Email a colleague    

September 2011

Roaming Fraud: The Importance of Real-Time Data Exchange and Analysis

Roaming Fraud: The Importance of Real-Time Data Exchange and Analysis

Timeliness is crucial to minimizing the damage from telecom fraud.  It’s why so many operators speed their billing mediation data direct to their fraud systems as soon as they receive it at the switch.

Yet roaming fraud is a special case.  With roaming, the call data is collected by the visited location operator — in some countries this might still be another domestic operator, but often it can be a telecom service provider located half way around the world.  And normally you wouldn’t get access to the CDRs for those roaming calls until your data arrives days or weeks later.  The time it takes for those CDRs to arrive becomes a convenient window of opportunity for organized crime.

Fortunately, a few years ago, the GSMA recognized this problem and recommended a standard called NRTRDE (Near Real Time Roaming Data Exchange).  NRTRDE provides guidelines so that for every roaming call made, an extract of the call record gets sent back to the home network within four hours — usually much faster.  And in this way, the home network will see the call data and get a chance to analyze it quickly.

For this article, we spoke to James Stewart, who contributed significantly to the creation of the NRTRDE standard, and who is also Fraud Product Manager at MACH, the global provider of hub-based mobile communication clearing and settlement solutions headquartered in Luxembourg.  In the interview that follows, James gives insights on the many challenges of the roaming fraud arena.

Dan Baker: James, in brief, how does your service bureau work?

James Stewart: Dan, it’s one thing to collect NRTRDE data and quite another to exploit that valuable data on a worldwide scale.  That’s what we do at MACH.  We quickly analyze the data for suspicious characteristics, profiles and behaviors.  And because we have 65 percent of the roaming fraud protection market — that is, more than 65 percent of operators around the world use our real-time managed fraud protection service, with more than 400 customers using our NRTRDE service — we have unique intelligence on what’s happening across the globe.  In fact, we figure our client base represents well over half of all the mobile operators who have a robust NRTRDE-based capability.

Just like the operators themselves, we have our own fraud analysts with operational experience.  And we have fraud management systems that analyze the data as it comes in and provide our customers with fraud alerts.

In Europe, we have been working with a tier 1 operator customer who is very enthusiastic about what we do.  And they regard us, if you like, as a second lock on the door.  They already have a fraud department of their own as well as fraud analysis systems, but they like the idea of having someone else look at the problem from a different perspective.  An operator will know its own environment and its subscribers very well, but gaining a global view of what is happening elsewhere is an important dimension to understand.

How good are operators at detecting roaming fraud themselves?

Well, regardless of whether they outsource roaming fraud detection to MACH or not, operators all over the world have to adopt NRTRDE to get data back to the home network quickly for analysis.

The problem with operators doing it themselves is they don‘t necessarily know much about the country or the location their subscribers are roaming into.  If you are an operator in North America, you don’t necessarily know what kinds of fraud are being perpetrated in the Philippines.  So, when your subscribers are roaming in the Philippines, are you in a good position to be able to say what’s happening there?

To be good at detection, you need to have a micro-view of a particular market and understand the nature of fraud that has previously occurred, say, in the Philippines.  That sort of intelligence is not available to you at a macro level view.

What are some of the difficulties in roaming fraud that individual operators would have a hard time analyzing themselves?

Well first of all, roaming fraud can be very well-organized, involving groups of fraudsters working across international boundaries and at different points in the traffic chain.  Suppose you made a call to America and it was directed to a specific location on a Pacific Island, but the number on that Pacific Island doesn’t exist as it was sold off to a totally different location and turned into a premium rate service.  Now, ask yourself: How am I going to investigate that?  What police force can you call to check on that, especially if it’s viewed as an isolated problem?

So, the operators need to build a case for themselves by putting a lot of data together so they can approach security agencies with something substantial.

And this is a case where it’s good to know someone who has a global picture and collective memory, because a technique that works in one country can be cut off and reappear someplace else.  So recognizing the pattern is key to contacting the security authorities and blocking the fraud over the long term.  Many times the operator knows it’s been hit with fraud and the bills aren’t getting paid, but they need a speedy response to minimize losses.

What’s your take on the future of roaming fraud?  Is the problem getting worse or is it coming under control?  And how are smartphones affecting this picture?

It is hard to say whether it is growing or shrinking.  But I can say with certainty that it is evolving and the threat is constantly changing.  Some operators see an increase in roaming fraud but others who are smarter at this skill set are seeing a decline.  So, it’s like a balloon: You squeeze one part and it pops out in another part.

In terms of smartphones, mobile broadband is very important with regards to things like bill shock.  So, bill-shock prevention is another side of what we do.  For example, we are able to monitor data usage and alert the operators and their subscribers directly if that is how the operators wish us to respond.

Beside your strong expertise in roaming fraud, I understand you’re now becoming a wider provider of domestic fraud services, not just roaming fraud.

Yes, we have just acquired a German company called Optel Informatik, which means that we have broadened our offering to a full revenue protection solution — including domestic and international fraud management, revenue assurance and data retention.

Optel is a specialist provider of fraud management and revenue assurance solutions and the deal brings its real-time, high-volume data analytics, into the MACH product portfolio.  This complements our existing SaaS-based portfolio well.

So we are not just limiting ourselves to roaming fraud anymore.  We can now provide any kind of fraud detection for clients.  So, if an operator is interested in outsourcing fraud services, we offer that as a managed service or as SaaS.  That‘s attractive especially for small operators who find it hard to justify the investment in the software and the staffing required.

So our service would include fraud detection at a national/domestic level, and at a roaming level, as well as local fraud detection.  So with feeds from an operator’s billing, CRM, IN, HLR etc � we can actually replace the need for an operator to have to maintain their own local fraud management system.

This article first appeared in Billing and OSS World.

Copyright 2011 Black Swan Telecom Journal

 
James Stewart

James Stewart

James Stewart joined Syniverse in 2008 and brings more than 25 years of experience in the mobile industry, with a particular specialization in fraud prevention.  In addition to being Director for Product Management at Syniverse, he serves as the Chairman of the GSMA’s Roaming and Interconnect Fraud and Security Subgroup.

Before joining Syniverse, James was a Client Partner at Fair Isaac, in its telecoms division.  It was during his tenure with Fair Isaac that he became directly involved in the creation of the near-real-time roaming data exchange (NRTRDE).  Prior to his position at Fair Isaac, James worked at Neural Technologies and Cerebrus Solutions, and specialized in fraud and risk management.

Previously, he was with Nortel Networks, where he spent 10 years working in Nortel’s e-business group to help operators overcome revenue assurance challenges.  He holds a Bachelor of Science in electronics and electrical engineering from Brunel University in the U.K.

Black Swan Solution Guides & Papers

cSwans of a Feather

  • Deep Fraud Investigations: Mavenir and the Role of Machine Learning in IRSF Control interview with Ilia Abramov & Marie Casey — Machine Learning-based fraud protection promises an answer to blocking fraud with precision, especially in roaming and nextgen mobile networks.  An ML champion discusses unusual and interesting fraud schemes uncovered by deep investigations.
  • Safety in Numbers and NRTRDE: Syniverse’s Strategy to Constantly Enrich Its Mobile Fraud Intelligence interview with James Stewart — A discussion on NRTRDE, the Near Real Time Roaming Data Exchange, the complexity of the roaming settlement process, and the fraud challenges mobile operators face as their subscribers roam.
  • Global Interconnect Specialist iconectiv Ramps up its Fraud & Identity Solutions in Bypass & A2P Messaging interview with Bojan Andelkovic — Today’s IRSF, SIM Box, and SMS A2P frauds call for coordinated and broadly conceived FM programs.  A leading interconnect specialist explains the benefits of its managed services approach.
  • A Real-Time Packet-Based Solution to Detect & Block any Hijacked OTT Call interview with Paul David & Andy Gent — Two veterans of the SIM Box call bypass wars describe a new solution for stopping OTT bypass.  Get vital intel on the call hijacking of VIBER and other OTTs.  Learn why the revenue threat to roaming is as serious as it is to international calls.
  • Protecting the Roaming Cash Cow: Using a Global Test Network for LTE Deployments & Beyond interview with Florian Leeder — International is a premium service that operators must ensure the roaming business is reliable and optimized.  This article makes the case for a global roaming test service.  It explains the problems operators face in contracting with roaming partners, maintaining quality, and rolling out LTE.
  • Recruiting Smartphone Users as Partners in Telecom Fraud & Security Control by Tal Eisner — Premium Rate Service (PRS) fraud and spyware on a mobile phone can ruin an operator’s relationship with a  subscriber.  The attacker uses malware to automatically generate phone calls, SMSs and data sessions to high cost (premium) phone numbers.  This article discusses a new crowd sourcing mobile app that addresses the problem and helps operators better manage the threat.
  • Roaming — if Managed Correctly --  Can Be a Spark to Revenues by Brian Silvestri — Major analyst firms are predicting that roaming revenues will almost double in five years.  What’s more, roaming remains at the pivot point of Wireless Carrier strategy.  Drawing lessons from the incredible rise of AT&T’s Digital One Rate Plan, this article points to future challengtes and raises key  questions about how mobile operators will ultimately come to terms with smartphone market profitability, service quality, and data roaming.
  • International Revenue Share Fraud: Are We Winning the Battle Against Telecom Pirates? interview with Colin Yates — International Revenue Share Fraud (IRSF) is one of the telecom industry’s most enduring problems.  Yet many of us have only a foggy notion of how IRSF works and how operators around the globe are coping with the issue. This interview covers the bases: the origins of IRSF, typical fraud scenarios, efforts to get international cooperation on the issue, and the future outlook of IRSF.
  • Roaming Fraud: The Importance of Real-Time Data Exchange and Analysis interview with James Stewart — The Near Real Time Roaming Data Exchange (NRTRDE) is a GSM standard allowing operators to gain fast access to the roaming records of service providers half way around the world.  The article explains how 65 carriers are using this data to combat fraud through a service bureau.  Learn about the dangers of international roaming fraud and the value a roaming service bureau brings to the table.

Related Articles

  • Subex’s New HyperSense AI-Platform Aims to Turn Telcos into Agile, Analytics-Driven Ubers and Rakutens interview with Rohit Maheshwari — An expert explains why telcos must swiftly adopt the AI/analytics methods of hyperscaler firms.  Giving telco examples where cross-company data sharing can make a difference, he explains the 12 key features of a new platform designed to deliver more agile and collaborative intelligence across a telco.
  • Subex’s COO: Machine Learning, Disruption & Adaptive Biz Models to Impact Telecoms in 2020 interview with Shankar Roddam — In our dynamic and digital-driven world, telecoms and enterprises face many business risks.  So what can you do to plot a successful future?  Hear 5 prophecies on 2020 telecom trends from the Chief Operating Officer of Subex.
  • TELUS Analytics Users Get Productivity Boost from Internal Team of Data Access & Showcasing Experts-for-Hire interview with Mange Kumarasamy — How a large organization with hundreds of analytics users gets help from an  internal Big Data team who sources multiple back-end databases; builds tailored reports; and drives campaigns that answer strategic questions for users.
  • Non-Verbal Speech Analytics: Monitoring Voice Calls in Real-Time for Customer Care, Sales, Retention & Onboarding interview with Yoav Degani — Non-verbal speech analysis studies the emotional context of voice qualities like intonation, tone, emphasis and rhythm.  A pioneer in voice analytics explains how its technology benefits customer care, sales, retention and onboarding.
  • Telecom CVM: From Scattered Campaigns to Unified & Consistent Communication with Customers interview with Cretièn Brandsma — Despite the many failures Customer Value Management has faced in telecom, CVM’s future is very hopeful.  A carrier expert explains why telecoms have faltered, how customer experience programs can be revitalized, and where telecoms should invest in better tactics and technology.
  • The Key to Driving 4G Profit: Sell Value, Not Bandwidth by Miri Duenias — Are you struggling to earn a profit on your 4G investments?  Many operators are failing today on the marketing side.  But aligning 4G products with a customer’s personal preferences and desires provides the necessary sizzle to boost sales and earn a handsome ROI.
  • Will Real-Time Decisioning Save Big Data Analytics from Overblown Hype? interview with Tom Erskine — Telecom analytics is more than just collecting and analyzing data.  It’s also about taking action — correct action — often in real-time and across a complex provisioning environment.  In this interview you’ll hear how next best actions are creating value in retention and upselling through a more flexible, business-process driven approach.
  • A Big Data Starter Kit in the Cloud: How Smaller Operators Can Get Rolling with Advanced Analytics interview with Ryan Guthrie — Medium to small operators know “big data” is out there alright, but technical staffing and cost issues have held them back from implementing it.  This interview discusses the advantages of moving advanced analytics to the cloud where operators can get up and running faster and at lower cost.
  • The Customer Engagement Era: How Personalization & Backend Integration Leads to a Richer Mobile Biz interview with Rita Tochner — How does a mobile operator move its subscribers to higher levels of spending and profit?  Fierce competition, social media scrutiny, and the high cost of new networks all conspire against these goals.  In this interview, however, you’ll learn how engaging better with customers, getting more personal, and being more sensitive to their individual needs is the path forward.
  • Telecoms Failing Badly in CAPEX: The Desperate Need for Asset Management & Financial Visibility interview with Ashwin Chalapathy — A 2012 PwC report put the telecom industry on the operating table, opened the patient up, and discovered a malignant cancer: poor network CAPEX management, a problem that puts telecoms in grave financial risk.  In this interview, a supplier of network analytics solutions provides greater detail on the problem and lays out its prescription for deeper asset management, capacity planning and data integrity checks.
  • Batting for More Churn Reduction and Revenue Assurance Home Runs interview with Peter Mueller — What’s it like to transform an IT shop to big data and cloud?  In this interview, the CTO of a boutique revenue assurance explains how his firm made the leap.  He shows how project-oriented programs and working with carrier customers to explore RA and churn reduction “hunches” is where much of the action is.
  • History Repeats: The Big Data Revolution in Telecom Service Assurance interview with Olav Tjelflaat — The lessons of telecom software history teach that new networks and unforeseen industry developments have an uncanny knack for disrupting business plans.  A service assurance incumbent reveals its strategy for becoming a leader in the emerging network analytics and assurance market.
  • From Alarms to Analytics: The Paradigm Shift in Service Assurance interview with Kelvin Hall — In a telecom world with millions of smart devices, the service assurance solutions of yesteryear are not getting the job done.  So alarm-heavy assurance is now shifting to big data solutions that deliver visual, multi-layered, and fine-grained views of network issues.  A data architect who works at large carriers provides an inside view of the key service provider problems driving this analytics shift.
  • The Shrink-Wrapped Search Engine: Why It’s Becoming a Vital Tool in Telecom Analytics interview with Tapan Bhatt — Google invented low cost, big data computing with its distributed search engine that lives in mammoth data centers populated with thousands of commodity CPUs and disks.  Now search engine technology is available as “shrink wrapped” enterprise software.  This article explains how this new technology is solving telecom analytics problems large and small.
  • Sharing Intelligence, Services, and Infrastructure across the Telecom Galaxy interview with Gary Zimmerman — The telecom industry is an industry of sharing.  In fact, the rise of mobile broadband is driving a greater reliance on real-time intelligence, services trading, and infrastructure exchange.  In this article, a leading info exchange provider explains the value of its services portfolio and points to other interoperability and sharing ideas under development.
  • Data Monetization: Why Selling Intelligence is a Hot New Revenue Stream for Mobile Carriers interview with Joe Levy — Data monetization is a revenue dream come true for mobile carriers: a highly profitable sideshow where the carrier analyzes and sells data it already collects for other purposes.  In this article you’ll learn how operators monetize their data through use cases in corporate advertising and media branding.
  • Harvesting Big Data Riches in Retailer Partnering, Actionable CEM & Network Optimization interview with Oded Ringer — In the analytics market there’s plenty of room for small solution firms to add value through a turnkey service or cloud/licensed solution.  But what about large services firms: where do they play?  In this article you’ll learn how a global services giant leverages data of different types to help telcos: monetize retail partnerships, optimize networks, and make CEM actionable.
  • Raising a Telco’s Value in the Digital Ecosystem: One Use Case at a Time interview with Jonathon Gordon — The speed of telecom innovation is forcing software vendors to radically adapt and transform their business models.  This article shows how a deep packet inspection company has  expanded into revenue generation, particularly  for mobile operators.  It offers a broad palette of value-adding use cases from video caching and parental controls to application-charging and DDoS security protection.
  • Radio Access Network Data: Why It’s Become An Immensely Useful Analytics Source interview with Neil Coleman — It’s hard to overstate the importance of Radio Access Network (RAN) analytics to a mobile operator’s business these days.  This article explains why the RAN data, which lives in the air interface between the base station and the handset --  can be used for a business benefit in network optimization and customer experience.
  • Back Office Streamlining to Enterprise Support: The Many Flavors of Wireline Analytics interview with Tom Nolting — Mobile analytics gets plenty of press coverage, but analytics is just as crucial for wireline operators.  In this article, a billing VP at a leading wireline operator discusses several diverse uses of analytics in billing, enterprise sales/retention, and network partner margin assurance.
  • Analytics Biology: The Power of Evolving to New Data Sources and Intelligence Gathering Methods interview with Paul Morrissey — Data warehouses create great value, yet it’s now time to let loose non-traditional big data platforms that create value in countless pockets of operational efficiency that have yet to be fully explored.  This article explains why telecoms must expand their analytics horizons and bring on all sorts of new data sources and novel intelligence gathering techniques.
  • B/OSS Mathematics: The Quest to Analyze Business Problems & Drive Operating Decisions interview with Matti Aksela — Analytics is the glory of mathematics brought to practical use.  And in telecom, analytics has merely stratched the surface of its full potential.  In this article, you’ll learn how machine learning is being combined with the power of CDR number crunching to optimize mobile top-ups, control churn — and in the future, help telecoms make critical network and operating decisions.
  • Leveraging the RA/FM Platform to Deliver Business Insights to Finance & Marketing by Amit Daniel — Carrier professionals using RA and fraud management tools are getting requests from internal customers who want the role of RA/FM platforms expanded to deliver up-to-date analytics data for finance and marketing purposes.  This article advocates a cross-product layer to serve such broader use cases.  The effect would be to transform the existing RA/FM platform into a combined business protection and business growth analytics engine.
  • A Mobile Marketer Service: Bridging Personalization & B/OSS Flowthrough interview with Efrat Nakibly — Marketing analytics is a prescriptive program for driving  actions such as sending a timely promotion to a mobile subscriber.  But completeness demands that you also be able to provision that treatment, qualify the promotion, and keep billing fully in the loop.  This article shows how a managed services program can deliver such an end-to-end process and manage customer life cycles on a one-to-one basis.
  • Science of Analytics: Bringing Prepaid Top Ups & Revenue Maximization under the Microscope interview with Derek Edwards — Prepaid subscribers are the customers that carriers know the least about.  The operator is not interacting with prepaid customers on a monthly basis.  You’re not sending a bill, nor do you have detailed profiles on these customers, especially in the developing world where customers are buying SIMs at a grocery store.  This interview explains how contextual marketing meets the unique analytics challenge of prepaid customers.
  • Connecting B/OSS Silos and Linking Revenue Analytics with the Customer Experience by Anssi Tauriainen — Customer experience analytics is a complex task that flexes B/OSS data to link the customer’s network experience and actions to improve it and drive greater revenue.  In this article, you’ll gain an understanding of how anayltics data needs to be managed across various customer life cycle stages and why it’s tailored for six specific user groups at the operator.
  • Profitable 3G: China’s Mobile Operators Monetize Networks with Retailers & Partners interview with Kevin Xu — Mobile operators are at the center of explosive growth in wireless services.  But to exploit this opportunity requires IT ingenuity and a broader view on how the mobile user can be served.  In this article you’ll learn the innovative techniques Chinese operators use to monetize 3G networks via analytics and partnerships with retailers, social networks, and advertisers.
  • Customer Analytics: Making the Strategic Leap From Hindsight to Foresight interview with Frank Bernhard — Are your company’s analytics programs scattered?  Is there a strategy in place for customer analytics?  This interview with a leading telecom analytics consultant explains why strategy and planning around the analytics function is crucial to getting your money’s worth.  Topics discussed include: hindsight vs. foresight; an advanced analytics program; and the interface sophistication required to support high end vs. low end analytics users.
  • Meeting the OTT Video Challenge: Real-Time, Fine-Grain Bandwidth Monitoring for Cable Operators interview with Mark Trudeau — Cable operators in North America are being overwhelmed by the surge in video and audio traffic.  In this article you’ll learn how Multi Service Operators (MSOs) are now monitoring their traffic to make critical decisions to protect QoS service and monetize bandwidth.  Also featured is expert perspective on trends in: network policy; bandwidth caps; and  customer care issues.
  • Analytics Meditations: The Power of Low-Cost Hardware and the Social Network Within interview with Ken King — Analytics didn‘t arrive yesterday.  Data warehousing and BI have been in the telecom vocabulary for twenty-five or more years.  In this interview, you’ll gain a perspective on why “big data” changes the game and why social network (or social circles) analysis promises the next level of insights.  Other interesting topics include: segmenting the analytics market, engaging with carrier clients, and upgrading from older- to newer-style methodologies.
  • LTE Analytics:  Learning New Rules in Real-Time Network Intelligence, Roaming and Customer Assurance interview with Martin Guilfoyle — LTE is telecom’s latest technology darling, and this article goes beyond the network jargon, to explain the momentous changes LTE brings.  The interview delves into the marriage of IMS, high QoS service delivery via IPX, real-time intelligence and roaming services, plus the new customer assurance hooks that LTE enables.
  • Shared Data Plans: The Challenge of Managing a Family of Pricing, Revenue Assurance, Fraud, and Network Policy Issues by Amit Daniel — Verizon Wireless‘ recent announcement of its move to shared data plans for families shook the mobile industry.  In this column, cVidya’s Amit Daniel shines a spotlight on the knowhow and analytics tools that operators now deperately need to offer the right  shared data price plans, ensure bandwidth throttling is handled correctly, and address new fraud concerns.
  • Analytics Guru: Are Telecoms Ready for the Biz Intelligence Explosion? interview with John Meyers — Business intelligence is evolving from the creation of dashboards and reports to taking action based on a deep knowledge of the environmental context.  The article explores the implications of “big data” in terms of IPTV, storage requirements, hardware, event collection, and deep packet inspection.
  • Social Networking for Telecoms: How To Enlist Friends and Family as Mobile Marketers interview with Simon Rees — Social Network Analysis (SNA) is about exploiting data on “friends and family” connections to combat churn and win new CSP business.  The article explores how an analysis of the ebb and flow of CDRs, phone calls, and messages, can identify key influencers and drive powerful marketing campaigns.
  • Making the Strategic Leap From Billing to Merchandising interview with Humera Malik — Today billing/charging technology has progressed to the point where the usage intelligence, the charges, the user behaviors, and the analytics can all come together in near real-time.  This article discusses the organizational and marketing strategies that enable a operator to create a true “merchandising” system that can revolutionize a CSP’s business.