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Cloud numbers promise rain of new revenue streams

Steve Parrott.jpg
Steve Parrott

Last year, communications technology provider TOMIA launched its Cloud Numbers service, aimed at helping carriers and operators monetise their traditional offerings in an app-centric world. Steven Parrott, head of interconnect product and strategy, explains the concept and how this solution helps MNOs take control.

How does the Cloud Numbers service fit into TOMIA’s portfolio?

The fundamental challenge for an operator is that they’re a supplier of devices, provide networks and have lots of subscribers, but it’s been difficult for them to move into that app-enablement side. Cloud Numbers seeks to overcome these issues by allowing these services to be monetised by operators.

Our core customers within TOMIA are carriers and mobile network operators, and we provide a variety of services to them across our various product lines. These include application-to-person [A2P] messaging, voice routing, voice-over-LTE [VoLTE] support, 5G and IoT roaming, as well as wholesale billing and charging services.

With our Cloud Numbers service, we’ve extended the traditional use case of managing voice and messaging networks by enabling mobile applications to connect directly into this telecoms ecosystem.

What are cloud numbers used for?

The classic use case is the mobile app “click-to-call”, such as a button in an app for calling your bank or connecting an Uber user with the driver during pick-up. As a customer, if you click to call, you know you’re going to be connected to the driver regardless of where you are, and you don’t need to worry about the complexities that happen behind the scenes to enable that to happen.

Operators had, for a long time, been suppliers to other participants in the market for these services, such as CPaaS [communications-platform-as-a-service] or aggregator companies. What was therefore becoming apparent is that MNOs and others were supplying the capability to do this, but weren’t participating in the ecosystem itself, which is an exponentially growing space.

In fact, many were also not able to deliver on what their own enterprise customers were asking for. If they sell to a bank – network and security services, capacity, call centre services, internet access and VPNs – for instance, the customer would often go somewhere else to enable the mobile app side connecting to that call centre. With the challenge of managing this business as it grows, it had come to an inflection point where people were struggling with that storyline.

Cloud Numbers enable operators to participate in this ecosystem themselves without relying just on aggregators for go-to-market. They also meet the needs of enterprises seeking greater transparency and cost control.

What are the specifics of how Cloud Numbers provides a better experience for operators?

The service is built on our iXTools platform, which acts as a bridge for service providers into the mobile app world. It includes APIs, network inventory management, order management, trading, call routing and provisioning, analytics and billing. Operators can sell their own numbers and batches they have acquired to third-party operators and application companies.

All this enables operators to monetise their number inventory and generate revenues beyond traditional voice and messaging usage. TOMIA is providing the software and solutions that enable this process to happen, but we’re not an active participant in the relationship between the MNO and the subscriber, or the mobile app and the enterprise.

What has the demand and feedback been like for the service so far?

Some large international MNO groups have shown tremendous interest. We are already seeing soft launches and actively selling these capabilities.

We’re very confident we’ve hit on a market need that provides significant value to the operator community. The number-one thing is that it’s practical. This is an ecosystem that’s built off very manual, complex and inefficient human steps, so building that efficiency into the process is a critical function.

How important is this type of service in the context of today’s expanding digital world?

In many ways, this is a key enabler for those needs. The movement to 5G will be about more than faster 4G. It will be built upon new use cases and enterprise-centric offerings. To do this successfully, you still need to be able to communicate, and the question is how you enable that to happen properly, at scale and leveraging the massive investments and assets that are already in place.

Software and solutions like ours meet complex business needs, providing the software to simplify them. No MNO wants to be a dumb pipe, so they have to take action to avoid that. If you want to participate in the value proposition, then you need to tackle the practical questions of how people want to communicate with each other.