Skype Outage: Applying Different Quality of Service Standards?

Posted: December 31st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

On December 22nd, Skype suffered major downtime, which affected users all over the world and prevented them from making any calls. The company blamed a failure of many “supernodes” which route call traffic.

Most people I know who were affected felt inconvenienced, but took it in stride and picked up a “conventional” phone (fixed or mobile) to make the calls they needed to make.

This reaction is interesting though. Imagine if people’s “conventional” phones or their broadband failed to work for a few hours. Consider what the reaction might have been if the Skype problem had been caused by some “traditional” operators having problems applying policy control on their networks. In either case, there would have been major furor.

Essentially, it seems to me that we apply different standards to “conventional” phone communications and to “Internet” services. In large part, that is probably due to the cost of using the service—after all, Skype calls are largely free or extremely cheap.

This underlines the challenge many “conventional” operators face. People expect to pay very little for their services, but expect them to be there when all else fails. Furthermore, operators have a duty of reliability, not least to handle emergency calls.

There is no secret though: quality and reliability rarely come free. This is something we see not only in telecoms, but also in other industries, such as airlines or indeed OSS software! Often, customers only find that out when things go wrong.


Working with the Kileva Foundation

Posted: December 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

During the day, I work as a Global Alliance Director for Comptel Corporation, but as Olivier noted in a previous blog post, I run a charity called the Kileva Foundation in my spare time.

It all started back in 2001 when my wife and I met a man called Kilele whilst we were on holiday in southern Kenya. Kilele and I remained in touch, and over the next two years, the bond between us grew strong. Although I’d never visited his home in the remote Sagalla Mountain, I felt that I was beginning to get to know his extended family and friends through his letters. It was with great delight that I heard early in 2004 that his wife Grace was pregnant, but it was with complete astonishment that, when his son was born, that he named him Cliff after me!

By the end of 2005, I was speaking to Kilele on a regular basis (he had a mobile phone but no electricity or running water at his house) about the life of his family and the entire Sagalla community. It was during one of those conversations that Kilele announced that he was going to get “properly” married, i.e. have a full religious ceremony. He explained the traditions of such a marriage, including that as many as 2,000 people might attend and that he wanted Jane and I to be best lady and best man!

We of course were honoured and travelled to their home village of Kizumanzi in Kenya to attend the wedding on 14 February 2006. This was probably the most incredible week of our lives! People came from villages all over the remote Sagalla Mountain (the high region) and from those at the foot of the mountain (the low region). The celebrations went on for three days, and we were treated as honoured (and unusual) guests.

When I returned to England, I was determined to do as much as I could for the Sagallan people, and by September, the Kileva Foundation (the name was derived by combining the first three letters of Kilele’s name with the first three letters of my surname – Evans) was formally registered with the Charity Commission of England & Wales.

Since then, the charity has initiated and run the following projects:

  • Education: Building and running the Kileva Foundation Primary School in the village of Mwakoma. So far, a pre-school, four classrooms, two toilet blocks and a school house have been completed.
  • Health: Building the Kileva Foundation Medical Dispensary and Community Centre in the village of Kirumbi.
  • Farming:
    • Bees: In cooperation with the Save The Elephants organization, the Kileva Foundation has built two test bee hive fences to deter crop-raiding elephants.
    • Plantation: The Kileva Plantation Nursery (managed by the Kileva Scout Group) has grown many thousands of seedlings for re-planting throughout the region.
    • Poultry: The Kileva Poultry Business currently has 600 broilers and 50 layers.
    • Dairy: The Kileva Dairy Farm consists of two cows and one bull. A number of calves have been reared along with many goats.

If you would like to learn more about the work of the charity (and thank you to Comptel for recently making a donation instead of buying and sending printed Christmas cards), please visit www.kilevafoundation.com.


Around the World

Posted: December 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Around the World

ITP.net…

Saudi Must Expand Data, Content Services: Report

According to a recent report by Informa Telecoms and Media, Saudi Arabia should investigate growth opportunities in data and content services following the country’s strong growth in mobile voice services.  There is significant potential for these advanced offerings because of the country’s lack of many broadband options and its young population who wants to have on-the-go access to social networking applications and entertainment.  Operators in the region are betting their futures on this growth—one is expecting mobile broadband to account for 37% of its revenue by 2014, while another is planning to expand its data, content and mobile broadband applications to draw 20% to 30% of its revenue.

SearchTelecom.com…

WiMAX and LTE: Sometimes Complementary, Not Competitive

U.S. wireless carriers pit WiMAX and Long-Term Evolution (LTE) against each other as competing technologies.  But in other regions, operators are deploying them as complementary technologies for specific applications and markets.  Richard Webb, directing analyst at Infonetics Research, notes that “in [other parts] of the world, WiMAX is much more of a niche technology…and therefore [it is] much less of a threat.  Mobile operators [across the globe] are much more open to looking at ways they can [deploy] WiMAX [rather than hold] back the threat of it…which is the attitude of [U.S. carriers] Verizon Wireless and AT&T.”  Although co-existence is unlikely in the U.S., WiMAX may come to play a supporting role for operators whose choice of technology doesn’t wholly define their market identity; this might be, for example, smaller wireless carriers using the technology to support smart grids or M2M.  But Webb believes WiMAX will not be “front and centre” for them.

Billing & OSS World…

BSS/OSS Transformation Key to Asia

Asia-Pacific CSPs are experiencing a changed market landscape to say the least—falling average revenue per user (ARPU) for voice, increasing demand for mobile Internet, convergence everywhere (network, services, devices and industries) and intense competition are necessitating operational efficiency, combined with innovation in rolling out new data services.  New research from Frost & Sullivan reveals that the shift to customer-centric organizations in this region and the exponential increase in demand for data services is causing operators to optimize and transform their networks.  Supporting this shift are OSS/BSS solutions.  Analyst Vikas Chanani believes the building blocks that must be part of every customer-centric and business transformation strategy going ahead in the future are unified real-time rating and charging, integrated network management, data analytics, and business intelligence and customer experience management.  Do you see these for being crucial for APAC operators?  What building blocks would you add or take from this list?t


Mobile Broadband Billing or Charging: Where’s the Market Headed?

Posted: December 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Mobile Broadband Billing or Charging: Where’s the Market Headed?

By: Dan Baker, Research Director, Technology Research Institute

Call it the big payments divide.  Depending on what country of the world an operator is in, it will favor one or two mobile broadband payment models—either a prepaid / charging or a postpaid billing / contract.

But what’s the trend?  Will the saturated mobile markets, like the U.S. that favor the post-paid billing model, adopt more on-line charging for smartphones?  Likewise, when operators in developing telecom markets like India adopt smartphones in a big way, will they launch mobile broadband services using a prepaid, postpaid or hybrid payment approach?

Since this is a big strategic issue for folks in the billing department, it’s worth laying out the advantages of the approaches.

The Advantages of Billing

Market success – A billing contract for all-you-can-eat data has been a winning formula for AT&T with the iPhone.

Contract-based sales – A subscription contract locks your customer into a long-term relationship that you can cultivate, renew and upsell against.

The magic of the word “free”– Customers instinctively feel that they are getting a better deal when network usage can be sold as essentially free (even though there are certain restrictions written in fine print).

Actual charges are out of sight and often out of mind – If you’re trying to promote mobile broadband as an addicting habit, having a billed plan is convenient because the user worries less about the ultimate charges.

An annuity the customer budgets for – Paying a certain fixed rate per month is something a customer budgets for, and it becomes an annuity for the operator.

Simplicity – Batch billing is technologically simpler than setting up network-based charging.

The Advantages of Charging

It’s how we buy things – Charging matches the way we live. If you want to buy content, it’s a simple matter of ordering it and paying down an on-line balance.  There’s no mystery over what the actual cost will be.  With charging, you always get a “receipt” for your purchase.

Convenience and impulse buys – We live in a world of convenience purchases.  If you, as an operator, don’t make it easy for subscribers to charge things on the spot, you may be losing wallet share to over-the-top providers.

Bill shock – With a charging platform, bill shock becomes a mute issue because your customers can constantly track their purchases. This, of course, is further enhanced with policy control, which enables operators to inform the customer when certain limits are reached as required by the EU’s roaming cost control legislation).

Expense control – Charging becomes a convenient way to control your expenses, especially if your teenager is addicted to buying music.

Broadens the market – Not everybody qualifies to get a bill.  Plus, a user’s low usage may make billing an impractical option from the operator’s point of view.   In addition, you can offer service to teenagers and other high-risk user groups that the billing model can’t support at all.

Avoid bad debts – Charging eliminates one of the biggest operator headaches—collections, the losses and big expense required to chase down subscribers who don’t pay and outright fraudsters who had no intention of paying in the first place.

* * *

So which way are we headed?  Toward more charging or more billing?

I think mobile operators will mix these strategies quite a bit in the year ahead.

Business customers will certainly favor billing because it’s what they’re accustomed to.  Yet every business customer sees the value of being able to charge for something out of the ordinary.  Maybe the business traveler wants to upgrade his airline seat on-the-spot or buy a meal on the plane.  Charging that by swiping a handset becomes an attractive choice.

And we’ve yet to see all of the innovative apps that real-time charging and network policy control will give birth to.  Ordering high QoS to see a television show in HD is a simple example.  Thousands of other apps are on the drawing boards until LTE comes and charging/policy control technology matures in the network.

I predict that the countries with saturated mobile markets will move slowly but steadily towards more real-time charging—or billing and charging running in parallel.  The fuss over “network neutrality” will get neutralized as people realize you can’t operate a first-class mobile network without controlling the five percent or so of bandwidth hogs who are spoiling the QoS for everybody else.

Billing or charging?  You need both in your payments portfolio.

Dan Baker is the research director of analyst firm Technology Research Institute, or TRI, which has recently launched a new community website, the Revenue Assurance Roundtable.  Since 1994, Baker has authored dozens of research studies in the BSS/OSS market.  He contributes articles to VanillaPlus and writes a regular column for Billing & OSS World called Dan Baker Blog.


Season’s Greetings from Comptel

Posted: December 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

2010 was quite a busy year for Comptel—we attended tradeshows all over the world, hosted our annual User Group event and first-ever analyst day, and expanded our Comptel Dynamic OSS portfolio with Comptel Control and Charge and Comptel Dynamic SIM Management.

For the past couple of years, Comptel has been sending season’s greeting cards electronically and donating the money saved from the traditional, printed cards to a charitable fund.  This year, Comptel has selected the Kileva Foundation.

The Kileva Foundation was started by Godwin Kilele and Comptel’s Cliff Evans.  All of the Kileva Foundation’s funds support various projects in villages located outside Kenya, including Mwakoma and Kirumbi.  Since its establishment, the Kileva Foundation has seeded a plantation, constructed a school and a medical dispensary, and is now in the planning process of building a community centre.

Comptel’s donation will go towards the Kileva Eastfield Primary School to assist the building of a fifth classroom.  We are pleased to be involved with this thoughtful organization.  For those who would like to learn more about the Kileva Foundation, check out its blog at http://kileva.wordpress.com/.

We wish all of our customers, partners, investors and friends a safe, healthy and happy holiday season, and look forward to what 2011 will bring!


Around the World

Posted: December 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Around the World

Around the World

Telecoms.com…
Realising the Value of Policy Control
Like Bob Machin, Informa Telecoms & Media analyst Peter Dykes recognised an interesting trend at this year’s Broadband Traffic Management conference – the growing realization that policy control can do more than just address operators’ pain points of capacity and usage issues.  While managing bandwidth is certainly a challenge for most operators, others are exploring policy control solutions for business growth opportunities.  Small operators in highly competitive emerging markets perceive policy control as differentiating technology because they are able to implement more effective loyalty campaigns and discounts in markets that are susceptible to high rates of churn.  Research from a number of sources including Informa has shown that while the ‘capacity crunch’ is an issue, where, when and how it occurs varies from network to network.  Peter states that “the likelihood is, however, that once this issue has been addressed, those operators using policy control in a more customer-facing manner will serve as examples of what else is possible with a little imagination.”

TM Forum’s Inside Revenue Management…
The BSS/OSS Beast
For years, industry professionals have grappled with the BSS/OSS divide, and whether or not the two should be differentiated.  But the results of a recent TM Forum’s BSS/OSS survey and a well-attended BSS roundtable at Management World Americas shed some new light on this debate.  People still view the 36 processes or functions that were noted in the survey as being predominantly BSS or OSS (41% and 19% respectively), but that almost one-third were both.  The general consensus is that just as CSPs remove the operational silos in current transformation projects, they should also remove the BSS/OSS silos as well.  The TM Forum is focusing their attention on integrating the BSS OSS space.  Keep an eye out for more on this subject via TM Forum’s website, blogs and communities.  Also, you can read some of the survey comments in Tony Poulos’ article, Support Systems by Any Other Name…

Light Reading…
Boom Time for Policy
Heavy Reading’s Graham Finnie raises an interesting question about the future of policy management –“despite [the] extremely positive picture for the sector, one big question remains: will policy tools now go on to assume the wider role in the network of the future that many inside in the industry are betting on?”.  Exploring this a bit further, the analyst firm conducted a survey and found that traffic management is the number one catalyst today for deploying policy tools (nothing surprising here).  Yet, many vendors are emphasizing the creation of more personalized services with policy control solutions.  Results show that there is certainly strong interest in personalizing services to differentiate from competitors; however, it is not the core catalyst.  Finnie points to five things that need to happen before policy can “really move to the heart of the mobile service package and creation story”:

  • First, operators and vendors need to engage with product development and marketing groups inside the telcos.
  • Second, a related point, policy creation tools need to be as easy to use as possible, so that marketing can build and deploy policies themselves.
  • Third, network operators need assurance that integration with subscriber data stores and charging systems will deliver what’s required at an acceptable cost.
  • Fourth, operators need assurances that greater policy complexity will not cause the policy platform to fall over, or become impossible to manage.
  • And fifth, policy will need to be deployed end-to-end, including in the RAN and at the individual cell level.

What do you think the number one catalyst is?