RAG London Online 2020: Day 2

The sponsors of RAG London 2020
Thanks to the sponsors of RAG London Online 2020 for the free event

Today was the second and final day of the Risk and Assurance Group (RAG) London conference. Due to the ongoing global pandemic it was turned into a virtual online conference. The sessions began at 7:30 AM London time (2:30 AM in Waterloo) but I listened to the whole event from start to finish for the second day in a row.

Today there was a superb real-life session on assuring network assets from Optus, one on revenue protection and maximization for pay-TV providers, Rating Reconciliation, RAG Online Learning Courses and Risk Management in Other Industries (retail, utilities, financial services and charities). The bulk of the remaining sessions, though, were related to fraud management in various forms. These were the meat, the substance I was craving when I decided to attend the conference.

A lot of modern voice calls are now placed using the SIP protocol ; IP, 4G LTE, 5G, OTT apps and all modern PBX all rely on SIP. SIP calls are a combination of two elements, a signalling stream and an RTP stream. As part of the signalling, a log-in and password accompany every call. Hackers have latched on to this to hijack SIP calls and steal those credentials. This is now the main vector for PBX hacking to do IRSF. The TL/DR is if you are using SIP (and we all do) then no one is 100% safe and we need to be very vigilant.

There were two panels discussing various aspects of fraud management . One was about integrating Test Calls into an assurance strategy to find issues that might go unnoticed if we just focus on CDR reconciliation. The other panel looked at the rise in SIM swap fraud during the pandemic , OTT bypass fraud (or OTT hijack might be a better description) via Viber, Off-net bypass, Refile and SIM box detection.

Then there was a session on IRSF (International Simple Resale Fraud); Wangiri (one ring) is one form of it, hijacked PBX’s are another and is the one I see more commonly with my customers. Kenneth Mouton outlined three tactics to provide protections; i) setting traffic limits ii) Databases (of numbers to block) iii) Analytics (CDR vs Signalling, AI/ML vs rule based) . He also ran through five myths about IRSF and proceeded to debunk them

  • – “Subscriber pays” is a myth
  • – “You can fix problem 1” is a myth
  • – “IRSF is only about Premium Numbers” is a myth
  • – “IRSF/Wangiri is high volume in a short period” is a myth
  • – “RAFM Managers know IRSF” is a myth

There is enough substance here (and my notes are copious) that I plan on writing a few more detailed blog posts in the near future. For sure at least one just on SIP and another just on IRSF.

Those are just some of the over-arching themes from over ten hours of superb content. If you missed it and are interested , some of the videos will be posted on the RAG website here.

I would like to thank the hosts Eric Priezkalns, Rachel Goodin and Tony Sani for putting on a great virtual conference. I would like to thank all of the speakers and all of the sponsors. And I would like to thank RAG, for bringing together over 2,000 people in telecom revenue, risk and business assurance from around the world (93 countries !) in a free to attend event.

I so look forward to the next RAG event, hopefully it will be a live one. The content of the virtual event was superb but I miss the networking part of the conference and the chance to chat face-to-face with like minded professionals. Here is hoping we can meet in person again soon.

RAG London Online: May 13-14, 2020

The compères Eric, Rachel and Tony

Today was the first day of the Risk and Assurance Group (RAG) London conference. Due to the ongoing global pandemic it was turned into a virtual online conference. The sessions began at 7:30 AM London time (2:30 AM in Waterloo, eek !) but I listened to the whole event from start to finish.

The conference covered revenue assurance, fraud management, cybersecurity, billing accuracy, enterprise risk management, margin optimization, cost management and other kinds of business assurance.

Revenue Assurance is a broad topic that can cover many issues in a telecom business. Many of the presentations highlighted the growth and evolution of revenue assurance from a simple audit type function to informal analytics to entire ecosystem tracking. RA professionals can not only increase the top line by preventing revenue leakage but also improve bottom line profits and cash flows, all without dampening demand. In fact
it can be said that business assurance is the only function that assures profit as it has the data to measure costs on a customer basis.

The near future for RA would be to embrace emerging technology such as Machine Learning and other for automating more and more processes. The skills of RA professionals in telecom will also find their way into other industries such as Finance, Utilities , Consumer and Tech.

There were discussions on the blockchain for telecom as well as specifically for battling Wangiri one-ring fraud. Other fraud management schemes such as STIR/SHAKEN, A&B # Handshake, and Seismic were discussed.

One of my favourite lines I heard today, reminded me of my sales philosophy with my own customers. “Trust is the biggest thing; it is about the relationship, it is not a transaction”. It was said in a discussion of RA working with internal partners such as network but it really did remind me of why I love my business and serving my customers.

Those are just some of the over-arching themes from over ten hours of superb content. If you missed it and are interested , some of the videos will be posted on the RAG website here.

Better yet, get yourself out of bed at 2:30 AM tomorrow and catch Day 2 of the conference live. That way you can participate in the Q & A sessions ! I am looking forward to it myself.

RAG – Risk and Assurance Group

You may have noticed a new logo on our home page and footer. AurorA, more specifically Timo, is a member of RAG, the Risk and Assurance Group.

I joined RAG back in June, 2019 after attending their conference in Toronto held at Telus Harbour. I wrote about that experience here.

RAG can be described as an association for telco professionals involved in all aspects of Revenue Assurance; fraud management, enterprise risk management, law enforcement liaison, credit risk, market assurance, capex analysis and security. Actually, association sounds too stuffy, a club is a better description. A club of like minded telecom fraud and risk managers wanting to get better and improve.

What makes it a club is the spirit of openness. The way to solve many of the issues in fraud and risk in the telecom industry is to work together. At RAG, people are encouraged to be open, to ask questions, provide answers and share, to share experiences and information and practices.

I have met many great people in the industry from all over the world through RAG. They have been kind enough to share their knowledge openly with me. You can find some of this online at the RAG website , where you will also find episodes of RAGTV and even online training courses under RAG learning. The conferences, such as the one I attended in Toronto, have been held around the world; London, Nairobi, Bahrain, Bonn, Johannesburg, Delhi and more. They are a great way to meet people face-to-face, network and interact directly.

With the global COVID-19 pandemic raging, the next scheduled conference on May 13-14, 2020 will be held online. Although the start times are pretty early for the Eastern Time Zone (2:30 AM EEEK) I still plan on getting up and watching some of the sessions live.

So know you know why many of my social media posts on Twitter and LinkedIn feature RAG. I am proud to be a member, and happy that they agreed to let me display the logo on my website. Membership in RAG really helps me stay on top of what is happening in the world of fraud and risk management so I can better serve you, my customers. Together, we can all help the telecom industry mitigate the hackers, cheats and criminals out there.

2020 Redux

Photo Credit ; Carmi Levy, @carmilevy more at http://writteninc.blogspot.com/

Back in early January, I wrote a post on my 2020 vision where I focused on a few topics I thought would be of importance in the New Year. My goal was to avoid the dreaded Top 10 list of predictions by providing more substance.

Back then we were all quite innocent and unprepared to imagine a global pandemic and what our collective human response to it would do to our lives. So I thought I would revisit the trends I identified to see how well they held up over four short months. Then try to look forward to what the rest of this year might bring, especially as we begin to restart the economy as we inevitably come out of self-isolation and lockdowns.

Telecom Fraud
Well, did I ever nail THAT one on the head. As we have been forced to self-isolate and work from home, the hackers, cheats and swindlers have been out in full force. Traffic on telecom networks both here in Canada and globally have skyrocketed but there has also been more and more attacks on telecoms. Traditional fraud schemes such as Wangiri fraud and the related International Revenue Share Fraud (IRSF) are up dramatically. This has been a major point of emphasis for AurorA since fraud mitigation is a key part of the added value of providing premium voice termination. The AI based fraud tools that we use have saved tens of thousands of dollars of catastrophic losses for wholesale customers and their retail and commercial customers. This trend shows no sign of abating and will continue throughout the rest of the year.

The Decline of Voice
I missed this one badly. My basic premise, supported by the traffic numbers, was that voice traffic was in a long term secular decline. Who would have forecast that during a pandemic, the killer application would turn out to be voice ? During their isolation, people wanted to reach out and talk to friends, family and loved ones. Voice traffic has skyrocketed, especially to international destinations.

Given that apps such as WhatsApp and Skype are available for free calls, it is interesting that people still rely on the ubiquitous telephone and voice calling. Everyone has a phone, and calling “just works” for everyone. My own feeling is that people prefer the high quality connection that comes from a premium quality phone call. Text (and email) doesnt cut it; it is too cold and lacks nuance.

Recession is coming
Wish I didnt get this right. Recession has come on a whole lot faster than anyone anticipated. The pandemic hit to our economy is huge, the unemployment levels are unprecedented in their speed and depth. The governments have had to spend huge sums to provide liquidity and financially prop up people, families and businesses while we dealt with the pandemic. This recession will be deep, and the length of it is unknown. There is far to much complexity to try and predict how and when we will come out of this recession.

Moving Forward
So, whats next ? What should we be doing as telecom service providers over the next few months when the lockdowns slowly get lifted. How can we prepare for what’s next ? Some of us will be looking simply to survive, others to maintain and still some will be better positioned to grow. I think three potential things to consider are a) controlling costs b) solidifying existing revenues c) looking to add top-line revenue.

For cost control now is the time to tighten the screws on your organization from top to bottom. Examine all costs, especially all S,G & A line items to see where savings can be had. Billing systems, payment services, any form of overhead costs should all be examined and cost savings sought wherever possible. Now is the time to tackle those cost savings projects that we were too busy for before and make productive use of the work from home time.

Maintaining revenues such as voice traffic can be key. Consumers and businesses have rediscovered calling. Promote that service, especially the high quality of your voice connections. Using a premium supplier that protects you from exposure fraud also protects you and your customers from unforseen costs. Be prepared to cement that goodwill that your customers feel towards you right now.

Finally, if you are lucky enough to have been prudent and maintained strong cash liquidity, times of recession can often be times of the best top-line growth. During hard times, business customers are looking to cut costs, and will be more receptive to moving away from their current providers to be able to save money. This is when they will look to competitive suppliers. So have your marketing and especially your front line sales staff prepared for this opportunity. You can attract customers with new offerings too; to increase the value of your bundle how about internet, home phone and asset tracking ?

We will get through this period, we are resilient and we are strong, especially together. As always, Amitel and AurorA are here to help. Reach out to me to have deeper discussions on the above, or any other pain points you may be experiencing. Reach out to me just to talk ! Looking forward to growing together with you in 2020 as we navigate through these unusual and uncertain times.

Your Friend in Telecom

Timo

Thanks to Carmi Levy, @carmilevy for use of his superb photograph. Follow his work at http://writteninc.blogspot.com/

Calling Line ID

Would you answer the call on the left ?

A premium, high quality international carrier endeavours to always pass true calling line ID. The importance of this cannot be understated in this era of increased telecom fraud. Voice calls have always attracted hackers, cheats, hoaxers and swindlers. Telephony frauds can range from the use of grey routes and CLID manipulation to Wangiri (one ring) and PBX hacking to stimulate International Revenue Share Fraud (IRSF). True CLID helps mitigate telecom fraud.

Why, as a responsible service provider, should you ensure that you always pass true CLID ? Why not give in to the siren song of cheaper, lower cost grey routes? In the end, choosing the Least Cost Route that doesn’t pass true CLID will cost you more and provide lower value.

1) The top line revenue will suffer. If the true CLID is not passed through to the far end customer being called, a large percentage of the calls will not be answered. There is NO revenue generated by unanswered calls ! Think about it, do you personally answer calls from a number you don’t know ? Or when “Unknown” shows up from a blank CLID ? Of course you don’t. Your customers and their friends and family are no different.

2) Grey routes will often spoof the CLID to get around regulatory restrictions. Here India is a classic example. The regulator, TRAI, has set strict guidelines for the rates charged for incoming international calls. Many schemes from fraudsters have set up leaky PBX’s or SIM box fraud schemes in India connected to the internet to take inbound calls from overseas and pass them into the Indian market, changing the CLID to a local Indian number to bypass the true rates. You think you are benefitting from a cheap rate, but the quality is usually sub-standard and many of the calls go unanswered, or then abandoned for poor quality when it is answered.

3) Origin based surcharges are triggered by blank CLID. I wrote about Origin Based Surcharges here, but there are also cases where calls from Canada are not subject to these charges. For example, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Turkey-Turkcell Mobile recently introduced origin based surcharges for calls from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco (not Canada or the USA). If the CLID is blank though, they levy a massive surcharge ! More and more countries, including ones from outside of Europe are levying such origin based surcharges. Not having proper CLID leaves you vulnerable to paying far more than you anticipated.

4) Further to the above, carriers are now doing this; “Also, if a call is sent with what appears to be a valid A-number but is later shown by the terminating network to be a manipulated or modified A-number, we reserve the right to recalculate the billing as per the charges applied by terminating supplier for those calls within 90 days of invoice date of the relevant traffic month.” That means that carriers and countries are actively looking for spoofed CLID and will levy the maximum surcharges accordingly. (ie a spoofed CLID equates to a missing one)

5) The USA has moved to Caller ID authentication and verification using the STIR/SHAKEN protocol. Canada is following suit as the CRTC has asked telecommunications service providers to implement, by September 2020, the STIR/SHAKEN framework which is a caller ID authentication and verification measure. It aims to certify the extent to which a given caller’s identity can be trusted. This will empower Canadians to determine which calls are authenticated, thus reducing the frequency and impact of caller ID spoofing on consumers. As a service provider you will need to ensure valid, trusted CLID for all calls within Canada and the USA by September 2020.

The evidence is overwhelming . Ensure that you send true CLID each and every call. Choose a carrier for your international traffic termination that passes true CLID. Avoid cheap, poor quality grey routes ; the new LCR stands for Least Corrupt Routing !

Origin Based Pricing

Wholesale telecom used to be simple. There was one rate per minute to call a country overseas from Canada. Then deregulation and liberalization came in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s and competition came to international telecom. We saw rates broken out for large cities within countries; then cellular came and we had breakouts for mobile phones, then for individual mobile carriers. The size of wholesale rate tables exploded.

Prices dropped dramatically over the years to where eventually calls to industrialized nations in North America, Europe and Asia were under a penny a minute for wholesale costs for landline AND for mobiles.

The one constant was that a country charged a rate for termination regardless of where the traffic came from. They didn’t discriminate. Then in late 2015 we started to see something new, coming out of France initially ; origin based pricing. Calls to France had different prices depending on where the call was coming from. For example a call to a mobile number in Paris might cost $0.03 per minute if called from Berlin, but cost $0.30 per minute if called from Hong Kong. Why ?

Well, telephony revenues had steadily declined for years all over the globe. New OTT players like Skype were taking huge market share. Then the EU began to mandate that roaming charges for calls within the EU be reduced to eventually zero (so that you could Roam Like Home all across the EU)
So the carriers were desperate for revenue, and they chose to find it from customers from outside of the EU.

The EU Commission initially fought Arcep (French regulator) over origin based pricing as the Commission sets European termination rates, but found that for calls originating outside of the EU it had no jurisdiction. The game was now on. Other European countries quickly followed suit. Austria , Belgium, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland were among the countries that introduced origin based pricing. Origin is determined by the caller ID of the calling party so the surcharge applies if it is outside the EU or if the caller ID is missing or blank.

Initially, these surcharges were mandated by the country regulators. To avoid trade disputes with countries that they had free trade agreements with, the surcharges were not charged for origination from Canada or the USA. Blank CLID still drew a hefty surcharge.

In January 2019 we saw a new phenomenon originating in Malta. It seems that all of the Maltese mobile carriers simultaneously saw the need to introduce surcharges for calls from outside of the EU. No longer was there an exemption for Canada or the USA. This has now been copied by other countries like Belgium and more recently Germany.

My complaints to the Canadian Trade Commissioners office generated this response

As the surcharge was a decision by the national operators in Malta, according to the TATA communication, and not a requirement of the telecommunications authority, there are no implications for the CETA. Our CETA commitments on telecommunications (like all services) apply specifically to government measures and do not affect the decisions of commercial service providers. So, nothing in the CETA would prevent a telecommunications service provider from raising its rates (or add a “surcharge”), including in a manner that discriminates on the basis of the origin of the call. If the additional surcharge had been a mandated requirement by the regulatory body, this would be considered a measure under the CETA and likely a violation of national treatment/most-favoured nation. But this does not seem to be the case here.

So where do we go from here ? Well, what we are seeing is that there is increased pressure on retail rates, driving customers to OTT providers such as WhatsApp and Skype. Carriers trying to circumvent the surcharges are seeking out grey route suppliers instead of premium quality suppliers like AurorA that will manipulate the CLI and route traffic through a third country like Ireland. The quality of these routes are often poor, and the manipulated CLI means the far end doesn’t know who is calling and reduces the ASR considerably (especially if the called party is a senior). Do you answer calls from a CLID you don’t recognize ?

Either way you are either losing revenue and customers to the OTT or providing poor service and then losing revenue and customers. That is not acceptable.

AurorA’s answer is to continue to fight these surcharges. The oligopoly won’t do it as they are perfectly happy to just add their 50% margin to these surcharges and reap the revenue bonus. AurorA will continue to show the Canadian Trade Commissioners and the staff at the ISED ministry that the EU telecom companies are violating MFN (most favoured nation) principles under the WTO, the CETA and FIPA (Foreign Investment Protection Acts).

Perhaps I am tilting at windmills; I think it is very important though. Calls that terminate in European countries make up nearly 20% of the world market. It is important for you, my wholesale customers, that we can return to the days where calls to the industrialized nations of the world were under a penny a minute , for landlines and for mobiles.

Signal to Noise

Living in a tech town like Waterloo I find there is a cultural bias towards what is new, what is modern versus things and ideas that may be old, timeless. There is a relentless pressure to keep on top of things, to refresh Twitter and seek out the novel and the exciting. Yet I find there is far more value to what is classic, what is enduring, the things and ideas that have stood the test of time.

This is a topic that has come up in my readings lately and from people such as Ryan Holiday, Tim Ferris, Nassim Nicholas Taleb and others. Old books and old principles always have the answers.

Often the things that are new seem important and vital but they end up proving to be irrelevant . What is the half life of information of something posted yesterday on social media ? That article on Bernie Sanders or Andrew Yang is out of date very quickly. A classic book however such as the “Meditations” of Marcus Aurelius has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to provide relevant advice to readers hundreds of years from now.

As Ryan Holiday writes in the Daily Stoic;
Of course, one should always avail themselves of the latest research and the newest books. The problem is that for far too many people this comes at the expense of availing themselves of wisdom from the wisest minds who ever lived. “I don’t have time to read books,” says the person who reads dozens of breaking news articles each week. “I don’t have time to read,” they say as they refresh their Twitter feed for the latest inane update. “I don’t have time to read fiction—that’s entertainment,” they say as they watch another panel of arguing talking heads on CNN, as if that’s actually giving them real information they will use.

The modern cellphone addiction leads to not only poor posture and kyphosis but also to a cortisol increase and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). With discipline, and studying the things and ideas that have endured you can strive to get to the bottom of things; finding truth rather than trivia.

This can be applied throughout your life, not just what you watch and read. I am a pragmatic engineer and conservative by nature. I identified in an earlier post that what seems like an exciting new idea, SD-WAN, is really just another swing in the cycle of private versus public networking. My tastes run to the classic and enduring like a good steak dinner or a live symphony performance of Beethoven’s 9th.

So take some time today to examine your life and your habits. Find where you can read and learn from the classics, from the wisdom that has stood the test of time. Try to ignore the siren call of the smartphone and social media; that is just noise. Filter it out and search for the truth, the signal hidden behind the noise.

Sat Firm OneWeb Files for Bankruptcy

Relax, this is not the Corona Virus – Rather it is OneWeb’s satellite constellation

OneWeb filed for bankruptcy in New York on March 27. OneWeb is one of the biggest names in the Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite business, planning to provide high speed internet to the world by 2021. The news came just days after they successfully launched another 34 satellites into their constellation, bringing the total number up to 74. Now, the future of the constellation is uncertain.


In its news release, OneWeb said it intends to use the bankruptcy proceedings to pursue a sale in order to maximize the value of the company. The company said that it had recently been engaged in “advanced negotiations” to fund the company through the deployment and commercial launch of its constellation, but these negotiations fell through because of the financial and market impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The main investors are Softbank Group with 37.41 % equity, followed by Qualcomm with 15.93 %. Other investors include Grupo Salinas and the Government of Rwanda. Softbank is also the major creditor to OneWeb so it has access to all the assets as the senior lender. Perhaps after Chapter 11 OneWeb may be gone but a new “SoftbankWeb” may emerge. Or potential buyers like Amazon or Facebook could emerge. Aside from the satellites and earth stations, OneWeb owns the right to valuable spectrum which could speed up competitors plans. Space Norway and Telesat have LEO plans and thus may be interested buyers.


In the LEO space OneWeb was competing with Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink venture and Jeff Bezos’s Project Kuiper. A previous LEO competitor LEOSat failed in Nov, 2019. Does the bankruptcy of OneWeb mean that these LEO constellation dreams are also doomed ? Billionaires like Musk and Bezos have a lot of money and resources but they still need to raise financing. This combined with the pressure of the COVID19 pandemic on markets could dry up VC and debt financing, especially for something as speculative as LEO constellations. This may be the death knell for all these LEO plans.


I remember when earlier global LEO dreams also failed like Teledesic , Celestri and Globalstar. OneWeb, and the constellations like it, are built similar to a model called Skybridge proposed around the same time as the Iridium constellation was launched over twenty years ago (see my book review here). The idea is to be able to connect the 3.5 billion of people on Earth that aren’t currently online. LEO still have not solved the issue of making low-cost ground terminals that could work in harsh environments like the Arctic and rain-forest jungles with low power requirements that can track moving satellites. IT is doubtful that there is enough revenue in those business models to support the projects. Targeted High throughput GEO satellites can target high population density areas that can provide revenue for satellite Internet much cheaper than LEO’s and use existing relatively inexpensive ground terminal equipment. Serving remote locations has tough economics, even for satellites.


Already there were concerns about the volumes of proposed satellites and their potential for collisions and increases in space debris. Without strict regulatory oversight (and who would be responsible for this in space ?) and the non-zero chance of failures and malfunctions, we could see a runaway feedback loop creating tons of space debris, called the Kessler syndrome. These concerns and liabilities have still not been fully addressed for the large volume LEO constellations.

OneWeb satellite


What does this mean for the Canadian market, specifically broadband service in remote ares and the Arctic ?


OneWeb had been planning to roll out Arctic service first, later this year. They had Canadian spectrum licenses from ISED. Telesat hasn’t even begun construction of their proposed satellites yet, although they have received approval of their spectrum and have the support of the Federal government ($85M from the Strategic Innovation Fund). SpaceX has launched 300 Starlink satellites and is expected to launch another 600 this year. They claim to need 800 satellites in orbit to be able to begin offering broadband Internet. It is unknown whether SpaceX has licensed spectrum from ISED to offer service in Canada. Starlink’s mission is also different from OneWeb one and they may be looking at serving the USA first and concentrating on revenue from there. So nothing imminent.


It is a market segment that I will keep a close eye on. Sadly, I don’t think that LEO satellite provision of broadband Internet to the Arctic and remote Canadian regions is going to happen anytime soon demonstrated by this recent bankruptcy. Fingers crossed that I am wrong.

Telecom Fraud in the time of Covid19

Photo Credit ; Carmi Levy, @carmilevy more at http://writteninc.blogspot.com/

You are all well aware of the unusual times we are living through. Our national resolve is strong and it is impressive and gratifying to see people all over our land pulling together and doing what is necessary for us to manage through this crisis. Telecom service providers are no exception and our networks have proved to be reliable and robust enough to meet the challenges.

Self isolation has led to a boom in international telephone traffic as people check in on their family, friends and loved ones, especially ones who are overseas as the virus is a global pandemic.

These times have also led to a dramatic increase in telecom fraud of all kinds. Yes, spoofing and fake emails and phishing online is exploding, but so also is wangiri fraud, PBX hacking and International Simple Resale Fraud.

Take extra precautions to guard your voice networks for fraud, as the hackers of the world like to operate when they think network supervision may be low such as now when people are working remotely, and otherwise occupied with providing service. At AurorA, we will remain vigilant on your behalf as well.

Stay safe. We will get through this together.

Cellphone Competition Coming ?

Left is MNO Rogers – right is the MVNO Ting – from Twitter user YOZZO

Last week the CRTC finished up two weeks of hearings as a Review of Mobile Wireless Services. The subject of the 9 days of hearings were whether to mandate (ie force) the current mobile network operators (ie Bell/Telus/Rogers, Big 3, Goliaths) to provide wholesale MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) access to their networks to smaller carriers (ie Davids). In short to open the market up to competition.

There were many parties giving evidence and opinions. The Big 3 are very against being forced to sell access to their networks. Very against. They cite that the market is already competitive, that mandating MVNO’s would curtail their ability to spend on network expansion (both to rural/remote areas and upgrading to 5G). And they point to a submission from the Competition Bureau that pro-MVNO regulation would harm smaller facilities based competitors like Videotron, Shaw, Eastlink and Xplornet. Telus CEO Darren Entwistle even threatened to cut $1 billion in network investment, 5,000 jobs and philanthropic giving if CRTC dared to mandate MVNOs.

Telus threatens to euthanize animals if CRTC approves mobile virtual network operators – from The Beaverton

Is the Canadian mobile market really competitive ? The reason this procedure was even going on was due to the outcry from Canadians about their cellphones! It seems self evident that Canadians view the current situation as unfair and that the Big 3 are acting as an oligopoly. They hate their current providers (see here) This came up more than once in various submissions, including co-ordinated rate plans (one moves they all move), the smoke-screen of flanker brands to confuse the market etc.

There were other parties like TekSavvy, Distributel, Tucows, CNOC, Ice Wireless (Iristel) and others arguing in favour of MVNO’s. They argued that as Full MVNO’s they would not own spectrum or operate their own radio access network, but purchase that from the Big 3 . Except for the operation of such a radio access network, they would be responsible for all other aspects of their operations such as sales, marketing, billing and the operation of a core network. From there they could increase competition in the marketplace to provide more services to Canadian consumers and businesses.

Twitter commentary on competition from MVNOs being more than “resale” or a free ride

We won’t know the outcome from these hearings for a while, maybe not until 2021. I am watching this process carefully; not because AurorA plans to become an MVNO. Almost my entire 35 year career has been on the competitive side of the industry, competing against the various incarnations of the Big 3. And they are formidable competitors indeed who do not cede an inch of any markets that they consider as theirs. My rooting interest naturally falls to the underdogs, the Davids competing against Goliaths.

If MVNO’s are mandated though, it could also open up a raft of new mobile competitors . Those competitors would need premium quality termination for their overseas calls. Mobile calls originate on cellphones and already undergo compression just to reach the core; from there you want to ensure premium quality so that the caller gets through perfectly. An LCR here makes zero sense; if the caller wanted a cheap call they would use a free app on their phone like Skype or WhatsApp. If they use the phone it has to be high quality. And I know just who has the best quality international voice termination !