Optical/IP Networks

Carriers Buy Into SDPs

Fixed-line carriers are following in the footsteps of their wireless counterparts by buying into the concept of the service delivery platform (SDP), with systems integrators set to benefit from the emerging trend.

So says a recent Light Reading Insider report, Service Delivery Platforms: The Next Grand Design?, which explains exactly what an SDP is and how it fits into carrier strategies (see SDPs: The Next Grand Design?).

"SDP encompasses a set of technologies that… enable service providers to acquire, launch, and manage potentially thousands of services running over their networks," writes the report's author, Caroline Chappell. She points out that an SDP comprises multiple software modules that, once integrated, create a platform that enables carriers to provision, manage, and bill for services delivered across their networks, whether those services are created by third parties or by the service provider (see Why SDP Matters Now).

Those software modules manage vital functions such as access control, content charging, content management, digital rights management, policy management, service assurance, service provisioning, session management, and user profile management, among many more.

The development of the SDP as a concept is important, as it addresses some of the key issues facing carriers as they shift from a circuit-switched voice world into a multimedia IP world: They need to be able to develop and launch services much more quickly than ever before, to maximize revenues and compete with nimble, specialist service providers; and they need to be able to retain a charging and billing relationship with their customers, rather than becoming bit-pipe operators that service creators use as a route to the paying customer.

Chappell says SDPs are exciting the interest of major operators for three key reasons:

  • They can help to reduce the time and cost associated with developing and launching new services.
  • They can help them package together currently discrete voice, data, and video services for delivery over wired and/or wireless networks, so meeting the convergent needs of today's operators.
  • They allow third-party developers to create services to run over carriers' networks, meaning there's more chance to meet customers' wide-ranging demands, and less risk of missing out on any potential "killer apps."
Key to the role SDPs will play in emerging carrier networks is that they're independent of the underlying physical network infrastructure. This "allows service developers to access network functions while shielding them from the protocols and implementation issues in the underlying networks, be they 3G, PSTN, or NGN," writes Chappell.

This "shielding" is done by an emerging class of middleware products -- from specialist vendors such as AePona Ltd. and jNETx Inc., or established equipment firms such as Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY) and Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) -- that act as software gateways between the SDP and the underlying network. The report cites NTT DoCoMo Inc.'s (NYSE: DCM) i-mode platform, which the Japanese carrier has exported to other mobile operators, as an early example of an SDP (see MMO2 to Launch i-mode, Foreign i-mode Subs Grow, and NEC Bags Euro I-Mode Deal).

Other mobile carriers that are using SDP technologies include the wireless unit of Australia's Telstra Corp., Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd., and Italian competitive carrier Wind Telecomunicazioni SpA, all of which are using the Ericsson Service Delivery Platform (ESDP). (See Ericsson Lands Telstra Deal.) And South Korean mobile operator SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) is using Hewlett-Packard Co.'s (NYSE: HPQ) Mobile E-services Server, a key part of its HP Service Delivery Platform. Telefònica Mòviles SA is another HP SDP user.

But while mobile operators have shown the way in using SDPs to create new data services for their customers, some of the world's more progressive fixed-line carriers are not far behind. For instance, both BCE Inc. (NYSE/Toronto: BCE), better known as Bell Canada, and BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) are deploying Microsoft Corp.'s (Nasdaq: MSFT) Connected Services Framework (CSF), which was launched in February, to create and deliver services to small and medium-sized business customers (see Microsoft Pushes Deeper Into Carriers).

Now that it's launched, Microsoft is pushing its CSF hard, marketing the solution this week at Europe's major telecom software event, TeleManagement World in Nice, France (see OSS Business Is Buoyant). Microsoft says that between a third and a half of the people visiting its stand this week have been inquiring about the CSF.

Its engagement with Microsoft isn't BT's only involvement with SDP developments. The "Intelligent node" category of its planned all-IP converged network, the 21CN, is essentially its next-generation SDP, with Ericsson at the helm (see Ericsson to Bring Partners to 21CN Party).

This level of interest from wireless and fixed-line carriers alike spells good news for the myriad large and small players that can provide the various elements of an SDP, and it augurs well for the major systems integrators (SIs), which will be needed by the service providers to pull the various elements together and make them work. Big SIs that are promoting themselves as SDP specialists include Accenture, IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), and LogicaCMG plc (London/Amsterdam: LOG), which also has a strong and useful heritage in wireless messaging systems.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

Need to know more about the growing role of service delivery platforms as the enabling technology for next-generation telecom networks? Check out the coming Light Reading Live! conference:

Service Delivery Platforms 2005
at the InterContinental Hotel in Chicago on Monday, June 6, 2005

This event, hosted by Rick Thompson, Heavy Reading Senior Analyst, will feature informative presentations, product demonstrations, and lively panel discussions about all aspects of this breakthrough technology.

For more information, click here

Sponsorship opportunities are still available. Direct all inquiries to [email protected].

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