& cplSiteName &

OSS Changes Vital to Sprint's Network Vision

Carol Wilson
8/22/2014
50%
50%

A lot of attention has been focused on Sprint's network and its new CEO's determination to bring in customers with new pricing plans of late, but behind the scenes another major transformation is taking place within Sprint that is getting less attention, even though it ultimately affects every part of the big carrier's business and its future success. (See Sprint CEO: Price Cuts First, Best Network Next .)

As part of its NetworkVision 2.0 strategy, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) is currently moving to an automated process of tracking its network inventory, working with OSS vendor Netcracker Technology Corp. to define and put in place a new way to identify and track all the moving parts of its end-to-end networks. As part of that effort, Sprint is determining which legacy processes and systems it can leave behind, even as it actively builds out not one but two new wireless networks -- its enhanced 4G LTE network and the Spark network. (See Sprint Sparks to Reduce Churn, Save Unlimited , Sprint Sparks Up Vendors for Faster 4G LTE and Sprint Chooses NetCracker for OSS Network Vision.)

"At the same time you are doing all those things, you have to make sure there is minimal or no impact on the customer," says John Dye, director of IT application development at Sprint. Members of Dye's teams are participating with network engineering teams of each domain and members of the IT staff to incorporate new OSS automation processes in its new networks from the outset rather than later, as an afterthought. It is a major endeavor for both Sprint and its vendor.

NetCracker has been involved in many network transformation processes but the Sprint effort is a bit unusual, says Ed Feingold, the vendor's director of strategy.

"They are focused on the network inventory piece, which, in most cases, wouldn't be all that exciting," he says. "But Sprint is different because, first, they are working at extremely large scale and, second, they are doing three things at once: creating a new centralized network inventory repository that over time will decommission some of their legacy systems, but also building new systems to support the 4G network vision and now Spark."

Why inventory management?
Knowing what is in the network doesn't seem to be that big a deal -- unless you have acquired companies, run multiple lines of business, and migrated traffic from one network to another -- all of which Sprint has done. As Dye describes it, moving to a single view of the Sprint networks, which are constantly and automatically being updated and reconciled, is not only important to meeting customer demand and providing a quality of service customers expect, but also to protecting both the capex and opex budgets.

"We need to have a strong view of what is really in the network and not just what was designed or planned for the network," he says. "The currency factor, the ability to discover the network and be able to reconcile all that data and keep that current for everyone is critical."

As demand for data in particular skyrockets, Sprint must target its infrastructure investments to where they are needed and know that existing investments aren't being stranded or under-utilized. At the same time, the carrier needs to accurately track the "before and after" of new network and equipment deployment.


See what other telecom players are doing to transform their operations and support systems on our OSS channel here at Light Reading.


Sprint initially used NetCracker to help in the OSS transition to the all-IP world, then applied the vendor's inventory model to its radio access network. Now as it builds out the 4G LTE and Spark networks, it is using the same model to ensure consistency in building and deployment activities, so that as things are added, the inventory is kept current and all elements can be validated and accepted.

"With that, you can go straight through to a service assurance model, and that drives the ability to do accurate performance management," Dye says. "Performance management drives many things out there -- how you look at capacity management, how you look at performance and the availability of the network; also, how you look at driving customer experience management to make sure what you have done and what you are doing going forward is the right thing for customers."

By tracking all this information and making it available across the network organization as Sprint goes into a new deployment, the carrier targets its network spending more carefully, on both the capex and opex sides, Dye says.

"Obviously we want to keep our capex down as we are spending all this deployment money so that we don't over-provision because someone doesn't have the right capacity and configuration data," he comments. "And we are also keeping opex down because we can use our partners effectively -- minimize the amount of effort on their parts, which keeps their costs down, saving money which they pass back through to us."

Another place where Sprint expects to save money is in retiring legacy OSSs that are no longer needed. But determining what can be retired and managing that is an exacting process in itself. It often involves extracting legacy data from existing systems and populating that in the new system, NetCracker's central repository, in a different way.

"We are constantly looking at that portfolio, assessing it as we look forward to the Spark network and the future technologies there, doing application rationalization, and determining how we can consolidate that best," Dye says. "We have a long history of legacy apps, and we definitely want to get those out and reduce our opex for maintaining those."

That is often a staged process, he adds, with detailed transitional plans to phase out applications partially or completely as they aren't needed. By eliminating systems that aren't needed, Sprint can also reduce licensing costs and overall operations budgets, Feingold notes.

The hard part
NetCracker right now has a team of people in place working alongside Sprint to implement the new inventory management process. One of hardest parts of this entire process is change management -- training people to do things differently on newer systems.

New systems mean new user interfaces, new data entered differently, and new functions for back office staff, and adoption often goes slower than expected, Dye says. "Getting people used to the system is always one of the biggest challenges -- it's a people challenge, not a technology challenge."

Ultimately, it is likely that fewer people will be needed but those people will need a broader range of skills, Dye says, encompassing both telecom and IT training. Sprint's new CEO has also said job cuts are inevitable and will based on necessity.

Sprint will look to incorporate virtualization in its OSSs where and when it makes sense, Dye adds. He sees some value in reducing the number of boxes deployed through the software-centric model but admits concerns about customer impact. "It's a little too early to know what impact this might have," he comments. "I want to see this stuff working in the lab before we use it."

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

(6)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
cnwedit
50%
50%
cnwedit,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/25/2014 | 5:06:52 PM
Re: How dependent
If you mean does the hardware vendor have to make all this work, no I don't believe they do. Depending on the type and age of the gear, they do have to have definable interfaces but these in many cases aren't open. 
Atlantis-dude
50%
50%
Atlantis-dude,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/25/2014 | 3:59:39 PM
How dependent
is this effort on the infrastructure hardware-equipment vendor?
cnwedit
50%
50%
cnwedit,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/25/2014 | 10:40:50 AM
Re: OSS the Backbone
I think what Sprint is facing here is what every telecom carrier is also facing - they need new skills, more IT-oriented, and they need more automation to take the human factor out of the process where possible, but the transition is going to be very tough. 
kq4ym
50%
50%
kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/25/2014 | 9:56:10 AM
Re: OSS the Backbone
As noted, "One of hardest parts of this entire process is change management -- training people to do things differently on newer systems." Getting those folks to learn anew, is going to be a challenge. Especially, if as planned, they're going to be reducing the workforce, and depending on the remaining people to handle a bit larger work load and expecting them to handle more areas of expertise well.
cnwedit
50%
50%
cnwedit,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/25/2014 | 8:42:02 AM
Re: OSS the Backbone
Phil, 

Customer service is definitely a big driver here, as is cost reduction from eliminating OSSs that don't have valuue going and automating processes that will help trim staff. 

I think what Sprint is doing is what all long-time network operators are likely working at as well - rationalization of their OSSs. 
Phil_Britt
50%
50%
Phil_Britt,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/25/2014 | 8:37:16 AM
OSS the Backbone
You are right that all of the moves Sprint is making means little without the OSS to support everything In fact, if the OSS doesn't support the moves, it could hurt Sprint now and in the future. After dealing with very poor service from a carrier, which is likely without the right OSS support, how likely would one be to go back? Unless, of course the other carriers prove to be worse.
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
From The Founder
Cisco's Conrad Clemson, recently promoted to head up the company's Service Provider Apps & Platforms developments, talks to Light Reading's Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about how he's bringing cloud video, mobile and virtualization together to empower network operators.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Interviews
Amazon Prime's 'Hand of God' Creator on Producing for OTT

3|28|17   |     |   (0) comments


Ben Watkins is the creator, writer and producer of Hand of God, a series on Amazon Prime. At Light Reading's Cable Next-Gen conference in Denver, he explained the advantages of producing for an OTT platform versus traditional TV.
LRTV Custom TV
How Metrological Keeps Cable Customers on the Couch

3|28|17   |     |   (0) comments


Metrological offers an open source solution that reduces the time it takes cable operators to integrate OTT content into the linear television viewing experience.
LRTV Documentaries
The ABC of OTT

3|28|17   |     |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's Cable Next-Gen conference in Denver, Ben Watkins, creator of Amazon Prime's Hand of God show, explained how producing content for an OTT platform differs from producing content for traditional TV.
Shades of Ray
Why Analytics Is the Tech World's Digital Glue

3|27|17   |   02:20   |   (0) comments


It was obvious at the massive annual CeBIT enterprise tech trade show that the foundation for tech innovation right now is real-time analytics.
LRTV Custom TV
CommScope – Meeting the Demands of Tomorrow's Networks

3|24|17   |     |   (0) comments


Phil Sorksy, Vice President International at CommScope, discusses addressing the challenges faced by service providers today, and as future trends emerge.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
AMS-IX & Huawei's OSN 902

3|24|17   |     |   (0) comments


Huawei shows how its OSN 902 platform helps the Amsterdam Internet exchange to connect the world using multiplexing.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Smart Energy Innovation Center

3|24|17   |     |   (0) comments


In Nuremberg, Huawei showcases its latest capabilities in the digitalization of Internet resources, network infrastructure and intelligence at its Smart Energy Innovation Center.
Valley Wonk
OFC & Hyperscale: A Good Mix?

3|24|17   |   01:50   |   (0) comments


Cloud and telecom players want different types of equipment for their networks, as the chatter at OFC reveals.
LRTV Custom TV
Etisalat on NFV Journey

3|24|17   |   10:37   |   (0) comments


Etisalat is a service provider that prides itself on bringing innovative technologies to the markets it serves. It was one of the first operators to implement 3G and leads the pack in fiber penetration. Now, Esmaeel Al Hammadi, Etisalat's SVP of Network Development, explains the operator's journey to virtualization, beginning with the network core, as well as the ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei at CeBIT 2017: Day 3

3|22|17   |     |   (0) comments


Light Reading reports from CeBIT 2017 in Germany, where Huawei is exhibiting on the application of technologies and key business verticals such as transportation, smart city, manufacturing, media and finance.
LRTV Documentaries
No Regrets: Cox's Finkelstein on Fiber & More

3|22|17   |     |   (0) comments


At the Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies event in Denver, Cox's Jeff Finkelstein examines the cable capex conundrum.
LRTV Documentaries
Cable Next-Gen: The 'Mile High' View From Denver

3|22|17   |   11:56   |   (0) comments


Alan Breznick kicks off the Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies event in Denver, casting his thousand-yard stare over cable's current competitive landscape.
Upcoming Live Events
May 15-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
May 15, 2017, Austin Convention Center - Austin, TX
June 6, 2017, The Joule Hotel, Dallas, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
High-Band 5G: Let's Address the Range Question, Shall We?
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 3/21/2017
Eurobites: A1, Nokia Turn It Up to 11
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 3/22/2017
FTTH No Slam Dunk for Cable
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 3/23/2017
WiCipedia: Supergirls, No More Excuses & Media Monitoring
Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, 3/24/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
TEOCO Founder and CEO Atul Jain talks to Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the challenges around cost control and service monetization in the mobile and IoT sectors.
At MWC 2017, Qualcomm's CTO Matt Grob talks to Light Reading's CEO and Founder Steve Saunders about the progress being made in the development of the technologies and standards that will underpin 5G.
Animals with Phones
Working From Home Doesn't Work for Everyone Click Here
You shouldn't nap on your keyboard, for instance.
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.