Choosing a VAS Vendor with a Robust Product Portfolio
Value-Added Services (VAS) can make or break a mobile telephony provider. Call quality and data transmission speeds are only part of the equation when choosing a mobile plan. Today’s sophisticated customers demand a range of ancillary services, from voicemail to spam-filtering. After all, smartphones are indispensable tools that are often the hub of our customers’ personal and professional lives.
Ooredoo Kuwait provides mobile, broadband internet, and corporate managed services tailored to the needs of customers and businesses. We are guided by our vision of enriching people’s lives by leveraging communications to help them achieve their full potential. A subsidiary of the Ooredoo Group that serves markets in the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia, Ooredoo Kuwait is part of a company that empowers 117 million customers worldwide.
From Operations and Maintenance to Planning
I joined Ooredoo Kuwait in 2009 as an operations engineer. I worked on basic VAS services like MMS, SMSE, voicemail, ringback tones, and missed call alerts using Jinny Software, before Enghouse Networks acquired the company. When the company outsourced our operations and maintenance group in 2015, I joined the VAS planning team. That meant moving from handling complaints and performing daily health checks to designing value-added services.
My first project was working on Ooredoo’s advance credit VAS that allows prepaid customers to borrow money from us to keep their accounts active when they run out of minutes. For a nominal fee, we lend them a small amount to carry them over until they can top off their account.
This project required me to learn how to design and document a service from scratch. It was an exciting time because it gave me a new perspective and skillset on value-added services.
Choosing a Single VAS Vendor
At the time I joined the planning team, Ooredoo Kuwait had several VAS vendors. We had operated this way for years, but we wanted to simplify and consolidate our relationships. We planned to add new services but costing and managing a project was difficult because we had to talk to multiple vendors and sign multiple contracts. We also needed to bring everyone to the table because nobody knew each other’s integration points. That meant talking with an army of project managers and salespeople. We had already outsourced our operations and maintenance group to a single outside vendor, so we decided to consolidate VAS provision by moving everything to a single provider.
The single-vendor approach has many benefits, including ease of integration, streamlined communications, a consolidated contract for all services, and a single onsite engineer to handle all value-added services. We were already using Enghouse Networks Jinny for the bulk of our VAS projects, so it made sense to switch everything over to Enghouse entirely.
Migrating Our VAS Products to Enghouse Networks
Working with the Enghouse Networks team on the consolidation was a personal and professional highlight. They flew in a project manager to plan the migration of all our value-added services to their platform, and they also brought in a team of engineers who worked on site to implement the project. They gave us a precise timeline and stuck to it. They did all the testing and finished the deployment on schedule.
Our consolidated VAS platform launched on time, despite a few issues that we had to resolve. That’s because Enghouse Networks engineers are highly experienced with their products and have worked with Ooredoo for years. They already knew the ins and outs of our core services and precisely how everything fits together, so they knew how to troubleshoot and resolve the issues we encountered.
They also understand who to contact on our end when there’s a problem. Other vendors have flooded me with questions in the past and created all kinds of headaches because they incorrectly assumed I was the point person who could help resolve the issues they encountered. However, Enghouse Networks engineers are highly organized, and their project managers know who does what at Ooredoo, so they contact the right people when they encounter a problem.
A Partnership Based on Generosity and Trust
I’ve learned to trust Enghouse Networks over the years largely because their team of engineers is second to none. I’ve never encountered an Enghouse engineer who doesn’t know their stuff. They also promote from within, so Enghouse team leaders are experienced engineers who have been with the company for years. As a result, the quality of service and support has never faltered. I’ve never experienced this level of stability with other vendors.
It might seem strange to say this, but Enghouse Networks engineers are also incredibly generous. They don’t just deploy and maintain solutions. They’re willing and eager to answer my questions and share their knowledge. Instead of holding back information, like some other vendors, they take the time to explain the ins and outs of updates, upgrades, and new products. Whether they share expertise in person or talk me through something on the phone, I never feel like they’re rushing through a conversation just to get the job done. Their end goal is for me to understand how everything works.
I can honestly say I’m a better engineer because working alongside Enghouse Networks during my time with our operations and maintenance team resulted in knowledge transfer that aided my professional development.
Completing Jigsaw Puzzles with a Constantly Evolving Product Portfolio
Consolidating our value-added service offerings under Enghouse Networks was like fitting the right pieces into a jigsaw puzzle. SMSs and MMSs (text and media messages) are filtered by Enghouse Networks’ rules-based anti-spam engine. The Jinny Messaging Gateway then uses shortcodes to route messages to the appropriate applications. For example, when a user incurs roaming or other fees, Messaging Gateway routes them to our RTCG (Real Time Charging Gateway), which is connected to our billing platform.
All VAS communications are routed through this hub and forwarded to the appropriate Enghouse Networks app. Voicemail, call forwarding, missed call alerts, and reverse billing (collect calls) also go through the gateway. The process is seamless. And because we know the precise workflow and integration point for every VAS, we can quickly diagnose issues, thus reducing downtime and outages for our customers.
This level of integration extends to network security. My colleagues at Ooredoo’s Network Operations Center use Enghouse Networks' NetBoss to monitor and secure our infrastructure. It supports multiple protocols, including SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol), and can alert our engineers to potential issues via email or SMS notifications. It runs on a separate server, and each of our application servers has a direct connection to the NetBoss alarm module. It’s scalable, flexible, and easily integrates with our growing VAS portfolio.
Enghouse Networks has become our primary provider of network and security tools. Their product portfolio is constantly evolving, and we are currently working with their engineers to implement a geographical emergency warning system that will send out a unique alarm tone in the event of a disaster. We’re also trying to determine which delivery method works best to ensure users notice the warning even if the phone is in their pocket, purse, or another room.
The project is a work in progress, but I have no doubt that Enghouse Networks will support us and provide us with the technology and creativity to get it off the ground.
Staying Ahead of the Curve with Enghouse Networks
I’m lucky to have worked with Enghouse Networks over the years. Their engineers have helped me expand my knowledge of telecommunications systems and made me a better planner. Their team has earned our trust at Ooredoo Kuwait and has helped us improve our VAS infrastructure to serve our customers better.
Enghouse Networks is always one step ahead of the competition. Their engineers help us—and me—stay on the cutting edge when it comes to rolling out new value-added services for Kuwait’s savvy telecommunications consumers.