Messaging is a crucial source of income for MNOs (mobile network operators), and full messaging monetisation is essential for the operator’s continuous success. But how do MNOs know they are getting the full potential from their network optimisation and protection efforts?
Since monetisation is about receiving and protecting the value generated by the network, it requires a 360-degree overview and understanding of the MNO’s circumstances. This includes factors within and without the operator’s network — the traffic structure and origins, regulatory and contractual environment, technical and financial performance.
In this article, we take a closer look at the factors above and figure out how operators can achieve the visibility necessary for optimising their revenues and protecting their business.
Understanding the ecosystem
Mobile operators often have very limited visibility of the traffic outside of their own network, which leads to a lack of clarity about the situation inside the network.
Since each operator is connected to an array of enterprises, aggregators, and other operators, any of these ecosystem players could take advantage of a contractual loophole or poorly secured connection. Additionally, the traffic origins and the routes it was delivered through can be obscured by an intricate system of connections between the hubs and operators.
Bringing clarity to traffic origins requires an understanding of the international messaging market. A comprehensive International Services Database can be excellent for gaining insights into the entities sending SMS messages internationally, the services those companies support, as well as the message profiles (message contents, global titles and so on).
The regulatory environment is another common obstacle for MNO monetisation activities, preventing them from blocking unauthorised traffic or properly monetising messages delivered via legal routes. To ensure the operator gets the most from their efforts, they have to gain a clear picture of licensing and operational requirements and analyse how their local competitors comply in this similar environment.
Finally, the contractual obligations. The truth is that most agreements with hubs, aggregators and other service providers contain a certain degree of loopholes, introduced both intentionally and unintentionally. The former might result from trying to show appreciation for the partners by setting up inadequate pricing. This usually takes the form of vague formulations and definitions that sneak into final versions of contracts. Occasionally, the traffic can even be delivered at zero rates!
Fortunately, a detailed review of all the agreements corresponding to A2P SMS business governing domestic and international traffic allows identifying any loopholes in the existing contracts. This way, operators can revise given arrangements, ensuring that all A2P SMS suppliers adhere to the operator’s monetisation policies.
Painting a complete picture of the MNO’s potential vulnerabilities, quality of service concerns and revenue opportunities calls for a rigorous audit of the operator’s business. An expert third-party assessment is vital for gaining actionable insights that include a 360-degree overview of the entire messaging portfolio.
Detecting grey routes
Another challenge that mobile operators have to deal with to secure their incomes is traffic routing and distribution: how the traffic is categorised and delivered defines how it is priced. There are quite a few ways to cheat when it comes to message delivery.
The clever message manipulation allows for grey routes creation: international messages can be delivered as local, A2P messages can be altered and sent via P2P channels (charged at much cheaper rates), or sent via SIM farms to similar effect. Sometimes the traffic is priced incorrectly because the operator does not realise what kind of traffic it is!
To overcome this kind of threat, extensive knowledge of existing partnerships, services, and corresponding message profiles is a must. Having a detailed profile of international traffic types helps detect grey routes and SIM farms. Knowing what messages should look like and being able to identify the usual manipulations used to bypass conventional filtering techniques can help estimate the operator’s losses, and will be necessary further down the line when introducing the monetisation solution.
Is your firewall doing its job?
SMS firewalls are fantastic tools for securing and monetising operator networks. According to Mobilesquared, over 80% of MNOs had deployed an SMS firewall. Still, an unmanaged firewall cannot do its job to the fullest of its potential. To make the monetisation solution work, it is vital to understand the network configurations and conditions, as well as the firewall’s capabilities.
The first step is to identify all networks entry points that can be used for unauthorised A2P traffic delivery. The second step is to validate the whitelist of global titles for the incoming messages, namely those sent by the MNO’s partners, instead of simply letting in all traffic with similar countries of origin.
Now comes the time to see whether your firewall is doing its job. The only way to use the firewall to the fullest is to understand its limitations and weaknesses, as this will help you plan your defence. Once you know your firewall’s capabilities and potential weak spots, you may proceed with assessing your firewall’s current ruleset to reveal the gaps in your protection efforts so that you can address them in the future (we explore the ways to improve your firewall management game in this article).
A mobile operator lacking visibility of the entire messaging traffic and associated revenues, yet still happy with their messaging business, is a much more common occurrence than one could expect.
Luckily, the combined knowledge of the surrounding ecosystem, legal environment, traffic structure and operator’s technical capabilities open up an avenue for the final step in an MNO’s preparations for the monetisation efforts: commercial assessment. The information accumulated during previous steps is instrumental for defining the internal and external factors that affect the revenues.
Understanding the surrounding market and your technical capabilities will allow you to devise a competitive pricing model that would correspond with the level of service you can realistically provide. The given model can, in turn, help to estimate the network’s full monetisation potential since we are now fully aware of the existing traffic profile, all the loopholes and weaknesses, and what matters most — the tools we have to address them.
A fresh perspective
Taking a step back and evaluating your current situation might be surprisingly challenging when you are overwhelmed by operational activities and have no bandwidth for conducting a proper investigation. The best solution would be to call for third-party expertise that will help paint the realistic picture of the MNOs’ business. Fortunately, GMS is here to lend our vast knowledge of both international and local markets in the form of 360-degree network audit.
Contact our experts to learn more about Messaging Business Assessment and the ways you can boost your revenues and protect your subscribers today.