Effective service delivery relies on unique mobile networks assets: identity, charging, location and presence. Leading operators can implement new services for their subscribers as part of a powerful service delivery strategy — giving them a suite of integrated solutions. Co-sponsored feature: Jinny Software
CEO Max Wilkie: operators’ key existing assets are
the strengths which can be leveraged now to
implement effective, long-term service delivery strategies
There are three major channels of communicating across the
service delivery environment: web, messaging and media,
each with different aspects of user identity, user location and billing
Operator inventories already include a plethora of solutions for the delivery and execution of new subscriber services, solutions which, when used individually, provide a specific function, but when employed en masse in an integrated manner, can create their own powerful service delivery environment.
Without the need for new and complex protocols to drive even more complex service delivery platform solutions, these key operator assets are the strengths which can be leveraged now, to implement effective, long-term service delivery strategies.
Take the operations in Tanzania of the leading Middle East and African operator Zain, for example.
Zain has used Jinny’s service delivery environment approach to service delivery in Tanzania. This has given it a suite of integrated solutions including Jinny’s SMSC, Message Router, Voice SMS and Voicemail products.
Zain had already implemented Jinny’s Ringback Tone Server and Charging Gateway on its network — services that were generating high return-on-investment. The complete suite of products, built on Jinny’s standard platform environment, provide Zain with a fully integrated and effective service delivery solution.
“Effective service delivery relies on assets used in the normal, everyday functioning of most mobile networks,” says Max Wilkie, CEO of Jinny Software.
“Without the need for new and complex protocols to drive even more complex service delivery platform solutions, these key operator assets are the strengths which can be leveraged now, to implement effective, long-term service delivery strategies.”
Zain required a comprehensive VAS strategy, including a service delivery environment approach, for Tanzania.
Jinny addressed a number of key operator challenges, which focused on improving speed of service introduction and time-to-market, the need to manage OPEX and CAPEX and the requirement for full call completion and ARPU-generating solutions.
Jinny recommended, and implemented, an integrated solution where all components are interconnected and use a common interface to the external world. With one interface to the billing system, all VAS components can be rated and a single command can be sent to the IN system for charging. And with one interface to the provisioning system, integration time was reduced substantially.
A major factor in the selection for Zain Tanzania was the product integration built into Jinny’s solutions, making it unnecessary for the operator to become involved in complex integration issues between VAS components.
This approach was welcomed by Alexis Indenge, the IT director of Zain Tanzania. “We are very satisfied with our experience with Jinny Software. Their consultative approach to our challenges and the solution strategy proposed was very welcome and their service delivery environment tactic meets our service delivery platform needs perfectly. Our experience working with them has been very positive and rewarding.”
“It is important for a mobile operator to identify the unique network assets they have and then design an architecture that will maximise their usage”, says Wilkie, “and at the same time protect them. Mobile operators are currently at risk of becoming bit-pipes as a result of the latest web technologies and properties. Competition is becoming very intense and operator revenues are likely to substantially decrease as a result.”
At the heart of the problem is the fact that the industry is moving so quickly. “By the time a mobile industry standards committee has the chance to meet, analyse and agree on a situation or latest protocol to create and deliver a new service, numerous Web 2.0 sites will have already come and gone,” he says.
“If mobile operators want to remain relevant, they will have to open the networks and allow innovation to flourish. This is the role of either a service delivery platform, or an effective service delivery environment created by operators and based on their key assets and strengths.”
In general, a mobile network operator has four main assets that ensure competitive advantage compared to content or application service providers: identity, billing, location and presence.
Operators have the necessary infrastructure to manage the identity of a subscriber. Once a subscriber is on the network, the MNO can provide identity information to the application provider. There is no need for a new login process when using a service.
A service delivery environment should facilitate delivery of subscriber identity to authorised ASPs.
Operators have a billing relationship with the subscriber. They can enable content and application providers to sell material and non-material goods to users. For soft, non-material goods, they can act as a trusted third party, reserving the funds, performing the delivery and confirming the transaction.
Using a service delivery environment that integrates online charging, the operator can provide applications that charge immediately on content delivery, thus simplifying the charging process and making sure it is fraud-free and safe for both users and content providers or ASPs.
Location and presence
An operator knows the location of a subscriber with varying precision, and whether the person is reachable or not. This information can be relayed to an ASP or content provider to create enhanced services.
Location-based services are enhanced by having GPS-enabled phones, which communicate directly with the application — but this feature is not universal and is restricted to high-end phones.
Providing a user’s location to the application as part of the service delivery environment empowers ASPs to write compelling applications very easily.
Opening an operator’s assets
Wilkie explains that a comprehensive service delivery environment will enable third parties to write, test and deploy new applications quickly and efficiently.
There are three major channels of communicating across the service delivery environment: messaging, media and web, each with aspects of user identity, user location and billing.
“Vendors tend to emphasise one channel over the others,” he says. “The three channels are, however, different and have very different protocols and modes of operation.”
An ASP can use traditional mobile messaging applications such as SMS and MMS to communicate across a service delivery environment. No single protocol can solve all problems — some provide better performance, while others are easier to use.
“One key benefit of messaging to the service delivery picture is that user identity is inherently included in the messaging protocols. A further benefit is that user location can be passed to a selected set of applications.”
Billing can also be easily, safely and efficiently implemented by using ‘reservation’ before a delivery attempt is made, and ‘committing’ after the message is successfully delivered.
Typical messaging applications include
- a news push service;
- an SMS voting application; and
- an MMS photo printing application.
Although content providers currently access operator infrastructure to generate these services, it would be much easier if provisioning and charging were handled transparently by the service delivery environment.
There are simple, well defined protocols — such as VoiceXML, ccXML and MSML
— for the initiation and termination of voice and video calls in an effective service delivery environment. However, vendors have created new protocols, Parlay and Parlay-X, to perform voice calls using web services, which are complex to implement and manage.
Caller identity and location can be passed to an external application using HTTP headers embedded in the elected communication media. Billing can be handled within the service delivery environment using a time-based charge or on an event-based charge basis.
The application can tag some content, such as audio or video clips, with an amount to be charged. Charges are based on content consumption.
“The service delivery environment should provide unlimited and unrestricted access to all web-based applications,” says Wilkie. “Subscriber identity and location can be provided to certified applications. It should also be possible to allow the subscriber to purchase goods and bill them to his or her account.”
Digital and non-material goods can be delivered over the HTTP channel. The operator can then ensure the delivery of the goods and charge only on successful delivery. This service is simple as there is no need to provide a username and password like other services. A simple PIN may be sufficient.
“Mobile operators have the opportunity of being an integral part of the web 2.0 phenomenon,” he adds. “All they need to do is to open their networks using simple, open and standard protocols. A simple implementation that performs the needed functions in an easy, scalable and open way is the direction in which to go.
“We are delighted that Zain Tanzania has adopted our service delivery environment approach,” Wilkie continued. “This strategic engagement illustrates Jinny’s ability to be a total solution provider and not simply one bringing stand alone products to market. Whilst we will be strengthening our relationship with Zain, we firmly believe that the time is right for all operators to view their current assets in the same way and we look forward to more and more operators adopting our service delivery strategy in the future.” GTB