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deploys telco-grade applications on open source platform
Leading mobile communications provider M1 has deployed a loyalty system for its prepaid customers using the open source database MySQL in combination with Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system – an approach that has resulted in significant cost savings for the telco.
The application, hSenid RewardsPlus, allows network operators to set up a wide variety of promotion, loyalty and tenure programmes and reward bonuses or prizes to their subscribers based on usage patterns and a wide range of mobile subscriber activities such as SMS, voice mail, voice call, multimedia message service (MMS) and WAP. It enables the operators to build competitive advantage while generating revenues and building customer loyalty.
Features of the system include credit expiry management, comparison reports on promotion efficiency, configurable SMS messages to the subscribers, and up-to-date subscriber event monitoring. Ease of management is assured through compatibility with telcos' Intelligent Networks (IN) systems and through web-based administration capabilities.
As competition intensifies in Singapore's mobile services market, M1 has had to stay ahead of the curve by anticipating subscriber trends and responding with innovative new applications and services. In rolling out these new services, however, it was important for it to rein in costs in order to deliver its offerings at a meaningful price point to customers.
For M1, the key to achieving this was to take the open source route in partnership with hSenid, a software development company which has gained global recognition for providing dynamic wireless applications and backend integration (middleware) for telecommunication companies and enterprise markets.
Said Dinesh Saparamadu, chief executive officer, hSenid: "The plan was for the new prepaid loyalty system to keep track of customers topping up their prepaid cards, and allow them to redeem rewards based on pre-defined business rules. The system was thus transaction-intensive. It had to process millions of records, capturing charging information for the prepaid system and making real-time decisions based on the charging records."
When it went live, users did not even realise that the underlying platform had been changed. "There were minimal glitches," said Tan Tiong Heng, General Manager of Core Network Planning at M1. "It was a real-time system, and the response was very quick. hSenid had taken the initiative to develop a simulator to do load testing and verify protocols, and the whole application was tested very rigorously before they presented it to us."
The system was also very resilient. We tried to kill it during testing but the failover and recovery was very fast and there was no loss in data, so we are quite pleased with it, said Tan.
hSenid also developed a fully automated test suite that is run against the code whenever a change is made. This ensures that the systems do not break when there are changes.
The loyalty programme was subsequently extended to roaming customers of M1's prepaid SMS service, when hSenid found a way to enable real-time charging for subscribers who were overseas.
Additionally, hSenid's Telco Reporting Platform is used to mine demographic data about M1's prepaid subscribers. This business intelligence system supports marketing and customer management with application specific reporting on SMS, MMS content, voice and GPRS data. The Telco Reporting Platform can integrate to multiple telco Intelligent Networks at multiple locations, to track and monitor all types and formats of CDR (call detail record) information.
hSenid also worked with M1 to roll out services based on Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), a capability built into the GSM standard for transmitting information over the signaling channels of the GSM network. USSD provides session-based communication, enabling a variety of applications. hSenid's USSDGate provides M1 customers with access to session/menu-based third party applications, such as prepaid top-up and content services such as news, weather reports and sports updates. Users dial a special number such as *100# to request for the information to be sent to their mobile device.
Other services that have been developed by hSenid include mRecharge, which enables subscribers to reload their prepaid mobile accounts anytime, anywhere, and with any value using phone-to-phone, POS, ATM, Web, SMS, SIM Tool Kit, WAP and J2ME; and MMSGate, which enables mobile users to send and receive messages with rich content types.
Tan estimates the cost savings from going with hSenid and open source solutions are "in the factor of a hundred". "We were able to get a lower cost of ownership. You would never get that kind of cost if you went with branded databases and third party software. We are quite happy with what we chose."
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