Network outages costing enterprise customers millions

In years gone, internet downtime would have been considered a first world problem, but now it is costing enterprise organisations millions every time a digital baron period emerges.

With connectivity as the foundation of almost every business nowadays, few can operate without a stable internet connection. From the delivery of mission critical data to the functioning of tills and credit card machines, a digital blackout will cost businesses money.

According to a survey from Open Gear, only 8% of respondents suggested network downtime had cost them nothing. 31% stated outages had cost their business more than $1.2 million while a further 17% said such shutdowns hit revenues by more than $6 million. It should come as little surprise 83% of the respondents said network resilience was their number one concern.

With the coronavirus pandemic further increasing dependence on communications networks, thanks to coerced remote working practices, a stable network becomes ever more important. Another interesting element is the ever-increasing distribution of a network; problems are no-longer contained to the data centre.

Services like Netflix has found a more accommodating home on the network edge, with last mile services and remote locations being used to cache content for users. The idea is to reduce latency and remove choke points on the network, but redundancy cannot always be built into the site and on-site engineers are very rare.

42% of the survey respondents stated the problem in remedying the outage was getting engineers to the site, a challenge which will only be compounded as the network becomes more distributed and the edge becomes more prominent.

There are two key trends which could accelerate the edge which are worth keeping an eye on. Firstly, telcos are partnering up with the major cloud players to ensure more edge services can be offered to enterprise customers. Telecom Italia has an extensive relationship with Google Cloud, for example, while Verizon is firmly in bed with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

The second interesting trend is the cloud players gaining competency in the telco segment, perhaps reducing reliance on telco partnerships (relegating the telco to a commoditised partner). The cloud players also have deeper existing relationships with enterprise companies, maybe accelerating the edge trends. Microsoft acquiring Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch Networks are two examples, as is the hiring spree the cloud players have undertaken over the last 18 months.

The edge presents a significant opportunity for the telcos, assuming they are not designated the role of ‘dump pipe’ but it also presents major challenges. Network resiliency is a hurdle for a functional digital society, but it is one which can be addressed with the tools available today, such as artificial intelligence and network automation. Daily Poll:

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100% of telcos are investigating the promise of OpenRAN – survey

With monstrous investments on the horizon, it seems the telco community is keeping a close eye on the development of OpenRAN technologies.

While you always have to take survey results with a pinch of salt, Mavenir and Senza Fili are claiming momentum is gathering behind the Telecom Infra Project’s (TIP) OpenRAN initiative. 100% of the respondents to the survey suggested they were investigating the application of OpenRAN for one scenario or another.

What is worth noting, is that trialling and testing the technology is very different from commercial deployment, thought the results do perhaps suggest the industry is sick of the status quo and would welcome some sort of disruption to ease the financial burden.

68% of the respondents claim they or the wider business is exploring OpenRAN for densification demands, 47% pointed towards greenfield deployments in urban environments, 42% are looking to replace their incumbent suppliers and 5% are seeking validation in the rural areas.

Whatever the reason, the tier-one vendors in the network infrastructure segments should watch these developments with care.

Interestingly enough, the results of this survey are being touted at the same time as a Vodafone win for the OpenRAN initiative. The telco recently announced plans to trial OpenRAN deployments in 100+ rural locations across the UK. The reasoning behind this trial; to reduce the cost of network deployment and create new opportunities to work with alternative suppliers.

When you consider the majority of network deployment investment is geared towards the access network, you can start to see why a lack of competition is concerning telcos. Another factor to consider is the role of Huawei. If the US Government gets its way, either bankrupting the Chinese vendor or getting it banned from markets, there is even less competition, enhancing the risk of increased prices.

However, those privileged vendors sitting comfortably at the top of the ecosystem might be given some relief. Firstly, these are only trials not commercial deployment. OpenRAN might be a nice idea, but telcos will be hard-pushed to replace a tried and tested solution; interest and signing cheques are two very different matters.

Secondly, the industry is still clearly concerned with how much of a valid alternative OpenRAN actually is. When looking at the barriers, 28% are worried the performance won’t match the status quo, while 14% are focused on interoperability and 11% on maturity. It isn’t clear whether this is maturity of the technology or the new vendors entering the ecosystem, but both would be a concern for anyone handing over vast sums of cash.

OpenRAN does seem to be gathering pace, and while there is still a lot to prove when it comes to overhauling proven relationships and suppliers, the quest for more efficient investments is clear to see.

Security attitudes are improving but most don’t want to take responsibility

While there is growing momentum in the cybersecurity world this, ironically, might create a false sense of security and reality-check every now and then is always helpful.

A survey from Microsoft and insurance broker Marsh has highlighted some progress in the cybersecurity world, however there are still monumental risks which are worth highlighting. This is the encouraging, but humbling point which is being made by the duo here. Perhaps one of the most worrying is the attitude of security is someone else’s responsibility.

Only 19% of large enterprise organizations believe they pose a risk to the supply chain, which is certainly not the case. It does appear these companies believe the responsibility of securing the ecosystem should be dealt with by someone else.

“Despite the decline in organizational confidence in the ability to manage cyber risk, we’re optimistic that more organizations are now clearly recognizing the critical nature of the threat and beginning to seek out and embrace best practices,” Joram Borenstein, GM of the Cybersecurity Solutions group at Microsoft, wrote.

“Effective cyber risk management requires a comprehensive approach employing risk assessment, measurement, mitigation, transfer, and planning, and the optimal program will depend on each company’s unique risk profile and tolerance.”

Cybersecurity as a topic is now being considered the biggest risk to the organization and executives are playing a more prominent roles in developing and communicating these strategies. However, there are some elements to cybersecurity which is going to have a negative impact on the business, as you can see from the images below.

The extracts from the survey are quite varied, but they do illustrate a few interesting points which we would like to make in regard to cybersecurity.

Firstly, the attitude of the business. With 50% of respondents suggesting the business benefit of new technologies outweigh the risks, customers (either corporate or consumer) have to understand this. Suppliers or providers are commercial businesses which aim to make money for owners or shareholders. The risk of cybersecurity is tolerable as decreasing this risk might be unfeasible commercially.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, we live in a capitalist society after all and there is no such thing as 100% secure, though it is always worth remembering this nuance.

Another interesting element of the attitude towards cybersecurity risk is the evaluation of risk. Only 5% of companies are evaluation the cybersecurity threat at every possible element of the life-cycle, taking into account both the period prior and post purchase. Perhaps there is a belief that once a new technology or system has been installed it is safe, but this is of course not the case. It might also be down to the idea some are passing on the responsibility of security and resilience.

This is perhaps a problem which is a hangover from a bygone era. The responsibility of cybersecurity has to be shared throughout the ecosystem. If anyone shirks this responsibility, the supply chain is potentially corrupted and the threat passed onto other organizations. This is the new connected society, risk is shared amongst partners, customers and suppliers.

Of course, the introduction of new technologies will only heighten the threats which are present, this is always the case when companies and/or individuals venture into the unknown. However, it does lead us onto the final point; regulation.

Only 28% of the respondents believe current laws and regulations are fir for purpose in today’s society. The sheer velocity and variety of new technologies being implemented will not help sluggish bureaucrats catch-up either.

Although there are plenty of negative points to focus on here, the industry is heading in the right direction. Cybersecurity is heading in the right direction, there is more money being invested and attitudes are more focused, but the risks are becoming increasingly acute. Progress, but still persistent worries.

Cautious But Optimistic: Telecoms Industry’s Attitude Towards 5G

In responding to a recent survey, over 400 industry professionals have expressed cautious optimism about 5G. They are eager to see the potential of 5G be fully realised, both in the consumer market and the industry market. Meanwhile, they also appreciate the challenges lying ahead in both business operation and technology.

This report summarises the key findings from the survey, analyses the implications of them, and highlights a number of questions for the stakeholders of the industry to consider.

Please fill in the short form below to receive a copy of this survey report.


Vodafone reports IoT is going A-OK

Vodafone has released its sixth annual Internet of Things Barometer report to give a temperature check on IoT progress, and its all looking pretty rosy.

Looking at adoption trends across various segments including automotive, healthcare and financial services, the team suggests the IoT world is creeping slowly towards mass market adoption. While this will certainly be encouraging for huge swathes of the telco world, as a telco which is arguably one of the leaders, Vodafone will be buoyed by such estimates.

“This is the age of digital transformation, and it’s a hugely exciting time for businesses looking to take those digital steps to success,” said Anne Sheehan, Director of Vodafone Business UK.

“IoT – alongside analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud – can deliver real business benefits ranging from improved safety to increased responsiveness to entirely new revenue streams. It represents a massive opportunity for businesses in the UK and globally.”

According to the research, 34% of respondents now use IoT as part of their operations, with 70% of these early adopters moving beyond the pilot stage. 95% of these companies are already seeing benefits of the programmes, while 74% believe IoT will be a major disruptor of their own industry over the next five years.

While the promise of IoT has been bubbling away in the background for some time, it did appear to be benefits for the privileged. This is of course far from mainstream adoption, but perhaps the emergence of more commoditised products, off-the-shelf, are starting to turn heads. The simpler companies make it to implement IoT the more success will be seen. This might seem like an obvious statement, but innovators often have a way of complicating matters because it seems simple to them.

“IoT is on the cusp of mass adoption but to make that jump into the mainstream, we need a fresh look at how these devices are implemented,” said Nick Ford, technology evangelist at Mendix.

“All too often, IoT devices are not set up to deliver the best results. Their implementation stops short of connecting them to purpose built applications that can unlock their true value. The good news is that most organisations don’t lack ideas here – employees and teams just don’t have the right support to bring their ideas to life.”

One of the issues which companies might be facing is a direct result of one of the benefits. 48% of the respondents note that improved data collection was a key benefit, however if you have no idea what to do with the data what’s the point. Considering the processing and action of data is the grand vision of the connected economy, this might be one of the areas which scares those controlling the purse strings.

IoT is on the rise, with Vodafone leading the charge. There might be some validation of this 5G thing after all.

UK and US consumers want 5G and they’re prepared to pay – survey

US digital BSS vendor Matrixx spoke to a bunch of mobile users on both sides of the pond to find out how much value they place on 5G.

It turns out we’re surprisingly optimistic about what it promises and will pay good money to find out. 33% of respondents reckon it will solve their connectivity issues, with 88% of those willing to pay more for a 5G mobile service and 87% of them saying they will upgrade to it. What that remaining 1% will be paying for remains a mystery. On the flip side 70% of respondents aren’t happy with their 4G, citing coverage and speed as pain points (see charts below).

“The feedback from consumers paints a very clear picture for operators: ‘deliver a 5G experience worth the attention, and we’ll gladly pay for the privilege of using it,’” said Dave Labuda, founder, CEO, and CTO of Matrixx. “In an industry fighting to keep customers amidst consolidation and competition from digital MVNOs and OTT players, 5G presents a real opportunity to deliver a powerful value-add to the consumer.”

We spoke to Matrixx co-founder Jennifer Kyriakakis and she was most surprised by the finding that a third of punters are so upbeat about 5G. She concurred that the underlying commercial message is that there is demand for 5G services if operators git it right. We agreed that the industry needs to fight its urges to over-promise on 5G and Kyriakakis stressed that in the short term operators should simply focus on pleasing their customers. They surveyed over 4,000 mobile phone users in the UK and US.

Matrixx chart 5G

Matrixx chart 4G

US consumers apparently not that bothered about 5G

As 5G is all the US telcos can talk about right now, you would be forgiven for assuming consumers are just as excited, but it appears the feelings are little more than ‘meh’.

According to new research from Repeater Store, consumers just aren’t that bothered by the upcoming wireless revolution. In fact, most aren’t even aware of the work which is being done across the country.

59% of the respondents to the survey didn’t know that 5G is around the corner, though T-Mobile US subscribers were the most clued up which is perhaps unsurprising considering the eccentric narcissist currently in-charge. In terms of understanding the benefits, 28.1% said they were not clear at all, while 27.5% said they were somewhat clear and 23.2% said they sort of understood the added value. In terms of excitement, 18.5% couldn’t care less and 19.6% aren’t really excited. 32% are in the ‘meh’ camp, while the rest are more pleased with the upgrades.

While there are clear benefits for the industry and apparent excitement for vendors, almost the complete opposite can be said for consumers. To date, the limited communications on 5G have focused on increased speed on mobile devices, though most of the time, a 4G connection is more than sufficient to watch videos, play games or check your bank balance. Perhaps in the eyes of the consumer, the telcos are trying to fix a problem which doesn’t exist.

Consumers do not know about the stress being placed on networks, nor are they likely care that much either. Telcos can promote the long-term benefit of 5G due to the increased efficiency of data delivery, but as long as the experience is good enough today, few consumers will actually care about these messages. Strain on the network is the telcos problem not the consumers, they don’t pay to be concerned about the piping.

Perhaps the issue is the telcos haven’t been discussing the most relevant usecases enough. The fixed wireless access usecase is certainly an interesting one, and an area which can be communicated to the consumers as an immediate benefit of 5G. According to Repeater Store, although only 17% of consumers would sign up to a 5G FWA subscription today, 75% would be open to the idea. This of course will be determined by the experience, and so far, there is still a lot of work to do.

The majority of survey respondents stated 4G signal in their homes was nothing more than average right now. 40.8% of AT&T subscribers described their experience as excellent, while it was 49.7% for Verizon, 42.3% for T-Mobile and 30.2% for Sprint. These are the customers which are perfect to sell 5G FWA to, though for the offering to be a genuine success, the number of 4G satisfied customers will have to be higher. Part of the buying decision for 5G FWA will be based on the experience of 4G signal in customer homes; it’s not a bad start, but certainly more work needs to be done.

One of two conclusions can be taken from this research. Either, the telcos need to do a better job of telling consumers about the benefits of 5G, or, the consumers simply aren’t bothered by what the telcos have been saying so far. If the former is correct, expect more marketing dollars to be spent, but if it is the latter, the industry will have to more away from the ‘faster is better’ approach to advertising which has dominated for years.

We suspect it is a bit of both. In the rush to bring services to market, US telcos might not have had the time to tell the full story about 5G. This is something which can be developed over time. Another area worth considering is whether we need faster? We are struggling to think of many cases when a stable 4G connection is not good enough for content to work effectively on devices, raising another question; if 4G is fast enough right now, why do we need better?

There are other benefits to 5G, FWA is an excellent example, especially in the US. Though it does appear the telcos just need to get better at explaining the benefits and potential usecases, instead of lazily falling back into the same routine of ‘our network is faster than everyone else’s’.

Shaping the Global MVNO Market

The MVNOs Series asked mobile market movers and shakers from across the globe their opinions on the key trends shaping the MVNO sector in 2018, the challenges, opportunities and what their priorities and aspirations are. The result is an authoritative account of how the industry is continuing to evolve across different regions, and where those best placed to know expect it to head next.

In the report ‘Shaping the Global MVNO Market’, we have combined the results from the annual MVNOs Series survey with the opinion and insights from a range of industry figures. With representatives from Europe, Asia, North America, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, this report offers a global snapshot of the current state of the mobile market. As well as mobile virtual network operators, the respondents to our survey include MVNEs and MVNAs, vendors and MNOs, OTT and cloud service providers, providing a complete picture from across the value chain.

If there is one theme that can sum up the state of the MVNO industry in 2018, it can be explained in a single word – change.

Throughout 2017, MVNOs and the mobile industry in general were buffered by winds of change blowing from several directions. Changes in regulation, changes in technology, changes in market demand, industry participation and business models created challenges for companies the world over.

Change is also creating new spaces in the market, providing operators with opportunities to diversify revenue streams and modernise operations. In Europe, the abolition of roaming charges with the introduction of the EU-wide Roam Like At Home directive represented the single biggest regulatory change in the world’s most mature MVNO market for over a decade. The loss of revenue from roaming has hit margins across the value chain, with MNOs re-doubling their focus on retail markets and squeezing prices to make up for lost income.

In Mexico, meanwhile, another major regulatory intervention saw the launch of Red Compartida, the world’s first wholesale-only national network. It is hoped that the move will finally break the stranglehold the country’s three biggest MNOs have on the mobile market and allow the MVNO sector to take off.

The world’s most mature MVNO markets, in Europe, North America and parts of Asia, have experienced intense price competition for a number of years. As more and more emerging markets transition from voice to data-led revenue streams, this is becoming a global phenomenon, driven partly by pressure from OTT players offering value-added services.

Yet there is no shortage of optimism about the opportunities that lie ahead. Plenty of stakeholders are planning to roll out new MVNO brands in the short to medium term, invest in global expansion, and perhaps most significantly, prioritise moving into new markets and verticals.

Given the changes sweeping the industry, it is perhaps no surprise that 25 per cent of respondents to our survey named new business models as the trend they most wanted to hear more about in 2018 – the most of any single category. In particular, the ability to adapt operations to find new revenue streams from value-added services, moving away from pure connectivity, is viewed as critical for the future success of the MVNO market.

There was no shortage of consensus as to the main force both driving these changes and opening up new opportunities. Taken as an aggregate, more than half of our survey respondents named technology as the most important topic that would shape the industry in 2018.

Just under half (48.4 per cent) named IoT as the technological innovation that would have the most impact, followed by eSIM (20.3 per cent). More than two thirds (68.8 per cent) said they would be investing in new technologies in 2018, also including the likes of FinTech, blockchain, 5G and AI.

Download the full report for an in-depth analysis and to learn what the industry leaders had to say regarding the key challenges and opportunities shaping the industry.

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How about giving customers a better experience? periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Orla Power, Head of Marketing for Brite:Bill (an Amdocs company) explores some research into CSP customer expectations and what can be learned from it.

Mobile operators and the telecoms industry in general have never been known for excellent customer service and for many that’s an understatement. However, as generations Y and Z start paying for their own telecoms services, a new type of customer with different preferences and expectations is entering the market place.

We have found that this has presented operators with an opportunity to reset the customer relationship with these new customers. Typically, generation Y and Z are service- oriented customers who are willing to change providers frequently and will do so if they are not having a good experience. In addition, they want to interact in ways that suit them, utilising all available channels. They value increased personalisation and being recognised as an individual with specific preferences.

This is all very different from the traditional telecoms approach of communicating via traditional monthly – most likely paper – bills and offering a call centre interaction for those who are prepared to wait. Now, the interaction is multi-channel and much more aligned to the rapid resolution of customer issues and desires.

Yet, we know that operators are still in the process of transforming their systems to enable them to serve customers effectively and all too often the integration points fail to work smoothly, giving customers inconsistent experiences and exposing operators to the risk of customers leaving at key churn points in the customer relationship.

Brite:Bill has recently conducted extensive research with our operator customers across the world and, as part of this, we gathered valuable insights from respondents. Key challenges that were highlighted from the research are similar to the issues we here from the Communications Service Providers (CSPs), including the existence of various churn points. Among these, operators were keen to point out that customers receiving their first bill can be a churn point.  It’s one they are aware of and can quickly address if the customer feels the first bill doesn’t match their expectations.

Another key issue is the lack of personalisation in customer on-boarding communications. For customers that have been promised a tailored, personalised experience, receiving what are clearly standardardised form communications, using this less-favoured channel is an obvious source of discontent.

This is also highlighted in inconsistencies between the customer acquisition process and the on-boarding process. In the retail environment, the operator communicated its brand values as an exciting digital enabler and its capabilities to meet the needs of individuals. If the on-boarding resembles the experience your parents had getting a 2G voice phone in 1999, it’s clear there’s a gap between the promise made and the reality delivered.

Further irritations that CSPs are aware of at this early phase include the variety of different operator systems sending disparate notifications to customers. Some may be duplicated across channels such as SMS and email, while others might be about the same issue but use a different tone of voice or be untimely, for instance, telling them their router is on its way when, in fact it has already been installed.

These issues highlight the on-boarding challenges that operators face and clearly demonstrate the scale and scope of the customer communications challenges. In our research, we uncovered that 36 per cent of customers have switched operators in the last two years and, of those, 16 per cent switched because of billing issues. In saturated markets that’s a big issue and we estimate that for an operator with ten million subscribers the cost of churn is likely to be more than US$400 million.

This churn is not necessarily because the bill itself is wrong, it may be that the costs outlined are not clear to understand or the likely costs had not been properly explained at the time of sign-up. Our research uncovered that 68 per cent of customers say their bill is not clear or easy to understand. This has led to almost one-third of customers contacting their CSP because of billing issues.

More concerning, 18 per cent of customers said their first bill was more than they expected, causing the relationship to get off on the wrong foot and creating a climate of mistrust around the entire relationship. The fact that customers are still being surprised by the cost of their services and feel the need to interact with the call centre is costing operators significantly – both in the cost of call centre operations and in the likely increased churn because of dissatisfaction.

Our research also found that three quarters of customers currently have no interest in the information provided in their bill. However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in receiving additional, relevant information via this channel. 56 per cent of customers want their bill to tell them how to save money while 29 per cent want the bill to tell them about relevant services.

Ultimately, customers want to receive the more personalised experience they get from other types of service providers. 29 per cent want their bill to include interactive graphs and icons so they can monitor and manage their consumption and 44 per cent want the bill to include what services they are spending the most or least on.

New technology, such as chatbots, will add another channel and dimension to customer communications and the bill will cease to be a static communication that simply states costs incurred. 39 per cent of customers say they would like access to a chatbot for bill enquiries, which rises to 50 per cent for generation Z customers, and almost a third (29 per cent) of all respondents think chatbots are a good alternative to a customer care line.

The new customer is enthusiastic and engaged, looking for more personalised relationships with their operators. As growth from new customers slows in saturated markets, the exciting news is operators already have valuable information about their customers and the tools in place to better serve them. They just need to utilise these more effectively to transform communications with the clarity and personalisation that customers expect.

Ericsson says consumers want mobile data tariffs to be less rubbish

Ericsson’s ConsumerLab asked a bunch of smartphone users what they want from their operators as we move into the 5G era; here’s what they said.

The findings have been condensed into six ‘calls to action’ for operators, which Ericsson will result in them stampeding to Stockholm to by lots of shiny 5G kit and associated services. The report seems to be more of an attempt to offer some top tips to operators based on some consumer feedback, which Ericsson reckons represents 800 million consumers across Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, the UK and the US.

So, without further ado, here they are.

  • Provide us with effortless buying experience – simplify tariffs and how they’re presented
  • Offer us a sense of the unlimited – make us less paranoid about bill shock
  • Treat gigabytes as currency – enable recycling of unused mobile data
  • Offer us more than just data buckets – how about trying to innovate a bit?
  • Give us more with 5G – as above, uncapped data might be nice
  • Keep networks real for us – stop lying about network metrics please

“Our latest study does not look at a consumer view on 5G in isolation, but rather uncovers unmet consumer needs that must be fulfilled by operators on the way to 5G,” said Jasmeet Sethi, Senior Advisor, Ericsson Consumer & Industry Lab. “From offering an effortless buying experience to focusing on real network performance, consumers are demanding changes they would like to see already made today.”

The calls to action could be further condensed into one simple request: make tariffs less rubbish. As ever unlimited data would be nice but there will always be people who don’t use much mobile data and would like a cheaper alternative. Ericsson has named the report ‘Towards a 5G consumer future’ but it’s hard to see what any of it has to do with 5G. But don’t worry, this is definitely the last time anyone will shamelessly shoehorn 5G onto an announcement this year. Definitely.