It might be a bit premature to make that claim, but it’s certainly the way things are going. Elements of these once disparate support systems are increasingly reaching across from one domain to the other as processes from one side of the line depend on data from the other. Indeed, with the increasing digitisation of telecoms infrastructure, it can surely only be a matter of time before OSS and BSS become one and the same thing and we think of everything in terms of Telco IT.
Signs of convergence are already appearing. As an increasing number of operators adopt SDN and NFV architectures, they are transforming traditional networks into software programmable platforms running on basic, low-cost cost hardware and are, in the process, driving the convergence of IT and Telecoms. The result will be revamped network operations which in turn will enable new services and business models, and of course impact OSS and BSS.
Telekom Austria’s Alexander Jenbar, director A1 Operation says, “I think OSS and BSS continue to be merged from technical point of view: They both rely more and more on standardised software-stacks with commonly used software technologies. Functionality, availability and performance will be ensured with the same methods and measures. Agile software development methods will succeed in both areas in order to fulfil business requirements. “
Tom Homer, Telstra’s managing director for EMEA agrees. He says that the distinction between OSS and BSS is disappearing in the industry with the acceleration of software defined elements. He adds, “From an operations perspective, we are seeing network, platforms, software and products converge, which is changing the way we – and our customers – activate, monitor and manage incidents across the business and operational systems.”
Of course, operators aren’t just going digital for its own sake, they are looking for more ways of making their business operations more efficient as well as enabling new services and addressing new markets. Pure-play digital services rely on a wide range of third party players who encompass everything from content to technology, and with many industries transforming their own business processes, the need for tightly integrated OSS and BSS will only increase as telcos seek to expand their customer base.
Charging is the most obvious process to benefit from a converged telco infrastructure. There has always been the need to pull data from the network in order to accurately bill a customer, but with integrated digitalised support systems in place new possibilities present themselves. One example already in service is experience-based charging whereby the customer is charged according to the performance or otherwise, of the network. Similarly, it could be argued that network assurance and service assurance are becoming one and the same thing because they are increasingly becoming interdependent.
All the telcos that we spoke to for this column agreed that OSS and BSS were converging fast and were keen to grasp the opportunities offered by the move to Telco IT. They are looking outward to new markets and services and inward for greater efficiencies.
Typical is Australia’s Telstra. Tom Homer says that Telstra is capitalising on this convergence by executing its digitisation program along with its Network 2020 programme to deliver a differentiated experience and products that give its customers greater control and choice on service acquisition and interaction. He adds, “The shift to the ‘Telco IT’ paradigm further expedites real time interaction for customers and greater flexibility in consumption of services. Internally it drives greater levels of automation, improving the foundation to leverage Artificial Intelligence to drive productivity.”
So, it’s ‘Game On’ for the convergence of OSS and BSS, but it’s not just operators that will feel the impact. Telco IT will have ramifications for vendors too, particularly those who have single-play offerings such as a billing engine or network management software. For them it could soon be time to think about partnerships, mergers or even selling up. As Telco IT comes of age, the market will surely consolidate.
By Peter Dykes, freelance telecoms writer