How operators can monetise 5G with blockchain

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Dennis Meurs, VP and GM of Transaction and Clearing Services at Syniverse, explores some of the opportunities blockchain presents for operators in the 5G era.

Outwardly, operators are optimistic that they’ll create new opportunities and new revenue from 5G. But 5G presents new and complex challenges to operators, including the development of effective business models for the new network technology and its capabilities.

5G’s commercial success will depend on new partnerships and services in vertical markets outside the telecom industry’s tried-and-tested consumer markets. For these partnerships and services to succeed, operators must invest in and develop the technology and mechanisms to monetise these services and ensure that every contributor and external partner in the value chain gets their fair share of revenue.

A global survey of operators by telecom research firm Heavy Reading on behalf of Syniverse earlier this year found that nearly 60 percent of operators intend to focus more on enterprise ecosystems and services in their 5G plans. At the same time, 74 percent say that coordinating multiple partners is a challenge in their 5G preparation.

To understand this better, let’s take a deeper look at how these contradictory results from the survey play out when looking at how the market will evolve, and what operators will need to implement to make money from a new ecosystem of diverse players.

More partners, more complexity

5G’s faster speeds, extra capacity, low latency, and powerful distributed computing capabilities offer the potential for a broad range of entirely new and never-before-seen services. However, many of these services are beyond the capability of the operator to deliver by itself. The new use cases being enabled by 5G will be in the enterprise space and will require network slicing and new vendors.

In this area, more than half (51%) of operators in the Heavy Reading and Syniverse survey indicated that they are not where they need to be in identifying the technical requirements for multi-party billing, reconciliation, and payment solutions. These figures suggest that operators still have a way to go to put in place the processes and systems necessary for their 5G offerings to be fit for purpose when they launch in the next two to four years.

Orchestrate, manage, monetise

Just as today’s 4G network Evolved Packet Cores would struggle to deal with 5G-specific services, so too will current operator billing and settlement systems struggle to deal with the more intricate and convoluted service chains that will be necessary for 5G.

But in order for operators to co-create new and varied offerings for both consumers and enterprise customers, they will be responsible for orchestrating, managing, and monetising the 5G service chains behind these offerings by taking these four steps:

  1. Assemble a service chain: Operators will be responsible for taking on the elements of a service, whether this is supplied by the operator itself (security, analytics, or network slicing) or a third party (content delivery, hosted application or media, cloud-based storage, or private 5G networks).
  2. Verify and authenticate: The operator needs to ensure that the external third-party participants in the chain – plus the function or service they provide – are genuine and that the service it’s inserting into the value chain is not fraudulent or unsecured.
  3. Specify, collect, and track: Only by accurately gathering and recording each usage data element in the service chain can the operator fairly distribute the revenue to each partner and supplier involved.
  4. Monetise and complete final clearing and settlement of usage records: Once the data is properly recorded, the right parties must be paid.

Blockchain as the answer to 5G billing

The answer to the challenge of how to monetise 5G’s complex, multi-party service chains lies in blockchain. With its scalability and built-in transparency, blockchain ledger-based billing and settlement offers a way for operators to accurately manage the logging, clearing, and settlement process for the vast increase in commercial exchanges between parties that 5G will create.

Specifically, 5G will rely on interconnected networks plus hosted technologies and platforms. The clearing and settlement processes must be able to securely clear and monetise any type of connected transaction, whether this is for roaming, the IoT, or any other process. Blockchain provides each participant in the 5G service chain with the same verifiable proof of events, billable usage, and executed transactions.

Getting the blockchain ball rolling

Pilot projects that use blockchain technology to solve the problem of accurate and efficient multi-party billing and settlement for next-generation services are already underway.

In May, operators Orange and MTS Russia participated in a proof of concept that used open-source blockchain technology to instantly create, validate and view new wholesale billing and charging processes for clearing and settlement between service chain partners.

Orange and MTS Russia reported that the blockchain-based solution delivered significant efficiency gains in clearing and settlement for roaming, plus increased operational efficiency, auditability, and contract management. These results indicate the contribution that blockchain can make as the telecom industry pivots towards 5G.

Fresh opportunities and challenges

Operators need to significantly reinvent their back-end systems to manage 5G’s more complex ecosystem of interconnected partners and networks. Today’s current systems are simply not suited to handle this.

In this way, blockchain is emerging as a new cornerstone for operators to effectively manage their 5G ecosystems. It does this by a process that is efficient, secure, scalable and transparent, and that supports the multi-party collaboration that is essential to the success of 5G’s future.

 

JOE OTT PhotographyDennis Meurs is Vice President and General Manager ofTransaction and Clearing Services at Syniverse. He is responsible for strategy, product development, sales, and customer service for Syniverse’s portfolio of transaction and clearing services, including blockchain. Dennis has more than 18 years of experience in senior-level clearing, settlement, and revenue management.

Syniverse says Tata to the IPX blues

Syniverse and Tata Communications have decided to pool their IPX network interconnection resources in a bid to improve the whole process for their customers.

Apparently the way Internet Protocol traffic is exchanged between IPX providers is just far too opaque for some operator’s tastes and this new strategic partnership is designed to address that pain-point. Collectively they will offer what they claim is the first fully-managed, end-to-end IPX network interconnection partnership, which makes you wonder why nobody has tried this before.

Syniverse is based in the US, while Tata is Indian, so they’re going for a global IP traffic play. The pitch to customers is that they get enhanced visibility and control of their data throughout its journey, so long as that takes place between the two companies’ IPX networks. That seems to leave a bit of a hole in Europe, but maybe other companies will join the party if it goes well.

“Our customers gain the added value of improved performance, quality and route diversity, while also gaining access to our underlying capabilities that are supporting 5G and IoT,” said Dean Douglas, CEO of Syniverse. “Our partnership essentially offers the market a single way to access direct reach offered by two distinct and georedundant IPX networks. It allows our customers to work with one company while gaining the benefits of each company’s strengths.”

“By joining forces with Syniverse, we’re one step closer to our goal of creating an environment where everything and everyone can become seamlessly connected, anywhere in the world,” said Anthony Bartolo, Chief Product Officer of Tata Communications. “As our customers leverage next-generation IoT and mobility services to drive their digital transformation, they need a solid foundation to ensure that they are able to capture, move and manage information seamlessly and securely worldwide.”

IPX is a big thing for the GSMA, which has been championing it as a more reliable way of moving data around for over a decade. CTO Alex Sinclair has been involved from the start and his enthusiasm is undiminished by the passage of time. “Reliable, high-performance and secure IPX networks will connect mobile operators and vertical industries together driving efficiencies, productivity and innovative new services,” he insisted.

LTE data scores big at this year’s World Cup

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece John Wick, SVP and GM of Connectivity and Mobility Services at Syniverse shares some of his company’s recent research into LTE roaming.

LTE is growing globally, and growing fast, and one area in particular that it’s been taking off in is roaming. To better understand this growth, Syniverse has been examining this through a series of studies based on the LTE roaming patterns of our global IPX network. We most recently focused on LTE roaming at one of the world’s largest events this year – the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament – and the findings revealed some important implications for the development of LTE globally in the next few years.

North America leads regions

LTE won a convincing victory over non-LTE at the World Cup, according to our data. The analysis of roaming data shows that 67 percent of data usage was LTE from travelers to Russia over the four weeks of the tournament, compared to the global average of 54 percent of all traffic for LTE roaming usage between major world regions.

Specifically, the analysis found that the largest volume of global LTE usage coming into Russia during the World Cup came from North America (42 percent). The next most popular LTE roaming location was Asia  (19 percent), followed by Europe (18 percent), Latin America (11 percent), and the Middle East and Africa (9 percent). This is surprising given that no teams from North America played at the World Cup, but it points to the strong LTE roaming agreements between countries.

LTE gaining in other areas

The 67 percent LTE data usage we found points to a huge growth trend over the last few years. In developing markets, more and more operators are launching new LTE services, while operators in developed markets are continuing to build out and enhance their networks. In fact, the GSMA forecasts that by 2020 there will be over 3.5 billion LTE connections and approximately three-quarters of the world’s population will be covered by LTE networks.

This growth is reflected in another huge sports event we analyzed this year, the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Korea, in February. According to our findings, of the data usage generated by visitors to the Games, an enormous 92 percent was LTE, versus just 8 percent non-LTE. Not surprisingly, Asia received the largest amount (72 percent) of LTE traffic during the Games. Next was North America (23 percent), followed far behind by Europe (3 percent).

IPX a barrier to LTE growth

In addition to these LTE roaming highlights, we uncovered a milestone, as well as a significant challenge, in LTE growth in a global study we completed early this year. The study focused on roaming traffic between six regions – North America; Latin America; Europe; Asia Pacific; the Middle East and Africa; and India – and the findings revealed that in the last year LTE traffic surpassed non-LTE traffic and now represents the majority of global roaming traffic, having risen to 54 percent in 2017 from 46 percent in 2016.

At the same time, the findings highlight the need for the mobile industry to more urgently prepare for technologies like 5G, based on the eight years that it took from the time that LTE was commercially launched for it to surpass the previous generation of technology. A challenge then is fully enabling LTE roaming on a global scale. But outside the Americas, where most of LTE roaming is concentrated, we found the tipping point with global LTE roaming hasn’t fully occurred yet. Specifically, the Americas represent 79 percent of total volume, while LTE roaming volumes for other regions include Europe at 11 percent, Asia Pacific at 7 percent, and the Middle East and Africa at 3 percent.

In fact, this study revealed that a barrier in providing a consistent LTE service footprint was found to lie in the inter-regional connectivity that an IPX network can enable. This technology in particular has emerged as a versatile network backbone that can provide a single-connection capability to link to multiple networks and greatly expand inter-regional connectivity. For this reason, it offers a crucial asset in expanding LTE roaming coverage, and mobile operators need to have a full-scale strategy for integrating IPX in order to accelerate the growth and maturity of their LTE networks.

Looking ahead

The World Cup and other global events present some of the largest and most complex world stages on which to demonstrate the promise of mobile. How operators manage LTE roaming for these events will have profound implications for their success in meeting the rising demand for high-speed, high-capacity usage by today’s traveling mobile users. With 67 percent of data usage at the World Cup consisting of LTE traffic, and with LTE traffic reaching 54 percent to represent the majority of global roaming traffic, it’s imperative that operators are prepared to meet the new demands of the dynamic LTE-powered future now taking shape.

 

Syniverse John Wick Sep2018John Wick is Senior Vice President and General Manager for Mobile Transaction Services, and is responsible for the management and growth of Syniverse’s next-generation networks, messaging, and policy and charging lines of business. He also leads the product and software development across these lines of business.

A new roaming playing field makes Quality of Service and LTE paramount

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Kyle Dorcas, Vice President, Portfolio Market Development at Syniverse, examines the opportunities and challenges presented to operators by the abolition of roaming charges in Europe.

Imagine, it’s just two years ago, 2016, and a frequent business traveler from Germany decides at the last minute to take a weekend vacation to Spain. Although she’s typically a heavy mobile user when at home or traveling for business, for this trip she plans to cut almost all of her mobile voice and data usage during her trip because she’ll be using her personal mobile device.

Fast forward to 2018 – and welcome to a new roaming world. Starting last summer, the German business traveler along with millions of other mobile users across the EU can travel outside their home countries and use their mobile devices just as they do at home, with almost no extra charges for roaming. Since the EU’s abolition of roaming charges went into effect, people from Ireland to Italy can call, text and surf the web without incurring steep charges when traveling around the 28-nation bloc.

These new “roam like home” regulations have completely changed operators’ ability to offer value to customers using a mobile device while abroad. According to traffic measured on Syniverse’s networks, the regulations have resulted in huge growth in the amount of people using their devices while roaming in the EU: mobile data increased 308 percent, voice calls 95 percent, and SMS traffic 34 percent during July, August, and September 2017 compared with the same period in 2016. The new regulations have proven without a doubt that when offered rates they deem more acceptable; people will greatly increase their mobile use when they roam.

Another effect of the end of EU roaming fees is on customers’ usage patterns and service expectations. Crucially, people now expect to be able to use their device and have access to the same high-quality experiences when they travel as they do when they’re at home.

As a result, on this new playing field, the critical challenge for operators is to demonstrate a direct connection with their customers and the unique value delivered to them when they roam. And in taking on this challenge, there lie two areas of opportunity above all others that operators should focus on in distinguishing this value.

A higher quality of experience with real-time intelligence

The first area of opportunity is in optimizing the mobile experience while roaming. With EU customers now not only having uniform pricing for roaming, but higher expectations about using their service the same way as they do at home, there are several challenges in making the value of their connection clear to customers while roaming.

One of the most important of these challenges is the capability to gain a live view of a customer’s connectivity needs and to serve those needs in a relevant, timely way – the concept of real-time intelligence. Improved technologies are now enabling this challenge to be overcome, and based on some of my latest customer work, I’ve identified two best practices that I think will be pivotal.

The first is the ability to act in real time. It’s crucial to have a real-time snapshot of when, where, and how customers need connectivity options – and to be able to act on this on when a decision about connectivity is being considered. If, for example, someone travels abroad and plans to shut off their mobile service instead of investigating roaming options, their home service provider must be prepared to detect their arrival and proactively text them with an offer that entices them to use different roaming services.

The second best practice is empowering mobile users. New technologies now put the power of real-time monitoring of roaming usage control directly in the customer’s hands, and this capability must be taken advantage of. These technologies enable interfaces that allow subscribers to access usage information anytime and anywhere, set spending limits, or apply usage thresholds for data services. The integration of these technologies can not only mitigate bill shock, but also reduce customer complaints and payment disputes.

Reaching the Tipping Point for LTE Roaming

A second area of opportunity in which roaming service can be distinguished lies in LTE. In the next few years, according to the GSMA, the number of people with access to coverage by 4G networks will rise to over 3 billion, and 4G coverage will be extended to almost three-quarters of the world.

And now there’s new promise that mobile service providers can offer a wider range of LTE coverage than ever, according to the results of a study that Syniverse recently released. The study analyzed the regular course, or “trade winds,” of global roaming, and it found that in the last year LTE traffic has surpassed non-LTE traffic and now represents the majority of global roaming traffic. Specifically, LTE traffic rose to 54 percent of global outbound roaming traffic in 2017, up from 42 percent in 2016, but the majority of LTE roaming remains concentrated in the Americas, which represents 79 percent of the total global volume.

The challenge then is to enable LTE roaming on a global scale. Customers’ expectations for using their devices overseas in the same way as they do at home must be fulfilled. But outside the Americas at least, the tipping point with global LTE roaming hasn’t fully occurred yet, and providing LTE roaming service remains a competitive differentiator.

Specifically, the findings indicate that one barrier to a global LTE experience lies in the inter-regional connectivity powered by IPX. This technology in particular has emerged as a versatile network backbone that can provide a single-connection capability to link multiple networks and greatly expand inter-regional connectivity. Consequently, IPX promises to be crucial in accelerating LTE roaming coverage and enabling new services for those companies that fully commit to making it a foundation of their network.

New Playing Field

Europe now has a new playing field for roaming where quality of experience and LTE reach are crucial competitive differentiators. To be able to compete in this new space, mobile service providers must have full-scale strategies for providing these differentiators and demonstrating a direct connection between their customers and the value they deliver when their customers roam.

 

Syniverse Kyle DorcasKyle Dorcas joined Syniverse in 2013 and serves as Vice President for Portfolio Market Development, a role that includes responsibility for Syniverse’s overall portfolio of products and solutions across enterprise, MNO, and MVNO customer groups. Previously, he was Vice President, Policy, and responsible for Syniverse’s policy management business and global portfolio of roaming, real-time intelligence, and policy management solutions. Prior to Syniverse, in a career spanning more than 20 years, Mr. Dorcas served in a number of leadership positions within the mobile industry, which provided him with diverse experience across many sectors of the mobile ecosystem. Kyle began his career helping to introduce new military communication products with General Dynamics. He then worked on the RAN, the core network, and mobile devices during tenures at Nortel and BlackBerry. He is a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada.