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In late August 2015, Telefonica announced the release of a new mobile identity–based service – Travel Alerts – developed in partnership with mobile identity solution provider TeleSign. Travel Alerts is designed to address account security and fraud prevention for Telefonica's enterprise customers in banking and financial services. While the Travel Alerts service represents an innovative use of mobile identities, the overall revenue benefits for Telefonica and other service providers is dependent on end customers' device capability to support all operating frequencies used across the globe. To ensure success, location tracking should not be limited to the SIM card but other details unique to the mobile device.

Telefonica harnesses its unique data assets to improve customer security and experience

Telcos remain focused on harnessing their data assets to roll out new services relevant to both consumer and enterprise customers. For example, enterprises in the banking and financial services sector look to simplify and secure customer transactions as customers demand solid security, and simultaneously expect it to be relatively unobtrusive. Using a mobile phone number and details linked to that number for identity verification and authentication allows for a simplified and yet unobtrusive experience when transacting online.

Based on TeleSign's technology, Travel Alerts is a consent-based service that provides automated alerts to the participating credit card providers or banks providing notification of customers' location when they travel abroad. The solution circumvents issues of customer data privacy, by obtaining consent from their customers when they sign up to the service. Financial enterprises that use this service save on operational costs associated with customers calling to notify them of their current location before card payments are processed abroad and with fraud detection and investigations.

The decision to partner with TeleSign strengthens the new service offering. TeleSign, considered a leading player in the mobile identity space, continues to attract investors and new customers. The company remains focused on improving the security delivered to consumers while transacting online and growing its database of mobile subscribers. In 2014, TeleSign received investment from Telstra to enhance existing offerings and expand the mobile subscriber base that its authentication service can support.

The addressable market for the Travel Alerts service (with respect to the number of end consumers) is broader compared to other mobile identity–based offerings in the market. Banking customers can enjoy this service with or without subscribing to the telco's roaming service. The use of mobile apps is eliminated and so customer reach is extended to non-smartphone owners. However, this addressable market could be restricted due to the inability for some mobile devices to support all GSM radio frequencies used for communications globally. With operating frequencies differing across regions, participating enterprises may not receive alerts for mobile subscribers traveling with devices that do not support the radio frequencies used abroad. Excluding multiband devices (supporting multiple radio frequencies), it would become difficult to determine the user's current location, as might be the case when traveling between Europe and North America. Roaming agreements in this case will not work as the visiting operator can't identify the subscriber on its network.

To ensure successful delivery of this service, TeleSign needs to ensure that device tracking isn't limited to SIM card details, but details unique to the device, such as the device's MAC address. Every mobile device that is used to access the Internet has a unique MAC address and monitoring device location using this detail is currently applied in tracking applications used in the retail industry.


Further reading

"Telstra takes a leap into the mobile identity space with TeleSign," IT0024-000085 (July 2014)


Adaora Okeleke, Analyst, Telecoms Operations and IT

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