Cable Quad Plays Create BSS Agita

As cable companies launch mobile voice and data services to compete with bundles provided by traditional telcos, their BSS vendors will face the very complex task of providing convergent billing platforms to support that wider range of services.

Mobile service, arguably the most taxing offering on the back office, will drive some of the most significant changes to MSO BSSs in many years. For BSS players serving the cable industry, the rate of change is unprecedented, and remaking their products to adapt to a new operating environment is only part of the challenge. With prevailing market conditions (a tight economy and fierce competition) unlikely to change anytime soon, cable MSOs won't be looking for a complete rip and replacement of their BSS systems; they'll expect their suppliers to come up with evolutionary ways to handle this situation.

The billing platforms for cable companies planning to launch wireless service need to be able to support a customer-based data model. Typically, legacy cable MSO billing platforms offer address-based billing, which is very static by nature. As MSOs move into the mobile services space, they will need their billing systems to evolve from address-based architectures to subscriber-based architectures.

The appeal of customer-based billing is clear. By tying activity to an individual customer, rather than to that customer's physical location, operators can more easily and efficiently deliver services. With a subscriber-based architecture, when a customer moves from one address to another or across an enterprise, all relevant customer data moves with him/her, and location-agnostic services such as wireless, data cards, etc., can be easily linked with other premises-based services for the customer. This enables a 360-degree view of customers, their services, and usage transactions, which will help cable companies become more customer-centric, with a better understanding of customers' behavior and preferences.

Subscribers are becoming more demanding, and today's communications customers expect personalized offerings, ubiquitous access, broad choices, and reliable, seamless experiences. Some basic features that need to be part of BSS platforms include the following:

  • Close alignment between centralized product catalogue and billing systems is critical. Customer-centricity relies on a consistent and persistent user experience across all sales channels, enabling flexibility, reducing time to market, and catalyzing revenue generation. Billing systems must be closely aligned with centralized product catalogues to catalyze innovative, flexible marketing initiatives and improve the integrity of up-sell, cross-sell, and new acquisition opportunities.

  • Real-time billing solutions need to closely align with flexible policy management capabilities. This includes subscriber policies related to traffic shaping and control that enable rating and usage capping based on bandwidth allocation, QoS, and so on.

  • Next-generation BSS vendors need to provide, not only a dynamic (real-time or near-real-time) offer management capability based on subscriber network usage, but also traffic-based promotion, loyalty points, event-based promotion, and rules-based promotion.

  • Embedded intelligence and real-time, analytics-based decision engines will be a critical component of next-generation BSS systems. This will not only help in customer-centricity, but will also help cable companies to monetize the traffic that is flowing through their expensive network investments.

— Ari Banerjee, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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