CXTech Week 19, News and Analysis

The purpose of this CXTech Week 19 newsletter is to highlight, with commentary, some of the news stories in CXTech this week. What is CXTech?  The C stands for Connectivity, Communications, Collaboration, Conversation, Customer; X for Experience because that’s what matters; and Tech because the focus is enablers.

Examples of what falls into CXTech includes: Programable Telecoms / Communications, CPaaS, UCaaS, CCaaS, open source telecom software, CPaaS enablers, Multi-Factor Authentication / Instant Authentication, Telecom APIs, WebRTC, Cloud Communications, CPaaS enabled services, omni-channel, telecom infrastructure as code, telecom service dashboards, the myriad of UIs making APIs and enablers and services useable beyond coders.

You can read more about why we’re testing out this definition in the following weblogs: TADSummit State of the UnionWhat’s in a Name Part 1 and Part 2 discussions.

I wrap up the newsletter with a section covering, “People, Gossip, and Frivolous Stuff.”

You can sign up here to receive the CXTech News and Analysis by email. Please forward this on if you think someone should join the list, I also publish this on my weblog. And please let me know any CXTech news I should include.


The Continued Rise of Phone Scams

We’ve seen a number of phone scams raise their head in the news over the past week:

F.C.C. Warns About the ‘One Ring’ Robocall Scheme

That is ring a number once, in the hope 1% call back to a premium phone number (generally its baby-boomers who call back, sigh!). This is often used with international revenue share fraud. We’ll be discussing at TADSummit Americas how programmable telecoms can help solve these problems, with a keynote and session devoted to this issue from Telesign.

Man’s $1M Life Savings Stolen as Cell Number Is Hijacked

This one is SIM swap fraud. First, the hacker hijacks your mobile phone number. At that point, your email, social media, and financial password reset codes go to them. And that’s all they need to take control of all those accounts and steal from you.

Hackers simply pretend to be a telco agent on the phone with the telco to access a target’s cellular account and hijack their number. Other hackers claim to be paying off carrier salespeople or call center workers. Hackers call them “plugs.” We’ve seen similar telco employee fraud on international call termination with SIM box fraud – I wrote about that back in 2009 with Revector. Wow, over 10 years ago! And its founder Andy Gent is still doing good business with Revector!

The SIM Swap Fix That The US Isn’t Using

SIM swap hackers rely on intercepting a one-time password sent by text after stealing a victim’s banking credentials, or by using the phone number as a password reset fallback. The carrier can set up a system to let the bank query phone records for any recent SIM swaps associated with a bank account before they carried out a money transfer. If a SIM swap had occurred in, say, the last two or three days, the transfer would be blocked. Because SIM swap victims can typically see within minutes that their phone has been disabled, that window of time let them report the crime before fraudsters could take advantage.

By August of 2018, Mozambique’s largest bank was performing SIM swap checks with all the major carriers. It reduced their SIM swap fraud to nearly zero overnight. Mozambique isn’t alone in implementing that fix for the rise of SIM swap fraud, which is increasingly used for everything from hijacking Instagram accounts to stealing cryptocurrency.

Some security firms and banking executives point to US carriers as the main hurdle. They simply don’t make real-time SIM swap data available for the kind of security checks other countries’ banks have implemented. Security company Telesign has sought to offer SIM swap fraud-checking to US banks, but has found that most US phone companies aren’t yet willing to work with them.

“Long story short, the data isn’t available from most US carriers,” says Stacey Stubblefield, Telesign’s cofounder. She says only one US phone carrier has so far offered real-time SIM swap data, but declined to say which.

Stubblefield admits it’s hard to know what deals banks or other potential SIM swap attack targets might have cut with carriers privately. Those stakeholders have been tightlipped about their solutions, in part to avoid providing any clues that might help fraudsters circumvent their security measures. But Stubblefield is nonetheless confident that carriers aren’t providing enough data to allow real-time SIM swap checks in the US. But Stubblefield says Telesign is in talks with two banks who are seeking that data—a sure sign that they don’t have it already.

This reminds be of the 5+ year old issue large banks have with telcos not exposing their core services through APIs, rather legacy telco interfaces.

Bottom-line, the telecom industry needs at move at the speed of its customers to remain relevant to its customers. And aggregators need to aggregate customer demand to affect change, that is have the large banks and other institutions working together to pressure telcos to act faster.


TADSummit Americas – registration open and draft agenda available

If there is one word that summarizes TADSummit its Independence. TADSummits are not an indoctrination event where you’re surrounded by people using the same platform. You are free to compare and contrast the different platforms, projects and services. We encourage open and frank conversations. Check out our policy statement.

You’ll not see silly discussions on “Do UCaaS and CPaaS complete?” We provide the insight to understand how the acronym soup fits together. We stand by our 7 year record of thought leadership, and bringing a diverse group of leading implementers; diversity brings success.

And that brings me to why we’re proud Telesign are a sponsor of TADSummit Americas, they’re going to open up the whole fraud / trust and telecoms landscape. It’s a massive untapped opportunity across the industry, and a great example of why diversity in events matters.


Mark Zuckerberg wants to build WeChat for the West

This is old news, Facebook have been watching WeChat and Line for years. More importantly whatever FB attempts is not going to achieve same success. Check out this article from last year, From IM to First Point of Contact with the Internet (FPOCI), to understand how WeChat and LINE achieved their success. It’s highly country specific, and critically Facebook has lost the trust of most rational thinking people (yes, I know, a small minority).


Google launches CallJoy, a virtual customer service phone agent for small businesses

About one year ago, Google unveiled Duplex, an AI-powered feature that can call businesses and book appointments for you with a creepy demo. Ahead of this year’s I/O, Google revealed a virtual customer service agent that can automatically handle inbound calls for small businesses called CallJoy.

When a customer calls, CallJoy will answer with a custom message and offer basic business details such as opening hours. If the caller wants to inquire about a task that can be carried out online, like placing an order or arranging an appointment, CallJoy will send them a text with the relevant URL if they agree. If they want to talk to someone or if they call from a landline, their call will go through to the business’ phone. The system will also filter out unwanted spam calls.

Voxist is a good example of such as service, and the service will not be spying on you. Thomas Howe of Ten Digit has given year-on-year great insight on this topic at TADSummit. We’re proud Thomas will be presenting at TADSummit Americas 🙂

CallJoy will record and transcribe the calls. The small business owner will then be able to categorize calls by topic, while they can search the transcripts through a dashboard. CallJoy will also provide data on factors including call volume and returning vs. new callers.
Google won’t port phone numbers to CallJoy. Users will have to select a virtual number with their own area code, and they’ll have to update their contact information to include the number. CallJoy will also only be linked to one location and one phone number. Small business owners will be able to add other locations and lines, but Google is charging $39/month per line.


Given there are an estimated 400 million calls to small businesses each day, such a system could save people quite some time. This leads into the question, why are the tech giants so desperate to provide your voice assistant? The view is it’s another platform like the desktop web and then the mobile web.

Personally, I only have a couple of mobile web specific services, Uber is one of them, its the only app a use exclusively on my mobile phone. The rest are services I use from the web on a variety of form factors depending on where I happen to be sitting / lying / standing at home / office / car / airplane / hotel using a laptop / TV / tablet / phone / kiosk / console.

Voice assistants / agents are a subset of all the above services. However, do not let the word voice distract you, what’s really being discussed are agents (software owned by Google, Amazon, Facebook) that tracks you intimately 24/7 across voice, video, text, photos, across all your devices and all your online and offline actions. And even acts on your behalf, for the benefit of the agent’s owner. Voice is a bit of a crap machine interface, so an agent is required to understand context and preferences to make it better, more like a human to human interface. So its the inherent limitations of voice and our brains, that is creating the opportunity for Google, Amazon, Facebook to know you ever more intimately. Roll-on the decentralized web, and let 1000 agents bloom! Voxist being an example of a non-invasive agent 😉


Talking about the Decentralized Web: Here’s a nice Presentation from Martin Kleppmann on Decentralized Collaboration

Diversity in collaboration applications is not going away, not matter how much the legacy enterprise collaboration providers claim, there will never be one! Diversity is good as there are a variety of needs, with the rise in the decentralized web this diversity is only going to increase as people try and avoid Google, Amazon, Facebook agents spying on them 24/7.


Bandwidth’s Q1 results

Total first quarter revenue of $53.3 million, up 1% year-over-year.

CPaaS first quarter revenue of $45.0 million, up 16% year-over-year. Note Twilio’s Q1 was up 81% to $233.1 million.

Active CPaaS customers of 1,351, up 31% year-over-year. Twilio has more in-bound leads from its massive online marketing budget, while Bandwidth is more out-bound telemarking.


Are Carriers Renewing Their interest in CPaaS?

We’ve seen a number of announcements in the past week claiming telcos’ are renewing their interest in CPaaS. Rather than reference the vendors’ claims, here is some independent analysis on this situation. The key take away is its highly situation dependent, and please, let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past.

CPaaS has dropped from a strategic issue to an operational one for most telcos. That is few telco strategy groups have CPaaS on their watch list these days, rather 5G (180 point font), IoT, AI, AR/VR, smart cities, blockchain, autonomous vehicles, digital transformation, etc. (the rest in 8 point font).

We’ve seen telco’s legacy wholesale business expand their use of APIs (beyond legacy telco protocols) to bring in more clients beyond the traditional aggregators, and expand service portfolio beyond voice and messaging into WiFi, CDN, Trust, IPVPN, SIMs (IoT), SIP trunking and a long list of other VAS, etc. This is generally direct sales not self-service, being frank, people knocking on the telco’s door.

Strategically, this wholesale business can be considered as enabling enterprise service competition to the rest of the telco’s business, for example Vonage and Twilio are delivering a range of enterprise services that relegate the telco to an ISP and wholesale PSTN provider.  While wholesale grows its business, the competition in enterprise telecom services increases. The few UCaaS / CCaaS partnership some telcos have implemented are not enough to address the growing competition.

Beyond the well-established wholesale business, self-service in CPaaS remains challenging for telcos. We’ve see success from hSenid Mobile, Apigate, MTN, and Axiata group in emerging markets and segments of markets that have emerging market ex-pats. We are sharing insights from Apigate and hSenid Mobile at TADSummit Asia on this topic. We also have hSenid Mobile as a sponsor of TADHack Chicago for hacking on their eCPaaS (more on that development later).

The broader telco self-service segment of CPaaS remains a question mark. Is it self-service of APIs (Twilio, Bandwidth, Nexmo, VoIP Innovations, Telnyx, Tyntec, Cequens, and many more dominate); or self-service of API-enabled services, here the VoIP Innovations Showroom is an example.

Another question is whether a telco should partner with aggregators to resell their offers. KDDI/Twilio is one of the oldest surviving examples of such a relationship. For the basic transport services there is limited margin to make such a deal work. It has to focus on higher margin services. This leads back to the VoIP Innovations Showroom idea and owning the stack to better control margin. But some of the more successful telco CCaaS and UCaaS deployments are where the telco provides the introductions and lets the partners sell and support. While the telco provides the underlying connectivity and takes a share of the subscription revenue. We’ll be discussing this at TADSummit EMEA in November.

A Telco’s CPaaS strategy, beyond the legacy wholesale business, is highly situation dependent. The legacy enterprise service business needs to be well understood, a frank assessment of its future potential, and a clear characterization of the addressed segments. It’s OK to have 2 similar offers and let the market decide – diet coke and coke zero is the classic example – rather than deciding on behalf of the market. Generally, telcos need new not legacy partners to create enough margin for a viable business, note a few telcos own their technology stack, e.g. Vonage.

Now back to eCPaaS (enterprise CPaaS), this will be discussed on 28th May at TADSummit Asia by Roshni Hewamallika, Deputy General Manager – Core Business at hSenid Mobile. The power of CPaaS for Enterprises. As CPaaS matures, enterprises can own the technology themselves, rather than rent CPaaS enabled services, this can be especially attractive when margins are high or integration delivers significant operational benefits. We’re in a constantly evolving market, where the diversity of enterprise needs and market situations will limit the “winner takes all” approach I see many strategic analysts assuming will be the end result of this programmable enterprise communications market.


TADHack Global Launched

We’ve just launched the TADHack Global 2019 website. If you want to be part of the world’s largest programmable telecoms / CXTech hacking event please get in touch. It’s going to be great fun.


People, Gossip, and Frivolous Stuff

Francisco Kattan is now a free agent, previously he was head of platform marketing at Nexmo, I introduced Tony (founder Nexmo) and Francisco.

Carley Diaz is now Leader at Code for Orlando. Code for Orlando have supported TADHack-mini Orlando since the beginning.

Patrícia Candeias is now Director at Museu das Comunicações, previously she was with Altice Labs.

Siim Teller is now VP of Marketing at Applift. Before Applift he was with Wire.

Neil Handelsman is now Strategic Account Director at ClickSoftware. Previously he was Application Sales Manager for Cable MSO’s for Oracle’s Communications Global Business Unit.

Kevin Lawson is now Director of Sales at ePlus (IT services company), previously he was Director of Sales at Voyant.

James Smith is now Segment Lead – Solution Architecture & Design at IBM, previously he was with Vodafone.


You can sign up here to receive the CXTech News and Analysis by email. Please forward this on if you think someone should join the list, I also publish this on my weblog. And please let me know any CXTech news I should include.