Smart Cities: Whys, hows and whats

We are living in times when urbanization is at peak and the challenges put forward because of it are numerous. We are also living in times that are technologically so advance that we witness exciting innovations almost every other day. And hearing a new buzzword has actually become so frequent.

One such word is – Smartcity. It’s been going around for a long time now. You would have read, heard and talked about it more often, but do we know what a smart city actually is? Do we understand the basics of it and do we know the elements that are required to make a city smart?
Unfortunately, there is absolutely no instruction manual available for cities to become smart. We wish it had though! But then we have reached a stage where we can definitely define the basic things/ elements that are required for a city to really become smart.
We will discuss those in brief in this article and we will try to explain each one of them in other posts
Urbanization Challenges and why smart cities are required
First, let’s have a look a look why there is a need for a ‘ Smart’ city. Below infographic talks about the same

Now, transforming a city into a smart one, requires a combined understanding of government, citizen, and businesses in order to bring everyone on one page and then, apply the appropriate technology strategies and architectures that will connect everything—people, data and devices —as well as embrace analytics and take a holistic approach.
Now, this complete process is complex.
And the biggest challenge to this is the Siloed approach, which means each and every vertical working unconnectedly. Now, this results in duplication of investment and revenue loss due to lack of interaction and sharing of information across verticals.
This fragmented approach is inefficient, has limited value, and is definitively not economical.
A smart city requires efficient use of all the resources available, which means sharing them in a connected and integrated network. These enable cities to optimize the services of each vertical, to further engage citizens and improve the quality of life. It helps in providing more services with fewer resources, which further helps in the reduction of city’s expenses.
Now, this was about why cities need to be ‘Smart’
Let’s talk about what are the elements that are required for this transformation.
The first and the most important one is the connectivity in form of Wi-Fi or data.
It enables cities to solve their most critical Solution Components (Lighting, water and waste management, etc.) on a shared and intelligent network infrastructure. At the same time, it enables cities to provide its citizens with free internet connectivity and access to a broad range of citywide services, thus making it a multi-service solution.
It provides an end-to-end architecture for citywide connectivity, enabling it anytime, anywhere. Not just that it helps in driving citizen engagement through greater access to city services, education, training and job opportunities. It also helps to improve quality of life and livability, making it easier to attract and retain businesses and talent
All this helps in optimizing city operations and planning, improving city efficiency and drive intelligent sensor-based smart services for 
transportation, utilities, public safety and environmental monitoring 
The next most important thing is to know the ways to tackle the enormous amount of data that is generated.
These insights can help businesses and city planners to be more efficient and more effective, and that translates to revenue eventually. But then the question that arises here is how can all this data be used for the greater use and good for our cities?
The collaboration happens between the most talked about technologies – the Internet of Things and the sensors and pervasive connectivity. This makes cities better connected, integrated and able to analyze information more cohesively in order to enhance their efficiency.
The value of all of this data is massive – but only the right business analytics approach can exploit the best possible outcomes.
With the right answers to the questions of how this data affects our world, we can empower cities and citizens to take actions to enable better lives.
Today, urban planners can draw on a decade or more of data to understand how a city might grow. Imagine what’s possible when you unleash data that has always been locked away without anybody using it properly —the value of making it available for city optimization, real-time updates, and predictive analytics. The solutions that can be/should be deployed to make a city smart are smart parking, smart lighting, waste management, safety and security, smart environment, citizen engagement, smart traffic, etc
The solutions that can be/should be deployed to make a city smart are smart parking, smart lighting, waste management, safety and security, smart environment, citizen engagement, smart traffic, etc
All this together opens up new avenues for cities to generate new revenue from existing infrastructure assets, without extra investment
Cities can look at their existing light poles as opportunities. Using the same common power and cabling and eliminating duplicate spend, cities can install various sensors and cameras on the existing light poles, to view and analyze traffic flow, determine parking availability, get environment values and check crowd flow.
By becoming smart, cities can unlock various avenues by exploring the existing infrastructure of the siloed verticals and make it available to address citywide challenges, from traffic to environment to lighting to parking to safety and security.
By combining it with data coming from intelligent sensors and smart devices, cities can create new revenue streams, reduce costs, operate more effectively and attract new businesses.
While the prospect of optimizing the challenges of growing metropolises may seem intimidating, the timing is actually perfect.
It should be implemented now… Why? Thanks to innovations in cheap sensor technology, big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive analytics – all these together in convergence, can make it possible to tackle all the urban issues.


This post was originally written for Quantela

Hello from this side of the world - after 4 years!

I started this blog, with so much in mind. When I started this blog, I had been going through so much learning, that I was desperate to share it with everyone and also, to keep an account of everything because I did not want to miss anything.

I am still the same - restless, desperate to share my knowledge, my learnings and experiences through some or the other forums.

I happened to accidentally open this blog today and was stunned and thrilled at the same time, to see the response in form of views, comments etc... And that is when I decided to start writing on this blog again... But I don't know how to accommodate the changes that me and my career have been through in last few years

I left Telecom in 2013... Got an opportunity to join a products startup and what an amazing and enriching experience this has been for me. I am still with the same organization and have learned so much. Now, I am into Smart cities domain but the struggle is the same old one -> understanding technical stuff being a pure non-technical person.  But you know, its somehow fun...

My core domain is Marketing but I do a bit of UX/UI as well now... Yeah, in short, I have moved on from Telecom... Currently, I am learning about Smart cities. So probably I will start writing about the same... And will also try to add my UX/UI learnings for the beginners.

Hope you will enjoy this journey with me


A brief on Postpaid and its billing

And so, I am back with a new chapter of my life and for this blog too. It is regarding that part of telecom that I never thought I would get a chance to learn or to work on.
Anyways, I joined one of the leading operators in India last year and my profile included handling the postpaid business which was very exciting and it was something very new and I am somebody who is always excited to learn new things in life. And moreover that would have been a challengeJ

Anyways, so there I got a very good opportunity to learn about the complete Postpaid business, the technical and even the non technical facet of it.

I would really love to pen down all that here on my blog because that’s something I just loved working on.

Today, in this post I will just give a brief on postpaid business. I am sure you all would be aware of what postpaid is…
In layman’s term, Postpaid is basically that kind of mobile connection that gives you the facility of using the services and paying for them later. Needless to say that this is completely contrary to prepaid system which can only be used in parallel to your balance. In postpaid connection, the customers are usually charged at the month end. For the whole month whenever the customer uses his phone, CDRs (Call detail records) are being generated or captured at the data collector at the network switch end. Below are few of the aspects covered in CDRs:
  • Phone number of the person who called
  • Phone number of the person receiving the call
  • The date of the call
  • The starting and ending time of the call
  • The billing phone number that is to be charged for the call
  • A unique sequence number identifying the record
  • the disposition or the results of the call, indicating for example whether the called party was busy, or the call failed
  • Call type (voice, SMS, etc.)
After the CDRs are generated, the role of Telecommunications mediation comes into picture. It is nothing but a process that converts call data to pre-defined layout that can be imported and recognized by the billing system. The Mediation System applies various rules on CDRs to process them, for example mediation system marks the international calls based on the dialed number (B-Number), same way mediation system marks the on-net calls based on A-Number and B-Number.

The data in CDRs is in binary form. The billing mediation platform typically reads this data and converts into common normalized format. Billing Systems and all other downstream systems, in turn, converts this data to component an understandable format.
The mediation system collects, collates and prepares data for consumption by the billing system, which often accept data only in a limited set of formats.

Typically a mediation platform is used for the following tasks:
  • Collection and validation of CDRs
  • Filtering out of non billing-relevant CDRs
  • Collating all the CDRs
  • Aggregation of partial CDRs related to the same call
  • Format change and CDRs normalization
  • Business transformation of data

The mediated CDRs are then, forwarded to a rating engine, which calculates the charge associated with the CDRs
Not all of the data transferred via billing mediation platforms is actually used for billing purposes. For instance, there may be a requirement to filter out all the calls which are having call duration less than 5 seconds, the best place to filter out such type of calls will be at Mediation System level. Same way if some extra information is required in the CDRs which is critical to billing then Mediation System will help in providing such information based on some other attributes available with-in the CDRs.

Once the collected CDRs are processed, Mediation System pushes all the CDRs to the Billing System using FTP because usually Mediation and Billing systems run on different machines
Apart from CDRs collection, mediation do a lot of other stuff some of which is mentioned below:
  • Error Messaging and Alarms
  • Auditing and Reports
  • Reconciliation
  • Reference Data Configuration
  • Provisioning services for the subscription.
  • Collection and Archive
  • Decoding/Encoding
  • Aggregation or Correlation
  • Buffering
  • Cloning
  • Sorting
  • Downstream Distribution
  • CDR Normalization (Common Format)
  • Filtering
  • Conversion
  • Validation
  • Duplicate Record Detection

Typical Scenario:
Hope all the above made sense…
Will take up how this billing happens in the next chapter and then will move on further to the marketing aspect of Postpaid as in how to do an analysis on the postpaid base, on churn, on other aspects.

VAS: An Introduction, its importance and its growth

Value added services, we all know it and call it VAS!

In layman’s term, VAS basically comprises of all the services that a telecom operator has to offer apart from basic voice services. In short, VAS are all non voice services. Egs: SMS services (P2P), SMS Subscription services (P2A services), IVR, all the WAP related services etc.

Lets constraint ourselves with Indian Market  for this article. I believe that the face of the Indian telecom industry is changing very rapidly and with this change, the competition is increasing. Telecom industry today is very different from the one which used to be 5 years back and it is going to change further in the next 5 years. The reason for this change is probably the increasing competition between the operators and also the entrance of many new ones in the market.

Guess, the biggest change has appeared on the way voice calls are being charged! The price for the calls has been decreasing tremendously. The reason being that the new entrants have launched very competitive plans and packs where the voice calls are either free or are charged at a very minimal price due to which even the large players in the market are forced to bring down their voice call prices to match the competition and decrease churn.

This one thing has played a very major role in the decrement of all operators’ rev. And so the operators now look forward to the other revenue channels and VAS is one of the most important channel amongst these. Infact, its been said that 2 yrs down the line, operators will be bound to make all the voice calls completely free for all the customers and  data/ GPRS will be the only source of rev then. This in itself is enough to explain the importance of VAS in telecom industry today. I would say that the priorities and preferences of the industry are going to get shifted completely in coming 2-3 years.

Regarding the VAS, I feel that there is going to be a big change there as well! Guess, the rev from the conventional VAS is definitely going to go down in the next few years and it shouldn’t be a shock if these services gets eliminated completely. With conventional VAS, I mean to say the downloadable content (wallpapers, animations etc), CRBT, few P2A subscription services like Love tips, health tips etc.

So what is it then that will keep VAS in the important list in future. I believe they are going to be utility services, volume based data services (traditionally called as browsing), applications, m-commerce services, cloud based mobile applications, mobile social media. These are the future of VAS industry. It can be said in a way that the focus would be changed from entertainment to utility services

Few of the reasons that are responsible for the change in the telecom and VAS industries are: 1. the changing guidelines of TRAI, 2. increasing maturity in the customers, 3. Easy Internet accessibility, 4. Increasing no of smart phones, 4. introduction of 3G and 4G networks etc

Lets have a look at few figures:

Indian Telecom mobile subscribers: 919 Mn
Mobile Internet/ Data/ GPRS users: 48 mn (till Mar’12)
ARPU: GSM: Rs 96, CDMA: Rs 73
VAS Market: 26,000 crores
Growth over 2011: 32%
Traditional VAS: 63% (CRBT and SMS)
New or emerging VAS: 37% (Apps, games etc)
VAS Arpu: Rs 24

Growth of VAS industry (in crores):

2009: 9,300
2010: 14,500
2011: 19500
2012: 26,000
2013: 33,000
2015: 55,000

Above nos very clearly shows the importance and increasing share of VAS in Telecom Industry…

Keep learning:)

Creation Of Non Vas Products

So, after networking, signaling etc, I really want to get into some stuff from my zone i.e. Marketing! The primary job of this team is to create competitive products! So, lets discuss how these products are created. By product, I mean to say all the products sans VAS ones: Voice, GPRS and SMS… The way VAS products are designed is completely different from the mentioned ones. Because VAS products are majorly created on what people want while other products are majorly created on competition (there are other factors as well)…
Ok, so lets begin…
Voice or GPRS or SMS products are majorly created based on few important things:
1.    Competition products:

a.      A whole lot of research is done on all the competitive products of all the operators: what are the MRPs, what is the PF, what is the response of retailers regarding each product, how the same is doing in market, which is the best product amongst all. So, after doing this detailed research, marketing team discuss the possibilities of products that can be created and which can be a competition for the best product in the market…
b.    On time to time basis, marketing team checks and keep an update on the products of all the operators and then, do an analysis if they are missing on any of the products I,e, if they do not have a product competitive enough to match the competition’s products. I will give you an eg by creating a sample report in an excel sheetJ

If you look at the above image of an excel sheet, the products have distributed on the basis of MRP range because it makes the comparison easy and simple.
·         You just have to check in what range your product doesn’t exist, how many operators doesn’t have products in the same range, how are the products of the existing operators are working in the market etc… Now, there can be many scenarios, 1. If they are doing well, then you need to check out possibilities in which you can create a competitive product with the resources available to you.

·         2nd thing to be done is check the validity and benefits of all the products of all the operators in all the ranges and then, decide if you have the best product or not. Its something which again depends on many thing, one being the resources of your operator and so, based on all this you can make few changes in the existing products as well…
·         While creating a product, you will have to check if there is a profit for you after taking out all the costs like: IUC, termination costs, taxes, network cost etc… amount/MB (or whatever the cost is) paid in case of GPRS products

2.    Usage Pattern:

2nd thing which is taken into account while creating a product is the Usage Pattern of your own base, your own customers. For e.g. in SMS, you need to check how many customers exists in each usage range:
0-100 SMS’s: how many cust exist
101-200 SMS’s: how many cust exist
200-500 SMS’s: how many cust exist
500-800 SMS’s: how many cust exist
> 800 SMS’s: how many cust exist

Then you need to check which is the most important range for you and weather you have product in the same or not (and it certainly doesn’t mean that you will not check for products in other range!)

3.    Revenue factor:

This is the most important thing for any product. There is a small study of revenue pattern is to be done before creating products to decide on the benefits, validity etc. Lets take an eg of a SMS product:

After making the above sheet, you need to check the scenario which is the largest contributor in your total SMS Revenue and then, while creating the benefits of a product you need to keep that scenario on top.

Important things:
·         As I have mentioned about as well, while creating a product, you definitely have to take the cost into account, minus the same from MRP and that is what your earnings will be. Needless to say, they have to be positive.
·         Validity plays a very important role while creating a product. If you give a large validity for a small price, you will definitely be in loss and in case of vice versa, the same would result in customer dissatisfaction.
So, the above are few things which are done while creating a product. Hope I was clear. Plz comment in case I missed out any of the pointsJ Would be glad…
Keep smiling and keep learning! VAS coming next:) I am happy because thats my zone:)))


As I said in my previous posts, here is a brief description of MTC and IUC:

MTC or Mobile termination charges are the charges which one to operator charges to another for terminating calls on its network.
The 3 models of charging this charge are: calling party pays (CPP), bill and keep (BAK, peering, zero charge), receiving party pays (RPP)
For eg., a customer of Operator A (OA) calls another customer of Operator B (OB).  OA will charge the customer a fee per minute (the retail charge) for this call. OB will charge OA a fee for terminating the call on its network or for using its network. This termination rate therefore forms part of OA’s cost of providing the call to its customer.
Termination rates may be commercially negotiated or may be regulated.

IUC or Inter usage charges is one of the most important payouts for any operator. MTC is a part of it. IUC are the charges paid by one operator to another for using its network in any form. It can involve a linking up of one telecom operator to the infrastructure facilities of another. Interconnections can be considered in terms of network interconnection and access interconnection. The former takes place between operators possessing networks, and the latter between an operator with a network and another without one.
Interconnection is crucial for communicating across networks, and makes it possible for the subscribers of two different operators to communicate with each other. It is essential for extending the scope and efficiency of the telecom network, and is especially important for new operators entering the market who normally use the existing facilities of another operator for providing their services.
There are basically two methods for charging for interconnection. One is through sharing of revenues among the interconnected operators of telecom services. The second, which is more commonly used, is to establish interconnection charges on the basis of costs...

Hope above was clear:) Plz make sure to comment if you think there is anything to be changed:)

Keep Smiling and keep learning...