Competition To Cooperation: Operators And OTT Players

By Michael De Jongh, Global Head of Sales, Mobile Billing & Payments

In the past, mobile operators and OTT service providers have found themselves at loggerheads. Established telecoms business models are still in flux after OTT players established content delivery platforms that utilised an operator’s network without sharing revenue for the privilege. Operators suddenly found themselves supporting surging data volumes without the ability to effectively monetise it, largely thanks to subscribers’ all-you-can-eat data plans.

However, things are changing and the telecoms ecosystem has now reached a crucial tipping-point, with operators and OTT players moving from competition to cooperation. So what are the drivers towards this symbiotic trend and how will it change the telecoms industry?

In many ways OTT players have become too successful to ignore. OTT services are forecast to account for 8% of all voice traffic carried over mobile networks by 2016, as well as 65% of all messaging traffic.[i] Yet, despite their growing popularity, consumer confidence and brand recognition, OTT services are still reliant on operator infrastructure. The Achilles’ heel of many OTT players is their fragmented, closed user communities – for example, a WhatsApp user can only send a message to another WhatsApp user. This means that OTT players can struggle to compete for consumer mindshare and ways to monetize their service offerings.

In the crowded OTT market, a successful mobile application or mobile content business requires a shrewd combination of compelling marketing, quality content and an excellent customer experience. A consistently good quality of service, ease of use and payment convenience is crucial to every OTT player’s success.

Operators are in a unique position to help solve all these challenges. Firstly, operators own the network infrastructure, empowering services to connect to anywhere. Secondly, they already have a strong customer relationship, since they provide the handset and mobile number, oversee the billing process and ensure a quality of experience that meets subscribers’ needs. The importance of this customer knowledge cannot be underestimated. It enables operators, and those partnering with them, to target new services at the particular subscribers that will find them of most interest, rapidly driving new revenue streams. This knowledge may prove crucial to differentiating one OTT offering from those of rivals in a crowded marketplace.

In order to maximise revenues, OTT players need to make the billing process as simple as possible – because the more complicated the payment process is for consumers, the less inclined they will be to see their purchase through. By partnering with operators, OTT players can offer alternative payment options for their services. Direct Operator Billing (DOB) is the simplest and most effective ‘glue’ to unite the different players in this way. By simplifying and accelerating the uptake and monetization of apps, DOB drives revenue for both parties at little additional risk to operators.

By providing a seamless approach to purchases and billing, OTT players can benefit from greater transaction completion rates, whether they take place via a desktop browser, mobile browser, mobile app or in-app transaction (i.e. “the freemium model” which most content providers are now embracing). Meanwhile, operators can raise their exposure to consumers beyond being the touch point for subsidised handsets and contracts, strengthening their brand relevance in the eyes of subscribers and reducing churn. Partnering with OTT players also allows operators to provide customers with bespoke, value-add services based on their detailed subscriber knowledge, which can be pre-installed on the handsets they provide to consumers.

Thanks to the growing DOB trend, in the long-term, we will see the current fragmented market become an aligned ecosystem, with both OTT players and operators cooperating to meet consumer demands, harness subscriber ownership and drive revenues.

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[i] Source: ARCchart, Over-the-Top Communications: Threats & Opportunities for Mobile Operators, 2012

Posted in Carrier Billing, Data Monetization, Direct Billing, Mobile payments | 1 Comment

Cloud-based Wholesale Management Processes Surge Forward in Emerging Markets

By Ben Bannister, Product Marketing Director

Supporting requirements for fast time-to-market, lean operations and agile service provisioning is an essential need for network operators across most developing markets. Operators need to be able to squeeze the highest level of performance from their networks. This is crucial for their prosperity and many now see a combination of cloud delivery and managed services as a means to accomplishing this.

Facing paper-thin wholesale margins and intense competition, operators in the developing regions need to be able to implement new services quickly, to drive revenue and margin growth, but at a low CAPEX threshold. It is here that operators are increasingly seeing the business value a managed service proposition can bring, particularly when they consider the cost and complexity involved in supporting back-office processes for wholesale business management. Interconnect fraud protection, wholesale revenue assurance, interconnect billing and roaming traffic management can all benefit from cloud-based process management and cloud-based IT environments.  Different aspects of wholesale and interconnection management are becoming increasingly acceptable for operators in emerging markets.

For example, by deploying interconnect billing and reconciliation systems in the cloud, operators benefit from optimum process efficiency, improved economies of scale and even substantially reduced revenue leakage, through error rate reduction among other things. While the benefits to the bottom line from a high-quality wholesale billing solution are clear, operators in emerging markets are concerned about the CAPEX needed to deploy this in-house, as well as the unacceptable associated project risk.  The implementation of OSS is usually a lengthy and expensive affair, demanding time and resources. This goes against the instincts of many operators, who place a higher value on agility, to ensure that they cannot be outmanoeuvred by their competitors.

By opting for a cloud-based approach, operators benefit from rapid implementation, no CAPEX and cost of ownership directly associated with usage and revenue. The cloud approach also negates the need for software licensing or hardware procurement, while providing a solution that can quickly scale to meet demand and rapidly demonstrate a return on investment. Under these arrangements a managed service provider focuses on providing the system infrastructure and its back-end management. This eliminates the need to retain a pool of highly skilled employees to operate these systems and frees the operator’s in-house team to focus on securing the best commercial relationships with its partners. In fact cloud-based managed service options offer both flexibility and control through online user portals, near real-time reporting and web-based dashboards. This provides exactly the same or better levels of commercial control compared to an in-house solution.

Given all the advantages associated with cloud-based wholesale business process management,  operators in emerging markets are increasingly asking several questions: Why manage multiple wholesale partner systems when the processes they support can be managed for you?  Why maintain multiple, costly in-house systems when you can enjoy the economies of scale and expertise of a specialist managed service provider? Why wait to make the move to cloud-based, managed services?

Posted in Fraud Protection, Interconnect Billing, Outsourcing, Revenue Assurance, Revenue protection, Roaming, Wholesale Roaming | 2 Comments

Introducing TAP-NRTRDE Reconciliation

By Jospeh George, Director Revenue Protection

Near Real Time Roaming Data Exchange (NRTRDE) provides a revenue assurance and fraud protection process, for the fast exchange of roaming data between operators. NRTRDE files are typically exchanged within 4 hours, compared with TAP file processing which takes at least 24 hours to process and exchange. NRTRDE supports both fraud protection and revenue assurance process, ensuring that TAP records exchanged are complete and accurate with the correct set of information required for rating and billing process, providing an extra point of reconciliation for roaming traffic.

MACH CASHBACK provides an accurate TAP-NRTRDE module, to reconcile TAP file data with NRTRDE data. This service is typically provided as a Cloud-based service but can also be offered for on-site deployment. It can be used to identify a range of issues, including:

  • Missing TAP records or files
  • Missing NRTRDE records or files
  • File duration and Timestamp mismatches
  • Discrepancies in any other mandatory field used for billing, (MSISDN, IMSI, etc…)

CASHBACK TAP-NRTRDE reconciliation supports a range of functionality, including statistical and trend predictions, which can be used to monitor various aspects of the TAP and NRTRDE process. The module also supports configurable internal alarm functions and integration with external alarm functions. Standard and configurable online reporting is available, to help simplify data trending and analysis and data can be exported for analysis in external systems.

The CASHBACK TAP-NRTRDE reconciliation module provides multiple benefits to assure your roaming revenue:

  •  Revenue reconciliation, ensuring that all TAP records are captured, rated and billed accurately for roaming usage.
  • Historical comparison analysis, to help you detect and track usage deviation and data trends.
  • Automated data analysis eases the task of manual reconciliation, as well as ensuing greater accuracy.
  • Faster detection of data mismatches, using alarms and configurable threshold definitions, to make it both easier and quicker to detect and resolve issues associated with TAP and NRTRDE data flows.
  • Integrate Alarms and Dashboard functions, with other aspects of your roaming business for a complete view of roaming data exchange.

Read more about our solution – Download CASHBACK TAP-NRTRDE Factsheet

Posted in Data Roaming, Fraud, Fraud Protection, Revenue Assurance, Revenue protection, Roaming | Leave a comment

For when you need to stop revenue leakage fast – get ‘Rapid’

By Joseph George, Director Revenue Protection

Large scale Fraud Management and Revenue Assurance (RA) implementations can come at a high cost, with project risk and uncertain ROI. At a time of increasing constraints on resources, you may be looking for a less complex approach to fraud protection and revenue leakage prevention. At MACH we believe that it is possible to identify and isolate the critical Fraud and RA issues and manage them with a solution delivering a low cost, comprehensive, system based approach that can be implemented in weeks, not months!

So how do we do this? The answer is very simple, we look at the critical fraud or RA issues that you are facing, and define a solution scope that addresses those issues specifically. By having a very clearly defined scope of activity, we are able to deliver a solution, whether via a licensed software implementation approach or cloud based delivery, within a very short period of time, typically 8 weeks, compared with several months for more broad based system implementations.

This means you can start recovering revenue fast AND there is opportunity to broaden the scope of your delivery post-implementation, to deal with additional revenue leakage issues, determined by your priorities. The implication is that you can deal with the most pressing elements associated with fraud loss, or revenue assurance leakage quickly and with a fixed scope, fixed price solution and then move on to deal with other issues, building your solution as you need and as your budget allows.

Equally important is that while the scope of delivery is pre-defined, this does not mean that you are getting a 2nd level solution, as most of the standard features available in FAME and CASHBACK, such as easy to use GUI; Online reporting; Case management tools; Data validation; Security and high volume throughput etc, are also supported within the context of the ‘Rapid’ delivery option.

Posted in Fraud, Fraud Protection, Revenue Assurance, Revenue protection | Leave a comment

Focus on Interconnect Assurance

By Joseph George, Director Revenue Protection

Obvious differences exist between ‘Retail’ and ‘Wholesale’ telecoms revenue protection processes. For retail, the focus is on a broadly linear process, with measurement, reconciliation and protection designed to ensure an accurate order-to-cash flow. Wholesale revenue protection processes exhibit a divergence from the linear path. For wholesale, there is a need to manage a more web-like series of process interactions, integrating a range of inter-operator activities which also require 3rd party partner management and settlement. An understanding of the different revenue protection requirements between retail and wholesale processes is important to ensure an appropriate set of process capabilities and responses to manage your wholesale business.

There is a need for better alignment between the objectives and processes associated with Interconnect RA, which also includes wholesale fraud prevention and various partner settlement activities. The closer alignment between Interconnect RA, interconnect billing and settlement creates the need for a common Interconnect revenue management platform, taking a multi-dimensional approach to the protection of wholesale revenue. Such an integrated platform provides tangible cost benefits, in terms of process alignment and efficiency gains. The use of shared data across multiple wholesale management functions ensures a more complementary approach, such that data from separate activities can be combined into a single report, dashboard or application workflow.

With the notion of such a cross-functional interconnect revenue assurance platform in place, an operator could embrace the value of wholesale business optimization, meaning the ability to enhance revenue and profits, manage margins and minimize costs. To do this involves a more progressive approach to the use of business intelligence, going beyond standard operational reporting and dashboards, to embrace ‘Big Data’ concepts. Such an approach would provide detailed analytical and investigative capabilities to link and correlate wholesale RA and Fraud Protection with interconnect billing, routing information and partner settlement data.

Interconnect RA, fraud protection and partner management (interconnect billing, roaming & content settlement) have tended to develop in silos, each with their own processes, language and conventions. By linking these closely aligned processes, common data and platform management activity provides optimum re-use of wholesale management data. There are common process management and analytical capabilities that are re-usable across wholesale management functions. When properly implemented, these processes should be able to graduate from a focus on post-event investigations towards a more predictive and pre-emptive approach to prevent fraud, minimize interconnect and roaming costs and ensure all revenue is accounted for.

Read more about our solution – Download Interconnect Revenue Assurance Factsheet

Posted in Fraud, Fraud Protection, Interconnect Billing, Revenue Assurance, Revenue protection | Leave a comment

Why the time is right for ‘Cloud’ based Fraud & Revenue Assurance

By Joseph George, Director Revenue Protection & Interconnect, &  James Stewart, Fraud Product Manager

Knowledge about fraud protection and revenue assurance disciplines, procedures, best practices and systems is maturing. Despite this apparent maturity, the means by which network operators approach the management of these processes continues to evolve. This creates a fresh dilemna of how to implement fraud and revenue assurance best practices to ensure maximum ROI and also guarantee the integrity of the revenue protection process.

Minimizing revenue leakage is a significant issue for network operators. Various industry reports indicate that anything from 1% to 15% or more of gross revenue is typically lost due to revenue assurance or fraud issues. It is also significant that the sources of revenue leakage continues to be fragmented – including network element configuration issues, system integration disparities, tariff configuration problems and a range of elements relating to billing, partner management, credit management and fraud.

A software system based approach to fraud and revenue assurance would typically be expected to cover a range of fraud or revenue assurance processes, however the growing sophistication of cloud-based solutions provides a new approach. The consideration of a cloud-based model avoids the need to acquire and implement software altogether, while ensuring that all of the required fraud and revenue assurance process elements can still be performed, including data warehousing, online reporting and the provision of dashboards and alerts for proactive decision support.

Using a cloud-based approach removes the CAPEX cost issues associated with system acquisition, but continues to support the checks, reconciliation and associated processes expected from a standard licensed software model. Of equal importance is the associated time to market advantage which a cloud option provides. Implementing conventional licensed software takes a considerably longer time to deploy, quite apart from the costs, as there is a time consideration associated with hardware acquisition, project team mobilisation and related tasks. With cloud the infrastructure is always available, with configuration and adaptor developments quickly accomplished within the existing infrastructure.

A hybrid environment can also be considered, combining cloud-based fraud and revenue assurance processes within a conventional OSS/BSS infrastructure. Thus cloud-based data warehousing, correlation and reconciliation are available for your fraud and revenue assurance team, while online reporting, dashboards and alerts, supported by data processing and data warehousing and monitoring and processing capability, are entirely external to your in-house IT environment.

If the idea of cloud-based, or hybrid cloud/managed service for fraud and revenue assurance processes management seems unrealistic, then it is appropriate at this stage to indicate that this is no fantasy. It is the day to day reality for a number of operators who have already decided to adopt just such an approach in order to resolve the dual challenge of reducing revenue leakage and managing CAPEX constraints on fraud and revenue assurance system investment. This approach is therefore proven and provides new options as fraud and revenue assurance best practises evolve to deal with new technology and commercial value chain evolution.

Posted in Fraud, Fraud Protection, Revenue Assurance, Revenue protection | Leave a comment

MACH’s new ‘Unity’ Portal

By Nick Wennekers, Director Online Business Management Solutions

MACH’s new Portal ushers in a new era in roaming business management. The new MACH portal will become the central point from where MNOs can manage their entire wholesale roaming business. As the new entry point into all MACH services, Unity brings full service management as well as partner management features and will integrate all MACH’s online solutions. It brings together an MNO’s business information, like traffic numbers, financials and trends about partners, and also allows MNOs to manage their agreements, contacts and tariffs online. In other words, it is a combination of MACH’s analytical and business management portfolio integrated into one portal experience. It will also give insights into the operational status of the services purchased from MACH.

A new set of advanced analytics fully integrated into MACH Unity  will help MNOs better understand their business and make proactive business decisions. My Marketing visuals ensure operators receive automatically predefined sets of dashboards and emails allowing them to have full visibility of their subscribers’ behavior while roaming. They allow them to analyze the handsets their customers use, the frequency at which they roam, the services they use and their average usage, in order to create targeted retail offers per customer segment. Encouraging self-management, the new Visual Insights enable operators to create their own set of dashboards based on MACH SMART or Subscriber Performance Manager data. These advanced visualizations are key for successful roaming business management and provide the tools to enhance the decision making process.

Take a look at how the MACH “Unity” portal looks like:

MSP comp screens - Homepage

MSP comp screens - Service dashboard

Unity is part of MACH’s M Vision portfolio which combines the MACH Applied Business Intelligence (ABI) platform with its comprehensive partner management capabilities.

M Vision provides access to operational data as well as a range of reporting and analysis tools to integrate the critical components of business intelligence, such as reporting, monitoring/alerts, analytics and forecasting. The ABI solutions provide a suite of complementary tools to help operators focus on turning data into information, and information into action.

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