Specialist vendors target third way of delivering best of breed BSS for digital transformation
Among the drones, phones, cars and, yes, spacecraft at this year’s Mobile World Congress, it was easy to think the BSS talk was simply business as usual. However, there were several clear indicators at the show that business as usual is no longer fit for purpose in the digitally transformed telecoms industry of the future, writes George Malim.
One obvious change in the vendor landscape is that the old approach of taking support software from a hardware vendor as part of a network equipment bundle is starting to recede. Communications service providers want systems that can support their new businesses – some which are truly new and being run separately from their traditional operations – and these systems need to be quick to deploy, flexible enough to take into account rapid growth or failure and easily adaptable to new competitive imperatives.
Of course, many CSPs will continue to take software from hardware vendors and benefit from the concept of having a single vendor providing equipment and software as a service. Another approach has been to buy software from large telecoms IT vendors, taking a complete stack approach by buying complete system portfolios from a single vendor. This too, has its advantages in terms of platforms of systems that are pre-integrated and should be able to operate seamlessly, whatever that means.
These typically large organisations also have the benefit of having large operational teams to operate deployments on behalf of CSPs as a service or to provide them with training support to develop new skills among internal teams. Large players have both the specialism and the scale to support CSPs’ digital transformations and their heritage and understanding of the operator market place should not be underestimated.
However, there is a third way and this was in evidence at this MWC 2018; the coming together of an ecosystem of best-of-breed telecoms IT system providers to create a cohesive portfolio of systems. This was in evidence at two of the software vendors I spoke to at the show, both of which are engaged in initiatives to help CSPs accelerate deployment of digital OSS and BSS.
“We work with different providers when it comes to charging, product catalogue, inventory management, data management, policy and others,” said Eugene Sarmiento, the chief sales and marketing officer of Qvantel. “Upsell and loyalty, along with cost reduction, are the biggest challenges for any operator or enterprise and we have developed our Digital BSS-as-a-service offering to help achieve these goals. We’ve been selling it for ten years and there is no specific profile of operator that we target. We have customers from the very large – Wind Tre has 33 million subscribers – down to smaller operators with one million customers.”
“Our approach is different [to other vendors], by necessity we use open source,” added Sarmiento.
“Our goal is to bring down BSS costs to 1% and the second thing is to speed up transformation. We’ve done transformations in 15 months and 12 months and, recently, we achieved the milestone of completing a digital transformation in under 12 months.”
Openet is another vendor that has been putting forward a vision of an end-to-end stack composed of best of breed systems from multiple providers. The company has been focusing on digital application programme interfaces to provide a plug and play approach, enabling platforms to be up and running in 14 weeks at 10% of the cost of traditional BSS/OSS.
“The mission is to drive the cost out of IT,” said Martin Morgan, the marketing manager at Openet. “This is vital because operators’ new models are zero-rated or ad-funded and therefore systems have to be easy to manage. When we go in we have pre-configured use cases and service-based modules that really accelerate deployment time.”
Morgan was adamant that this approach delivers the best of both worlds – best of breed as part of an integrated platform with none of the headaches of integrating systems from different vendors. With work on open APIs continuing at TM Forum, the integration should become still smoother and more streamlined in future, with the cost and speed of deployment of such platforms providing a real alternative to equipment vendor software and the full stack propositions of the largest specialist vendors.