World Cup of Telecom


Last Thursday, the FIFA World Cup of football began in Russia with a 5-0 win for the host nation over Saudi Arabia. The tournament has seen lots of thrills already with powerhouse nations like Germany, Brazil and Spain having some disappointing performances and tiny nations like Iceland punching well above their weight with a 1-1 draw against Argentina with the great Messi.

This week, since AurorA and Amitel specialize in international telecommunications, we are going to look at competition in that sector among nations, World Cup style.

Our next door neighbour, the U.S.A. is undergoing some rapid changes in their telecom playbook. They have always had a fast, attacking style and recent moves in the commercial and regulatory scene indicate that that is not about to change anytime soon. The FCC has repealed Net Neutrality laws, and the Supreme Court has allowed AT&T to purchase Time-Warner despite objections from the Department of Justice. Now Comcast is looking to swoop in and buy Fox. The biggest service providers in the U.S.A. are bulking up with content to compete against Silicon Valley players like Amazon, Netflix, Apple and Google. They can now provide super bundles of connectivity (Internet and Phone) and their own content can be prioritized (zero rated so it doesn’t count against data caps). They are trying to keep all consumers tied to their offerings to avoid being just ‘dumb pipes” .Will we see that battle move into Canada where cord cutters are continuing to drop their telecom bundles ? Is that is what is truly behind Bell/Telus/Rogers “anti-piracy” crusade ?

It also never pays to under-estimate the giants of Silicon Valley. They all have deep, deep pockets and a desire to dominate all the markets they enter. To them telecom is existential, it is what lies between them and their customers which is why they fought strongly for Net Neutrality and continue to do so in Congress and at the State level. Their calling apps like Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Hangouts etc have taken the voice and messaging market from telcos worldwide. And each of them is quietly exploring Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites and other unique systems to bring Internet access to anywhere on the globe; and conveniently bypass AT&T, Verizon, Bell etc totally from the equation.

India is a fascinating market, ever since the huge disruption brought about by Reliance Jio. In the space of one year, Jio has captured over 100 million customers in India. They brought in a modern network, leveraged new tech like 4G, VoLTE and fiber and brought in disruptive market offers that were consumer friendly like free voice calling and cheap data plans. India ranked 155th in the world for data consumption before the entry of Jio into the market; now it is the biggest consumer of data by volume in the world.

These tactics are being copied in other markets. TPG in Australia recently launched with a new state-of-art network and an offer of 1 Gb a day for free for the first 6 months. It is data only, no voice as they tell you to use WhatsApp or Skype etc if you want to make calls. Will we see the launch of such a consumer friendly competitor here in Canada to shake up the complacency of the incumbents ? Someone who’ll play a quick-strike counter attack ?

It promises to be an exciting month-long World Cup tournament featuring the best from around the globe. International Telecommunications also is in a very exciting phase and will continue to be long after this World Cup ends. So stay tuned, keep coming back to this blog (and my social media sites where I post other tidbits ) as we navigate this journey together.

Canadian Telecom Summit – Day 1


What a Day !
A big thank you to Jaime Leverton and Cogeco Peer One for feeding me dinner and a lovely networking event at the end of the first day of the Canadian Telecom Summit.

Viewing the day from an international telecom lens there were no specific panels or keynotes that were directly relevant but there were many highlights;

– Chris Wright, the CTO of RedHat making the case for the importance of Open Source software versus proprietary vendor software

– the always entertaining Ibrahim Gedeon , the CTO fo Telus

– Michael Weening from Calix outlining the ways that smaller service providers can use Amazon and Google to seize control of the “Smart Home” opportunity to better monetize the Network

– Panels on Customer Experience Management, Cyber Security and Network Innovation that all liberally borrowed from the language of agile tech start-ups . Coming from Waterloo, and understanding a little bit of this environment, it was interesting to hear how each of these panels were referencing the Steve Blank lean start-up methodology towards stodgy old telecom. Having a wife that is an executive in UI/UX made it even more entertaining.

– Finally a keynote from Jaime Leverton of Cogeco Peer One on blockchain. Not a sales pitch, just an overview on the technology and how it can change a lot things, for the better. A true example of #TechforGood

So in my discussions with people at the Canadian Telecom Summit I did find one overarching theme and that was that the traditional telcos and service providers are yet again settling for just being a commodity, a dumb pipe.

With all the talk around 5G and the Internet of Things, including a keynote from Rogers at lunch, the prevailing attitude was one of being happy or content with simply providing connectivity. Even though telcos bemoan the cost of the investment to provide the network for 5G and IoT , they cant seem to think beyond providing the commodity service.

Other players will provide the platforms and services that will take the bulk of the revenues that the new 5G networks will birth. Just as Skype, Netflix and WhatsApp and other OTT applications have taken the bulk of the revenues from Web 2.0

It seems that the traditional telcos are content with that model.

I may be wrong, perhaps in their executive suites they would contest that. But that was may takeaway from what I heard yesterday. Looking forward to Day 2

Timo

PS A final takeaway . If you find yourself at a Canadian event, hang out with the folks from Saskatchewan, they are the best !

Canadian Telecom Summit 2018


Monday, June 4 is the start of this year’s Canadian Telecom Summit to be held at the Toronto Congress Centre. This is the 17th Canadian Telecom Summit (CTS). I have been blessed to have attended each of these events, put on by two friends of mine Michael Sone and Mark Goldberg.

CTS was originally formed to replace the CBTA (Canadian Business Telecom Alliance) show that used to be held annually in Toronto. The first CTS coincided with the 10th anniversary of CRTC decision 92-12, which opened up Competition in the Canadian Long Distance industry. My own career in telecom was forged at competitive telecom providers like CNCP Telecommunications and ACC TeleEnterprises and Decision 92-12 was a milestone. Liberalization and deregulation of telecommunications around the world made the telecommunications sector an exciting place to work back in the ‘90s and 2000’s. (PS see my book reviews here for some books that chronicle those adventurous times)

CTS is a chance for the Canadian telecommunications industry to come together; for networking for sure, but also for thought provoking interaction. Over the years we have seen many announcements, both government policy and from industry, some discussions and heated arguments and some entertaining regulatory panel discussions (for us policy wonks).

This year the theme is “Innovation and Disruption in ICT: reinventing and securing our business and personal lives”. There has been much innovation and disruption in telecom throughout my career and the span of AurorA’s 24 years in business. Competition from Silicon Valley players like Google, Apple, Netflix and Microsoft have radically changed the industry. New technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), the introduction of 5G networks and the continued rollout of the Internet of Things (IOT) promise even more innovation and disruption.

This year I will be trying something new by blogging from the conference. My goal is to post a summary each night of some of the more significant talks, discussions and events from the Summit that I feel would be relevant to you, my readers, specifically from an international telecom perspective .

Hopefully, I will see you live at the Summit. If not, then check in here next week for my updates from #CTS18 . If there is something specific you would like me to cover then leave a comment below of reach out to me on Twitter at @TimoVainionpaa.

AurorA Newsletter is Launching !

AurorA and Amitel are pleased to announce that our inaugural newsletter will launch next week.
The newsletter will be sent out twice a month, around the 8th and 23rd to avoid overloading your inbox during month-end or the beginning of the month.

This project has been in the works since the beginning of the year. We have tried to be more diligent on our blog to regularly post weekly with information and tips on topics that are of interest to you. The posts are about international telecommunications, especially from a wholesale or carrier perspective.

Also, on our social media channels like LinkedIn and Facebook we have shared articles and news from other sources that are particularly relevant to sending traffic overseas.

The newsletter will compile four or five of the best posts from the previous two weeks and send them to you in a format you can digest easier when you have the time to do so. On occasion a bonus post may appear that isn’t on our blog or social media, just as a special thank you for subscribing.

The newsletter will be emailed to those who have explicitly subscribed to our list on the MailChimp email automation platform. We have recently adopted MailChimp for our notifications for weekly rate updates and for invoice and CDR being posted to Dropbox. (Sidenote; where were these tools when I first started in business 24 years ago ?)

The sign-up form is on our website, www.amitel.com, on the right hand side footer. It will also appear as a pop-up, once, when you visit our site. Or you can sign up directly at this link here.

Signup form

If you have any comments or questions, we would love to hear them. Also, if there are any topics you would like to see covered, please send them along and we will try to oblige.

Global Local Numbers

Your new Direct-to-Consumer luxury fashion business has taken off. From your home base in Montreal you’ve got the attention of discerning fashionistas in London, Milan , Hong Kong and Tokyo. Now how can you further serve your customers by making it easy for them to reach you when they have questions or concerns that just cant be answered in an email or text ?

That is where our Local Number Service (LNS) comes in.

Your business can look like a local player and gain global access with local numbers accessible from any network (mobile, landline or payphone) in the origin country. Those customers in Milan can make a local call that rings you in Montreal directly to ask about your supply chain or sourcing. LNS is ideal for customer service as overseas callers simply dial a local number and we deliver the call to you.

Local Number Service is easy and cost-effective. It is quick and reliable and can be provisioned with a short lead time.

So the next time your business needs city specific numbers accessible from worldwide locations , call us and let us help you serve the world.

Premium Numbers and Fraud

AurorA has been in the International Telecommunications space since 1994. Route guides for terminating traffic used to be simple; there was a rate per country to terminate a call to a landline telephone and maybe, maybe a second rate to terminate a call to the new cellphones. There were less than 300 lines on the spreadsheet.

Now, there are carriers whose A-to-Z rate sheet can offer thousands of pricing codes; still the landline rate with perhaps some other routes to major cities and a breakout now for each mobile carrier in the country but there are also an increased amount of expensive premium rates that are a potential risk for fraud.

In Canada and the U.S. in the 1990’s there was an explosion in the use of 900 or 976 numbers to offer premium services at a high per minute call rate that would be charged to the caller on their phone bill. Examples included weather reports, psychic hot lines and especially adult (phone sex) chat lines. The high per minute rates could lead to large phone bills very quickly and scammers would use all kinds of tactics to get people to call these numbers as they would get a split of the revenue from the phone company for each call. Consumers and businesses smartened up and blocked 900/976 number and eventually the Internet came and killed that particular market.

Overseas countries still have premium numbers and they live on through various names; Special Services, Non-Geographic Numbers, Universal Numbers, Telematic Services. etc. These numbers are premium in that usually they are at least ten times the rate of normal termination. They can have some legitimate applications; for example non-geographic numbers refers to a remote number, not tied to a physical destination such as if I wanted a Cyprus number to ring to my cellphone when I was elsewhere so my Cyprus customers could reach me.

They can be used for darker purposes though, through a scam called International Revenue Sharing Fraud (IRSF). In IRSF, the carrier in the far end country that owns the number ranges, leverage blocks of numbers they own by applying higher rates and assigning them to resellers outside of the country. Then hackers obtain these numbers, attack PBX’s and IP PBX’s and then machine generate calls. They then share the burst of revenue generated with the carrier in the country that owned these numbers providing a quick source of cash.

So how can you protect yourself ? It comes down to your own dial plan. You want to make sure that you don’t allow access to any premium numbers with such creative names like those listed above. Secondly , when choosing what international carrier to use to terminate your traffic with, beware of those whose own dial plans are riddled with such premium ranges, even if they seem to have low rates otherwise. It may be an arbitrage ambush. If they have many more premium pricing breakouts that do not exist on other carriers rate sheets you should avoid them. It doesn’t take many calls to the premium numbers to swamp any anticipated savings from using their “low” per-minute rates.

Choose to use a quality, reputable carrier for who you trust with your overseas calls.
Don’t be like those people in the photo when your bill comes in.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us.

Also, thanks to Robert Benlolo of Tata whose expertise in this field provided me with guidance.