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February 2007
Volume 10 / Number 2

Delivering Converged Communications
Services Profitably

By Francois Depayras, Feature Articles


The communications industry is in the midst of a major transformation, driven by the need to deliver unified communications services across multiple target markets. Creating and delivering a bundle of converged services, both fixed and mobile, can help service providers attract and retain customers and create a competitive advantage. However, there are a number of operational and business issues that service providers face in order to deliver these new services rapidly, efficiently, and cost-effectively.

The Promise of Unified Communications
The term unified communications refers to the integration of a variety of communications services, from voice to email to messaging and more, delivered over a single network. The demand for integrated business communications portfolios that span these types of applications is growing rapidly, driven by increasingly sophisticated subscribers expecting newer services delivered by single, access-independent networks. Market research firm Radicati Group believes that unified communications will represent a $10 billion market opportunity by 2008.

There is no question that unified communications offers great promise for both subscribers and providers alike. For end users, the benefits of unified communications are many, including:

Reduced Costs. Paying for separate communications systems, conferencing services, collaboration applications, and the people to run them are increasing the financial burden on organizations. By outsourcing integrated communications through a provider that can deliver all these capabilities, enterprises can reduce costs and free up funds for investment in other business activities.

Increased Productivity. Unified communications can improve business processes, simplify the sharing of information, and help people make critical decisions faster by integrating communications into a single user experience.

Simplified Operations. Communications barriers for doing business globally and using multiple devices are removed. Unified communications allows users to connect to people and information more efficiently and allows access using the client device that makes most sense for their business.

For providers, the trend toward unified communications presents a more complicated picture. On the one hand, supporting a new generation of converged communications applications presents the best hope for service providers to continue to thrive in a market that is rapidly evolving in the face of increasing competition. However, adding services to the existing telecommunications infrastructure is difficult, especially when providers must engineer around an installed base of systems and equipment.

Overcoming the Challenges to Delivering Converged Services
In order to capitalize on the demand for converged services, providers must ensure that they have the right technology infrastructure to meet the requirements of the growing market. In many cases, this means that providers must find or develop a solution that will enable them to deliver converged services over their legacy infrastructures.

Today, there are a number of commercial software solutions that are advertised as service delivery enablers. However, only a few truly address the key operational and technological challenges that must be overcome to deliver converged services profitably. It is important that providers look for the following capabilities when choosing a service delivery solution:

Automated Service Delivery. It is critical to choose a solution that fully automates the delivery of multiple services at the same time. This means that when a customer orders a bundle of converged services, the solution should be able to automatically provision the services as a single unit of work, allowing the provider to manage complex provisioning workflows with a single activation request. This automation capability is critical to helping the provider achieve improved service delivery times and operational efficiency.

The solution should also offer the flexibility to add more services when needed. The best commercial service delivery platforms offer pre-integrated and packaged IP and application services that can easily be launched as services on demand.

Interoperability with Mixed/Multi- Vendor Environments. Today’s telecom environments are a collection of legacy and next generation infrastructures. Adding to the confusion, within the VoIP (define - news - alert) domain, multiple vendors supply various components of the platform. To eliminate this complexity, providers should choose a solution that provides robust integration capabilities and is specifically designed to support and interoperate with existing systems. This feature helps service providers leverage their existing infrastructure investments and seamlessly introduce new technology, helping speed the delivery of hosted services to customers.

Reseller Channel Enablement. The solution must allow providers to reach more customers and maximize their revenues by supporting all sizes and types of distribution channels and business models: a retail model selling applications directly to end customers, a wholesale model selling applications through resellers, or a combination of wholesale and retail applications. By selling through channels, carriers can dramatically reduce their customer acquisition costs, since that responsibility shifts to the reseller. Platforms enable reseller channel support by allowing the reseller to have as little or as much control over their service offering as they want, from virtual resource management to service configuration.

Customer and Reseller Self- Management Features. Customer support can be enhanced through delegated administration — that is, by pushing service to the customer and providing them with automated self-help and selfmanagement options. Research has shown that customers are more satisfied when they can help themselves. Self management also benefits providers by reducing operational costs in the form of customer support resources.

A good service delivery solution provides delegated administration for service providers, resellers, enterprise administrators, and customer service users that enables each to log in through the same portal but utilize different abilities according to their credentials. The solution’s Web management interface should emphasize ease of use, making it simple for users to self manage and for administrators to make changes to their employees’ services — for example, adding storage or enabling features previously disabled — with a click of a button.

Extensibility. Creating a unique service offering that combines the latest and most popular unified communications applications is a key to surviving in today’s rapidly changing IP-driven world. Services will continue to become commodities over time, so providers must have efficient ways to add on additional services to existing ones in order to prolong their life cycles. The best service delivery automation solutions include tools that allow a service provider to differentiate their service offering by easily integrating new applications and delivering them as a service, all managed through the same existing portals that resellers and customers have already been trained to use.

Service providers that can address these operational and business issues and put the right technology infrastructure in place so that they can quickly respond to customer demands and rapidly create and deploy new services will be the ones who thrive in the unified world of tomorrow.

Francois Depayras is the vice president of marketing at Ensim Corporation. (news - alert) For more information, visit the company online at

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