Quality, Quality, Quality
The new messaging mantra
By Isabelle Paradis
President, HOT TELECOM
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Vodafone is undeniably one of the world’s mobile power houses, with 26 Operating Companies and 450 million mobile customers connected on its global network. Like others in the industry, it is striving to meet its continuously evolving customer expectations, and in this day and age, it all goes back to enabling quality, not only for voice, but also for messaging and connectivity.
I had the chance to discuss Vodafone’s messaging plans with Andrew McGrath, Senior Vice President at Vodafone Carrier Services, as well as how he sees the messaging world evolving. Here are some of his views:
EXCEEDING CUSTOMER EXPECTATION WITH QUALITY AND SIMPLICITY
In your opinion, what is the main trend currently impacting the international telecom market and in messaging more particularly?
This is a huge question, as there are a lot of trends re-shaping the industry at the moment! But if I were to choose two key trends, the first one is the ever increasing expectation of customers to receive easy to use, integrated, reliable, secure and low cost services that make a positive impact to their lives or businesses.
The second trend comes from the supply side, where service providers must use a combination of technology, scale and reach to be able to transport a rapidly increasing volume of data generated by these customer-centric applications around the world. They have to achieve this efficiently, reliably, securely and at low cost with high quality.
These two fundamental trends apply when it comes to messaging more particularly. In A2P (Application to Person) messaging for example, organisations wish to have a reliable and secure message exchange with their customers, at a reasonable price and through a simple commercial arrangement. Consumers similarly have high expectations, and part of this is to receive protection against spam and fraudulent messages.
This is exactly what the Vodafone Messaging Hub (VMH) is delivering to our 450 million consumer and enterprise customers around the world.
QUALITY ISN'T EXPENSIVE, IT'S PRICELESS
Do you think there is a gradual move to requiring more control of quality in international messaging delivery and if so do you think it is mainly for A2P traffic?
We definitely see a move, but it is rapid rather than gradual. Messaging quality in previous years has not been sufficiently robust, but this is increasingly a key requirement for enterprises to communicate efficiently with their customers. For example, if a health service is advising a patient of an appointment, a bank is authenticating a customer transaction, or a logistics company is confirming the delivery of a parcel, they need to rely on messages being delivered, to any device, across the world, rapidly and consistently.
The A2P messaging traffic is growing by at least 5-6% year-on-year, as more and more organisations adopt this solution as a low cost and reliable way to communicate with their customers.
One of the key things that protect the A2P messaging business from being cannibalized by OTT applications, is that enterprise customers need to communicate reliably with a broad range of customers, regardless of the device they use, or the country they are in. They cannot rely on all their customers downloading an application, so the only way they get the ubiquity they need is to communicate with their customers through SMS. So, until one of the OTT players is able to provide a similar level of ubiquity, A2P messages will have its place.
From the quality expectation point of view, I do not see a difference between A2P and P2P (Person to Person). It is very much like a telephone conversation. Some calls will be more important than others, but calls between family members or friends can be as important as those between organisations and consumers. Quality expectations apply across the board.
Do initiatives like Vodafone Messaging Hub signal the end for messaging aggregators?
Aggregators can continue to thrive. But if a business is solely reliant on wholesale of SMS, it is likely to struggle - as messages increasingly migrate to high quality direct routes. Many aggregators are agile businesses and have the ability to adapt. Those that have invested in working with corporate customers to enable their use of A2P SMS have the potential to prosper.
QUALITY IN SIMPLICITY
Vodafone’s Messaging Hub has now been in operation for over 6 months now. Has it delivered on its promises?
For sure the platform has delivered on its promises and is bringing three key benefits: speed of delivery, reliability, and spam protection . For example, a direct route to each operating company means that message delivery rates are higher than alternatives. Speed of message delivery is also optimised. A North American customer reporting that VMH delivery is taking less than half the time of previous routing. In addition, when it comes to blocking spam, for example, we succeeded in blocking 56 million messages in a single day in a single country. A staggering number!
So the platform is definitely a great success and delivers a better quality of experience for customers.
What makes this platform so successful?
Firstly, it is a geographically diverse platform that provides high quality, direct connection to each of the 26 Vodafone Operating Companies around the world. One connection to VMH and a single commercial agreement therefore provides a direct, high quality connection to all Vodafone customers and a rapidly increasing number of others.
Secondly, the same platform provides high quality for both A2P and P2P messages, through its direct termination as well as its firewall function to eliminate spam messages. This technology therefore allows us to offer high quality for all our customers.
What are Vodafone’s product and expansion plans in the next year in the messaging space?
The next phase in the development of our platform, will be to connecting it to third parties and other mobile networks, such as Telefonica and Orange. We are also offering to firewall third parties, enabling them to use the VMH just as if they were Vodafone Operating Companies. The customers we are talking to first about that are our ‘Partner Markets’. These are independent MNOs which have strategic alliances with Vodafone to offer a range of global products and services, extending our reach to 57 more countries.
Wherever those Partner Markets have vulnerabilities in their network and do not have firewall capabilities, we can offer them that functionality at a fraction of the time and cost it would take them to develop it for themselves. This will enable them to generate the dual benefits of increasing revenue/margin (through the firewall and ensuring all messages are paid for) while improving customer experience (through faster and more reliable delivery and protection from spam.
SIMPLE IDEAS LIE WITHIN THE REACH OF COMPLEX MINDS
What do you find the most challenging or exciting at the moment in your role as an industry leader?
What is exciting and challenging is taking an idea and translating it into a successful business which delivers against our customers’ increasing expectations and generates value, in our case for Vodafone. Sometimes it is obvious that something is required or needs to be done and looks simple.
In our case, with the messaging platform, we identified a need from our customers and were able to translate this into a scalable solution with the Vodafone Messaging Hub and implement it across our footprint. As you can imagine, that involves its share of challenges, excitement and reward!
About the Author:
Isabelle Paradis, President of HOT TELECOM is an international telecoms expert, with over 20 years working experience in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa.
HOT TELECOM has been serving global operators, governments, equipment vendors and telecom investors for over 13 years, providing leading edge market research and consulting services to industry leaders around the globe.
For more information on our HOT INTERVIEWS program, please contact Isabelle Paradis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or at +1 514 270 1636