What Lessons Can be Learned from Leading MSPs Teaming Up and Targeting the Identity Space?

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4Q 2018 | IN-5264

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon collaborated through the Mobile Authentication Taskforce to create Project Verify, a common authentication solution. This shows the importance of collaboration between Mobile Service Providers (MSPs), as well as the new potential revenue opportunity represented by customer identity.

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The Mobile Authentication Taskforce Moves a Step Closer to Deliver a Commercial Solution

NEWS


Back in September 2017, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon joined forces to create the Mobile Authentication Taskforce to address the opportunity presented by authentication and identity services in an increasingly connected world. One year later, at Mobile World Congress Americas 2018, the Mobile Authentication Taskforce demoed an authentication solution nicknamed “Project Verify.”

Project Verify changes the authentication method for the consumer from a password system to a device-based multi-factor authentication (MFA). After the user signs up and provides consent the solution creates a device-based Identity (ID), which is used for the authentication process. Factors that enable the verification include: phone number, Internet Protocol (IP) address, Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card details, phone account type, and account details. Along with demoing the solution the taskforce launched a website with the goal to engage and onboard developers.

An increasingly connected and digital world opens new opportunities and a new role for Mobile Service Providers (MSPs), in this case via collaboration rather than competition by securing consumers’ identity and data – a topic that has received a lot of attention recently and is expected to increase in gravity in the near-future.

MSPs See an Opportunity in Security and Identity

IMPACT


Project Verify is significant for two main reasons. On one side, the solution helps MSPs to expand their reach in the world of digital services and security and on the other, it shows the potential of cooperation among MSPs. Addressing users’ authentication challenges can help customers against cyberthreats, such as theft attempts of credentials and mobile phone numbers. The solution aims to create a seamless secure experience: a feature that is becoming more and more important for the end-customer in the journey through the digital world.

All related services (from health to banking and entertainment) are becoming increasingly digital and mobile and this creates opportunities for MSPs and their partners. Within an expanding digital world, the customer’s digital identities and safety are extremely relevant not only for consumers but also for businesses. For instance, e-commerce companies need to ensure the identity of their customers, and customers need to have a reliable and easy-to-use identity shield. With multiple passwords looking like an obsolete technology, there is definitely space for innovation with MFA and biometrics being the primary technologies applied in relevant applications.

Project Verify aims to eliminate the need and the consumer’s pain point of having multiple passwords, which can now be replaced by the consumer’s own mobile device. Once the Verify app is up and running, the customer will be able to use the Project Verify app to log into applications and services that have enabled it as an option. Via the Project Verify app which can be used as a second-factor authenticator users can greatly increase the verification process. The solution can help MSPs start to play a more important role for consumers in the digital world.

Project Verify is the product of a taskforce from the four main U.S. MSPs. This is important because by increasing their collaboration MSPs can expand the reach of their services beyond their traditional boundaries, create mass demand/adoption, and unlock new markets.

Why Should MSPs Care about Identity and Is Teaming Up a Replicable Solution?

RECOMMENDATIONS


MSPs must accelerate their efforts in targeting new areas of growth beyond their traditional voice and data services, which ABI Research defines as “UnTelco.” To do so, teaming up with other MSPs to share resources and expertise in the pursuit of a common goal is a strategy that MSPs should use. Benefits of this approach include Research and Development (R&D) savings, ideas exchange, product innovation, and market reach. For those services that require mass market adoption, collaboration is essential to target the required market mass. For other MSPs with different footprints, collaborating would result in the solution quickly reaching multiple countries. MSPs should not only collaborate with each other, but should also engage with developers to unlock further innovation and market opportunities.

In recent years, MSPs have not been able to match the pace of competitors (e.g., startups and webscale giants) and, consequently, they should not compete with them on speed of development but should focus instead on their own assets such as ecosystem creation and mass market. For instance, for Project Verify to be successful, it is essential to create a mass market, beyond the customers of a single MSP, as this will attract a larger number of third parties to collaborate with the Verify solution. Identity and security are areas that are attracting interest among many MSPs, well beyond the United States. For instance, SK Telecom launched its identity solution, branded the T-Auth app, in August 2016, reaching some 7 million users within roughly 1 year of launch. Identity is not the only area where MSPs teamed up to tackle new opportunities. In April 2018, SoftBank, Etisalat, Singtel, and Telefonica joined efforts to create a global cybersecurity alliance to share risk intelligence and security capabilities.

MSPs must collaborate to target new areas, not only to open new market opportunities, but to strengthen the position of the entire category against webscale giants, startups, and any other company in the technology space. MSPs must understand that in an UnTelco world there will be other competitors beyond their own category that have the ability, assets, financial muscle, and ambition to play leading roles in end vertical markets and applications. Teaming up can help MSPs remain relevant players beyond the realm of connectivity.

MSPs should continue eyeing the identity/security space as it plays well into MSPs wider strategy regarding data and customers’ perceptions. MSPs must be guardians of data, privacy, and identity for their consumers. This is an asset that must be cultivated against competition like webscale players, whose business often revolves around using the customer’s data for their services and offerings. MSPs have assets that no other company has, including the network, device, and plan information, customer data, and knowledge, and they should further pursue the emerging opportunity of security and identity. Vendors should closely follow MSPs’ activities in the identity and security areas, as these areas will grow in importance in an increasing digital world, thus presenting an opportunity to foster vendors’ collaboration with MSPs. An example of this is provided by AT&T and Ericsson, which recently teamed up to help enterprises safeguard Internet of Things (IoT) devices from cybersecurity threats.