When Did Voice Leakage End?

Here is a pop quiz. Who said the following, and when did they say it?

“Leakage on voice services, by far the greatest revenue generator, has just about been stemmed…”

Was it:

  1. Alon Aginsky, cVidya CEO, during his October 9th, 2012 acceptance speech for the award of being the 95th most powerful person in the telecoms industry?
  2. Papa Rob Mattison, Grand Poobah of RA, promoting the new home page of the GRAPA website, in a press release on May 13th, 2009?
  3. Gadi Solotorevsky, cVidya Chief of Marketing Technology, celebrating yet another TMF award – his fifth, I think – in a blog posted March 28th, 2012?
  4. Alex Leslie, then Executive Director of the Global Billing Association, talking about the rise of data services for a Billing Plus interview on October 10th, 2003?
  5. Me, Eric Priezkalns, writing about the changing profile of risk and maturity in a talkRA post on April 20th, 2007?

Before I give the answer, let me explain why I ask the question. In the context of rapidly-changing communications technology, plain old voice is an ancient product. Most telcos still make most of their money from this very mature revenue stream. That is the problem with the sector – it has to transition to earning more from newer streams as voice revenues and margins are eroded. But I want to know one simple thing: for all the work that has been done on assuring revenues and reducing leakages, what has been the measurable benefit for old, established, revenue streams like voice? Instead of telling me how much is wrong with the world – a somewhat pointless task, as we can only estimate errors we can imagine – I want to start hearing about the cumulative improvement to the bottom line, as delivered by revenue assurance. I want to hear good news stories once in a while, and not just of the type ‘immediately after buying our product, our customer was amazed to find the payback period was just 1.6 seconds’. I want to hear some good news stories of the type that goes: ‘a global survey estimates that revenue assurance added x% to the profits of telecoms operators last year’.

Okay, I can see how estimating benefits would be difficult to do for newer products and services. But not everything is new. Not everything changes all the time. Take voice as an example. Have people delivered some benefit by reducing voice leakage, or not? Did voice leakage come to an end, or at least get reduced to the point where it is not worth the cost of chasing more reductions to leakage? For an industry that claims to be awash with data, metrics, and prize-winning standards, why can we not have a simple analysis of how much good has been done by revenue assurance, at the very least for those big old revenue streams like voice? Even I like to hear some positive news, once in a while.

The answer to the quiz was Alex Leslie – and I have the 10th October 2003 edition of Billing Plus to prove it. And I think he was right. Back in 2003, mature telcos were already on top of revenue leakage from retail voice. They may not have eliminated it, but they had retail voice leakage under control, they had picked the ‘low hanging fruit’ and they were at a stage where they could make data-driven decisions about how much more to invest in curtailing leakage. That was in the year 2003. That was four years before Papa Rob appointed himself Overlord of RA (and fraud too, when he has time to get around to it). That was a year before Hugh Roberts called the first meeting of the TM Forum’s RA Group (and a quiet little guy took the job of hosting the conference calls, because nobody else wanted to). But it was two years after the publication of Managing Successful Revenue Assurance, the seminal text by David Smith, Richard Peachey and Peter Carling. I think we hear plenty of estimates about the challenges ahead. We all know how bad the future might be. It is about time we hear a new argument in favour of revenue assurance. Instead of just saying how bad the future would be without revenue assurance, we should be saying how good the last decade was, because of revenue assurance.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is a recognized expert on communications risk and assurance. He was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and others.   Eric was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He was a founding member of Qatar's National Committee for Internet Safety and the first leader of the TM Forum's Enterprise Risk Management team. Eric currently sits on the committee of the Risk & Assurance Group, and is an editorial advisor to Black Swan. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.   Commsrisk is edited by Eric. Look here for more about Eric's history as editor.