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Support System - Key functions and applications

December 15, 2009



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Faced with plateauing voice revenues, elecom operators are now rolling out a arge number of new service offerings aimed at maintaining or growing their average revenue per user (ARPU). These offerings include converged services, tele-voting, micro payments and sophisticated customer self-service and provisioning. In order to create, manage and bill these new services, there is now a strong focus on operation support system (OSS) and business support system (BSS) platforms and the business functions they support.Operators are now proactively managing the availability and performance of their mission-critical OSS/BSS applications, service delivery platform (SDP) and deployed services as well as network interfaces.

Telecom OSS and BSS are software systems that support operational network processes and functions carried out during the design, rollout, maintenance and upgrade of telecommunications networks. OSS functions The functions carried out by traditional OSSs include network planning and engineering (NPE), fault management (FM), performance management (PM), provisioning and service activation (PSA) and inventory management (IM). The functions carried out by traditional BSSs include billing and customer care (B&CC), mediation (MD) and revenue assurance (RA).Network planning and engineering: The NPE functions deal with dimensioning the network based on projected market forecasts. It involves the selection of the best access technology taking into account geographical and economic factors. The inputs required for this include geographical maps, demographic analysis and customer locations. The output of NPE is a network map that contains the service types supported, maximum traffic volume supported, customer classes, network infrastructure costs and operating expenses. Fault management: Also known as service assurance, this function detects, isolates, debugs and troubleshoots network errors and malfunctions. Network alarm monitoring and handling is the most commonly employed approach. The tools that are used for error troubleshooting are root cause analysis, event traces and event log analysis.

Performance management: PM is primarily related to the handling of network operations. The specific functions that fall under its purview include network element discovery, event reporting, resource availability monitoring, service level agreement (SLA) management, quality of service (QoS) monitoring, identifying performance bottlenecks, etc. Most telecom operators have an integrated network operations centre (NOC) to manage these functions.

Provisioning and service activation: The provisioning process begins with order intake and ends with service activation. Service requests are commonly delivered in the form of a work order, which is a series of actions that need to be performed to complete the provisioning process. Order templates are created by the telecom operators and activities are assigned to individuals and groups. After the order intake, the order is validated, followed by planning the service implementation. After this, the concerned network element is configured appropriately to activate the service.

Inventory management: Inventory management tracks and manages telecom assets such as equipment, services, financial records, contracts, locations and other data. A database of these assets is maintained, reported and analysed periodically to ensure optimal allocation of resources.

BSS functions

Billing and customer care: Telecom retail or subscriber billing functions include generation of call records, processing these records in real time or batch mode based on pre-defined rules (rating), rendering the rated record into the bill and presenting the rendered bill in the prescribed format. Billing processes vary based on the type of data recorded, the access network, whether the subscriber is prepaid or post-paid and the rules of rating the record. Interconnect or wholesale billing on the other hand is focused on revenue reconciliation among interconnected telecom operators. The processes for wholesale billing are similar to those for retail, apart from the differences in the volume and rating rules. Customer care involves resolution of customer queries and requests, generally through a contact centre. Many telecom operators also provide for a web-based customer self-care application where bill presentation, payment and limited service activation can be carried out. Settlement functions reconcile accounts between the telecom operators and the content provider partners. The settlement process is driven by revenuesharing agreements and the computation is based on transaction value, relationship value, volume, service, region, delivery mode and regulatory standards.

Mediation: Mediation is the conversion of raw call data to a format understandable by the billing and accounting systems. It includes data collection, archiving, normalisation, filtering, enrichment, aggregation, correlation, buffering, format mapping and reconciliation.

Revenue assurance: The revenue assurance functions enable the telecom operator to address the issue of revenue leakage. This is achieved by advanced analytical processes that start with customer verification, credit balance checks, usage monitoring through appropriate control points and interfaces for data extraction, dashboards to present results and workflow-based processes to take appropriate corrective actions.



 
 

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