November 26, 2015

9 steps how an operator will succeed with its A2P SMS strategy

The majority of unconsolidated and unbilled SMS comes from your roaming partners misusing their roaming agreements. It’s a fact and it’s also a sensitive subject as it can affect relations between operators negatively. In order to get in control roaming traffic it has to be monitored, yet 80% of the operators has no tools to do this.

The second largest source of leakage comes from your SCCP providers – which traffic also has to be monitored. Many signalling providers claim they have a managed filter service, but how well is it really working? And does it protect you on a domestic level? No it doesn’t, is the right short answer to that.

Both the above scenarios can be managed and maintained by installing signalling firewalls and SMS filters, but this is not enough. You need a commercial go-to-market strategy.

The non-technical point of failure is usually the lack of organisational transparency. C-level guys are not aware of the extent of the revenue leakage, as this is considered to be a “tech-thing” and engineers feel uneasy of bringing up the subject afraid of the blame game. This has to change.

The solution to the problem is acknowledging the facts and taking immediate action. To do this operator has to create their own ecosystem of trusted solution partners and resellers – aggregators. But first thing first – secure your network. Get those firewalls and filters in there and start monitoring the traffic.

So, without further ado here are my nine strategy advices to mobile operators on how to succeed in A2P SMS:

1. Pick the best firewall vendor on the market – ROI can be as short as 6 months. A leaking network has no resalable market value meaning you, as an operator, will neither be able to bump up the price nor finding partners that are interested in reselling your capacity as it is considered by everyone to be for free.

Why pay for tickets to the concert when the entrance is wide open? And who can resell a product that is considered to be free?

Filters and firewalls has to be user-friendly, able to produce reports that people understand and last but not least – technically competent and scalable. Simple global title blocking functionality isn’t good enough and neither is a simple “Alpha Sender ID” filter. Firewalls have to be able to dig down into the actual body content and find recurring patterns and visualize these in an understandable way. Additionally, they also have to withstand all the other known SS7 vulnerabilities – more on that in another article. Bottom line your firewall vendor has to be an absolute expert in SS7.

2. Package a resalable product– I can’t emphasize this enough as this is extremely important stage in the process. Ask your aggregators partner for advice as they have a lot more experience and knows about enterprise demand.
In this process, look at this from an out-side perspective as you where an enterprise client yourself wanting to start sending traffic in your country.

Eventually it will drill down to you having to be able offer off-net termination in your country in order to attract the best tier 1 aggregators. You also have to come up with a plan managing long numbers and short codes as enterprises demands two-way A2P SMS solutions. Also, you have to technically define how an A2P SMS should look like and where it should come from. It might sound silly but if you haven’t done this how can it be reflected in the firewalls, measured and most importantly, billed?

3. Appoint the best aggregators on the market and make sure they always have the best rate. 2-3 partners should be enough to start with if you pick a tier 1 aggregator. They are all interconnected with each other so you will get the traffic anyway, if you have manage to funnel the traffic technically via your appointed aggregator partners. In this case less is more – we’ll come back to this.

Make your own list of criteria’s that are important for you, when qualifying aggregators, and go ahead. Aggressors that has API’s is one important criteria, so is platform stability and the willingness to adjust to your requirements.

Last but not least – don’t treat your reseller partners as clients – treat them for what they truly are – someone that secures and brings you revenue and who does the sales for you – in practical terms they are an extension of your wholesale department – very specialised in what they do. For that you must be prepared to share a piece of the pie.

4. Pricing strategy – Keep in mind that the more aggregators you have the quicker the price will dilute to a one-digit margin and the incentive working hard for you gradually will vanish.
Never have a big delta between international price and a domestic price – rest assure water will find its way and traffic will bypass your aggregators. You will lose control of your ecosystem you worked so hard to build.

5. Streamline your internal sales – offer the same price to your appointed aggregators. Appoint a stakeholder internally that coordinate between large account, roaming and interconnect to avoid price cannibalization. Always, always make sure your aggregator partners has the best price otherwise you will bite the hand that feeds you.

6. Play around with the price and optimize it for your market. Listen to your partners what they have to say. Find the right price for you market where you have the most number of SMS to the most optimal price possible. There is a sweet spot on every market. Communicate clearly with your partners and give at least a months’ notice on price changes. Don’t be greedy by charging too much- otherwise you risk creating a SIM-box market and that we don’t want! The price is never as high as 0,065 €.

7. Monetization of traffic can never stop. It has to be constantly managed in order to block rouge traffic. If you can’t find the right competence internally make sure you have a vendor that can offer managed services. 24/7 is a must here because traffic never sleeps and neither does the bad guys.

8. Analyze your traffic daily and take action.

9. Start signing commercial A2P SMS agreements with your roaming partners. GSMA has changed the AA60 agreements so it now distinguishes A2P from P2P both commercially and technically.  Start domestically and move on with your neighbouring countries.

Succeeding in A2P requires a well-planned strategy. Operators can’t do it by themselves, as it is not in their DNA. Aggregators, however has the genes. How well you succeed correlates directly with how well you manage your ecosystem and cater your garden. It involves pest control and getting rid of the lecher’s and the weed feasting on your expense. Playtime is over!

The window of opportunity is now, not later nor tomorrow but now! Every day an operators choose not tap into the A2P revenue stream you lose it to the bad guys or the ever so much faster OTT players. You have just become that dumb fat pipe you never wanted to be – You can do better than that!

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November 26, 2015