How do you prefer to stay in touch with friends and family? Are you more likely to connect by sending a quick message on the Facebook Messenger app, or by making a phone call? Would you organise a get-together with friends by mass-sending a text message, or by creating a group on WhatsApp? Communication has changed dramatically, led in large part by the explosion in global smartphone adoption. These changes once affected mainly private, consumer communication, yet we’re increasingly seeing an impact on businesses too. How many companies’ workforces, I wonder, connect with their colleagues, whilst out and about or working from home, via an app like Slack rather than calling them on their mobile?
Keeping pace with digital innovators
The telecoms industry is well aware of this situation, with operators now looking beyond traditional business models and offering new kinds of services to their subscribers. Making the leap from a provider of voice and messaging to a digital service provider (DSP) is not easy though. Many traditional operators lack the resources and know-how to keep pace with the rapid innovations being developed by the new breed of comms companies. Facebook, for instance, in addition to offering text, voice and video services via its Messenger app announced this month that it is developing a tablet which will allow users to make video calls. By developing not only communications services but hardware too, the tech giant is encroaching even further into the space once dominated by operators and handset manufacturers. With 1.74 billion mobile monthly active users, Facebook, like many of today’s DSPs has a significant customer base, and looks to pose a real rival to the operators.
So, facing such tough competition, can traditional operators really compete and succeed during the current digital revolution? Fortunately, the answer is yes. Traditional players should look to collaborate with other companies to share resources, knowledge and expertise, and develop the kinds of services and applications which deliver on customer demands and help business remain buoyant. The challenges presented by our changing communication habits – highlighted above – offer a prime example of this strategy in action.
New services for new demands
The GSMA released a report earlier this year on how operators can collaborate with the wider industry to develop and deliver a Messaging as a Platform (MaaP) service. This global, interconnected IP communication platform will be enhanced with features such as integrated chatbots, AI and plugins, to allow consumers to instantly connect and interact with businesses. This might include asking a retailer questions, via a chatbot, about the size and fit of an item of clothing, or getting instant updates from an airline about flight times and travel disruptions.
At BICS, we understand the value of collaboration. We have a long history of partnerships with operators, IoT innovators, data service providers, satellite operators, telcos, and mobile carriers (the diverse list goes on!) which have resulted in the creation of new service offerings to meet changing and growing demands. Recently, we joined forces with IoT and M2M services company Hanhaa to provide global connectivity for its new ParceLive tracking service, allowing users of the service to locate and track shipments across a number of carriers worldwide.
Working together to tackle fraud
Innovation and improvement through collaboration may be a top talking point in the industry today, but the concept is not a new one to BICS. Our FraudGuard solution was first launched in 2013, and uses crowdsourced knowledge, allowing users to proactively minimise incidences of telecoms fraud. The influx of new DSPs and disruption caused by the IoT may be denting some telcos’ revenues, but fraud too continues to cause significant financial damage. In its most recent survey, the Communication Fraud Control Association estimated that telecoms operators face an estimated global average loss of 13% or $294 billion, from uncollected revenue and fraud.
FraudGuard encourages and facilitates industry-wide collaboration: as soon as any fraudulent activity is detected, operators are able to blacklist relevant addresses and numbers, and monitor for related traffic. This information can then be shared with other partner operators, so that they too can identify illegal activity which can be blocked by a wholesale provider or through a firewall located in its own infrastructure. The industry as a whole can benefit from this approach, and take proactive preventive measures to reduce fraud levels.
New competition presented by DSPs, as well as long-standing problems such as telecoms fraud mean that today’s telecoms space is an unpredictable and challenging area in which to operate. Rather than seeing established and emerging players as rivals though, communications companies should seek partnerships and embrace collaboration – for the benefit of both themselves and their customers.