26 Oct 2012

How African operators can stand out from their competitors..

How can operators make an impact on the African market?

Joao Manuel Faisca, Vice-President for Southern Europe,
 Middle East and Africa, WeDo Technologies
By Joao Manuel Faisca, Vice-President for Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa, WeDo Technologies

The past five years has been a time of great investment and growth in telecommunications across Africa.  Africa is still the fastest growing telecoms market in the world and mobile penetration levels in sub-Saharan Africa are estimated to reach 54% by the end of 2012 and 64% by 2015, compared to just 28% five years ago.

However, due to this accelerated growth, the African telecommunications industry has become much more challenging.  There is greater competition among operators as well as the need to fast-track infrastructure investment to grow capacity and offer new services.  However, with these new services and growth there is also great potential for leakages and fraud. In a report by Juniper Research, it was found that operators were "leaking" revenue because the complexity of networks made fraud and errors harder to spot.  It was confirmed that the problem is worst in Africa and the Middle East, where 15% of revenue is lost annually, compared with 1% in Europe and about 2.8% in North America.  

Similarly, one of the main challenges in the African market for operators is ensuring that they are profitable even with low average revenue per user (ARPU) – something that is common across the continent.  Despite a low ARPU, there is still a huge demand for operators to provide an exceptional customer services and implement coherent and large scale network to offer new services. 

But what does all this mean for the operators in this region?  How can they overcome these challenges and provide customers with a great service and remain profitable in this growing market?
Improving the P&L and ensuring that customers remain happy and are provided with the services they require is an essential focus for telecom operators. That makes identifying revenue leakage, a vital part of an operator’s business.  Similarly, operators need to ensure that they are continuing to optimise efficiency and therefore are bringing money to the bottom line.  In order to do so, operators should be aware of the concept of Business Assurance and use systems to improve operational effectiveness and manage risk.   It tries to quantify what really matters to organizations and their stakeholders, to show how they can improve their systems, and businesses, which ultimately leads to overall business performance improvement. 

Revenue Assurance and Fraud Management are examples of two different processes that operators will want to monitor to understand their business’ overall performance and overcome the challenges in the African region. Identifying a structured and relational approach between them and other areas ensures that your organization fully understands the interdependence between processes, systems, and data that impact performance. While Revenue Assurance and Fraud Management generate their own metrics, Business Assurance will correlate the metrics between the two areas to understand their impact on the business overall and how they relate to areas such as collections or billing.

In order to tackle these potential leakages and fraud losses, the operators should have or create a Revenue Assurance & Fraud department with specific tools such as, a Business Assurance system. Another option, is adopting a managed service approach.  This offers an alternative to operators’ in-house operational planning, implementation, staffing, training, and on-going operations.  Via managed services, telecom operators can reduce the guesswork and expense of business management technology by obtaining software, services and support through a single point of contact at an affordable monthly cost and most importantly the telecom operators can virtually expand their teams via external expertise that have access to global Business Assurance best practices.

In Egypt, for example, there is a particularly high level of competition.  There are three operators covering the entire market with 100 per cent penetration.  In order to differentiate itself from the competition and overcome the challenges within the African market, one of the key operators in Egypt has deployed WeDo Technologies’ Business Assurance system and comments, “The return on investment is very positive. I can remember that in the first phase when we just applied the system, we had a return on investment during the data acceptance test so it was very beneficial for us.”  

In order for operators in the African region to overcome these challenges they are facing and ensure that this period of growth does not turn sour, understanding the performance of their business is a critical aspect for improvement. In turn, this will assist them in improving their bottom line and ensure that their customers are happy – a win, win situation for all!
WeDo Technologies is an innovator in revenue and business assurance software with customers in eight countries in Middle East and Africa.  WeDo Technologies will be exhibiting at AfricaCom 2012.  Visit them at stand P39 or contact Joao Manuel Faisca (joao.faisca@wedotechnologies) or Pedro Teixeira (pedro.teixeira@wedotechnologies.com) to arrange a meeting.  

22 Oct 2012

"Convergence: features and benefits for African telecoms” is discussed with Mikhail Khomarov, VP of R&D of CBOSS

Today’s guest blog post is written by Mikhail Khomarov, the Vice President of CBOSS. They are proud sponsors of AfricaCom. 

CBOSS is one of the world leaders in the development of innovative convergent IT solutions for end-to-end automation of telecommunications companies, delivering a competitive edge to telecoms across the globe. The CBOSS products range is based on innovative standardized convergent IT solutions acknowledged by many operators and service providers in 24 countries of the world, including African telecom companies.  

What is convergence? What benefits will a telecom operator acquire by using convergent solution? Mikhail Khomarov, VP of R&D CBOSS answers these and other questions.

What exactly do you mean under the convergence of BSS solutions? 
Convergence as we define it - is a principle of unification and standardization of solutions to complex problems. Complex BSS systems could be assembled from many components from different vendors, or they can be complex and with that manufactured by single vendor on the basis of a unified concept.

Convergence is a base concept of the CBOSS BSS solution and it consists of several elements, which we call multi-dimensional convergence:

- Account types: prepaid, postpaid and mixed (hybrid)
- Services: solution ensures that provisioning/removal of all types of services is done based on unified rules and not depending of the type of service networks/infrastructure
- Payments: any supported payment type could be used to cover any services regardless of networks/infrastructure
- Platform: all convergent solution components run on a unified hardware platform from one vendor
- Support: our customers enjoy one point responsibility, namely technical support for the entire solution, all its components and integrations between them, including hardware, system and application software – is provided by our company, so that our customers don’t have to guess whom to talk to about any particular issue.

CBOSS convergent solution is an integrated and unified set of software and hardware components, used for automation of the telecom operator business processes, and provides real time billing, customer care, data charging (including PCRF), mediation, interconnect with dealers and partners, network control, analytical reporting, CRM, and some other components.

Why do you think convergent solutions will be demanded by African telecom operators? 
In a few words – convergence reduces IT costs while boosting usability and quality of the solution, and through that – subscriber satisfaction and operator ability to reduce time-to-market for new products and marketing initiatives. Market research shows that unified convergent solution can increase operator EBITDA by up to 4–5% a year.

African telecom market is very dynamic, shows rapid growth of subscribers, the necessity to cover new territories and tremendous demand for communication services, which makes the region attractive for many telecom operators.  At the same time, the market is already highly competitive and operators entering it have to make better offers to subscribers and, on top of that, must have lower costs. All these demands could be addressed by convergent BSS solutions.

The standard benefits of convergence – account type, payments, fix-mobile convergence, are well known and covered in the media. Let me briefly touch upon a less mentioned, but yet important aspect of a convergent solution from a single vendor – cost savings in the integration layer(s).

Convergence dictates that all components of a solution are integrated with each other. If the solution is assembled from several components from multiple vendors, it always runs the risk that some components will not work because of integration problems. In this case the operator has to, thoroughly test implementation of each component, code and/or configure the integration layer, thus spending money and resources.

In CBOSS convergent solution components are factory pre-integrated, the manufacturer is responsible for smooth inter-operation of components, testing, configuration, and implementation of the entire solution. This way the manufacturer distributes the cost of integrating components between many clients reducing the price per customer. And I did not even scratch the surface here, because we can talk about uniformity of BSS UIs, how it affects operator employee productivity, and if what is the cost of achieving such uniformity.

What operators will mostly benefit from use of convergent solutions?
Convergence is very efficient for start-ups and emerging operators. Moreover, a convergent solution has a shorter launching period due to pre-integration of its components and due to the fact that it’s rolled out by a single vendor.

Mature operators would appreciate CBOSS High End solution scalability, where solution scales to tens of millions of subscribers simply by hardware upgrades, and high availability, which allows component upgrades and even hardware replacement without any interruption to the subscriber service.

Replication of the same standard convergent solution is also very beneficial for operators of a telecommunication group, as it will allow reduction of the total cost of implementation, ownership and promotes sharing of operational experience and best business practices among the telecom operators of the group.

What methods, do you think, should be applied by African operators for making their businesses more efficient?In the process of selecting BSS solutions, telecom operators should consider subscriber facing surfaces of the solution, as well as conformity to the operator and industry requirements. Operators should strive to use more customer-oriented and standardized solutions and products, and we are ready to help them make the most effective selections.

I can illustrate it by a case of our customer in the Central Africa. They required a new method of collecting payments from subscribers, as the number of payment methods was limited in the country. We suggested a solution enabling organization of network of subscribers, and dealers, who collected the money on their accounts. Then dealers inform their subscribers of the balance top up by USSD or SMS notifications.

Application of this method has given convenient payment method to subscribers and higher consumption of services to the operator, as subscribers can promptly top up balances for the ongoing use of mobile services.

Another way of raising business efficiency ih marketing campaigns and provide mobile service discounts, depending on bases to use solutions enabling reduction of costs by optimizing usage of the existing infrastructure – as an example I can mention a successful project implemented by CBOSS for a subsidiary of a global telecommunications group. In this project we helped the operator to launch station load, location of subscriber and time of the day, thus helping them to optimize network utilization without additional investments into infrastructure.

The key feature of this product is the discount calculation and call rating practically in real time with change of actual load on base station used for the subscriber’s connection. The solution automatically regulates the demand-to-discount ratio; the higher demand is, the less the discount, thus reducing the traffic through the station, and vice versa. This principle can be used when the operator wants to reduce load on stations in the downtown and increase it on stations in sleeping suburbs.

What does CBOSS expect from participation in AfricaCom 2012?
We expect to meet interesting people, who are looking for robust yet economical BSS systems. We would like to inform them about CBOSS convergent, integrated, end-to-end solutions and show our experience and knowledge in implementing such solutions for our customers.

We would also like to welcome visitors to our stand B11 and of course, to the keynote speech “Convergence: buzzword or moneymaker?” by CBOSS. Don’t forget our famous dance show performing at our stand B11!

Visit the AfricaCom website for more information: www.comworldseries.com/africa

MoMo @ AfricaCom: Venue Announced


MoMo @ AfricaCom 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012 from 5:00 PM

Our partners, Mobile Monday, are excited that they can finally announce their venue for the MoMo @ AfricaCom event on the 12th November, this awesome event will be happening at Trinity Cape Town! Cape Town's state-of-the-art entertainment and eventing venue!

More details including the agenda for the evening, speakers and sponsors coming soon, you can be assured of a fun, informative and enjoyable evening of networking with live demo's of cutting edge mobile products and services in true Mobile Monday style!

Mobile Monday "Bringing the mobile community together!"

Time:           5.00 for 6pm start
Date:           12th November 2012
Venue:         Trinity Cape Town

Tell a friend about this event, click here

MoMo @ AfricaCom is a warm up event for the much anticipated AfricaCom conference, you can still get your FREE exhibition or African operator, developer, broadcaster or enterprise CIO pass to AfricaCom by clicking here