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Category Archives: General

IRSF Fraud: there’s more to this than meets the eye!

How big is the impact of the IRSF Fraud and how are the attacks launched?

International Revenue Share Fraud (IRSF) is one of those fraud types that has been alive for two decades now, all because of the fraud being intricate in its pattern while the approach to it being still very reactive. Here, the motive of the fraudster is to abuse a telecom operator’s network infrastructure to artificially inflate traffic onto high-risk international destinations with the intention of non-payment. This fraud is common to multiple geographies and has estimated for a fraud loss of USD 6.1 Billion (The highest fraud loss contributor) as per the Communications Fraud Control Association (CFCA) Global Fraud Loss Survey, 2017.

Lack of adequate steps taken to protect the network has caused this fraud to grow by leaps and bounds. In this fraud, the attacker usually tries to exploit the vulnerabilities of the Telecom Service Provider’s assets and attacks by either calling to unallocated number ranges or land calls onto international premium rated services or illegitimately route calls to short stopped mobiles. PBX hacking and abuse of promotional services are often the commonly used methods for executing the fraudulent practices. The fraud is also quite common with many fixed line providers.

In my experience of working with multiple operators, globally, I feel that the most common challenge faced by operators is in understanding the fraud pattern and method used by the attacker. The impact to operator becomes brutal when fraudsters use unknown patterns of execution and sophisticated techniques to attack the network. IRSF attack from roaming network, call conferencing, call forwarding, calling cards, negative margin abuse for products and services are among the more popular methods for fraudster in launching attacks.

Also, the lack of regulatory precedence in governing the way of carrying out business with international carriers is quite laxative now, setting the perfect breeding ground for fraudsters to flourish.

Why has this fraud grown in leaps and bounds and how do I ensure control Proactiveness?

Now here is the bummer – the traditional and reactive fraud countering mechanisms as of date do not have a full-proof solution, and one of the biggest reasons is that there are not enough fraud controlling strategies, mechanisms, and systems in place. IRSF, unlike other fraud types, requires a continual and proactive measure for control. More than just the “run-of-the-mill” detection techniques, the fraud type requires a well-planned control and mitigation steering strategy and here are six simple strategies, to begin with:

  • Fraudulent practices have become cleverer over time.

If we brag of the fact that the fraud detection technologies have become quite sophisticated over time, we must not forget that the fraud practices too have gained an equal amount of intelligence. Fraudsters these days are quick to realize technology loopholes and system fault lines. It does not take much for fraudsters today to detect the fraud finding patterns and control logic of Telecom Service providers and identified the loophole in the system. Study of method and pattern become a critical process.

  • Demoralize your IRSF attacker.

Letting your attacker attack you to dig his own grave sounds like an oxymoron? Actually not! It is, in fact, possible to have a honey -trap system in place where you lure the attacker to launch his/her attacks onto it without a fruitful outcome. The more the attacker’s attempts fail, the less hopeful he/she gets to strive any further.

  • Think of the customer and protect their interests

IRSF not just drains away revenue resources but also can cause customer dissatisfaction, causing them to churn out of the network eventually. Hence it is crucial that we don’t ignore whenever a customer complains of frequent cross-connections or call diversions for international calls.

  • Have an “Anytime-Anywhere” vigilance strategy with automation to your advantage

There is no denial to the fact that detection processes for IRFS are very complicated and resource intensive. However, having the right strategies, the right processes with the right amount of automation applied to them can help the business in a significant way. I personally recommend a 24 x 7 detection strategy to be put in place to counter the IRSF attacks. From the cases that I have dealt with, it’s my observation that the IFRS attacks happen round the clock, including the wee hours of the morning or off-business hours. Having a rotational manpower strategy can really work wonders at times. However, there could also be instances where having a 24*7 approach may not be possible owing to the lack of capital or high cost of human resources. In such instances, the automation of detection processes will be of value.

  • Never ignore Negative Margins

Negative margins can occur at any level. It could emerge while planning the pricing strategies of the products, services, use of calling cards in international destinations or Interconnect agreements. Feeble margins on profits can often open a Pandora’s box for fraudsters. Just the basic knowledge on negative margins is enough for fraudsters to break open mayhem. Trend reports on traffic patterns with priorities given to partnerships with frugal margins can save the day!

  • Pursue Strategic Knowledge Partnerships to establish Fraudster Intelligence

Sharing knowledge and having a supportive ecosystem for interaction with carrier partners and vendors in the value chain can be a practical step closer to proactiveness. Also, MoU’s established with knowledge bodies and CoEs like GSMA, CFCA, and others can help the TSP gain information such on PRS test numbers and services, high-risk range numbers, unallocated number series which can be used as vital sources of references to counter this fraud.

When I say, a reactive approach for IRSF fraud, I mean that much of the effort and systems built towards countering the fraud is in silos and so are the human efforts that go into it. By a proactive system, I would mean a system that is quite unified in its approach and can perform end to end operations associated with the fraud type. One of the many ways of building a more unified system is to go the AI (Artificial Intelligence) way. A well thought out AI technology strategy can really help detect the fraud at a very early stage and help you choose the right controls for specific problems in question. It aims to reduce the time taken by the laborious human efforts that goes into the detection stage while helping analysts and investigators concentrate on the need of the hour. Much as the famous English saying goes “Every Cloud has a silver lining,” the impact of the IRSF can considerably be reduced by just broadening the organizational perspectives towards the fraud.

Vijay Amirthraj

Vijay is a Principal Consultant in Subex’s Managed Services vertical, focusing on Fraud Management. He has over 12+ years of experience in Telecom fraud, & Revenue Assurance management professional with  progressive experience in process management and managing risks in telecom business.

Its Not Just a Conference – But a Celebration!

It’s almost time for the 15th edition of Subex User Conference!  As we count down the weeks, days and (soon to be) hours, many are starting to plan their agenda for the week.

For those who are new to this extravaganza, the Subex User Conference is an annual gathering of telecom operators, technology partners, and Subexians dedicated to sharing first-hand knowledge and provide insights into Subex Products and Solutions, give an unbiased opinion about the performance of products and influence product roadmap and also discuss on some of the challenges faced by Telcos today. This is our 15th year uniting thought leaders who are at the forefront of the telecom industry for two days of informative sessions and networking opportunities. The conference is hosted on 24th & 25th of October in Grand Hotel Excelsior, Malta.

My team often say that this is the only time of the year that they see me working 😊. For me, this the most exciting time of the year and is more like getting prepared to host a carnival or a big fat wedding!   I am more than a little excited to kick off this year’s festivities and host our customers and partner delegates in beautiful Malta. We’ve got workshops, informative sessions, demos, and social events to help make this conference unforgettable.

To all of our Subex User Conference registrants, we hope you are just as excited as we are for this year’s event! We are eager to share what we’ve been up to, where we’re headed.

Every year we carefully pick a theme for our event and align our sessions and speakers to the theme.  Digitalization is the most powerful driver of change. It brings change across all aspects of the business. A known reality! Well, that’s not the theme we are talking about; Imagine a situation where your competition helps you with you topline! Telecom operators are innovating and reimagining their fundamentals; rebuilding their market positions, business systems, partner ecosystems, networks, and business processes.

Reliance Jio created the world’s largest mobile CDN to satiate the Bollywood yearnings of 1.4 billion Indians through high quality, low latency video streaming. #Reimagining Network

GiffGaff decided that crowdsourcing their customer support via open forums creates transparency and overcomes mundane, and at times ineffective and cumbersome. #Reimagining Processes

Verizon bought Yahoo as they saw Digital Advertisers as their new customers. #Reimagining Customers

Google Fi – Google partners with operators across 170+ countries to deliver Planetwide “Roam like Home.” #Reimagine Partners

Keeping in mind such rapid evolutions, the theme of this year’s event is #Reimagining Business

In addition to significant learning and networking experiences, we’ve set aside time to have a lot of fun at this year’s conference. We’re hosting two social events that will help you make new friends in the Subex User Network.

Here’s a quick rundown of a few things to look forward to at #SubexUC:

The Bucket List Life: What if we tell you that we have James Bond speaking at the event!!! Excited?? Well, even we are. This high energy, opening keynote session, will perfectly set the stage. Powerfully delivered by Kenyon Salo, who has been referred to as the ‘James Bond of Speaking.’

Technology Keynote Sessions: We’re bringing you the leaders who are at the forefront of the industry for this year’s technology keynote sessions. Click Here to see the full list of speakers at the event. With the fantastic line of speakers, we are sure that you will make the most of your visit and return to your work empowered by knowledge & connections.

The Sessions: Some sessions will showcase what other users have accomplished with Subex Products & Solutions. Get tips, tricks, and ideas from your peer group, as well as Subex SMEs.

The Company Update & Roadmap: Get a preview of an inside look at our roadmap. Our CEO Mr. Vinod Kumar and Mr. Rohit Maheshwari – Head of Strategy & Products will walk you through the long-term vision of Subex and changes we’ll make to Subex products in the future.

The Social Events: All work and no play make for a very dull conference, and we don’t do dull. We are hosting a welcome reception for our delegates on 23rd October at the Grand Hotel Excelsior. Be prepared to come dressed in Subex Colors (Blue & Green). On 24th of October, after a full day of sessions join us on a Harbour Cruise and witness Malta’s living past and unwind with your peers and enjoy traditional Maltese hospitality and culinary delights.

It is our sincere hope that you share in our excitement for this year’s conference. We are geared up and more than excited to host you at this beautiful Island – Malta. We certainly had a lot of fun in arranging this two-day event for you, and we selected what we think will give you a fun and authentic taste of Malta.

We look forward to hosting you!

Ramya Raj

Ramya Raj serves as the Associate Director of Marketing for Subex. She comes with 7+ years of marketing experience specialized in brand management, Marketing Operations and event marketing & management.

Account Takeover – Fraudster Intelligence

Account takeover fraud is one of the most common fraud types across the world. Fraudsters use the various methods to takeover an existing open account within the mobile operator or the banking instrument. The commonly used method of committing this type of fraud is vishing or smishing. As per CFCA fraud survey, account takeover accounted for an estimated fraud loss of 1.7 Billion US Dollars in the year 2017.

In all these scenarios, the primary goals of the fraudster are to gain access to the account and (by-) pass the validation steps. In many situations, such validation may only require low-level knowledge-based authentication, so basic information obtained by the fraudster is used to validate and by-pass controls in place and to takeover the targeted account.

I was investigating an Account takeover fraud case for one of the leading telecom operator in the APAC region wherein the fraudster used a different type of methods to commit this fraud. Many customers lost millions of dollars from their bank accounts without the knowledge after their account was taken over by the fraudster. On investigation, we identified that the fraudster’s primary motive was to takeover both mobile and banking account and then initiate multiple fraud transactions. He used Social Engineering, CLI spoofing, Spoofed website & Malware to commit the fraud.

The Fraudster sequentially executed his schemes. He targeted only the high-profile subscribers in a region. He acquired all the information of the subscribers using social engineering methodology and called up the subscribers pretending to be a Bank executive and Mobile operator security officer. He asked the subscribers to download a malware-infested application from a spoofed website, following which he gained remote access to their mobile phones.

The malware would read the SMS’s & call logs from the subscriber’s mobile and forward the details to fraudulent server. It also deleted the SMS & call logs from the mobile handset before the subscriber knew the same. The intention behind the reading of the SMS & Call log is to Bypass the second level authentication for completing the banking transactions. With this method in place, he was able the execute multiple transactions without the knowledge of the subscribers.

Impact to Telcos?

When subscribers approached law enforcement agency, the Law penalized both Telco and the bank and recovered from them, the amount lost by the subscriber. The Law took this action to protect the interest of the customers and secondly it was negligence from the service provider that led to the revenue losses of the subscribers.

Telecom & banking service need to protect the subscribers from such fraud attacks by providing awareness to subscribers. Fraud management systems need have intelligence built into them to detect the fraud attack and control damages at an early stage.

Vijay Amirthraj

Vijay is a Principal Consultant in Subex’s Managed Services vertical, focusing on Fraud Management. He has over 12+ years of experience in Telecom fraud, & Revenue Assurance management professional with  progressive experience in process management and managing risks in telecom business.

“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.

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.

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