opinion


Best of breed, not best of suite

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this article, Martin Morgan, VP Marketing, at Openet, looks at how the BSS market is evolving.

For all operators around the world, cost continues to be a big concern—whether that be the cost of 5G infrastructure, or the cost of maintaining or increasing their subscriber base. Any potential cost saving operators achieve can have a big impact on their overall profitability. This is forcing operators to rethink old ways of working. It is propelling operators towards a more open, collaborative way of working that is seeing smaller, independent network vendors displacing major NEPs. Change is happening across the entire network – in the core, in the RAN and in supporting OSS and BSS.

The emergence of open RAN is a key example of this change. The trend of operators embracing and deploying general-purpose, vendor-neutral RAN hardware and software is changing the game. Moving away from vendor-centric RAN solutions is presenting massive cost savings to operators—savings few can ignore.

As always, intelligent business practice means optimising all available efficiencies on offer to deliver maximum value to shareholders. Operators that innovate most expansively when it comes to new approaches will reap the benefits. The rise of network and digital transformation projects has encouraged operators to experiment and reinvent themselves. In many cases, this new culture of freedom and experimentation is at loggerheads with the agenda of the major NEPs. Open RAN is an example of this freedom to think and act differently and there is a similar trend taking place with BSS.

Putting the operator first

BSS has traditionally been made up of large, costly systems that are slow to move, and difficult to upgrade. These were often offered by large vendors, as part of mega contracts to deliver multiple solutions across an operator’s network. While this approach may have seemingly made the process of technology procurement more “convenient”, the reality is that it has also left operators with solutions that are incapable of keeping pace with market dynamics and meeting subscriber expectations. Luckily, the move to more open architecture and adjunct systems are overcoming these limitations and offering the speed and agility to evolve with new technologies, like 5G, and enable operators to launch and monetise new services in super quick time. Digital BSS now very much exists for operators to maximise the digital 5G age.

This new approach is changing how vendors view their operator customers, and how operators perceive their vendors. We’re seeing more and more vendors work together, as opposed to against each other, with different vendors bringing their best “assets” to the operator table. We’re also seeing the creation of multi-vendor ecosystems and environments within operator networks that encourage the open RAN principles of innovation, performance and standardization in a way that the traditional ‘best of suite’ approach simply didn’t.

So what’s changing for vendors? Well, quite simply, they’re having to focus on things that were once deemed less important, for example: quality, efficiency, and flexibility around integration. They’re now having to think about what operators want from them, rather than what they have to offer. We’re also seeing a push towards adopting open APIs and open architectures, that are helping operators drive lower integration costs for BSS software, lower cost to serve and reduce the length of development cycles.

What being open truly means

For operators, this move towards a new way of working is very good news. Today, more than ever, operators need to have the agility to deploy new services quickly and easily. The days of waiting for months for a new service, feature or offering to be deployed are now over. Operators need to be able to act fast and build new offers to react to changing consumer trends. Doing so will not only ensure they are able to monetise their current and future network assets, but can also play an important role in boosting subscriber engagement, preventing the operator from being seen as a utility or a “dumb pipe”.

Operators around the world are already reaping the rewards of embracing this open, agile way of working. For example, in Indonesia, leading operator Telkomsel built and launched an entirely new sub-brand targeting its growing Gen-Z population in just 18 weeks. Telkomsel built by.U using open digital APIs, open digital architectures and an ecosystem of vendors all working together to implement an end-to-end BSS suite. This kind of agility helps operators innovate quickly and react to changes and trends occurring across their subscriber base—in this case, Telkomsel knew it needed a new, different offering to appeal to a younger audience and for that a new brand was critical.

The fact that Open RAN and its principles are being applied to other parts of the network has many upsides for operators. What may have once been seen as a risky approach to deploying new technologies, may today be a safer alternative. In an open, multi-vendor environment, managed by an SI, an underperforming vendor can easily be swapped out without placing strain on the rest of the operation. This gives operators the freedom to choose and select who they work with and on what terms, and reduces the cost and headache associated with being stuck in lengthy impractical vendor-operator relationships.

Ultimately, this open collaborative approach is all about giving operators the right tools to become the digital providers of tomorrow.

 

Martin Morgan is the VP Marketing at Openet. With 30 years’ experience in mobile communications software, Martin has worked in mobile since the early days of the industry. He’s ran the marketing teams for several BSS companies and served on trade association and company boards. In that time, he’s spoken at over 50 telecoms conferences worldwide and had a similar number of articles published in the telecoms trade press and served on trade association and company boards. At Openet Martin is responsible for marketing thought leadership and market interaction.

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