Faster time to market with next-gen OSS

Jessica Scarpati
26 Apr 2011

Vendors and pundits have been banging the drum for next-generation OSS platforms for nearly a decade, but carriers have been slow to pick up the beat. The impetus for adoption is there. Legacy custom-built systems don't suit newer telecom business models and more complex services. But upgrading those systems carries its own baggage in terms of the time, money and commitment required to unclutter and modernize telecom operations.

"A lot of them were burned during the telecom boom" in the late 1990s by OSS vendors that folded or made lousy products, said Shira Levine, a directing analyst at Infonetics Research. "They got sucked into the PowerPoint marketing material, and when it came down to actual deployment, [they learned that] you can't just pop an OSS [platform] into the middle of your network and expect it to work."

But next-generation OSS deployments are gaining traction, and a recent survey correlated improved operations with faster time to market, highlighting the need for carriers' OSS platforms to keep pace with the next-generation networks and services they support.

Global service providers identified two major barriers to launching new services quickly in a recent survey commissioned by Amdocs, an OSS/BSS vendor that counts AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA among its customers. Nearly 60% said they were stymied by the complexity of their technology environments, and 58% cited the systems changes required to launch new products as a problem. Both of these obstacles tie directly to the standard value propositions for next-generation OSS platform vendors.

And 70% of operators said they needed to modernize their operational environments to achieve a faster time to market, as compared to 59% of respondents to a similar 2008 survey.

"A lot of the legacy systems are still highly manual, so any time you add [subscribers] into them, you have the opportunity to screw it up, you have to build more time into the process ... and you're … gluing [databases] together," Levine said. "It makes it really difficult to do things like service bundles or creative billing bundles, so there's definitely a need for more convergence in OSS."

Legacy BSS and OSS platforms are notorious for being rigid, single-purpose systems that don't easily cross-reference information with each other. A call center agent or operations specialist might have to access three different databases to verify whether a subscriber receives phone, cable and broadband services—never mind how each should be billed.

While working as a network operations strategist for US West in the early 1990s, Nancee Ruzicka discovered that her own personal subscriber information was spread throughout 42 separate databases.

"[When carriers would] roll out a new service ... they'd install a brand new stack of OSS and BSS with the intention of migrating everything [from legacy systems] to that new stack," said Ruzicka, now a senior research analyst at Stratecast, a division of Frost & Sullivan. "What they'll tell you though is they [deploy] that [new platform], but the migration never happens."

Average revenue per user (ARPU) rates weren't low enough for service providers to care about investing in next-generation OSS platforms, Ruzicka said. But competition from over-the-top (OTT) providers has forced their hand to modernize, she said.

"[Service providers] do want to bring products to market quicker, but they've been saying that for 10 years. And the problem they have [with fulfilling that] is [due to problems on] the back end," Ruzicka said. "A few years ago, I would've said there are some that get it and some that don't. Now, I think all of them get it and realize that as a business, they have to make changes."

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