Four Things Operators Should Look Out for in 2022 and Beyond

5 min read

The year of 2022 promises to be quite an intriguing year for mobile operators. The simultaneous surge in A2P volumes traffic across virtually all channels and the following increase in fraudulent activity means MNOs have to tackle multiple challenges if they want to secure their A2P revenues and protect their reputation. In this article, we take a closer look at the opportunities we deem worth your attention. 

Mobile operators A2P portfolio expansion 

As discussed in our previous article, the growing adoption of smartphones has led to a steady increase in OTT messages, while SMS growth is stagnating at best. 

With brands following their audiences and switching over to messaging apps, it is only a matter of time when A2P SMS revenues start to decline. This status quo change means that MNOs risk being reduced to mobile data plan providers, losing their cut of the A2P revenue pie. To combat this, mobile operators should expand their messaging portfolios, in particular — by adopting a Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) solution 

As singular centralised platforms,CPaaS solutions enable enterprise clients to access a multitude of messaging channels such as SMS, OTT messengers, and push notifications within a single suite, optimising brand communications.  

Developing such platforms in-house or by engaging a third party takes tons of time, money and bandwidth. Engaging a CPaaS solution provider can make this process more efficient. This way, operators can capitalise on the vast list of local and international enterprises directly connected to their network quickly and efficiently.  

Another channel that demonstrates great promise as an A2P revenue source is Rich Communications Services. According to Mobilesquared, RCS demonstrated the most significant growth across all messaging channels. Its user base grew 81.5% between December 2020 and December 2021, seeing nationwide deployments in India, Mexico, and the US. In our opinion, RCS can become a unique offering for MNO’s corporate clients, given its deployment is handled by an experienced vendor

The increase in fraud calls for wider SMS firewall adoption

COVID-19 has provoked a substantial increase in A2P SMS traffic over the last two years. Due to its ubiquity, SMS has become a vital channel for critical updates, allowing brands and governments to reach out to subscribers virtually anywhere. The transition towards remote and combined workplace policies has also prompted a surge in authentication traffic, further contributing to overall A2P SMS volumes. 

But whenever a disaster breaks out, it tends to attract scavengers, and the global pandemic has arguably become the golden age for fraud and other unsavoury practices. And SMS phishing (or smishing) is one of the most widespread types of SMS fraud. Moreover, according to Security Magazine, the number of smishing attempts increased by 161% in 2021 alone.  

Smishing attacks aim to obtain sensitive information like the subscriber’s personal and bank account data. Typically, a person is invited to click a link, call a phone number, or contact an email address provided by the attacker via SMS message and share their details. What is worse, FluBot and TangleBot — the most recent viciously cunning mobile malware — also use smishing as a vehicle for infecting Android devices and obtaining control over users’ sensitive information. 

Successful attempts at smishing can lead to substantial financial and personal consequences for subscribers. Moreover, sophisticated malware like the aforementioned Flubot can self-propagate by gaining access to subscribers’ address books and sending fraudulent messages to their contacts. 

The golden age of SMS firewalls is almost here

The unregulated spread of SMS fraud discussed above can ultimately result in the loss of trust towards SMS as a channel, promising a massive blow to the operator’s A2P SMS revenues. Coupled with more “traditional” fraud like grey routes, this might become an actual recipe for disaster. Operators must implement advanced SMS firewall solutions to eliminate SMS fraud and properly secure traffic segregation to actively counter the infinitely creative fraudsters.   

According to Juniper Research, the volume of business messaging traffic filtered by SMS firewalls will grow from 3.1 trillion in 2021 to 4.4 trillion in 2026; as operators increase their investment in advanced analytics, such as natural language processing abilities.  

SMS firewalls are expected to reduce operator losses to grey routes from $5.6 billion in 2021 to $922 million by 2026.

As a result, Juniper predict that wider SMS firewall adoption can considerably decrease the attractiveness of grey routes by elevating the prices associated with concealing fraudulent traffic. This will make legitimate traffic termination a more competitive option, as fraudsters will struggle to justify the increased costs associated with grey routes traffic delivery. 

Signalling firewalls to the rescue 

Another consequence of the pandemic is the increase in mobile data volumes caused by consumers and businesses turning to their mobile devices to adapt to the new normal. And the increase in financial transactions and information traversing mobile networks has not gone unnoticed by fraudsters and hackers.  

Indeed, Mobileum has registered an exponential increase in security attacks on mobile operator networks since the start of the pandemic. Mobileum’s Threat Intelligence researchers observed that these attacks are increasing in frequency and will only get worse, compromising an MNO’s reputation and their audience’s security. 

 As you might have noticed at this point, an MNO’s reputation is a sort of a leitmotif for the trends we have highlighted so far. Over 50% of mobile subscribers say they would potentially switch providers following a security breach. And even if the subscribers stay with the mobile operator following a breach, more than 75% would have lost trust in their provider.  

As a means to secure their credibilty and subscriber base, mobile operators are starting to invest in signalling firewalls. Mobilesquared’s industry research reveals that 17% of mobile operators had installed a signalling firewall as of 2020, with a further 34 deployments expected during 2021, taking the total to just under one-quarter (24%) by the end of 2021. Mobilesquared predicts sustained growth in the number of mobile operators investing in a signalling firewall up to 2025. By this point, 49% of all mobile operators will have a signalling firewall, providing protection for at least one protocol (SS7). 

Time to get moving

In our opinion, for MNOs, succeeding in 2022 and further would require quite a bit of agility and investment. However, operators must not face the challenges alone. A trusted service provider like GMS can become an invaluable ally in the quick deployment of comprehensive solutions that will secure your further growth. 

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