Chinese BSS specialist AsiaInfo-Linkage has well and truly arrived in the European telecom back office market with a disruptive deal at Telenor Denmark, where it is replacing multiple systems in a major Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) transformation project.
The vendor set up in Europe in 2012 following major success in China and proclaimed earlier this year, as it launched its integrated BSS suite, that it believed it could break into the European Tier 1 operator market before the end of 2013. (See AsiaInfo Takes On BSS Giants in Europe and AsiaInfo-Linkage Launches BSS Suite in EMEA.)
That seemed ambitious, but the company has managed it, landing a deal (financial terms not disclosed) to provide a complete BSS suite and integration services to Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN) for its Danish operation, which boasts about 1.86 million mobile and 170,000 fixed broadband customers.
Alex Hawker, AsiaInfo's general manager for the EMEA region, says the new system is "completely convergent -- it will support fixed and mobile, voice and data, pre-paid and post-paid." It comprises multiple applications (billing, policy control, rating, mediation, CRM, analytics, off-line data warehousing, and so on). It's replacing "more than 100 installed systems," including Amdocs Inc. systems currently being used for Telenor Denmark's mobile operations, and a Geneva BSS system, which currently supports the fixed line business. (Geneva was part of Convergys, which was acquired by NEC last year -- see NEC to Buy Convergys Unit for $449M.)
That's a significant project, replacing so many incumbent systems, so the AsiaInfo team will be coming under close scrutiny to ensure all goes smoothly. The vendor is the lead systems integrator as well as the prime technology contractor, so it is taking on near full responsibility, though it will be seeking the help of local contractors in Denmark.
As a result of winning the deal (the delivery process began in September), Hawker has been expanding his team significantly to support the engagement: This time last year AsiaInfo's EMEA team comprised just a handful of marketing and business development executives. But the company now has 55 engineers in Europe working on this project, as well as the support of an offshore delivery center in China, and "we are still actively recruiting in the UK and Denmark," adds Hawker.
Hawker says the deployment will introduce new capabilities to the European market, such as real-time self-service, making the Danish deployment something of a shop window for the Chinese challenger. "But this is more than just an IT project -- there are very strong business goals around customer experience management and the use of analytics tools to monetize mobile data," notes the AsiaInfo man.
And clearly the Telenor management is hoping that the promise of greater customer engagement and ability to understand its business will be worth the significant upheaval and cost of such a tricky transformation. But it seems clear that Telenor Denmark needed to do something to revitalize its business, as its mobile and broadband customer numbers have been declining while its revenues are down compared with a year ago. Indeed, Telenor Group CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas noted in the operator's third-quarter earnings report that "as a consequence of continued challenging market conditions in Denmark, we are now embarking upon an ambitious transformation programme which will run through 2014."
What's next for AsiaInfo-Linkage?
So is this the start of a rapidly growing EMEA business for the Chinese vendor? Hawker says there aren't any other engagements that are as advanced as this one in Denmark, and naturally he hopes that Telenor will expand its engagement into some of the other six European markets where it is currently active. "This is a cloud-based solution and has been built in such a fashion that it can be used across the broader group should Telenor wish to do so."
Other than that, the company is in regular sales talks with other European players but will clearly be looking to attract more attention on the back of the Telenor deployment.
And at a corporate level, the SPIT specialist, which recently announced third-quarter net revenues of $140 million (up 8.2 percent compared with a year earlier) and gross margins of 40.7 percent (up from 37.3 percent), is to hold a special shareholders' meeting on December 19 to vote on the proposal to take the company private. Earlier this year, the company announced an agreement to be acquired by a consortium of investors in a deal that values the SPIT vendor at $890 million.
— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading