Archive for September, 2007

The consolidation of revenue assurance vendors continues apace. Portugese business WeDo Consulting has acquired Irish firm Cape Technologies for EUR17m (US$24.3m), rising to EUR20m (US$28.6m) if performance targets are met. Read the press release from WeDo here. This ends a long spell of rumours about the future for the Dublin-headquartered Cape. One of Cape’s largest customers commented today: “I wasn’t surprised.” WeDo is boasting it will become the world leader in revenue assurance thanks to its 370 employees, though it remains to be seen whether the “merger” as the parties are describing it, really will have no impact on headcount in the long run.

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I see the consultants behind the Global Revenue Assurance Professional’s Association (GRAPA) are still up to their old tricks. Whilst promising their members they are “vendor-free” and that “only employees of telcos can join” they conveniently forget to mention that the staff of the association are identical to the staff of the XiT consulting business founded by GRAPA’s president, Rob Mattison. So it is no surprise to see one of the questions they ask prospective members:

Do you have consulting projects? (in the past, currently, in the future)

It would be pretty funny if it was not so shameless. Why would an association that does not sell anything need to know about whether telcos intend to buy consulting? Only because it helps XiT with its marketing, that is why.

Next up from GRAPA is a benchmarking project. Guess what they will be asking – how big the telco is, what products it offers etc. In other words, the questions are identical to the ones that marketeers go through when getting information about their sales prospects. How convenient that GRAPA members will be asked to supply all the information in the name of “benchmarking”, saving XiT the trouble of doing any sales research.

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Power line communication is the use of electricity lines to convey electronic communications. Though there are technical difficulties, the potential benefits are enormous. Instead of rolling out separate telecoms infrastructure, PLC means remote places already connected to the electricity grid might quickly and easily be connected. In addition, the power lines within a house mean that you could communicate with virtually any device plugged into the wall. As well as making 1950′s “house of tomorrow” predictions come true – imagine your fridge going on-line and ordering you food from the supermarket – that would have immediate and significant benefits in terms of metering electricity use, balancing load, and hence reducing electricity consumption and carbon emissions. The potential benefits for the developing world are also great. Whilst they are leapfrogging to mobile technology, and hence seeing huge growth in the wireless sector, internet penetration is not growing as fast. If the internet could be supplied via existing power lines, then even remote parts of the developing world would have access to all the information resources that the internet has to offer. Look here for an excellent overview of the status and potential of PLC, written by a Kenyan author.

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In some ways, revenue assurance people are sceptics. They assume the worst is always happening at every telco they work. In other ways, revenue assurance people are optimists. They believe that only they have the skills and belief to find what is going wrong and fix it, that they will find what is going wrong, that they will fix it, and that they will make everybody plenty of money in the process. But are they sometimes over-optimistic? This LinkedIn question is looking for investors to help an Asian revenue assurance business enter the European market. A supplier in the growth region of Asia wanting to build market share in the saturated market of Europe? European operators have been the biggest purchasers of revenue assurance over the years. You would think their appetite for more spend on revenue assurance would be limited; that is my impression. So how much return on investment can be gained by a new player entering this most mature, most saturated, most competitive of markets?

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In my last blog, I made fun at the annual operator attitudes survey conducted by Analysys on behalf of Subex Azure. But sometimes I wonder why I bother. Why make fun when the experts do such a good job themselves. Take a look at this article “explaining” the results. It seems that revenue loss has increased is “because every time new services come along they bring with them a whole new set of revenue assurance challenges” .

Erm, excuse me? I mean, of course new services bring new problems. But then again, they mostly earn bugger all in revenues. Ignore the marketing hype – boring old voice products still represent a huge share of revenues for almost all telcos. If revenue leakage is as high as is claimed, then it must be because nobody has done anything much about fixing the leaks for boring old products. Blaming high estimates of revenue leakage on new products is daft. If the leakage was due to new products, you would have to believe that they all suffered extraordinary levels of leakage relative to the revenues they generate. Which might sound plausible except that the basics of revenue assurance for new products really are little different to the basics for boring old products. Check that you generate some data when a sale is made. Check the data is actually right. Check it gets from one place to another. Check that you take orders correctly and actually put them into service correctly. Check that what seems to be happening in the network is consistent with what you have in the billing system. Check that the price you told everyone is the price you set. All very boring. You can do it manually, if you have time and can be bothered. For several hundred % of leakage, it would be worth doing simple manual checks on tiny samples, and you would very quickly find things wrong. But then you would not need multi-million pound software tools, would you? ;)

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