Archive for August, 2010

Since its turnaround, Subex has continued to plot an upward course. At the end of July, the Indian giant posted Q1 results that reaffirmed the healthy state of the business; see Subex’s summary here. Following that, August has seen Subex make six positive news announcements in the space of just sixteen days. On the sales front, Subex told us that:

Regarding the last story, further research indicates that Mobinil’s old Fraud Management system was supplied by HP (see here). Two major multinational groups have a significant stake in Mobinil: France Telecom and Egypt’s Orascom. The loss of Mobinil will be a blow for HP whilst it potentially opens more doors for Subex.

I cannot remember ever seeing a similar vendor announce so many sales in such a short space of time. However, perhaps the most positive signal about Subex’s long-term future is the news they will receive an equity injection from the investment vehicle of an unnamed telecom operator; see the press release here. A maximum of 8 million shares will be issued. The agreed price of Rs. 80 per share represents a premium of roughly 45% to the current market. If all 8 million shares are issued, the value of the investment will be approximately USD 13.5 million at current exchange rates. The shares will be issued following AGM approval on September 13. Subash Menon, boss and founder of Subex said of the deal:

This investment from an entity that understands the telecom software sector well vindicates our stand on the bright future of the company. They were particularly impressed with our positioning and strategy around Revenue Operations Centre (ROC) and Managed Services. The fact that they are investing at a price that is significantly higher than the current market price establishes their confidence in the company.

Subex are enjoying an Indian summer. Now it is time for them to make hay, whilst the sun shines.

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US cost and revenue management vendor TEOCO has announced the completion of its acquisition of TTI Telecom, the Israeli service assurance firm . You can read the TEOCO press release here.

TEOCO made their formal bid for TTI in June. No new information was presented about the deal, implying the final deal was the same as the original offer. ‘Dead Cat’, a regular commentor on talkRA, pointed out the deal valued TTI Telecom at USD 27 million.

The logic behind the deal appears to be two-fold. First, quality of service increasingly underpins the quality of revenues, and this makes TTI a complementary play for TEOCO’s existing offerings. Second, TTI has customers in regions where TEOCO has yet to make a foothold. Cross-selling to TTI customers gives a potential platform for TEOCO to extend its reach outside of the American market.

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You know, there would not be a discipline called ‘revenue assurance’ if it was not for the pioneers – those brave souls that walked straight ahead when others turned back. You cannot simultaneously blaze the trail whilst sticking with the crowd. We need the mavericks to find different, better ways of getting from A to B – of getting communication providers from where they are now to where they should be. That has always been part of the philosophy of talkRA; we give a few independently-minded individuals a platform so their voices can be distinguished from the chorus.

Of course, the problem with being a trail blazer is that you might not always get sufficient credit. By the time everyone else has caught up, nobody remembers who got there first. One example is David Smith of ABISQ. As the Technical Director of the Global Billing Association, David was an evangelist for revenue assurance before most people had even heard of the discipline. He systematically raised the profile of RA as he travelled the world. Because of David, the GBA introduced RA benchmarks that were years ahead of their time – in my opinion, the industry simply was not ready to capitalize on them. In 2001 David wrote Successfully Managing Revenue Assurance, which was the original blueprint for how to perform revenue assurance. Those of us fortunate to have read it can appreciate how well it has stood the test of time. His follow up work, Margin Management, is a lost classic. Through his efforts, David has had an incalculable impact on the growth of the discipline. Many of David’s ideas have become the mainstream of RA thinking. My guess is that his ideas influenced others around him, both consciously and subconsciously, until they had been repeated to the point where they became common wisdom. That is why I like to call David the godfather of revenue assurance… but only behind his back, because he is too modest to hear me talk that way in front him.

We need new thought leaders too, of course. It was a pleasure to find this new blog from a man who fittingly calls himself ‘Maverick’. Through his blog, the mysterious Maverick shares his thoughts on revenue assurance, revenue management, and a bit of everything else… but is too busy writing about those topics to share much about himself! Maverick says what he thinks, taking aim where he disagrees with conventional wisdom and walking his own path. Good for him. Perhaps, in a decade or so, if he keeps at it, the time will come to remind everyone what Maverick has contributed to the development of best practice…

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This is another post in the irregular series on revenue assurance outside of telecoms. The idea of reworking the practice of revenue assurance for energy and other utility businesses has been around for a while. However, the concept of the ‘Revenue Assurance Control Desk’ (RACD) from Kopac Consulting makes the intellectual heritage more explicit than ever before. The RACD borrows from both telecoms revenue assurance and the way manufacturers maintain statistical quality control using the control desk standard. Kopac intend to patent the RACD hybrid for use by utilities and retail energy providers. See here for the press release and how to obtain a free copy of their 82-page guide to RACD.

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Regular readers of talkRA will have noticed we had some difficulties over the last week. Hackers found an exploit and were able to inject additional code into some of the files on our host server. The code would have redirected visitors to other sites controlled by the hackers. Thankfully, the hacker’s code has all been stripped and talkRA’s software upgraded as well. In other words, things are back to normal… or as normal as they ever are.

It is worth learning a few lessons from the unpleasant experience. First, if the internet is the digital world’s equivalent of the wild west, then we should not be surprised if some of its inhabitants have taken on the role of law enforcers. In talkRA’s case, Google rode up like Wyatt Earp, showing they have the power to hogtie any threat to peaceful folk. By linking the results of their endless web crawl to the working of browsers, Google have made themselves effective intermediaries in who gets to see what. So, for a while, they told visitors to talkRA to run for cover. This is the current diagnostic page issued by Google on talkRA. Thankfully, it does not say there is a reward out for my capture, alive or dead. What it says is that Sheriff Google found some outlaw code on three pages they visited on August 5th, but everything has been all clear each time they visited since.

The second lesson to learn is that there is never enough security. The bandits are out there, looking out for any opportunities. These particular hackers were not going specifically for talkRA. They attacked everything on the host server. In the internet era, both attack and defence are automated; brute force and repetition means that every vulnerability will be tested sooner or later.

Finally, most hackers do it for the money. That seems to have been the motive for the attack on talkRA. If the hackers are making money, then somebody else is losing. That is bad for communication providers. They either lose directly or their customers lose. If customers lose, they have less money to spend and they become more fearful of using their services.

The internet wild west is still a long way from being domesticated, and may never be. Google try to play the part of peace officers, bringing order in the place of chaos, as best demonstrated by the new joint statement with Verizon on net neutrality. But Google also finds itself in more gun-slinging contests than Billy the Kid. Three stories in the last week bear this out. Premium-rate SMS trojans were found to be infiltrating Google’s Android OS in the wild. A security flaw in Android was discovered which would allow harvesting of a user’s password data. And now Oracle has accused Google of code-rustling. Oracle has launched a law suit, claiming that Android infringes Oracle’s Java patents. Oracle want a pay-off and an injunction that will block the continued distribution of Android, holding Google to ransom. It sure is wild on the digital frontier…

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