OSS is the new BSS. Really (sort of)
At the bottom of the BSS stack, close to the network, you’ll find the box known as (billing) mediation. Its function (loosely); to collect and pre-process usage records before upstreaming them for billing. This operating paradigm has held true for well over a decade. In a great many ways, mediation has been the poor cousin of the BSS market.
While this image of mediation may be familiar to most, it’s inaccurate. A mediation solution is not a box designed to enable monetisation or handle usage records. It’s actually simply a Data Integration and management tool and one (of many) of the Use Cases it can be deployed to handle relates to billing. To be fair, billing mediation is – for now at least – probably its most common Use Case, says Keith Brody, head of Communications at DigitalRoute.
Pointing out that this is a misnomer, however, isn’t vendor-speak; deployments of mediation technology in Railways, Logistics, Postal Services, Airlines, Utilities, Online Gaming and multiple non-billing related deployments of mediation in telco underline that this not the case.
If the aforementioned Use Cases are too numerous to examine in detail, the recent proliferation of mediation technology into the OSS domain is worth looking at more closely. Why is this happening?
As operators are being driven to introduce new processes and management tools in order to deliver innovative network services in an effective and profitable way and, at the same time are finding themselves needing to integrate and manage an increasingly broad range of next generation network elements (think probes, for example), mediation’s foothold in OSS is becoming less a matter of speculative opportunity and more a matter of fact. This is in part because it’s not just delivering services that matters anymore; it’s delivering them in a way that maximises their impact and enables their bottom-line revenue potential to be reached.
The new generation of Operating Support Systems (OSS) encompasses the growing and increasingly important functions of analytics and service assurance. For instance, new Use Cases that analyse service rather than network resources are now critical. Analytics based on dimensions such as subscribers, handsets and location, all of which are reliant on raw transactional data collected from the network, are becoming central to competitive strategy.
These evolutions are in many ways blurring the line between traditional OSS and BSS functions, thus opening up possibilities for the Service Provider to make the best use of its resources and achieve greater performance, while at the same time satisfying customer’s needs.
Doing both is critical. The telecoms market is undergoing a dramatic shift in the requirements placed on traditional Analytics and OSS systems. These have historically been based on processing aggregated counter data but now need to be adapted to accommodate raw event data at higher volumes and in real-time. Furthermore, network quality is central to defining service experience.
Yet despite this, misconfiguration, damaged equipment, failed upgrades and handset-related problems have historically often gone undetected for long periods. Without the proper tools for creating and acting on information at the network-, customer- and session levels, hidden service problems, lack of root-cause analysis and a failure of pro-active retention activity will lead to churn. This reality-and additional issues-demands a new set of management tools.
Traditionally OSS tools have been network-centric, displaying node health and performance via agreed KPI metrics. This type of OSS monitoring continues to be an essential part of network management but in addition, effective service assurance is also required.
Here, the focus is on measuring how well services are performing and how performance actually affects the subscribers’ service experience. Once Service Assurance is added to traditional, network-centric OSS, service performance data can be contextualised to deliver impact analysis from an individual customer perspective.
This is mission-critical management information, not only tied to traditional network views but also tied to subscribers, subscriber groups, handsets and geographical areas. Instead of just monitoring and maximising OSS by using network performance data, operators must now support advanced decision-making within BSS and BI systems too.
The challenges optimising this new set of OSS requirements are considerable. For instance:
- Multiple Network Data Records need to be merged from a customer perspective to create a unified Customer Service Performance Record.
- The control plane must be linked to User plane records.
- Data must be correlated in real-time.
- Data must be enriched with location information.
- State needs to be kept to understand who is where when a negative impact occurs.
Recent evidence suggests operators are finding one answer to meeting them in mediation technology, purposed to address OSS Use Cases. This year alone, two Tier 1 carrier groups – one in Europe, one in the Americas – have adopted OSS Mediation to address the sort of challenges noted above (and others). Having identified the problem it solves, in the next blog we’ll take a closer look at exactly what OSS Mediation is, and how it works.
The author of this blog is Keith Brody, head of Communications at DigitalRoute
About the author:
Keith Brody has worked in telecoms BSS/OSS for almost 20 years as a journalist, analyst and marketing and communications expert for Financial Times Telecoms, Ovum, MetraTech and DigitalRoute among others. His writing has appeared in numerous publications, books and newsletters on subjects including telecoms and beyond. He is presently head of Communications at DigitalRoute.