Exclusive Interviews

With geolocation, mobile operators can find, determine and provide the exact location of a mobile phone (user) on their network. Geolocation is used in a variety of applications like troubleshooting and analytics, and opens up a whole range of possibilities for data monetization. In an interview with Telecom Review, Vicent Soler, EVP CTO Spain - Advanced RAN Studies, Astellia, talked about the importance of geolocation and its benefits.

Can you provide some concrete use cases of how network engineers can benefit from geolocation?
With geolocation, operators can have massive coverage maps and thereby it becomes much easier to identify any area with coverage holes, congestion or dropped calls. This allows network engineers to become much more efficient because they can focus network deployment and troubleshooting activities on these specific areas. Subsequently, this will have a concrete and positive impact on the subscriber experience.

Another relevant benefit of geolocation information for network engineers is that it helps accelerate the introduction of new technologies. It can help them, for instance, to identify where there is a high concentration of VoLTE capable mobile phones in the network in order to reinforce 4G coverage in these areas to ensure an optimal VoLTE experience.

At the moment operators are looking for solutions to offload the traffic from the macro cells. In this case, having information about where subscribers are located is very useful to define the right position to deploy new small cells.

Can geolocation information reduce the need for drive tests?
Yes, definitely. This is clearly one of the main benefits that geolocation brings to operators. By actively using geolocation information operators can save a lot of money. From Astellia's experience, we have seen that operators can reduce up to 90 percent of their investments in drive tests. A drive test is very costly because it is a manual procedure - you have to send a team into the field to launch measurements at each location. Additionally, drive tests can only generate a dozen of tests and therefore do not reflect the whole customer experience. They do not provide historical data and data is not available instantaneously. Furthermore, drive tests are often inefficient at reproducing an issue reported by a subscriber since the tests are performed outdoors. However, 70 percent of voice calls and 80 percent of data sessions occur indoors. So, in contrast to geolocation, drive tests do not provide a complete view of the customer experience.

How can geolocation information enrich customer experience management (CEM)?
Geolocation information increases customer care efficiency. By positioning failed calls on a map and analyzing subscriber mobility during a call, customer care agents will better understand a complaining subscriber and can bring a solution more quickly, not only to the complaining customer but also to all the subscribers in that area.

Each element that provides additional information on the customer, provides a better knowledge of that customer and hence insights to improve their experience. Valuable subscriber mobility information can be used to geolocate high revenue generating areas (roamers, VoLTE subscribers, fleets, etc.), determine the customer experience of these hot spots and avoid potential loss of revenues due to a bad functioning network in these areas.

How does geolocation data contribute to new revenue generation?
With the current internet of things (IoT) revolution, asset tracking is becoming a revenue generating and value-added service offered by operators to their enterprise customers. So being able to provide massive geolocation of low-cost IoT devices without costly GPS functionality is a clear competitive differentiator.

Marketing can exploit geolocation data to create additional revenues by, for instance, engaging with a customer accessing a predefined area. Some examples of use cases are location-based advertising, analysis of population flows for road traffic information, helping shopping malls understand where their customers are coming from and the time they are spending at their premises, etc.

What makes Astellia's geolocation solution unique?
First of all, Astellia's solution offers the best-in-class geolocation accuracy. Its algorithm is based on trilateration, minimization of drive tests (MDT) and includes machine learning evolution. It goes much further than providing a visibility at cell level; it gives a precision as near as 100m and with an evolution to less than 50 m with our latest innovations. It allows operators to distinguish indoor and outdoor communications and characterize static vs subscribers in motion, all while preserving individual customer privacy.

Through its 3D geolocation feature, the solution can represent on a map distinct quality of service (QoS) and quality of experience (QoE) for each floor of a building. Astellia's massive geolocation solution provides geolocated QoE of popular apps such as video (YouTube) and social media (Facebook). This allows engineers to adapt capacity for high-trafficking value-generating areas.

Astellia's awarded solution gives a real-time, end-to-end vision (RAN to Core) of the network, 24x7, for 100 percent of the calls. It is the first solution on the market to geolocate IoT devices on LoRA networks. This future-proof solution is completely virtualized and big data ready, and is already adopted by several major operator groups such as Telefonica to better optimize their network and improve the customer experience.

Elitecore Technologies has over 16 years of experience in delivering next generation BSS, packet core  and carrier WiFi solutions having over 175 network deployments with 59 service providers worldwide. The company proudly serves 13 of the top 30 global telecom operators. In the following interview, Vaibhav Mehta, Sr. VP - New Business Development, Elitecore Technologies, caught up with Telecom Review to discuss Elitecore's unique capabilities to monetize IP networks, pain points facing operators, the struggle operators face to increase ARPU in the data market and Elitecore's future focus points.

Can you discuss Elitecore's unique capabilities to monetize all IP networks ranging from 3G/LTE, cable broadband and WiFi?
Elitecore gives service providers a significant data monetization advantage through its network agnostic platform, which supports all IP networks: 4G/LTE, WiFi and fixed broadband. The platform can be seamlessly integrated into multi-vendor, multiple IT scenarios with various mobile core components resulting in reduced time-to-market for new offerings, enabling operators to monetize their next generation services more effectively and faster than the competition.

Elitecore's end-to-end pre-integrated platform can be deployed on-premise or on-cloud which comprises of convergent billing, real-time policy and charging, product catalogue, CRM, 3GPPAAA, DSC, captive portal, convergent mediation, real-time analytics, WiFi service management platform, advertisement server, mobile app and web self-care.

What are the main pain points operators are facing today, and what business cases does Elitecore Technologies offer to assist with these pain points?
Operators are under pressure to quickly launch next generation services to maintain high customer experience, improve ARPU, increase subscriber base and still keep costs low. Elitecore's end-to-end, modular solutions for all IP networks help operators for faster rollout of multiple services, delivering innovative business cases such as shared wallet, sponsored data, tiered FUP, location-based advertisement and services, real-time contextual offers, pay-per-use, WiFi offload, WiFi network discovery, push notifications, bundled LTE + Wi-Fi, VoLTE, VoWiFi, OTT-based charging, venue WiFi, bill-shock prevention, turbo-boost and time/device based plans.

Moreover, the pre-integrated stack reduces the time for installation, commissioning and SIT, resulting in significant time saving in all deployments; and hence, faster time to market. It also ensures single license and a common source for support and maintenance. A single centralized database for all user information helps in reducing the storage cost. Self care mobile apps help users to sign-up for operator's plans faster and manage their user cycle more effectively.

What other personalized services does Elitecore provide for subscribers?
Elitecore helps operators to offer personalized services through configurable product and price plans based on operator's requirements and market needs. Elitecore also helps by the use of analytics to carry out targeted campaigns based on user buying behavior and demographics. Elitecore's mobile self-care and captive portal provides the subscriber with the flexibility of subscribing to services anytime, anywhere on the move.

The same platform is also used to send right offers at the right time on which the users can act upon in real time. Lastly, our location based services are offered on subscribers' mobiles which are based on a device's geographical location. It can be used to provide information on entertainment, basic services, security, or can also be used to carry out ad campaigns.

How does Elitecore help create partnership opportunities with OTTs?
In spite of heavy investment in network infrastructure and other support services, telcos are not able to leverage on their existing network. On the other hand, OTT players are leveraging on operator networks for providing content and services to the end users free of cost and creating all kinds of problems for CSPs who are facing a decline in their voice, SMS traffic revenues and ARPU.

Elitecore offers a carrier-grade platform that supports diverse partnership models with various OTT partners like ecosystem players, VoIP and messaging players, content streaming players and contextual players. The platform supports multi-party partnerships based on the content, co-promotion activities, revenue sharing based on a subscription or data usage, and OTT specific plans. In-built multi-currency support eases out the discrepancies of financial agreements between the parties. Integral customizable business critical reports and MIS reports help the operator and the OTT partner in revenue analysis.

Can you explain why operators are struggling to increase ARPU in the data market?
Operators are struggling to increase ARPU due to the following reasons: the rise of OTT players like WhatsApp, Facebook and Skype who use the network and its customers, offering voice and messaging services at a fraction of the cost. Operators are forced to reduce their prices in order to maintain their market position and retain customers. Another issue is the relatively low disposable income of subscribers from rural areas, increased customer support costs, and regulator's policies and tariff controls.

Many subscribers have multiple SIMs which usually result into lower ARPU since spending on second and subsequent connections is likely to be lower than on the primary connection. Lower ARPU discourages the operators to innovate and launch new offers and services. Subscribers are left with only basic services. The customer experience index would also be low. Customer retention would also be difficult.

What is Elitecore Technologies focusing on for the future?
Smart cities & IoT: Cities across the globe are harnessing the power of technology to offer seamless connectivity, real-time information with IoT and user authentication. Smart cities represent the greatest opportunities for CSPs to establish their context in the evolving market as a technology provider offer platforms which in large part are driven by the Internet of thing (IoT), which is simultaneously creating and being enabled by advances in cloud technology, security, mobile connectivity and M2M.

MVNO: The number of mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) is on the rise, as they make better business sense. MVNOs are essentially reselling voice and data services of a larger operator. Several reasons why MNOs allow such MVNOs to leverage their network: to target and attack a specific target/niche segment, generate economies of scale for better network utilization, increase revenue, service differentiation, government policies that hinder flexibility and growth, acquire new customers and increase market share in mature markets.

Monetization of digital services: Most of the CSPs are considering digital transformation as they step ahead and it requires them to build a new customer digital experience which is smart, adaptive, lean and ensures faster time-to-market. The demands of the digital marketplace require new capabilities, and service providers need to create a blueprint for launching new digital services such as OTT video, mobile entertainment, digital payments IoT-enabled offerings like smart homes and connected vehicles, thus enabling new monetization opportunities.

WiFi calling & VoLTE is expected to gain grounds: Next generation WiFi calling with VoWiFi and voice over LTE (VoLTE) pre-integrated in the smartphone dialler, will offer a completely different experience to its users with better indoor coverage and seamless call transfer support between WiFi and LTE. With these advantages, it is set to become the de-facto standard very soon.

Data analytics is a key driver for telcos: Global mobile data traffic is expected to increase tenfold by 2019, with more connected devices and apps. Operators do not have such deep pockets to cater to this level of traffic and subscriber personalization. This is where analytics as a tool helps in unlocking the real-time intelligence from operator's networks and equip them with the right information to rollout more personalized plans at the right time, resulting in high business value.

Virtualized networks expected to accelerate impetus: Cloud-based solutions and NFV are becoming the new norm in the telecom industry. It offers operators the agility and speed to expand horizontally and vertically to quickly rollout new monetization and personalization use cases needed to innovate in next generation data services.

Sterlite Technologies' Telecom Software Division Elitecore announces the version release of its NetVertex PCRF v6.6. The platform empowers CSPs with service agility, faster monetization and optimization, a key enabler for the operators to enhance customer experience.

Dhaval Vora, Elitecore's VP - Product Management, Sterlite Technologies, says: "The latest release enables CSPs with innovative use cases such as group plan support, quota sharing, global emergency plan, dynamic QoS, and VoLTE. With the highly scalable platform, our customers can now support 20% more sessions in the same hardware capacity, thereby reducing TCO."

The new Policy Designer featured is a state of the art tool to manage subscriber, subscription & package configuration at 50% reduced time from previous version, simplified configuration of policy form with convenient drop down menus and responsive GUI for easy configuration by even non-technical staff, comprehensively supporting the agile policy management promise.

The new release also includes an enhanced SPR with DDF functionality which enables the distribution of subscribers across multiple SPRs (Subscriber Profile Repository). The DDF functionality has been further improved to support upward scalability of the architecture and enables communication between PCRF & any SPR

Additional key features of NetVertex PCRF v6.6 include:

  • - Multi-tenancy and Virtualization support
  • - IMS and VoLTE services is now separate from Data Package Policy to easily support new IMS services in a 4G/LTE architecture
  • - 3GPP29.212r11 - Sd Interface Compliance

du announced a further expansion of scope of services with Polystar, a leading supplier of Network and Customer Analytics, Network Monitoring, and Service Enablement solutions to the telecoms industry.

The expanded agreement extends the existing solutions to encompass du's new IMS and VoLTE service elements. The deployment of a full IMS core and the launch of VoLTE services will introduce additional levels of network challenges. In addition to the new IMS and VoLTE service elements, there is an existing, multi-domain network that includes GSM, GPRS, UMTS and LTE technologies.

du continues to deliver an outstanding customer experience and assure service quality, end-to-end across all domains. The system expansion will deliver new insights for the telco, enabling the experiences of different customers and segments to be more effectively monitored and managed. For example, the detailed reporting will allow du to obtain accurate customer experience information for its most valuable customers, ensuring that SLAs are delivered effectively. Similarly, du can also secure more reliable information regarding the performance of its leading roaming partners. The end-to-end view of service performance can be mapped to each and every subscriber, enabling the most accurate picture of experience and quality to be obtained both in real-time and historically.

Polystar's Service Assurance solution is at the heart of the Big Data analytics enablement platform. The open architecture of the platform, together with the advanced real-time analytics capabilities, enables delivery of rich intelligence via APIs and data feeds to third party systems. Full details of signalling transactions and records are provided to du's Big Data solution in a way that will allow du to build an entirely new Customer Experience Management (CEM) model, enriched with real-time data from Polystar.

"We continue to collaborate with global best practice service providers to ensure that our services and solutions continue to safeguard an outstanding experience for all our valued customers. We are leveraging Polystar's expertise to build our CEM model for mobile customers and to introduce independent benchmarking for our VoLTE and other services," commented Saleem AlBlooshi, executive vice president - Network Development & Operations, du. "We have worked together with Polystar to streamline their solution to suit our requirements and to include new features that are essential for delivering best in breed services to our end users."

Polystar's network and service analytics allows du to provide voice quality reporting. It's at the heart of of du's Service Quality Management program to analyse individual events, perform detailed troubleshooting.

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Digital Magazine

Dec 2016

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