We are, if we are honest, making it up as we go along. And we have to be as prepared as we can be for whatever comes next.
What has changed in the last year or so, is that the industry has gone beyond nodding sagely at this message and is actually doing something about it.
This, essentially, is the message from the latest Openet sponsored survey from Telecoms.com.
They asked 100 operators their views on a range of topics relating to how prepared they need to be and how they are getting themselves prepared.
Almost all of them (91 percent) agreed that real-time network usage reporting and analytics is becoming more important. Perhaps more interestingly, 86 percent agreed with the statement that ‘current market conditions require increasingly agile BSS that give operators the ability to provide service diversity and a faster time to market.’
That, translated, is the need to bill for the unknown, fast.
There are, of course, barriers and the survey set out to identify these. Not surprisingly, many of the respondents are still struggling with legacy environments. Setting aside the philosophical arguments about what exactly a legacy environment is – do we mean mainframes, or do we mean the ‘point’ solutions that are still managing huge volumes but are not easily changeable – this in itself gives new entrants and competitors a huge advantage.
Almost a quarter of the respondents have six or more BSS vendors and 34 percent want to reduce the number of suppliers. Obviously the fewer vendors, the fewer problems you have - technical, financial and legal.
This gives rise to questions about who operators buy their agility from. The mix between Network Equipment Providers (NEPs) and specialist BSS vendors was fairly evenly split and supports a trend that was popular some years ago when times were perhaps tougher than they are now. Operators were buying BSS off their NEPs because, not to put too fine a point on it, they were getting some excellent deals. In some cases it was even said that BSS was free to big buyers of network equipment. And why not?
Now, though, that trend seems to be reversing as the perception is that specialist BSS vendor are now more likely to supply agile systems. Indeed, when asked why they would choose an NEP over a specialist, the only area where NEPs came out top was in the – very important – area of standardization.
The last and perhaps most topical area of the survey was virtualization, a popular theme for conferences, workshops, webinars and the like. Many operators believe that virtualization will solve their BSS woes, gluing together fragmented BSS environments. Indeed the survey seems to suggest that many operators are in the process of testing virtualization projects and we should be looking out for some announcement fairly soon.
The conclusion is that agility is the key. And the way to achieve agility is simplifying and reducing the number of BSS vendors, quite possibly choosing specialist companies over NEPs.
The question is ‘how agile does an operator need to be?’ And one answer that makes sense is ‘as agile as your partners and more agile than your competitors.’ No pressure then!