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Real-Time Service Management to Enable an On-Demand Environment

By Brian Cappellani

October 2006, Volume 9/ Number 10


As telcos ride into cable operators� triple play territory, their lances are tipped with new service bundles including VoIP and IPTV (News - Alert). Cable operators claim the reasons people will choose their bundle over a broadband IP operator�s is the breadth of targeted and integrated services they will offer on demand, and the stickiness of their triple play bundle (digital video with video on demand, high-speed data, and VoIP). VoIP has been top of mind for many broadband operators in completing their triple play offering. VoIP, however, may be the last of the new mass market services. Going forward, revenue growth must be derived from niche-oriented, personalized, and on-demand services telcos claim they will deliver.

As broadband operators (both cable and telco) transition their operations to provide new classes of value-added services, they have the opportunity to transition to a new real-time service management model, which leverages existing OSS infrastructure, but greatly simplifies and speeds the creation and delivery of new services. IP Multimedia Subsystem (News - Alert) (IMS) principles combined with PacketCable 2.0 specifications may be a decisive differentiator for cable operators over ILEC competitors in delivering next-generation blended services via SIP. Telcos will likely be combating this competitive threat with deployment of SIP-enabled services using the new TR-104 specification and an emphasis on fixed/mobile convergence applications.

Taking advantage of these capabilities, however, will require several incremental steps to enhance operations with the aim of enabling faster and less costly service delivery, centralized service creation, unified subscriber service management, and real-time session and transaction-based service capabilities. This operational management transition must be done in manageable steps and in a way that considers and restrains any possible increases in the unit cost to deliver each service.

Triple-Play Competition Drives Innovation

Broadband operators are investing billions in IP infrastructure, and new OSS/IMS architectures. They are thus betting their businesses on their ability to squeeze other providers out of the best parts of their core residential customer markets. Despite consistent news that progress is slow, telco developments are likely to mature over time and will present a serious threat to cable operator�s primary revenue streams. Operator executives argue that their advantage over broadband IP will be derived from their ability to innovate and integrate services faster and on a more personalized basis than their broadband operator counterparts. What�s true about this statement is that the real battle will be fought over on-demand, premium services revenue as negative price pressure from aggressive competition drives today�s triple play deployments to commodity status.

Future revenue growth remains a concern for any broadband operator. VoIP and high-speed data services revenues will stabilize and the next big service will not be a mass market play based on a significant network build out. Instead, new revenue growth will come from the range of new applications that utilize the broadband and IP infrastructure operators already have in place, or may be enhancing with IMS-enabled architectures. The critical differentiator in the multi-service world will be the ability to introduce many services rapidly into a real-time service delivery and management environment at a low unit cost. Further, once services are introduced and delivered, they must also be supported and managed on a continuous basis. Providing a superior customer experience will become an increasingly critical success factor, placing a premium on support processes and service management capabilities that can cope with the complexities of these new classes of services.

Understanding Emerging New Classes Of Services

With advances in OSS Service Management and associated service delivery platforms, it is now possible to offer data, VoIP, video, and multimedia services in new ways to better address the needs of customers and to expand the addressable market with more differentiated products. These new service classes include:

� On-demand services where the customer purchases a particular service on a one-time event basis. Examples of this could be streaming video content (with QoS), premium photo upload service (with an upstream bandwidth boost), or a temporary bandwidth boost. The customer is billed on a per event basis in which an incremental additional bandwidth usage fee may apply.

� On-demand dynamic session-based services where the nature of the service will be modified or will evolve on a real-time basis during a communication session.

� Time interval-based services where the customer may purchase a service for a day, weekend, or week, and the OSS systems activate the service at the target start time and automatically deactivate the service at the end of the specified time interval. This would allow the lower tier customers (largest segment) to purchase premium services (i.e., higher data speeds, movie channels, sport packages, etc.) for only the intervals they desire, as opposed to not buying any premium service.

� User identity-based services for tailored packages that are targeted to particular users in a household. These packages could include gaming services, parental controlled services, and follow-me services. Customized packages require the user to be authenticated and authorized, and can be further �personalized� by the user via a Web interface.

� Converged or blended services offer service interworking between voice, data, and video services. These include services such as caller ID and unified messaging on TV, IP video conferencing, IPTV interactive features, remote DVR programming, multimedia gaming, the ability to access set-top content from any device, and more.

Understanding On-Demand, Session-Based Services

One of the newer aspects of service management that is attracting a lot of attention is real-time session-based service invocation and orchestration using technologies such as IMS. However, there isn�t a clear picture of what these next generation value added services will look like. It�s safe to say that all of the investments in technologies like IMS, service delivery platforms, and migration to all-IP environments are not just aimed at delivering higher-quality voice services. The point is to allow people to evoke a range of services on demand, and, in doing so, encourage them to increase their service usage and allow new services to be consumed on request via ubiquitous network access.

Some examples of what these services may look like include:

� A child wants to watch an on-demand movie and selects it using the TV�s programming guide user interface. Because she does not have the authorization PIN, she requests parental approval. The request is sent to her mother�s cell phone (who is out for the evening) along with the description of the movie. Mother reviews the description, and approves the request. The on-demand movie starts.

� While watching a streaming video of a sports event on his TV, Matt wants to discuss it with a friend. Matt calls his friend using his VoIP phone, the incoming call is displayed on the friend�s TV who decides to accept the call. Matt shares the selected portion of the streaming event that is displayed on the friend�s PC or TV. They discuss it, pull up stats off the Internet that they both can view, and, once they have completed the discussion, disconnect.

� Bill is reviewing an advertising proposal and decides to call Betty and Tom to discuss it. An audio conference call is automatically set up to Tom�s multimedia terminal in the office, and the network determines that Betty is traveling and taking business calls on her wireless PDA, to which the call is then forwarded. The network notifies Bill that Betty and Tom are on video capable devices and networks, and Bill signals the network to upgrade the audio conference call to a video conference. During the call Bill sends pictures of the ad campaign to Betty and Tom, and Tom marks up the ad with some suggested changes and screen shares the changes in real time with Betty and Bill. Betty suggests she add Karen to the call to comment on the suggested changes. Karen is at home on a regular telephone, but the network automatically determines that it can send the visual content to Karen�s PC at home. Karen accepts the request to send the visual stream her PC. She discusses Tom�s recommended changes, and when they have completed their discussion Betty and Tom drop off the call. Bill and Karen continue with an audio call to finalize the ad campaign.

As can be seen from the above examples, on-demand session-based services accommodate mid-session enhancements without having to hang up and start a new service, change devices, change access networks, or remember to request the required services before the session begins. These services will be highly personalized and intelligent. The OSS system must be aware of the user�s communication preferences, location, communication devices and available access networks, so it can deliver the required service, where and when required. This mode of service consumption will be more tuned to the users� communications lifestyle.

The point of bringing in these value-added services and focusing on creating the best possible customer experience is once again differentiation. Providing real-time session based on-demand services will be a differentiator for a time, but ultimately will become table stakes. The difference will be in how innovative and timely offerings are, how easy are they to create, deploy, order, use, and personalize. Any strategy aimed at realizing these differentiators must consider a technically and financially feasible approach that leverages existing infrastructure and allows the broadband operator to transition incrementally toward providing real-time session based on-demand services. IT

Brian Cappelani is Chief Technology Officer Sigma Systems. For more information, please visit the company online at

If you are interested in purchasing reprints of this article (in either print or PDF format), please visit Reprint Management Services online at or contact a representative via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 800-290-5460.


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