The dominant themes at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC19) in Barcelona were definitely 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and Edge computing. And, as is usual with new technology, there comes an element of risk with all of them.
There is nothing unusual about this, it seems to come with every new generation of technology, but in the case of 5G with the billions of connected devices predicted, the elements of risk are multiplied dramatically.
Edge computing works hand-in-hand with 5G as its function is to push applications, data and computing power (including services) away from centralized points to locations closer to the user. Because Edge computing does not need contact with any centralized cloud it does not mean that risks are reduced for network operators because it may still interact with one. As soon as the Edge devices do communicate with a centralized cloud over a network the risk factors come into play, regardless of the type or function of the Edge service.
It is understandable that telecoms operators need to prioritize the rollout of network elements and services, plus supporting BSS and OSS infrastructure, but they simply must integrate risk management at a very early stage.
We have already seen how existing revenue management departments have been utilized to manage risk in digital transformation projects, monitoring performance and output before and after stages are implemented. Savvy operators are also working much more closely with their vendor suppliers in partnership arrangements designed to minimize internal costs and maximize effective use of tools they have already acquired.
Many vendors have developed or are developing cloud-based applications that not only supplement existing installations but also provide a low-risk, lower cost platform that can be used to monitor new 5G technologies, not only for leakage and fraud but also for unforeseen technology failures.
However, skill sets of existing revenue assurance and fraud specialists are sometimes overlooked and quite often not included in an overall risk mitigation strategy usually targeting equipment malfunctions and the like rather than the disruption to business, and the subsequent effect on the customer experience.
In the case of artificial intelligence, telecoms operators are focusing heavily on customer experience and not on managing potential risk. Suppliers are also investing heavily in artificial intelligence to either provide a complete risk solution or supplement the operators’ internal efforts - another good reason to work in partnership. By working this way operators will also benefit from having and extended resource pool to take advantage of.
For the vendor partners, the opportunity to work with vast amounts of data being generated by operators will help to expedite the AI algorithms that will, in time, be able two warn of risks even before they occur. A win-win situation. In the case of fraud management, being one step ahead of the fraudsters will be a goal that was once thought impossible.
Ideally, operators will take advantage of any digital transformation project to review the tools being used to manage a broader range of risk, not just revenue leakage and fraud, but also keep track of those billions of connected devices and what they are up to on the network.
Systems designed for the analogue world simply will not cope with the magnitude and throughput of the digital world. They, too, need to be included in any risk assessment analysis and replaced if necessary.
In the rush to roll out new services it is highly likely that potential risks maybe overlooked. That comes with the territory when you aim to be an agile operator. The best way to mitigate the risks this brings will be to work with state-of-the-art monitoring systems that minimize or even predict risk before or after it happens.