How a carrier-grade AAA optimizes the network

How a carrier-grade AAA optimizes the network

How a carrier-grade AAA optimizes the network

 

April 12, 2021

 

 

 

Introduction

Customer experience is the key differentiator for operators today, and while there are several other contributing factors such as automated support and digital engagement, one of the best ways to boost CX is by providing a superior network experience. Though often overlooked, successfully modernizing your network means recognizing the role of upgrading the AAA helps alleviate a host of challenges to boost network performance.

Key carrier-grade AAA features that optimize network performance

A modern and robust AAA and policy framework provides features that optimize network resource utilization and boost performance, even with dynamically changing traffic load. These include: 

High availability

A highly responsive AAA server with failover support helps maximize efficiency and ensure 99.999% availability for carrier-grade performance as the network grows.

Powerful scripting engine

A high-performing scripting engine ensures high performance and sub-millisecond latency, and enables operators to write and implement custom authentication and authorization rules in-house.

Noise management

AAA signaling noise is often produced on wireline networks by repeated authentication failures and errors. A robust AAA efficiently mitigates noise issues, instructing disturbing devices to take corrective measures, keeping network performance high. In addition, an intelligent system also enables service providers to easily identify and block malicious attempts to disturb or overburden the network.

Real-time policy control

A modern AAA lets service providers ensure zero revenue leakage, implement mid-session policy changes, deliver bandwidth on demand, and instantly communicate with customers.

Scalability

A stateless AAA stores sessions and data in a centralized database, ensuring that another AAA node takes over if one is down and enabling dynamic vertical as well as horizontal scaling without network downtime.

Rerouting and offloading traffic

A next-gen carrier-grade AAA enables service providers to alleviate network traffic by authenticating and authorizing mobile subscribers who connect from 3G, LTE, or 5G networks and seamlessly offloading them to services such as WiFi for calling or data sessions.

Emergency mode

The AAA can provide a fail-proof backup system to authenticate users if database connectivity is lost by automatically switching to emergency mode, helping prevent service disruption caused by single points of failure.

Automated service restoration

A AAA that enables rapid recovery from system failures or outages helps minimize strain on resources and optimize performance.

Web-based administrative portal

Operators can monitor and troubleshoot issues from a single interface. They can also automatically redirect customers to a self-care portal.

Interoperability

A carrier-grade AAA server that is interoperable with other networks lets operators deploy a multi-vendor network, not only lowering network costs but also boosting performance.

How Alepo AAA transformation optimizes networks

Ensuring a seamless migration is a major consideration for operators when undertaking a AAA transformation. Alepo provides a proven and scalable integration framework with provisioning support using API Gateway, ensuring a zero-downtime migration that does not impact existing integrations or IT systems. Alepo’s NFV-compliant AAA is stateless, enabling five-nines availability, and has an industry-leading benchmark of 36,000 transactions per second (TPS), supporting horizontal and vertical scaling. The highly stable system increases operational efficiency, with centralized monitoring to reduce on-ground staff dependence. Further, centralized configuration management minimizes errors by enabling operators to rapidly and easily configure changes across all AAA nodes. With automated workflows and web-based interfaces, Alepo’s carrier-grade AAA Server enables service providers to create, launch, deliver, and manage services within hours.

 

Begin your AAA transformation journey now: book a demo.

Gayatri Sarang

Gayatri Sarang

Lead Content and Engagement Specialist – Marketing

Gayatri is part of the content and communications brigade at Alepo. Having locked focus on the telecom domain in recent years, she has vast and diverse experience in writing for leading publications. She moonlights as a volunteer urban wildlife rehabber and is a passionate baker.

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Deployment Modes for 5G Compact Core

Deployment Modes for 5G Compact Core

Deployment Modes for 5G Compact Core

 

April 8, 2021

 

 

Introduction

5G holds immense potential to transform virtually every industry with its ultrafast speeds, low latency, high bandwidth, and reliability. As healthcare, automotive, manufacturing, entertainment, and a host of other sectors eagerly await the application of next-gen use cases, the race is on for service providers to find the easiest path to rolling out and monetizing the next-gen technology, especially for their enterprise clients. Alepo’s Compact Core facilitates the support of enterprise deployments, particularly those looking for private networks, and it offers a host of flexible options depending on the operator’s unique business requirements.

Alepo’s Compact Core

Most existing 5G networks are powered by 4G core/EPC and 5G RAN (non-standalone 5G or 5G NSA), and since they are dependent on the 4G core, they aren’t true end-to-end 5G networks. Alepo’s new-generation Compact Core, along with the ESS Portal, is set to change that. All elements in the 5G-compliant Compact Core are pre-integrated, ensuring that enterprises can swiftly set up standalone 5G networks (5G SA) that are independent of the 4G core, while also supporting combo deployments over an existing 4G core.

The industrialized Compact Core solution enables service providers to support enterprise and industrial use cases for a small number of subscribers. A complete pre-integrated and self-contained solution, the Compact Core includes the network core and other networking infrastructure, working seamlessly with end devices and the radio access network without impacting or depending on external systems.

The solution comprises AuSF for Authentication, UDM for Authorization, a converged policy combo (PCF + PCRF), and Data Repository for Subscriber Data Management. It also includes an enterprise self-service portal for enterprises to import and efficiently manage all connected devices. (For more details on its features and benefits, read our blog, Envisioning Private 5G Success with Compact Core.)

Compact Core Deployment Modes

Local deployment model

DescriptionBenefitsUse Cases
    The 5G Core (5GC) is deployed on-premise over private cloud or standalone servers. The containerized 5G core network functions (NFs) are deployed on cloud-native infrastructure. It is a completely isolated system with no external inputs or outputs, and all data processing is completed and stored onsite.
  • High security with local control and no outside connection

  • Optimizes OPEX

  • One-box solution

  • Ensures smooth operations and maintenance through support for integrated EMS and PaaS tools

  • Manufacturing

  • Utilities

  • Public safety

  • Smart buildings

  • Education

Hybrid deployment model

DescriptionBenefitsUse Cases
    The User Plan Function (UPF) is deployed on the telco edge or enterprise premise, while the 5G core is deployed on private or public cloud at a centralized location. All devices are connected to a centralized server; the data payload dynamically changes depending on the edge location, helping ensure low latency.
  • Enables low-latency data connectivity

  • The UPF is connected to the 5G Core using a secured tunnel, ensuring failproof security

  • All 5GC NFs are deployed with a minimal resource footprint

  • Enables focus on data control and access, with dedicated communications only where needed

  • Ensures smooth operations and maintenance through support for integrated EMS and PaaS tools
  • V2X (vehicle to everything) tracking

  • Centralized and distributed campus networks

  • 5G network slicing

  • Logistics

Public cloud model

DescriptionBenefitsUse Cases
    The 5G core NFs are deployed on highly distributed public cloud infrastructure, enabling one or more geographic locations both within the operator’s premises as well as in other regions. Supports secure and reliable wireless infrastructure for industrial applications.
  • Reduces network management complexities and ongoing IT maintenance

  • Lowers CAPEX and deployment time

  • Simplifies deployments through automated orchestration and configuration

  • Helps efficiently manage traffic

  • Industrial IoT (IIoT)

  • Manufacturing automation

  • Events

  • 5G AR

  • Base station sites

  • Regional and/or national data centers for edge infrastructure

4G+5G combo model

DescriptionBenefitsUse Cases
    This converged offering for a joint 4G and 5G core supports containerized 4G+5G core NFs that are deployed over cloud-native infrastructure, with support for inter-RAT and intra-RAT mobility.
  • Can be deployed with or without N26 interworking support

  • A one-box solution

  • Helps optimize CAPEX and OPEX

  • Supports integrated EMS and PaaS tools for smooth operations and maintenance
  • Enterprises who want to support LTE from a 5G core

  • Network slicing

Business Benefits of Alepo’s Compact Core

Partnering with Alepo for the Compact Core offers a host of advantages for service providers:

  • The solution’s flexibility in deployment is unparalleled, ensuring a low resource footprint no matter what deployment mode an enterprise chooses. 
  • The Compact Core leverages cloud-native features to ensure hassle-free, automated, and cost-efficient operations that can be tailored for each enterprise’s unique business requirements.  
  • The plug-and-play capability enables enterprises to swiftly launch a private network, bundling in one solution a host of network offerings (broadband, voice, and more). The various open interfaces such as Radio Access Network (RAN) or core network can plug into the operator’s network for wide-area coverage. The solution enables the enterprise to support and control services (like edge computing) and facilitates network management using a network slice.
  • Alepo is an early mover in helping operators implement 5G technology, with many 5GC projects and compact cores deployed. As an end-to-end solutions provider, we leverage our many cross-industry partnerships, build cybersecurity plans, and ensure regulatory compliance in your region of operations, enabling you to realize your operational and business goals so you can focus on helping your enterprise clients do that same.

 

Begin your next-gen journey today by booking a demo with our 5G solution experts.

Prathamesh Malushte

Prathamesh Malushte

Principal Solution Architect

Prathamesh is a PDM and solution integration specialist with expertise in 5G core network functions and protocols. He specializes in creating user stories, call flows, and designs for 5GC as well as legacy networks, as well as in handling OSS/BSS intricacies. After hours, he loves sports, enjoys trekking, and is passionate about playing different musical instruments.

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How the AAA server ensures security in telecom networks

How the AAA server ensures security in telecom networks

How the AAA server ensures security in telecom networks

April 5, 2021

Introduction

In 2020, around 22 billion internet of things (IoT) connected devices were in use worldwide, a number that’s expected to reach 50 billion by 2030, according to Statista. As networks become more complex and vast, configuring and controlling access to ensure security in the absence of Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting (AAA) is virtually impossible. Put simply, AAA is one of the gatekeepers of the modern telecommunications network. And while we all know that it is integral to every network today, it deserves more credit than its usually given in ensuring the security of a modern network.

Device use continues to surge as 5G and the IoT ecosystem become more widespread. Plus, operators now offer more granular and contextual plans for different customers, as well as advanced billing and charging plans for an ever-increasing array of services. As the number of devices connected to a network as well as the services available to them proliferate, networks are more susceptible not only to accounting errors but also to security breaches and threats such as identity theft. AAA assumes a significant role in ensuring security for these dynamically changing network needs.

How AAA works

The AAA server does just as its name suggests: it authenticates or validates subscribers and their credentials, verifies what services and QoS each subscriber is authorized to access, and ensures proper accounting so that customers are accurately billed for the services they use.

Authentication

The first step in AAA security is Authentication. It serves as the first line of defense in protecting network resources against fraud and identity theft, employing multimodal authentication methods.

Whenever anyone tries to access the network, the job of the Authentication function is identifying whether they are meant to be granted access, and also ensuring that the user is in fact who they claim to be. It does so by ensuring the user enters valid credentials, such as username, password, biometrics, or any other security measures that have been implemented by the operator. These credentials are stored in the operator’s database, against which the Auth server verifies the input given by the user. This database is constantly updated and monitored by network and system administrators.

If the user’s credentials are valid, they are granted access. Those with fraudulent or erroneous credentials are denied access. All network use of verified users is monitored and logged for future reference.

Authorization

Once authenticated, the next step for the AAA is determining what policies apply to the user. These policies will govern the user’s authorization levels, defining what resources, services, and QoS the user can access.

AAA policies can be defined on a host of parameters, such as the time or day, the user’s location, how often they’ve logged in, how much bandwidth they’ve consumed, fair usage, and so on. These policies can also restrict certain actions, such as retrieving and/or changing passwords.

Accounting

The final step for the AAA server is to take stock of the network resources accessed by the user, such as data consumption and duration of their session.

These usage details serve two purposes. One, they ensure the user is accurately invoiced for their consumption. Another important aspect of accounting is to enable administrators to access audit logs to review how and by whom the network was accessed. This usage data is useful to gain valuable insights into customer behavior, usage patterns, and more. These business intelligence (BI) insights help operators create more contextual offerings and enable them to anticipate network use.

Benefits of AAA security

AAA offers a host of technical benefits for operators in implementing network security:

  • AAA forms a multi-layered security barrier to secure, measure, and monitor how the network is accessed and by whom, thwarting malicious attempts by cybercriminals to steal and misuse data.
  • As cases of data breaches such as identity theft continue to increase, telecom AAA assumes a vital role in strengthening a telco’s data assets by enabling sound practices in identity and access management.
  • With AAA, controlling access does not require a statically configured network, pre-defined connectivity modes, fixed or immovable systems, or even fixed IP addresses by enabling operators to secure the network using more granular techniques such as integrating user directories to provide access to specific groups of users. This dynamic approach is especially relevant given the growing number of devices accessing the network through various means.
  • It grants operators more control and flexibility in configuring network access, and also lets operators implement multiple standardized authentication methods.
  • It employs several back-up systems to ensure redundancy if one security server is down or there is excessive network congestion.
  • A centralized security database grants specific access to each user using their unique credentials, enabling easy and swift access termination for inactive or banned users.

How Alepo AAA can help mitigate network risks

Alepo’s modern and scalable AAA Server enables flexible configuration and control over how network resources are used. It provides failsafe systems to ensure that there are no lapses in security even during network outages.

The NFV- and 5G-compliant AAA overcomes the previous limitations of physical hardware. With its evolved architecture, Alepo’s future-proof virtualized AAA (vAAA) helps operators optimize infrastructural resources and ensure the network remains secure even when traffic increases. (Also read the whitepaper: The Evolution of AAA Infrastructure For NFVi Compliance.)

The stateless AAA stores sessions and application states in a centralized database, distributing the transaction load for faster response times while ensuring high levels of security.

The dual-stack AAA supports RADIUS and Diameter protocols for full convergence, enabling a single system to enable secure access to services across all networks (fixed, wireless, and mobile). This includes modern services such as IoT, WiFi calling and offload, and more.

With five-nines availability, Alepo AAA Server ensures network performance is always high while keeping the network safe from external security threats.

Alepo has regarded AAA as a crucial network function and has been at the forefront of AAA innovation from its inception. Today, Alepo AAA Server is at the heart of operations for some of the largest telcos in the world, with millions of subscribers benefiting from its capabilities. The cutting-edge solution is high-performance, self-healing, open (via REST and API gateway), and highly configurable, serving diverse use cases. Its AAA Transformation enables even large operators to seamlessly replace the core network functionality without impacting existing systems, ensuring transparent integration with other core components such as BSS and CRM.

Gayatri Sarang

Gayatri Sarang

Lead Content and Engagement Specialist – Marketing

Gayatri is part of the content and communications brigade at Alepo. Having locked focus on the telecom domain in recent years, she has vast and diverse experience in writing for leading publications. She moonlights as a volunteer urban wildlife rehabber and is a passionate baker.

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The advantages of 5G service-based architecture (SBA)

The advantages of 5G service-based architecture (SBA)

The advantages of 5G service-based architecture (SBA)

18th of March 2021

An introduction to 5G service-based architecture

5G brings transformational changes to the core network with a modular and cloud-native approach. One key advancement is that it upgrades the traditional telco architecture to Service-Based Architecture (SBA), enabling more flexible service development.

Introduced to improve the modularity of the network system, SBA lets network elements or network functions (NFs) in 5G communicate with each other over a service-based interface. It allows the decoupling of NFs with more precise functionalities. Each NF provides a set of services to another NF in the SBA. These NFs communicate with each other using a more open REST-based interface rather than traditional telco protocols such as Diameter.

What does this integral change in network architecture mean for telcos?

The SBA offers a host of benefits, including:

  • Deploys as containers orchestrated by Kubernetes, allowing the core to run on non-proprietary infrastructure
  • Lets new software vendors plug-and-play their NFs for a best of breeds approach
  • Enables network slicing, with dynamic and efficient resource utilization
  • Simplifies operations using application programming interface (APIs)
  • Leverages the use of harmonized protocols such as HTTP/2 and its well-developed security mechanisms
  • Facilitates seamless integration of third-party applications with the core network

SBA offers a host of benefits

How network functions communicate in SBA

Every NF in the SBA acts as a service producer and a service consumer for each NF. All NFs communicate with each other using one of two mechanisms:

  • Request-response mechanism: here, a consumer NF requests a producer NF for services over HTTP/2 request, and the producer NF complies.
  • Subscribe-notify mechanism: a consumer NF subscribes to certain events of the producer NF, and the producer NF notifies the consumer NF once the particular event occurs.

All of this communication is always completed using JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) objects.

The Network Repository Function – a standalone NF – acts as a unified NF repository and an internal mediator between NFs for operations such as discovery and status tracking of NF instances. For instance, if the Access and Mobility Function (AMF) wants to communicate with the Session Management Function (SMF) to establish a data session, and needs certain information about the SMF (including NF type, FQDN/IP address, endpoint information, services supported, and more) to ensure its communication with the SMF is seamless, it requests this information from the NRF. The NRF responds with the required data, facilitating smooth communication between the two.

The SBA provides an underlying REST-based stateless transaction framework for previously stateful services.

From the development standpoint, interfaces (APIs) for SBA are defined with Interface Definition Language (IDL). The interface definitions are written using YAML, and are language- and platform-independent, reducing development time and effort. They are utilized by the producer NF and consumer NF to ensure that communication between them is standardized and harmonized.

The full potential of 5G SBA

5G SBA allows any third-party application, referred by 3GPP as Application Function (AF), to interact with 5G NFs in a secured manner. Another NF – Network Exposure Function (NEF) – acts as a mediator for external communication. For example, the AF will subscribe to AMF events via NEF, the AMF will notify the NEF once the event occurs, and the NEF will then notify the AF. This is vital in enabling several next-gen use cases such as precise indoor navigation for complex buildings such as airports, train stations, hospitals, malls, trade shows, offices, industrial areas, and more.

A 5G standalone (5G-SA) network will leverage the full potential of service-based architecture, elevating the consumer’s mobile network experience while also opening a host of monetization and partnership opportunities for MNOs.

How Alepo can accelerate your 5G journey

With its vast experience in automation and digital transformation, Alepo designs advanced 5G Core and digital BSS solutions that ensure modern, flexible, secured, and operationally efficient deployments.

Alepo’s 5G Converged Core supports 4G, 5G Non-Standalone (NSA), as well as 5G SA deployments. Along with Alepo’s 5G core network functions, it provides key components of the 5G core, including subscriber data management, policy control and charging, AUSF, UDM+HSS, UDR, PCF+PCRF, and more.

The Converged Core employs cloud- and PaaS-agnostic microservices-based software architecture and supports flexible deployment models such as public, private, and hybrid. It also supports both containerized (using Docker) as well as VNF-based deployments, facilitating matured, integrated, and robust 5G implementation at the application, infrastructural, and process levels.

Nitish Muley

Nitish Muley

Senior Engineer

Nitish has spent years building mobile apps for technologies like VR, AR, IoT, and is currently working on Alepo’s newest products. Always up to speed with the latest in the industry, Nitish is a voracious reader – and fervent writer – about all things related to tech and wireless standards. After hours, he wears a traveler’s hat, pursuing his love for photography as he explores different countries.

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Top five telecom trends to expect in 2021

Top five telecom trends to expect in 2021

Top five telecom trends to expect in 2021

 

28th of December 2020

 

 

2020 has been transformative for businesses around the world; years of digitalization happened within months and service providers were the backbone of this change. The pandemic has also compelled CSPs to rethink their operations and fasttrack their own digital transformation – a phase that has only just begun and will accelerate in 2021.

Operators will reinvent and focus more on customer-centric offerings to meet evolving demands with the work from anywhere culture and to be ready for new lockdowns on notice. AI, machine learning, and automation will facilitate telcos to modernize their network and help create personalized and contextual services. 5G has become a reality and new IoT applications and private 5G will come to fruition.

The increasing reliance on cloud services, digital communication, and digital payments, in addition to increasing network demand, also means added cybersecurity concerns for networks as well as their subscribers. 2020 saw significant hacks, and operators will continue to put in place more enhanced security measures to safeguard their own networks and their customers.

The top 5 trends to watch

5G proliferation

Luckily the pandemic didn’t slow 5G investment, with new network rollouts accelerating. 2020 saw devices like the iPhone12 and lower-priced 5G devices hitting the market, and the adoption is expected to be widespread in 2021. 5G operators will need to turn their attention towards providing a customer experience that’s as modern and advanced as the services it will accompany, as well as solutions for private 5G to facilitate the fourth industrial revolution.

Deloitte forecasts that private 5G deployment over the next five years will largely comprise three types of industries for which private 5G is the most natural choice, delivering unmatched security, low latency, high speed, network slicing for specific resource allocation, cost-efficiency, and flexibility that technologies such as 4G and LTE cannot. The first movers, they predict, will be ports, airports, and other logistics hubs, considering the nature of their operations that require controlling a vast network of equipment to manage heavy loads and tracking each consignment in real-time. Next, the forecast says, will be factories and warehouses looking to replace their existing combination of wired as well as wireless technologies with wireless private 5G networks that can handle high volumes of large and small devices, including everything from a screwdriver to massive industrial equipment. The third section of the market, the forecast says, will include greenfield deployments, especially in smart buildings and campuses, but also temporary sites such as music festivals.

And private 5G holds massive potential for service providers: an Analysys Mason report cites that of all existing and ongoing private 5G deployments, operators hold merely 16%, implying there is much scope for growth. While many large enterprises are considering deploying their own private 5G networks, operators have a competitive edge. Operator-licensed spectrum is currently the only deployment option available for private networks in many countries and is least likely to face interference. This, coupled with their expertise in building network infrastructure and managing operations, makes partnering with operators a reliable and cost-effective route to private 5G.

Internet of Behavior (IoB)

5G has ushered in a new generation of devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). The use of IoT devices will be even more widespread as 5G networks become more prevalent globally. We also know that this means that there will be more devices per person, and more devices mean more valuable customer data, for what can be called the Internet of Behaviors (IoB).

IoB means companies will take advantage of their access to increasingly sophisticated data and insights into customer behavior through technologies like big data, location tracking, and facial recognition. Gathering and analyzing this behavioral data helps boost CX by offering increasingly personalized and contextual services – over different channels depending on individual preferences. In addition to gauging demand, these detailed behavior insights will also enable operators to accelerate identifying and tackling service-related and other issues their customers may be facing.

The nature of data that is gathered and used will depend on local privacy laws and regulations in different countries, though often the responsibility will be on individual companies to define the comfort zone for what level of data gathering is acceptable for their customers, in other words, using the data to offer enough value-addition to customers to improve their relationship with the business, without overstepping moral bounds.

Cloud services

The digital shift of working from anywhere is compelling more telcos to invest in IT systems and infrastructure that can support the high volumes of data their networks are processing. Cloud computing is being embraced by telcos more and more as its benefits become known. Operating in the cloud reduces physical infrastructural requirements, lowers operational costs, and helps streamline processes. Further, it enables operators to leverage the full potential of their customer data, making it more easily accessible across the organization.

Among the different cloud computing scenarios, more telcos are likely to favor distributed cloud in 2021. Here, public cloud providers distribute cloud services to various physical locations. Telcos can choose locations close to them to enable low latency and lower costs while operating on the public cloud without having to invest in private cloud infrastructure.

And while telcos will increasingly invest in cloud computing, data volumes are continuing to increase by the minute; Gartner has estimated that by 2023, 43 billion IoT-enabled devices will be in use. Cloud computing falls short in offering enough latency to handle these growing data volumes and the advanced use cases that 5G supports. Telcos can supplement their capacity and support IoT infrastructure by implementing edge computing systems that will pre-process data that it gathers from its sources of origin.

Cybersecurity

The increasing dependence on digital connectivity has also meant that telcos need to account for added security threats to their networks as well as to customer devices, taking additional measures to secure customer data. Forbes reports that the pandemic has resulted in attacks on banks increasing 238 percent, and those on cloud servers increasing by 600 percent, and this is only between January and April 2020.

Telcos must account for the fact that more customers, individuals as well as enterprise clients, are working remotely, and need a security structure in place that safeguards them. This means that cybersecurity strategies, similar to those earlier provided to enterprises, will now be extended to home networks and on mobile devices.

Operators will increasingly employ sophisticated tools such as AI and machine learning techniques to filter out security threats, implement additional firewalls, use cloud and other services with more enhanced in-built security measures, and more.

Confidential computing is another important trend that we are likely to see in 2021, helping operators in ramping up data privacy, encrypting all computing, and adding layers of security around the sensitive customer as well as network data.

Digital payments

Contactless payments were already pervasive pre-pandemic and have since taken even greater strides, enabling secure payments while maintaining hygiene precautions in keeping with global social distancing norms. Forty-six percent of respondents in a global consumer study said they had opted for contactless payment options instead of their cards, and 82 percent view it as a cleaner way to make payments. In another survey conducted by Fiserv on payment methods people considered safest in preventing COVID-19 spread, 42 percent of respondents chose tap-and-pay credit cards and 24 percent chose mobile payments, with only six percent opting for cash. In fact, a report published by global consultancy A.T. Kearney says that we may have the first cashless society in just five years, running only on the card and digital payments.

2021 will mean service providers will introduce more advanced digital payment offerings. These technologies will help improve security through real-time detection and prevention of frauds and security breaches, provide instant round-the-clock-support to prevent payment delays and resolve disputes, automate processes for swift and seamless transactions, and utilize invaluable BI data and advanced analytics to create a more personalized customer experience. AI will also help in evaluating loan eligibility, putting in place rewards systems, optimizing sales and inventory management, and more.

Bring on 2021

2020 has arguably been one of the most mentally and physically challenging years in recent human history – a year that most of us want to move on from. And 2021 brings all the exciting opportunities we’ve been hoping for, especially with technology growing by leaps and bounds.

At Alepo, we’re proud to be building software in these transformative times to help businesses overcome their challenges. We’re thrilled at the prospect of partnering in your success, whether you’re planning to introduce any of our forecasted trends for the year, overhaul your network, introduce new services, or launch a new network. Reach out today to see how we can help you in your network’s journey to success.

Reach out today to see how we can help you in your network’s journey to success.

Gayatri Sarang

Gayatri Sarang

Lead Content and Engagement Specialist – Marketing

Gayatri is part of the content and communications brigade at Alepo. Having locked focus on the telecom domain in recent years, she has vast and diverse experience in writing for leading publications. She moonlights as a volunteer urban wildlife rehabber and is a passionate baker.

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Top six ways AI and CX automation revolutionize telcos

Top six ways AI and CX automation revolutionize telcos

Top six ways AI and CX automation revolutionize telcos

14th of December 2020

The evolution of CX

It’s no secret that customer experience (CX) is emerging as the key differentiator for service providers: a Gartner study reports that over two-thirds of marketers say their companies compete primarily on CX. And two modern technologies are facilitating richer and more advanced CX than ever before: artificial intelligence (AI) and automation.

AI is used to mimic human intelligence in responding to situations and conversations. Automation, on the other hand, enables repetitive tasks to run with limited to no human intervention through preset programming. AI and automation, along with customer insights, enhance a telco’s capability to deliver an intelligent customer experience. This powerful combination also revolutionizes the way telcos interact with customers, facilitating them to monitor, track, and manage the customer experience 24x7x365. Artificial intelligence helps operators analyze complex customer behavioral patterns and offer contextual services, plans, and content, whereas automation accelerates these personalized offerings.

Customer care processes have drastically eased with the help of modern, automated, AI-based omnichannel self-care, enabling instant query redressal anytime, anywhere, and on a host of convenient platforms. NLP-based bots and emotional AI can even gauge customer emotions and moods in real-time, enabling personalized support that mimics human responses.

How AI and CX automation transform a telco’s offerings

1. Automated support

A telco’s support and self-care offerings are a major factor in influencing CX. Customers today are less inclined to contact call centers or visit physical stores for support. Instead, they prefer having more control over their accounts to resolve their own issues – using the platform and language of their choice. More telcos are turning to AI technology to improve customer engagement by automating self-care and support offerings. In fact, Servion predicts that, by 2025, AI will power 95% of all customer interactions.

AI chatbots are available for a host of platforms, including web and mobile apps, voice assistants such as Alexa and Cortana, and social platforms like WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and more. Having steadily gained popularity, they offer a direct and instant link between customers and the operator. Available round-the-clock, they help customers bypass long wait times to speak with CSRs and avoid lines at physical stores. AI chatbots mimic the experience of interacting with a human agent, understanding the customer’s sentiments and responding accordingly.

Chatbots also offer many benefits to service providers. They reduce burden on support staff at stores and in call centers. All interactions are recorded for operator analysis to improve future offerings. And using machine learning, the bots continue to become “smarter” at responding to customer queries, further reducing resolution times and improving CX. Moreover, AI assistants are also good at cross-selling products.

2. Personalized recommendations

AI helps target the right subscriber or group of subscribers at the right time using an in-depth analysis of customers’ past actions, preferences, and needs, which are collected in the form of data and algorithms. It is a powerful tool that encompasses a variety of statistical techniques to evaluate customers’ future actions, making it easier for telcos to showcase products and services that exactly match customers’ requirements in real-time. Operators capture buying preferences and complete historical data, which is then processed using advanced analytical tools to create targeted contextual offers.

AI empowers marketers to design custom campaigns and promotions based on customer preferences and behavior instead of applying a one-size-fits-all strategy. The predictions equip service providers to be future-ready to monetize offerings and respond efficiently to changing market dynamics, helping them not only offer relevant products to the customer but also to manage the supply chain more efficiently as they modify their offerings. This helps boost customer satisfaction and reduce churn while increasing ARPU, facilitating cross-selling and upselling, and more.

3. Omnichannel experience

A digital-first approach that empowers customers with more than just support through multiple channels, an omnichannel experience consolidates all customer interactions and history on a single converged platform. Using AI as part of a cohesive engagement strategy enables a seamless CX, empowering customers to engage with the service provider no matter what device or platform they use. It enables operators to enhance support offerings, reduce resolution times, and improve CX. AI can be integrated with support to offer insights on customer interactions across channels – insights that CSRs can be granted access to, helping reduce response and resolution times, lessen the burden on CSRs, and boost CX.

4. Automated digital onboarding

Customers today increasingly prefer signing up for new services online rather than visiting a store, even more so considering pandemic-related social distancing norms prevalent in many countries. From order to delivery, the entire process of purchasing a new connection can be automated, assuring customers of a quick, easy, and paperless process using the web, mobile, or any other digital channel of their choosing. Digital onboarding solutions help capture key customer information, documents, biometrics, and more, verifying this information in real-time using for secure onboarding.

5. Delightful innovations

Customers expect a constantly advancing service provider who keeps up with technologies to make their life easier. With the widespread adoption of tools like chatbots and voice assistants, it’s only natural for telcos to keep pace and delight their customers with new and useful technologies driven by AI and automation. One such advancement is voice and speech recognition technology, which has meant that customers can clear their bills using voice-activated payments. The process is automated, and PCI-compliant systems assure the cardholder that their payment data is protected. Operators can offer secure round-the-clock services for customers who prefer to call and speak rather than pay online.

6. Instant satisfaction

Automation streamlines the purchase cycle for customers, easing buying decisions and payments to accelerate turnaround. Fully automated background processes use mature workflows or Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to enable instant service and, by reducing human intervention, eliminate the possibility of manual error. This enables operators to deliver the instantaneous support and service that customers demand today.

Alepo’s role in boosting CX

At the forefront of digitization, Alepo provides an industry-leading Digital Business Support System (BSS) integrated with AI-powered modules and automated processes. The BSS suite includes Omnichannel Self-Care with NLP-based AI chatbots, advanced BI reports and analytics, workflow automation in all modules such as interconnect and wholesale billingdistributor managemententerprise management, and much more.

Pankaj Garg

Pankaj Garg

Associate Director, Product Management

Pankaj Garg is a telecom and FinTech expert with over 15 years of experience in the software industry. Handling digital BSS offerings is among the many hats he wears at Alepo. Always up to speed with the newest advancements in the products he handles, he takes it slow only when he’s road-tripping across India to discover new places.

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