September 17, 2019

Embracing the Next Version of BSS/OSS for Digital Operators

Successful digital transformations will require new thinking about software releases.

As an industry, we are prone to using the term ‘next generation’ or asking our technology providers what features the next version of their solutions will have. On the whole, this behavioral pattern can hold us back from achieving our aspirations and realizing our potential. This sometimes becomes obvious when a highly disruptive company comes out the blue and attempts to grasp market share away from the established players. This is currently playing out with Japanese company Rakuten, which is shaking preconceptions of how a communications company can be run, and indeed, should be run, with the launch of its new mobile operator service.

This radical move creates a unique shift for the industry. Suddenly, the sequential model of software releases is under threat in favor of modularized platform models that can simultaneously support the increased levels of complexity on the digital service side, while simplifying the operational requirements.

Within telecom, the thing that connects supply and demand, connects the product to customers is BSS/OSS. So in many ways, the best way to think about ‘digital transformation’ is the quest to make something infinitely more efficient, fluid, dynamic and intelligent in that space between the network and customer.

Rethinking Telecom Software

The patchwork of BSS/OSS that exists within operators today is fundamentally contrary to the goals of successful digital operations – not just network operations. And while much work has been done on areas such as open APIs, the winning solution to this fundamental challenge in now looking like it will be a total rethink of how telecom software is approached.

The obvious way to measure the effectiveness of any new technology is by plugging it into the existing framework alongside its predecessor. However, that should not then be an operational model which is adopted and scaled. A good reference for this behavior is the introduction of NFV into transport networks, where operators would build a silo for NFV that resembles a legacy silo and use it to model existing physical network elements and compare the performance, cost and effect on its surroundings. This approach sounded good in the lab a decade ago, but it becomes a challenge in a real operational environment.

In many of the new digital service value chains that CSPs could potentially participate in, there is the notion that the communications piece is where CSPs will sit and beyond that they must interface with OTTs and other services providers as best they can. Some of this pigeonholing results from the presumption that even if a CSP offers additional services beyond the connectivity, there will  a better, faster, cheaper OTT alternative that will be preferable. As these new value chains are emerging in IoT and the like, CSPs are presented with a great opportunity to prove their capabilities.

When the usual faces at an industry conference shows see a company like Rakuten blazing a trail, many of the onlookers are trying to establish what they are doing in the space where BSS/OSS used to exist and assimilate that into a potential plan for transformation. This is undoubtedly one of the great industry challenges of the next decade, where failure will be fatal for some very large companies. One thing that is obvious is that a simple, incremental update to current legacy BSS/OSS is not the long-term answer to the question.

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