Dr. Andreas Gniffke

HEAD OF CLIENT SERVICES

Summary

Fraud and security issues concern all mobile network operators and most of the threats are caused by misconfigured network nodes. With the RAEX standard data quality has increased remarkably, but for us at RoamsysNext, it’s daily business to keep an eye on our customer’s partner documents before implementing the information in our tools. Especially the many non-standard documents that are still circulating need a closer look and will be converted into the standard format. Automated solutions support the user to focus only on relevant tasks without losing concentration over unnecessary steps and health checks. Regular audits spot inconsistencies at a glance. Solutions like this help to close possible gateways that can be used by fraudsters which leads to more security, trust and can save a serious amount of money.

The configuration of network nodes is based on document exchange, and where documents are created and edited, the human factor comes into place. Errors and misunderstandings are a given. Something that’s fully clear to the creator of the document can be misunderstood on the other side of the chain. In order to enable secure and stable connectivity, high data quality is essential and RoamsysNext takes many measures to provide the best possible database to our customers. But how do we do it?

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Shaping the standard

In the past, the exchange of documents between roaming partners was based on more or less fixed templates, but many variants and (file) formats were circulating; some of them are being exchanged up until now. Around the year 2010, the GSMA decided to establish a standard for the exchange of IR.21 documents (with many years of discussions before). Still, it took a while until MNOs realized the benefits of the RAEX format. There are many advantages if the standard is followed: it’s guaranteed that all mandatory elements needed for network node configuration are fully included and displayed in a standardized format. Just think of the different date formats used around the world, it gets even more complicated when it comes to network related information.

RoamsysNext, the GSMA’s premium RAEX vendor, has been helping to shape the standard from the beginning.

Together with the GSMA, RoamsysNext has been helping to shape the standard from the beginning. The RAEX Tools application offers an unique distribution way which ensures that RAEX information is available to all authorized persons without the danger of getting stuck within an email conversation. Moreover, it automatically displays changes and users can focus on what really needs to be adjusted, without having to read the whole document or to rely on the change history. The RAEX format is fully machine-readable as well, so 3rd party systems can be used to maintain your roaming partner data. But can it be trusted?

Limits of standardization

All standards have their limitations due to the fact that the right balance between strict rules and flexibility needs to be found. Every MNO works in its own special way with many particularities and specifications. To make sure that as many operators as possible will become and stay RAEX compliant, compromises had to be made.

Better don’t trick the system

But even compliant MNOs do sometimes find ways to trick the system, especially when multiple networks are covered. It’s possible to create one valid RAEX IR.21 and add information for all other covered networks in several free text fields. This passes the RAEX schema validation but makes it really hard to configure these networks on partner’s side, especially by using automatization software.

And there are other typical inconsistencies such as missing references for number portability, overlapping IP-ranges or just dummy values added to pass the validation. But of course this is nothing our experts and our software are afraid of.

How to treat non-standardized documents

Still, I would like to emphasize that today the RAEX standard for IR.21 and IR.85 data is well established, even if there are quite a few non-RAEX documents around. Some MNOs are (or have been) compliant but prefer to send out documents in other formats via email, as “it’s just a small change”. Other operators are still stuck in their old workflows and fear the conversion from a well-trodden text document to the standard. And they still might use their old and often outdated mailing lists instead of the InfoCentre roaming partner list.

RoamsysNext customers benefit from an essential service: we also cover non-RAEX data and convert partner documents into RAEX that are lagging behind the standard. These documents are carefully checked for inconsistencies so that in most cases, our customers receive an optimized version of the original document. Without changing the content of course, but putting it in nice shape and providing it with a better structure. For all documents we receive for capturing, we make sure that no outdated data will be used, as our experience shows that you cannot trust effective dates and change history entries at all.

Please stay on the path

From node updates to full automation – Data quality in IREG Toolbox

With standardized documents and data that has been checked by our experts during the data capturing process, we already have a high level of data quality as soon as a document comes into the IREG Toolbox, i.e. our solution for network node configuration. By using sophisticated automation processes, unwanted documents can be excluded, for example non-partner documents or IR.21s where an IR.85 is expected.

Long before the clean-up queen Marie Kondo wrote her books, we already knew that a clear desk supports the brain to focus on the things that matter the most. In a first step, erroneous data can be corrected manually before the configuration process actually starts. Then IR.21 sections, that you are not interested in, can be removed automatically to be more focussed on the tasks that really need to be completed. To be honest, when it comes to data processing machines are sometimes more trustworthy than human beings. Still, there’s some work to do where human experience and expertise becomes relevant. By doing it this way, the user becomes even more valuable. Since he/she can focus on the things he/she is really good at, there is no danger of lapsing into boredom over tedious tasks.

Get your life back with a failproof package that protects you from attacks

In addition to this, the tool offers some helpful health checks that can spot erroneous or inconsistent data throughout the whole database. It tracks missing or incorrect country codes, non-routable, private and reserved IP addresses and IP address ranges as well as incorrectly defined number ranges. Duplicate entries are a big issue, but don’t worry: duplicate IP addresses / address ranges as well as duplicate and overlapping number ranges and network elements will be identified. We also offer initial or regular audits of the database to spot missing and erroneous configurations and vulnerabilities as well. We have put together a failproof package to protect you from possible attacks based on an optimized data foundation.

Data quality impacts on fraud and security

Fraud and security incidents can have serious consequences for MNOs and their customers. Not only connectivity issues can occur with related trust issues, there is one thing that hurts the most after all: loss of revenue. By keeping your partner data clean, well-structured and correct, you have already closed many possible gateways fraudsters will try to use. The RoamsysNext Network Configuration Optimizer offers many functionalities that help protecting your network. Our tools and experts are actively shutting down open doors by providing the maximum extend of automation based on your own needs and workflows as well as optimizing partner data that’s not following the standard.

By experience we are deeply involved in the regular RAEX schema updates to meet requirements of new technologies as well as user requests.

And one final but important thing to mention: We have been in charge of developing the InfoCentre RAEX Tools application on behalf of the GSMA from the beginning. By experience we are deeply involved in the regular RAEX schema updates to meet requirements of new technologies as well as user requests. So, from the very first second, all our applications are fully compliant to any new schema version. We also provide extended support for the tool itself. And above all, we provide a very special service: we help operators that are not RAEX compliant to convert the documents from other formats into the new standard. We are sure, you have more important things to do than comparing IR.21 printouts and spotting the differences.

Andreas Gniffke is well known in the community for providing customer support at RoamsysNext since 2012. For more than three years he’s head of client services responsible for all customer related issues such as application support, account management, data capturing and the setup of trials and customer accounts. With a PH.D. in German language history and a background in journalism his experience and skills make him also an essential part of the RoamsysNext marketing team, too.