Never have Telecom operators had so much data and such a wide range of technologies available for exploring its valuable insights. This opens an endless array of opportunities for optimizing business - in ways that go beyond simply improving network performance. As we embark on the 2020s, network intelligence will be a pivotal tool for communications service providers to capture new revenue and protect themselves against new threats.
2020 Threat: Network security vulnerabilities need to be urgently addressed
Maintaining the integrity of the network, protecting the privacy of your customers, and acting as the first line of defense against criminals and hackers must become a priority for CSPs in 2020. Although there is increasing awareness of the threats, SS7 and Diameter networks remain vulnerable. According to recent industry surveys, 100% of SS7 and Diameter Networks are vulnerable to subscriber information disclosure and subscriber denial of service attacks. And the risks don’t stop there. Today, flaws in the signaling network mean that hackers can intercept and eavesdrop on calls and texts, bypass billing, steal money from mobile accounts, or conduct Denial of Service attacks that can drop mobile phone users from the network and interfere with network nodes. In 2020, CSPs must invest in multi-protocol Signaling Firewalls that monitor and control SS7, Diameter, Voice (SIP/ISUP), IMS, GTP, and 5G HTTP signaling streams in order to protect subscribers and services from these threats.
CSPs need to step up their game when it comes to assuring customers about protocols and their long-term view of network security. Recent research sponsored by Mobileum found consumers and enterprises alike want CSPs to take a leadership role on the protection of their data and devices - and want reassurance from their CSPs about the detailed steps they are taking. In fact, subscribers will stake their customer loyalty on it. The same research found that 58% of enterprises and 52% of consumers said that they would leave their operator in the event of a security breach.
As technology gives the mobile handset an increasingly pivotal role in banking, payments, identity management and authentication, promoting trust in the handset and in the network now becomes mission critical for CSPs, especially as IoT takes flight.
2020 Threat: Protecting against fraud will become more complex
In a 5G era, managing fraud risks will become increasingly complex. Nearly one in four attacks by fraudsters are successful due to flaws in signaling networks. Most of these are exploited USSD requests, which allow attackers to transfer money from a subscriber's account, take over an account and subscribe the user to an expensive service, or send a phishing message under the guise of a trusted service. When we add on other fraud techniques, such as International Revenue Share Fraud (IRSF), Wangiri, SMS bypass and Subscription Fraud, the cost to CSPs quickly adds up. According to the Communications Fraud Control Association (CFCA), telecom fraud costs CSPs $29 Billion each year, accounting for 1.27% of carrier revenues.
As billions of new, untested IoT devices become activated on networks, and OTT partnerships become commonplace, the volume, velocity, and variety of data that 5G will generate will simply overwhelm fraud teams in the 2020s. AI, Machine Learning and automation-based tools will become table stakes for CSPs to effectively detect both existing and new fraud incidences and network security threats, in order to minimize any potential damage.
2020 Opportunity: Network Intelligence Will Set a New Gold Standard in Customer Experience
In years past, the battle for customers was won on price or product, but in the 2020s, customer experience is increasingly becoming the key differentiator for CSPs. This is equally true in the case of roaming, which is currently seen as a struggling revenue stream as consumers either become silent roamers or use alternatives such as Wi-Fi and local SIMs when they are abroad. However, according to Juniper Research, roaming data revenue is expected to increase to $31 Billion by 2022, rising from $21 Billion in 2017. This is being driven by a growing group of silent roamers who are signing up for ‘Roam-Like-At-Home’ offers.
In order to capture these opportunities, communications service providers can no longer just pass the baton to their roaming partners to manage their customers when they are abroad. Instead, CSPs should employ the benefits of intelligent monitoring tools that capture data about subscribers’ quality and experience when they are roaming- down to the individual IMSI, not just the network level. With this level of data, CSPs will have the insights to steer valued customers who experience poor quality service onto better networks, while more quickly identifying the root cause of issues. This helps reduce customer care costs, while also identifying and compensating valued subscribers who had a poor roaming experience. The ability to actively monitor and act on poor customer experience issues - when your customers are roaming - becomes increasingly important; especially as traditional roamers decrease as more shift to the ‘Like at Home’ experience. In the case of IoT, maintaining a superior customer experience while roaming will also be vital for mobile ‘things’ and applications beyond traditional handsets- such as autonomous cars crossing borders.
2020 Opportunity: Transforming from Detection to Prevention
Until recently, fraud prevention and network security approaches relied solely on rules-based solutions to detect threats that match pre-configured scenarios and known abnormal patterns. However, this approach disregards other threat variations and can fail to detect emerging threats and risk patterns, which are not known to the wider community. This is why AI-based machine learning, combined with a rules-based approach, should be employed. This will increase the CSP’s protection layer, while at the same time provide more control and a better understanding of fraud cases that are flagged. However, detection is just the first step in the war against fraud and security threats. CSPs should look to the long game, where they can predict and prevent these threats from ever materializing.
By providing context to the burgeoning data lake of on-network and partner data, CSPs have an opportunity to optimize their network, improve the customer experience and identify emerging fraud and network security risks before they even take place. Advancements in AI, machine learning, real-time data analytics and automation mean that this vision can soon become a reality.
About Bobby Srinivasan
Bobby Srinivasan is the CEO of Mobileum. Mobileum delivers analytics solutions that increase revenue, enhance the customer experience, decrease costs and improve operational efficiency to 700 communications service providers. Mobileum’s portfolio spans roaming, counter fraud, revenue assurance and network signaling security solutions, powered by real time data analytics and AI.
If you want to know how we can help your business to be prepared for 2020 and beyond, please contact us.
This article was previously published on The Fast Mode.