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Interviews

Mazen Mroue, Chief Operating Officer at MTN Nigeria

Inside Telecom Staff

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Mazen Mroue
How have you focused on expansion in the market?

We believe everyone deserves the benefits of a modern, connected life. This is the philosophy that drives our expansion strategy. We are focused on strategies that help us achieve sustainable results and ensure that people remain connected through our voice and data service offerings. Our expansion efforts are focused on opportunities in financial technology and digital. The next three years will see us investing about N600 billion to accelerate the expansion of our network infrastructure, deepen population coverage and support the Federal Government’s broadband initiatives. In the fintech area, we will continue to leverage our Super-Agent licence to support the Nigerian government in achieving set objectives for closing the financial inclusion gaps. At the same time, we continue engaging relevant authorities to obtain a Payment Service Bank licence. Our expansion plans are also largely determined by our customers; we are committed to nurturing and earning their trust and will continue to invest in new products and services tailored to meet their needs. 

Digitization is reshaping the industry landscape. How are you optimizing customer touchpoints?

Digitization will enhance the delivery of telecommunication services and also help economies perform better. Digitization, when properly implemented, will lead to improved socio-economic benefits for citizens by providing additional job opportunities and boosting productivity. We have continued to see this in action, partly due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and we believe that as a company in active collaboration with the country, we should continue to make necessary investments to deepen and fully deploy a digital economy. This is why in 2019, we restructured our digital division in a bid to drive the growth of our digital business, make significant contributions in enabling the ongoing digital revolution by providing access, interconnectivity and applications and most especially, improve intimacy with our customers. We are leveraging and combining technology such as cloud, mobile, social, data analytics, artificial intelligence in innovative ways to improve service delivery. We offer an integrated suite of communication products and services including voice, data and digital service with 2G, 3G and 4G LTE technology as well as exploring 5G technology. We were the first telecoms operator to test the 5G technology in West Africa, and we will continue to make the required investments to deepen and optimize digital solutions and touchpoints for our customers.

How is MTN Nigeria meeting the telecommunication needs of the rural communities in the country?

We are constantly looking for ways to ensure that everybody including those living in unserved and under-served communities has access to voice, data and fintech solutions because we believe that connectivity has a significant impact on the quality of life and socio-economic outcomes for people and the nation. Through our rural telephony programme, we have identified 3,000 communities that will benefit from our network expansion plans over the next three years. This is being delivered through a phased approach. Over the course of this year, communities in Abuja, Enugu, Ibadan, Kano, and Port Harcourt have already begun to benefit from this program.

As a telecoms company, what has been the greatest challenge amid the COVID-19 pandemic? What course of action have you taken to buffer the effects?

The pandemic greatly affected the global economy and health systems leading to unavoidable loss of lives and finances. To this day, many industries and economies are still dealing with the effects of the spread of the virus, and in some countries, the government and health sector are continuing to contain the spread of the virus as new cases are recorded.

With all the uncertainties that came with COVID-19, it was important for the business to adapt quickly and to a considerable extent, put plans in place to avoid significant disruptions that could have otherwise caused major setbacks. Our focus was on keeping our customers connected all through the period and on our staff welfare. We executed a digital transformation that saw our staff working from home while our essential workers continued to work at our physical locations while observing strict hygienic measures. We strengthened the reliability and sustainability of our networks to ensure that our supply chain was not affected, made availability for spares as a mitigation strategy, and we developed products and services to assist our customers. With all this in place, we have been able to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on our operations. As part of our commitment to the communities we operate in, we made financial, product and service investments and fostered partnerships to support the efforts of the government and the NCDC. We also waived a percentage of our service charges on our MoMo Agent network and provided payment extensions for our postpaid customers.

What are the current telecommunication challenges/opportunities in Nigeria?

The need to accelerate our transition to digital is essential and presents an opportunity for growth. The world is fast moving from the conventional way of doing things, and with the outbreak of the pandemic, we have seen that we must move more quickly. During the early days of the pandemic, digital means of communication ensured that the day to day running of many businesses and the economy did not have to stop, thereby preventing additional business losses. Providing access to finance through innovative financial technology solutions is another opportunity area. It benefits vulnerable groups by fostering better socio-economic outcomes, supports the government’s economic and financial inclusion objectives and supports the activities of other conventional financial institutions.

IoT/5G/Cloud Hope – or Hype?

This is definitely “HOPE” for Nigeria and the rest of the world. I say this because of the potential to improve living outcomes through job creation and help economies work more efficiently. As the world steadily moves towards digital even as the outbreak of COVID-19 has further accelerated the process, many countries, including Nigeria have now experienced some of the benefits of these innovations. These innovative technologies will enhance connectivity speed a hundred times faster than the current 4G networks blurring geographic and operational borders. It will support the delivery of healthcare services, improving remote diagnostic and treatment outcomes. It will also enhance socio-economic outcomes and experiences of everything digital, including financial services and the emergence of innovations, smarter cities and healthier people. At MTN, we fully understand the immense potentials of IoT, 5G and cloud, and we will continue to make the required investments to deepen and support the deployment of these technologies in Nigeria.

What trends in the industry right now excite and perturb you?

Over the last decade, the telecom sector has reinvented itself to match the rising demand for content and digital services. We are now comfortably in the age of smartphones which is widely affecting the reach of digital marketing, making it easier to understand consumer behaviour and allowing us as network operators to personalize our offers and products to meet customers needs and their expectations. Digital Marketing is taking our businesses far providing a better Return of Investments, and by having a clear understanding of our own customers’ journeys and experiences, we are now able to identify what’s working and what needs to be changed or improved.

How have you approached change amid the pandemic?

With the outbreak of the pandemic and the challenges, it was clear that the only way to remain on a growth curve was to quickly adapt and make quick decisions and changes that may have previously seemed impossible. As an organization that is committed to delivering value to all groups of stakeholders, we adopted a stakeholder-first mitigation strategy with a critical focus on employee satisfaction, customer experience, shareholder satisfaction and family life. Our approach has been adapting to the changes, making critical decisions quickly, investing in critical infrastructure, investing in our people, our community – especially vulnerable groups and supporting the government in all its efforts to limit the adverse effects of the pandemic.

What do you hope to achieve in your current position?

Since my appointment as the COO of MTN Nigeria, I am proud of the collective success we have achieved prior to and after my appointment. It is that solid foundation that I am riding on and will continue to ride on to deliver and achieve sustainable results. Throughout my stay, I will continue to provide the necessary leadership and direction to our commercial and technology functions while harnessing new and existing technology to deliver the best customer experience and accelerate digital innovation for shared prosperity for the nation. This is all towards achieving the end goal of leaving a legacy that successive leadership teams can leverage for the continued growth of the business that impacts the Nigerian economy positively.

As 50% of Nigeria’s population is below 18, we need to be resilient and speak the language of the new generation.  We are a well-known brand in the country. Still, we need to play in the space of the young generation, and we need to adapt ourselves to their language, without losing the relationship and interface we have established with the current generation.

How do you plan on accelerating business growth?

In accelerating business growth, we are guided by the principle of shared value and prosperity because we believe that the success and growth of our business are linked to the success, wellbeing and development of the communities in which we operate. Therefore all of our growth strategies are targeted at identifying and investing in opportunities that bring about positive and sustainable impacts for the people and the government. We will continue expanding our network services to ensure more rural communities are connected. We will leverage our quality of services and new technologies to continue increasing smartphone penetration in the country and enable existing and new users to join the digital world. Our commitment remains to play our role in leading the private sector contribution to the digital economy and financial inclusion. By doing so, we will make the necessary investments in our critical infrastructure, expand our network and support the Nigerian government’s goal for digitization.

Describe yourself in three words?

Stay humble and be persistent; success will follow!

MTN continues to empower young entrepreneurs in Nigeria. What has been the most recent initiative and how successful was it?

A recent youth empowerment initiative is the Revv Programme which was designed as a give-back initiative to address the critical needs of SMEs during the COVID-19 period and in the aftermath. We are targeting 10,000 SMEs and have been delivering a series of business-related masterclasses, advisory services, marketing and technology support services. The ongoing Y’ello Star is also a youth targeted initiative which provides a platform to discover, nurture, expose and launch music talents in young Nigerians.

Through the MTN Foundation we deliver ICT and business skills training to young people between the ages of 18 – 35 with the aim of improving their chances of gainful employment. This we deliver with some of our ecosystem partners, including Oracle, Google, IBM, KPMG and Digital Bridge Institute (DBI). We also provide scholarships to eligible 200 level students studying Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses and also to 200 level blind students studying in public tertiary institutions across Nigeria.

What’s next for MTN Nigeria?

In the coming years, we will continue to explore ways to ensure that our customers have the best customer experience and will implement our strategy with a major focus on fintech and digital. The next three years will see us invest about N600 billion to expand our network and accelerate digital transformation, and support the Federal Government’s broadband initiative. We will continue to invest in our infrastructure to deepen access to technology and accelerate financial inclusion for underrepresented groups.

The industry will continue to be a key driver in the transformation of lives – both in the business and personal space and with no doubt, the telecommunications industry will continue to be a catalyst for economic development. The future is bright and very promising, especially with the very young generation forming the bulk of the population. This is a huge potential because all these young people will rely more and more on access to communication and digital services. We are confident that together with all our partners we will drive Nigeria to the next level and ensure that jointly we will address the digital economy agenda.

We’re a diverse group of industry professionals from all corners of the world. Our desire is to provide a high-quality telecoms publication that caters to an international market, offering the latest and most relevant telecoms information to businesses, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts.

Interviews

Steve Lacoff, General Manager of Avalara Communications

Karim Husami

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Steve Lacoff

Nothing in the world is certain except death and taxes. While we may be far from solving the former, Inside Telecom sat down with Steve Lacoff, General Manager of Avalara for Communications to discuss how their solutions can make tax management easier for all involved amid a world changing pandemic, when going digital is the new normal.  

What are the patterns that have changed in communications and technologies with the spread of COVID-19?

Covid-19 has certainly impacted a lot of businesses in a negative way, but broadly speaking it’s actually been a little bit of a tailwind for communications. Everybody has been at home, with millions of people having to transition into remote work. In order to do that, connectivity is crucial.

Accordingly, an uptake in virtual collaboration occurred with people using platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom,  as well as VoIP for enterprise voice being extended into employees’ home offices.

Also, on the consumer side, people had more at-home time, and budget, for living room entertainment, creating a significant uptake in streaming services. Streaming giants like Disney+ doubled their subscription base during the pandemic. This scenario occurred across the board with streaming platforms. What’s interesting about it is that when those platforms begin with a free trial, then customers transition to a month to month contract, it’s a very sticky service. Consumers were exposed to more streaming services during COVID-19,which in turn has driven more adoption.

What can you tell us about data, VoIP, and video streaming, with businesses turning digital?

Those services are foundational, as businesses have gone digital and increasingly embraced remote work.

Companies have for many reasons been intrigued with remote working, including the reduced necessity for big offices, and the elimination or reduction of commuting, giving employees more flexibility.  Suddenly, hundreds of thousands of companies were thrown into this forced experiment to give it a test run.  We collectively found that, with platforms like VoIP, Zoom and Slack, remote work did not impact productivity.

While COVID may have forced them to redefine the work culture, companies discovered that remote working worked.  We’re beginning to see that every company has licenses to Zoom, and they are increasing their investment in messaging platforms.That leads companies to adopt a new strategy, where you can’t just be a pure play messaging company or voice provider or collaboration company. All those capabilities have to come together in a single unified platform where all these services work together. We have been a big shift in terms of companies expanding their capabilities, either building their own platform or through acquisition.

Supply chains have been experiencing heavy pressure due to the global health crisis; how has Avalara been able to absorb this amount of pressure trickling down? What are the tax solutions you provide for the ever-evolving telecom, streaming, and technology industries?

We provide tax calculation and compliance products and services for telecom and tech companies; therefore we’ve been able to help companies navigate these challenges in a number of ways.

With merger and acquisition activity, multiple businesses are coming together and typically have multiple tax platforms that require unification. When they do that, they start evaluating whether or not it is a capability the company can run in the cloud. One of the key advantages we have is that we are a native cloud technology service. As such, we’ve been able to help many companies consolidate these different systems into one tax service where we can handle all their tax calculations, and all their registrations and compliance filings. Basically, we take all that corporate tax complexity and provide outsourced cloud tax compliance solutions.

When companies come together, it’s intended to expand their product capabilities. Therefore, when you have a broader set of products, you get a more complex set of tax requirements because the taxability and the rules, particularly in the United States, vary dramatically from service to service. We have a robust library of content where we can provide customers a future-proof solution no matter what product or technology.

What are some of the complex compliance challenges you’ve faced during the pandemic?

Some of the challenges are simply inherent, as the taxation regime in the U.S. is incredibly complex, with taxes at multiple levels: federal, state, county, and city level.

As companies go digital and make their services and capabilities available in the cloud, they are now serving customers not in just one state or region, but across the U.S. and globally.

And as these communication services move away from being infrastructure based and transition to the cloud, they take on a much broader taxation footprint, with increased complexity.

A second challenge has to do with cord cutting and the rise of streaming. With traditional pay TV services, we’re subject to a whole string of taxes, not only in traditional sales and use  taxes, but also telecommunications taxes. During the pandemic, streaming was introduced broadly, and not subject to any tax.  Over the last two years, on a state-by-state basis, jurisdictions began introducing not only sales and use taxes, but also traditional telecommunications taxes for streaming that were based on the taxation of TV services.

The reasoning is simple – with cord cutting, you had consumers moving away from a heavily taxed service to a service that had little to no tax, shrinking that tax base. In an effort to reclaim some of those taxes, states have aggressively looked at taxing streaming in the same way they did pay TV or cable service.

What differentiates Avalara from its competitors?

It’s several things: one is that we are a true cloud-based service. Traditionally, tax software systems were run on-premises, having a lot of associated costs and maintenance. It is very simple for customers to implement our cloud-based products and services, which scale fluidly.

The second thing is ease of migration. Since Avalara’s founding, the area of focus has been to provide out-of-the-box integration to ERP and accounting systems, ecommerce and billing systems, and subscription management systems, via connectors. Avalara  is integrated with over a thousand different technology solutions that companies use to run their business.  

Our breadth of content is another important benefit, which includes all the various tax rates, and the rules associated with those rates. We have a very large content team that researches all of our content to ensure the accuracy of taxes – this capability allows us to be agile and ahead of the curve in terms of ongoing rate changes, and, for example, additional states that are adding taxes on streaming services.

Could you briefly tell us about the benefits emerging from Avalara for startups and partnering with Female Founders Alliance?

There is a big benefit of what we do for startups in terms of ease of integration with a cloud based system. Avalara offers a very flexible set of tax compliance solutions for early-stage companies to adopt, and we support these companies as they continue to grow.

How has the pandemic affected your ability in facing tax fraud? Could you give us a brief example?

Avalara began to see significant anti-fraud measures with the e-invoicing requirements that are now taking shape in the EU from a VAT perspective. This trend toward “real-time” tax collection will have many advantages for governments to be able to secure their tax due on a more immediate basis. However, it introduces significant complexities for businesses. Avalara has been working diligently to stay ahead of the introduction of this new tax regime change. To that end, we recently acquired a company, INPOSIA that handles many e-invoicing requirements.

How has the rise of cryptocurrency affected your business? And what are you doing to adapt to this new technology?

Avalara is more focused on the longer view of the development of stable digital currencies. The accelerating shift to government-sanctioned digital currency is an inevitable global trend, following closely behind an increasingly digital economy. In the U.S., we’re seeing a rapidly evolving effort with the CBDC Digital Dollar Project, buoyed by the growing adoption of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, the speed, ease and traceability of digital currency, and competitive positioning toward other world governments. CBDC efforts across countries are frequently collaborative, with governments, private industry, think tanks and educational institutions providing resources for research, development and testing. Avalara is a pioneer in developing advanced technology to drive innovation in compliance, and this includes our ability to handle taxability and compliance around digital currency. Avalara will continue to closely monitor CBDC developments around the Digital Dollar Project, and we stand ready to assist as efforts move forward and private sector resources are required to develop a country-leading digital currency.

 How has the ever-growing pressure from worldwide governments on Big Tech companies affected your business?

This is something we’re watching closely – the ramped-up pressure on Big Tech is certainly increasing the complexity of tax overall. We’ve already seen action taken in Maryland with a gross receipts tax. It could ultimately have effects for both communications tax and sales tax.

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Interviews

Yashu Kapila, CEO of BugRaptors

Karim Husami

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Yashu

It is a known fact that the world has become ever more digital, leaning on online services has become the norm of our day-to-day to the extent where it has dictated the flow of our careers, personal lives, even the most remedial of our tasks.

But while these online services and apps have stood at the epicenter of our functionality, a lot of work goes into building them, and even more work is needed to test and eliminate their bugs before they’re made public.

In a bid to take a peek behind the process of an online service’s journey from Alpha to its live version, Inside Telecom sat down with Yashu Kapila, CEO of BugRaptors, an India-based independent software testing company in the QA Industry.

Could you please provide us with a short brief of your company’s services?

BugRaptors is an independent software testing company that provides Standard QA Services, Specialized QA Services, and Test Advisory Services, including manual testing, functional testing, compatibility testing, user acceptance testing, mobile testing, web testing, game testing, regression & usability testing, automation testing, security testing, Big Data testing, cloud testing, Agile & DevOps, salesforce testing, localization testing, API testing, performance testing, compliance with GDPR, and many more.   

Apart from that, we offer QA Process Consulting, Capacity Augmentation in Functional and Automation Testing, Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model Testing Teams, and Independent Validation & Verification Services using the latest tools and technologies to ensure that the product is released to the market with exceptional quality.    

How does BugRaptors set itself apart from its competitors?

When it comes to business success, BugRaptors focuses on staying ahead of its competitors through its never-give-up attitude on quality. After all, it is all a business built over Quality Assurance.  

We don’t quit until it is done, and we believe in going the extra mile by serving our customers with strategic insight, execution, and quality results. We are a certified company, which means we help our clients with solutions that offer the highest quality and lowest risk. 

What are some of the challenges that you and your company are currently facing?

At BugRaptors, we anticipate significant global marketplace challenges that witness changing client preferences and rapid technological changes. Our future success depends on the ability to identify issues ahead of time, enhance our existing service offerings, develop new strategies for products and services so that our clients can meet their changing needs. Our business can suffer if we don’t foresee and introduce new services and improve existing services to keep up with technological advances and industries on which we focus.    

Could you explain the impact of artificial intelligence and machine learning on the QA Industry?

Both Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) play a crucial role in improving the QA industry. When it comes to accelerating the app development process and checking thousands of lines of code, Artificial Intelligence helps in sorting the log files, scanning the codes, and even identify errors within seconds. Moreover, AI can identify and adopt new functions and helps us understand which test cases are needed to execute each test cycle.   

Apart from that, AI can easily automate the processes and can correct the code. In addition, it assigns bug tracking activities to our QA teams and makes it possible for them to find potential errors before production.  

As long as it is concerned to machine learning, Machine Learning is suitable for UI analysis in software testing. Whether it is filtering search results, locating online shopping carts, and making several digital-based transactions, Machine Learning ensures to keep digital elements constant in design and functionality across industries and companies. Machine Learning is ideal for executing test cases through testing and helps in analyzing the look and behavior of software elements.   

All in all, AI and ML are advanced technologies for the software testing domain, and we can utilize them to manage various tasks with automation for delivering more reliable and bug-free software and applications.    

What are some of the most common weak spots found in software and applications that your services have previously flagged?

Bugs, broken identification, injection, sensitive data exposure, security misconfiguration, buffer overflow, and insecure deserialization are some of the weakest spots that we’ve found in software and applications. Therefore, keeping our customers’ data safe and transparent is one of the foremost responsibilities of our software testing company.

We improve the customer base with our compliance-based GDPR testing services and focus on using the Agile approach to fulfill the unique business requirements with 100 percent security and ensure to enhance the transparency in data processing methods. 

Phone applications and software are currently at the core of the digital world, thus in your opinion and expertise, what do you consider to be the most important factor for these apps and software to achieve a good ROI?

Quality assurance is the key to the success of phone applications and software. In the digital world, customers choose quality before getting discounts. Customers always come back when they find the product is extremely good in quality. It brings confidence in them they are making a safe purchase from the vendor.   

They can trust the quality product, make repeat purchases, and recommend the same product and service to others. Besides, software testing also assures that software or phone applications are adequately tested to give customers high-performance, reliable, and security-like features.

All in all, both Software Testing and Quality Assurance are the most important factors that help our clients obtain a good ROI and allow them to offer 99.9 percent of satisfaction to their potential customers.    

How does your high usability, bug-free and interactive user experience, lead to higher conversion and Install Rate?

When it comes to our day-to-day operations, either work or anything like visiting a grocery store, ordering food, etc., people are highly dependent on software. And it is very natural when using software or application that could make things easy and quick. However, the only thing that manages to capture the interest of users is quality.   

Just when you say high usability, bug-free, and interactive user experience, it is everything that the industry is seeking out there. When you can help your clients ensure quality with their software or applications, it automatically calls happy customers for them.   

The ease of using an application, the no lag surfing across the application dashboards, and the interactive navigation, which is free from glitches, are all that make a perfect application. All in all, anything that feels good to use to a customer is all that a business needs to pull on conversions and install Rate, and we at Bugraptors are well-capacitated to do so.

Can you elaborate more on your various methodologies like Agile and DevOps?

Agile & DevOps create a new buzz in the market and help people bring value for end-users in a more efficient way, but from various methods. Well, Agile is a methodology that features a continuous iteration of development and testing in the Software Development Life Cycle process. With Agile development, one can break the product into smaller pieces and then integrate these pieces for final testing.   

On the other hand, DevOps is a culture that aims to promote collaboration between the operational and development team. In other words, DevOps is a software development method for communication, integration, and cooperation among IT professionals to support the rapid deployment of products.   

Organizations consider DevOps today to increase the speed for providing delivery of applications and services. Thus, Agile and DevOps are part of the parcel for the software teams to stay more productive and happier, leading to more satisfied and more paid customers.    

How has the pandemic impacted your business, both internally and on the client side?

Honestly talking, the effect of the pandemic was more visible on the client-side than on our internal operations. At Bugraptors, we were all prepared to take things under control to provide consistent Quality Assurance Services to our clients. Thanks to our early Business Resilience and sustainability plan that made us adapt to the situation quickly.   

As long as it is concerned to the clients, the pandemic showed some strong financial implications on their businesses, affecting the sales and overall operations. Moreover, with prominent economic fluctuations across all industries, the clients had to face some initial downtime.

However, the Quality Assurance made the industry run again at the same pace since the pandemic introduced us to when customers were most looking for reliability with the services. I believe we managed to deliver the same to our clients pretty well.  

How are you adopting the latest digital transformation trends which have increased during the pandemic?

At BugRaptors, we always support our employees for learning and self-development. The same goes for the latest digital transformation trends. We have over 250 certified teams of testers, including leaders, executives, and managers, who stay 24/7 active to go live for education, industry updates, and decision-making.    

We have a culture of change acceptance and believing in growing and working together for our clients looking to get into digital transformation. Our passion, consistency, and thought-leadership allow us to cope with new challenges even after in the era of COVID-19.

Our tech giants have access to 100+ physical mobile devices, frameworks, tools, workshops, online materials, and numerous technologies to fulfill our customers’ explicit and implicit digital transformation objectives and requirements.    

In your opinion, how is your company accelerating digital transformation?

Today’s enterprises want to win a race.

That’s why they are undertaking a digital transformation to boost agility, speed, and innovation while lowering costs. They embrace Agile software development, a continuous delivery approach for front-end and back-end business applications and software.

They want to develop quality-made software and speed up software cycles with the right QA approach. They need a well-organized QA process that BugRaptors already has in its kitty to ensure that the product will go live before the expected time and work perfectly.    

For BugRaptors, speed is everything. We deliver the holy grail of software engineering, focus on reducing risks while minimizing time of delivery. We have advanced analytics, resources, and test setups to perform continuous testing with automation that assists our clients in accelerating digital transformation.   

Using the BugRaptors platform, one can release software faster, reduce cost by eliminating manual testing, accelerate delivery with improved test cycle, and dramatically increase the quality for any business-based software.

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Interviews

Vic Bozzo, Chief Revenue Officer of SONOC

Karim Husami

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SONOC

With COVID-19 has plunged the world into the unknown, it has also shown that people can change their lifestyles positively with the help of technology. The ongoing digitalization of modern life causes consumers from every corner of the world to leverage the perks of online transactions.

As such, SONOC, an agile telecommunications solutions provider, takes advantage of evolving technology by developing software driven solutions to improve business efficiency.

To learn more about this topic, Inside Telecom conducted an interview with Vic Bozzo, Chief Revenue Officer at SONOC.

Can you tell us more about SONOC’s business strategy and how it generates revenue from its solutions?

SONOC provides a modularvoice and messaging management platform to OTTs, carriers, and a range of service providers. We combine a unique set of capabilities, API’s and cloud resources into a single efficient platform that enables users to maximize revenue and margin while reducing resources, complexity, and cost.

In a competitive voice and messaging market, we’re giving users the ability to optimize their cost base and simplify their operations. We’re putting them in control of their voice and messaging traffic and giving them the tools to succeed in a new era in voice.    

Could you further elaborate the importance of Application Interface software (API), especially during the pandemic?

Our customers want the ability to spin-up new services and capabilities in a dynamic elastic way and incorporate them into their existing systems. There’s a drive towards new flexibility and agility in the services they are deploying.

Unlike other voice and messaging management platforms, we remove the need for an “all or nothing” approach to platform deployments and replace it with an agile model for building a component-based architecture. RESTful APIs can be accessed by our customers via a simple online library which enables instant plug-ins to other applications.

I think the pandemic has shown a lot of businesses that they need to be able to pivot and turn up services faster and adjust to new market conditions and paradigms in their communications strategy. You need to be ready to change how you operate quickly and APIs are essential for that.

How is your business strategy helping carriers to use APIs to enhance their existing systems?

With our programmable API capabilities, carriers can choose what they want to integrate and deploy. We enable users to spin-up capabilities associated with advanced routing, traffic management, bilateral management, billing, quality monitoring, fraud control, cloud-based SBC and switching, as well as many others.

Our RESTful APIs give them full control at a granular level, of all features available in the platform. That is more of a software-centric approach to voice and messaging than the

traditional closed telco environment we’ve seen in the past. We developed the platform with an API-first approach and now we are opening those options to our customers directly.

What other software driven solutions do you offer telecom operators and tech companies to improve their business efficiencies?

We’ve integrated OSS/BSS and switching into the same platform, which means users don’t need to deploy and manage multiple solutions. That removes an operational headache and brings voice and messaging management into one holistic environment.

When you have integrated services on a single platform, you can capture new business intelligence that supports planning, management and optimization while increasing visibility.

Our customers are looking to simplify operations and we help them to reduce resources needed to manage their voice and messaging businesses and increase margins. That’s critical in a market that is changing quickly and becoming increasingly competitive.

How does SONOC set itself apart from its competitors?

Our modular approach, RESTful APIs, and the integration of switching into our platform differentiates our business immediately. We also offer both voice and messaging management with a single user experience.

That’s a big demand coming from the market. There are carriers that are duplicating management, billing and invoice systems for both voice and messaging. This is inefficient and costly. They want to do it all in one platform, and even better they can use whatever capabilities they want with APIs.

We’re also seeing a growing number of voice players looking to get into the business messaging market or A2P aggregators that want to add voice capabilities to their service portfolio. That’s an ideal scenario because we can offer one platform for supporting both services.   

Our suite of solutions has been built by users for users, so we’re continually shaping and evolving our offering to meet their needs. We listen and develop the solutions that they need.  

In your opinion, what are the key aspects needed by operators to evolve and adapt in an ever-changing industry?

Carriers need to think about their operations the same way OTTs do about theirs, and OTTs need to find better ways to work within the carrier infrastructure to get better last mile QOS.

Carriers should be building API ecosystems and focusing on plugging in capabilities to create systems and processes that are more than the sum of their parts. Traditionally they have built systems themselves or deployed single purpose solutions; this is complex, costly, and difficult to scale.

At the same time, they should be automating as many of their processes as they can. Automated processes remove human error, reduce resources, and increases agility. You want to maximize speed and efficiency through automation. To be successful in today’s voice and messaging market, you have to change your approach.

As you already know, there have been many issues raised regarding data privacy, could you briefly walk us through SONOC’s privacy policy?

SONOC takes protecting your information very seriously and in strict compliance with applicable data protection laws. We process and our cloud is optimized to segregate identity data, traffic and location data and electronic communications metadata.

SONOC has a firm commitment with the protection of personal data and the privacy of our users, so to guarantee the security and to protect the personal data obtained, we carry out all the technical safety measures necessary to prevent their loss, manipulation, diffusion or alteration.

How does your platform help with monitoring traffic flows, improve routing, automate rate upload, and control fraud?

Our platform includes advanced routing, quality monitoring and fraud control to tackle all these issues. Advanced routing allows customers to make business decisions in real-time, improving the business margin, assuring voice quality and traffic optimization, in automatic or manual mode.

Quality Monitoring gives a real-time switch traffic visualization that facilitates immediate problem detection and troubleshooting. It operates independently of the protocols used for calls. We also provide a comprehensive ‘Health Check’ of the traffic being passed over your network with the ability to detect various fraud/issues and raise red flags by performing tests and real time monitoring to improve your detection and prevention strategy.

We are also working very closely with the existing and emerging standards bodies that are focused on new fraud control initiatives including Shaken/Stir as an example.

What challenges are you currently facing within your market?

Over the last year, we’ve seen the voice and messaging market adapt to lockdowns and quarantines caused by COVID-19. There was an initial uptick in voice traffic when lockdowns started in early 2020, then traffic migrated to OTT services as users started using Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

It shows how fast the market can shift and how demand can change. Carriers need to be ready to adapt and they have to be focused on efficiency and integration to these new platforms.

We’re trying to help our customers to maximize the potential of their businesses in a new era of voice and messaging and that’s what our solutions focus on. We’re giving them the tools they need to be successful in a market that can change overnight.

As an industry veteran, what will you be bringing to the table for SONOC? What gaps will you fill?

I’ve seen a lot of the ups and downs of the industry over the last 25 years. What has remained constant is the time I spend talking to customer and users. I love to discuss their challenges, understand the opportunities they want to pursue and find solutions for them.

This is why I can’t wait for in-person events to kick off again and get out in the industry and share what we’re doing at SONOC.

I think people will be surprised by the hard work we’ve done behind the scenes and the value we can deliver for Tier 1 carriers and OTTs through to emerging players across the globe. We’ve got a great team and a real vision for voice and messaging. It’s an exciting time to be a part of SONOC and it’ll be great to tell more people about what we’re doing.   

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