Providers Ponder Planning Problems

Communications service providers need fundamental changes to their network planning processes, according to a study conducted by Analysys Mason and paid for by Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX). (See Amdocs Highlights Network Planning).

The study was based on in-depth conversations with 15 CSPs worldwide, including wireline, wireless, and one cable operator, says Mark Mortenson, senior analyst for Global Telecom Software at Analysys Mason. Those conversations showed that the network planning process is under great strain to keep up with demands for new services and new network capacity, while managing a variety of change factors that affect plans even as they are being implemented.

“The biggest problem they have is that planners have to figure what capacity they need and where it has to be, and what costs will be,” Mortensen says. “Invariably, costs will be too high, so they have to cycle back through, and then look at the impact on underlying technology already in the network. One of these cycles takes three to six months, at best.”

During that process, budget cuts may be implemented that force further changes, or procurement departments may insist on a change of vendors to get cheaper equipment, and planners are forced to react to these changes, Mortensen notes. “They would love to be able to do ‘what if’ scenarios, but they are so hard, currently, that they don’t do that."

Service providers also would like the ability to combine the top-down strategies of marketing, including new service or new device launches, with the bottom-up strategy of network planning but don’t have a consistent means of doing that, according to Mortensen.

He contends that marketing departments are now in the driver's seat, providing the data that underlies network planning, including projections of expected service uptake and usage. That can leave the network planners scrambling when usage either exceeds projections, leading to network failures, or falls below projections, producing excessive costs for under-used networks.

Amdocs commissioned the study in part due to its belief that “the foundation for the best planning rests on top of a view of the network that is accurate,” says Seth Nesbitt, vice president of product marketing for Amdocs.

And now, the sales pitch...
Based on Amdocs’ acquisition of Kramer, the company has launched a planning suite that is addressing the need for proactive capacity management, says Mirit Ashkenazi, product and solution marketing manager for Amdocs' OSS division.

“We can enable service providers to set thresholds at different levels that allow you to know when capacity is reaching certain levels,” Ashkenazi says. Amdocs also provides templates that enable pre-configuration of some network planning items to allow faster planning cycles, and advanced trending so that network planners can run “what if?” scenarios and see what will happen in three months time based on trending data. (See Amdocs Shows Off New OSS.)

“We are enabling what we call service-driven planning,” Ashkenazi says. “It takes a marketing forecast and translates that into network demand. That lets network planners make decisions on how to plan the network , and how different levels of adoption affect planning.”

Network planners would like to be more proactive, Mortensen feels, but current tools often force them to be reactive, altering their plans only after it’s clear that a network is either under-built or over-built.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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