News From Telecom World

Asian telcos lead adoption of unified OSS

Posted on: May 28, 2009

With stronger competitive pressure from internet players, telecom operators are giving more attention to the option of transformation through unified operations support systems over the best of breed approach.

For Clarity International CEO Tony Kalcina, much of the push is from the web players’ successes in OSS and billing, which ironically take off from the achievements of the telcos themselves.

These new entrants like Google and Facebook come from a completely different mindset in terms of billing and OSS — they just plug the system in, it’s easier to charge for, and the speed is hours and days, not months and years like for telecom.

“What these players have done is that they focus on the real problems and not the symptoms,” Kalcina said. “They’ve gone top-down and, to a large extent, they are riding on the achievements of the telco industry in terms of the ability to make this happen.”

But with telcos’ legacy OSS and BSS platforms, how do they compete with the agile newcomers?

The internet players “are in their honeymoon period when there aren’t so many users and customers don’t pay for services so they are not as demanding,” Kalcina said. “The quality of delivery and the engineering put into the delivery of those services are probably not as high as they are in the telecom industry.”

Telcos, he said, have learned that although it is important to have processes, quality and predictability, it is far more important to understand the actual customers and deliver solutions to them.

“The telcos are talking about transformation – having personalized services, providing a better brand, benchmarking, all sorts of engaging with the hip nature of the end-users that they target,” Kalcina said. “At the same time, the focus is on streamlining and automating so they can become a reliable and dependable service delivery engine.”

More formalized approach

Many operators putting major resources behind this movement and have started to formalize the process, securing buying from their boards. This he said is because transformation takes time, as it is now a far more holistic than just a network or NGN transformation.

“They are transforming because the landscape is changing,” Kalcina said. “These telcos believe they will obviously be out of business if they don’t change the way they interact with and provide solutions to their customers.”

Still, telcos need to be careful of trying to ramp up quality in their entire structures, some of which may not be necessary in terms of what is being delivered to the customer.

Kalcina said the pitfall usually relates to engineers, who sometimes forget the real reason why telcos are doing what they are doing, so the tendency is to go for technical protection unnecessarily.

“For example, telcos have what are called geographic information systems that are very large, complex and expensive projects,” he explained. “One of the classic reasons why these projects fail, cost so much and take so long is that the engineering department wants to understand the network with 120 layers worth of detail.

“But when you stand back and analyze what the problem is , it’s neither an engineering nor a technical problem — it’s a challenge of automating the process of rolling out a network,” Kalcina added. “What you need to know can be summarized in half a dozen layers.”

Currently, it is the analysts who are painting a rosy picture for unified OSS as a desirable strategy. Kalcina said companies espoused the best-of-breed approach because the buying habits of the large telcos are driven by politics and tribal behavior of departments.

“Enterprise architecture is a new development that tends to lend itself for more enterprise-based approaches — solving the automation problem, self-service, and fulfillment and assurance,” he said. “So in the last couple of years you have analysts saying that the only way to solve the next-generation network transformation is through unified systems versus the fragmented best of breed.”

Operators, both those in developed and emerging markets, are in the same boat with regard to competition from internet players. But are they in the same page in how they regard the movement to unified OSS? Kalcina said they all see the need to move away from islands of operational management and service delivery technology to focus on a far more unified customer-centric and automated model.

“The industry has reacted, with players like Amdocs and Oracle moving toward creating a unified solution map,” he said. “They are moving toward the network, creating this engine that we can no longer call OSS but is effectively a converged service delivery factory that allows for customers to choose their own application suite that suits whatever they are trying to do.”

Even then, telcos in emerging markets like in Asia are more receptive to and understand the unified approach more than the developed markets give them credit. These companies – run by executives who want to do things in a bigger, better way — find ways to leapfrog the achievements of established telcos in the West.

This is one reason why Clarity has been Asia-centric, he noted, adding that telcos in Asia are far more interested in listening to new ways and they tend to be early adopters despite the difficulty of changing industry standards and trends.

“When we were starting, best of breed was definitely the way to do things and it was very hard to sell the [unified] story to the big players,” Kalcina said. “We found a lot more receptiveness in the new players, and then later with the incumbents that compete with the new players.”



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