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Insider Details OSS Opportunities

With capital expenditures (capex) under tighter control, telecom players are looking to fix their tangled physical networks and reduce operational expenditures (opex). Key to this strategy is getting control over the operations support systems (OSSs) that underlie today's carrier networks, helping configure customer services and properly bill for them.

It's a tall order: Carriers are looking not only at changing a software infrastructure that's largely chaotic, they also need to take a technological leap ahead in doing so, streamlining the way they do business.

The stakes are high: It's clear that OSS holds the key to telecom's future in at least two different ways: Since volume service needs to be underpinned by low-cost, automated processes, OSS will help define how future applications and services will be rolled out; otherwise, there is little prospect of any profits.

This challenge is the focus of "OSS Opportunity," this month's Light Reading Insider, Light Reading's paid subscription research service. The report details the kinds of OSS changes that need to be made, then describes who's trying to make them, and compares the current players.

In the past, almost everything an operator did in terms of OSS implementation was custom built because each carrier had its own business processes. As a result, the integration costs were enormous as each implementation was unique. In addition, each service was developed in isolation, with few resources shared with other services, and the software tended to be "hard coded," making change expensive. Customers with multiple services have been often frustrated by the inability of their provider to act as an integrated business.

Now, carriers no longer want to rely on proprietary management systems to run network operations. Instead, they're increasingly looking to third-party vendors to make order out of chaos -- and they're driving what analysts say is shaping up to be a $30 billion-plus market in the process.

In general, the sector, while still a bit amorphous, can be split up into three key technological areas:

  • Fulfillment involves the provision and activation of services, relying heavily on network inventory management systems, perhaps the hottest sector in OSS just now.
  • Billing is the biggest slice of OSS, making up more than half the industry's revenues. Solutions process customer payments and collections, handle customer inquiries about bills, resolve billing problems, provide information on billing status, and perform related functions.
  • Assurance includes software that furnishes event and fault information from the network, a well as performance monitoring, test and measurement, and service management.

The report cites key technology trends spanning these areas, as well as standardization efforts by groups such as the TeleManagement Forum. It also analyzes key public companies involved in each, including the following:

In addition, analysis of three private companies to watch includes:

Another 12 important OSS startups are profiled as well.

The review studies how these companies are faring in their efforts to meet carrier needs. It's not easy; consolidation is a fact of life, and even products that lead to cost reductions are a tough sell. What emerges is a picture of a market that's evolving, but which promises to be one of the major telecom segments going forward.

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading

The current Light Reading Insider report – “OSS Opportunity” – is available here. A single-user license to the report is $400. An annual single-user subscription to the Insider, which includes access to the complete archives, the current report, and each of the monthly reports issued over the next 12 months, is available for $1,250 per year.

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