Service providers are fighting back against complexity

In the last decade the telecoms landscape has changed immeasurably, creating huge technology complexity which is beginning to strangle service providers. They are often running just to stand still, but are starting to fight back, explains Scott Goodwin, CEO of weavesys.

Ten blisteringly fast years in telecoms have seen huge developments such as the VoIP market growing to £40 billion, up nine per cent from 2011. This huge industry – especially mobile – has also undergone significant corporate change.  Over £51 billion in mergers and acquisitions has been seen in the first eight months of this year alone making it the busiest year since 2006 . This was topped off by Vodafone’s £84 billion sale of its stake in US mobile network Verizon Wireless, the world’s biggest deal for more than a decade.

Meanwhile, three quarters of adults now have fixed broadband and mobile ownership has become ubiquitous. There are more than 80 million mobile subscriptions in the UK alone – despite there only being 63 million people in the country – and 94 per cent of UK adults use a mobile .

As a result, the whole industry is faced with a complex mess of legacy technologies and systems just about keep going. But they are often siloed, rely on huge webs of integration and are unwieldy at best, or unusable at worst.

This presents a huge challenge for service providers. Not only is keeping the business running tough, but when it comes to launching new services and products the time and cost in doing so is huge. What should be a simple process often requires expert knowledge to carry out with IT specialists untangling and then reconnecting the web of systems.

For example, if a service provider plans to launch a new service to complement its VoIP and broadband offering it will require bespoke technology, and integration with existing Operations Support Systems that can provision services and Business Support Systems to bill those services.

In fact, it is often these systems – known by the extended acronym of OSS/BSS – that are the most complex of all. Yet nearly everything a communications service provider does is controlled and managed by them. In essence, they incorporate all the technology, software and processes that allow network assets to be monetised.

Considering OSS/BSS systems are vitally important to communications service providers, it’s unsurprising that firms are beginning to look for ways to simplify them. This is the front line in the fight against complexity and the goal is to keep up with ever-demanding customers who want new services, bespoke communications packages and the ability to turn services on and off themselves.

The question is, how can something so complex be made simple? Ripping out legacy technologies and simply starting again is not an option when we consider what happens when telecoms services go down. The O2 outage in 2012 is still in people’s minds a year on – and it hit the brand hard. Only 20 per cent of O2 customers affected believe the mobile phone provider handled the situation well according to YouGov .

The key is finding a way to automate and manage the complex web of OSS/BSS systems with integrated management software. Known as a “service wrap”, this type of software removes the significant complexity associated with building and delivering telecoms services. It brings together all the disparate elements of modern OSS/BSS systems allowing service providers to bring new services to market quickly and create tailored service packages while offering customers significant control and flexibility over provisioning and managing the services they want.

One business that’s achieved this is service provider voxclever. The firm has provided solutions for over 20,000 users among 4,000 SMEs in the UK using the BroadWorks VoIP platform by BroadSoft, among other pieces of technology.  While the capabilities of BroadWorks are extensive, it often requires high levels of expertise and technical knowledge to provision and bill new services or bespoke packages, while integrating it with other systems can be just as much of a challenge.

Using a service wrap to manage all these systems and technologies, voxclever has been able to pass on much of the operational management of its hosted VoIP solutions down to its customers so they can serve end users at the point of demand.

This not only created efficiencies for voxclever but added value to its clients. They can now create their own services, provision their customers, price their products and manage their clients themselves. This not only enables the partner to have full control of their customer base, but also reduces voxclever’s operational costs allowing it to remain competitive.

With the adoption of one piece of technology, the firm was able to manage all its OSS/BSS systems seamlessly, putting it far ahead of competitors left struggling by manually piecing it all together.

As more and more service providers discover these solutions, the battle against complexity will be won. The result will be an industry where it’s simple and quick to create, tailor and sell new communications products and services; where businesses are not limited by their technology and systems, but rather this is an enabler for them to differentiate their offerings and grow their business.

Communications technology is capable of delivering so much, but the pace of change has limited its ability to fully realise its potential. While the pace of change will only increase, the problem of complexity is starting to abate.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine
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