Agility is the latest buzzword in telecoms. Every vendor promises to enable operator agility, or to be able to better compete with an agile IT environment, or have a more agile network, or deliver a more agile customer experience or sometimes a combination of the all of the above. As long as the word agile is in there somewhere then marketing can tick another item off their ‘to do’ list. I recall the same activity about twenty years ago, only this time just cut and paste agile with flexible, and you’ll get the same picture. Some terms are just misused.
So with this in mind, the question of what operator agility actually is needs to be asked. In order to answer this we need to go back 7 years to the introduction of the iphone, as this was the catalyst for the mobile industry to change, and, dare I say it, start to become more agile. With the iphone everything changed. How people used mobile phones changed, the make-up of the market changed with new OTT players shaking up the market and also operators changed by becoming more innovative and customer focused. Also the rate of change in mobile telecoms is greater than ever before. What once took years in now happening in weeks. New services such as innovative data pricing, shared plans, sponsored data, mhealth and connected cars are being rolled out a rate once totally unimaginable to operators. This level of service innovation with a faster time to market, along with a focus on a running a lean organisation and reducing OpEx is operator agility. In other words doing more in less time.
The ability of operators to run an agile business is down to many factors – people, an underlying ethos of innovation, processes and systems. Each element is key. However it is the area of systems, and in particular BSS, that many telecoms operators are undergoing significant change. This involves moving from legacy batch based billing systems and IN charging systems designed for traditional circuit voice services to a real-time environment designed for all IP networks.
Last month telecoms.com Intelligence ran a survey of over 100 operators trying to get a clearer picture on what exactly enables agility. The clear result from over 85% of the operators was that the ability of an operator is clearly tied to the agility of their BSS platforms. The survey also showed that when it comes to delivering agile BSS, then operators clearly see specialist BSS providers as providing systems that enable more innovative pricing, faster time to market and a platform for virtualisation.
Being agile is about having flexibility to change and respond rapidly using the best BSS available to an operator. It does not involve single vendor lock in. Many of the large network equipment providers promote operator agility on one hand and a single supplier strategy on the other. This contradictory approach promotes operators tying themselves into BSS software that is provided by a company whose core business is to make network equipment. Agility is not about single vendor lock in. Just because the advert says a system is agile doesn’t make it so. Operators recognise that agile BSS is best delivered by specialist BSS providers, and more than ever BSS agility is needed to help operators innovate, compete and win.