Many industries face a point in their evolution when upgrades to critical business operations and back office systems are required; telecoms is no different. Due to commercial pressures and demand for all-IP services, fixed-line and mobile operators have found themselves in a period of transition as they set about modernizing their networks.
In order to avoid negative impact on the customer experience, operators must find a way to ensure popular, revenue-generating legacy services remain available to customers during and after the transition.
During this transition period, most operators will run a heterogeneous network based on multiple core-network and access technologies with technologies such as LTE radio-access and IMS cores running alongside the existing networks. Despite the aggressive rollout of LTE, circuit switched (CS) networks will not become obsolete overnight, and operators will run a mixture of CS and IP-based networks for the next five to ten years.
In order to support the migration of subscribers from the old to the new technologies, operators need to ensure that subscribers don't lose services that they value. Of course, there will probably be some legacy telecoms services that have essentially become outdated and can be retired. However, the majority of services in the legacy portfolio will still be in demand, such as a PBX network for an enterprise customer, or standard features that consumers take for granted such as voicemail or caller waiting. These must all be available to subscribers regardless of the access or core technology they are using.
The problem lies in the fact that each telecom service is typically designed to operate in just one network technology. So either each service must be upgraded to support each alternative network technology, or replica services need to be added in each new environment. The exercise could be costly and time-consuming, and happening at a time when operators are looking to reduce ongoing operational costs and shorten timescales on network evolution.
The alternative solution now being chosen by operators is to adopt a flexible system to create a bridge between legacy and all-IP networks, which enables them to create a converged service environment, decoupling the service control layer from the core and access networks. This convergent service delivery platform removes the need to upgrade or replicate each service: It enables subscribers on the new network to continue to use the existing service as implemented in the existing environment. In this way the introduction of new underlying network technology does not necessitate the need for (and expense of) changing the service itself.
From time to time there will be commercial reasons to change the service, such as necessary enhancements, or to replace a more expensive implementation with a modern, less expensive, all-IP equivalent. In this case, a convergent service delivery platform also enables the new all-IP service platform to serve legacy subscribers as well as those connected via all-IP technologies. Any such replacement of service platforms is decoupled from the evolution of the underlying networks and can be undertaken when the cost-benefit balance is right.
Employing a converged service delivery platform enables operators to effectively manage their legacy 2G and 3G assets, and combine them with their new IMS/LTE capabilities. With services accessible across all access networks, customers can continue using features that they have become accustomed to and take advantage of new applications such as video calling. This solution facilitates transitional evolution by enabling network innovation and service changes to occur independently as dictated by their own individual business cases.
Customers aren't concerned about the transformation taking place in the background and they don't want to be affected by it -- they just want to be satisfied that the services they are accustomed to using are still available. By adopting a flexible, convergent solution, operators are able to focus on the evolutionary path towards IMS/LTE without unnecessary disruption to services, revenue or brand value.
— Jeff Gordon, CEO, OpenCloud