The telecommunications industry has been evolving and is most certainly moving ahead from circuit-switched technology to an all-IP packet-switched world. With this technological evolution, we have experienced tremendous benefits – from advanced communication devices, especially in mobile (such as smartphones and tablets), advanced networks (such as HSPA+ and LTE (News - Alert)), and just as important, open mobile ecosystems and marketplaces. The result is a massive, exponential growth on all things mobile.
The explosive growth of mobile is threefold; truly accelerating the need to bridge or evolve the old world of circuit-switched networks with the new world of IP networks; driving the usage and need of telephone numbers; and enabling the growth of over-the-top (OTT) IP-based communication and content apps and services.
But this explosive growth also brings challenges in how to manage related communication assets, such as telephone numbers, and related communication apps and services.
The telephone number is what my colleagues and I at Shango (News - Alert) believe is becoming a personal communication ID which essentially links apps to end users much the same way an IP address is an ID for devices and equipment on IP networks; linking apps to an end user and truly making the telephone number itself an important asset.
Even though the telephone number has been around for a while, until recently over-the-top (OTT) mobile apps didn’t make use of the telephone number to identify their users and related services, essentially missing early opportunities to redefine the social aspects of communication, including the address book and related services and interactions; but this has changed. More recently, the telephone number has taken center stage, and mobile apps such as WhatsApp and TextPlus has taken advantage of the telephone number as the main end user ID (or handle), making these apps very flexible and now very popular OTT messaging apps. But, managing telephone numbers is not without its challenges.
The Lifecycle of Telephone Numbers and Related Apps and Services
Telephone numbers have a complex lifecycle – numbers can be priced, acquired from one- or many sourcing providers depending on network footprint; assigned, activated, and so on.
In order to most effectively utilize phone numbers and support and deploy new mobile applications, this complex lifecycle requires proper management tools. Given the growth in mobile, together with the requirement to support local number portability (LNP), the ability to manage such lifecycle becomes even more challenging and important.
Now imagine this lifecycle expanded to include provisions for communication apps and services, including aggregation and integration into existing cloud-based services, and you can quickly see how complex the problem of managing, monetizing and measuring ROI on telephone numbers and related mobile apps and services really is; believe me, it is complex!
The Solution: Supply Chain Integration
The solution to the complex problem of managing the lifecycle of telephone numbers and related communication apps and services is supply chain integration.
From the supply and demand perspective, supply chain integration can allow mobile service providers to integrate to- and manage the providers of telephone numbers and related apps and services, as well as quickly find the best pricing available, put in orders, and more effectively track related inventory.
From the relationships perspective, supply chain integration can better enable pricing and relationship management between telephone number origination providers, downstream distribution channels, and even direct customers.
From the managerial perspective, the solution must provide business intelligence through strong reporting and analytics capabilities including business dashboards to view inventory levels, inventory distribution, and general usage activity.
From the technical perspective, solutions that live in the cloud can hide all the complexities of integrating around major communication apps and service providers including SIP trunk and hosted PBX (News - Alert) providers and LNP service bureaus, allowing you to manage the complete telephone number lifecycle through supply chain integration automation, essentially helping unify the entire mobile app value chain via a common API.
The explosive growth of mobile will ensure that the use and role of the telephone number will continue to expand globally. What is also certain is that as the telephone number, with its evolving role, complex lifecycle and related apps and services, it will require effective lifecycle management to enable sustainable growth for mobile service providers.
C. Enrique Ortiz is head of products at Shango, a community marketplace enabling automated supply chain integration for buying and selling IP-enabled services. To learn more about Shango visit www.shango.com.
Edited by Alisen Downey