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Service Edge: Key role of OSS/BSS in telecom operations

December 31, 2013

Driven by increased competition in the telecom space and introduction of next-generation services, the OSS/BSS segment is attracting interest from operators and vendors alike. OSS/BSS is now increasingly being deployed as a differentiating tool by telecom operators to maintain a competitive edge. Industry experts share their views on the opportunities and challenges in the Indian OSS/BSS market…

AshishAmit

What role does OSS/BSS play in helping an operator gain a competitive edge in the telecom market?

Ashish Khanna

Market needs are changing with the launch of services like 3G/4G. An optimum use of OSS/BSS solutions will help operators anchor their services in the fluid market. Today, operators are demanding flexibility; open and interoperable solutions; and integration of technical and business process management like billing, customer relationship management, service activation provisioning and fault management. At the same time, they are under pressure to reduce margins while sharing revenue with third-party service providers, and to make a shift from delivering commodity communications to high-value solutions like intelligent content delivery and push-to-talk over cellular. Component-based OSS and BSS improve the management of service planning, deployment and operations in a multi-service, multi-vendor, multi-technology environment. A robust OSS/BSS platform will play a critical role in operators’ success in any market.

 Amit Sachdeva

Saturation in the voice market, declining ARPUs, the need for innovative services and bundling are some of the key emerging trends in the Indian telecom space. Operators are required to enhance,  re-align and roll out new networks and services for customers at a faster pace. There is an increasing need to segment and understand high-value customers and assure enhanced services via new and integrated offerings. In order to survive and thrive in this industry, operators need to develop a better understanding of the end-customer and come up with differentiated services at a faster pace.

Enhanced OSS/BSS improves the overall efficiency, innovativeness and profitability of an operator. It forms the basis for the user experience that an operator offers to its end-customer. It plays a critical role in an operator’s business in areas such as customer life cycle management, introduction of new services, cross-selling, revenue management and service experience.

Apart from network, OSS/BSS forms the most important part of an operator’s differentiating assets and its ability to service its customer better. Thus, it is imperative to develop and evolve OSS/BSS as per the changing telecom scenario to make the organisation customer focused, offer customised and targeted services, and remain competitive. With the advent of technologies such as 3G/4G and facilities such as mobile number portability (MNP), it has become essential for telecom operators to improve their engagement with customers and increase customer loyalty and profitability, which require a flexible and agile BSS/OSS.

 How have the OSS/BSS functions evolved with the changing telecom infrastructure and services environment in India?

Ashish Khanna

As the Indian telecom industry takes a leap towards new technologies like all-IP (packet core), Wi-Max and long term evolution, the segment would witness increased competition and market maturity. Service providers will have to provide stable and better OSS/BSS solutions to tackle the complexities in authentication, billing, network hand-off, roaming, etc. in simplifying such next-generation network (NGN) operations, thereby improving the user experience. 3G and Wi-Max have resulted in increased complexity in operations and billing. These relate to authentication, network management and dissimilar network roaming.

Growth in the OSS/BSS segment was largely contributed by operators deploying streams to cater to NGN roll-outs. As networks move towards 3G and 4G, VoIP, Wi-Max, etc., there is a growing focus on standardisation of OSS/BSS services across integration layers.

 Amit Sachdeva

During the initial phase of telecom growth in India, operators did not focus on OSS/BSS as a critical part of their strategy. It was considered as back-end support. The strategy followed then was to integrate the system during network set-up and thereafter, no further emphasis was given to these systems as the network grew.

But with a saturated customer base, a shift in focus from voice to data and a need for better customer experience and segmentation, OSS/BSS along with analytics capabilities is key to the growth for operators.

While the initial challenges were in addressing the need to scale up, the focus on OSS/BSS is increasingly to provide an integrated customer profile, reduce revenue leakage and help operators take informed real-time decisions. The solutions today also need to facilitate faster time-to-market for new service offerings and ensure a differentiated customer experience.

The introduction of a per second pulse, emergence of data- and volume-based billing and introduction of MNP have compelled OSS/BSS functions to evolve, both in terms of technology and strategic outlook.

 What are the key demand drivers for the OSS/BSS market in the country?

Ashish Khanna

To monetise 3G services, telecom operators have been launching new services. The OSS/BSS platform has to be flexible and scalable while being able to offer high quality services (like mobile banking, video calling, social media applications, content reselling and IPTV) to both rural and urban subscribers. The platforms will need to cater to multiple technologies, customer types and services, and reduce the per-subscriber cost for service providers.

 Amit Sachdeva

Customer segmentation, event-based billing, converged services, community care, proactive care and customer experience are some the key demand drivers for the OSS/BSS market.

 Which are the OSS/BSS services most widely adopted by Indian operators? What are the emerging technology trends?

Ashish Khanna

Operators are shifting their focus from customer acquisition to customer retention. OSS/BSS solutions are aimed at consolidating systems, processes and people across customer-facing and network-facing domains. A whole new set of communications companies like media, entertainment and MVNOs have evolved to offer new avenues for OSS/BSS vendors. Equipment vendors are competing on these fronts and this is driving system integration for OSS/BSS. Convergence of services and the ability to take advantage of the low cost of operating IP networks have driven the modernisation of OSS/BSS.

 Amit Sachdeva

Indian operators have adopted a host of OSS/BSS services, but the uniqueness of the Indian market scenario, with 95 per cent of the subscriber base being prepaid, has made real-time billing a major requirement for both voice and data services. Further, the low tariff rates have resulted in significant voice traffic being generated on operator networks, with the talktime for Indian subscribers standing at around 400 minutes – double the world average. Owing to this peculiarity, Indian telcos have always banked on robust and resilient OSS/BSS solutions.

There are several emerging technology trends, primarily around billing systems with a focus on convergence of prepaid and post-paid billing, which allow operators to devise more flexible tariff plans.

Some of the emerging trends are consolidation of the rating system, analytics, enhanced self-service, proactive service, data delivery assurance and automation.

 What are the challenges faced in the OSS/BSS space in the country?

Ashish Khanna

Some of the key challenges in the OSS/ BSS space are:

•   Convergence: Convergence of products as well as offerings is leading to a blurring of boundaries between OSS/BSS stacks and other interfacing systems, resulting in risks associated with inadequate process coverage.

•   Migration from legacy systems: This involves issues related to inflexibility of existing systems, and integration and consolidation of platforms. Also, migration may require a long time, thereby disrupting operations.

•   Cost pressures: High operational costs are associated with legacy and new stacks for meeting the existing and new service/product requirements.

•   Revenue mismatch/loss: Incorrect charging/billing may result from process discontinuity, information gaps, and integration issues between network elements and interfacing systems.

 Amit Sachdeva

Service-oriented architecture and integration between components are some of the major problems for operators. They have done a good job in networking but need to reconsider at the architecture on the IT side as they need to expose services to internal and external applications. This is critical to launch new services and applications, especially when operators start integrating with financial services, health care and other platforms.

Another challenge for operators is managing their legacy systems. Legacy architecture is often inflexible and results in additional costs associated with process duplication. Such networks cause problems in the integration and development of centralised OSS/BSS across all business verticals. The key issue is whether to live with legacy systems or undertake transformation to adopt next-generation technology.

Also, new modules/applications of OSS/BSS, which enable self-service, social media, etc., are extremely critical to operators in the current environment. All in all, operators will need to move from a technology-centric view to a customer- and service-centric view. OSS/BSS will need to move to the forefront to enable them to offer new services, form new partnerships and target the right customer base. This will require operators to upgrade their existing stacks and align it to optimal architecture that can ensure scalability, enhancement and integration.

 
 

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