Without an updated next-generation billing and partner management system, virtualized services will be left at the starting line. For more resources for enterprise and service providers, visit the NEC/Netcracker channel on SDxCentral!
Without an updated next-generation billing and partner management system, virtualized services will be left at the starting line.
For more resources for enterprise and service providers, visit the NEC/Netcracker channel on SDxCentral!
For years, BSS functions existed in siloes within service provider environments, separate from each other and from the broader product and customer lifecycle. This architecture has shifted dramatically with the telecom transformation projects of the past decade, and today these systems are much more integrated and able to work across products, services and lines of business to deliver improved customer experience, new business models and innovative offerings.
As service providers migrate to software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV), they need to be aware that traditional BSS will not be able to handle this shift from the physical network to the virtual network and the accompanying agile and streamlined processes that follow, severely hampering their efforts to bring virtual services to market. Complicating things further is the fact that most operators will have a hybrid environment for more than a decade as they slowly make changes to their network architectures.
The good news is there’s a lot of conversation and work surrounding service, resource, and network orchestration, which includes automating service provisioning, bringing together service fulfillment and assurance across hybrid networks, and delivering automated, policy-based fault and performance management and monitoring. In fact, it’s widely acknowledged that an end-to-end orchestration solution will be absolutely essential for future network operations; however, often overlooked or downplayed are BSS functions higher up the stack that pertain to what happens after virtual functions are onboarded and made available to end customers.
While there are a number of BSS functions that will need to be addressed for operators to fully leverage virtual services, two of the more pressing ones – billing and partner management – are most critical. Without a strong focus on evolving and modernizing these two areas, virtual services will be impossible to operationalize in commercial deployments.
The Critical Role of Billing and Partner Management
As operators make that long but necessary transition from physical to hybrid to virtual, they will need to move beyond the integrated policy and charging systems of the present, instead making the leap to a real-time billing solution that incorporates strong partner management and settlement capabilities.
A virtualized environment will require an innovative solution that is flexible but also programmable and able to immediately capture any type of chargeable event or trigger. For example, a business customer could use a self-service portal to request new VPN service or modify the parameters of existing service, which in both cases would be automatically provisioned and delivered. But if the billing system can’t identify this event and charge for it accurately and in real time, the operator loses revenue and, by extension, negates the whole value proposition of moving to a virtualized environment.
A modernized BSS system should respond in real time to accommodate new types of billing events and will need to anticipate and support a wide range of charging and rating scenarios, such as usage-based consumption regardless of metric; chargeback; end-to-end subscriber management and more.
The billing system will need to evolve as rapidly as new software-defined service templates are applied in the network and will have to flexibly bill for any event that can be captured. This will allow operators to future proof their networks and maximize revenue potential from more intelligence service delivery. This in turn will enable them to drive efficiency, creativity, customization and ultimately profitability more effectively than they can execute today.
Operators will also be able to create new service models in partnership with third-party vendors, which include over-the-top (OTT) content providers. However, with these new service mash-ups, operators will need a system that can accommodate multi-party compensation and settlement and that can allow them to play roles as consumers as well as providers. Also, because virtual functions will come from a variety of providers, including many offerings that will involve several functions working in tandem in a service chaining scenario, strong partner management becomes vital, including the ability to:
- Streamline every aspect of partner relationships with advanced self-service capabilities and process automation tools;
- Create highly flexible collaborative environments for partners through open platforms;
- Reduce the risk of revenue leakage by tracking partner reliability and performance;
- Generate new revenue by monetizing lucrative OTT content and application partner relationships;
- Provide partner management products as a service through a cloud business model.
A strong centralized partner management offering gives operators the ability to maximize their revenue potential across the digital value chain regardless of where services are coming from and how they are delivered to customers.
SDN and NFV will give operators more flexibility than ever before and allow them to break the confines of today’s business models and enter a world where the sky’s the limit. BSS will continue to play a foundational role when it comes to the success of operators’ SDN/NFV initiatives, but there are a number of critical steps that operators need to take in order to maximize their profitability; including modernizing these systems to accommodate new service types as well as services that customers can spin up themselves.
But without the benefit of a modernized, next-generation BSS, it will be impossible for service providers to monetize new services and applications and by extension operationalize SDN and NFV. To get there, operators will need to work with a true partner that understands the full network stack – from the infrastructure to orchestration all the way up to BSS functions. Without this high level of expertise and knowledge, operators will be unable to fully leverage the true benefits of virtualization.