Monthly Archives

March 2016

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    Telecom-Operators,-Spam-and-Customer-Experience

    It would be an understatement to say that Application-To-Person (A2P) messaging has been widely accepted as the most viable near-term monetization strategy for telecom operators. Indeed, the numbers are impressive-Ovum expects A2P traffic will touch 2.21 trillion messages per day in 2017, representing 31.3 per cent of total messaging traffic. Furthermore, Juniper estimates that the A2P SMS industry will be worth $60 billion by 2018.

    Meanwhile, telecom operators themselves have enthusiastically jumped on to the A2P bandwagon. According to mobilesquared, a majority of mobile operators are witnessing year-over-year growth in A2P messaging, of between 6per cent-36 per cent, with 56 per cent of mobile operators registering a growth in A2P traffic in 2015, from 49 per cent in 2014.

    Now, here’s where it gets a bit tricky. While operators are, indeed, pinning their hopes on A2P messaging, the reality is that this is a double-edged sword. Simply put, while the promise of revenue is real, so is the threat of increased spam and illegal messaging attacks on subscribers.What’s more, according to industry surveys, operators simply do not have a game plan handy to respond to the threat and as a result, are also losing out on monetization opportunities.

    The Rise and Rise of Spam

    So, how real is the threat, really? To illustrate, permit me to cite examples from mobilesquared’sSecure Networks Key to A2P Monetizationreport-spamming is considered the greatest network threat, followed by spoofing and virus distribution. In addition, as per industry reports, globally, spam accounts for 15 per cent of all SMS messages sent, which represents 1.2 trillion spam messages each year. Let’s break it down further.

    Interestingly, the GSMA has identified the most common types of SMS-based spam as regular spam (unsolicited advertisements sent to subscribers), flooding (large amounts of traffic sent to disrupt services), faking (messages sent from an SMSC that fakes its own identity to avoid charging) and spoofing (messages sent with a fake MSISDN as originator to fool the recipient).

    Let’s consider two region-centric examples-in the US, text messages have held their own, despite the growth of other categories. Needless to say, this medium is a prime target for telemarketers and fraudsters. The most commonly used form include free gift card offers, marketing promotions and phishing scams, and often lead to serious misuses of personal information and identity theft. Now, consider Egypt-with 96 million mobile subscribers and a mobile penetration rate of over 110 per cent, isn’t it mind-boggling to consider the volume of spam messages that circulate in Egypt, and all over the Middle East!

    Spam and the Telecom Operator

    Now,in the context of a mobile operator, the range and scope of SMSs sent increases to include operator-generated messages, which are typically controlled by different teams within the company. In a nutshell, these include: marketing of value added services (such as product promotions), advertisements via the operator’s business team (typically for a specific business, such as wireless, enterprise, etc), content provider-centric messages (for specific content) and location-based campaigns (depending upon the customer’s location). These messages are typically sent across various channels (depending upon the customer’s preference, of course), such as SMS, USSD, MMS, email, an interactive voice response, et all.

    The question now is-why does the customer dismiss these messages as spam, despite being from a legitimate source (i.e. the operator)?The simple answer is-because, in reality, the operator doesn’t have control over these messages. Well, not in a centralized manner in any case. The catch here is that these messages are sent in an independent fashion, depending upon the channel being deployed and the purpose for which it is being sent. In other words, picture several communication platforms, all operating independently of each other and all viewing a particular set of subscribers in a “siloed” fashion. At the end of the day, each of these platforms are more than likely to send multiple and frequent message to the same set of subscribers, thereby doing nothing to ensure customer stickiness. Quite the opposite in fact-the customer is likely to be very annoyed. Another downside of this is that more often than not, a large chunk of one’s subscriber base is left unaddressed. Clearly not an advantageous situation for any telecom operator!

    Let’s move on to the impact spam will have on an operator’s overall locus standi. Bombarding the customer’s inbox with SMS spam is more than likely to lead to increased customer complaints, brand erosion and customer churn. Similarly, sending fraudulent messages like promising a subscriber large sums of money is likely to lead to financial losses for both, not to mention that the customer will likely lose faith in the operator completely (along with other sensitive information)! Illegal bulk messaging is another sure-shot way for the operator to lose the customer-and pay a hefty fine to the regulator, to boot!

    Last, but certainly not the least is the problem of grey routes. Now, going back to my original point, this is the main reason why operators will NOT be able to effectively monetize the A2P opportunity. How? Simply because grey routes account for 66 per cent of A2P network traffic, according to mobilesquared’s report. Many operators lack visibility into grey route traffic, because the tools to monitor and filter the message types traversing their networks aren’t available. This naturally adversely impacts an operator’s monetization efforts, making grey routes an attractive option for low-cost SMS aggregators with no commercial agreements with destination operators. The result? Revenue loss for the operator.

    Just an interesting aside into the actual depth of the issue-according to mobilesquared, only 33 per cent of mobile operators are able to monetize A2P messaging, leaving the rest on the table. Imagine the possibilities!

    So, what can an operator do to tackle this issue? Well, the commonly held view is that implementing an SMS Firewall can help contain the damage to some degree! According to industry surveys, it can help operators secure their networks and generate revenues from legitimate A2P use cases.

    From our huge deployment base of messaging and firewall solutions, we have found that key reason for adopting SMS firewall solutions in the past has been network security, anti-spam and/or fraud prevention, but we are seeing a shift in that thinking and customers are now expanding and investing such systems for A2P messaging monetization.

    Secondly, along with the firewall solution, operators are now looking for a comprehensive and unified policy control solution for the complete messaging infra across all channels and use-cases. This combined approach of a firewall plus a central policy control is the way for the future for enhanced customer experience for the subscribers.

    Operators need to ensure that the “SMSBOX” doesn’t become “SpamBox” and is ignored by the subscribers and taken over by Over-The-Top players such as WhatsApp completely.

    March 31, 2016 0 comment
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    Mobile-Payments-Take-Centre-Stage-at-MWC-2016

    The Mobile World Congress (MWC), GSMA’s marquee annual event, was bigger and better than last year, with a record number of 101,000 attendees from 204 countries. The theme “Mobile is everything”, was quite comprehensive in covering every major trend emerging in the mobility landscape, right from 5G to virtual reality. Like last year, ‘Payments’ continued to trend at the event, with bigwigs like MasterCard, Visa and PayPal showcasing leading innovations like Selfie Pay and Connected Car Payments. While there was a lot of action around payments, I have handpicked some trends emerging from MWC that are likely to have far-reaching effects.

    Ecosystem is paramount.

    Today, there’s consensus in the mobile financial industry that an open ecosystem is key to a successful mobile financial service. Key players including banks, mobile operators, tech companies and payment processors, in both the developed and emerging markets, are focusing on creating intra-industry and cross-industry partnerships in order to accelerate the pace of service innovation and meet changing customer expectations. This is quite evident from the slew of partnership announcements at the MWC. MasterCard announced a number of partnerships, which included Orange Romania for MasterPass, WISeKey for wearables, CU Wallet for customized digital wallets, and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals for online micro-donation platform. Similarly, Visa is collaborating with Honda and ParkWhiz for car-based commerce. Online payments giant, PayPal has joined hands with Vodafone Wallet in Europe and with M-Pesa Kenya for international remittance via Xoom. In addition, Mahindra Comviva, a global mobile financial solutions provider partnered with Wincor Nixdorf, a European provider of IT solutions for retail banks. This partnership will enable consumers using the former’s mobiquity® Wallet solution to withdraw cash and top up their mobile wallets at the ATM by simply scanning or presenting a QR code or through their NFC enabled mobile device. This solution is a good example of how electronic and cash payment transactions can combine perfectly with each other and extend the benefits of HCE beyond the retail POS.

    We also saw digital identity take centre stage with ‘Mobile Connect’. User authentication via Mobile Connect for HCE deployments highlights its potential of becoming one of the factors of authentication for mobile payments and commerce. The simplicity of establishing the user’s identity through the MNOs with standardized APIs will open up options for financial institutions and lead to a seamless user experience.

    From ‘Internet of Things’ to ‘Internet of Payments’

    The Internet of Things is catching momentum and payments are becoming important part of it. In a few years, machines will analyze our needs and preferences and make automatic purchases on the basis of our requirements.  In the future, we will see intelligent fridges order and pay for weekly supplies and groceries and cars that direct us to the nearest fuel station when they detect that the fuel tank is empty.  This is going to be a reality much sooner than you think with VISA demonstrating its “connected car experience” at the MWC. Visa, in partnership with Honda is making car-based commerce transactions a reality. Honda cars, fitted with chips talk to gas pumps and parking meters. Cars automatically detect the need to refuel, calculate cost and pay automatically, without the driver having to leave the car. Similarly, in the parking, the car will automatically detect the parking time and enable consumer to pay the exact amount via mobile phone.

    The changing face of MWC

    MWC used to be a MNO-centric event, especially in the context of trends. However, in the last couple of years, we have witnessed a change with MWC expanding itself to a mobility centric event. This is quite evident from this year’s keynote address, which drew participation from the likes of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ford Motor Company, Starcom Mediavest, Turtle entertainment and Facebook.

    In a way, this is a reflection on how the mobile financial solutions industry will evolve from merely being confined to banks and MNOs to a wider spectrum of industries, including auto manufacturers, retailers, social media majors, etc.

    There is little doubt that MWC 2016 witnessed tremendous on-ground action. Expect 2017 to be equally busy. Stay tuned!

    March 29, 2016 0 comment
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    The world has become a home to 7.2 billion mobile devices, and they are multiplying 5 times faster than the people are. No other technology has ever put a global impact like the mobile phone. They have become the fastest growing human-created phenomenon ever- grown from zero to 7.2 billion users in just three decades. Gradually, the mobile users are switching to smartphones and this shift has become so swift that almost 65 percent of the new internet users experience their first internet surfing via their smartphones. Smartphones have also become the most preferred money transaction medium owing to the usage ease and convenience it offers.

    Catalyst driven adoption of mobile wallets

    While the rapid growth of digital payments worldwide has been driven mainly by the penetration of smartphones; other catalytic factors like improved infrastructures, personalized experiences, loyalty programs, instant rewards, discount coupons, instant transaction notifications etc. have had a significant impact on this industry.

    One cannot ignore how mobile wallets have made paying a breeze. With features like camera, notifications, location-aware services, comparison shopping and virtual receipts, they have succeeded in enhancing the overall user experience. Not only they carry your details permanently to allow you make instant purchases but,with the loyalty programs, they also offer some incentive to the member customers to spend more. The members, who redeem reward points, stay engaged with the loyalty program. The redemption can be defined in the form of rebates, points, cash back, discounts or even in a combination of these.They provide greater gratification with incentivizing to those spending more.However, the digital payment market is gradually moving from loyalty programs towards instant rewards which tackle the low threshold consumers, leveraging instant gratification, create a rewarding moment with the consumers, which they will remember for a long time. Alleviating the accounting difficulties, instant rewards create a win-win-situation for both the sides.

    Digital payments have witnessed a relatively higher growth curve owing to the fact that the millennials account for around 50 percent of total smartphone users globally. These individuals are attributed to be pivotal to the rise of e-commerce and are now playing a similar role for the success of the digital payments industry.

    Stimulated by these factors, more than 40 percent of the money transactions started happening through mobile phones and of them, more than 52 percent transactions take place through digital payments.

    Mobile wallets – more than just payment tools

    Mobile wallets underwent significant changes to meet the changing needs of the industry. Initially, they started with phone recharge and then gradually they extended the array of their services to bill payments and DTH recharges. Now, this burgeoning segment has included e-commerce, coupons, cash-backs and financial services as well. Money transfers. Bill payments, mobile recharges and utility applications are some of the major areas that witnessed the highest mobile wallet utilization during 2014-2015 and since then, it has grown up by 110 per cent. What more, the mobile wallet companies are coming up with more innovative ways to drive consumer engagement and attract new customers towards a cashless form of transaction.

    Presently, a majority of the population spend a lot of time on mobile applications and the new audience portals such as messaging and social media apps. The mobile wallets are anticipated to see a major transformation with the inclusion of a social, peer-to-peer dimension to its services. Social gifting is destined to become quite a popular trend driven by the tech-savvy consumer base which will evolve money transfer through mobile wallets as a socially meaningful gesture capable of earning immense goodwill. There’s a lot of scope for mobile wallets to develop as a means of easing financial transactions, proving handy on outings or aiding emergency fund transfers.

    Digital money transfers are being adopted worldwide. Now, the users are sending and accepting payments, donations, tips, gifts and rewards on a dozen social media platforms as well.  In the coming time, mobile wallets, in order to reach out to the consumers, will definitely require borrowing mobile moments from such platforms or it will have to itself transform into one such platform.

    The future of mobile wallets lies beyond payments

    Future scope of mobile wallets

    Based on the recent developments, it can be said that mobile wallets will become a self-reliant ubiquitous ecosystem very soon. In the coming time, value added services will take mobile wallets far beyond just payments and it is anticipated that they will develop as a new but significant marketing channel capable of merging the online and offline marketing efforts together.

    Instead of replacing the merchants’ integrated apps, mobile wallets can complement them offering more reach and engagement. Thus, the marketers may be seen developing integrated mobile wallet apps alongside creating a path-breaking social experience to add value beyond payments in the coming time.

    Marketers can take advantages of the emerging opportunities with mobile wallets to create a borrowed presence on the mobile devices of customers. Certainly they can benefit from mobile wallets if they merge together coupons, loyalty programs, product discovery, promotions and gift cards to create a new and powerful brand experience for the consumers’’ mobile moments.

    In a nutshell, mobile wallets are certainly going beyond payments and pivoting into a path-breaking user experience.

    March 24, 2016 0 comment
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    Technology has evolved, as has managed services.In fact, it would be a bit of an understatement to say that it has undergone several permutations and combinations over the years.

    Shall we briefly step back in time? The good folks over at BlackPoint IT Services have provided a concise timeline-in the 1990s, managed services was, in a nutshell, a crisis-based, break/fix service. Deemed unpredictable, it relied on reactive support. Moreover, providers mostly used ad-hoc tools and had little or no documentation handy. At the time, most managed services contracts were billed on a “time and materials” basis and presented an unpredictable expense for businesses.

    Perhaps most importantly, at the time, every service offered by any managed service provider entailed a service level agreement (SLA). Simply put, this meant a team of experts were always on-hand to resolve any network-related issue. The bad news was that if SLAs were breached, a percentage of the managed services providers’ monies was cut. Net, net, the managed service provider’s role largely entailed end-to-end management of the client’s telecom network and reduction of cost through sharing of monitoring resources, etc.

    Now on to the early 2000s! Things hadn’t changed to a very great degree back then, managed services moved towards scheduled visits, where technicians would log reviews and fix any issue a customer may face. Moreover, servers started to be hosted in co-locations and a flat-fee structure was introduced with testing and measurement billing. And, key performance indicators (KPI) came to the fore, which in turn introduced the concept of “service management”, as opposed to “network management”. In other words, this meant end-to-end performance of every telecom service would be measured and monitored proactively to ensure the service performs at the highest possible level. So, basically, as opposed to ensuring the network is up and running in the first phase, a managed service provider would focus on ensuring each and every service wasn’t merely functioning at optimal levels, but at certain pre-defined levels.

    For the sake of greater clarity, the best example of this is the 99.9999 per cent service uptime. This, as we all know, is amongst the most common service level KPIs. Other KPIs,of course, include change request management within a specified period of time, reduction of time taken to launch a new service launch by a certain percentage from the current time, etc.

    Permit me to add a final word to this section-during this time, managed services still merely provided single-day visibility without any preventive or proactive maintenance.

    So, where does the managed services domain stand today? Well, managed services, as we know it now, is able to utilize many more robust tools such as spam, compliance and security management (just to name a few). Indeed, every company is currently operating in hybrid environments, supported by managed monitoring alerts and remedial tools. Given today’s cut-throat competitive environment, it isn’t surprising that ensuring managed business continuity is now considered the bottom line for any business.

    Now, permit me to introduce an interesting angle. Today, a managed service provider isn’t just that-a managed service provider. Their role has expanded to functioning as a “managed services partner” for the operators they service. Simply put, certain pain-points faced by an operator-i.e.-revenue enhancement and ensuring an enhanced customer experience (just to name a few) become the bottom line for not just the operator but the managed service provider as well.

    So, why this paradigm shift? Well, operators today are faced with a plethora of challenges-saturated voice revenues, wafer-thin margins and cut-throat competition. In this scenario, they are, needless to say, seeking methods to enhance value and benefits to their business. Therefore, as per industry analysts, typically, a business model that is not only based on financial savings, but also on creating sustainable business differentiation is the key. Why? To stand apart from the competition, of course!

    Net, net, it all boils down to customer experience. Now, customer experience is a tricky area to navigate. In a nutshell, the idea is to create differentiated experiences at the different touch-points the customer chooses to interact with the operator at. Needless to say, a sound customer experience strategy offers the operator multiple benefits-namely enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, incremental sales, etc. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    So, what role can managed service providers play? Well, managing customer experience across multiple touch-points is a very tall order for any company. After all, all the elements involved, from advertising campaigns to post-purchase support play a very important role and must be treated with caution. This is where managed services come in. Industry analysts are of the firm opinion that the experience-centric managed services model focuses on customer expectations and demands. Thus, aligning service delivery in accordance with these requirements is, needless to say, a must. The experience-centric managed services model aligns service delivery with the operator’s strategic and business objectives, securing a customer experience centric operation that proactively drives business innovation.

    Amdocs has presented a few interesting thoughts in this regard. First off, improving customer experience through managed services starts with mapping the customer experience related processes, the underlying systems, integration touch points, and the measurable impact on the end customer.

    Now, here’s where it gets a bit tricky-translating the aforementioned factors into tangible KPIs and service level targets that the managed services provider can be held accountable for.

    In a nutshell, this can be achieved via these key steps; identifying desired business outcomes, identifying customer experience impacts and operational goals, building KPI models, defining performance targets and commitment periods, developing service level improvement and optimization plans and monitoring, measuring, and reviewing.

    And, what will these steps achieve for the operators? Well, for one thing (and this IS the bottomline, really) customers can expect increased reliability, improved quality, enhanced choice and accelerated innovation and time-to-market.

    In a nutshell, this is by no means an exhaustive account on the link between managed services and enhanced customer experience. I would like to summarize, though, by saying that today, customer loyalty is at the top of every operator’s priority list. Therefore, placing a premium on a consistent continually improving customer experience at every touch point isn’t a giant leap. Managed services can help (amongst other things) ensure accountability at every stage of the customer’s lifecycle. Remember, though, (and this may just be my next blog), choose the right partner! It makes all the difference!

    March 22, 2016 0 comment
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    Today, mobile payment options are becoming increasingly sophisticated. The reason may be attributed to the continued evolution of new supporting technologies but, even with the attainment of such maturation of digital payments, their adoption remains minimal owing to several roadblocks. Security concerns top the list of such barriers.

    Many updates highlight significant pains in the mobile payment market. Namely, despite the availability of wide range of options across the smartphone platforms, the usage is still rather low. Globally, 1 in 5 mobile subscribers use mobile payments at least occasionally but, more than 1 in 4 says that they do not have an intention of doing the same in future. More positively, 22 percent of mobile users don’t use this service but may think of doing so. The mobile payment reports reveal that the proportion of consumers having no intention of using mobile payments ranges from 24 per cent in India to 30 and 57 per cent in the Russia and US respectively.  These findings underline that the universal adoption of mobile wallets still faces challenges worldwide.

    Security Issues

    Data security is the biggest concern that many mobile payment consumers have associated with the concept of making payments via mobile applications. With payments handed over to the mobile processors, many consumers worry that their sensitive data could leak to some wrong hands. Another concern associated with such leakage is that it could bring forth a large amount of unwanted junk e-mails, spam, and promotions from companies that gain access to user lists. The other customers anticipate even graver consequences, like identity theft or unauthorized credit max-outs. However, most of the leading providers of mobile payment solutions have answered to all these concerns by adapting PCI encryption at 128-bit rate.

    The latest technological implementation to mobile payments – HCE – an on-device technology allows a phone to perform card emulation on an NFC-enabled device. With HCE, the device does not have to rely on access to a secure element. This approach is particularly beneficial to the ones active in the NFC payments ecosystem.

    Prior to the usage of HCE, Mobile payment credentials were stored on the mobile device inside the secure element. With HCE, the secure element can be present outside the mobile device. This increases security removing third-party involvement and, in turn, reduces both complexities and costs. The technology can help a mobile wallet application convert into a virtual smart card. In turn, this means direct communication between merchants and banks without any intermediaries, i.e. mobile network operators.

    Payment Preferences

    Many consumers voice disinterest in using smartphones for the purpose of making payments. After all, the act of swiping cards to complete payments is as easy and fast as the process of tapping smartphone apps for the very same purpose. This dilemma is answered for the businesses to offer more than just a payment means active via mobile apps; the businesses must also combine all other features of loyalty programs, in-store coupons, and redemptions into the mobile payment option.

    No global Standard

    International compatibility is another concern associated with mobile payments.  Until the definition of common interfaces, based on current standards the consumers will not engage in mobile payments properly. The consumers will see the benefits of using their smartphone as an electronic wallet only when that will allow them to conduct transactions than the basic traditional channels. Once a global standard is accepted, the consumers won’t require installing new software making a purchase every time; instead, they will be able to use any application for making payments. This will significantly simplify the purchasing process.

    Future growth of mobile payments

    The mobile payment adoption stats may not appear downright disappointing but it is to be accepted that the mobile payments are still in their early days. Despite these lingering concerns, the optimism for the bright future of mobile payments abounds. And thus, a growth of 210 percent in the total value of mobile payment transactions is anticipated in the year 2016 – up to 27.05 billion dollars from 8.71 billion dollars – it’s quite fair to wonder how this gap between the awareness and adoption of mobile payments will be closed?

    Despite the potential and convenience that mobile payment solutions possess currently, there exists room for improvement. This is where the technological innovations arrive into the picture. These mobile payment innovations will include:

    • Peer-to-peer payments
    • Replacement of plastic cards
    • Centralized reward points
    • Replacement of physical banks by virtual ones

    But, what about the biggest concern: Security?

    With sensitive data stored in cloud databases, there is exists a very high-security standard set. In order to prevent unauthorized access latest technologies like HCE eliminate dependence on mobile operators. Payment providers can therefore create NFC-enabled applications without seeking permission from a mobile operator. It simplifies the overall payment process and enables a bank to directly interact with the card without network operators.

    Beyond all these, new technologies can also lead to more interesting developments in the mobile payment industry. In the coming time, it may also let you trade assets with the same convenience as e-mails are traded today. This will eliminate the middlemen in the payment process. Biometrics as a payment option has already made its way. This can make mobile payments even more secure including everything from fingerprints, heartbeat and facial recognition as ways to verify payments.

    Conclusion

    Mobile payments are set to be the most revolutionary technology to sweep the retail world. Whatever be the hurdles that need to be tackled, it appears that the mobile payment options are certainly going to increase. By addressing, answering and solving the questions that have been raised by the consumers, the mobile payment companies will be able to downsize their hesitations.

    March 22, 2016 0 comment
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    The role of the managed service provider is increasingly becoming important as operators look to new avenues for “rationalizing costs” without “sacrificing customer experience”.

    The thrust towards cost rationalization has emerged against the backdrop of fluctuating customer demand, escalating costs and  the rapid obsoletion of technologies which has led to an increase in operator risks without any corresponding increase in  their reward (evident from GSMA Intelligence which reports an increasing divergence between revenue and network traffic.)

    Meanwhile, the demand for data continues to increase rapidly, day-by- day, due to the proliferation of smart connections – devices as well as data hungry mobile applications. Under these circumstances, operators have no other choice but to continue to roll out high-speed networks, like LTE, and look to managed services for cost rationalization.

    However, increasing customer expectations, various competitive pressures as well as the poor perception of the operator in the eyes of the customer are driving operators to go beyond “cost rationalization “while defining their relationship with their managed service providers.

    How has managed services developed over the years?

    The “managed service” model has been around for many years now. In its earlier form, it was on a “break/fix” basis where you called in the outside expert if you had a problem with your computer. The solution or “fix” was usually provided for a small fee.

    The early 2000s saw the emergence of managed services contract. The stress was on providing proactive services rather than reactive “fixes”. Instead of reacting to an “escalation” that needed an immediate “fix” the focus was on identifying “bugs” or “holes” in the systems that could compromise performance in the future.

    This coincided with the rise of new approaches to servicing like “just in time” management which received widespread support from the industry, as well as from CEOs, like Jack Welch of GE. Instead of hiring technical support personnel directly on the payrolls of the company, the services were outsourced leading to cost savings.

    The genesis of managed services in telecom probably lies in the recession of 2008 and the telecom bubble of 2001.  With markets in doldrums and with no signs of revival in the future, telecom operators were looking for cost optimization opportunities to offset the huge investments in building capacity and networks. The focus was firmly on reducing costs. This was achieved by outsourcing network and operation costs to domain experts.

    What is it today?

    Today the role of the managed service provider has evolved from creating a network and operational efficiencies to creating value for customers.

    Why is it necessary?

    The shift has become necessary against the backdrop of customer’s poor perception of the operator.

    The customers are comparing operator’s standard of service against the benchmarks set by companies like Amazon and finding them to be woefully short.

    The level of customer dissatisfaction that has crept in telecom services is such that the customer would rather switch to another service provider rather than wait for “another five minutes” in a customer service queue.

    The challenge before the operator is to reduce churn by providing reliable and easy-to-use products and services. This includes an easy interaction with the company in question, quick problem resolution and a pleasant experience overall.

    How is it done?

    With the specter of “customer churn” looming large, operators are bringing in the expertise of managed service providers to manage customer experiences.

    The goal is to put the systems in place that would help the operator to track, oversee and organize interactions with customers throughout the customer lifecycle for increasing customer retention and adding a new customer with word of mouth advertising.

    To achieve this end, telecom operators must focus on creating an omnichannel experience, use data to obtain a holistic picture of the entire customer relationship, invest in first contact resolution and identify high-risk-and-value customers.

    However, as reported by Analysys Mason operators are two years behind OTT service providers as well as Large Internet Players like Amazon and Facebook when it comes to leveraging technologies for understanding customer sentiments and requirements.

    Managed service providers, with their deep, understand of network operations and big data analytics can fill the gap seamlessly allowing the operators to provide best in class customer experience as well as contribute to the top line and bottom line growth.

    What are the strategies?

    Creating a holistic view of the customer

    Since the operators own the network pipes carrying customer data they are in a unique position to understand their customer’s needs and requirements better than anybody else.

    For example, a simple text classification engine can be used to process massive amounts of feedback, and discern customer sentiments. Besides customer sentiments, analytics engine can provide valuable insights by highlighting problems with the product price, quality or service.

    Managed service providers with their expertise in big data analytics can leverage operator’s data pipe to create a holistic view of the customer.

    Improving first-time resolution rates

    One of the reasons why first-time resolution rates are so poor is the lack of a single unified view of customer’s usage data across products and services.

    Convergent billing systems not only provide a unified view of customer’s usage and data but it also helps the operator to design product offerings according to customer’s usage history.

    “Convergent billing systems” provides customer care agents a single unified view of customer’s usage and history which goes a long way in improving first-time resolution rates.

    Managed service providers are driving “convergent billing systems” by managing OSS/BSS transformation.

    Retaining “at risk consumers” 

    Last, but not the least, dormancy scoring models using various parameters like usage data, customer’s time on the network, on/off times can be used to pinpoint “at risk customers”.

    These customers can be targeted with retention campaigns taking into account their usage and history.

    Managed service providers are leveraging their deep expertise in networks as well as real-time analytics to drive contextually driven marketing campaigns to “at risk” customers.

    Where is this relationship headed?

    Opportunities exist for managed service providers to take a strategic role in the evolving operator – MSP relationship and help the operators to unlock the full potential of their business.

    According to Informa telecoms & media, smaller CSPs are heading towards convergence with a single managed service provider handling various network and service related functions. This may be because smaller operators will find it difficult to handle multi-vendor contracts.

    As MSPs evolve, operators will expect them to take up increasingly complex roles and responsibilities of service quality management (SQM) and customer experience management (CEM) that are more customer facing roles than network and operation centric roles.  In the future, operators will ask their MSP to take up additional responsibility in the form Service Operation Center (SOC) rather than go to a new vendor.

    The new relationship that will be built on trust and unlocking synergies of the existing operator – MSP relationships for creating value for the customers as well as business objectives and revenue projections.

    March 21, 2016 0 comment
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    The global traffic in data is going to exceed the one zettabyte (1000 exabytes) threshold by the end of 2016, according to Cisco’s VNI Forecast 2014 -2019. This growth is due to new and faster networks, a decrease in the price of 3G/4G smartphones and increase in the demand for new data-intensive services like mobile video.

    However, the growth in data traffic has not corresponded with the growth in revenues for operators due to the data monetization challenge. This is a major cause of concern for operators who have invested their time and money in building the network pipes that are enabling data traffic today.

    One of the prime reasons behind this uncoupling of data and revenue growth is the emergence of OTT platforms cannibalizing traditional revenue streams of operators like P2P and SMS.

    The GSMA Intelligence report forecasts that OTT service providers will continue to eat into the operator’s share of the revenue in the mobile ecosystem.   According to this report, in 2013, the total revenue of the mobile ecosystem was $1,996 billion, of which the operator’s share was 1,186 billion (a shade below 60 percent). GSMA forecasts, that by 2020, the total revenue would grow to $2,897 billion with the operator’s share around 1,445 billion (49 percent). In contrast, the report indicates that revenue from applications, content and advertising would grow from 205 billion to 576 billion (an almost 3-fold increase).

    This is in line with Gartner’s industry perspective that although network speed and reliability are priorities for customers, it is really  apps and content that is driving data traffic as people increasingly chat to friends and family, watch videos on demand, and listen to streamed music on their mobile devices.

    In the end user’s market driven by service differentiation and quality of experience, OTT service providers have stolen the march over traditional telecom companies by delivering highly contextual and personalized service offerings to their customers leveraging data analytics.

    Ideally, telecom companies should have been the ones monetizing the data flowing through the network pipes because they have control over it. However, as a number research shows, operators are lagging behind Large Internet Player (LIPs) as well as OTT service providers when it comes to applying data analytics to large reservoirs of big data under their control.

    Research by Analysys Mason highlights the gap between Large Internet Players like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple (GAFA). According to the research, two-thirds of the operators, while acknowledging the importance of contextual marketing based on analytics for monetization data, admitted that they were two years behind the GAFA group.

    The research also pointed out that while operators want to make the most of the abundant data they have, but in technical terms they still have a long way to go.

    Also, the flat data rates used by operators is open to abuse and leads to traffic congestion affecting end users Quality of Service (QoS) as well as the quality of experience (QoE) which exacerbates the data monetization problem even further.

    With internet usage expected to rise even further in the future due to the rapid proliferation of mobile devices and the coming of age of 3G/4G services, CSPs will have to create a differentiated service experience through real-time recharge,tiered pricing, differentiated product catalogue, extensive reporting based on analytics, and convergent billing experience across different networks and services.

    A multi-tiered pricing regime will not only prevent data abuse and traffic congestion but also generate more revenues for the operator by providing uniform bandwidth after the cap. Similarly, by provisioning bandwidth on demand, like for example, a single flat fee, say $ 5 for increasing bandwidth for the next five hours for watching a movie, operators not only garner additional revenues but also improve customer experience significantly.

    Other monetization opportunities include providing access to social media apps for a flat fee per month. Operators must realize that every customer is different and there is no one size fit all marketing strategy for customers. In order to maximise data monetization opportunities, they will have to cater to every individual with highly differentiated offerings catering to video, gaming, social media, VoIP, individuals, groups etc. For example, with Gartner forecasting mobile video to account for 60 percent of the data traffic in 2018, operators could improve Quality of Experience (QoE) with video optimization for saving bandwidth and costs.

    The future will be tough for operators who fail to adapt to the changing telecom environment. The winners will be those who are able to overcome the data monetization challenges that are mentioned above with a more customer-centric analytics-driven approach keeping an eye on margins all the time.

    March 14, 2016 0 comment
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    iStock_000044989972_Large

    Today, operators are faced with a plethora of challenges-namely-thinning margins, plunging ARPUs and cannibalization of revenues by the emergence of OTT service providers. To counter this, telecom operators must not only find new and innovative ways to bolster ROIs on their existing CAPEX spends, but they must do so without incurring any significant increase in their OPEX.

    The way out of this dichotomy is to create a “no fuss” business environment based on a common set of rules and procedures that can be scoped out to any business role and function in a seamless fashion – and that too without incurring any major cost escalations.This is possible only by ushering in OSS/BSS transformation that has been quietly gathering momentum.

    Market Trends in Telecom OSS/BSS

    However, the emergence of OSS/BSS cannot be described as an overnight phenomenon by any means. On the contrary, the markets have been mulling over its potential for some time now. And if we go by the market analysts, there is no dearth of potential. According to Transparency Market Research, the OSS/BSS market will be worth $49.78 Billion by 2020. The report mentions that the global operations support systems (OSS) and business support system (BSS) market will report a 12.7 percent CAGR from 2014 to 2020 as it grows from its 2013 valuation of $ 21.86 billion.

    According to the report, the demand in OSS is expected to come from the service fulfillment and service assurance in North America and Europe.

    Similarly, in the BSS segment, strong growth is expected in revenue management and customer management services, with the former chalking a growth rate of 14.3 percent CAGR between 2014 and 2020.

    These are on expected lines as shifting customer loyalty and decreasing ARPUs send operators on a course correction spree. Also strong growth is expected in the emerging countries as they pump in more dollars for establishing a strong network infrastructure.

    Convergent Billing Systems Trends in the OSS/BSS Space

    Technavio pegs the global OSS/BSS market at $48.54 billion by 2018, growing at 16.2 percent CAGR from 2012 to 2018. As a matter of fact, both Transparency Market Research as well as Technavio, have betted long on convergent billing systems to increase uptake of OSS/BSS systems in the market. A convergent billing system provides a typical voice and data customer with a single-invoice-one-charge account covering mobile voice, fixed voice, data, IPTV, broadband, pre-paid as well as post-paid. Ordinary billing systems are disparate and fail to provide a single unified of the customer usage and services. In a convergent billing system, the customer calls customer care and gets a complete overview of services opted. At the end of the billing cycle, the customer receives a single bill for services consumed and makes a single payment for all the services.Convergent billing systems is one of the fastest rising trends in telecom OSS/BSS implementations, which enables faster time to market, unified customer care and product discovery.

    Custom built OSS/BSS Software

    With the current narrative running on cost optimization and revenue maximization, it is hardly surprising when TechNavio points to more outsourcing of OSS/BSS functions to managed service providers in the future. This is because software implementation and maintenance is prohibitively costly in a market especially when operators are competing on cost among other factors.

    There is also going to be growing demand for customized OSSS/BSS software with telecom operators shifting from a product centric model to a customer-centric model.

    With the operator ringing in several changes in order to differentiate their products and services, customized OSS/BSS will become the flavor of the season. The demand for custom built software will also grow with the operator breaking into new territory through bundled offers. Increasingly, we will see operators bundling telco with non-telco products as they try to increase their revenues. However, this bundling of core services with non- core services has its own hazards, requiring custom OSS/BSS software for provisioning.

    Fault-lines in OSS/BSS

    However, there are several hurdles before the operators that are impeding their OSS/BSS transformation. Operators are carrying the burden of their legacy architecture developed in-house and consisting of a patchwork of niche systems that cannot support flexibility and the time to market that are the perquisites of ICT in the current age.

    Migrating to new OSS/BSS structure poses its own share of problems. Taking a big bang approach could potentially disrupt business processes due to which operators have to take the middle path where old legacy infrastructure has to co-exist in the new OSS/BSS environment until the transformation is complete. However, this leads to the doubling of the costs.

    March 9, 2016 0 comment
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