New Jersey; San Francisco; Seattle; Lyon, France; and Melbourne, Australia, were vulnerable to attack. Mr. Cerrudo showed how information coming from these sensors could be intercepted from 1,500 feet away — or even by drone — because one company had failed to encrypt its traffic.[v]

Hence, it is important today for organizations and even government bodies to ensure that they are able to safeguard themselves from cyberattacks. Such vulnerabilities have huge implications on business and can cause irreparable damage to brand reputation. Stay ahead of cyber threats and, as the headline say, don’t be in the news for the wrong reasons.


[i] http://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/30/us/grizzly-steppe-malware-burlington-electric/

[ii] http://www.utilitydive.com/news/what-electric-utilities-can-learn-from-the-vermont-hacking-scare/433426/

[iii] http://www.ibtimes.com/target-hackers-had-access-all-chains-us-cash-registers-2013-data-breach-report-2106575

[iv] https://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/04/21/smart-city-technology-may-be-vulnerable-to-hackers/?_r=0

[v] https://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/04/21/smart-city-technology-may-be-vulnerable-to-hackers/?_r=0

Kiran is responsible for managing Subex’s IoT Security Solution, IT, and procurement. He has over 17 years of telecom experience in security, network analytics, and machine learning.

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