MTN believes that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life. MTN is the largest telecommunications group in Africa and the Middle East. Founded in South Africa in 1994, at the dawn of the new democracy, MTN leads transformation in the region. The commitment to this objective is no better demonstrated than through the extensive investment into the full ecosystem of network infrastructure that is required to light up the region and facilitate digital inclusion for its people.

MTN GlobalConnect (MTN GC) is the main driver and commercial vehicle for the consolidation of MTN Group’s wholesale activities, with reliable solutions for fixed connectivity and international mobile services including SMS, signaling, roaming, interconnect and value-added services (VAS).

MTN GC initiated the deployment of central hub nodes for voice, signaling, SMS and roaming with the aim to meet wholesale market expectations of quality, cost and efficiency when communicating with more than 240 million MTN subscribers. These hubs, powered by state-of-the-art platforms from the telecommunications vendor community, are seamlessly integrated with our wholesale infrastructure deployments in more than 21 countries and were launched under the ‘Y’elloConnect Hub’ (YCH) umbrella name. 

In the past 12 months, the Y’elloConnect SMS Hub has connected 17 MTN Opcos, 28 customers and handled more than a billion SMS transactions towards nearly 200 million subscribers. 

As of Q4 2019, through peering partnerships, the Y’elloConnect SMS Hub now has a reach list of more than 100 networks and the ability to deliver SMS traffic, with the best quality at the most competitive prices, to 720 million mobile subscribers across 40 countries in Africa and the Middle East. In short, the Y’elloConnect SMS Hub has been an innovative tool by MTN GC to support the efforts for digital inclusion through facilitating secure global communication access across all bearer technologies. 

The Y’elloConnect SMS Hub service is a centralized SMS gateway enabling incoming and outgoing international peer-to-peer (iP2P) and application-to-peer (iA2P) SMS, firewalling, carriage and delivery, primarily to the entire MTN estate. It enables message exchange with destination operators using all major text messaging protocols.  

The solution allows efficient and effective management of international SMS traffic - international SMS traffic originating from and terminating to MTN Opcos can be intercepted, consolidated and monetized. It is responsible for analyzing, filtering unsolicited SMS, correcting onward routing and providing reports and insights on international SMS. It is developed to realize lost revenue resulting from uncoordinated commercial practices regarding international SMS interconnects and to protect mobile subscribers from unsolicited SMSs. 

The YCH design team ensured that the technology and commercial considerations were at the core of the service offering and continuously maintained a focus on the problem to be solved. The objective was to deploy a carrier grade, agile and high-performance SMS gateway for carriage and delivery of international SMS traffic into the MTN estate seamlessly.

The Y’elloConnect SMS Hub solution deployment consists of a modular, scalable and redundant framework of the following centralized elements: 

• SMS hub, acting as a single gateway hub for all international SMS (A2P and P2P) which are terminated towards, or originated from MTN networks.  

• SMS firewall for MTN Group, which is tightly integrated with the centralized SMS hub to facilitate the protection of mobile subscribers from unsolicited traffic and the network from spam.

• Monitoring and reporting system (MARS) used for the analysis of hubbed (SMS traffic that is transited through the centralized hub) and non-hubbed traffic (SMS traffic that is not transited through the centralized hub such as international roaming, domestic SMS and on-net MO SMS traffic) aiding in identifying the specific measures that should be implemented to protect the international A2P SMS revenue.

MTN GC takes pride in the value propositions that the YCH has brought into the market place, such as:

• Delivery integrity: Bill on successful deliveries 

• Speed of delivery: Reduce latency by submitting messages only to active numbers on the network and ensuring time sensitive “one-time password” SMSs are seamlessly delivered

• Customized retry schema for transactional and promotional SMS: Differential treatment based on type of message, account & network responses

• Quick customer acquisitions: Tailored processes for customer onboarding and connectivity set-up

• Routing: Dynamic and real-time routing flexibility with translation to and from multiple bearer types

• Service support: 24x7, tiered support desk and tight SLA/OLAs

High priority was placed on transaction-per-second capacity for processing 80% of traffic during peak hours, geo-redundancy, multi-protocol support, long messages and customer agnostic change management processes. These, coupled with appropriate calibration of price per SMS, ensure that the Y’elloConnect SMS Hub offer a world-class service wrap. 

To date, the Y’elloConnect SMS Hub handles all international mobile terminating SMS (MT-SMS) traffic to MTN OPCOs as well as mobile originating SMS (MO-SMS) traffic from MTN Opcos to international destinations (including inter-MTN OPCO traffic scenarios). This MO-SMS traffic is handled by the centralized SMS Hub on the delivery leg, with the centralized SMS Hub logically positioned between the Opco’s SMSC and the international destination network.

The Y’elloConnect SMS Hub is integrated with the central SMS firewall via a proprietary interface. All inbound traffic is passed to the SMS firewall. The Y’elloConnect SMS Hub is also integrated with the Central MARS system for the transfer of data records to be used for near real time reporting and analytics, as well as for the management of outbound traffic routes. The central SMS firewall monitors, detects and eventually blocks international grey route

SMS mitigates fraud and protects our retail subscribers from unsolicited SMS spam. All events are recorded and forwarded to the central MARS node for analysis. This node is an “off-line” back-end CDR data-warehouse system supporting analytics, reporting, message search and technical care functions. 

Y’elloConnect SMS Hub allows MTN, as a leading communication service provider in the region, to take controlled actions in respect of the following: 

1.  Protect the network, services, customers and assets from unsolicited communications and other unwanted and privacy intrusive communications

2.  Manage, through proper controls and payment mechanisms, who interconnects with the network

3.  Increase popularity and uptake of SMS as a communication medium. 

The telecommunications industry is faced with various challenges, ranging from interworking complexity, inconsistent commercials, aggrieved customers and revenue leakage. The implementation of Y’elloConnect SMS Hub mitigates the following challenges:

1.  Eliminating complex operational set-up: Single connection management

2.  Removal of charging on SMS submission: Message delivery integrity

3.  Introduce service stability: Single 24x7 front door for handling queries, requests and complaints

4.  Eliminating price volatility: Billing change with minimum 30-day notice. 

An initiative that was started to deploy a centralized SMS firewall, carriage and termination service towards 240 million MTN Group subscribers, in 21 countries has delivered via a single contract, single connection and single bill is well on its way to becoming the biggest SMS Gateway for Africa & Middle East, all done in record time.

The Y’elloConnect SMS Hub realized double digit growth in traffic and revenue every quarter since its launch, while maintaining delivery integrity and competitive costs. This was made possible through leveraging our wide network footprint, global assets, expertise and scale. The rapid success of the Y’elloConnect SMS Hub success is testimony to the value it brings, underpinned by world-class processes and customer experience.