March 24, 2016

Partners Need Back-Office Support

In virtualized environments, BSS will support a greater variety of third-party partner relationships.

When we look at the impact that virtualization and software-defined networking (SDN) will have on business support systems (BSS), one aspect that doesn’t get enough attention is third-party partner billing scenarios.

It’s clear that BSS should evolve in lock step with the networks as service providers embrace network functions virtualization (NFV) and SDN. The back office needs to be just as flexible and programmable as the network and have the ability to capture any chargeable event in real time. After all, if an operator can’t identify or process an event, then it can’t charge the customer for the service, which would lead to lost revenue.

But BSS will also need to support many more complex, third-party billing relationships. That’s because network functions virtualization (NFV) and SDN open up new ways for operators to create and deliver services, many of which will be forged through different kinds of partnerships with content providers, so-called over-the-top (OTT) and digital service providers as well as other network operators.

Service providers already have myriad billing relationships with partners for wholesale, interconnect and roaming services. But it is expected that NFV and SDN will lead to more innovative engagements with even more players.

In these new service models, network operators will play multiple roles—they will sometimes be the consumers of their partner’s services or they will be the suppliers of services at other times. Over time, this intricate web of partnerships could become extremely complex and difficult to manage.

Ari Banerjee, Senior Director of Strategy at Netcracker, recently wrote about how important it is for BSS to support these new service mash-ups. As Banerjee writes in VanillaPlus:

Operators will need a system that can accommodate multiparty compensation and settlement and that can allow them to play roles as consumers as well as providers. Also, because virtual functions will come from a variety of providers, including many offerings that will involve several functions working in tandem in a service chaining scenario, strong partner management becomes vital.

Banerjee also highlighted what he believes are the key capabilities of a partner management system. Operators will need the ability to:

  • Streamline every aspect of partner relationships with advanced self-service capabilities and process automation tools.

  • Create highly flexible collaborative environments for partners through open platforms.

  • Reduce the risk of revenue leakage by tracking partner reliability and performance.

  • Generate new revenue by monetizing lucrative OTT content and application partner relationships.

  • Provide partner management products as a service through a cloud business model.

With strong partner management tools in modern BSS, network operators can realize the full benefits of SDN and NFV. They can achieve greater returns from new services regardless of where the services originate or how they are delivered across an increasingly complex chain of partnerships. In fact, it would be impossible for operators to generate revenue from services and applications without the capabilities of modernized, next-generation BSS.

New partnerships among network operators and digital service providers will be vital for creating successful, innovative services, but managing those relationships well in the back office will be even more important.


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