Start-up Challenges Stagnant Mobile Market
Before 2degrees launched, there were only two mobile telephony operators serving the country, Mr. Satija recalled: Telephone New Zealand and Telecom New Zealand. They had an unofficial alliance, he said. As a result, prices were high and there was no motivation for innovation with these companies.
When 2degrees was founded in 2007, the company used the notion of “six degrees of separation” as the inspiration for its name. “We wanted to bring the relationships between people closer with just two degrees of separation,” Mr. Satija explained. The company also wanted to offer groundbreaking services that would clearly differentiate 2degrees from the competition.
Launching a New Telecom
Launching a mobile company in 18 months with very little resources was no small task. The company had to create processes and put all the systems in place to support the various functions, such as marketing, sales and finance.
“Eventually the goal was to create a fully integrated telco that allows us to seek any piece of information from anywhere and make it available to the relevant people: customers, people from the finance team, whoever,” Mr. Satija said. “There had to be an interconnection between these various chunks of data."
To connect systems, 2degrees would need to create Web service wrappers around various network elements that had their own proprietary protocols. At the same time, 2degrees had to provide a simple interface that customers could use, Mr. Satija said. Equally important, the company needed a system that would enable rapid response to the competition.
“We could not afford for Vodafone or any of those other guys to come up with a plan and not respond to it,” Mr. Satija explained. “We wanted to create a system where we were able to look at a plan that the competition has brought out and within minutes configure a compelling proposition that’s able to compete with that plan, and go forward in the market."
The answer was a service-oriented architecture (SOA) that used a light, flexible and scalable software technology stack, Mr. Satija said.
Choosing a Middleware Provider
It’s not cheap building a new telco. Even for a country the size of New Zealand, 2degrees spent nearly half a billion dollars to lay out the network. With that in mind, the start-up had to be very careful about the technology it invested in.
To evaluate technology providers, 2degrees floated a "pseudo-RFP" to get demos from vendors and create a shortlist, Mr. Satija recalled. Next was a technical review phase that shortened the list further, followed by a review of the companies’ support. He explained, “We wanted to know, ‘Would the partner respond and acknowledge us within 15 minutes?’”
The evaluation led 2degrees to select the WSO2 ESB for its SOA mediation and orchestration.
SOA Enables Innovative Customer Services
The first application 2degrees developed was the Top-Up service, which lets subscribers add more funds to their mobile service accounts, Mr. Satija said. The principle of the architecture is that the WSO2 ESB creates a transaction ID and sends a message to the client, acknowledging receipt. The WSO2 ESB kicks off the Web flow, going through the network elements and confirms the retail charge to the customer with and SMS notification. Mr. Satija said, “The entire process takes 300 milliseconds!”
Since then other variations of the Top-up application have been developed using the WSO2 ESB.
Auto Top-Up automatically triggers a top-up payment whenever the customer’s balance dips below a certain level. An “Ask Me” option ensures that the customer is in charge of the decisions around the balance and payment.
ME2U lets a customer with a zero balance use a friend’s balance to help top them up. For example, if a friend has a $40 balance and agrees to share $20 with the customer, then the balance for each account becomes $20.
FB Top-Up is a simple application that uses the Facebook API. It captures a customer’s mobile number, choice of recharge amount, and what the customer wants to do and passes it along to the ESB, which does the configurations.
Expanding the Role of WSO2 Middleware
Since implementing the WSO2 ESB, 2degrees also has added the WSO2 Data Services Server (DSS) to take existing data and deliver it as Web services. The addition has enabled 2degrees to respond quickly to competitors.
For example, Mr. Satija said, “Vodaphone came up with a new plan with lots of text services in the morning. By evening we had a new plan in direct response to it, which was made possible via data services.”
Going forward, 2degrees is implementing WSO2 Business Process Server, WSO2 Business Rules Server, and WSO2 Governance Registry to support the rollout of more complex processes.
“When did we did our assessment, we decided that WSO2 was perfect for us,” Mr. Satija recalled. “My faith in WSO2 has been justified.”
To learn more about how 2degrees is using WSO2 middleware to deliver innovative services to its mobile subscribers, view Mr. Satija’s full presentation here.