SPONSORED Q&A: Hassan Iftikhar, VP wholesale product management, CSG International

SPONSORED Q&A: Hassan Iftikhar, VP wholesale product management, CSG International

Hassan Iftikhar, VP Wholesale Product Management at CSG International talks to Capacity about how the wholesale industry has evolved.

What is so different today about the wholesale telecoms market from say 5 years ago?

While Wholesale may still seem focussed solely on routes, rates and reliability, it really isn’t the case anymore — or shouldn’t be. Wholesale has changed. With the rapid advancements in technology, most wholesale carriers are struggling with higher risk and less reward.

The rollout of LTE has had a huge impact on the types of services telcos can deliver. Meeting the demands of all-IP mobile networks puts new demands on carrier systems. Efficient settlement, quality assurance and traffic routing are more critical than ever to optimise and fully monetise today’s mobile broadband. These services require different parameters and treatment. For example, if you’re offering HD voice, you have to ensure that it’s routed consistently across networks that can deliver that level of quality from origination to termination. Your choice of partner can no longer just focus on the commercial aspects — the rate, the traffic volume — but also has to take into consideration the technical aspects — what kind of networks will this route traverse and what will be the final result in terms of quality. Combining the commercial aspects with the technical parameters will yield optimal results.

Are carriers’ wholesale operations lagging behind?

When a new technology comes along, the focus of our industry is first on the network and then on retail customers. The wholesale side always seems to be at the back of the queue. Many operators are taking a hard look at their wholesale service approach and functionality. This is critical since settlement usually represents an operator’s single largest cost and second largest source of revenue, so problems or inaccuracies can wipe millions from a company’s bottom line.

What should be at the top of the operator’s checklist? 

First, a carrier needs to verify whether their existing systems can manage quality. You have to understand that quality of experience will vary, but that it can be guaranteed across an all-IP/LTE network. This works in the operator’s favor as it can be part of the customer proposition. You have to be able to monitor and assure the quality—both within your network and across other networks — and settle with network and content partners accordingly. Quality becomes a gating factor used when selecting partners. 

Next you have to determine if your existing wholesale system will scale. Are key functions sufficiently automated? And this is really important, because automation, when employed correctly, enables an operator to take advantage of dynamic changes in networks. 

And, lastly does your system minimise risk? Not all partners are created equal, and some may not be as credit-proven as others. Operators need to ensure that dispute and credit management features are built in to minimise risk and assure revenue.

Do you see new opportunities for wholesale telecoms?

Most trading organisations are working more and more actively with swap deals and informal commitments. To do this efficiently it has to be easy to construct and enter new deals in the system, with the system providing guidance on how to optimise those deals. From a routing perspective, the system should work out the net cost and route accordingly. This requires tight integration of all the components: Trading and Routing, Billing and Settlement, and Quality Monitoring. Intelligent routing enables the selection of the optimal route to maximise margin and take advantage of A-number or origin-based pricing opportunities. It’s these kinds of capabilities that will enable operators and carriers to remain competitive.

How is CSG helping telecoms adapt to this new wholesale model?

CSG’s market-leading position and reputation in wholesale settlement and billing is well-earned. Our expertise comes from serving over 300 of the world’s leading operators, in 120 countries. More than 6 billion transactions a day are processed by our wholesale solutions on behalf of our customers. This provides us with a unique understanding of the interconnect market. 

CSG designed our wholesale BSS solutions to provide the comprehensive functionality needed by future-looking providers to better manage their operations. This includes automating the exchange and upload of data with partners, taking advantage of dynamic pricing, monitoring traffic and content passing in and out of the network, accurately applying mutually agreed charges and settling quickly. Our systems have the power to handle very high volumes of data in close-to-real-time, and manage a broader range of volatile partner relationships. In summary, our systems have the flexibility needed to adapt quickly to support new revenue opportunities and settlement models.