Navigating the Fiber Gold Rush

While service providers around the world are now feasting on fiber more than ever, they are running the risk of getting heartburn if they don't plan their migration to fiber-based service delivery very, very carefully.

That's one of the chief conclusions of a new white paper produced by Heavy Reading and sponsored by Incognito Software. Based on a comprehensive online survey of more than 150 wireline service providers around the world, the white paper asserts that while communications service providers (CSPs) are now more bullish than ever before about investing in fresh fiber lines, they need to implement new OSS strategies to support next-gen fiber-based services.

Specifically, the new Heavy Reading study found that migrating customers to new fiber networks ranks as the top technical and business migration challenge for global providers when they are introducing fiber-based services. Nothing else really comes close. The results were nearly uniform across all four of the regions studied -- North America, Central & Latin America, Europe and Asia.

Similarly, upgrading customers to fiber networks and integrating fiber customers onto legacy OSS systems emerged as the two biggest hurdles for fiber service delivery in the study, with the results again fairly even across the various geographic regions. Plus, introducing new services over fiber ranked as one of the main challenges of scaling fiber networks, especially in Europe and Asia.

As a result, fiber services will clearly have a major impact on the back-office systems of CSPs. In the survey, service configuration and activation, billing, and order management headed the list of BSS/OSS systems affected, with nearly 60% of respondents choosing the first system and almost half selecting the other two options. Service configuration and activation particularly topped the charts in the Americas and Asia, while European respondents ranked it third behind billing and customer relationship management (CRM).

For these reasons, an overwhelming majority of service providers see their existing OSS stack as a serious hurdle to deploying new fiber-based services. In the study, slightly more than half of respondents (51%) called their company's existing OSS stack "a significant barrier" or the biggest obstacle, while another 34% characterized it as "a moderate barrier." In particular, European respondents viewed their company's existing OSS platform as a major stumbling block going forward.

Given this challenge, most service providers across the globe are looking to retrofit or replace their legacy OSS stack to make it more suitable for fiber-delivered services. In the study, nearly half of respondents (48%) said their company's approach is to retrofit its existing OSS stack, while slightly less than one third (31%) said their company's strategy is to replace its existing OSS with a totally new OSS platform.

Breaking down these results by region, some key differences stand out. For instance, most European services providers and a plurality of wireline operators in the Americas favor retrofitting their existing OSS stack. In contrast, an overwhelming majority of Asian providers are looking to replace their existing OSS stack for fiber-based services.

Besides the transformation in back-office systems wrought by fiber, process automation will bring massive change to CSP network operations. In the study, more than half of service providers cited service diagnostics and service fulfillment as their company's top priorities for automation in the next 24 months, while nearly half also named device discovery as a priority.

Despite such serious challenges, service providers are clearly committed to bulking up further on fiber. Nearly one-third of survey participants (29%) labelled fiber deployment as their company's top priority right now, while an impressive 61% affirmed that installing more fiber is one of their company's top priorities. Thus, in total, a whopping 90% of respondents see deploying more fiber as a prime goal for their company.

Notably, CSPs are also taking a wide-scale approach to deploying fiber. Surprisingly, as much as 48% of service providers are adopting a "brownfield" approach, replacing or overbuilding legacy networks with fiber. More predictably, 23% are taking a "greenfield" approach, deploying fiber mainly in new areas.

To download the full white paper from the Light Reading website, please click here.

This blog is sponsored by Incognito Software.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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