& 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
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
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
ETSI's CTO Talks NFV, 5G & NGP

12|5|16   |   09:45   |   (0) comments


Adrian Scrase, CTO at standards body ETSI, talks about the various initiatives and specifications developments related to NFV, 5G and NGP (next-generation protocols) that will underpin next-gen networks.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Korn Ferry Consultant: How to Find, Cultivate & Be the Best Talent

11|30|16   |   4:10   |   (1) comment


Erin Callaghan, a managing consultant for Korn Ferry Futurestep, shares strategies for companies to improve how they recruit and for women to ensure they don't get lost in the pipeline.
LRTV Custom TV
We Can Make the World More Sustainable

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


GeSI is a global e-Sustainability Initiative organization bringing together 40 big multinational companies around the world. According to GeSI's report, information and communication technology can make the world more sustainable. Luis Neves, chairman of GeSI, shared with us his opinion at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
Finding a New Way to Engage Customers & Drive Revenue

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


Mobile revenues are declining. Digicel, a player in the Caribbean telecommunications/entertainment space, has found a new way to engage customers and drive revenue. John Quinn, CTO of Digicel, shared with us its story at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016)
LRTV Custom TV
Do You Really Need Gigabit Infrastructure?

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


Altibox is the biggest fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) player and the largest provider of video and TV in Norway. They started out with zero customers in 2002. Now they have close to half a million households and companies attached to their FTTH business. Nils Arne, CEO of Altibox shared with us their story and insight on 5G at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
BTís Openreach Strategy & Its Updates in 2016

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


A lot of developments at Openreach this year in terms of strategy and planned investments. Peter Bell, CIO of Openreach BT, shared with us the updates of Openreach at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
ITU: The Broadband Is Our Future

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


At Ultra-broadband Forum, Houlin Zhao, Secretary General of ITU, discussed how important it is for countries, companies and everybody to be working together to help to build the broadband and digital economies (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
Tackling 5G in Dallas

11|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


Here are our highlights of the 5G North America show in Dallas, Texas with Light Reading's Dan Jones.
LRTV Interviews
Cox Prepping for Virtualization Trials

11|14|16   |     |   (0) comments


In this video interview, Cox's Jeff Finkelstein discusses MSO's plans to test managed business services in early 2017 and tackle Distributed Access Architectures.
LRTV Custom TV
Drivers & Potential of NGP

11|11|16   |     |   (0) comments


ETSI has created an Industry Specification Group to work on Next Generation Protocols (NGP ISG), looking at evolving communications and networking protocols to provide the scale, security, mobility and ease of deployment required for the connected society of the 21st century. The NGP ISG will identify the requirements for next generation protocols and network ...
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei IP 2020 for Future Networks

11|11|16   |     |   (0) comments


Future Networks should satisfy many requirements such as high throughput, extremely low latency, flexible mobility, intrinsic security, networking automation, and so forth. The Chief Architect of Huawei Future Networks addresses a holistic solution, i.e., IP 2020, to achieve these requirements for various future life scenarios (e.g., autonomous driving, tactile ...
LRTV Custom TV
Digital Object Architecture

11|11|16   |     |   (0) comments


Digital Object Architecture provides a basic information infrastructure that can facilitate interoperability between or among different systems, processes, and other information resources, including different identity management systems. Digital objects are networked objects that are named by digital object identifiers and instantiated by an infrastructure service ...
Upcoming Live Events
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Cable Nodes Becoming a Choke Point
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 12/5/2016
Apple Seeds 5G? Seeks 'Multi-Gigabit' Chip Designer
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/30/2016
Altice Plans FTTH for Entire US Footprint
Iain Morris, News Editor, 11/30/2016
Altice FTTH Bill Could Hit Almost $9.6B in US
Iain Morris, News Editor, 12/1/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Eyal Waldman, CEO of Mellanox Technologies, speaks to Steve Saunders, CEO of Light Reading, for an exclusive interview about the 100 GB cable challenge, cybersecurity and much more.
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
Live Digital Audio

Even when there's a strong pipeline of female talent in the comms industry, it tends to leak all the way to the top. McKinsey & Company says women experience pipeline leakage at three primary points: being unable to enter, being stuck in the middle or being locked out of the top. Each pipeline pain point presents its own challenges, but also opportunities to stop the leak. Wireless operator Sprint is making a conscious effort to improve its own pipeline from new recruits to the C-suite, and it wants the rest of the industry to do the same. In this Women in Comms radio show, WiC Board Member and Sprint Vice President of Enterprise Sales Nelly Pitocco will give us her take on the industry's pipeline challenges. Pitocco, who joined Sprint in May and has spent 20 years in the comms industry, will also offer solutions, share how Sprint is tackling the challenge within its own organization and take your questions live on air.