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Managing Complexity: Issues and challenges for the OSS/BSS segment

December 31, 2013

Operators are increasingly expanding their next-generation networks (NGN) and introducing complex services on multiple platforms to meet the growing data demand. These technological changes have meant that integration of services and revenue tracking on networks have become more challenging. Traditional operations support systems (OSS) and business support systems (BSS), therefore, face various challenges in supporting operators to provide an enhanced experience at low costs.

A key challenge for OSS and BSS providers in a content-driven environment is to support service providers in effectively managing the growing data traffic on their network. OSS and BSS solutions need to support high speed data services like VoIP, unified communications and video, and other digital media applications. However, legacy OSS and BSS platforms are not equipped to support multiple platforms as they were programmed to recognise only a single platform or technology. Therefore, new OSS and BSS should address the issue of increasing complexity in networks by providing and maintaining ubiquitous connectivity and ensuring uniform service delivery across mobility devices including mobile handsets, laptops and hand-held devices.

To meet the changing requirements of service providers, OSS and BSS vendors are making architectural changes to these systems and shifting their focus towards managing customer experience instead of handling subscriptions. Operators are also expecting OSS and BSS vendors to come up with innovative solutions that are not independent silos but form an integral part of the service layer in the their network. However, this shift is a major challenge for OSS and BSS providers who have been offering stand-alone solutions through standard interfaces in isolation from the network. In the majority of cases, operators have sourced products from a variety of vendors across circles. However, with a large number of data-intensive applications being introduced on the network, such solutions are becoming obsolete. Increasingly, system integration is becoming a critical issue for OSS and BSS vendors.

In a 24x7 connected world where communication takes place in real time, dynamic control and manageability of service options, payment methodologies and transparency have become key requirements for OSS and BSS for ensuring a robust user experience. Driven by evolving technology, the telecom industry has developed and adopted methodologies such as time of day, day of week, month of year concepts and prepaid, post-paid, wireless and wireline platforms for billing voice services. Billing for data services is more complex than that for voice services. This is because on an average, a consumer uses 40 to 50 applications, predominantly social media. Multiple activities increase the complexity involved in billing, especially since operators may have to bill each URL separately. For example, if a user has to be billed for 8 GB of data while using Facebook, the system has to first track the time of the day the consumer was using Facebook. Further, the system has to monitor the exhaustion of the data usage limit in order to bill for additional usage. BSS solutions are responsible for tracking this billing, but the process of tracking usage data and billing is becoming more complex with the emergence of converged networks. Consumers using multiple devices prefer to receive a single bill for the subscribed services. In addition, a large number of consumers are opting for shared plans. For example, a subscriber using a certain volume of data would prefer to equally distribute it across multiple devices such as laptops, smartphones, iPads and IPTV services. Therefore, a BSS solution has to consider that the billing is not for an individual but is for the entire household. As a result, a challenge in the BSS segment emerges from the fact that each device has a different bit rate of communication and screen resolution. Therefore, the BSS solutions should acknowledge the fact that content has to be billed the same way, irrespective of the medium of data consumption (that is, the device). Modern BSS solutions have to overcome the existing limitations and offer higher flexibility and configurability options.

As is the case with BSS, existing OSS solutions have also been developed using tailored software and provide limited options for integration. With evolving technology, OSS providers have to find ways to replace these customer-specific solutions with software-based ones to reduce the recurring maintenance costs borne by operators. The upgraded OSS solutions have to adapt the new network elements and take into account the data requirements of the applications, deployed on the integration layer. Going forward, the upper layers of OSS solutions would require significant application development to support new operational concepts, business models and value chains. Further, fragmented OSS solutions and organisational silos limit the information flow across users, processes and systems. As a result, a large number of operators are unable to optimise their existing assets. The service providers are unable to take informed decisions owing to the lack of relevant data. Further, OSS providers need to come up with cost-effective solutions in an industry which faces high maintenance costs owing to the presence of different protocols and proprietary interfaces. Further, OSS solutions should be able to assess the future requirements of service providers. The opex for legacy OSS needs to be reduced to pave the way for new investments and replacement of old functionalities. This can be achieved through steps such as removal of redundant OSS applications and systems; streamlining of functionalities in existing OSS solutions; replacing customised systems with standards-based software; and effective use of OSS by moving key functionalities and taking other systems offline.

Transformation of the core network architecture and widespread adoption of technologies such as long term evolution will require OSS and BSS vendors to come up with next-generation solutions. The challenge for the industry is to develop software and solutions that would enable operators to identify sources of downtime, isolate the performance of each component in the end-to-end network infrastructure, and track rich media streaming services. Further, to help operators gain an edge over their competitors, vendors need to offer OSS and BSS solutions that would help their clients compare their own performance with that of the competitors. In addition, OSS and BSS providers need to develop products that allow operators to undertake user-specific, real-time and interactive testing across services such as email, video streaming, SMS, MMS, WAP, push-to-talk, over-the-air transactions, and Java/BREW applications. Further, with the industry moving towards IP-based networks, OSS and BSS solutions will have to make way for rapid and accurate provisioning of new services and providing subscribers greater options for controlling and customising services and applications.

With the number of managed network elements in service providers’ core network increasing exponentially, operators are looking forward to shift investments from commodity communication enablers to higher value-added solutions such as intelligent content delivery and push-to-talk over cellular and presence. Further, the ever-growing number of external players offering value-added services is leading operators to open interfaces for service management and activation in order to reduce the need for manual integration work. In such a scenario, OSS and BSS providers face the challenge of developing solutions that would lead to seamless integration of an operator’s own network with that of the external player.

Going forward, these solutions will increasingly become a part of the larger service-layer architecture. The industry is expected to witness large-scale architectural changes in existing OSS and BSS solutions in order to utilise the same system infrastructure to manage fixed line as well as mobile customers.

Therefore, OSS and BSS solutions need to evolve from vertical silos to well- designed modular, component-based architectural systems in order to serve operators efficiently.


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