When you read an article entitled ‘Operator business ability linked to BSS agility’ you cannot help smiling. At least not if you have worked in the BSS world for 20 years. In fact, immediately the team at BillingViews saw the headline, they headed to Twitter with the happy news.
The survey and resulting report that produced the headline is from respected publication Telecoms.com and commissioned by real-time provider Openet. The headline statistics in the report confirm the buzz in the industry – that ‘current market conditions require increasingly agile BSS that give operators the ability to provide service diversity and a faster time to market.’ 86 percent of the 100 strong operator survey group agreed or strongly agreed with this statement.
This headline is backed up by other findings, notably that almost all (91 percent) respondents believe that real time network usage reporting and analytics is becoming more important and 86 percent believe that BSS needs to deliver real-time reporting to manage billshock.
So, that’s OK then. The question is – or indeed the questions are – how do operators believe they can deliver this agility, given that agility no longer means simply fast connectivity. Speed and quality are rapidly becoming ‘table stakes’ and differentiation will come from the ability to react to market conditions quicker than the competition.
So what are the barriers to achieving this agility?
Many operators are still saddled with legacy, multiple vendor environments. 20 percent have six or more vendors, and only 25 percent believe they have a manageable BSS environment with three or fewer providers. 34 percent want to reduce the number of BSS vendors.
Conversely, although not a finding of this report, the number of managed services providers amongst operators is on the increase, which means that there is an important role within operators to manage the growing number of providers.
The survey examines the ‘eternal argument’ – where to buy BSS. The balance is fairly even between the large Network Equipment Providers (NEPs) and specialist BSS providers. Although 40 percent do not think that their supplier mix will change in the next five years, 28 percent believe that they will actively move towards a more specialist approach towards BSS. Over half think that solutions from specialist BSS vendors will better prepare them than NEPs. The only area where operators believe that NEPs win over specialists is in the important area of standardization. In areas such as pricing model innovation the majority vote goes to the specialist.
Another area that the survey examines is the current responsibility for integration and, confirming recent trends brought about by cost reduction pressures, only 19 percent of operators prefer to integrate their own software, with just over a quarter hiring systems integrators and the rest leaving it to the vendors to manage.
This, of course, leads to the current state of virtualization, one of the industry’s favourite buzz-words. Generally speaking there is acknowledgement that virtualization is a game changer but still some way off. The survey, however, reveals that there may be companies making announcements soon, and following Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom down the road. 23 percent of respondents have started trials of virtualized BSS environments and nine percent have launched.
The majority of respondents think that virtualization will deliver the solutions to their fragmented BSS environments, while enabling greater opportunities for specialist suppliers.
There is no doubt that the world of communications and particularly BSS is changing fast. In order for operators to prepare for unprecedented change there is a need for radical thinking. They will need to embrace new solutions such as virtualization and the Cloud. They will need to react much faster than ever before, not only to compete with other operators but to be in a position to be able to collaborate with OTT players, who think in terms of weeks to launch new services.
This survey and report makes interesting reading and adds some solid data to a series of topics that have, until now, been the realm of informal discussion rather than serious data.
And data is king.