As next-generation network (NGN) skills become more specialized and network complexity more daunting, network operators are turning to outsourcing as a means of fulfilling complex telecom network operations and integration tasks. The advantage is that outsourcing offers contractually guaranteed services at a fixed cost and frees the operator from hiring and sustaining a skilled staff.
The two main types of outsourced contracts are for network integration and network operations. These may appear to be separate issues, but the two have common drivers and useful points of cooperation and symbiosis between them.
The primary drivers for both network integration projects and network operations outsourcing are the same – the growing complexity of networks and services and the growing difficulties sustaining a qualified staff. It's just a matter of where these drivers create a critical mass that justifies a decision to outsource. For many operators, the answer will be "both places," and assuming that both forms of outsourcing are on the table can be of significant value at the beginning of any major NGN project.
An optimized network outsourcing project will require some technical preparation, particularly in terms of how the outsourced network operations center (NOC) services are linked into the current operations processes. The notion that standard interfaces solve this problem has long been disproved in practice, according to telecom operators, because there are too many standards and extensions.
If a carrier is thinking about a major NGN upgrade and using a prime vendor to lead the network integration project is part of the plan, then one goal of the integration project should be to prepare for a future network outsourcing plan, even if network outsourcing isn't an immediate plan.
Network operators should work through four main steps when creating an integrated network operations outsourcing plan during a network integration project.
Create an integrated operations plan as part of the network integration process during NGN infrastructure build-outs. This will assign specific roles to components of the operations support systems (OSS), billing support systems (BSS) and network managed services (NMS) chain. While it may seem that these roles are implicit in the names themselves, modern practices of feature virtualization and abstraction allow a "network manager" to present what are actually abstract services to the OSS/BSS layer, for example, or an OSS/BSS to create these abstract services.