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Changing Needs - Key drivers for OSS/BSS

December 15, 2009

In the face of increasing competition, the advent of new technologies and applications, and the growing importance of quality of service, telecom operators are placing more emphasis on operation systems support/business systems support (OSS/BSS). With the telecom sector now slated to add the next 500 million subscribers, scalable OSS/BSS is the order of the day. Leading service providers discuss the current status, future plans and vendor wish-list for OSS/BSS...

What are the key factors driving investment in OSS/BSS?

Sumit Chowdhary
We had already made substantial investments in OSS/BSS when we started the company. Now we carry out incremental changes in those OSS/BSS. The factors driving any change in investment in OSS/BSS are dependent on the amount of change that is required for the company's business processes and new products and tariffs. The BSS would change if, for instance, I was looking at changing the processes through which my customers interact with me or the processes with which our customers interact with our sales people/call centres/executives. The OSS would change if there was a change in my network elements to provision and manage or completely integrate the national wireless and wireline next generation network.

Scale is another factor driving investment in OSS/BSS. When the number of customers we are dealing with changes, additional investment needs to be made in hardware.

N.K. Gupta
Customer care and operational efficiency are the biggest factors driving investments in these systems. Prevention of revenue leakage is another key reason for investing in these systems. OSS/BSS systems increase operational efficiencies within the organisation and are important for better standardisation of processes within the organisation.

Shirish Munj
The key factors driving OSS/BSS investments today are as follows:

  • Business growth into multiple and new technology areas
  • Regulatory requirements
  • Increasingly competitive environment
  • Need for increased operational efficiency.

    Kuldip Singh
    With respect to BSS, we are looking at deploying convergent billing. This involves one combined bill for all the subscribers for all the services. At present, we provide different bills for different services to each subscriber and are not able to bundle the services together. The fundamental rule is that the larger the network, the more the number of services and the more one has to invest in OSS/BSS. But the OSS/BSS has to be able to support different services and different platforms.

    What is your organisation's level of investment in OSS/BSS?

    Sumit Chowdhary
    I cannot divulge the figure.

    N.K. Gupta
    For its wireline operations, BSNL has planned to invest Rs 10 billion in phases for an OSS/BSS project, which is a call data record (CDR) project being implemented on an all-India basis. This investment includes operation and maintenance expenses as well as the cost of all hardware and software over a period of five years.

    Shirish Munj
    The investment is mainly in the areas of GSM rollout, mobile number portability (MNP), high speed internet access, revenue exposure, churn control, distribution management and consolidation of enterprise resource planning processes. As a policy, we don't share investment data.

    Kuldip Singh
    When we launched our GSM tender, we also included the billing and provisioning system for the same in it. Similarly, in our broadband tender, we also included the billing and provisioning system. We are working on implementing a convergent billing system, which will support all the services being provided by Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL). The project cost for this will be about Rs 2.5 billion.

    What are your organisation's future plans with respect to OSS/BSS? Is your company in the process of migrating to next-generation OSS/BSS?

    Sumit Chowdhary
    We are not going to change any of our OSS/BSS in the near future. We already have next-generation OSS/BSS. We are still a fairly new company compared to other telecom operators. We were born transformed and have got fairly integrated, completely service-oriented, architectureenabled OSS/BSS. Our OSS/BSS is completely automated in terms of our processing (both frontand back-office processes). So we have a fairly robust OSS/BSS system in place.

  • We are not expecting our costs to increase. In fact, as the market stabilises and consolidates and prices keep falling, we are expecting our OSS/BSS prices to fall, not go up. We don't expect to spend any larger proportion on OSS/BSS and, in fact, expect our costs as a percentage of revenues to go down further. We are one of the most efficient telcos and our costs are one of the lowest in the industry.
  • N.K. Gupta
    BSNL is an integrated telecom company and is present in all the areas of telecom.Currently, on the wireline side (we have an extensive wireline infrastructure); we have a distributed billing system with 334 billing and commercial systems which depend on two in-house billing packages (DOTSOFT and Trichur).
  • In a major initiative, we are now migrating to zonal OSS/BSS and are converting these 334 systems into four billing systems. This maybe one of the world's biggest transformation projects. As part of the project, we are implementing customer resource management (CRM), billing, mediation, provisioning, accounting, revenue assurance and fraud management. We are basically converting the meter call unit-based billing to CDrbased billing. These are all standardised commercial off-the-shelf applications which will be integrated using a middleware layer. As part of this project, we will cover all existing wireline and broadband customers and will provide them with enhanced customer care services. We are currently at an advanced stage of implementing this project and it will take a minimum of seven to eight months for completion. As part of the CDR project, a countrywide intra-network is being built within BSNL to connect the exchanges, offices in different cities and the customer service centres.

    On the wireless front, we already have a zonal billing system and will be upgrading it with more features to address a larger subscriber base. This project is aligned with BSNL's GSM capacity expansion plan and is currently at the tendering stage. Our architecture is eTOM-compliant and is in line with international best practices.

    Shirish Munj
    We started various initiatives towards aligning OSS/BSS with next-generation OSS standards about three years back. A key focus area has been service orientation. Some of the major programmes are business process management (BPM), multi-channel (MCA)-enabled service layer for network element integration, and OSS/BSS-as-a-service.

    As part of the BPM initiative, a process orchestration layer has been deployed across systems and processes. Aligning to Telemanagement Forum standards has enabled us to ensure plugand-play capabilities as well as service enablement and reuse.

    The MCA has been an excellent framework of services for exposing intelligent network integration transparently across multiple channels and systems.

    OSS/BSS-as-a-service is a classic case of offering the IT systems stack as a service across different companies.

    Our future plans are oriented towards leveraging these strong foundations and moving towards a flexible OSS/BSS with greater real-time enablement of processes. This has become critical in order to support the explosive growth in prepaid services, value-added services and data services. This has also attained significance based on the fact that post-paid services are increasingly requiring online controls in order to prevent bill shock.

    Kuldip Singh
    As mentioned before, we are looking at next-generation BSS in the form of convergent billing. This is one of the most prestigious and complex projects being undertaken. I don't think it has been done anywhere in India and has been done in very few places globally. All the systems have to be integrated with the billing system. This is a very big challenge and a complex project.

    How will the introduction of MNP impact the OSS/BSS segment?

    Sumit Chowdhary

    Additional costs will be incurred to make changes because MNP is a complicated process that needs to be implemented across multiple applications. Some changes need to be carried out in the network. It is going to be a change in the processes of the company. It will increase costs but not to the extent that it will change our economics. From the supply-side point of view, MNP means more business for systems integrators like IBM, TechMahindra and Wipro.Some OSS/BSS vendors who ar e providing resources may also benefit.

    N.K. Gupta
    The introduction of MNP is likely to make processes more complex. For instance, the GSM OSS/BSS systems are likely to get impacted because the process of transferring customer acquisition files (CAF) has to be online and still needs to be firmed up. While billing will not be an issue, identifying which operator's network the customer belongs to will become a complex process. For instance, with the introduction of MNP, a customer with a number series of operator A may have ported to operator B and will be making calls using operator B's network, but it may not be that easy to determine which operator's network is being used. This is likely to lead to security issues. In my opinion, access to ported databases will be required in addition to whatever information is already being provided to law enforcement agencies and they will have to dig into these databases as well.

    Shirish Munj
    Apart from the regular impact in order to support MNP processes like porting, gateway integration, etc., various initiatives are either in progress or in the pipeline in areas such as enhancing customer experience and controlling churn. The focus is on an end-to-end framework that tracks various parameters, predicts customer churn, enables online and seamless customer communication, and ensures retention.

    Kuldip Singh
    MNP will require modification in the OSS/BSS, so everybody's OSS/BSS will have to be modified to support MNP if this has not already been done. This upgradation is likely to increase costs.

    What is your wish-list for OSS/BSS vendors?

    Sumit Chowdhary
    OSS/BSS vendors need to start creating inherently interoperable systems. There are no standards of interfaces between them, so every implementation is a custom implementation of standards between OSS/BSS. I wish that at some point of time, they figure out how customer information moves from point A to point B and come up with the same format to store information because of the differences.

    Integration is difficult, costly and timeconsuming. OSS/BSS vendors sometimes don't have adequate resources in the country to access relevant expertise for which you have to pay a lot of money. So, they must support Indian telecom operators at a lower cost in the country.

    N.K. Gupta
    Integration within the different OSS/BSS functions will be the biggest challenge as they are from different vendors and there is no standardisation within the vendor community. If mediation is from one vendor, billing is from another, and CRM is from a third vendor, integrating these is an issue. In the case of ERP, for instance, it comes as a complete application and no integration is required.

    However, for OSS/BSS, before we start the migration, we have to make sure that these applications talk to each other, which is time-consuming. This is the biggest impediment for implementation of OSS/BSS systems.

    Then, the vendors should be more willing and open to support the customer in terms of after-sales service. Finally, the vendors need to be more flexible and open to customising solutions. They should be able to address the customer-specific needs of different organisations.

    Shirish Munj
    Our demands to OSS/BSS vendors have been mainly on the technologies which allow real-time enablement of traditionally non-real-time processes. The pressure from our side is not only towards finding an optimum solution but also to achieve excellent value for money, especially in the current context of receding average revenue per user, demanding customers and challenging competition.

    Kuldip Singh
    We would like to have a single OSS/BSS vendor for all our processes. We are trying it and it is a challenge. For OSS, we have come out with an expression of interest for deploying next-generation OSS. But for a company like MTNL to provide one OSS covering all services is a big challenge. It is easier for new operators since they have fewer services. We have got the latest technology as well as very old technologies. So integrating all of them is a big challenge.


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