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SPIT Week Spotlight: Nokia Siemens Networks

With Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) now so critical to carrier strategies -- whether it's having the most efficient OSS, the right service delivery platform (SDP), or the most appropriate cloud services delivery offering -- what are the telecom sector's major vendors offering in this space? (See Analysts: SPIT Is Hot Stuff, The SPIT Manifesto, and Heavy Reading: Putting SPIT Into Perspective.)

Nokia Networks has a fairly substantial SPIT portfolio, which it has grouped together in its Business Solutions division under the stewardship of Jürgen Walter, a member of NSN's executive board under CEO Rajeev Suri.

Walter says his division's focus is on helping service providers drive revenues, with a focus on the subscriber experience, and that he has not only product and R&D assets at his disposal, but also a team of consulting and systems integration staff that have transferred back from the vendor's professional services group.

So what are the Business Solutions division's technology assets? There are core SPIT assets such as: OSS tools (service assurance and fulfillment solutions) and BSS platforms, including unified billing and charging platforms that can manage pre- and post-paid environments; customer experience solutions, such as NSN's subscriber data management platform, coupled with device management capabilities; policy control and applications servers, along with other IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) elements (including its mobile softswitches); its service delivery framework, which includes its IPTV middleware and value-added services platforms (communications and entertainment solutions); and security offerings, though these are mostly consulting services–led and comprise the smallest part of the division.

In total, the division has around 10,000 staff and revenues believed by industry watchers to be in the low single-digit billions of euros, though the company declines to discuss divisional sales beyond the contribution of its professional services outfit, which now generates almost half of NSN's revenues. (See Nokia Siemens Shrinks 18% in 2009 .)

Walter says his division's subscriber data management (SDM) platform is "the gem. It has 200 customers, with about 1 billion subscribers [managed by] the platform. During the second half of 2009 we were signing more than two new deals per week. This is the area where we can differentiate the most. A key strength is that our platform can be linked to policy control and billing [capabilities]."

NSN identified the potential advantage that a well developed subscriber data management system could deliver more than two years ago when it acquired Apertio. (See Nokia Siemens Snaps Up IMS Vendor.)

And there aren't too many dedicated systems that can match its Apertio assets, reckons Walter. When NSN made its €140 million (US$192 million) swoop in January 2008, there weren't many alternatives -- Blueslice Networks Inc. being the notable exception, according to the NSN man. (See Blueslice Adds HSS for LTE.)

Obviously, Walter believes NSN bought the right company. "It was the leader -- it had the best solution. Subscriber data management is very business critical to the operators, and the Apertio system delivers to great scale, managing subscriber numbers of 30, 40, even 50 million," he claims.

Now the focus is on supplementing the Apertio One-NDS platform with additional capabilities from partners that can help turn the raw data into information that's useful. To that end, NSN has developed a Subscriber Data Management Partner Program with the aim of "finding specialist companies that can help make the subscriber data more usable. We're pre-integrating with some specialists to deliver enhanced capabilities to the carriers," notes Walter, though he says he can't identify any partners just yet.

While NSN is undoubtedly strong in the SDM sector, it's lagging behind in another key area -- cloud services capabilities.

"This is a very important trend and a big opportunity. We have the assets, the capabilities, and the delivery model, with our integration and managed services offerings," says Walter. "The cloud is important -- it's on our radar."

But while it's on NSN's radar, it's in the shop window of a number of other companies targeting the service provider sector, including Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY), HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701), and Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL).

Still, NSN is pushing ahead. "We'll have everything on ATCA or commercial IT systems soon, and that'll make it easier to take capabilities into the cloud," says Walter, though he says he's not yet ready to talk about NSN's expanded strategy in this area in any detail just now.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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