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Tag Archives: Revenue Assurance

The future of Revenue Assurance – ‘Expert opinion’

One of the most evolving functions in the telco BSS side of things is Revenue Assurance. Over the years, it has molded itself into many forms catering to changing business needs, new offerings and market dynamics. However, now seems to be a time that is different from anything we have seen earlier, as the influence of ‘Digital’ on telcos is immense. The possibilities for telcos in the digital world are infinite, and so are the risks – providing immense scope for the evolution of traditional functions like Revenue Assurance. So, we went about asking some of the highly regarded RA experts in the industry what they think is the future of the Revenue Assurance function is, and here is what they said (listed in alphabetical order)

“The Telecom industry has cut across economic barriers and has created a media that surpasses limitations placed on the economy of a nation by its physical infrastructure. The Telecom revolution has hit all countries across the globe from first world to third world. As markets mature and subscribers grow in numbers, new operators set up operations to tap the markets, existing operators face pressures to maintain their customer base, ARPU and ultimately their margins.
The advent of competition has brought about a need to maintain the top lines of the companies, which can be achieved by effective strategy and efficient operations which has very well visible digital Impact. One of the key components for maintaining revenues and profitability is through operational efficiency by continuous deployment of is Revenue Assurance controls across Revenue streams.”

Amit Agrawal, Du

Amit Agrawal, Du – EITC

“RA solutions continue to address different threats as new services are deployed, however IoT usage patterns means need automated customization for each deployment is needed, requiring and understanding of each application.
Real-time monitoring shifts RA solutions into operational systems providing fraud management capabilities, helping to mitigate risks and build trust for customers.
CSPs tempted to reduce investments should consider it like continuing vaccinations even when a disease is eradicated”

justin

Justin van der Lande, Analysys Mason

“I believe as Revenue Assurance is gradually evolving towards Business Assurance and telecom industry is transforming towards the digital arena, the role of business assurance will increasingly focus on adding value in business decision making owing to its enhanced analytical capabilities & commercial ingenuity using artificial intelligence, robotics and next-generation business assurance solutions. This will shift the emphasis from revenue saving to value maximization, operational efficiency and reduction in residual losses through proactive controls & processes.”

Mustafa Ali Batelco

Mustafa Ali, Batelco

“Automation, Digitalization, Process Optimization, everything evolves with customer needs and business risks. In essence, RA should be an agile process with no manual activity: you always need to have the right indicators, suitable and comprehensive, scalable and quickly. In my opinion, a large part of RA should be integrated and taken into account at the time of the construction of the equipment managing offers and revenue streams.
Solution providers and manufacturers should combine their know-how to integrate upstream and perfect this dimension of control.”

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Ndeye Coumba, Sonatel

“Business transformation is taking place faster and the sources of income generation change in the same way. Traditional revenues are being replaced by new digital businesses, which are supported by processes with technologies that require evolving with more efficient control models, capable of processing a lot of information in real time.
Revenue from new digital businesses and carrier billing has been rising in the order of 25% per year and from the revenue assurance area we have the challenge of transforming ourselves to detect unknown errors that are not evident today. The idea is to take advantage of big data always safeguarding the relevance of information security and privacy, to strengthen and give intelligence to our controls, anticipating risks and avoiding potential leaks, not only with the view of income, but in an integral way that allows us to ensure the business margin in an increasingly competitive market.”

Nelson Sepulveda

Nelson Sepúlveda B., Telefónica / Movistar Chile

“In the era of 5G, CSPs are looking at their revenue assurance functions to monetise zeta-bytes of structured & unstructured data to detect patterns, outliers, and learning behaviours. The proliferation of products and the emergence of and API based economy have pushed RA/FM professionals have to find new ways to keep pace with the industry. AI/ML algorithms will assist RA/FM experts to relieve some of the workload and will allow them to take data driven decisions. Data scientists will play a role in creating, adapting and executing models that will detect new issues, reduce the number of false positives, increase the coverage, and improve accuracy. In the future years, Revenue Assurance will play an even more crucial role to protect the bottom line and create enough opportunities to enhance the top line.”

Nikhil Sehgal, Colt

Nikhil Sehgal, Colt

“Digital innovations clearly place consequential challenges on Telcos who must reinvest in and reinvent themselves for incremental revenues in a competitive arena. Therefore, the future of revenue assurance rests in focus beyond controlling leakages within acceptable limits, to focusing value enhancements from statistically discernible causes of performance departures for tracking and improving stated objectives. With the best end-to-end visibility of the revenue value chain, under-funding assurance places a liability on the future.”

Ope Faniran

Ope Faniran, 9Mobile

“Considering the evolution of business dynamics, the scale at which Revenue Assurance is maturing is incredible with more focus on cost optimization, capex management, and knife-edge driven preventive measures thereby climbing up the ladder to be owner of Business Assurance. Growth demands RA to become BA with getting rid of ROI instead to play pivotal role in mitigating risks and minimizing leakages to bring in more value to the company.”

Sai Devata Viva Kuwait

Sai Devata, Viva Kuwait

“As the industry goes digital the challenges for revenue assurance will change but basics will remain. As Revenue Assurance professionals, we need to understand the new risk landscape: cybersecurity and eco-system weaknesses will bring new risks. Digital solutions will also provide new opportunities to assure revenues and transactions. We need to embrace digital and ensure business processes are born digital with Revenue Assurance embedded in them leveraging on new technology as we do so.”

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Sarah Hakeem, Millicom

“The Customer being the nucleus of the business, the future of Revenue Assurance is definitely to assure a superior customer journey and experience. Besides business growth, QoS, profitability, and enhancing the culture of risk management, as telcos continue to evolve into Digital Service Providers, RA will further step up to play a decisive role in assuring security of its services, data privacy, regulatory compliance and data governance.”

Strauss Dias Ooredoo Qatar

Straus Dias, Ooredoo Qatar

“With the ever-evolving and increasingly complex business models governing telecommunications, driven by competition to provide subscribers with an expanding array of devices (from phones and accessories to branding merchandise) and services (from voice and data to media and entertainment), legacy views of Revenue Assurance will have decreasing financial value. Revenue Assurance organizations will be forced to consider costs for performing margin assurance, while also understanding business opportunities and risks in a broader Business Assurance role.”

Taruna Rajan,

Taruna Rajan, T-Mobile

So, those were the views of some of the top RA practitioners in the industry. What are your thoughts on the subject? Let us know in the comments section.

If you want your thoughts to be featured in the next ‘Experts opinion’ article, write to us here.

Selling devices – A boon or bane for Telcos?

Smartphone flashes in mind, when device is mentioned.  Devices, however, are a large ecosystem beyond smartphones – a range of equipment like dongles, routers, customer premise equipment (CPE) and IP phones, to name a few.  Devices are a great tool for telco to lock their customers in. For instance, the bundled offers with contracts spanning months provide predictable revenues for the telco’s.

The next wave of opportunity

With IoT and 5G making inroads, telco’s are preparing for the next-generation devices for home and office networks. A lucrative opportunity for telcos, as devices are critical to the IoT/5G penetration. Newer devices will be introduced, like small cells to boost network capacity and improve indoor coverage. It’s no wonder that telcos are investing into devices.

Are telcos benefiting from devices ?

Devices are an attractive opportunity as they improve customer stickiness and ARPU. Devices are good promotional tools to attract new customers and gaining traction even in emerging economies. Many customers extend their relationship with telcos beyond contract period.

Yet, procuring, selling and managing devices is riddled with risks. Fraud, leakages and unmanageable debt are hampering the revenues and profits.

A survey across telco’s states:

telcos stats

What are the risks?

Telco’s on an average spends 20% of their OPEX on procuring and servicing devices. The entire supply chain covering the forward and reverse logistics is prone to risks. The supply chain not only involves stakeholders within the telco (marketing, sales, operations, logistics, finance), but many external parties –manufacturer, supplier, financing partner, distributor, shipping partner, warehousing network, retail agents, repair/refurbish partner, and the end-customer.

risk

The technology stack is complex with at least 10 different applications and platforms involved. Leakages of stock in ordered vs received, inventory gaps, devices ageing at inventory, gaps at POS are a few technological risks to highlight.

Bane to boon – Manage the risks

How could telco’s control the risks & leakages, and make the best of the opportunity? It is important that Telcos have Device Assurance strategy in place to manage the device related risks. Stay tuned for more updates about Device Assurance Solution.

Cash in on Reverse Logistics

Reverse logistics has long been the problem child of supply chain management. Increasingly that child has been in need of some serious help. This is due to two factors. The way in which the internet has transformed how we shop, and the short lifecycle of consumer goods. Although most consumers still like to shop in high street stores to find the products they like, at least 8% of sales are now from consumers just clicking on a picture to buy a product, comfortable in the knowledge that they can return it if necessary. In most countries, consumers have a legal right to return goods purchased on the internet. Many retailers now even offer free ‘try-before-you-buy’ returns, but the processes for managing those returns, known as reverse logistics, are far more fragile, costly, and susceptible to issues than the generally well-controlled forward logistics processes. Although return rates vary widely across different verticals, the average return rate has been calculated to be around 17 to 18%.

Brightpearl

Source: Brightpearl

Reverse logistics faces complex issues due to the ad hoc way in which consumers return items and vulnerabilities in the returns processes. Because reverse logistics is not seen as a revenue-generating process, it sometimes doesn’t get the attention it needs, but recently it’s been getting more widely recognized as having a key role in the company’s profitability. Having efficient processes for collecting, re-selling or recycling used items can bring in additional revenue and improve a company’s bottom line. There are other important reasons for giving more attention to reverse logistics.  Consumers are now judging companies on their green credentials, and consumers are aware that many electronic devices contain some highly toxic chemicals. Providing a channel through which old devices can be traded in and reliably recycled is a positive selling point. The efficiency of the returns process also has a significant impact on customers impression of a business.

Although the ‘returns revolution’ impacts all retail lines of business, high-value consumer electronics are especially prone to issues in the returns process.  Huge volumes of handsets, set-top boxes, routers, even TV’s and laptops, are now being returned through a multitude of channels for a variety of reasons. Warehouses may receive thousands of such goods per week. Most of those devices may still be working and able to be resold, but tracking such devices back from customers, assessing their viability for resale, refurbishing, repackaging, and then re-distributing them, is a substantial challenge.

The problems begin as soon as a customer says they want to return a device. Whether it is because the device is faulty, unfit, incorrect, unwanted, or because they’re terminating their contract, they must provide notification that the device is getting returned. Agents must correctly capture the details of why the device is getting returned and issue an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorisation). This will trigger a complex sequence of processes to terminate services in the network, calculate bill adjustments, prepare downstream systems for receipt of the returned devices, update inventories on receipt, manage the inspection, refurbishment, and resale of those devices, and potentially issue replacements for faulty devices. Depending on factors such as contract, warranty, device status, termination type or customer rating, customers may be liable for additional charges or eligible for compensation.
Reverse Logistics

Typical return channels would be to send a device by courier, return it to a shop, or a technician may return the goods.  Whatever the channel is, devices will often arrive without a clear indication of which customer account they relate to.  Returns to stores are particularly problematic with agents failing to scan in barcodes or register returns correctly. In-store systems may not be able to record IMEI, IMSI and/or serial numbers, and there is no motivation for staff to label returned devices accurately.

With so many moving parts it’s no surprise that many devices become stranded or lost along the way, and customers getting charged incorrectly. Operators have been known to write off more than $5+ million in lost devices per month.

One solution is to implement automated controls that provide monitoring across all systems in both forward and reverse logistics, thus assuring that devices can be monitored from the initial order in CRM, in and out of warehouses, with couriers, shipping, refurbishment partners, finance companies and activation status in network service provisioning.  With monitoring systems in place that can even detect the physical location where devices are installed, it’s possible to validate inventory, bill customers and partners accurately, prevent fraud, recover maximum value from returned devices and understand why devices are getting returned.

Subex provides ROC Device Assurance solutions to operators around the globe, helping to track down missing devices, reconcile and correct billing, CRM, provisioning, distribution and inventory systems with world leading discovery and reconciliation capabilities.

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.

Direct Carrier Billing : A Massive Revenue Opportunity for Telcos

In the last few years, OTT players taking away a sizable chunk of the telco revenues. To deal with this, it’s time the operators harness the potential of new streams of revenue. Direct Carrier billing is one such avenue.

Direct Carrier Billing is a telco driven payment model, for the digital services. Direct Carrier Billing (DCB) opens the possibility of generating a new revenue stream for operators, by leveraging on the existing telco network and the billing relationship with the customers. Direct Carrier Billing, enables telcos to allow its wireless subscribers (both prepaid and postpaid) to purchase goods and services using their handsets. The cost of purchased good and services are added to their monthly phone bill or deducted from the prepaid balance, thereby providing a seamless & secure payment mechanism. This medium enables a very simplified online payment experience with just a click to complete a transaction.

Why is Direct Carrier Billing beneficial for the Telcos?

Juniper Research found that operator revenues derived from carrier billed purchases will rise from USD $2.9 billion in 2017 to USD $9 billion in 2022, an average annual growth of 25%. With growing purchases via DCB, operators enabling their customers to buy all kinds of goods and services using their mobile services subscription will add a new revenue stream for the operators.

  • The operators can take a % of the revenue from the transactions, and their customers don’t have to look for a financial relationship with another company.
  • It is a win-win situation for both the operator and the merchant since it also helps the merchant extend their reach by using the operators existing customer base.
  • The higher conversion rate in DCB transactions will lead to an increase in ARPU for operators.
  • The payment method is extremely simple and secure leading to better user experience and reduction in customer churn.

Leading Technology firms like Google, Apple and Amazon are also investing in building DCB relationships with operators and vendors (like Fortumo, Bango, Boku etc.).  They strongly believe that DCB will allow the unbanked to better engage and participate in the digital economy. The increasing desire to enable payment across Smart TVs, Xbox and IoT devices emerging in the market, widens the opportunity for Direct Carrier Payment.

With most of the transactions completed via DCB, the problem is that maintaining Direct Carrier Billing functionality sometimes fails due to settlement involved between the multiple parties and the frauds in the DCB chain. Subex Direct Carrier Billing Assurance program protects the entire DCB chain providing end to end Risk and Fraud Management.

Stay tuned to know more about Subex Direct Carrier Billing Assurance.

Digital Transformation: The Art of War!

Straight from the Board Room

15th Jan, 16:00 Hours: The Board Room at the Telco HQ

The silence is deafening, and the breathing heavy. Everyone is waiting with heavy anticipation. The top comes off the Mont Blanc, and the only sound is of the pen on the paper. The VP-Sales surreptitiously pulls out his iPhone, and drafts a text “Deal Done! Congrats…”. The finger is playing near the send button, with every passing second feeling like an eon.

The last dot underneath the signature is placed, and without missing a beat, the send button is pressed. The room is filled with a sense of relief, and the muted claps soon turn into backslaps and congratulations…The multi-million $ deal for Digital Transformation is now underway….

15th Jan, 22:05 Hours: The Conference Room at the Vendor HQ

1000s of miles away, the CEO phone beeps discretely. All the weary eyes turn towards the CEO. A faint smile emerges. With the “Yes” and the fist-pump, the room erupts. Years of arduous work has come to fruition. The clinking of the glasses, and the pops of champagne bottles could not drown the enthusiasm, and the spirit of the crowd.

The Chief Marketing Manager sneaks out, to work the PR lines. Minutes left before the item makes into tomorrows’ news.

16th Jan, 06:00 Hours: Leading Media Publications

“Vendor X inks a multi-million $ Digital Transformation deal with Telco Y”

Telco Y, one of the leading telecommunications services providers, has signed a multi-million $ partnership with Vendor-Y, for Digital Transformation. Digital Transformation is a strategic initiative of the Telco Y and is aimed at offering an extensive portfolio of services to its customers, enhance customer experience & engagement, and quality of services delivery.

01st Jul, 10:00 Hours: The Board Room at the Telco HQ

The silence is deafening, and the breathing heavy. Everyone is waiting with heavy anticipation. The Head of Billing is pouring through the recent twitter reactions to the Digital Transformation.

twitter-reactions

The VP-Sales surreptitiously pulls out his iPhone, and sends a text “Bad, looks very bad…”. 1000s of miles away, the exasperation sets in …

Let’s look at one of the major transformation challenges faced by telcos

Digital transformation has become the norm now, and it is nothing short of a war – the war to win over customers, to stay profitable, and survive amongst the fiercest competition. However, studies indicate that most of the migration attempts have resulted in an increase in revenue leakages and has negatively impacted the brand and customer experience.

The unfortunate reality is that a majority of telcos are currently seeing issues in their transformation process leading to negative impact aspects around revenue and non-revenue. Reasons for this vulnerability are quite straightforward – the controls that existed with a set process get disrupted, and start to diminish once the transformation begins, thus leaving the operators in a bit of a handicap.

As per the recent reports, a leading telecom operator was fined for serious breaches of consumer rule due to inconsistencies in the new billing system and incurred a financial loss of close 4.6 Million Euros. There are also reports of operators losing up to 50 million due to migration failures.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”.

– Sun Tzu, the famous Chinese general, military strategist, philosopher, and the writer

Which side are you on? The Victorious warrior or the Defeated warrior? Download the datasheet to find ways of becoming proactive in your transformation, and being a victorious warrior.

Why Telcos Need Real-Time Revenue Assurance?

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

Why Real-Time Revenue Assurance?

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

Real-Time Revenue Assurance: How?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Device Journey Management: the next frontier for Device Assurance

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

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

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

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

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

Assurance by any other name… reflections on RAG Sydney

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

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

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

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

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

Subex at RAG Sydney Conference 2018

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

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

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

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